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Apple of His Eye

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Some chosen one he was.

Save the world and release Juno to enslave it, or condemn the world to be destroyed by the sun. Two choices, equally bad. Five hundred plus years of warning, of unfathomable calculations, all boiled down to this? The whole thing reeked of anticlimax.

Desmond had to resist the urge to snort at his own melancholy thoughts. The bleeding effect must be messing with him even worse than he thought-- of all the times to get introspective, it had to be right before his death?

Because it would be his death, wouldn’t it? Juno had seemed firm on that, and Minerva, for all her cryptic warnings, wasn’t much help either. Yet, as he stood before the pedestal, Desmond was numb to it all. He couldn’t hear Rebecca or Shaun or his father (then again, when did he ever really listen to his father?), if they were trying to speak to him, not was he aware of whatever inane bickering Juno and Minerva might be having over him at that moment. It hardly mattered, did it? The choice seemed obvious: sacrifice himself for the world...and hope they could find a way to fend off Juno.

Desmond’s hands hovered over the pedestal, feeling the power crackling just below the surface, early awaiting to kill him. He didn’t want to die, not really, not at all. But he would die, either way: now, or during the solar flare.

Right?

Perhaps a spark of Precursor technology had arced from the pedestal to Desmond’s fingers and to his brain, or maybe it was a flash of utterly human revelation. Regardless, the thought struck Desmond’s mind like lightning.

It was a false dichotomy.

Minerva and Juno had presented Options A and B, and had left the heavy implication that those were the only two options available. But they weren’t, were they? Of the multitude of possible solutions available to the world, the chances of the only viable options relying on his death? It was statistically… improbable. More fate than fact.

Minerva hadn’t accounted for Juno, so that fact alone proved the fallibility of the Precursors (that, and the fact they had allowed themselves to be wiped out from the previous solar flare...but no matter).

Perhaps Juno should have accounted for Desmond being...well, Desmond.

The previous spark in Desmond’s mind was now crackling with life, and Desmond was suddenly filled with awareness. The Apple was calling to him, it still lingered in his mind, and suddenly he could see the possibilities.

This was why he was the Chosen One, wasn’t it? Why his father had pushed him so hard, why Abstergo and the Templar had kidnapped him, why he had spent so many hours in the Animus living multiple lifetimes in the span of weeks. Because of his bloodlines, from both Altaïr and Ezio, both of whom had wielded the Apple to varying degrees of success. The Apple spoke to them both.

The Apple spoke to Desmond.

And Desmond… spoke back.

There’s got to be a better way...there must be a better way.

And there was. 

It wasn’t perfect. There were...1,398,284 possible ways it could go horrifically wrong, and the fact that those calculations were buzzing in Desmond’s mind was overwhelming. He could feel something warm trickling from his nose, and it didn’t take much of an imagination to realize is nose was bleeding. Oh fuck, was the Apple giving him a brain hemorrhage from overuse?

Guess he might still die after all…

Numbers, symbols, words all flittered around Desmond’s vision and awareness, numbers becoming sound, words becoming smells, sounds becoming taste, and touch becoming time to Desmond’s unraveling mind.

Time.

It was always about time, wasn’t it?

Not enough time, just in time, running out of time. Reaching back in time.

Oh. That was a thought.

Well, that could work, couldn’t it?

Desmond was good at that, after all. He knew how to do that much, at least.

With the last shreds of conscious thought, Desmond grasped the pedestal. Power surged to reach him, overwhelm him, but Desmond pushed back with all the delirium of the Apple.

No. This time, you do what I want.

On the outskirts of Desmond’s reality, someone screamed.


Waking up was strange...especially when Desmond didn’t remember falling asleep. But as Desmond began to process his previous moments of consciousness, realization struck him. He had used the Grand Temple...but he wasn’t dead. Well, that was certainly a win in Desmond’s book. But that did leave him with several more questions, namely: what had happened?

Desmond looked around, taking in his surroundings for the first time. Or rather, he tried to, given the amount of dark he saw. Well that left one thing certain: there was no trace of the Grand Temple, of Rebecca or Shaun, of his father, not even Minerva or Juno. Instead, there was dark, dark, and more dark.

Alright, there seemed to be the flickering light of a single torch in the distance, casting an orange glow on damp stone.

“Torch, huh?” Desmond muttered, trying to find his bearings and perhaps a bit of night vision as well. Or… “Well, might as well check…”

Desmond had never really understood how Eagle Vision worked, how he was able to turn it off and on like some nightlight. All he knew was that he had it, and it had saved his ass (or Altaïr’s ass, or Ezio’s ass, or Connor’s ass) multiple times. In this instance, he hoped he could use it as a form of pseudo night vision to actually see where he was.

He was not expecting to see his hands glowing gold. Or rather, glowing gold with the same markings Desmond knew from the Apple. He could feel his blood run cold as his vision snapped back to normal, and he was engulfed in darkness once more. Several minutes passed, as Desmond desperately tried to catch both his breath and his runaway heartbeat. Only after he felt like he was under control did Desmond dare to use his Eagle Vision once more.

Still gold. Desmond pushed up his sleeves, pulled up the legs of his jeans, pushed up his hoodie and tee, just about everything short of stripping down to his boxer briefs. And, as far as he could tell, Desmond was completely covered with the Apple’s markings.

“Oh, what the fuck is this bullshit…” He groaned. At once, light began to flicker between the markings on his hands, and Desmond felt compelled to cup his hands together. Once his hands were together, the light formed a shape that Desmond knew all too well.

“The Apple?” He hissed, “I don’t even have the Apple...and now I’m talking to myself, where’s 16 when you need him?”

The vision of the Apple expanded beyond Desmond’s grasp, and suddenly he was reminded of Altaïr’s vision of the Apple’s globe, decorated with the locations of Precursor artifacts. But unlike when Desmond had seen this globe through Altaïr’s eyes, Desmond could see the differences in the markers. Some markers were for temples, while others were for other Pieces of Eden.

Desmond stiffened at the thought. Somehow, Desmond could see the difference in the near-identical colored markers, the subtle difference in frequencies...the fact that he even knew that it was a difference in frequencies, or that he could even see frequencies. And what was more, he could see each of the locations in his mind’s eyes: he could see the way each temple looked in its surroundings, where the entrances were hidden, and he could see not only where each Piece of Eden rested, but he could also see what they were.

“Wait, there’s a Shroud?” He blurted, before the more pressing concerns bubbled forth, “Why do I know this? Why do I...understand what I’m seeing?”

As if in response, the globe shifted, a single marker flashing in Desmond’s consciousness. It appeared in Cypress, and Desmond understood.

“The Apple…” He murmured softly. The Apple moved from Cypress to Venice. From there, it bopped all over various locations in Italy, and Desmond felt he was living through Ezio’s journey in high speed. Then Desmond watched as it moved from where Ezio left the Apple to when it was in Desmond’s possession: the jaunt to Abstergo Industries and the final journey to the Grand Temple.

And then, the light began to dissolve, the globe falling apart in a rain of glittering gold confetti. But instead of disappearing completely, the falling light began to gather, slowly forming a shape and image Desmond knew more intimately than any other.

He knew his own face, his own body, standing before him in all the golden splendor of the Apple’s light.

And Desmond understood.

“I’m the Apple.” He breathed, “We're the Apple now…”

The moment the words fell from his lips, the vision before him vanished, the only light coming from Desmond’s own markings.

It was only then that Desmond could see where he was. And it was hauntingly familiar.

He was standing before a sarcophagus, carved with artistry in white stone, pristine despite the damn and decay of the tomb around them. And just behind the sarcophagus, a statue of identical white stone stood watch over the tomb. And it was a statue Desmond had seen in multiple lifetimes.

“The Tomb of Darius…” He murmured, his eyes moving over the statue.

Darius, born Arabanus circa 480 BCE. Died 422 BCE.

Most notable Assassination: Xerxes I of Persia. 

First recorded use of the Hidden Blade, pre-dating the first incarnation of the Assassin Brotherhood by nearly three hundred years--

Desmond grabbed his temples, desperately trying to block out the flood of information bouncing around in his mind. It was one thing that he was now getting spontaneous history lessons via Apple bullshit, but for some bizarre reason, the history lessons had Shaun’s voice.

Alright, that might have been Desmond’s subconscious at work. Couldn’t pin that one on the Apple.

But despite the surge of random historical information Desmond now had on Darius, there was something else entirely that Desmond found unsettling about the tomb.

The tomb was completely undisturbed. None of the chests were open, the Assassin’s Skull was still upright, and the sarcophagus was still sealed. 

Gut twisting in a knot, Desmond knelt in front of the sarcophagus, activating the locking mechanism. In the back of his mind, Desmond briefly wondered how the Brotherhood of the past had managed such delicate machinery, but quickly dismissed it when he felt the Apple (or was it his own mind?) surging to spew forth the detailed history and science behind it all.

“I’m just going to call it magic, thank you very much.” He muttered, carefully pushing the top slab of Darius’s sarcophagus aside.

And there it was. Right on top of the burial shroud covering Darius’s...likeness (how weird, his body wasn’t actually there...well, that did make sense, didn’t it?) lay the Seal of Darius.

“Ezio hasn’t been here yet.” Desmond murmured, “Which means I didn’t just move locations…”

If Desmond hadn’t already had his brain scrambled and served as an omelet by the Animus and the various bits of Precursor fuckery, he might have balked at the idea of time travel. But really, after all the bullshit he’s had to put up with, this almost seemed normal.

Who the fuck was he kidding, this wasn’t normal. But then again, neither was he now.

Voices interrupted Desmond’s internal conflict, and instinctively, Desmond found the closest wall to press against, using the shadows to his advantages. The voices were distant, coming from below, he noted, but there was still the faint twinge of familiarity to it.

 Italian.

Well, of course, they were speaking Italian, they were in Italy. Desmond just hadn’t realized that he spoke Italian as well. He had always assumed that Rebecca had the Animus translate everything into English for him (with a few exceptions). Wait, did that mean he spoke Arabic as well? And Kanien’hehá:ka?

Focus, Desmond.

Slowly, Desmond crept along the walls, his eyes still keenly attuned to Eagle Vision to guide him. A sense of deja-vu washed over him as memories of Ezio spying on the Pazzi conspiracy played in his mind.

But this was before the Pazzi conspiracy unless he was about to run into Ezio in these dark hallways.

Desmond desperately hoped not.

He found the barred window Ezio had used to spy on the Pazzi, and Desmond’s vision was rewarded with several figures of glowing red. As if he needed any more confirmation that he was watching the enemy.

But there was also a great deal more light on the floor below, so Desmond allowed himself to drift back to his normal vision to get a more detailed look at everyone below.

It wasn’t terribly shocking to see the individuals below. Jacopo de’ Pazzi, Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli, Stefano da Bagnone, Antonio Maffei, Francesco Salviati, all members of the Pazzi conspiracy, all...quite easy to kill, all things considered. Francesco de’ Pazzi was also present, oddly enough. Weird little psychopath, he gave Desmond the creeps.

“The time is upon us, the Medici will fall!” Francesco seemed to foam a bit at the mouth (or maybe that was Desmond’s imagination).

“You are too hasty.” Jacopo hissed, “You forget that the Assassin attacked Maestro and his guards, and even now, the Medici and his hounds are torturing the survivor for information on our plans.”

Desmond’s brow furrowed at that. Maestro must have been referencing Rodrigo Borgia, but he couldn’t recall any memory of Ezio attacking Rodrigo and his guards before discovering the Pazzi conspiracy. That didn’t make any sense, Rebecca wouldn’t have skipped a memory like that…

Footsteps interrupted the argument below, and all heads turned toward the doorway, where Uberto Alberti was making his entrance. Desmond grit his teeth, his fist clenched tight.

This motherfucker…

“What news do you have, brother?” Bernardo asked, “Are we discovered?”

“I prolonged the interrogation for as long as possible.” Uberto replied, resting his hands on the table, “But weak minds can only hold out for so long. Medici and his Assassin know about Sfroza’s impending death.”

Francesco swore, pacing in agitation. Served the little fucker right.

“Maestro says this is to change nothing.” Uberto hissed, “Even with Giovanni riding for Milan as we speak, he cannot possibly make it in time to save the Duke. We can use this to our advantage: Medici is without his Assassin, and soon, he will be without his ally.”

