Title: Land of the Free
Fandom: Assassin's Creed 3
Warnings: A mild ship, if you squint.
Summary: Ellen comforts Connor, post-game. Intended to be porn, this degenerated quickly into a conversation about shirts. Shirts and grief.
Land of the Free
An Assassin's Creed fan fiction by xahra99.
The forest stretches for miles across the Massachusetts hills. Ellen, on her way to the hills behind the manor for birch-bark to salve her sore hands, is careful to stay close to the buildings. There are places in the forest untouched by human hands, where bears are larger than horses and the mountain lions are twice the size of dogs. Ellen has lived in cities all her life. The thought of losing her way amongst the endless ocean of trees terrifies her.
So she skirts the stables and walks by the manor's back steps on her way to the woods, kirtling her skirts so her hems are not soaked by the morning dew.
Ellen is having one of those days when she never wants to look at another shirt again. Her hands are weary and sore from stitching and her eyes are heavy and swollen. She shades her eyes with her hand as she walks through the grass, enjoying the smell of the grass and the fresh morning air. The shadow of the big house provides cool relief for a moment but renders her almost blind as she steps out into the sunlight. She forces her eyes open, blinking back tears, and sees Connor crouched in the grass, stripping the hide from the glistening carcass of a white-tailed deer. His shirt and tailcoat lie crumpled in the grass at his side, and his arms are caked to the elbow with blood and shining fat.
He looks up and lays down his knife. "Ellen," he says, wiping his hands in the dew-soaked grass.
She nods. "Connor," she says, resisting the urge to order him to take better care of his clothes. She's made him a dozen shirts since she arrived in the colony; and from the look of the stains on the linen, he's going to need another. She wonders whether any man in the colony has any idea of just how much it costs to buy good linen nowadays.
And then she seems the wretched look upon his face, and stops thinking about cloth altogether.
"Connor?" she says, walking over to him, "what's wrong?"
Connor says nothing. His hands clench in the grass, knotting daisies and stalks between his fingers. Ellen smells the clean, sharp smell of crushed dandelions. She kneels down in the grass next to him and pulls her shawl around her shoulders.
"What's wrong?" she asks gently.
Connor does not reply, so she says "Do you miss Achilles?"
"Every day," he says. "But he was old. He had a long life and much sadness." His hands flex, relaxing, and the grass springs back into place.
Ellen pauses, searching for the right words. "Achilles would have wanted you to be happy," she says finally.
"If he wanted that" Connor says, "he would never have made me an assassin."
Ellen wonders if she has somehow misheard. Connor's English is better now than when they first met, but he still gets words wrong occasionally.
"You were an assassin?" she says.
"Yes," he says.
Ellen's thoughts race. Connor is the gentlest person she has ever known. He can't pass any animal without petting it. He carries corn in the pockets of his tailcoat and once spent weeks riding between the homestead and New York to retrieve the plans for Lance's silly folding chair. Nevertheless, the news does not surprise her. Ellen knows there is violence in Connor. She looks at the vicious curve of the skinning knife, half-hidden in the grass, and remembers how he dealt with Quincent. Violence is never pleasant, but it is sometimes necessary.
She leans closer and pokes a finger at the scars that braid his ribs. "Is that what did this?"
He shakes his head.
"What did?" she asks, "A bear?" She stretches her fingers into fangs. "A wolf?"
"No," he says. He does not smile at her silly pantomime, "A ship."
She blinks. "Do your wounds still pain you? Is that the trouble?"
He laughs. The sound is stained with bitterness. "My mother and father are dead. My tribe is gone. I fought for the Patriots to save my people, and they sold our land to settlers for coin. My father was a traitor to this country, but at least he did not have to live with the choices he had made."
"Many have lost families to war," Ellen tells him, though she knows it is cold comfort. She reaches out and strokes his hair, marvelling at its softness beneath the beads and feathers, then jerks her hand away. "I'm sorry. I forgot you don't like to be touched."
"Liking has nothing to do with it. It is not correct to touch a stranger." A smile briefly twists his mouth as he leans into her touch. "You are part of my community. It is fine."
Ellen runs a feather through her fingers, wincing as the tiny barbs catch on her work-calloused fingers. "So you miss your family, and your tribe, and your-" She does not know how to describe Achilles, "-your mentor. Missing those you have lost is a part of life, and healing will take time. If it helps, I can tell you a story my father told me long before, when I had lost my mother and my sisters to the fever, and I thought that there was no way past my pain. Would you like to hear it?"
He nods, and she wonders if the Mohawk-the Kanien'kehá: ka-have teaching stories like the ones she learned as a child.
"There was once a tailor's wife," she says, sitting there in the meadow with the smell of old blood and fresh primroses around her, "Her son was very sick, and soon enough he died. The poor woman refused to believe that there was no cure for death. She wandered all around the town with her dead son in her arms and asked everyone she met for medicine that would restore the boy to life." She glances at the deer. "This went on for a while, and as you can imagine, the boy soon began to smell. It was not a pretty sight, but the tailor's wife refused to believe there was no hope at all.
"Now one day a doctor from Palermo came to this town, and took pity on the tailor's wife. When she asked her for medicine he told her that he knew something to help."
Connor snorts. "He was cruel to give a mad woman such hope."
"Maybe," she says. "But listen. The doctor told the woman that she must feed her son a single pinch of flour to restore the boy to life. But there was a catch. The flour must come from a family where no man, woman, child, not even a servant, had ever died. "
"There is always a catch," he says. "Go on."
"The tailor's wife was overjoyed that such a simple ingredient would restore her dead son. She went to every house in town asking for flour, and every house had some. But when she asked them if any person within the house had died, they told her that for every person living in that house, there were many that had died. And they could not give her what she asked for.
"The tailor's wife went to many houses, but in each house-and there were many-someone had died. When the tailor's wife found this her mind began to clear. She returned to her town and finally buried her son. The doctor saw her there and asked her what had become of the boy. The tailor's wife wept and told the doctor that in every house she visited, there were few men living, but many dead. She still missed her son-of course she did-but she had learned that every family shared her pain."
Connor is silent for a long time after Ellen stops speaking. Finally he shifts, stretches his arms as if his old scars still ache and says "This is a story for children."
She smiles gently and places her hand in his. "Then learn from it."
"I am trying." he says. "But-it is hard."
"It always is," says Ellen. "But so is life."
"You smile and said you know
We said Land of the Free; yeah well we were just joking."
Thea Gilmore 'Land of the Free'