Ezio had been against the idea from the beginning. Leonardo had mentioned it in passing but the sharp way Ezio looked at him made him wonder if someone else had brought it up as well. But Ezio had waved a hand, dismissing the idea and moving their conversation to another topic. When a week later Leonardo brought it up again, Ezio was still against it. He had been especially upset when he learned it involved Leonardo living in the Borgia fortress.
“No. It is too dangerous. If anything were to happen, it would take too long to reach you.”
“No! We are not having this conversation!” And he had stormed out, leaving Leonardo to sigh and try to return to other tasks, distracting himself from their fight. It was much later, as he frowned over sketches of the flying machine, that he heard the faint creak of leather before arms wrapped around his waist and a body pressed against him. Ezio hid his face in Leonardo's neck and for a few minutes they stood like that, Leonardo relaxing in the smell and feel of Ezio so close.
“If you are doing this for me, I do not want it,” Ezio mumbled against his skin and Leonardo sighed. What could he say to that? Of course he was doing this to help him. He put his arms over Ezio's.
“Cesare Borgia has requested my services. It would appear odd to turn down such a well-known patron when I should have no reason not to. Plus, I'm sure we can both imagine a Borgia's reaction to being told no,” Leonardo said quietly. “This way, I can tell you what plans of his I know and maybe it will give you an edge.” There was a long silence following his words.
“The Borgia have taken so much from me...” Ezio's voice was thick with pain and his arms tightened around Leonardo. “I will not lose you too.”
Leonardo's throat felt tight with sympathetic sorrow. The betrayal that had led to Ezio's father and brothers' deaths had indeed led back to Rodrigo Borgia. And now Cesare Borgia had killed Mario. Leonardo turned within the circle of Ezio's arms and cupped his face, raising it gently. The expression there was heartbreaking but Leonardo kissed him and tried to smile reassuringly.
“It will be fine,” he promised.
Ezio just looked at him with those dark, hopeless eyes and then he was kissing him desperately. Soon hands were pulling at clothing until skin touched skin, and although Leonardo usually protested when they were in the shop, he said nothing now. It was quick and almost violent in its urgency but afterward they lay in front of the fire, Ezio panting and trembling with Leonardo's arms around him, stroking a hand down his back as one would calm a frightened horse. He thought of his words and prayed he would be right.
After that night, the contract was signed and Leonardo was quickly installed in a spacious workroom inside Cesare's estate. It was similar to his Venice home, with private rooms on the second floor, but it didn't feel like home. There were guards posted at his door at all hours and when he left the grounds, they traveled with him.
“For your safety, of course,” Cesare had explained smoothly. “These are dangerous times we live in, with criminals roaming the streets. To think the Pope himself was attacked not long ago!” Leonardo had demurred, stating only that he needed time alone to concentrate on his work. Cesare had agreed and then commissioned several designs for rifles.
The first couple of weeks passed quickly and uneventfully. Once the drawings were done, Cesare wanted them built and had Leonardo work with the armorer to ensure the designs turned out perfect. He rarely visited but when he did, his very presence made Leonardo's skin crawl. Part of it was knowing the hatred the Borgia had for Ezio and the other Assassins. But he also didn't care for the way the man watched him, his thoughts well hidden behind a sly, half-smile. Oftentimes, Leonardo wondered if Cesare guessed at Leonardo's real reason for accepting the position, but he never said anything of it or of the Assassins.
When Leonardo went into the city, it was usually for supplies but also to continue his habit of buying and releasing songbirds. He thought the guards muttered about this behind his back but he didn't care. This habit doubled as a way of communicating with Ezio. Leonardo had taught him a code before he left and they'd practiced until Leonardo was sure his lover would have no problems. When he reached into the cage to grab a bird and take them out to freedom, he would leave a coded note in the straw at the bottom. The guards never seemed to notice this, or care that he left the empty cages in the alley behind the shop. It was in this way that he conveyed Cesare's plans to build enough firearms for a large army. He could only hope that the notes were being found since there was no way for Ezio to write back.
One night, Leonardo was hunched over the counter in his new workshop, peering at blueprints, when a quiet thump came from behind him. He whirled with a gasp, stunned to see Ezio rising from a crouch where he'd dropped down from the window. The assassin was grinning as he crossed the room.