Giovanni…

It hit Desmond like a kick in the teeth. Giovanni Auditore, Ezio’s father, he was the Assassin of Firenze right now.

But from the sound of it, Giovanni was on his way to stop an assassination. That was irony, wasn’t it?

Sforza...Milan…

Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza of Milan; father of Caterina Sforza.

An alliance between Florence and Milan established in 1476, joining both the Sforza and Medici families.

Assassinated December 26, 1476 during Mass.

“What is it with these fuckers and killing people in church?” Desmond hissed, pressing his palms into his eyes to dispel the litany of Not-Shaun history lectures. The information slowly faded from Desmond’s awareness, allowing him to try and figure out what the hell he was supposed to do.

So Giovanni wasn’t going to make it to save the Duke, at least if history was to be trusted. Which...eh…

Focus, Desmond. There was a reason he was brought back to this time, this particular moment.

He had the entire Pazzi conspiracy before him, not to mention Uberto Alberti. He could feel his hidden blade on his wrist, and the urge to kill each and every one of them was strong. He’d have to kill Francesco de’ Pazzi first, as he was probably the best fighter among them all, the rest would be...easy. Maybe a few runners, but they were hardly men in prime condition, not compared to Desmond.

The thought was still in its infancy when his temples began to throb, and his eyes involuntarily went into Eagle Vision. Numbers were flashing before him, images of the conspirators dead melting away to reveal a farce of history playing out without those men, the effects on Rodrigo Borgia’s rule as Pope, and how that would impact history going forward.

And it certainly wasn’t good, given the single word that was in the forefront of Desmond’s vision.

DESYNCHONIZATION

“Desynchronization?” He hissed, “I can’t desynch, I’m not in the Animus...oh who the fuck am I talking to?”

Below him, the conspirators hushed heir discussion.

“Did you hear that?”

“Were you followed?”

“Of course not!”

“Perhaps it was just the rats.”

Desmond clapped a hand over his own mouth, mentally cursing his own stupidity. They were homicidal maniacs, but they weren’t deaf homicidal maniacs, for crying out loud.

So Desmond couldn’t kill those fuckers, not now, at least. But he had learned quite a few things from his eavesdropping.

First, Desmond was at some point prior to December 26, 1476. Probably just days prior, but he’d need to figure out exactly how many, and soon.

Second, Giovanni Auditore was out of Firenze on active Assassin duties.

Third, if Giovanni Auditore was out of Firenze on active Assassin duties, that meant he wasn’t dangling from the end of a noose next to Federico and Petruccio. 

That was why he had come back to this time, he was sure of it. Whether Desmond had demanded the Apple, or the Grand Temple, or whatever, bring him to this point in time, or if it had been a subconscious decision, he was poised to change history just enough to spare Ezio, his Prophet, the greatest pain in his life.

The numbers were flashing across his vision once more, but Desmond didn’t focus on them, letting the calculations and altered history run in the background of his mind as he returned to Darius’s tomb. He was already opening one of the chests when the word DESYNCHRONIZATION blazed across his vision.

Of course, it would fuck up history, if Ezio didn’t go on his revenge rampage, he would never become the great Assassin that he was destined to become, and he wouldn’t topple the Templar stranglehold on Italy...and that would be catastrophic.

“Don’t care, I’m saving them.” Desmond muttered, pocketing as many florins as possible before moving to Darius’s sarcophagus, “I’ll find a way to make it work.”

Different calculations were being run as Desmond inspected Darius’s hidden blade. Sure, he had his own, but dual-wielding was always better. Though if this was the first hidden blade...he’d have to make sure it wasn’t the same design Altaïr used before he strapped it to his wrist.

DESYNCHRONIZATION

Desmond rolled his eyes, shoving the old blade into his hoodie pocket, “Hey, instead of showing me all the failing scenarios, why don’t you calculate for something that does work? There’s over a million possibilities, there’s got to be at least a dozen that are not failures.”

The Apple (or was it his own mind? Fuck, he did not want to think too hard on that) paused in its calculations for a moment, which suited Desmond just fine. He used the moment of peace to make his way to the exit hatch out of the tomb, doing his best to push the slab of stone as quietly as possible. By the time the Apple’s visions popped up once more, Desmond was already escaping through the secret passage out of the tomb.

And it took everything in Desmond’s self-control not to laugh at loud.

VIABLE CHRONICITY DEVIATIONS: 72

“Of course it’s 72.” He muttered, stopping for a moment in the dark hallway, “Alright, that’s quite a few to go through...but let’s hold off on that until...fuck, until I figure out what I’m going to do in Renaissance Italy in a hoodie and jeans.”

An image of Desmond walking around pick-pocketing pedestrians before purchasing clothing flashed across his mind. Followed by an image of him purchasing bread and wine.

“Okay, not an awful plan.” He muttered, before his stomach voiced its opposition, “Maybe I’ll get food first, find a place to lay low while sorting through plans with you...or me...you know what? If I’m going to be talking out loud to myself, I’m going to treat you like a different person.” He chuckled, slowly climbing the ladder leading up from the underground, “Maybe I should give you a name, huh?”

Halfway up the ladder, Desmond barked out a laugh, a grin splitting his face.

“Oh, I am so calling you Siri.”

Chapter Text

It was weird to Desmond, seeing how sunny it was this close to the end of December. Maybe that was just a result of him being too used to time in New York. But he was hardly going to complain, it would have been a real bitch if he had to find shelter from rain or worse, snow.

As it was, Desmond had found himself a nice spot of rooftop to enjoy his breakfast. It had been before dawn when he had come out of the exit hatch from Darius’s tomb, which was a stroke of luck for Desmond. Less people around to stare at him or question his appearance, which Desmond was grateful for. Though he would have to solve the issue of clothes sooner rather than later.

According to Siri, that shopping list would have to include: a shirt, jerkin, doublet, breeches, not to mention boots of some sort that fit him. He absolutely refused to wear hose and slops, and he would sooner die than wear a codpiece. He had some dignity, after all.

Maybe Desmond could pass his jeans off as a strange set of breeches, especially if he tucked them into whatever boots he could get ahold of. Hell, if he could get ahold of a decent jerkin or doublet to wear over his hoodie and some boots, he could be passable, at least at a distance.

Of course, the simplest option would be to find a monk about his size and steal his robes to wear over his own clothes. Siri had already shown him that the likelihood of success was quite high, given the fact that monks don’t usually expect to get mugged and robbed of their clothes. Still, the idea didn’t sit quite well with Desmond.

“Not like I haven’t beat up a monk before.” Desmond muttered, taking another bite of bread, “Fuck, I’ve killed monks, priests...I’ve gotten into a fistfight with the pope, for crying out loud.”

But he hadn’t. Not really. Ezio had done those things and, more importantly, those men had been targets. They were villains in smocks and robes.

He could suck it up and mug a monk. And boy, didn’t that sound strange to say, even if it was only in his own mind. At least there would be no codpiece involved.

The sound of clattering tiles caught Desmond’s attention enough to put aside his clothing dilemma. He was more than aware of the fact that there were no guards stationed on his little corner of the Firenze skyline (he was hyper-aware of the location of every guard in Firenze, but he was trying not to dwell on that), so the list of possible rooftop runners was...limited. The Auditore brothers, or perhaps some of Volpe’s thieves. But given Desmond’s history and luck, he doubted it was a thief.

Desmond couldn’t help but smirk when his eyes fell on the all too familiar and heartbreaking figure of Ezio Auditore in the distance. The youth held little resemblance to the great Mentor of the Brotherhood, the wise prophet, the toppler of the Borgia. Then again, he wasn’t. Not now, not yet. Now, Ezio was a seventeen-year-old boy, whose only concerns were avoiding work, sneaking off to be with his girlfriend, and get into the occasional scuffle with rival bys. It made Desmond’s stomach churn when he thought about the fact that, in a matter of mere days, Ezio would become the man of the Auditore family, in the most horrific, tragic way possible.

He had already sworn to save the Auditore men (and boy, in Petruccio’s case). But, as Desmond watched the athletic form of Ezio, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, he realized that simply saving the Auditore family wasn’t enough. He didn’t just want the Auditore family safe and whole, he wanted to give Ezio, his Ezio, his family back. He wanted to reward his Ezio with a shred of goodness after all he had suffered.

And it wouldn’t work unless he had his Ezio here with him.

It was far more complicated than simply foiling an execution (if one could call it simple), and Desmond was sure that, if he was using Eagle Vision, Siri would be sending an avalanche of calculations and possible failures his way. But Desmond didn’t need an avalanche of failures.

He could make due with a snowflake of success.

“Make it work, Siri.” He muttered to himself, taking a bite of hard cheese and bread. After chewing for a moment, he allowed his Eagle Vision to take over once more. Letters and symbols scrolled across his vision, writing and unwriting itself as the plan unfolded. Desmond found that the litany of images wasn’t as overwhelming as before. Maybe he was getting the hang of this Apple business. Either that, or he was really focused on getting his way.

After all, if Desmond could get flung back five hundred years, surely there was at least one scenario in which he could give Ezio his happily ever after.

As Siri’s calculations settled into one definitive plan, Desmond couldn’t help but smile. It was a crazy plan. Which meant it was perfect for Desmond’s purposes.

And the timing could not have been more perfect. As Ezio had just lighted on Desmond’s bit of rooftop. Desmond smiled, taking one last bite of bread before speaking.

“Good morning, Ezio.”


Ezio’s easy pace along the rooftop faltered slightly at the sudden greeting, slowing to a stop as Ezio tried to properly examine the stranger who seemed to know his name.

At first glance, he appeared to be a common laborer: his hair shorn short, ill-fitting, faded breeches, no hat, no doublet, and eating a meager meal of bread and cheese. But the longer Ezio looked, the more he doubted the man’s common background.

The man’s shirt, with its odd hood, was whiter than anything Ezio had ever seen. Like doves released at mass, or the center of the sun when you stared at it too long. What was more, the shirt seemed to have a matching doublet (or the garment was one masterful piece of tailoring), with the doublet laced so tightly, Ezio couldn’t see the lacing, save for the silver line running up the man’s torso. The shirt’s sleeves were pushed up enough to reveal a series of black brands along one of the man’s forearms. And on he other, Ezio could see a set of straps holding...something to the inside of his wrist.

And despite the man’s short hair, Ezio couldn’t so easily discount the sharp angles of the stranger’s jaw, nor the aquiline nose or high, noble cheekbones. The face of a nobleman with the hair of a laborer. But as confusing as the paradox was to Ezio, it was the man’s eyes that unsettled him the most.

They were gold, and they were looking right into Ezio’s very soul, he was sure of it. Eyes like those could pick apart a man to his most base elements and lay all his secrets bare. Eyes like those scared Ezio.

But then the man blinked, slow and lazy, and the gold vanished, leaving behind completely average hazel eyes. Part of Ezio wanted to dismiss what he saw as a trick of the morning light, but he couldn’t help but feel that would be a mistake.

Instead, he gave his best easy smile, “Do I know you, signore?” He asked, not taking his eyes off the man.

The stranger chuckled, “I suppose no, not really.” He murmured, lazily getting to his feet and stretching. Then, more to himself than Ezio, he added, “Not yet…”

Ezio raised an eyebrow, “Pardon?” Now that the man was standing, Ezio could see that he was taller than Ezio was and, regardless of his noble features, the man had a body untouched by indulgences or sloth.

The stranger gave a dismissive wave to Ezio’s question, “Nevermind, just talking to myself.” He gave Ezio a small smile. A smile that, Ezio realized, was marred by a long scar that cut through his lips. A sliver of savagery on the face of nobility.

“I see…” He didn’t, nor did he want to. Everything in him screamed to stab the stranger and run as fast as he could, but his body refused to obey him.

“Hey, Ezio, can I ask you a question?” The stranger seemed either unaware or unperturbed by Ezio’s standoffish mannerisms, still wearing the small smile.

“Did you not, just now?” The words burst forth, his brow furrowed.

The man laughed at the response, “I walked into that one, didn’t I?” the manner of speech the stranger used was strange to Ezio, yet he spoke with the tone of a native Firenze man, “So I’ll just ask… what day is it today?”

