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The Cardinal's New Pants

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"Something troubles you, my lady?"

Lucrezia started, found Micheletto standing at her elbow. He moved like a predator, sneaking up on prey, silent and stealthy.

"Forgive me if I startled you," he offered.

"I was distracted," she said, returning her attention to the courtyard below, resting her elbows on the stone railing of the baloney. Micheletto joined her, gazing down at Cesare who was parading around the lawns.

Given all his talk of stifling cardinal robes, even if he meant it as much metaphorically as literally, it seemed somewhat hypocritical that Cesare preferred to wear leather pants that constricted his movement. They hugged his hips and legs, and Lucrezia saw the awkwardness with which he had to seat himself at all, let alone in order not to have the leather pinch his crotch.

"They are quite the statement," Micheletto said as if reading her thoughts.

"I do not doubt that," Lucrezia agreed, watching Cesare glance around before trying to bend his knees into a squat as he attempted to wear the pants in somewhat. "And they are rather flattering. Yet I cannot help but think he looks somewhat pained by their constricting nature, and I find myself wondering how long it took to get them on."

"And by the same token, how long it would take to get them off?"

She gave Micheletto a sideways glance. "Quite."

Cesare straightened up, fiddled with his crotch. Lucrezia barely stifled a giggle, ducking down out of sight. Micheletto joined her, apparently not eager to be caught spying on his employer.

"He is so very proud of them," Lucrezia whispered. "I do not have the heart to beg him to have them tailored with a little more room."

"Beauty requires some sacrifice and discomfort," Micheletto said softly.

"And what do you know of such things?" she said, though her tone was affectionate.

"I know beauty when I see it," he offered, gazing at her and then back down at Cesare, who was now leaning back on a bench, legs held out stiffly in front of him.

There was no arguing with that.