“Dio mio, what are you doing here?” Leonardo hissed.
“I've missed you,” Ezio replied, leaning in for a kiss. Leonardo responded happily, despite his racing heart; Ezio was still grinning when they broke apart. “Besides, I wanted to be sure I could find you if I needed to. There is a blind spot in their patrols I can easily slip through.” Still a little shocked to find his lover here, so deep in enemy territory, Leonardo struggled to think of something to say.
“You got my messages?”
“Si, grazie. Machiavelli and I have been training some new men and we will task them with following where Cesare sends the guns.”
Leonardo felt a surge of relief and pride that he could contribute in this way to Ezio's efforts. Ezio seemed to sense this and chuckled, even as he lowered his head to graze his lips against Leonardo's throat.
“Your information has been helpful, caro, but I still wish you were on the other side of these walls with me,” he murmured. He pulled Leonardo to him as he trailed kisses back up to nibble on the painter's ear. Leonardo gasped at the sensation, clutching at Ezio's shoulders as he felt Ezio's arousal pressing against his leg.
“The guards outside,” he whispered frantically, “they will hear us!” Ezio growled in response but after another quick kiss, he stepped back.
“Bene, I will go. Be safe, caro mio.”
“And you,” Leonardo said, watching as the man quickly scrambled up the wall and out the window, feeling a part of his heart go with him.
The construction of the firearms went quickly and smoothly and Leonardo watched as they were loaded into carts and sent out of the fortress. Cesare stayed away for several days, which surprised him. He had assumed the man would have another task ready immediately after the rifles were finished. He enjoyed the free time, though, using it to sketch or paint one of the songbirds that seemed to have found its way back to the man who'd freed it. This was how Cesare found him when he finally showed up at the workshop.
“Leonardo, I know you are a genius beyond compare,” Cesare said as he walked slowly around the room, looking at the various drawings. “Firearms are too simple a task for you, I think, after seeing how quickly you completed them.” He paused and pushed aside several parchments to pull free one that Leonardo had almost forgotten. He held it up. “This is more like you. I want you to build it for me.”
It was a sketch of a squat, circular vehicle Leonardo had designed quite spontaneously one evening. He had originally been trying to create something that could safely bring a man into the heart of battle. It would be useful for delivering an assassin to where he needed to strike, for example, especially with the canon mounted on top to help clear the way. As Leonardo looked from the drawing to Cesare, though, he felt a chill run through him. He hadn't shown this to anyone yet but somehow Cesare had found it buried beneath other sketches.
“Mi dispiace, Signore, but this is just idle fantasy. I'm not sure it can be done,” he began gently.
“I have faith in you,” Cesare said mildly and turned to leave.
“But certainly such a crazy whim has no practical purpose?” He was trying for more information and prayed Cesare wouldn't guess that. Instead, the Borgia heir turned and smiled mysteriously.
“I guess we will see,” he said and walked out.
Leonardo set to work trying to flesh out the plans, knowing that such a creation's only purpose was warfare. Still, the chance to attempt building it was exciting, as it was with all his inventions. He decided to leave a note for Ezio when he went into town the next day and put his mind to his task. He worked late into the night, fully absorbed in the riddle of how to make the wheels work best, so he didn't notice the thump that came from behind him. Then there was a second thump. Leonardo paused, raising his head from the sketch he was peering at in the dim lamplight. He held still but heard nothing more. Frowning, he took a step towards the door but was stopped by an iron grip on his arm and a hand clamped over his mouth. A thick, cloyingly-sweet scent filled his nose and then everything was swallowed in darkness.
When he came to, Leonardo's first thought was Ezio was playing an insane prank on him. The drug had left him groggy so it took him a couple moments to realize his hands were tied to the chair he sat in. He pulled at the bonds but was surprised at how tight they were. He wasn't sure how long he'd been out but his fingers were beginning to tingle from the constriction. He had been stripped of everything but his undershirt and breeches, but he didn't see his clothes nearby. Not sure what to think of that, Leonardo instead turned his attention to the room.