Whatever question Ezio had been anticipating, that was not it. Was this man ill in the head? Or maybe he had gotten into some bad wine and was trying to recover before making his way home to a judgmental family...either way, the sooner Ezio could be done with the man, the better. “It is the 26th, signore…” He answered slowly. “...of December.”

“The 26th…” The man muttered, looking away from Ezio. Ezio’s blood ran cold when he saw the eyes turn gold once more during his insane ramblings, “The morning of the 26th, it’s probably already happened...that leaves less than 72 hours...so much to do, so little time…” 

The man’s eyes returned to normal, though that did not make him any less strange to Ezio.

“Right. No time to waste then.”

Ezio cried out as the man lunged at him, far faster than Ezio had expected him to be. Powerful arms wrapped around his middle, pinning the teen’s own arms to his sides. 

“Let go of me, bastardo!” He shouted, desperately trying to thrash enough to break free of his hold. The stranger’s grasp was tighter than iron, and even Ezio’s wild kicks at his legs did not deter the man from his catch.

“Sorry about this, Ezio, nothing personal.” His attacker sighed, as if he had stepped on Ezio’s boot rather than assault him.

“Someone put you up to this?” Ezio spat, “Who sent you? Vieri? I bet it was that Pazzi maggot, little cazzo can’t fight his own battles!”

Another sigh escaped his attacker, though he sounded more resigned than truly annoyed. In the midst of his struggling, Ezio thought he heard him mutter, “...forgot how much of a mouthy bitch you were…,” but in all honesty, the man’s words mattered little in the grand scheme of things, but rather his tone. And how utterly composed he sounded.

For all of Ezio’s struggling, fighting, protests, his attacker was completely unaffected. One of the man’s powerful arms moved from Ezio’s waist to his neck, solid muscles pressing against his throat. And Ezio realized that this wasn’t a matter of Vieri hiring some muscle to rough him up. This was something much worse…

Desperately, Ezio clawed at the man’s arm, his fingers finding little purchase against his attacker. Black was already eating away at the edges of his vision, and Ezio was suddenly filled with despair as his thoughts drifted to what his family might do if he were to vanish from the streets of Firenze, or worse, if his body was found in some gutter.

He couldn’t dwell on the thought for long, as the dark closed in quickly.


“Sorry about that, Ezio.” Desmond muttered, carefully laying the teen down on the roof tiles. Ezio had certainly been a fighter at this age, but he had lacked the proper strength and technique to properly resist (though Desmond suspected Federico might have started teaching his baby brother a thing or two behind Giovanni’s back).

Quickly checking Ezio’s neck to make sure he still had a pulse (because wouldn’t that be the ultimate desynchronization, killing the prophet before he could even become an Assassin?), Desmond found himself looking Ezio over once more. There was something...off about Ezio, despite youth and ignorance.

The scar… Ezio didn’t have his iconic scar. But then Desmond remembered what Ezio had said, that it was the 26th. Specifically, it was the morning of the 26th, and Ezio wouldn’t have his fight with Vieri’s men until the evening of the 26th.

Desmond had managed to snag Ezio just hours prior to receiving his trademark scar. The same scar that he shared with Desmond and Altaïr. Absently, Desmond ran his thumb over Ezio’s unmarred lips. He had caught Ezio in his final hours of innocence, in a sense.

But he couldn’t dwell on that for long, and Desmond’s hand drifted from his lips to his temple. He had a prophet to find.

 After so many sessions in the Animus, it was almost natural to Desmond to sift and sort through Ezio’s memories. Granted, the memories Desmond was flipping through hadn’t actually happened yet, so they couldn’t exactly be considered memories…

Desmond didn’t want to dwell on that thought very long either, if his oncoming nosebleed was anything to consider… Right now, Desmond needed to find the exact moment in which to confront his prophet.

And he already knew exactly which one he was going to use.

There was a stillness in the dark chamber that might have been considered sacred to those who were particularly reverent. Rows upon rows of shelves, skeletal and naked of any tombs of lore and knowledge. A tomb of the mind, and a singular body.

Footsteps fell in soft, gentle cadence, like the whisper of some far off churchbells, or perhaps some call to prayer, as the lone pilgrim made his way through the ghostly library.

Ezio’s movements, even in his aging years, were graceful and powerful. Though in this instance, there was no target to become intimately acquainted with Ezio’s blade and ushered into death’s embrace.

Death had visited centuries before, and Ezio was woefully late to the exchange.

“No books,” Ezio murmured, as he approached the keeper of the library, “no wisdom. Just you, Fratello Mio.” One great master knelt before another, illuminated in the gentle glow of the torchlight. “Requiescat in pace, Altaïr.”

He looked so tired then, Desmond had to admit. After all he had done, all he had sacrificed, all he had lost...Desmond didn’t blame Ezio for being disappointed that it seemed it had all been for naught.

Desmond knew that Ezio would leave his life as an assassin behind to rest with Altaïr, and for the first time, Desmond doubted his plan. What right did he have to demand Ezio go through all his pain all over again? Maybe Ezio would truly find peace in his final years, and Desmond would only rob him of that.

Would that make him any better than Minerva or Juno?

No. He refused to fall to their level. He would give Ezio what he, Desmond, had been denied.

A real choice.

But he’d need to speak to Ezio, he’d need to interact with the memory somehow. But Desmond only knew how to engage with memories via genetics…

As Desmond looked over the scene before him, he realized just what genetics he would have to interact with.

He just wished it didn’t have to be so damn creepy.


Ezio closed his eyes, hand resting on the key in Altaïr’s hand. So much destruction, so much suffering, so much death...and for what? And old master’s final resting place, and a relic that should never see the light of day.

It wasn’t worth Yusuf.

It wasn’t worth the brothers and sisters in Constantinopli.

Or Roma.

Or Mario.

Or his family.

What had the point been? Why had he been chosen as the prophet? For that one moment all those years ago? That single mysterious message that hadn’t even been meant for him, but instead for the mysterious Desmond?

He had no idea what that name meant, it was unlike anything he had ever heard before, perhaps it wasn’t even a name of this world, but something celestial and beyond his reach.

He had spent his life chasing, hunting, searching for answers, for meaning to it all. And, in the end...was it all in waste?

All that time away from his grieving mother and lonely sister, left to fend for themselves while he tried to drown his sorrows in blood.

All that time away from Leonardo, his dearest...friend. That was all they had ended up being, hadn’t they? Had Ezio made Leonardo feel like he only used him for his mind? Had Leonardo known how dear he was to Ezio when he was lying on his deathbed?

He was a damn fool, chasing ghosts while all those he loved vanished like mist between his fingers.

He grit his teeth, fighting back white-hot tears of anger, “Desmond...I heard your name once before, Desmond, a long time ago. And now it lingers in my mind like an image from an old dream.” And yet, he had chased for any opportunity to relive that moment. He took a shaky breath, “I do not know where you are, or by what means you can hear me. But I know you are listening

“I have lived my life as best I could, not knowing its purpose, but drawn forward like a moth to a distant moon. And here, at last, I discover a strange truth. That I am only a conduit for a message that eludes my understanding.” In the end, he had only been a tool to be used and set aside, “Who are we, who have been so blessed to share our stories like this? To speak across centuries? Maybe you will answer all the questions I have asked.” He bowed his head, his shoulders slumped in defeat, “Maybe you will be the one to make all this suffering worth something in the end.”

He reached for his bracer, fingers brushing over his blade. His time was over now, he would leave behind his Assassin ways. One way or another, the library would be tomb to two master Assassins.

Whatever tension had left Ezio’s body previously returned with a vengeance as a hand grasped Ezio’s wrist.

A completely skeletal hand.

Merde !” He hissed, instinctively pulling his arm back, only to find Altaïr’s grasp as firm as if the man was still alive.

Relax, Ezio. I’m not going to hurt you.”

Ezio’s eyes flew up to the skull of Altaïr, widening with awe and horror as he saw the skull move and flicker with light. Every so often, Ezio thought he could see the image of Altaïr, young and full of life, cast over the vision of death that was the skull.

“Altaïr… what is this devilry?” Ezio whispered, heart racing in his chest.

The skull tilted to one side, the flickering lights revealing a smirk stretched over Altaïr’s grinning teeth, “ Not Altaïr, but I can understand the confusion. Care to guess again?”

Care to guess again? What poison had he encountered to befuddle his mind so? But there was a sinking feeling in his gut, a fatalistic knowing… “...Desmond…”

That’s me.” The specter was smiling now in flashes and sparks, “ I apologize for scaring you...and desecrating Altaïr,” The smile vanished, and the hold on Ezio’s wrist moved to his hand, “ ...and for...everything, really. You deserved so much more than this…”

“I don’t understand…” Ezio breathed, looking into the sockets of Altaïr’s eyes, where there was the occasional flash of gold, “I have so many questions, so many things I wish to ask you, and for the life of me, I can’t even find a place to begin.”

“That doesn’t surprise me.” The specter (Desmond, at long last, he could speak to the being who he had served as conduit), “ For all you have done for the good of the Brotherhood, for mankind, answers are the least you deserve.”

“I have given everything!”  Ezio hissed, before bowing his head quickly. Was it wise to anger this being, who could watch him, unseen, and could speak through the dead? “I have given everything I have to give… and is this how it ends?”

Your career as an Assassin? It is supposed to end here, yes.” Demond said wryly, a hint of...disgust in his voice, “ But I’m inclined to look for something...better, for you.”

“What do you mean, ‘better’?” Ezio whispered, daring to look up once more into the eyes of Desmond.

“I’m going to offer you something you’ve been denied from the beginning.” Desmond murmured, his disgust vanishing to something far more gentle. The bony hand not holding Ezio’s cupped his cheek, “ A choice.”

“A choice?” 

Desmond nodded slowly, “ Yes, I’m going to offer you a choice now. One: you can lay down your blades, leave your life as an assassin behind you for good. You can leave this library and all the bizarre mysteries that have enslaved your mind. You can go marry the woman out there, have a couple of children, and enjoy a final peaceful decade before your death. For all you have suffered, a final decade free of your burdens.”

Ezio considered Desmond’s words. He was so tired, and peace sounded so tempting. 

And yet… “What is the other choice?” He swallowed thickly, almost regretting his words. Was it wise to make deals with such a being of power? He wasn’t sure, but he had to know… 

“You can come back to the beginning, your beginning...and you can walk your path once more, armed with all the skills and wisdom you have gathered in your years.”

“What?” Ezio shook his head, incredulous at what he had just heard, “After you acknowledge all I’ve lost and suffered, you would ask me to suffer all over again?” Bile gathered in his throat and mouth at the sickening thought, “What purpose would that serve other than your perverse satisfaction?”

Desmond paused, not responding for several seconds. Which Ezio had to consider a blessing, surely a god did not pause before smiting the insolent.

“When you put it like that, it does sound cruel.” Desmond did not sound angry. Instead, he seemed...sheepish? “ I apologize, I didn’t mean for it to sound that way… I meant for it to be an offer for you to correct your previous regrets, and avoid past mistakes.” He nodded slowly, “ I also wanted to offer you two promises in exchange for your hard work.”

“Promises?” What promises could be worth another lifetime of servitude? 

“The first: answers. As many as I am capable of providing to you. No more half-truths and cryptic messages passed through you like some errand boy. You’ll learn everything I can possibly teach you, no matter how impossible it might seem.”

Could Ezio live without answers? He could still leave the library, abandon his quest for answers...couldn’t he? “And...and the second promise?” His voice hitched at his words, unsure if he could fathom what else Desmond could be offering him.

“Second: I promise to save them.”

“Them? Who--”

Your father, Ezio. Federico. Petruccio.” Desmond said firmly, “ I will ensure that you do not walk your path alone. I cannot promise that your life would be without pain, without death, without mistakes, but I will promise that your family will not be cut in half on December 29th, 1476.”

Ezio could have sworn his heart stopped at Desmond’s proclamation. The execution seemed a lifetime ago, and yet it was still seared into his nightmares, into the bottom of a thousand bottles. That day might have been the physical death of his father and brothers, but it had also been the death of his mother’s soul and, in their own ways, the deaths of his and Claudia’s hearts. He had chosen to drown his heart in blood and vengeance, while Claudia had locked hers away in ice and iron.

