Connor jolted awake and groaned as a resounding 'thump' shook his bedroom walls. Moving to get out of his bed, he let out a yelp and tumbled to the floor in a heap of bedcovers and limbs. After struggling to untangle himself for a good minute or so, he stood and brushed himself off. He peeked out of his bedroom door into the hallway, listening for the noise.
Another 'thump' echoed from his father's office.
Connor scratched his head and rubbed a hand over his face as he padded towards his father's office. Out the hall window, clouds hung low in the sky, promising rain. Rain on a cold October Saturday. Perfect.
Connor knocked lightly on the office door, pressing his ear to it carefully. He prayed his father wasn't trying to fence again.
Multiple smaller thumps of boxing gloves and a bag sounded out. Connor shook his head and blinked away his sleepy eyes, turning from the door and slouching down the stairs. He walked through the weapon room, pausing and looking at the tomahawk on the far wall. His heart clenched in his chest as he thought of the reservation that was his true home.
He slowly walked over to the tomahawk, exhaling slowly and deeply. At that moment, all he wanted was his old life back. He wanted to drive his friends to school one last time. His heart ached with the desire to help with the chores he used to hate. He wanted to help do the chores he had always hated. He missed having that connection in his community. As much as he got along with his father and made new friends, there was no way he could replace his people.
With his memories of home, he was swept by a wave of more memories. His mother’s face flashed through his mind. An unbearably large knot twisted his gut around and the lump in his throat became too large to ignore. He wanted her back with him. He wanted to hug her small frame and talk to her about his new life. He wanted her to be there to hold him and run her fingers through his hair like she would when he was little and tell him everything was okay. He wanted to hear her guiding words she always gave him. He wanted her strong presence back in his life. He wanted to walk back in his little home at the Reservation, take off his boots and see her sitting on the couch, reading one of her books. He relived every moment where she gave him one of her cheeky, dimpled smiles.
He swallowed deeply and felt his body burning. Somewhere through the pain he found the wall and managed to lean his back against it, sliding down slowly. He tried to put on a stiff upper lip and push the feelings away, but they refused to leave.
He let his head fall back with a thump against the wall, staring at the ceiling as another wave of mourning washed over him. He missed her. He missed her so much that his heart ached and screamed. He could have sworn there was a sinkhole in his chest that couldn't be fixed or filled. He wanted his mom back.
He blinked rapidly, trying to push back the burning tears that pooled in his eyes. They trailed down his cheeks anyway. He silently cried for many minutes, trying to get a hold of himself. Connor doubted he could live with the humiliation if his father found him like this. He dug the heels of his palms into his eyes, muttering stern commands and curses at himself. His mother had asked him to be strong and happy in her last moments on her death bed.
He wasn’t sure if he could do either right now.
Finally, he managed to swallow down the knot in his throat. Connor pushed himself up, set back his shoulders, and blinked away his watery eyes. It wasn't acceptable to sit around and feel sorry for himself. He had stuff to do. He walked unsteadily to the fridge and fixed a bowl of cereal, taking his usual seat on the porch.
Rain had started to fall by that time. Fat rain drops rolled off the roof onto his feet. He gazed unseeing out at the back yard, guessing at when the ache in his chest would go away. A year? Two? Never?
His phone suddenly vibrated in his pocket, letting him know he had a text message from Ellie. He unlocked the screen and opened the message, brow furrowing in confusion. “You’ll get a cold sitting out there,” he read aloud, looking toward Ellie’s house. If he couldn’t see her, that just proved his women could read minds theory.
Ellie's grin from her kitchen window debunked his theory temporarily. His lip twitched into a small smile as he replied. Focusing on his new friend made the empty feeling in his chest go away a little. “Don’t you know it’s rude to snoop in on your neighbors?” he replied.
He saw her laugh as she received the text. She gave him a sarcastic look. His phone buzzed again. “Not my fault. I can see a lumbering ox like you from a mile away.”
He gave her an unamused glare, barking out a short laugh with no humor. For some reason, Ellie had taken to calling him an ox and it was annoying. He just had to figure out a nickname that would irritate her equally.
She threw back her head. Connor knew she was laughing evilly.
In an easy sprint, she darted away from the window and out to the yard, where she vaulted over the fences and jogged to a stop in Connor's yard.
“Seriously, you’re easy to spot,” she chuckled, sitting beside him. Connor chomped down on his Cheerios, giving her a peeved look.
She cocked her head, studying him. Her face didn’t look amused anymore.
“What?” he asked around his spoon. He honestly didn’t like it when she cocked her head like that. It always led to her reading his mind or something of the sort.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, clasping her hands in her lap and turning to face him.
Her brow furrowed. She obviously wasn't convinced.