He was no longer in his workshop. He wasn't even sure he was still in the Borgia household. Judging by the damp smell, he guessed it was an underground cellar of sorts. The room wasn't very large and lit only by the small lamps hung on the walls that cast flickering shadows. The chair he was tied to faced the lone door but besides that, the room was bare. As he took this all in, a seed of unease took root in his mind, no matter how he tried to chase it away with reassurances that this must be Ezio's doing.
When the door finally opened, Leonardo waited, heart in his throat, for that familiar white-cowled figure to enter. But while the person who stepped in did indeed wear a white hood, it wasn't Ezio, nor were the two who entered after him. The way they moved was the same, though; all coiled, ready-to-react violence. He didn't see bracers or a belt like Ezio, but everything else about them screamed of assassins.
“So, the traditore is awake,” murmured the one in the lead as they stopped before him.
“Traditore?” Leonardo echoed, his brain still murky from whatever they'd drugged him with. He never even saw the man's hand move as it flashed out to cuff him across the temple. Leonardo had been roughed up by city guards before, but none had ever hit him with such unrestrained force. If not for the ropes, he was certain he would've fallen off the chair.
“For years you were an ally to the Auditore family, were you not?” This came from the man on his right; only the grim set of his mouth was visible. “Even after their name was slandered, you helped the middle son in his quest for vengeance.”
Leonardo's head was ringing from more than just the blow, now. If they were Assassins, then Ezio had likely told them all this. But their manner was so hostile...
“Despite all this, we find you living in the Borgia estate, working for the sworn enemy of Maestro Auditore, making weapons for the Borgia,” the first man went on and Leonardo finally made the connections. He opened his mouth to explain this was all a misunderstanding, that he was actually spying for Ezio, when the words died on his tongue. He thought of Cesare's sly smile and glanced between his captors. The light from the lamps didn't reach into the shadows of their hoods so he couldn't see their expressions, but their attitudes were cold.
If they were Assassins, he could explain the plan he and Ezio had come up with and they could check with Ezio to confirm. But if they were Templars, it would be a confession to working with the enemy and a death sentence more than likely. He would not put it past Cesare to stage such a scene as this and so he could only stare dumbly at his captors, unsure of what to say. Apparently this was the wrong choice because the lead man grabbed a fistful of Leonardo's hair and yanked his head back.
“If you speak, this will go easier,” he growled. Leonardo gasped at the pain.
“I-I don't know what to say. It is true, Cesare Borgia has hired me. But weapons? I don't--” He cried out as the hand pulled his head back farther.
“You are a poor liar, Messer da Vinci,” the man snapped. “We have found crates of rifles you designed, not to mention the plans in your workroom.”
Of course! He was stupid not to have assumed they would search his place.
“Please, I am working as an engineer for Signore Borgia but I have no personal reasons to do so,” Leonardo said quickly. “He is just a man who hired me, like any other patron.”
“A man with guts would have spat in his face when he offered,” the man on the left said. “Better to be penniless than working for a snake like that. Especially if you are truly a friend of the Auditores.” Leonardo wasn't sure how to answer. Defending his connection with Ezio would damn him if they were Cesare's agents, but denying it would only make the Assassins more angry. Dio mio, he was not meant for this kind of conspiracy! Fortunately, he was spared responding because the one who appeared to be in charge went on.
“How many of the war machines have you made? And do not lie to us.”
“None,” Leonardo replied fervently. “I swear it. I have only just begun work on the plans you saw.”
“But you will make them, and more, if the Borgia tell you to?” Once again Leonardo felt trapped by his choice of answers. The other man sensed his indecision and interpreted it his own way. A grim smile curled his lips. “Well, it matters not. Once we are done with you, he will make the final judgment whether you live or not.” He stepped back. “Take him to the wall.”
Leonardo's head was spinning tying to figure out who 'he' was—Ezio or Cesare?--as well as absorb the ominous meaning in “once we are done with you”. He was so dazed by what was happening, he hardly thought to resist when the other two cut his bonds and led him to the wall behind his chair. He only struggled when he saw they meant to chain him to it.