But if they could be saved…

“Can...can you actually save them?” Ezio wasn’t surprised to find his words drowned by tears, “Do you have that power, to do the impossible? Please...do not promise me dreams and phantoms…”

In response, Desmond used Altaïr’s bony thumb to brush away a stray tear. Then, his hand moved from Ezio’s cheek, outstretched to the distance. For a moment, nothing happened. Then, Ezio’s eyes widened as another artifact, so like the Apple Ezio hid away all those years ago, floated through the library, lighting delicately in Desmond’s outstretched hand.

I won’t give empty promises, Ezio. I will give you harsh truths over pretty lies every time. So believe me when I say: I will save them. I have that power now.”

At his words, the Apple, Altaïr’s Apple, dissolved in a cascade of starlight.

“But the choice is still yours, Ezio. I will not force you to do anything you do not want.”

What a choice to be given: a decade of peace or a lifetime of second chances? Did he have the strength to live his life over once more?

Did he have the strength to walk away and forget it all?

“I…” Ezio thought of Sofia, waiting just outside the library. Of Claudia, back in Firenze. And then of his father, his brothers, whose faces he had almost forgotten. Of Leonardo, and all his wasted time… “I will do it again...I will be your prophet again, my lord.”

A small chuckle escaped Desmond, as he brought his starlight covered hand to cover Ezio’s eyes.

Just Desmond, Ezio.”


When Ezio opened his eyes, he shut them immediately at the brightness of his surroundings. With his eyes closed, he allowed his other senses to speak to him.

There was the soft chittering of pigeons somewhere in the distance, and his back was pressed against the uneven hills and valleys of roof tiles. His skin was warm from sunshine… and free of aches. His body was free of aches, no pulling twinge from badly healed stab wounds, no hitch in his joints.

And there was a hand, pressed to his cheek.

Slowly, Ezio willed his eyes to open once more.

The brightness that had assaulted his vision wasn’t nearly as strong as it had been before, fading into a soft winter morning’s skyline. Birds flew in elegant paths, and Ezio could hear the distant chatter of morning conversations far below. But as awareness returned to him, Ezio found his eyes drawn to the figure leaning over him.

In his years at Monteriggioni, Ezio had visited the Sanctuary numerous times, sometimes to place a seal he had collected from the Assassin tombs, but other times to simply have a moment of peace to observe the great ones who had come before him. He had spent hours staring at the statue of the great Altaïr, especially when the time came for him to wear the man’s armor. There was something Ezio found familiar in the way he wore a scar just like the great Assassin himself.

And now, Ezio could have sworn some deity had taken Altaïr’s carven image and breathed life into it, or if perhaps Desmond had brought Altaïr’s skeleton and gave it flesh and life once more. Olive skin, hair cut close to his scalp, high cheekbones, and a strong nose and jawline.

And the scar…

But this wasn’t Altaïr. Ezio knew that deep down. Altaïr was laying in his library, hopefully, undisturbed and unpossessed now.

Which meant that Ezio was looking upon the face of Desmond. And into his eyes, which glowed with the same golden light Ezio saw with his second sight.

But before Ezio could become too transfixed by Desmond’s eyes, he noticed something else entirely. A thick trickle of blood had made its way from Desmond’s nose, traveling along the line of his lip to his scar…

The same scar as Ezio, as Altaïr... or did they have Desmond’s scar, marked with his image?

Slowly, Ezio willed his hand to reach up, brushing his thumb (his youthful, never once broken, thumb) across the trail of blood, brushing it away before it could spread.

Could a god bleed? 

“My lord…” Ezio began, but found himself at a loss for words. He bit his lip as he desperately searched for his first question, “When…”

Desmond grinned, “Welcome to the morning of December 26th, 1476.” He blinked slowly, his golden eyes fading to a soft hazel, “And I told you already, Ezio...just Desmond.”

Chapter Text

He couldn’t believe it. He was back in Firenze. He was young once more, a child playing at being a man. His family was still whole…

The thought had Ezio on his feet in an instant, ignoring the spinning protests of his head. How could he possibly care about being dizzy, when his brothers were alive, his father was alive, his mother was whole, his sister was still innocent.

“I have to see them!” He nearly sobbed. “We need to get back to the Palazzo. Please my lord, I need to see them…”

Desmond gave him a small smile, “Well of course you’re going to see them, Ezio. I promised you wouldn’t be alone this time, didn’t I?” Slowly, Desmond rose to his feet, his body long and powerful, “Though we’ll have to multitask, we have less than 72 hours before the execution, so we need to be quick in coming up with a--” Whatever Desmond had been about to say was lost, as the god’s knees buckled, and he began drop. 

Ezio leapt forward, catching Desmond before he could fall off the roof and pulling him back to a sitting position. Desmond’s head lolled onto Ezio’s shoulder, and Ezio could see that his eyes were unfocused and struggling to stay open. His nosebleed was back but Ezio was quick to retrieve a handkerchief to stem the flow of blood.

For several moments, Ezio just sat on the rooftop, his arms wrapped around the being he had pledged his life to serve. His hand couldn’t help but rub against the soft and unearthly white fabric of Desmond’s strange doublet, marveling at the texture and make absently 

Desmond’s eyes blinked back into focus; first gold, then to a more natural hazel, before he slowly picked his head up off of Ezio’s shoulder. “Whoa…” He muttered, though the word held no meaning to Ezio, “How long was I out?”

“Only a few moments, my lord.” Ezio replied quickly.

“Just Desmond, Ezio, please.” Desmond murmured, struggling to his feet once more. He groaned, cupping the side of his head, “Ugh, lesson learned: do not abuse Siri…”

Ezio frowned, getting to his feet in case he needed to catch Desmond once more. Whatever held Desmond in such a weakened state may still be present, “...What is Siri?”

Desmond gave Ezio a wry smile, holding Ezio’s arm for balance, “You want the simplified version, or the detailed version?” He took several steps along the rooftop toward the Palazzo Auditore, “I promised you answers, remember.”

Ezio blinked. It was one thing to be promised answers, but it was another thing entirely to actually be given them to his satisfaction, “I...perhaps it would be best if you explain it in the way you feel I will best understand.”

“Ah, there’s the wise Mentor I know and love.” Desmond chuckled, leaning less and less on Ezio for balance, “If I wanted to keep things completely simple, I’d tell you that Siri is my imaginary friend, or the name I’ve given my own runaway thoughts.”

Ezio thought he had become skilled in schooling his features, but his incredulity must have been evident to his lord, because Desmond laughed, “Yes, a stupid explanation. It’s stupid to me as well, and I’m the one that came up with it.”

“Then what’s the detailed explanation?” Ezio frowned, eyeing Desmond carefully. 

“I suppose I should start from the beginning.” Desmond sighed, as they came to a gap in rooftops, “My name is Desmond--”

“I know, sir.”

“--Miles,” Desmond gave Ezio a look that was all too familiar: do not interrupt. “And I am an Assassin.”

Before Ezio could open his mouth, Desmond leapt from the roof. Unhindered by his previous weakness, he landed gracefully on the other side, looking back at Ezio expectantly. Ezio quickly followed, landing on the roof next to Desmond and making sure he stayed close to him.

“I was born, will be born, in the year 1987.” Desmond continued, “I was born into the Brotherhood, but...things happened, and I ran away.” There was more there, but it was not Ezio’s place to question, “Some years go by, and I’m kidnapped by the Templars. They had this device, it’s called an Animus, and it can recreate memories and cause the subject inside it to live out someone elses’s life…”

“And these Templars...put you in this...Animus?” Ezio asked, trying to create a picture in his mind: Templar like the Spaniard, using the papal staff on Desmond. It...didn’t seem real. “For what purpose?”

“They wanted to find the Pieces of Eden. So they used me to relive the memories of Assassins they knew had contact with Pieces of Eden.” Desmond sighed, “They had my live as Altaïr.”

Ezio did his best not to stare at Desmond, but he was sure he was failing. Desmond had lived Altaïr’s life, in addition to bearing his likeness. “But…” Ezio found himself asking, “I’ve had contact with the Apple of Eden as well.”

Desmond smiled, “I know.” He nodded as they walked, “I was rescued from the Templar organization by a cell of Assassins. They knew that the Templar were after the Apple, and it was a race to find it. One of the Assassins, brilliant lady, she managed to build her own Animus. And with that Animus, our cell sent me to live the life of the other most prominent Assassin with contact with the Apple of Eden: you.”

Desmond’s words left Ezio with a dry mouth, his stomach churning, “You...lived my life?”

“Yes and no.” Desmond sighed, “I relived your memories, including your birth, which was really strange, just throwing that out there.”

“You were there for my birth?” Ezio hissed, more in shock than any sort of outrage. His lord had actually been guiding him since birth… “So when Minerva spoke to you in the Vault…”

“I was there, Ezio, just not physically.” Desmond reached out, gently tapping Ezio’s temple, “I was here, seeing with your eyes, listening with your ears.”

“So you understood Minerva’s warning?” He asked, “I was able to deliver the message?”

“Yes yes, Ezio, you did your job perfectly, more than perfectly.” Desmond sighed, “In the year 2012, the sun would release a burst of power that would destroy much of mankind, if not the entire planet. The warning was for me to find a way to shield Earth from the destruction. Because apparently only I could properly wield the device to activate such a shield.”

Ezio couldn’t help but stare. The end times had been upon the earth, and Desmond had been tasked with protecting mankind? He couldn’t help but think about one of the last conversations he had with his Uncle Mario, and how dismissive they had been about the destructive warning Minerva had given to Desmond through Ezio. It was so far into the future, it wasn’t their problem to worry about, hadn’t they agreed on that?

Yet now Ezio, with all his years of experience and pain, stood in the body of his youth, and Desmond, a being of the so distant future, stood before him under the same morning sun. What did time truly mean, then?

“My fellow Assassins and I…” Desmond continued as they reached another roof ledge, though Desmond wasted no time in stepping onto the rope strung across the distance. “We found the Grand Temple, the device to save the world, yeah? Only, it turned out that Minerva wasn’t the only one meddling with humanity. So Juno, that was her name, set herself up in the device and rigged it as a trap.”

Ezio tore his gaze from Desmond’s graceful journey across the rope (the rope hadn’t so much as sagged under his weight) to look up at him, “A trap?”

Desmond nodded, stepping onto the roof on the other side and waiting for Ezio to cross, “Yeah, she set it up so that when the device was used, she would be released into the world. And she was one of those ‘enslave humanity’ types. Oh, and apparently using the device would kill me.” Desmond released a scoff, “Funny how Minerva neglected to mention that.”

“And...what did you do?” Ezio crossed quickly, not wanting to miss any of the explanation, even if his understanding was reaching its limits. “You...are not dead.”

“Yeah, or at least I certainly hope not.” Desmond smiled, “This is where it gets a bit...confusing for me.” He admitted, as the two walked side by side along the rooftops, “You remember when you used the Apple against Cesare’s men?”

“I do…” Ezio admitted, “It nearly killed me. I shudder to think what the Apple might do in the wrong hands.”

“You and me both.” Desmond sighed, shoving his hands into the folds of his doublet, “Well, I used the Apple as well...when I was in the Grand Temple, forced to choose between letting the world burn or be enslaved, I wanted a better option. Or at least, time to look for a better option.”

Ezio blinked, looking at Desmond intently. “Time...you used the Apple to travel through time...as well as pull my soul through time.”

Desmond gave a shrug, “That’s probably the best answer, honestly. But it does go slightly further than me just using the Apple.” He sighed, “Ezio, could you do me a favor, and tell me what I look like when you’re using Eagle Vision?”

“Eagle...Vision?” Ezio frowned at that.

“Sorry, that’s what Altaïr called it.” Desmond shook his head, “Your second sight, the one you use to identify targets and track enemies.”

Ezio nodded slowly, allowing the world to be overwhelmed in azure shadow.

Except for Desmond, who glittered with lines of gold in his blue form, like veins of gold in lapis lazuli. And it wasn’t just lines, they were lines Ezio had seen before…

With a gasp, Ezio refocused as light flooded his vision once more and with it, Desmond’s resigned expression, “I take it you see it too?”

“You are covered with the Apple’s markings.”

