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Stars and Darkness

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What was he doing?

The sun was setting on Rome, weighing heavily on the western skyline. It dragged the darkness of night, and the stars. It threw them across the sky like a blanket over a caged wyrm. Few of the courtesan houses made disturbances in the covered night. Patrols were thinned, crossbows unloaded and slung onto backs. Pike man’s spears drooped and dragged where the citizens could not see, and plumes withered. The uniform’s royal color was matted, faded with the going down of the sun.

The city slept. A volatile beast not to be tempered with- of course, a certain man he knew did that, heedless. Headless was more accurate.

A star appeared, and he gasped. It happened very night, sure, but the notion of such continuity, such precision, in an unbalanced world never ceased to amaze him. Brilliant pricks of light- holes in the surroundings of the world? Far away suns that had places just like this? Unbelievable, right and true, to men who took the skies for granted, and who shut the door against the dark of night, pulling tight the curtains. They wanted nothing to do with heavens laying untouched above their heads.

Leonardo Da Vinci was not one of these men.

Leonardo Da Vinci took joy in questioning- prodding, learning, theorizing, building. Doing the impossible, the improbable, and the very unlikely.

Sending his best friend flying across Venice on wooden and fabric wings, over a series of enormous fires to create the required lift, was one of those things. Outfitting this mechanism with canons was another. In periods intersecting the bouts of invention- which required many large pots of caffe –Leonardo observed the heavens without magnification or scientific intentions. He ascended the steps of the Assassins hideout, lay on the roof, and watched unblinking as the lights danced across the sky, luminous and brilliant, pushed away by the sun at dawn. Sometimes he pushed himself to the edge and gazed upside-down at the reflection they painted upon the practically stagnant river below.

He was timeless; and it was endless. The sun pulling the stars into view at night and having them on view. Caressed by the darkness of night, desires for the light, only to scatter them for the day, flinging them back in to space. An unrequited lover, only to be in the disguises of night. Where shadows are easier to come across. They split apart in the morning, to not be found out, discovered and shamed. Their secret. The stars and the darkness. A brightness and a dim, a pair which was unmatched and odd and theoretically unworkable... yet inseparably perfect. Hidden in daylight, together, close; at last wholly united by night. It was circular. Like clockwork. Relentless.

There, on the roof, he pondered what the stars were. What secrets they held. Whether, like the codex pages, each could reveal some amazing secret. Or... maybe they were as pointless as a candle under a bowl.

All this was privately thought, mind you. He didn’t blurt important and illegal matters right in the face of the city guard; as, unlike Ezio and a number of his assassino brethren, he did not possess the uncanny ability to blend in with crowds and have the guards stop looking, nor could he sit on a chair between two villagers and seemingly shimmer out of sight... nor could he throw himself into a hay cart and have the guards scratching their heads, going ‘where did he go?!’ in seconds. He really had to stop being in the company of these men.

And, speaking of, ‘these men’ also happened to take joy in jumping from high places into hay stacks, leaf piles, and carts of rose petals of all things!

And, more believably, bodies of water. Namely, a river. Namely, the Tiber.

Enough with names.

Enough with skirting the subject.

Leonardo was going to die, that’s what was happening here.

This was not going to be a regular stargazing night, that was for sure.

“Merda.” He cursed under his breath, “Merda, figlio di puttana, this is too high.”

“Calm down, Leo! It’s just water.” That was La Volpe, the fox, the one who had spied and informed his two closest on the artist’s whereabouts. With an amicable slap on the back which very nearly hurtled him into the abyss, the hooded man flew gracefully off a protruding beam. Squinting his eyes shut and cringing, Leo prepared for the thud. From the abyss, a splash and whoop rose. A significantly dressed down Machiavelli shouted in response- then he too was gone, diving down into the Tiber to join his fox.

“Yes, yes, and it’s also a four story drop!” He cried after the pair, and to his casually sauntering friend who had remained on the roof to make sure he made the jump.

“Five, actually-”

“You are not helping, Ezio!” He cried, drawing in a shaky breath, in and out. He approached the beam. Why did he even agree to this?

Wait, he didn’t! He did not consent to this in any way, shape, or form! He could walk away, suffer the taunting, and live.

...

However... he could jump, and live, and... have jumped off a building? Save him from the tormenting which would only add to the usual? All playful, naturally, because he was surrounded by rebellious teens who had matured, grown up too fast, forgotten that they were in fact expected to have families and looking towards parenthood.

He sighed; exasperated, excited, terrified, unprepared. “Here goes...”, unsure whether he spoke aloud or not- but he didn't particularly care at that moment because it's a five story drop- Leonardo squeezed his hands into fists, glanced back once at Ezio- who, positive as ever, gave him a thumbs up and far too enlivened grin. Looking back to the beam, to the ledge, to the vertical drop and to the river now vacated by the other pair, he almost backed down.

One step, unthought-of, unplanned. Another step: out of tempo and not drawn out, not constructed.

In an instant, the solidity of concrete, of his own two reliable feet, was ripped from the equation; Leonardo felt weightless for all of a single second. Encased, entrusted in this undiscovered formula, he looked up to the stars; cast his eyes to the purpling sky as he dropped as an apple from a tree.