“Perhaps we should just break his fingers,” the one on his right suggested and the man on his left chuckled, a cruel sound. Leonardo's mind went blank with absolute panic at the thought of losing the use of his hands. He fought in earnest then, trying to twist free of his captors' hold but it seemed only to amuse them. One shoved him into the wall and easily held him in place, while the other forced his arms up, one at a time, to clap manacles around his wrists. When they were done, he sagged in the grip of his chains, trembling with exhaustion; his arms were spread to form a Y against the stone. He was facing the wall, so he wasn't sure which one cut his shirt apart, baring his back, but he had a terrible idea he knew what was coming next.
“What do you think, thirty lashes for a traitor?” one of the hooded men asked as they left Leonardo chained to the wall. There was another dark chuckle.
“I'd say more but I don't think he'll last past five.”
Leonardo pressed his forehead against the stone and prayed for strength, shaking as he waited for the first kiss of the whip. He thought of Ezio and hoped he was doing right by staying silent. If they were Cesare's agents, then finding one of the assassin's weaknesses might be better than killing him outright for being a spy. Leonardo did not consider himself a brave man but if it would keep him from being used against Ezio, he would find the courage to endure.
The first strike was so quick and white-hot in its intensity, it stunned him. It wasn't until the second strike that he cried out and after that, he couldn't help himself. Each lash lit a line of fire along his back and as the fourth landed across a welt left by a previous stroke, he shrieked, actually rising up to his toes in a desperate attempt to get away from the pain etched into his skin. He lasted through a fifth and sixth blow but before he felt the seventh land, he had fallen into blissful unconsciousness.
When awareness returned to him, Leonardo found himself hanging from the chains like a forgotten marionette, his back aflame with pain. He couldn't tell if they'd continued the whipping after he passed out because every inch of his skin radiated equal agony. His wrists were a lesser pain, the metal cuffs digging in from his weight pulling on them. The skin on his cheeks felt strangely tight and as he licked his lips, he tasted salt. Had he been weeping? He couldn't even remember beyond the first few strikes of the whip. Slowly, despite every muscle in him protesting, he tried to get his feet back under him and stand, to relieve the pressure building in his hands from the pinching manacles. He heard something move behind him and froze.
“Ready to continue?”
A low moan escaped Leonardo's lips in answer to that calm question and he felt a fresh wave of panic rising within him, overflowing into words.
“Please, please let me go. I have done nothing wrong, I swear to you.” He hated the tremble in his voice but couldn't seem to control that or the shaking of his limbs. There was an outraged noise behind him and Leonardo was certain the whipping this time would be much worse but before they could start, there was a splintering crash and then everything came to a halt.
“Maestro!” one of his captors said, sounding startled.
“What. Is. The. Meaning. Of. This?” The words were clipped and filled with venomous rage, but Leonardo still recognized Ezio's voice. He felt like weeping again but seemed to be caught in the same frozen spell as the other men, who said nothing until Ezio barked, “Explain!”
“We-we found this traitor living at the Borgia estate,” one began hesitantly, followed by the sound of someone being struck.
“You pezzo di merda, da Vinci is a spy! How do you think we knew where to find all those hidden cashes of rifles?” The silence spoke volumes as the conspirators realized the true extent of their mistake.
“Dio mio,” someone whispered and that was all Ezio needed to lose control. He snarled another curse and moved, but Leonardo could only hear the sounds of a scuffle, followed by the thud of fists hitting flesh. Ezio would kill them in his rage, of that he had no doubt. He had never before heard the man this angry.
“Ezio,” he gasped, his voice tense from the pain of trying to see over his shoulder. The commotion behind him stopped abruptly, with the exception of a few pained moans.
“Go.” The word was forced out between clenched teeth but apparently the other assassins were too terrified to move. Ezio cursed again and there was a clatter as the chair went flying into the wall to Leonardo's left. “Get out of my sight before I tear you apart with my bare hands!” That got them moving and Leonardo listened as they rushed—limping, more than likely—out of the cellar. Suddenly dizzy with relief, he sagged in his restraints and couldn't help the whimper that escaped him as the movement sent lances of pain through his back. Almost instantly, Ezio was there, using the key he must have taken from the kidnappers to unlock the manacles and catching Leonardo when he swayed on his feet.
