“Honestly, Ezio, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were leading me somewhere you could easily dispose of my body, although I suppose that is not your usual style.”
Ezio twisted so suddenly in his saddle to give Leonardo a look of incredulous shock that his horse stopped, snorting and tossing its head at the clenching of the reins. Leonardo laughed quietly at his expression, causing his own horse to flick an ear back toward the sound as it continued to plod on. Ezio, now looking quite disgruntled, gave his mount a squeeze with his knees and it trotted forward to take the lead once again, the assassin on its back muttering under his breath.
They were in the sprawling outskirts of Tuscany’s countryside and while it was quite peaceful and pretty in the moonlight, Leonardo was still a bit bemused as to why they were out here. It had taken quite a lot of coaxing for Ezio to convince Leonardo to leave his home in Milan and travel to Firenze and then even more wheedling to make him ride out as the sun’s last rays faded from the horizon. But Ezio had become quite skilled over the years at convincing Leonardo and he had promised he would enjoy this surprise. Leonardo still wondered what it was that lay ahead, considering Ezio’s saddlebags looked more full than necessary for just a night’s ride.
All inquiries, however subtly he phrased them, had been ignored until Ezio finally pointed out in exasperation that it would not be much of a surprise if he told him before they arrived. Leonardo had let it go after that, just enjoying the comfortable silence that often fell between them, much to Ezio’s relief. It was a welcome change from the bustle of his workshop in Milan and he was grateful to have this time with Ezio alone, another luxury they rarely had.
Eventually, Leonardo noticed the path they were following had begun to slope upwards and the air was growing warmer. He glanced around curiously but the fields to their left gave no hint of what they were approaching and to the right, high trees blocked the view. Ezio glanced back at him with a mysterious smile but still said nothing. The road curved to the right, still climbing, and then crossed a narrow stream that the horses easily stepped over. A few minutes later they came around the blockade of trees to a small clearing.
Moonlight bathed the area in pale white light, revealing the ground was bare except for a few patches of grass. On the left, a slope led up to a squat brick house that was partially crumbling and overgrown by the trees. On the other side of the house were a series of large, rounded stone steps of varying sizes. It seemed more like decoration than anything else until Leonardo drew closer. That's when he saw the glimmer of moonlit water and realized each semi-circle was actually a scooped out basin filled to the brim. The source was a quietly burbling spout at the top of the stairs that continuously spilled out and over the stone, keeping each “bath” full. At the base of the steps, the overflow of water formed a stream that disappeared into the trees; the same stream they had crossed earlier, more than likely. Where the water was still, he could a faint steam rising from its surface.
“This is incredible!” Leonardo said, turning to Ezio, who looked truly pleased for the first time that night. “How did you find this?”
“One of il dottori in Roma. He said he has a colleague who has been traveling all over Italia, looking for these springs. He claims they have medicinal value.” Ezio chuckled when Leonardo’s head whipped back towards the baths, eyes lighting up with curiosity. As he went on, his tone was dry, “Perhaps I should have brought him along so the two of you could have discussed it?”
Leonardo glanced at him, an agreement on the tip of his tongue but something in Ezio’s expression made him catch himself; instead, he smiled softly.
“Perhaps another time. I’m glad that for today, we have this place to ourselves.”
This seemed to ease away the grumpy atmosphere that had been building over Ezio’s head. He swung down off his horse with his usual dexterity and moved to steady Leonardo as he dismounted, a little less gracefully. Leonardo sighed with some relief when he had both feet on the ground and stretched to ease the dull ache in his back.
“Beautiful creatures, I must admit,” he murmured, reaching out to pat his horse’s neck, “but I will never get used to being in the saddle for great lengths of time.” The horse bumped its nose against Leonardo affectionately. “Mi dispiace, my friend. It is not your fault.”
“Well you can put aside your worries. We are done riding for the night,” Ezio said as he stepped up to take the reins from Leonardo. At the artist’s questioning look, he nodded to the small hut. “We will stay there tonight and ride back in the morning.”
He started to lead the horses up the slope towards the house, clucking at his own mount, which dutifully followed. Leonardo was left standing in the clearing a little awkwardly, unsure if he should be helping with the horses or waiting there. He looked again at the water but hesitated.
“Go ahead, Leonardo,” Ezio called, a smile in his voice. “I will join you once I’ve taken care of the horses.”
That was all the encouragement he needed. Leonardo moved to where the steps ended and saw the lowest pool, almost level with where he stood, was also the shallowest. The others looked to be of varying depths, all worn smooth by the constant flow of the milky-white water. Leonardo stripped quickly, leaving his clothes in a small pile on one of the few patches of grass, and then carefully stepped into the pool nearest the edge. The water came up to his ankles and was so hot at first, he hissed in surprise. But as he stood there, waiting, the heat seeped into his skin until it seemed a more bearable temperature. He waded over to the edge of the next step up and saw it was a little deeper so he held onto the stone rim and climbed in. This time the water came up just over his knees and, after taking a moment to adjust, he slowly lowered himself down until he was seated on the stone, his legs stretched out in front of him and the water lapping at his neck.