“Seriously, Connor,” she said, searching his eyes.
He shook his head, looking away and trying to hide his burning eyes. How she knew he was upset was beyond him.
“Connor, I know we haven’t known each other that long…but I know how you feel.”
Reading minds must come with the gender.
He gulped down the Cheerios, hoping the lump forming in his throat would disappear with them. “When did you start feeling…full, again?” he asked, staring at the back of the yard.
Connor set his now empty bowl aside, resting his arms on his legs. He clasped them together and set his jaw upon it, slightly tapping it with his thumb. “I feel…empty,” he slowly admitted. Something inside him released slightly. Keeping how he felt bottled up wasn't a good idea.
When Connor finally turned to face Ellie, she had tears in her eyes. Before he even thought about it, her arms were around him and she had buried her face in his shoulder. Connor hugged her back firmly, glad to feel the close contact he had been craving. His father wasn’t exactly the hugging type.
Ellie's hug was strong and comforting, and reminded him strongly of his mother's embraces. The lump fought its way back up his throat. He hugged her tighter, briefly wondering if she knew a way to get rid of the hole. “Not for a while,” she mumbled, pulling away.
She gave him a sympathetic smile with watery eyes. “Why are you crying?” he asked, confusion muffling his thoughts.
“Because I know how it feels. It sucks,” she said, wiping her eyes and smiling sheepishly.
Connor allowed the corners of his mouth to curl up a little in a small smile. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulling her against him. He knew she liked being hugged and that it didn’t matter who or when. Her touch helped the ache subside slightly.
“Anytime.” He felt her grin into his shoulder.
They both sighed, watching the rain fall. Connor finally released his hold and she sat up, sniffing a little.
“Sorry about the crybaby moment. I just-”
“It’s okay,” Connor said, giving her a small smile. She smiled back, pulling her damp, light brown hair over her shoulder.
“So, what’s the plan for today?” she asked, leaning back on her palms and grinning at Connor mischievously.
“I was going to help Achilles with something today. Wanna come? I’m sure he won’t mind,” Connor said, jerking his thumb toward the old man's house.
Ellie looked at the house and back at Connor curiously. “What does he need help with?”
Connor scrunched his nose. “Painting.”
“Of course you are.”
Ellie dipped the tip of the brush in the paint can full of beige paint, delicately covering the edges near the molding. She stuck her tongue, but slightly and bit down on it a little as she worked. How convenient that she had bugged Connor when she did- she loved painting. She paused, peeking at him out of the corner of her eye. He was using a roller on the wall across from hers.
Her heart sunk as his earlier words echoed through her head. She knew that feeling with an undesirable familiarity. His expression was imprinted in her mind, an expression she had seen almost every time she looked in a mirror only three years ago.
She shook her thoughts away and focused on painting above the molding again. The sooner they got done with this, the sooner they could eat lunch. Her stomach let out an earth shaking growl.
“Did you eat this morning?” Connor asked, glancing at her over his shoulder.
Ellie stuck out her tongue at him, feeling her cheeks flush. “Keep painting. I want to eat!”
“Obviously,” he snorted and she knew he was rolling his eyes.
Ellie stuck her lip out in an angry pout. As she finished the molding, an evil idea grew in her head. She eyed the paint can and eyed Connor, who was painting away. Stepping silently on the painting tarp, she swirled a large glop of paint on her brush and flicked it onto Connor's broad back.
Ellie squealed and narrowly dodged the roller aimed toward her arm. Connor snatched at her and grinned widely.
“Get back here!”
“Missed me missed me! Now you gotta-HEY!”
Ellie scowled at her now-beige tee shirt, flicking a smirking Connor with paint and spattering his face with her brush. Ellie squeaked when she didn't jump away fast enough and Connor grabbed her arm. She flailed in retaliation, swiping a large blob across his lower cheek. Connor growled playfully and hoisted her up, throwing her over his shoulder.
“Put me down!” she laughed, squirming and covering his lower back in paint.
“You need a time out!”
“I’m warning you! I know Kung Fu and 20 other dangerous words!” Ellie failed to suppress her laughter.
“I’m shaking!” he laughed, setting her down in the corner.
She crossed her arms, pouting up at him.
“10 minute probation for saying dangerous words.”
Ellie rolled her eyes, blowing her bangs out of her face. It was impossible to be serious.
“What in the world is going on up here?” an amused drawl made them both jump a bit.
Ellie looked around Connor to see Achilles standing in the doorway, looking amused.
Connor pointed down at her like a kid caught with his hand in a cookie jar. “She started it.”
Ellie pointed back up at him. “He teased me first!”
"Did too!" She nudged his unmoving calf.
“You made fun of my growling stomach!”