“Forgive me, caro mio, I came as soon as I found out. I will kill them for what they've done to you. Your beautiful skin--” Ezio's words choked off, his expression stricken. His hood was thrown back and Leonardo was overwhelmed by the urge to reach out and run his fingers into Ezio's hair, to be sure he wasn't dreaming somehow. Ezio caught his hand as it moved towards him, his grip so tight it was almost painful but Leonardo didn't protest because it confirmed that this was real; the nightmare was over.
“It doesn't matter, I will heal,” he said with a weary attempt at a smile. “They made a mistake, Ezio.”
“Non me ne frega un cazzo! They should not have—Leonardo? Leonardo, stay with me!” But despite the frantic edge in Ezio's voice and the strong arms supporting him, Leonardo felt himself falling backwards into darkness once again.
This time when Leonardo awoke, he found himself lying on a soft but unfamiliar bed. The pillows had been pushed to the side so that his head rested on the mattress, turned to one side. That's how, when he first opened his eyes, he saw Ezio seated beside the bed. The assassin was hunched over, elbows on his knees and hands clasped together with his head bowed. He had shed his armor and bracers and every inch of him radiated tension.
Leonardo tried to push himself up but found his limbs were heavy and sluggish to respond. The movement also sent a streak of pain through his back and with a startled gasp, he sank back into the mattress. That small noise caused Ezio's head to snap up like a dog scenting prey. In one fluid movement, he was out of the chair and kneeling by the bed, worry and a touch of guilt in his expression. Leonardo opened his mouth to speak but found his tongue and lips seemed glued together. He worked his jaw slowly, trying to get rid of the feeling.
“Laudanum,” was what he eventually managed to get out.
“Sí, only a little. The doctor advised it while I cleaned your back. He gave me a salve also.” Ezio rose and moved out of Leonardo's line of sight. The painter closed his eyes again, content just to lie there and listen to the rustle of clothing, the sound of items being moved around on a desk. When Ezio returned, he approached from the other side, out of Leonardo's sight, but he took care to ease himself onto the bed. He settled in a kneeling position astride Leonardo's legs and a moment later, something cool and wet was rubbed onto his back. Leonardo hissed, more in surprise than in pain, but soon relaxed as a soothing numbness spread where the salve touched.
“How does it feel?” Ezio asked above him, smearing the medicine more surely onto the rest of the welts.
“Numb,” Leonardo responded. “Tingles a little.”
“He said it was the best in the city. I guess he was right.” There was a hint of a smile in Ezio's voice. Leonardo sighed in relief as the coolness began to overtake the ache of his wounds.
“How did you find me?”
“I went to visit you and found the house in an uproar. Guards were everywhere but I managed to learn you were missing and the men at your door were dead.” His hands never stopped in their gentle application of the salve and his voice was calm, but Leonardo suspected that inside, the assassin was anything but. He couldn't imagine what must have gone through Ezio's mind. “I left then and went into the city to ask questions, sending my people out to look. I never expected my own men...” His hands had stopped but Leonardo could feel him trembling with the same suppressed rage that had entered his voice.
“Ezio.” Leonardo opened his eyes and tried to look over his shoulder, wincing in pain. Ezio obliged by leaning to one side, bracing a hand against the mattress. As Leonardo had guessed, his face was a solemn mask but his eyes blazed. “You have to let it go. It was a mistake. I have no doubt you've beaten that into their hides.” He tried for a light-hearted tone but Ezio seemed unaffected.
“It will not happen again,” he said. “I swear it.”
“Bene, now let it go. I'm safe now.” Ezio stared at him hard then sat up, moving out of sight again. After a few more seconds of silence, he sighed and his hands resumed their task.
“Sometimes I do not understand how your mind works,” he muttered but Leonardo just smiled. He sensed Ezio wanted to say more and waited patiently. After a short silence, the assassin asked, “Why did you not tell them you were spying for me?”
“I thought it might be a trick of Cesare's. A ruse to get me to confess working with you. I didn't want to take the chance so I kept silent.” He felt Ezio twitch in surprise at this.
“You are very brave, caro.” Leonardo chuckled at this, thinking he was just the opposite but too relaxed to contradict his lover.
