Lucrezia gently dabbed at her upper cheeks with a handkerchief with her right hand, her left laced with her younger brother Joffre’s, the hot mid-summer Roman sun brutal her despite her light dress. The two walked together, flanked by Juan and Cesare, chatting amongst themselves. Juan stopped every now and then, turning in place and walking backwards as he flirted with any young girl who caught his eye until Cesare called for him to hurry up, sounding frustrated at their slow place and obviously tempted to leave his brother behind. Lucrezia met Cesare’s eye over Joffre’s head, offering him a tiny grin that softened him up immediately. Frowning, Joffre tugged on her hand until her full attention returned to him. He continued to happily regale her with every minute detail of this morning’s events. After a bit, Juan finally gave up when the pretty girls all laughed at him and returned to his place beside Lucrezia.
They were almost at their apartments when they heard a voice call after them, “oh, it’s the Spanish bastards!”
Juan spun in place, hunting for the voice but Cesare stepped towards him, grabbing him by the elbow before he could get far. “It’s not worth it,” Cesare said lowly, pointedly looking towards the younger Borgia siblings, their expressions caught between puzzlement and nervousness.
The two stared at each other for a moment before Juan sighed, conceding. “Let’s just go,” he said, wrapping a friendly arm around a baffled Joffre’s shoulders, Cesare moving into place beside Lucrezia.
However, the speaker wouldn’t let them leave in peace. The speaker, a young man a few years older then Cesare, turned to one of his companions and loudly said to them, “you know what I heard my father say? That the Borgia elder rose in church ranks by whoring out his wrinkly old bitch then when they got tired of her dry hole, he had his daughter put that pretty mouth of hers to work.”
His companion laughed. “Think if we paid enough the good cardinal would let us have a turn?”
The first man laughed crudely. “All she knows is old men. She’d probably love to see what a young man could do for her.”
Lucrezia gaped, hand flying to cover her mouth. She felt her face heat up and, mortified, tried to increase her pace but all three of her brothers had stopped walking. Joffre gripped her hand tightly, his nails digging into the soft skin.
“ Figli di puttana ! Say that again!” Juan screamed at them, dropping his arm from Joffre and moved to draw his sword. Cesare stepped behind Joffre and Lucrezia and grabbed Juan’s hand, using the momentum to shove the sword back into the sheath. Juan glared at him, nearly speechless with fury. He opened his mouth to shout at him, but faltered at the look on his brother’s face.
Cesare took a deep, calming breath. Too calmly, he told Juan, “please take Lucrezia and Joffre home. Tell mother what was said so she can speak with Lucrezia. I will be there in a few minutes.”
Chilled by his brother’s tone, Juan moved around to Lucrezia’s other side so she was again flanked by her brothers and wrapped a tight arm around her, hugging her close. “Let’s go, sister, Joffre.”
Lucrezia made a token protest, moving with Juan but she kept trying to catch Cesare’s eye. She did not like the look on his face. “Chezz--”
Cesare made a shooing movement with his hand. “Go, Crezia. I’ll be there soon.”
Reluctantly, she nodded, pressing close to Juan as he led the three away.
The two troublemakers laughed, shouting vulgarities after them. Once Lucrezia’s golden head disappeared from view, Cesare made his move. He swiftly crossed the street, shoving the first man into a dusty wall. When his companion made to defend his friend, Cesare slammed his elbow into the other man’s nose, effectively disabling him. The man went down with a harsh cry of pain.
“ Wait, wait,” the first stuttered, alarmed. “You’re a cleric--”
“I am a Borgia, first and foremost,” Cesare hissed, leaning in close. His dark hair shadowed his face, making him look sinister. “I am in a generous mood and I don’t want to cause Lucrezia undue distress if I get blood on my robes, so pay close attention to what I have to say. Spread the word: no one speaks ill of my mother and as God as my witness, I will vanish the man who talks about my sister. God help him if she’s around to hear it.”
Cesare gripped the man by his jaw, lifting up until he was forced to stab on the tips of his toes, face twisted in pain. He looked down into the man's eyes. “Like I said before, tell all of Rome: Lucrezia Borgia is off limits from their poisonous words. Am – I – under – stood?”
The man choked out, “Yes!”
Satisfied, Cesare released him. The man, his legs refusing to support him, fell down to the ground, clutching his jaw in pain. “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti,” Cesare muttered, shaping a vague cross in the air over the man before turning away and following after his family.
When he entered their apartments, he noticed his mother and Lucrezia sitting at the table in the garden, speaking quietly to themselves. Vanozza looked up at him, a frown on her mouth. A second later, Lucrezia turned in her chair to face him. She ran a critical eye over him, looking for... what? Wounds?
Cesare smiled at her. She returned it, relieved, and nearly jumped from her seat to get over to him. “Are you well, Cesare?” She asked, reaching for his hands. He took hers in his, pressing kisses to the backs of both.
“I am, sister,” he told her. He caught Vanozza's eye over Lucrezia's shoulder. His mother waited for a moment before smirking and nodding her approval. “Come, let's find Joffre and we'll teach him a new game to play.”
Lucrezia laced her fingers with Cesare's. “Let's.”