“Technically speaking,” Desmond sighed, “They are my markings.”

“Your markings?”

“My little stunt has the Apple right here.” He tapped his temple, “So I am, basically, the Apple now. Complete with all the unfathomable knowledge that comes with it. I haven’t really been able to control it, really.” He shook his head, “I think of an idea, and suddenly, I see all the calculations and possible methods in which my idea could go wrong, or how it could affect history for the better or worse.”

Ezio had seen how Leonardo, who was the most brilliant man he knew, had been utterly bewildered by the knowledge within the Apple, and shuddered to think what might have happened if Ezio had allowed him to attempt to unravel it, “Such knowledge and power...how to you manage it?”

“I don’t, not really, if my little fainting spell back there is anything to go by.” Desmond waved vaguely back where they had come, “Though, I haven’t exactly had much time to experiment, I only woke up in this time like two hours ago.”

“You traversed five hundred years, then pulled me back forty years two hours later?” Ezio whispered, staring at Desmond in awe. “You could have gone to any point in time...made yourself king of humanity...Why this time?”

Ezio hadn’t asked “why me?,” not out loud, at least, yet Desmond seemed to know Ezio’s true question (which wasn’t surprising, given Desmond’s power and knowledge), “I told you, Ezio. You deserved so much better.” He said softly, “You gave so much...you know that when I was living your memories, I could feel your emotions too, right?”

He hadn’t known that, but again, it wasn’t that much of a surprise. Desmond knew him more intimately than any being ever could, there were no secrets between prophet and god.

“Your pain...it was overwhelming at times.” Desmond’s voice seemed distant now, “It seems that...too often, good people give and give and give...until there is nothing left of themselves, and your life seemed so reluctant to give you any goodness back.” He shook his head, coming back to himself, “So I decided since I was saying fuck you to fate, I might as well go the whole nine yards and fix your fate as well.”

Ezio frowned, “I...do not understand the words you say, but I understand your meaning.” He answered. 

Before he could talk himself out of it, he took Desmond’s hand, kneeling despite the other’s objections, “Thank you for your generous gift, my lord. That you should choose my life to rewrite is an honor I shall endeavor to prove myself worthy of as your prophet. I pledge my life and my blade to your service.” There was no ring on Desmond’s finger, yet Ezio brushed his lips over Desmond’s knuckle all the same.

Desmond sighed, “Ezio, weren’t you listening? I’m not a god or some great lord. I’m...I’m just some Assassin who got in over his head.”

Ezio had been listening, the entire time. He had listened as Desmond had fulfilled his first promise by giving Ezio an honest answer, regardless of how much Ezio actually understood, and even tried to explain it to Ezio. And Ezio knew, no matter what question he may ask for Desmond, the other would answer to the best of his ability.

Desmond may have come from mortal backgrounds, he would not doubt that. He may not be a god like Jupiter or Ares, born divine and not of this world, but Desmond had not only looked into the Apple and divined knowledge, he had harnessed that knowledge for himself. He housed the unfathomable power of the Apple within the confines of his own mind, and wielded as an extension of his own being.

Desmond had stepped through centuries, then called Ezio through decades, and only then had he succumbed to his mortal shell...for the briefest of times, before leaping rooftops and walking ropes with inhuman grace.

No, Desmond was not a god in the way the world previously knew. But only a fool would deny the divinity that radiated from Desmond.

And Ezio had not made it so far into life as an assassin by being a fool.


Desmond wasn’t sure how long Ezio was going to stare at him like he hung the sun in the sky, but he sure hoped it wouldn’t be long. They were on a bit of a tight schedule as it was.

The rest of the trip back to the Palazzo Auditore was relatively uneventful, or at least Desmond didn’t have to explain anything terribly complicated. Ezio had been somewhat fascinated with his hoodie zipper, and his tattoo...and his sneakers...and his jeans. Desmond was just glad that Ezio couldn’t see his briefs and ask about the wonders of an elastic waistband.

It wasn’t until both of them had climbed through Ezio’s bedroom window (Desmond found himself wondering how often Ezio actually used the front door), and Desmond took in all the luxuries within that he realized just how exhausted he was.

“Oh thank fuck, an honest to goodness bed.” Desmond breathed, letting himself fall face first onto Ezio’s bed. It might not have been the wisest decision, laying on some teenage boy’s bed, but Desmond was fresh out of fucks to give at that point. He couldn’t even remember the last time he actually slept, rather than some Animus induced stasis bullshit (which was not actually restful, regardless what Rebecca said about vitals). And--oh, he had forgotten that Ezio’s childhood bed had feather down pillows, so soft…

Desmond opened his eyes after several moments, lifting his head from the pillow. Ezio hadn’t commented about Desmond commandeering his bed; he wasn’t paying Desmond any attention at all. Instead, Ezio seemed content to slowly tour his own room, his hand moving over each surface with reverence, his eyes scouring each nook and cranny to memorize its shape.

“I…” Ezio spoke at last, “I...had forgotten…” 

“It was nearly forty years, Ezio.” Desmond replied, “It’s normal to forget some details.”

Ezio closed his eyes, sighing, “I fear I may have forgotten them as well.”

Desmond hadn’t needed to ask what Ezio meant, “Maybe, but when you see them again, you’ll know them.”

Muffled voices interrupted them, faint and clearly beneath their feet. Laughter, happy conversations. Ezio was smiling now, and Desmond didn’t have the heart to remind Ezio of their deadline and need for plans.

“Go,” Desmond nodded to the door, “Go check in on them, say good morning and bicker with your siblings.”

“Are you sure?” Ezio asked, even as his feet were already drifting toward the bedroom door.

Desmond smiled, “Of course. I’ll take a quick nap while you’re away. Afterwards, we can see about getting me some less conspicuous clothes and start planning how to unravel the Pazzi conspiracy.”

Ezio frowned, “And the Borgia?”

“Borgia’s a bit more complicated,” Desmond sighed, waving off Ezio’s frown, “History bullshit, I’ll explain when you get back...and when I’m conscious again.”

Ezio, it seemed, wanted to see his family more than he wanted answers, as he grabbed the door handle, “I’ll try and find some clothes that will fit you...I may have to borrow something of Federico or my father’s…”

Desmond gave a nod of acknowledgement, though his eyes were already closing. He wasn’t sure if he heard Ezio close the door, or if he was already fast asleep when his head hit the pillow.


It was like walking through the halls of his heart, taking in all the details of his childhood. So many traces of innocent times, so many things he had taken for granted. 

Why hadn’t he helped his mother more often?

Why hadn’t he been there for Claudia?

Why hadn’t he spent more time with Petruccio?

Why hadn’t he talked to Federico about things that mattered?

Why hadn’t he pressed his father more about his secrets before it had been too late?

Ezio stopped at the top of the stairs, taking a deep breath. That had been the past, his old past. Desmond had granted him the chance to do things right this time around. He would relish every moment he was granted with them.

Slowly, he made his way down the stairs, following the sounds of family.

The library was just as full of life as he imagined it in his dreams. His mother and Claudia sat together, his mother working diligently on her latest work of embroidery while Claudia was holding a letter in her hands, gushing happily over the contents. No doubt a letter from Duccio, his last letter before Claudia would know the truth about the cazzo. Whether or not Maria Auditore had any suspicions about Duccio, she simply smiled and nodded along with Claudia’s excitement. Petruccio, on the other hand, was sitting at the chess table, looking out the window as he hummed tunelessly. One hand idly toyed with the red bishop while the other rested on his prized treasure box.

Ezio’s gut twisted at the sight of that box. How many feathers had he collected over the years in remembrance of the baby brother he hadn’t spent enough time with? How long had it taken his mother to come to terms with her baby’s death?

No, not this time. He reminded himself.

He wasn’t sure how long he stood there before his mother took notice of him, an exasperated smile crossing her face, “Ezio, finally decide to wander home, I see.” She tutted, pulling on her needle to secure her stitch, “Signore Vespucci’s ire has beaten you home this time, figlio.”

He said if he caught you near Cristina again, he’d have the guards hunt you down.” Claudia added with the knowing smugness that could only come with a little sister.

Vespucci. Cristina… Now that was a name he hadn’t heard in ages. Ezio tried his best to recall the surge of emotions he felt for Cristina, but the old flame had long since smouldered and gone out. The strongest emotion he felt for her now was regret that her death had been prevented.

Ezio could only give a nod to his mother and sister, “I suppose I shall have to endeavor to be stealthier.” He smiled, crossing the room to kiss his mother’s cheek, “Good morning, Mother. Good morning Claudia.”

His mother eyebrows raised ever so slightly at his subdued greeting, while Claudia was pouting, no doubt at Ezio’s failure to rise to her bait.

Ezio paid her little mind other than to give her a small pat on her shoulder before he made his way to the library window. Slowly, he took the seat opposite Petruccio, forcing himself to take in every little detail of his baby brother.

Petruccio’s murder had always been especially gut wrenching to Ezio. All of the murders had been heartbreaking, he would never suggest otherwise, but in his older years, Ezio had come to terms with the ugly truths of the hidden war between Assassins and Templar.

His father was an active participant in their war, no doubt killing scores of Templar before his execution. And Federico, Ezio suspected, knew more about their family’s secret heritage than he might have let on. His age alone was clue enough that he most likely had started his training by the time of his death. Ezio doubted Federico had actually killed anyone yet, or even been formally inducted into the Brotherhood, but at least he had died knowing what evils had been placing the noose around his neck.

But Petruccio? Petruccio was only thirteen, and frail from birth. It was unlikely Petruccio would have ever become an Assassin, if he would have ever learned about the Brotherhood. How terrified had Petruccio been, standing next to Federico and their father, knowing he was about to die, but not why he was about to die? Had Federico and their father explained the truth to him, that last night in that prison cell? Or had they shared their words of hope with him, still believing that the evidence Ezio delivered to Alberti would make everything right again? And what purpose had it served Alberti and the Pazzi to kill a child? Some vile, sadistic point. Just because they could.

But no, that was his previous lifetime. It would not happen again. Ezio desperately shook the demons of his past from his mind as he watched his brother.

Petruccio was so much paler than both him and Federico, though that was hardly surprising, considering how much time he spent indoors, if not in bed. There was still a childlike roundness to his face, especially his eyes. His eyes were so much more expressive than Ezio or Federico’s: wide and sparkling with life and secrets of his own making. Petruccio still wore childlike clothes: lace collars tied with ribbon, but Ezio had a feeling that this would be the year that Petruccio would want to give more input during visits to the tailor.

Ezio’s heart squeezed slightly, and he couldn’t help but smile. He looked forward to teasing Petruccio over his choices in doublet styles, or his color choices. He looked forward to seeing hair on his face, and teaching him how to shave his facial hair into something stylish. He looked forward to the day when his brother would find himself confused as he realized that girls could actually be quite pretty.

He looked forward to seeing the man his little brother might become. Even if Petruccio was only a banker, Ezio knew he would be a good banker, and a good man.

But right now, Petruccio was a thirteen year old boy, smiling back at Ezio.

“Good morning, Ezio.” Petruccio took his hand off the bishop he had been toying with, both hands resting on his treasure box.

“Good morning, Petruccio.” Ezio said softly, grateful that his words hadn’t choked in his throat, “I’m glad to see you’re feeling well today.”

Petruccio nodded, “It’s a good day today. I’d like to go on a walk later.”

“Maybe I could take you.” Ezio offered, and he hoped Desmond would not deny him something so simple, “Perhaps we can even see if we can find some feathers for your collection.”

His younger brother gasped, hugging his treasure box closer, “You peeked?”

“I promise I won’t tell anyone.” He said instead of answering, keeping his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “And you don’t have to tell me what they’re for until you’re ready. I won’t ruin the surprise.”

Petruccio gave him a small pout (similar to Claudia’s, though Ezio wasn’t stupid enough to actually voice that) before nodded, “I’d like more feathers…” He admitted, “Some of them are up high.”

“Well that’s perfect.” Ezio smiled, “Because I am very good at getting up to high places.”

“Apparently.” Petruccio wrinkled his nose, “I don’t think there are any feathers in Cristina’s bedroom.”

Ezio rolled his eyes, “Yes yes, I’m glad you are getting your fun at my expense.” He chuckled, looking down to the chessboard and remembering his last game at this very table.