Ezio's hands had drifted as he worked, trailing his nails across unmarked skin and digging his thumbs into tense muscles. At first it had been lost in the pleasant chill that crept across his back but then Leonardo realized those caresses were sending tingles of a different kind straight to his groin. He couldn't help the groan that Ezio drew out of him as another knot of tension unwound under those clever fingers.
“Please.” The word was a breath of air against the back of Leonardo's neck, making him shiver in response. Lips followed, leaving gentle kisses. “Please, I want to make you feel better.” He had one hand at Leonardo's waist, the other braced on the bed to keep his weight off Leonardo's back. “I will be gentle, I promise.” Fingers slid teasingly across his stomach and Leonardo's hips twitched in response, grinding his half-hard cock into the mattress.
It was hard to argue when he had missed Ezio terribly over the past several weeks. They had been separated before when Ezio went out on missions, but Leonardo had been in the comfort and safety of his own home then. Living under Cesare's roof filled almost every day with tension and fear and he had longed for the peace he found in Ezio's presence.
“Va bene,” he murmured and felt Ezio smile against his shoulder.
As the assassin quickly slipped off the bed and urged him to sit up, Leonardo was pleased to find that most of the lethargy in his limbs had faded and small movements didn't disrupt the numbness coating his back. Ezio spread Leonardo's knees so he could move closer and kiss him and Leonardo responded eagerly, parting his lips to allow Ezio's tongue access. He lost himself in the familiar feel and taste of Ezio, running his fingers into dark hair, almost giddy with the joy of this reunion, especially after the chaotic events leading up to it. He was so caught up, he hardly noticed Ezio's hands at his waist undoing the laces of his trousers, until calloused fingers closed around his cock and then he gasped. Ezio kissed him deeper as he stroked him to full-hardness, swallowing Leonardo's moans and setting a steady pace that left Leonardo thinking he wouldn't last very long. Abruptly, Ezio broke their kiss and moved his hand instead to hook his fingers into the waistband of Leonardo's pants. He chuckled as Leonardo blinked dazedly at him for a moment, then the painter realized his intention and lifted his hips enough for Ezio to tug the pants off.
As the cloth came free Ezio sank to his knees, holding Leonardo's gaze as he did so, but instead of moving directly to where Leonardo most desperately wanted his mouth to be, Ezio lifted Leonardo's foot and pressed his lips to the arch. He began to massage his way up Leonardo's leg, trailing kisses as he went and drawing little cries with nips of teeth. He had just reached Leonardo's hip, biting lightly at the jut of bone there, when he suddenly sat back and picked up Leonardo's other foot. The artist cursed in frustration but Ezio just smirked and repeated this slow torture up his other leg. Leonardo was trembling with need by the time Ezio reached the apex but this time there was no teasing pause. He turned his head and slid his lips firmly over Leonardo's aching length, holding down Leonardo's hips down as they bucked in response.
Leonardo groaned and wanted nothing more than to fall back against the bed but a twinge of pain between his shoulders reminded him that wasn't an option. Instead, he clenched a hand in the bedsheet to brace himself and slid the fingers of his other hand into Ezio’s silky hair. He hardly needed to encourage him because the man was bobbing his head eagerly, lips wrapped tight and tongue swirling over the head with every upward slide. He was watching Leonardo with those hungry eyes and a flush in his cheeks that was so beautiful, Leonardo found it impossible to look away. He felt himself slipping closer to the edge as that hot heat enveloped him again and again and he pushed weakly at Ezio's shoulder.
“Wait, wait, Ezio,” he panted. The assassin ignored him at first and the pressure of those lips and the slide of his tongue along the length almost undid Leonardo. Then Ezio released him and lunged up for a hungry kiss, almost pushing Leonardo back against the bed before checking himself and settling for holding him steady with a hand at the nape of his neck.
“I want more,” Leonardo whispered against his lips. The lust in Ezio's eyes took on an almost predatory gleam but he still hesitated.