The heat seemed to target the muscles sorest from the ride and baked away the ache he’d felt before. The relief was so great, Leonardo couldn’t help the soft groan as he leaned back against the edge of the natural bath. After a few minutes of simply letting the water work its magic, he looked more closely at it, fascinated by the swirls of white whenever he moved his hand. The creak of armor drew his attention back to Ezio, who had returned and brought with him a couple of towels. He was currently stripping off his gear and dropping it onto the cloth he’d laid out. Leonardo saw his own clothes had been moved to the linen and then returned his gaze to Ezio; this was a sight worth paying attention to.
Ezio smirked at the expression on Leonardo’s face when he let the last piece of clothing fall. He stepped into the shallowest pool, holding Leonardo’s gaze as he approached and never showing any sign that the water affected him. Leonardo swallowed as a different kind of heat suffused him. The assassin climbed into the pool where Leonardo sat and sank into the water, crawling up the length of Leonardo’s body until he crowded him against the edge. Then scarred lips were on his as they shared a gentle, unhurried exploration of each other’s mouths. When Ezio pulled back, he was radiating self-satisfaction. He shifted them around until Leonardo was seated between his legs, facing away, with Ezio’s arms around his waist. Leonardo could feel the assassin’s arousal pressed against his back but Ezio, surprisingly, did not let his hands wander.
“There will be time enough for that later,” he murmured against Leonardo’s neck, just under his ear. “I truly just brought you here to relax.”
Even as Leonardo shivered at the caress of breath against flushed skin, he was smiling at Ezio’s words. It was a little unusual for Ezio not to have devious intentions towards Leonardo, but it wasn’t an unwelcome change. He relaxed against the other man and let the possibility of “later” settle in the back of his mind like a small ember, the heat of desire still there but not overwhelming his other senses. For a long time, there was only silence except for the murmur of the spring and the occasional hoot of an owl.
It was clear Ezio had spent some time putting together this little outing. Leonardo suspected that when they eventually retreated to the house, there would be bedding slightly more comfortable than just a blanket on the ground, despite the building’s dilapidated appearance. And obviously there had been somewhere to leave the horses where they wouldn’t wander, perhaps a fenced-in area just out of sight? Now that they were lounging like this, he wondered if he could find out what had inspired all of this work.
“I think you are beginning to dote on me as if I were an old man,” he remarked and smiled when Ezio twitched.
“I have given you gifts before,” the assassin said, sounding affronted.
“Lovebites are not so much gifts as displays of ownership, Ezio.” When the man began to sputter, moving as if to untangle himself, Leonardo chuckled and turned in his lap. “I am only teasing, caro mio.” He kissed him gently but thoroughly, until he felt was certain Ezio would not leave. He still looked a little sulky, though, so Leonardo rubbed soothing circles down his calves as he faced forward again. Gradually, he felt Ezio relax but he knew he was truly forgiven when arms encircled his waist again, hugging him close.
“You have been spending too many late nights in the workshop,” came the grumble from behind him. “You are not as young as you once were, Leonardo. You should not have to do all the work, not when you have assistants.”
Ah, finally they came to the root of the problem and the reason behind him being whisked away from his workshop. But how to explain that inspiration did not rest? His mind, despite the years, had not lost its edge and could not be told to wait until morning simply because he was tired. It was an argument not worth having, especially not now when it would spoil the mood. Leonardo made a mental note to try spending a little less time on his varied projects, if only to please his lover.
“I am not the only one who isn't as young as he used to be,” he said instead and laughed when Ezio's arms and legs squeezed him briefly in retaliation. When the crushing grip loosened, Leonardo slipped free and turned to face Ezio with a mischievous light in his eyes. “Perhaps you are too tired and would like to turn in early?”
“I will show you who is too tired,” Ezio growled as he lunged up from his seat. His arm whipped out, snake-like in its speed, and hooked around Leonardo’s waist to jerk him forward. His mouth was on Leonardo’s a split-second later, tongue delving in to lick hungrily with a groan. The desire from before flared up, almost tenfold, and Leonardo slid a hand up slick skin to tangle his fingers in Ezio’s hair as he returned the kiss with equal abandon.
“Satisfied now?” Ezio murmured once they’d parted. It was clear by the hard line of his arousal pressing against Leonardo’s thigh that he was more than ready to continue what he’d sparked before. Still, even with his own need clawing to be released, Leonardo couldn’t help the teasing grin he felt slide across his lips.
“I think you may need to go into more detail before I am convinced.”
Ezio’s eyes lit up at the challenge and his voice dropped to a purr as he replied.
“With pleasure, caro.”