Ellie smacked the side of his calf, leaving a huge, beige smear on it. He glowered down at her and she returned the look with an equally playful smirk.
Achilles shook his head, grinning. “Kids,” he grumbled, heading back down the stairs.
Connor held out his hand. Ellie grinned and took it and he pulled her up with the same effort it would take to lift a feather.
“Seriously, though, I’m starving. Let’s get this done,” Ellie said with a laugh, grabbing the extra roller.
He let out a laugh, dipping his roller in the paint and getting back to work.
They finally finished without further warfare, stepping back to admire their work. The only sound that could be heard was the rain pelting against the window.
“Looks good,” Ellie said, planting her hands on her hips.
Connor nodded in agreement. She tugged on the edge of his cut-off. “Come on. Achilles said he would feed us.”
She grabbed the paint trays and paintbrushes. “Take care of the cans. I’ll do this.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said sarcastically.
Ellie stuck her tongue out at him before putting her old flip flops on at the door. She walked down to the kitchen, setting everything in the sink and peeking into a pot of what looked to be soup.
Her stomach complained again, reminding her of its emptiness. She cleaned off the brushes and trays, setting them on a towel sitting beside the sink. Wiping off her hands, she examined her reflection in the mirror. Little splatters of paint were speckled all over her face and in her hair.
Connor trudged down the stairs and past Ellie to the backyard. Achilles hobbled in, opening the fridge. “Is water okay for you?” he asked, looking at her over his shoulder.
She helped him get the dishes out, setting the bowls on the counter beside the stove.
“Yes?” Ellie looked over at Achilles.
“How are the Johnstons? I know they can be…eccentric at times,” Achilles said with an amused grin.
Ellie grinned. “They’re eccentric as ever.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Connor walked back in, shaking drops of rain from his hair. Despite Ellie's scalding look. “What?” he asked, oblivious.
“You’re getting water everywhere!” she said with a laugh.
Achilles chuckled, shuffling over to the pot on the stove. “He’s fine, Ellie.”
Connor gave her a smug look. Ellie rolled her eyes,
Her grin softened as Connor jumped forward to help the old man move the pot.
If he wasn’t the perfect definition of a Gentle Giant, she didn’t know what was.
She stepped forward, ladling out the soup.
Her stomach growled again, loud enough for Achilles to hear.
“Wow…” Connor snickered.
“Shut up Connor!”
Connor shook his damp hair and tossed his towel into the basket. Flopping down on the couch, he had almost fallen asleep when Haytham walked into the room.
“Get up. We’re going to visit some people,” Haytham said, buttoning the cuff of his shirt.
Connor groaned, turning his head to the side. “Who?”
“Your grandparents. Put on a nice shirt and those jeans I bought you.”
Connor rolled off the couch sluggishly, lazily trudging up the stairs.
“Be quick about it!” Haytham snapped.
Haytham's tone gave him a jolt of speed. His father’s voice was strained.
He opened his closet, pulling out one of the few nice shirts he owned. He tugged on the jeans his father had told him to wear, raising an eyebrow at them. They were no different than the ones he already had, only triple the price.
He tugged the light blue, button up shirt on over his white t-shirt and buttoned it up to his collarbone. He looked in the mirror, touching his bear claw necklace he always wore and tucking it under the collar. Memories of his mother giving him the necklace swarmed his thoughts. He pushed them down sternly.
He finished getting ready, grabbing his jacket before hurrying back downstairs. Haytham studied him for a moment. Once Haytham had fixed Connor's collar, he nodded in approval.
“That’ll do. Let’s go.”
Connor followed Haytham out, quickly getting in the car. Connor didn't take long to fiddle with the radio and pull up Hey Ho by The Lumineers. Haytham crinkled his nose.
"You actually listen to this? For entertainment?" Haytham shot him an incredulous look.
Connor shrugged and nodded.
Haytham shook his head. “At least you don’t blast that hip hop rubbish all the time. One of my colleagues has a son that always blares that in his earphones. It annoys the bloody hell out of me.”
Connor shrugged, looking out the window. He frowned when he saw one of the colorful horses again. “Why are those there?” he asked, glancing back at one of them.
Haytham exhaled deeply through his nose. “I have no idea. You should ask Miss Johnston sometime.”
Connor nodded, looking at another strange statue. It didn’t take long to get to their destination.
Connor looked out in confusion. “The hospital?”
“Your grandmother is a patient.”
Haytham got out, pulling an umbrella out of the back seat. He shut the doors, putting it over his head. Connor quickly moved to stand under it as well.
“She fell a while back. She broke her femur and hasn't really been healing,” Haytham answered, heading toward the entrance.
Connor furrowed his brow, keeping at his father's heels. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”
Haytham sighed. "I didn’t want to bother you with it while you were still getting used to living here.”