There were limitless bounds to the sky, to the places beyond. There were a million more suns in the sky with weird and wonderful worlds bathing in their light. It expanded endlessly, dappling the vastness of the sky with glimmers and luminescence. They had their own sounds; a spherical melody, rotational, gears of a clock ticking and turning and moving in sync despite the different speeds and sizes and shapes in the mechanism. Into the depths of everything existing, his eye passed. Warped and colorful, blank and burnt out, red and blue and green and orange- everything was out there. Cold worlds and hot planes, fields of dust shimmering like the stars. There were more advanced places with carts drawn by horses that did not need grain and care to be powered. Where a lamp could run for days, and be ignited without worrying about burning the hands. Words on paper may be duplicated instantaneously, or ideas sent without being painstakingly printed into physicality. Ideas communicated without being spoken. Soundless talk to all those but senders and receivers. So much advancement that children didn’t know what a piece of parchment was, or how to use it.

Something, anything, everything; it could be possible.

In those moments of falling, Leonardo saw that it really, truly could be. Somewhere, out there, up there. Beyond. Where his violet sky was another man’s deep emerald.

With a rush of wind and uncalculated speeds and forces, he was submerged in ice cold liquid. The river, he mentally groaned, and then it hit him: Oh, merda. I just jumped off a building. I just jumped off a building. A four story building.

Another thing hit him. This thing was not a thought, though.

This thing was Ezio Auditore da Firenze. A hefty boot conked him hard on the shoulder on its way down, Leonardo having just reached the surface. There was barely a ripple from Ezio’s flawless head-first dive... Nothing like the artist’s flailing pin-drop, waves still curling and coiling at the edges of the waterway. Ezio broke one of these, gasping in air. He wasn’t even partially fazed. Leo felt quite the contrary. He was petrified. He was so scared, he’d probably wake up on nights to come, sweating and shaking. Still wearing phantoms of the lack of weight, the new equation ending in a big question mark, the air unable to support him, his legs untrustworthy- unable to find purchase on the thinned air.

“Puttana!” He screamed, spitting a mouthful of acidic river water straight into Ezio’s face. “That almost killed me!” The water swirled about them, bobbing them downstream at a snail’s pace. Making his way to the splintering, rotten excuse of a dock, Leonardo made sure to kick up as much water as humanely possible in his wake. That bastardo deserves it, he viciously thought, sending me off a tower into the Tiber. In my breeches and a nightshirt. How has he not drowned in all that armor?

“You got down here, though!” Ezio laughed in that intoxicating, rare laugh. His teeth were barely visible in such scarce light, floating on his back with his eyes closed. Leo groaned, struggling to find an ounce of body heat as he flopped on to the small dock in the chilling water. The crazy assassin laughed one more time, quieter, more to himself, and started splashing towards him- already heading for the front door of the building he’d just fell from.

“There were stairs!”

It was howled against the soundless streets and buildings, echoing: Leo unable to focus on his voice when his body shook terribly in the now sunless air. A clear nigh was a beautiful as it was cold. He’d often grown a patch of frost on his shoes and gloves when on the roof, on nights of low temperatures.

The assassin effortlessly hauled himself and all that armor out of the water, running to block Leo’s path. Standing a bare foot length from his friend, Ezio cocked his head and gave a helpless grin and shrug. The idiot. They both were dripping wet, saturated, and although Leonardo couldn’t feel his cheeks, he knew he was smiling back at the infectious man’s own. Or... yes, that was definitely scowling. Unimpressed. Despite being considerably shorter, physically daunted, he believed himself to be taller than Ezio. In intellect and personality, if anything. That Auditore boy was surprisingly meek for a reputational womanizer... just about as dim as an unlit wick, but Leo liked telling him he was ‘oh so bright’ for that reaction of sunny, warm smiles and a roofless happiness which lasted until Machiavelli walked in and cursed Ezio’s blockheadedness for getting him into another brawl, arrest, or extensive verbal debate with people who could not match his intelligence.

Ezio really didn’t know when to take a hint.

Like right now, with Leonardo glaring right up at him, warning him off, trying to tell him that no, he would not like to jump off a building ever again, he never wanted to jump in the first place, and if he didn’t let him pass right now to get inside and in front of a fire, he’d be preserved and dissected alive for Leonardo’s next exploration of anatomy. Being the brick-brained man he was, Ezio cheerily said:

“Stairs are boring.”

There were a number of things Leonardo could have countered that with. He could have recited that stairs were invented with the specific idea of having multiple levels in buildings without needing a ladder, scaling up and down the side, or God forbid- jumping off the roof. He could have listed the advantages and disadvantages of stairways [easy access, go both ways, variable dimensions, take up space], and then compared them with the advantages and disadvantages of leaping from the roof of buildings [terrifyingly wondrous, one way trip, weightless, spaceless, timeless, immeasurable]. He almost said a simple ‘pezza di merda’ and ducked his way past.

Instead, he swayed forward a little to block Ezio’s vision, drew his palm back discreetly, and swung it directly into Ezio’s temple at full force once it reached the point of optimum momentum.

*SMACK*

“Jump off a building now, idiota,” Ezio swore so long and hard, so creatively, that Leonardo wasn’t sure whether he should congratulate him or run for cover- surely he’d visit a storm on the city for such foul words. His friend hunched over, not unsteadied by the blow but definitely stunned. Leonardo lifted his chin and strode past the dazed, staggering man; turning back at the door. He called into at the darkness of the riverside, at the bridge scant meters away, and at the housing adjacent to the hideout: loudly, hoping Ezio heard him over the sound of pain and agonizing failure before Leo slammed the door. This caused a second crack to chase the first in its resonation about Rome and the surrounding countryside.

“And if you ever make me do that again, I will assassinate you while you sleep! With my paintbrushes!! You hear me, Ezio Auditore da Firenze?! Spingo i miei pennelli finora su per il culo, faranno colpito il cervello e si uccidono!!!”

"N-non... avresti il... il c-coraggio..."

"Può, e volontà. Watch your back, Ezzi."