Anticipate your opponent's moves . His father had said after Federico had cornered his king.

Oh the wonderful irony of the situation now.

He carefully picked up one of his pawns, raising an eyebrow at Petruccio, “Think you’re ready to play?”

Petruccio blinked, “I don’t know how...I only ever watched you and Federico play.”

“Well, you can learn and play at the same time.” Ezio nodded, setting the pawn back on the board, “So these are the pawns, and they can only move like this…”


The Pazzi family were up to something. That in itself wasn’t exactly new, the Pazzi family were always scheming in one way or another, raising a fuss and being a pain in the ass in general.

But that was before the murder accusation.

Federico wasn’t yet privy to all of his father’s work in the true family business, but he had understood enough to know that Francesco de’Pazzi would most likely hang for murder based on evidence that his father had collected.

And yet…

It was odd, Federico had to admit. The Pazzis were not acting as if one of their own had been arrested for murder. From his perch on the nearby rooftops, Federico could see more activity than one would expect of a family dealing with such accusations. If Federico’s own eyes could be trusted, they had even doubled their number of staff and guards since the previous week.

The most frustrating part about the whole ordeal was that Federico had no idea just what to do with this information. Were the Pazzis up to something? Probably. But unless Federico knew what , he couldn’t do anything about it. And even if he had evidence of any plot or conspiracy, Federico couldn’t turn that information over to his father yet.

Whatever business had drawn Giovanni Auditore from Firenze, he had neglected to inform Federico. Then again, that most likely meant it was business on behalf of Il Magnifico...business that did not exist to the public eye.

With a sigh, Federico abandoned his watch on the Pazzis. Whatever might be brewing, he had a feeling he might be better served keeping an eye on his own family for the time being. After all, with his father out of town, he was the man of the house.

The trip back to Palazzo Auditore was uneventful for Federico: he focused on landing his footwork on the tiles that would not clatter, he gave polite nods to a pocket of thieves camped out beneath a stack of chimneys, he leaped from roof to roof without notice. He only had to find cover from a rooftop soldier once, though he mentally chided himself for being so careless. He knew that guard would be stationed there, he had just lapsed in memory. His father wouldn’t have made that mistake.

Mistakes cost people their lives. Especially people who lived their lives by the edge of a blade.

It had been three years since his father had taken him aside, led him into the secret room inside their home, and revealed to him the secrets of their family and the world. Three years since he had pressed a knife into his hand and told him that one day, he would have to take a life. And when that day came, he would forever be marked as an Assassin.

Three years of training, of climbing, of moving, of listening, of watching. He had learned how to use a litany of swords and knives in sparring, as well as how to fight if he was without. He had learned what a knife felt like when it cut through his flesh (though he knew his father had been far more merciful than anyone who actually wanted to kill him). He learned how to tend to his own wounds when necessary, and how to banish the pain for outward appearance’s sake. He learned exactly where to stab a man to cause him to bleed out quickly, as well as where to stab to prevent him from crying out. He learned how to see the world in darkness, with its spectral shapes and colors.

But he was not an Assassin. Not yet.

Soon , his father had said, prior to his departure. Far too soon, I fear.

Whatever darkness was creeping into Firenze, Federico didn’t doubt that he would be called to dirty his hands for the sake of humanity.

He had come to terms with his fate. In the dark corners of his heart, he was even slightly relieved. He was a terrible banker, but perhaps he could prove himself to be a worthy heir to the Auditore name by being a good Assassin.

As Federico found himself on the roof of the Palazzo, he couldn't help but smirk at the sight of Ezio’s open bedroom window. He highly doubted his little brother had been able to pull himself from Cristina Vespucci’s bed early enough to sneak back home and fool anyone, and yet kept trying.

Part of Federico was impressed. Not by his little brother’s romantic exploits, or overly saccharine charm with the ladies. No, he was rather impressed with how naturally Ezio had taken to climbing to places he wanted to get to, sneaking by without raising alarm, and escaping once he had claimed his prize. Sure, Ezio was applying the Assassin talents to his sexual encounters rather than murder, but still.

Federico had more than his share of escaping a lover’s bedroom undetected. Once had been more than enough, and the memory was still far too fresh in his memory.

Ezio would make an excellent Assassin, once he began his training. He was a natural, Federico was certain. True, he may have passed on a bit more of his own training to his brother than their father may have wanted, but Federico wasn’t sure why their father was waiting so long. He had been Ezio’s age when he had started training, younger even. And if there were bad times on the horizon, they would need every Auditore blade possible.

Shaking such dark thoughts from his mind, Federico slowly lowered himself to his brother’s window. If he was lucky, maybe he could surprise Ezio loafing about his room and give him a hard time about his exploits as of late. If nothing else, it was an easy access inside from the roof, and he could go to his father’s secret room to write down his report.

Federico landed near soundlessly, letting his eyes adjust from the bright morning light to the enclosed space of Ezio’s room.

And froze.

Ezio was nowhere in sight, but Federico was not alone in his brother’s room.

A man lay in his little brother’s bed like he belonged there; his head laying on Ezio’s pillow, his eyes closed in deep slumber. The man wore a strange shirt, both in its pristine state, and in the way it was untucked from his breeches. In fact, the white material had already begun to make its way slowly up the man’s torso, revealing another scrap of dark fabric and far too much of his stomach and waist. The man’s ill fitting breeches certainly weren’t much help for modesty’s sake, as they were slung around the stranger’s hip bones…

No.

Federico forced himself to tear his eyes away from the area in question. He was stronger than this, he needed to focus. Check for weapons, then check for hidden threats. Then interrogate the stranger.

Quick observations pointed out that the man was clearly older than Federico, which meant he was far too old to be one of Ezio’s friends. He had a scar on his lip that Federico suspected may have come from violence. His clothes were strange, but he wouldn’t dwell on that again. His arm bore markings like brands or ink, but Federico didn’t recognize the symbolism. He quickly glanced to the other arm to see if there were matching markings.

No markings, but there was clearly something strapped to the man’s forearm, long and black and partially obscured by his sleeve. He wore no vambrance, like Giovanni did when he wielded his hidden blade, but Federico couldn’t discount the notion that the odd piece was still somehow a weapon.

Which begged the question of why the man was sleeping in his brother’s bed.

He wasn’t one of the thieves who came to deliver a message: they never came to the house directly, nor would they have the audacity to sleep in one of their beds. And there was no way the man had come in as a guest through the front door: even if he was an unlikely friend of Ezio’s that their parents were aware of, no guests were permitted while their father was away.

Which meant the man had come in through the window like Federico had. But why?

If he had snuck in to steal something or to kill someone (or all of them), he would be gone, not asleep on his target's bed.

He couldn’t be some drunk who just happened to find the wrong place to sleep it off, climbing up to Ezio’s window from the streets would have been impossible and climbing down from the roof would have been suicide.

Which meant that he had meant to sneak into Ezio’s room, and was aware enough to do so.

There were few reasons Federico could think of for a man to sneak into another man’s bedroom, and still be there by morning. And one of them made Federico’s heart squeeze, ever so slightly. There had to be a reasonable explanation, one that wouldn’t mean Ezio had followed in his footsteps.

It was then that the man on the bed began to move. He groaned softly as his body moved in a languid stretch, shirt sliding further up his body before he tugged it down with one hand. Words escaped the man’s lips, but Federico did not understand the meaning behind the soft and sleepy timbre. Then the man slowly turned his head to look at Federico, his hand raised slightly over his eyes.

“Oh good, you’re back, Ezio. I hope I wasn’t out long,” The man yawned, eyes squinting. Then Federico remembered that he had the morning sun to his back, temporarily obscuring his details to the sleepy man, but not his shape. “I suppose we should…”

Federico could see the moment when the stranger’s eyes focused enough to see beyond the morning sun, and realized his error in identification. The moment when he saw that it wasn’t the seventeen year old Ezio, but rather his twenty year old brother looking down on him on the bed.

The man’s response, however, was not what Federico had expected.

“Oh, fuck me .”

Chapter Text

Because of course Desmond would wake up with Federico Auditore staring down at him, with Ezio nowhere in sight. That was just Desmond’s luck. Why the hell was Federico in Ezio’s room in the first place? Some weird sibling bullshit Desmond didn’t understand?

Well, it could be worse, he realized. It could be Giovanni Auditore standing over the bed. Desmond had a feeling that Desmond would have woken up with a blade to his throat.

But still… “So, is there a reason you’re in Ezio’s room?” Desmond found himself asking. In hindsight, it was a stupid thing to ask, but Desmond was going to chalk it up to his sleep deprived brain.

Federico Auditore, on the other hand, didn’t seem so willing to dismiss the stupid question, “Strange, I was about to ask you the same question.” The eldest Auditore crossed his arms over his chest in a way that Desmond assumed was supposed to be somewhat threatening, “But first, who the hell are you, and why are you in my little brother’s bed?”

“To be fair, I asked first.” Desmond groaned, stretching his neck slowly. Not that he was actually expecting Federico to give him an answer, he was basically stalling for time. Hopefully Ezio would come back sooner rather than later, “I’m Desmond.”

“Desmond.” Federico repeated, and Desmond had to admit he kinda liked the way his name sounded on Auditore lips; it made his outdated, awkward name sound exotic to his own ears. Though Desmond could have done without the accompanying scowl, “And why are you in my brother’s bed?”

“Sleeping, what else do you do in bed?” Again, Desmond knew that was a dumbass answer.

Federico stiffened at his words, “What else indeed…” He replied, and Desmond realized this was perhaps the most serious he had ever witnessed Federico being (which, granted, wasn’t saying much considering Desmond only saw three days of Federico’s life before his death), “Let me ask again: what is a grown man doing in the bed of my seventeen year old brother?”

Oh, well now Desmond just felt dirty, and he hadn’t even done anything.

Thankfully, Desmond didn’t have a chance to think of a dumb response to that particular question, as the bedroom door opened to reveal Ezio, smiling from ear to ear. Whatever family interactions he had with his mother, brother, and sister must have been good ones, and for that, Desmond was glad.

That smile faltered when Ezio surveyed the scene before him. But especially when his eyes fell on his elder brother.

“Federico…” Ezio breathed, and he sounded exactly like the seventeen year old he looked like. Time, Desmond realized, did not so easily heal all wounds. And Ezio was probably already emotional from seeing his baby brother again, which probably only made his misty-eyed expression all the worse.


Federico’s heart squeezed at the sight of his little brother, his cocky, confident little brother, frozen in fear, saying his name so helplessly. Whatever hope Federico had that he was overreacting was beginning to evaporate.

This wasn’t supposed to happen to Ezio. Ezio had Cristina, he had the attention of half the girls in Firenze. He was a man of the ladies, he wasn’t… he wasn’t like Federico.

Federico could feel his blood run cold, even as he crossed the room and grabbed his brother by his elbow. Ezio gave a startled yelp as he hauled him into the hallway, but Federico ignored him, instead moving Ezio out of view from the bedroom, carefully positioning himself so that way he could talk to his brother while keeping an eye on Desmond (if that truly was his name…).

“Ezio…” It took all of Federico’s control to keep his voice quiet and calm. His brother was most likely scared of his judgement, of being discovered; he had to make sure those fears were soothed before they could work on a plan, “Ezio, you know as your brother, I am on your side. I’m not going to turn you in or abandon you.”

Confusion caused Ezio’s brow to furrow, “Federico, what are you talking about?”

Federico cast a quick glance back into the bedroom. Desmond hadn’t moved from his spot on the bed. Good. “Ezio, I won’t ask what led you to bringing your...man back to your room, but mio dio, Ezio, you must be more careful in the future! You will find yourself at the gallows if you continue to be so brazen.”

“Federico, no!” Ezio shook his head wildly, his hands raised in defense, “It isn’t like that. Desmond and I aren’t… we aren’t lovers, Federico.”

He wasn’t sure if he should be relieved by Ezio’s words, take solace that he hadn’t somehow caused Ezio to stray from women, or if he should press further to see if his brother would confess. Federico couldn’t ignore the fact that Ezio hadn’t reacted to his subtle accusation of sodomy with the amount of outrage and disgust that would be considered normal. “Did he get you drunk? Does he have something over you?” The very thought of it made Federico sick, “Whatever it is...I’ll take care of it.”

