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Adagio in White

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It is. A trying three days of silence.

Working for de’Medici is not so much different from looking for Father, really. Go here. Do this. Talk to this person, collect this thing, drop this other thing off. The kind of menial errands that night be expected from an apprentice. Were Federico not well aware of his position and intentions, he would be… mildly offended, actually, at such casual dismissal. But Lorenzo has assured him that his own protection is more than adequate, and is offering him a degree of freedom that Father wouldn’t have, a chance to pursue his own leads without the prying of eyes or the constant demand to report back, and Federico is not in the habit of looking gift horses in the mouth.

The Pazzi family is not so tasteless as to announce a wedding so soon after the death of such an affluential figure as Alberti, but rumors fly nonetheless. A pretty woman from a minor noble family, quiet and polite and entirely too trusting of a man with money, even a man like Francesco de’Pazzi. It will be a rushed thing, Federico is sure, sold to the public as an affair of passion . Federico laughs quietly to himself. He isn’t sure that Irene Saluzzo has a passionate bone in her body. 

Federico had almost forgotten the necessity of posturing and posing of nobility in the flurry of other responsibilities, though he sees now that had been foolish-- Uberto Alberti may have been a traitorous rat, but in the public eye he had still been a very close friend of the Auditore. They are expected to be mourning, to reach out to friends during this time of grief , and to seek consolation in the church. And though Mother has spared him the most of the tittering of the few close friendships she has managed to cultivate outside of their circle of Assassins and contacts, visiting them while Federico spent the morning listening to Lorenzo and his clients talk shop, she is still expected to have the company of her husband as she travels the streets, or at least one of her sons. 

And, really, it’s not a chore. Beneath the anger and resentment, Federico does mourn Alberti. He mourns the memories, his childhood, the trust that had been so cruelly betrayed. And though he does not allow himself to wallow in it, it does make every well-meaning question about his grief easier to answer. 

Mother raps twice on the doorframe before she lets herself into the tall, slightly leaning building, and Federico follows with only a moment of hesitation. The foyer is… nice enough, he supposes, though any welcoming atmosphere that might have been built is ruined by the foul smell of paint and something caustic burning. There is a door ajar, and though the room beyond does not appear to be a formal workshop it is a mess of papers and canvas, and Federico does not want to think about how messy the actual workshop might be. 

There is a moment. A crash of something toppling over, and then the hasty sounds of someone rightening it, and the soft calls of a sleep-rough voice calling for a moment of patience. Mother watches the stairs with a fondly exasperated look, as though this is a common occurrence. A quirk of an otherwise genius of a man, Federico is sure. If it weren’t, Mother would have no patience for it. 

A quirk of an otherwise gorgeous man. Long practice has Federico’s face schooled into something politely neutral, but he can’t help the way his eyes roam a youthful face and bright blue eyes, framed by messy blonde hair. A very slender form, and no wonder Mother chose to be his Matron, if nothing else than to ensure the artist might eat properly every day. 

“Madonna Maria,” the man breathes, half-joyous and half-disbelieving, and he stumbles over himself to bow to her. “Apologies, I forgot all about your visit. I got caught up in a project, you see, and--”

“Peace, Leonardo,” Mother says gently, coaxing this Leonardo into a brief but firm hug. “We had no visit scheduled. I only wished to visit a friend in this trying time.” 

He wears his every emotion on his face-- the pinch of passing confusion between his eyebrows, followed by a look so full of sorrowful empathy Federico feels his heart ache in echo. And he is gentle, so very gentle, when he takes one of Mother’s hands in both of his, his whole body bowing as though straining under the weight of her grief. 

“My condolences, Madonna Maria,” Leonardo says. “If there is anything I can do to ease your grief, I shall.” 

“You are too kind for this world,” Mother says, and frees herself to pat Leonardo on the cheek. “A moment of distraction for me and my son, I think, would be very welcome. You said you were working on a new project?”

It is like a whole new person stands before them. Federico can well enough recognize that mad spark of genius in Leonardo’s eyes, that inferno of intellect and passion poorly contained in a human form. It drips from his every word when he speaks of this seemingly new obsession of his, that tinge of mania in his voice that Federico has come to recognize in true geniuses, however few of them he has had the luxury of meeting. 

And, oh, to imagine a human, flying as the birds do! It makes Federico think of angels in their holy purpose. Of the feather, suddenly heavy where it is tucked within his vest, and he cannot help but wonder.

Leonardo takes Mother aside to show her some of the prototypes he has been working with, and Federico takes it upon himself to poke around a little. The workshop is just as messy as he feared. The longer he looks, however, the more he finds that there is a method to the madness. Paintings here, with the necessary supplies spiralling outward from an easel in lazy circles. Here, where Leonardo seems to be sketching out something that is meant to be made from leather, and though he has gathered all the materials he doesn’t seem to have progressed past sketches-- the designs, when Federico plucks a few from the pile, are familiar in a way that Federico cannot place.