“Are you sure?” he asked, a touch of worry entering his expression as one hand slid around Leonardo's waist to the small of his back, just under the welts. Leonardo just nodded, pulling Ezio down against him and groaning as their crotches bumped. Despite his words to Ezio, he had a tense minute where he fought the urge to wrap his legs around the other man and grind until he found release. Ezio saved him by disentangling himself with apologetic kisses and moving to the desk. He returned a moment later with a small jar and quickly divested himself of his clothes before climbing onto the bed.
As Ezio lay back against the pillows, he coaxed Leonardo to straddle him, watching closely for any sign of pain. Leonardo felt a light tugging of the skin on his back when he moved but smiled reassuringly as he settled in Ezio's lap. Their erections rubbed together then and both men paused to shiver, the wounds on Leonardo's back temporarily forgotten. Ezio propped himself up with one arm and Leonardo bent down to meet him halfway for a kiss as a cool, slick finger found his entrance. As it began to gradually move in and out, Leonardo groaned and rocked against it, impatient for what he'd asked for. But Ezio was keeping to his promise to be gentle and took his time before a second finger joined the first.
“Ezio, please,” Leonardo panted as Ezio scissored his fingers slowly.
“Patience, amore mio,” Ezio murmured against his neck, kissing his way down to Leonardo’s collarbone. “I do not want to hurt you.”
“I am not—ah!—made of glass,” Leonardo protested but Ezio was finally adding a third finger so the rest of what he’d planned to say dissolved into a stream of half-hearted curses. Ezio chuckled and then crooked his fingers suddenly, finding that sweet spot with impossible aim, and Leonardo arched his back with a cry that was half-pain, half-pleasure. He felt a streak of heat cut through the numbness even as he relaxed. Ezio must have noticed because he paused, concern in his eyes, but Leonardo bent to capture his mouth again, his hand dropping to give Ezio's cock a squeeze.
“Don't stop,” he pleaded. Ezio looked at him searchingly, eyes fluttering half-shut when Leonardo continued to stroke him. Eventually he nodded, cupping Leonardo's cheek and kissing him back hungrily.
A moment later, he was entering Leonardo but it was maddeningly slow, and his hands at Leonardo's waist made it impossible to hasten the process. Once Leonardo was seated to the root, breathless from the feel of being filled so deeply after so long, Ezio paused to allow him to adjust and then he began to move. His thrusts were leisurely at first until Leonardo braced his hands against the headboard and rocked against him deliberately and then Ezio growled and began grinding with growing urgency, his fingers digging into Leonardo's hips.
Each thrust hit the spot inside Leonardo that sent sparks of pleasure dancing across his nerves but even as he arched into it, he felt twinges of pain through his back. The two sensations merged together until he could no longer tell them apart and cried out from both. All too soon Ezio’s hand was stroking his cock roughly and his voice was a soft counterpoint as he murmured, “Come, Leonardo, come for me. I want to see you unwind.” Leonardo let out a harsh sob as his release tore through him, his knuckles white from his grip on the headboard and his muscles clenched tight around Ezio. Even as he spent himself across Ezio's stomach, he felt the assassin’s hips snap against his a few more times before he, too, came, groaning Leonardo's name.
Neither one of them moved for a few minutes as their breathing evened out and pulses slowed, but eventually Leonardo felt exhaustion creeping up on him. His whole body was trembling from trying to hold himself still and as Ezio shifted to pull out, he collapsed onto his lover with a whimper at the fresh pain in his back. He heard Ezio sigh in exasperation as the assassin looked over the lash marks.
“I think you have undone all my hard work,” he complained.
“Perhaps now you understand my frustration when you return to me with torn stitches,” Leonardo mumbled against his chest and felt the rumble of laughter this provoked. He was already half-asleep when Ezio carefully untangled himself to fetch a cloth to clean them up. The last thing he remembered were lips brushing his forehead and then a dreamless sleep overtook him.
In the morning, Ezio applied a fresh coating of the salve and wound thin gauze around Leonardo’s torso to keep his clothes from sticking to his back. It was hot and itchy but as long as he moved carefully, it didn’t rub against the wounds. Ezio also gave him clothes to wear since all he had left from his capture were his pants. He included a pouch for his belt with the jar that contained the rest of the ointment, as well as the location of the doctor who had given it to him.