And he would. Federico knew how. And while his father might not have approved of Federico killing without him there to oversee, or without his direct instruction, he was sure that he would forgive Federico if he knew the reasons.

“Just let me know...and I’ll make it go away.”

Ezio blinked, staring up at Federico with an intensity that he didn’t even know his brother had been capable of, “Federico, it was nothing of the sort. I’m not in danger from Desmond.”

“Who is he then?” Federico frowned. Whether or not Ezio was lying about their relationship, that still left the question of where this man came from, and who he was. “Because this is the first time I’ve seen him. Not to mention he’s far too old to be running around in your social circle.”

Ezio hesitated, and Federico knew in that instant that whatever was about to come out of his brother’s mouth would be a lie. “I don’t know how I could possibly explain it, Federico. I doubt you would believe me.”

“Try me, Ezio.” Federico lowered his voice, “I can’t help you if I don’t know what we’re dealing with.”

At that, Ezio shook his head, a sad smile on his face, “Oh Federico…” he murmured, “I don’t know if I can tell you everything just yet, it’s all too...fantastic and unreal, even to me right now. Please, just...trust me right now.”

He shouldn’t, Federico knew he shouldn’t just let the matter drop. Not while their father was away, not while the Pazzi were making Federico antsy, not when such a secret could utterly ruin Ezio should it fall into the wrong hands. For all Federico knew, this Desmond had been sent by the Pazzi to seduce Ezio, then accuse him of sodomy publicly. Federico would be a fool to allow the matter to drop.

But Ezio looked at him with such earnest, all misty-eyed and starstruck by this mysterious Desmond. Federico had certainly never seen Ezio look like that when speaking of Cristina, or any of his previous lovers. And he wasn’t sure if he should be fearful for Ezio, pity him, or envy him.

“Fine.” He sighed, “We’ll speak at length tonight. And I want the full story, Ezio, no matter how ‘fantastic’ it may sound.”

Ezio nodded, “Of course, Federico...Thank you.” He looked back into the bedroom for a moment before looking at Federico, “Oh...is it alright if Desmond borrows some clothes? His current clothes are a bit...conspicuous.”

Federico wasn’t sure what was more off putting: the thought of Desmond wearing his clothes, or Ezio being concerned with conspicuous clothing. He sighed, “Fine, fine...But if he tears them, he’s paying for replacements.”

His brother smiled, “As if you need more clothes, Federico.” He chuckled, “If you want to go grab some clothes you don’t wear anymore—“

“Oh no, I’m staying here.” Federico pointed into the bedroom, “I’m not leaving you two alone. You can go to my room to grab whatever you think Desmond will need. I’m keeping an eye on him here.”

If Ezio had objections, he didn’t voice them. Perhaps he was aware of the fact that he had already been given far more liberties that he should have, and wasn’t about to push his luck.

Though now Federico had to figure out just what he was going to do about this Desmond character. It wasn’t too late to get rid of him, if necessary.


The moment Ezio and Federico had left the bedroom, Desmond had allowed his Eagle Vision to take over once more as he began consulting Siri’s calculations. When Desmond had come up with his original plan, he had planned it with himself in the background, with perhaps some assistance from Ezio.

But now he had to factor Federico into the equation, because there was no way Federico would voluntarily remain ignorant and uninvolved now that he was aware of Desmond’s presence. And if Federico was involved, no doubt he would want to get Giovanni Auditore involved as well. So now Desmond had to reconfigure his plan to include for Auditore meddling.

He couldn’t stay a secret, that was for sure. So Siri quickly dismissed all those scenarios. That left Desmond with a few interesting moves he could make next. 

Speaking of which...oh, now that was a very interesting move. Bold. He liked it.


Desmond was standing at the window when Federico walked back into Ezio’s room, looking out at the street below, though positioning himself just out of view of anyone who might be looking up. As Federico approached, he turned to face him, and Federico realized he and this Desmond stood almost at the same height.

“Where is Ezio?” Desmond asked, eyebrow raised.

“He’s fetching you clothes, since your current attire is…” Federico trailed off, unsure how best to describe what the man was wearing.

Desmond nodded, “Good, that doesn’t give us much time to talk.” The devil-may-care attitude from earlier was completely absent from the strange man’s voice. “Your family is in grave danger.”

Of all the things Federico might have expected Desmond to say, that was not one of them, “Are you threatening us?”

“I’m trying to warn you!” Desmond hissed, his voice low, “If your father were here, I would have gone straight to him, but I failed to intercept him before he left for Milan.”

Federico bristled at that, “How do you know where my father is?” 

“Before I say anything more, I need to be sure you can be trusted. I already made the mistake of assuming your brother had started his training.” Before Federico could say anything, Desmond had grabbed his hand, examining his fingers and pushing up his sleeve, “No brand or blade…” He muttered to himself.

The words came at Federico like a wave, and he only had the sense to snatch his hand away from Desmond after the man had already loosened his grip, “What are you talking about?”

Desmond gave Federico an even look before speaking once more: slow and deliberate, “If I say “Nothing is true…””

Realization struck Federico, followed by confusion, “Everything is permitted.” He replied, remembering one of his father’s first lessons, “Are you saying that you’re—“

In response, Desmond  turned his wrist to reveal the black object strapped to his forearm. With a whispered shik , Desmond’s hidden blade was on display: long, elegant, deadly. And with a blink, it was hidden once more, tucked away in that black box that seemed far too slim to be housing such a blade. 

“At least Giovanni had the sense to at least begin training one of his sons.” Desmond muttered, “Even if you are woefully unarmed.”

Federico frowned, “This is my home, why would I need to be armed?”

Desmond gave him a smile akin to a long suffering schoolmaster with a rather dim student, “If you think that our enemies won’t come for you in your own home, you’re far too innocent for your own good.” He shook his head, “But it isn’t my place to judge how a brother chooses to train his recruits. What is important is foiling the conspiracy settling over Firenze and beyond.”

“What does this have to do with my father in Milan, and why you’re in my brother’s bed?” He knew it, he had known that something was wrong in Firenze, but he still didn’t know what exactly.

“The conspiracy seeks to weaken the Medici’s power and their alliances, starting with Milan.” Desmond pressed, “With the duke of Milan out of the way, the Medici have one less powerful alley, leaving them vulnerable to attack from their enemy.” 

Federico’s breath hitched in his chest. “They’re going to assassinate the duke of Milan?” That was the business his father had left in such a hurry for: to stop an assassination.

“Whether or not they are successful, we must anticipate their next move.” He nodded, “These conspirators are more than just the disgruntled Pazzi. Anyone with eyes could spot them plotting to overthrow the Medici family.”

He couldn’t really argue with Desmond on that one, “They have been quite active lately, far more than one would expect, considering the charges one of their own is facing.”

Desmond gave a dismissive wave, “The Pazzis are the easy target. There are far more deadly targets. They have members of their plot within Medici’s employ.” He hissed, “Within his inner circle, even.”

“How do you know this?” Federico hissed, “And why have you not come forward with your knowledge before now?”

“Unlike your father, I don’t have a second life to balance with my duties to the Brotherhood.” Desmond nodded, “And I came to Firenze to warn your father as soon as I could. It just happened that your brother was the first Auditore I came across. Even if he was completely ignorant to the Brotherhood, he seemed eager enough to listen to me, and offered me shelter for the night.”

“You told Ezio about the Brotherhood?” How would his father react to Ezio learning about the Assassin’s before his official training had begun? No wonder Ezio had seemed so bewildered by this Desmond.

“I shut my trap the moment I realized the boy knew nothing of the Assassins and Templar.” Desmond snapped, “The boy is seventeen, forgive me if I had thought that his training had already begun.”

“He’s going to begin training soon.” Federico protested weakly, even though part of him agreed with Desmond’s assessment.

Desmond shook his head slowly, “Not soon enough, I fear, if my suspicions are correct. I wasn’t being dramatic when I said your family is in grave danger.” He gave Federico a piercing stare, and Federico felt himself pinned in place by the older man’s hazel eyes, “The Templar have their spies everywhere, including in Medici’s inner circle. Someone who knows of your father’s true vocation, as well as his service to the Medici family.”

“Father can handle whatever the Templar may attack him with.” He hissed, “We will not back down.”

“Do you think the Templar will limit their wrath to just your father?” Federico could feel Desmond’s hot breath on his cheek, and his own breath hitched as he realized just how close they stood, “They will just as soon snuff you out before you can ever adopt the mantle of Assassin, because you best be sure they are aware that your father is training you to carry on his name. And if I made the assumption that Ezio had also started his training, is it really that much of a stretch to believe the Templar wouldn’t see him as a threat?” He scoffed, “And why would they even stop there? You think they won’t snuff out the life of a sickly boy before he has the chance to become a man? And--”

“Stop!” Federico clenched his eyes shut, willing the vile images Desmond had conjured in his mind’s eye to vanish, “Please stop...I understand.” He slowly opened his eyes once more, ashamed at his own squeamish stomach.

If Desmond found him lacking for his reaction, he didn’t show it. “Your father is a skilled Assassin, but the Templar have numbers and cunning on their side.” His voice was low now, and it sent a chill down Federico’s spine, “One wrong step could be death.”

“What do we do?” He asked, wishing there was more confidence in his voice.

“First, I’ll speak with your father concerning what intelligence I have gathered. We’ll move from there.” Desmond nodded, “You may be more knowledgeable than your brother, but you are still only in training—“

“You can’t possibly tell me my family is in danger and then expect me to just sit back and not actually—“ 

The rest of Federico’s protest was quickly squelched as the bedroom door opened once more, and Ezio returned with his arms laden with clothes. In that same instance, whatever close proximity Desmond may have had with Federico vanished, as the other man— the other Assassin— had moved to the side of the bed once more. Desmond still had his head turned to Federico, away from Ezio.

Later , he mouthed, before turning his attention fully to Ezio.

“Hopefully these will fit.” Ezio said, laying out the articles on his bed. Federico gave the items a quick perusal, just to make sure his brother hadn’t decided to give all his best clothes away. Knowing Ezio, he might.just do that.

Oddly enough, Ezio had chosen some of Federico’s more plain clothes: white shirt, brown breeches, one of his more subtly embroidered red doublets, and a pair of black boots. Normally, Federico would have commented that the ensemble was rather drab, but considering what he now knew about Desmond, perhaps it was for the best that the Assassin not stick out in a crowd.

“I guess there’s only one way to find out.” Desmond nodded, one hand reaching up to a small knot of metal at the V of his strange shirt. As his hand then made a downward journey, Federico couldn’t help but stare as the snow white fabric split in two as if sundered by some unseen scissors. It was only as Desmond discarded the item that Federico noticed that the black markings he had previously seen on Desmond’s arm extended much further up the length of his arm than he had previously thought. Ribbons of black twisted and wove themselves over olive skin, traveling over the strong curves of Desmond’s muscular arm to create a masterpiece that danced with life with each movement of the man’s arm.

Federico wasn’t sure what sort of art or brand Desmond was wearing, or why he would have such markings in the first place, but he tried to tell himself that he was only observing the foreign markings out of curiosity.

Whatever reasoning Federico might have had vanished like florins at a dice game the moment Desmond unfastened the belt slung low on his hips. The Assassin didn’t hesitate in allowing his ill-fitting breeches to pool at his feet, stepping out of them easily (when had he removed his shoes?) as he made his way to where Ezio had laid out the bed. The man wasn’t completely bare and shameless, but Federico wasn’t sure if that was better or worse than the alternative before him: a swathe of black fabric stretched over Desmond’s hips like a second skin, covering his modesty and yet revealing everything.

Madre di Dio…  

It was only then that Federico mustered the strength to look away, turning his attention to Ezio. 

Ezio wasn’t looking at Desmond at all. Instead, his little brother stood with his hands clasped in front of him, his head bowed slightly and his eyes downcast to the floor. It was a very un-Ezio thing for his brother to do, and Federico found himself even more unsettled by it all.

Between Ezio’s strange behavior, the looming threat of conspiracy, and Federico’s struggle with his perversion, things were becoming quite complicated indeed.


“So you told Federico you were an Assassin here to save the family?” Ezio raised an eyebrow at Desmond as they walked the rooftops once more.