Phantom , is as far as Federico gets, but trying to puzzle out Leonardo’s cramped, strange writing makes his head ache behind his eyes. Disinterested, he sets it aside. Perhaps he will be able to get Leonardo to speak about it some, once his enthusiasm about his flying machines has been expended. And it might even be understandable, whatever he says. Federico hums softly to himself as he turns his attention to what appears to be the least chaotic corner of the room. Leonardo’s bed, it seems, though many things have been abandoned on the floor around it, and even the duvet has not been spared from the smears of paint that touch everything else. 

The space before the window is clear, though, and, upon stepping up to it, Federico can see why-- it has a delightful view of the street below, of the small stage where a minstrel now plays, that will surely entertain some clown or fire-tosser when the sun falls, and the houses across the street are staggered that it is not so easy to peer into their windows, and that they would have a difficult time peering into Leonardo’s. The genius surely mourns the lack of sunlight, but, alas, one place cannot be perfect in every way. 

One of La Volpe’s thieves is reclined on the roof across. Poor thing looks every bit like he’s been given the absolute worst post in all of Florence. Perhaps Leonardo doesn’t get out much. Or, meet with anyone particularly interesting. Though, now having met this fetching blonde genius, Federico is tempted to swing by here often in the future. If nothing else, it may serve to keep La Volpe on his toes. 

Leonardo has moved onto his paintings now, and he appears to have muses in plenty. Lovely ladies, all of them, painted with the loving care of a skilled hand. But like where he works in leather, there are sketches, dozens of them, all of the same aquiline face and sharp eyes, full lips marred by a cruel-looking scar. A beautiful man, surely, but something about Leonardo’s drawings captures this. Yearning sadness. This indescribably, bone-deep kind of longing. 

His true muse, then. Leonardo wasn’t looking for physiological accuracy, but to capture a moment, a feeling , however fleeting. Federico can see it where the lines press heavy-handed here to capture the guilty cheer in the curl of the man’s lips. And where the lines flick feather-light to trace the way the man’s eyes are open in lazy slits, Federico can almost see the glowing of gold in those dark eyes. 

A flicker of gold in the corner of his eye. Federico’s head snaps around to track it, and the world seems to fall away into tones of shifting grey. Grey, and blue, Mother and Leonardo, and it’s more than just seeing wraiths, it’s a feeling, safety and peace in their presence, and the demand of gold hidden among the mess. 

Federico blinks, and the world settles around him again, and he feels dizzy with its loss. His eyes ache, but he can see what he is meant to see now, hidden half-hazardly among the mess. Long as Federico’s forearm, and white as precious opal. It wasn’t buried by accident-- it’s pristine, placed beneath nothing that might ruffle and ruin it. 

The room falls into a tense silence. 

Mother’s lips are pressed into a fine line at the sight of the feather. It may simply be a coincidence. A strange bird in the city. Leonardo would be among the first to investigate such a creature, surely. But such feathers are… distinctive. And make for excellent calling cards. 

“Wherever did you find such a thing?” Federico asks, breathless and charming, turning his attention to the young genius. Though his sight has returned to normal, that feeling of safety does not fade. Leonardo does not intend to hurt them, Federico is almost sure, but that does not mean that Leonardo is not trying to hide something from them. 

His laugh is tittering and nervous, and he shifts from foot to foot like prey caught between two predators-- Mother moves herself, so subtly, between Leonardo and the stairs, should he think to turn and bolt. Federico most hopes he will not. Leonardo has the potential to be a wonderful asset, and perhaps even a wonderful friend of the family, and it would be. Quite a shame. To have to otherwise treat him poorly. 

Whatever Leonardo is to say is interrupted by the clamoring of bells. 

Desmond ,” Leonardo hisses, a name, maybe, or a curse, directed at the heavens and dripping with concerned aggravation, as he follows Mother down the stairs. 

Federico does not watch them go. The window is more than wide enough to slip through, and it is not a difficult climb to the roof. The thief across the way waves nervously before darting off, perhaps to get help, though more likely to hide and watch carefully. Wise, with the racket of guards running through the streets. Federico follows them as closely as he can from the shadows above. His gut sinks when he recognizes the in which direction they are travelling.

Palazzo Pazzi is in chaos. There is a man dead in the courtyard-- monk’s garb, in Palazzo Pazzi, Federico can guess that it is Stefano da Bagnone. The blood is still fresh enough that it spreads swift over the stonework. Killed quickly, as Alberti must have been, and Federico wishes he could get closer, to see what kind of weapon, and in what fashion. But even as the guards look for their culprit, others are already collecting the body to be moved.

Even as Federico watches, a winged figure lifts himself over the far wall of the Palazzo and launches into flight.