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Leonardo likes to talk.

About art and color, about the weather, the intricacies of the human mind. About the things he's building, whatever strange new topic he's currently studying. There are things he reads—treatises and scrolls in languages Ezio has never seen before, messages from other like-minded men, the sort of men who spend their lives in study and contemplation, and occasionally elbows-deep in eviscerated corpses—he talks about those too.

Most of it goes over Ezio's head, but he doesn't really mind. There are few he trusts more than Leonardo, few who have done more for him. It is a small price to pay, to listen to his ideas and nod at the right moment.

There are a few ways to quiet him, Ezio knows. Food will work, for a time, but Leonardo refuses to eat the flesh of any creature, even fish, so it leaves the spread rather limited whenever Ezio dines with him. Soup and olives and bread, things his mother would have called 'light fare'.

Sleep, perhaps, Ezio had thought, might quiet him. But he has walked in to find him nodding off at his worktable, still murmuring long intelligible conversations with himself or the people in his dreams. His fingers grasp, reaching for something. Ezio wonders, sometimes, what would happen if he slipped a pen between them, if Leonardo would continue to create even in unconsciousness.

He sleeps with the window open to the night air, which Ezio finds ridiculously foolish. Venezia isn't a safe place, even to wealthy artists with powerful patrons. It would be dangerous even if Leonardo wasn't known to consort with a wanted criminal.

Ezio swings in easily over the pane, dropping soundlessly to the floor. A stump of incense burns on the writing desk, the scent earthy and exotic—a combination of spices from the far east that Leonardo swears helps to ease sleep. Whatever it is, it doesn't seem to be helping.

Leonardo rolls over in bed. The linens are twisted and damp with sweat. His eyes are open and glassy, and Ezio is about to greet him, when he realizes that Leonardo hasn't recognized him. His eyes are wide and unseeing and as Ezio watches, he flails out a hand, grasping for something only he can see.

"No!" he cries. "Not him, I can't! I won't…"

His words are breathless and terrified, dissolving into whimpers and broken pleas.

Ezio drops the newest codex pages on the desk, falling to his knees at his friend's bedside, shaking him roughly by the shoulders.

"Leonardo, amico, wake up! It's only a dream, un incubo!"

Leonardo makes another helpless noise and lashes out clumsily. Ezio catches his wrist and pushes him back down against the sheets, fearing what harm he might do to himself if he is released.

"Leonardo, calm down! It's Ezio! You are safe, my friend."

Leonardo's body goes taut for a moment, straining, as if fighting off the last of the nightmare. He collapses back to the bed, eyes fluttering. His hair is a tousled mess and his body is painted all over with fear-sweat. Ezio can feel his skin, clammy and shivering beneath it.

"Ezio!" His eyes go wide as he struggles back. "Ezio, how did you--."

"You were dreaming, amico mio," Ezio says, as gently as he can. "You were calling out in your sleep."

Leonardo rubs his eyes. "Mi dispiace, Ezio. I dreamed there was a man holding a blade to my throat. He said he would kill me if I did not kill you." He hasn't let go of Ezio's shirt, fingers clutching tight as if to make sure he didn't go anywhere. "Dio, it was so real."

"Only a dream," Ezio assures him. "I am alive and you are alive and there is no man with a knife."

Leonardo nods restlessly. "Yes, yes, of course. Only, dreams are an echo of our inner fears, you see. They are our unconscious mind acting out that which we—."

Kisses, Ezio realizes as he pushes his friend back down against the pillows, are also an excellent way to keep Leonardo quiet.

He goes still for a moment, before his mouth opens against Ezio's. He moans softly, hands going to the straps of his vest and hanging on. He kisses differently than a woman, and the scratch of stubble against Ezio's cheek is strange, but not unpleasantly so. It is like everything over the last few years has been—different and new and beyond anything that he could imagine.

Leonardo is breathless and gasping when he finally pulls away, and the look on his face says that part of him thinks he might still be dreaming.

"Why now?" he asks, when he finally can put breath to his words.

"Because nothing is ever certain," Ezio answers. "And because now is as good a time as any."

Leonardo hesitates for a moment, before running his fingers along the line of Ezio's jaw. The touch is soft and feather-light, but at least he isn't shaking anymore.

"What about the women?" he blurts out a moment later, pulling back an inch or two, before hanging his head guiltily. "You…you seem to really like them."

"I do. Is there some law against me liking you as well?"

"Well yes, there is," Leonardo admits,.

"I already break god's law with startling regularity. I doubt man's law will make my prospects for salvation any worse."

Leonardo stares at him for a few moments, eyes wide. Then he starts to chuckle, body shaking at the release of emotion. "There is no man like you in all of Italia."

Ezio laughs. "I should hope not."