There was something comforting about being on the road with Cesare. The cities were nice – comfortable beds, good food and better wine, and the occasional pretty girl, but Michelotto far preferred the countryside. Or, more accurately, he preferred Cesare when it was just the two of them and there was no one else watching. That was when Cesare seemed to drop his masks and become human again, no longer the politician and schemer, or the devil in man's clothing. When they were out in the countryside he could pretend that Cesare was just another man – a young man, but a man nonetheless.
Cesare dressed simpler while they were traveling – there was no one to impress with his finery besides Michelotto and the goats they passed. The goats probably cared more about fine clothing than Michelotto did.
"Let's stop." Cesare turned his horse off the road without waiting for Michelotto.
Wherever Cesare wanted to stop, it wasn't immediately apparent since their horses didn't stop for several paces. Cesare led them into a thin thicket of trees, their horses moving slowly over an old game trail. The sound of running water could be faintly heard over the stamping of hooves and Michelotto had to smile. Trust Cesare to find a secluded stream in any part of the country.
They pulled up their horses at the edge of the tree line and Cesare jumped off his without waiting, trusting Michelotto to see to it while he shucked his clothing, leaving the fabric draped over a rock at the upper bank of the pool. Michelotto had to admire the way Cesare moved. There was no denying his beauty, and while Cesare's naked form wasn't new to him, that didn't stop him from appreciating it every time he saw it – which was fairly often considering the way he followed Cesare around.
Michelotto tied the horses reigns to a sturdy branch, giving them enough lead that they could pick at the brush and any of the low-hanging branches. He kept his sword at his side. Trouble could find them at any time, and he liked to be prepared.
"We should be going," Michelotto reminded. "I don't think it's safe to idle like this."
Cesare ignored him, as expected, and continued to splash in the pool.
"We've been on the road forever," came the reply from the glistening water, "and I'm filthy with dust. It'll just take a few moments. Besides, the day is too nice not to take advantage."
Michelotto sighed and took a seat on the bank, on hand gripping his sword hilt lightly.
"You could come in, you know."
Michelotto shook his head. He really didn't think they should be idling and if he went in the water they'd only waste more time. If he still had his clothes on then there was at least a chance that they could save time.
Instead, Michelotto watched.
It truly was a nice day. The sun was shining and the weather was fairly warm. Not quite warm enough that he would have wanted to get wet but Cesare was the type to take outdoor baths in late fall. Still, despite the delay it would cause them, he was thankful for the ability to observe Cesare while he frolicked in the waves. It was rare few moments when Cesare could truly let his guard down, and there was a part of Michelotto that wanted to fight, to kill every man that stood in his way, so that Cesare didn't have to bother with his masks anymore.
He knew that wasn't going to happen. As long as there was at least one other person in this world beside Michelotto and Cesare's sister, he would always have masks. It was sad, in a way, to think that Cesare couldn't be truly free, but Michelotto understood. He had a mask of his own after all, though his fit inside a pocket and he could take it on or pull it off as he wished. Cesare's were built in, an automatic reflex to guard him from the world that seemed intent on destroying him, at times, or at least intent on turning him towards their powers.
They should be on their way, but Michelotto couldn't bring himself to call an end to Cesare's bath. They had time, they could wait a few more moments. Until then, Michelotto would watch, and wait.