“I would have liked to know. She is my grandmother,” Connor said, feeling slightly irritated.
Haytham gave him a hard look as they reached the door. “Never mind that now, it’s done,” he said, pulling the door open.
Connor shook his head, walking in. The feeling of emptiness hit him hard. The last time he had entered a hospital, he had been with his mother.
Connor caught up with Haytham, matching the brisk pace his father was setting. “Hate hospitals,” Haytham grumbled, pressing the up arrow at the elevator.
Connor looked at him in confusion. “Why do you hate them?”
Haytham looked at him. Connor saw him tug at his shirt…on the side his injury was on. “Oh.”
“I wouldn’t blame you for hating them too,” Haytham said, looking weary. The elevator finally opened and they both stepped in. Haytham pressed the button for the fourth floor.
Cheesy elevator music played as the elevator ascended. A doctor and an elderly couple joined them at the third floor. Haytham led the way off the elevator.
“Hello Mr. Kenway,” a nurse called out as they walked by.
“Hello Martha,” Haytham replied, setting a brisk pace again.
Connor actually had trouble keeping up with him. Haytham finally stopped shortly outside a room. The door was wide open, giving a view inside. Haytham tapped his knuckles on the door before walking in.
Connor awkwardly stood in the doorway, not knowing whether to wait outside or stay. An elderly woman sat in the bed, smiling up at his father. Her long, almost white hair was pulled back in a low braid with a ribbon. An elderly man and a middle aged woman sat in the chairs next to the bed. The man Connor presumed was his grandfather noticed him and pushed himself up. Connor glanced over at his father, comparing his grandfather and the two of them. The resemblance was almost shocking.
“You must be Connor,” Edward Kenway said.
Connor nodded, slowly walking in. “Hi,” he said with a small wave, feeling awkward.
Edward stepped toward him, holding out his hand. Connor shook it. Edward's eyes were warm and welcoming. “Haytham has told us so much about you over the years. It’s good to finally meet you,” he said, smiling.
Connor only just stopped himself from gasping in shock. What has his father told them?
“He’s definitely a Kenway! Look at that nose and mouth,” his grandmother said, chuckling.
Connor felt his cheeks tingle.
“Come here! I want to get a good look at you,” she said, beckoning him over.
Connor hesitantly stepped toward the bed, standing beside it. “You’re taller than I expected! Those pictures Megan sent us did you no justice,” she said in amusement.
Connor grinned at his mother’s English name. It was strange to know that people knew her by only that name.
His grandmother continued about how tall he was. He liked her too. She wasn’t the type of grandmother Ahkso was, but she still had that air of comfort about her.
“No, they weren’t,” Haytham commented, helping Edward take a seat again.
Connor peeked over at the other woman there as they talked. She gave him a hard look, looking back down at the magazine she was holding, gnawing on her gum. Connor inched away from her. She scared him for some reason.
“So, Connor,” Edward said, breaking him out of his thoughts, “do you play any sports or do anything special like that?”
Connor rubbed the back of his head. “I’m pretty good at archery. My friend has been trying to convince me to join a club.”
Ellie had been persistent when he told her about how he used to shoot all the time at the Reservation.
“That’s interesting. You should let him have a go with the Italian crossbow from the Renaissance. I’m sure he’s capable,” Edward said, tapping his son on the arm.
Haytham shrugged. “I might just have to let him now,” he said with an amused look.
Connor felt a wave of excitement go through him at the suggestion.
“That’s a great idea. Let an impulsive kid handle a priceless 500 year old crossbow,” someone snarled.
Everyone looked at the woman. Edward furrowed his brow, looking worried. Haytham and Tessa looked tense.
“Now, Jenny-” Edward began.
“Forget it,” Jenny said, standing up. She tossed her magazine on the nightstand, walking out of the room.
She slammed the door shut on her way out, causing the walls to rattle. Connor looked around in confusion. Who was that? And what was her problem?
Tessa shook her head, patting Connor’s hand. “Forgive her. She’s had a rough time recently,” she said gently.
“She’s a recovering drug abuser,” Haytham said flatly.
Tessa and Edward gave him hard looks.
“No use lying to him. He’s an adult,” Haytham said, sitting down where Jenny had been sitting.
Connor looked at his father in surprise. Haytham didn’t even glance at him.
“She…is recovering. She just loses it sometimes,” Edward said, letting out a sigh.
He shook his head, looking at Connor again. “So, has Haytham shown you the Caribbean pirate swords?"
Haytham sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“There are pirate swords?!” Connor nearly yelled.
Edward nodded, letting a broad smile come to his face.
Connor decided that if all his visits were like this one, he would quite enjoy it.