“He is one of us,” Ezio explained. “Should Cesare send anyone out to question him, he will say he found you in an alley and took care of your wounds.”
Once out in the street, Ezio walked just ahead of Leonardo, somehow managing to divert the flow of pedestrians so that no one bumped into him. Leonardo was grateful for that because it allowed him to silently go over the story they’d constructed for his absence without having to pay too much attention to where they went. He was surprised when they soon were in sight of the Borgia walls.
“I will not be far,” Ezio whispered, brushing a kiss against Leonardo’s hand before melting into the crowd. Leonardo wasn’t sure if that meant he would be watching as he entered the fortress or something else. He tried to put it out of his mind as he straightened his back and approached the guards.
He had expected surprise at his appearance but not the outright furor that erupted once they realized who he was. No one could decide whether to arrest him, take him to his room to keep him there for Cesare to question, or hold him at the guardhouse until Cesare could be summoned. Finally, they decided on a combination of the three and that was how he found himself meeting the Borgia heir in a hallway, surrounded by six menacing guards, while on their way to his workshop. Cesare had four escorts of his own and the effect was almost claustrophobic. Thankfully, they’d noticed the abrasions on his wrists and decided against manacles but one guard had a hand clamped on Leonardo’s shoulder tight enough to make it ache.
“You vanished.” Cesare's tone was cool, almost diffident, but Leonardo knew better.
“I was taken,” he replied calmly. “By assassins.” The effect this one word had on the guards was almost comical. They immediately tensed and looked around as if they expected men in white to spring out of the walls. Cesare, however, merely raised an eyebrow.
“You are still alive,” he remarked drily.
“They had questions for me about what I was working on and where items were being sent. When I didn’t have the answers they wanted, they whipped me and left me in the street with a warning to break my contract with you or else.”
Cesare mulled this over, his expression completely unreadable. Leonardo shifted under the guard’s iron grip, wincing as his back protested, and waited for a response.
“Yet here you are,” the other man finally said.
“Sí.” Leonardo spread his hands with a slightly sheepish smile. “My work is here and besides, I am sure the guards will be more vigilant now that they know who they are guarding me from.”
“They also know what will happen if they fail again.” As these ominous words hung in the air, Leonardo almost felt bad for the men surrounding them, but he kept his face in a politely neutral mask as Cesare went on. “I will send our doctor to see you.”
“That is very kind, Signore. I am sorry to have troubled you with my disappearance.” Cesare waved a hand dismissively.
“Non é niente. Your work is as you left it; feel free to resume once you are recovered.”
Cesare gestured and the majority of the guards trotted off, including the one who had been crushing Leonardo’s shoulder. With a brisk nod to Leonardo, the commander of the Papal army strode down the hall, taking two men with him and leaving Leonardo with two of his own. The atmosphere that surrounded them as he and his escort continued to his workshop was completely different than before his abduction. Before, the men who watched him had seemed almost contemptuous and bored by their assignment. Now they seemed quite anxious.
“Just let us know if you need anything, Messer da Vinci,” one of them said as they reached his door. Leonardo smiled kindly as he paused, a hand on the knob.
“Grazie,” he said and went inside. As he shut the door behind him, he shook his head and chuckled. The men were probably terrified at being caught between defending against invading assassins and the punishment Cesare would inflict should they fail, which they almost certainly would. He hoped they would not suffer too much lost sleep over it.
As he moved around the room, checking on his things, he saw everything was as Cesare had said. No doubt the man had leafed through the scattered drawings but Leonardo had been careful not to keep anything that would link him to Ezio. Anything he drew on a whim that even remotely reminded him of home, he destroyed.
A splash of red out of the corner of his eye made him turn to see his hat resting inconspicuously at the end of one counter. Leonardo walked toward it, frowning. He had almost certainly been wearing it when the assassins took him so if anything, it should have been in their custody, or perhaps forgotten on the floor. He picked it up and stared at the mottled brown feather that had been hidden beneath it. That he knew for certain had not been in the workshop when he left. Leonardo shook his head again, unable to help the ridiculous grin that spread slowly across his face.
“Idiota,” he murmured but he brushed his fingers lovingly along the soft edges before tucking it into his shirt.