It had been pure luck (not to mention a well timed summoning from his mother) that had pulled Federico’s attention long enough for Desmond to make his escape. No doubt Ezio would face some serious interrogation once his brother got his hands on him, but at least he and Desmond would have a chance to figure out a bit of a plan. Ezio had been given a series of errands for the day, but they had passed easily enough with Desmond by his side. And they had also been able to discuss the stories they both had given Federico, so Ezio could feel better prepared for when he spoke to his brother at length.

Desmond gave an easy shrug, Federico’s clothes fitting slightly tight at the shoulders, “It was the best option Siri gave me.” He answered, “Plus, it’s close enough to the truth that I won’t get tripped up on remembering a lie.”

“But it isn’t the truth.” Ezio shook his head.

“I am an Assassin, that is true.” Desmond replied, “And I am here to save the family, that is also true.”

Ezio hummed, “A lie by omission then.”

Desmond laughed, “Ezio, just because you are handling the time traveling Apple bullshit does not mean others will.” He smiled.

Ezio smiled in response, “It was cunning, but how did you know Federico would believe you?”

“Oh, that?” Desmond paused, walking a rope across rooftops once more, “That was just a bit of good psychological manipulation.”

“Psycho...what?” Ezio blinked at the word, quickly following Desmond.

Desmond paused for a moment, his gaze slightly unfocused for a moment as he gathered his thoughts, “Psychology is the word we give in my time to the study of the mind, the way we think.”

“You manipulated Federico’s thoughts?” Ezio thought back to his time using the Apple, how it could manipulate visions and illusions.

“No, no!” Desmond quickly shook his head, “I did not control your brother’s thoughts--”

“But you said you manipulated--”

“I used his mindset to my advantage.” Desmond interrupted, “Let me see if I can give a better example: say you wanted to convince either Machiavelli or Bartolomeo to do you a favor, the same favor. Would you try to persuade them using the same approach?”

Ezio frowned, trying to compare the two men, “I suppose that would depend on the favor.”

Desmond chuckled, “Let’s go with one we both know you’re familiar with: breaking someone out of prison. We both know those two have very different ideas of how to go about doing that, and why.”

He nodded, “I think I understand. I’d most likely have to explain the strategic advantages the prison break would be to Machiavelli.”

“And even then, the man would be a bit of an ass.” Desmond grinned, “That’s the super simple explanation of psychology, with a side lesson on rhetoric, but I’m afraid if I try to go into too much detail, I’m going to have Shaun’s voice in my head all night.”

Ezio frowned at that, “Who is Shaun? I thought you named the Apple Siri?”

“I did,” Desmond rubbed his temples slightly, his eyes closed, “Shaun is a-- will be a fellow Assassin in my time.  He was part of the cell I worked with, but he wasn’t a fighter like you and me. He was our historian and researcher; brilliant, but the dude could be a complete ass.”

Deciding not to comment on the strange word, Ezio nodded, “So he was your Machiavelli.”

Desmond barked out a laugh at that, “Oh fuck, you’re right!” He grinned, “We all saw through his surly Englishman act, so none of his barbs really ever stuck. But whenever I was in the Animus, living your life, Shaun would sometimes but in and I’d hear him prattle on about the historical relevance of one structure or another...so now, whenever I think of something concerning history or some form of research...Siri uses Shaun’s voice to tell me it.”

He paused then, looking out into the distance for several moments. Whatever was fluttering through Desmond’s mind, it was apparently not for Ezio to know.

Ezio cleared his throat carefully, hoping to draw his lord’s attention gently, “So you say you used Federico’s thoughts to your advantage…”

Desmond blinked rapidly, seemingly coming back to himself, “Um, yes…” He shook his head, “I don’t know Federico as well as I do you, of course, so I had to go off what I knew.”

“Which was…” Ezio had to admit he was curious to see what Desmond had gleaned from Federico that had allowed him to manipulate his older brother.

“Well, he’s a firstborn, and a firstborn son at that.” Desmond nodded, “Not to mention he’s started his training as an Assassin for nearly three years already. I made a gamble that he’d follow the pattern of firstborns wishing to please their parents, or in this case, your father, and coupled that with his desire to prove himself as an Assassin.”

Ezio blinked slowly, his mind trying to process Desmond’s words, “...Federico has been training for three years?”

Desmond nodded, “And after that fiasco with the bank, I’m willing to bet that Federico is doubling down on proving himself to your father that he can be a good Assassin.”

The more Ezio thought about it, the more he had to admit that it made sense. When he forced himself to remember those last few months before Federico’s death, Ezio remembered how his elder brother had withdrawn from their normal antics, disappearing for hours on end with no explanation. Ezio recognized the pattern now that he had lived such a life, though unlike Federico, Ezio had been able to prove himself. Over and over again. “It must have been agonizing, keeping everything from me… I would have been Claudia’s age when he started training…”

“I think Federico found his own way to tell you what he was learning.” Desmond smiled softly, “After all, he imparted what he knew about free-running and climbing and fighting to you. Last I checked, climbing to the top of towers isn’t exactly a common pastime among Firenze youth.”

He was right, Ezio knew that. At the time, Ezio hadn’t given his and Federico’s activities too strange, but now that he was older, he knew better. Federico couldn’t betray the secrecy of the Brotherhood, even in his training, but he had tried to prepare Ezio all he could. The more he thought about it, Ezio realized that it was Federico’s secret tutelage that had given him the skills to survive his first few years of vengeance. Ezio would never have survived killing Alberti without those skills.

“He’ll be a good Assassin this time.” Ezio swore to himself. “And there won’t be any more secrets between us.”

“Well, at least not about being Assassins.” Desmond gave a low hum, considering his words once more. Ezio was about to accept that Desmond was pondering something Ezio did not need to know before he spoke once more.

“Were you aware that Federico is attracted to men?”

“What?” Ezio’s foot hit a loose tile, causing him to lose his balance. He nearly toppled off the edge of the roof, but Desmond grabbed him by his collar and pulled him upright once more. But while Ezio’s body was upright and steady, his mind was reeling, “What did you say?”

“Federico, he’s homosexual.” Desmond repeated, as if he were commenting on the color of Ezio’s doublet. 

Ezio shook his head, “No, no, you’re mistaken.” He said, though the words felt hollow. Desmond couldn’t be mistaken, not with the Apple in his mind. “Federico isn’t…He’s nearly as prolific with women as I was.”

But he wasn’t, was he? For all that Federico had joined Ezio in flirting with the ladies of Firenze, Ezio couldn’t remember any names or faces of Federico’s lovers. No memories of angry fathers calling out for Federico’s blood, no stories of Federico fleeing a noblewoman’s bed. Ezio’s blood ran cold at the thought. What if not all of Federico’s secrecy could be attributed to his Assassin training? Could his brother have kept something like that a secret from him? 

“You’re sure?”

“He was staring at me the entire time I was changing clothes.” Desmond replied simply, “Quite intensely, actually.”

Panic struck Ezio at Desmond’s accusation. It was jarring enough to deal with the possibility that Federico was a sodomite, but now he was being accused of lusting for his lord? 

“I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation, sir.” His mind scrambled to find a good excuse, something feasible to pardon Federico of his transgression, “You saw how suspicious he was of you, how protective he is of me. He probably was trying to be vigilant. And your clothing is quite a curiosity, he may have been perplexed by them.”

Desmond shot Ezio a sideways glance, his cocked eyebrow indicating to him that he was not believing Ezio’s excuses, and Ezio’s heart dropped to his stomach.

“Please, my lord...forgive him.” Ezio continued weakly, grabbing Desmond’s hand, “Federico meant no offense, he couldn’t possibly know who you are…”

“Not this again, Ezio. I’m not a god!” Desmond groaned, exasperated, “And what is there to forgive your brother for? Finding me sexy? For--”

He stopped, his annoyed expression melting away as he looked at Ezio, “...You think I’d condemn your brother for being homosexual.” 

Ezio didn’t say anything, willing himself not to think of Federico standing at the gallows, alone this time, facing all the jeers of Firenze while Ezio was helpless to save him.

Desmond sighed, giving Ezio’s hand a gentle squeeze, “I forgot how serious a crime homosexuality is in this time…” He muttered, “It isn’t, you know, in my time. At least not in my country.”

“It...isn’t?” Ezio blinked.

“It’s slightly more complicated, but to save myself the agony of Shaun going into a lecture on the history of the LGBT movement, I’ll say it isn’t a crime.” He nodded.

Ezio had no idea what Desmond meant with some of his words, but he was coming to terms that his lord sometimes said things beyond his understanding, and there was not enough time in the world for Ezio to learn all Desmond had to teach. “So...you will still save Federico?”

“Of course I will, Ezio!” Desmond said emphatically, “I promised I would, and I’d save him regardless of his sex life.”

Relief flooded Ezio, “Thank you, my lord.” He breathed, kissing Desmond’s hand once more.

“Stop that…” Desmond grumbled, pulling his hand from Ezio, “I’d be a damn hypocrite if I condemned Federico, after all.”

Ezio stared at Desmond, “You’re a sodomite?”

Desmond raised an eyebrow, “First, let’s ditch that word. Not a fan of that word.” He rolled his eyes, “And if you want to be specific, I’m bisexual, or bi. I can be attracted to both men and women. Like you.”

“Me?” Ezio blurted, cheeks burning red, “I’m not…”

The words died in Ezio’s throat at the look Desmond gave him: knowing and amused.

“Ezio, I think we both know I’ve ridden around in your memories far too long for you to lie to me about this.” Desmond smiled softly.

“But I’m not…” Ezio began again, his voice lower now, “I’m not attracted to men, it’s just…”

“It’s just Leonardo.” Desmond finished for him, “I know.”

Ezio could feel his heart skip a beat at the mention of Leonardo. How long had it been since he had spoken to his dear friend? Before he left for Constantinopli? 

No...it had been at the party for Ezio’s forty-eighth birthday. Ezio had offered Leonardo a place with the Brotherhood (with him…), and Leonardo had refused. Leonardo had claimed he wished for a more solitary path… Ezio had to force himself to let Leonardo go, regardless what his heart had screamed at him.

Ezio had made his realization far, far too late. Leonardo had found his happiness, and Ezio would be damned if he would take that from him so selfishly.

Desmond’s voice drew Ezio from his thoughts.

“Your family isn’t the only mistake you can correct, Ezio.” He said softly, “After all, don’t you meet him for the first time tomorrow morning?”

He would. A smile split Ezio’s face at the memory, such a simple task of carrying paintings had been the start of something...beautiful. Even if he had been blinded by vengeance and his own ignorance, not realizing what he had until it had been far,far too late.

Could he really have them both? His family and Leonardo? “I’m not sure how...what if I mess it all up?”

Desmond scoffed, “You really can’t mess it up any worse than saying you approved of Salaí.” He gave Ezio a gentle smack on the back of his skull, “Idiot.”

“I just wanted him to be happy…” Ezio sighed, looking down to the streets below.

“I know.” Desmond smiled, “And now, this time, you can make him happy yourself.” He hummed, “Speaking of Leonardo, he may prove useful in foiling your family’s execution.”

“Truly?” Ezio asked, surprised.

Desmond nodded, “From what I’m getting here,” He tapped his temple, “Your father intercepts an encrypted Templar message. He’ll present it to Medici, but Alberti and father Maffei are also present. Alberti will give it to Maffei to decipher, but he is “unable” to.”

Ezio scoffed at that, “Of course he isn’t.”

“Yeah, hindsight is amazing, isn’t it?” Desmond slowly stepped down from the rooftop, gracefully stepping from awning to balcony, down to boxes and the streets below. Ezio followed behind, footsteps stepping where Desmond had, “Well then Alberti somehow convinces Medici that the best way to find out what was in the message is to actually deliver it, in Rome.”

“How do you know all this?” Ezio raised an eyebrow. “Does the Apple truly reveal all to you?”

“I don’t think so.” Desmond shook his head, “I’m not all knowing, at least I don’t think I am. In this instance, I’m getting bits and pieces of this account from various sources to get the big picture. But I’m also…” He hissed, touching his temple once more, “Fuck, I’m getting snippets of memories as well, but I’m not supposed to be able to access these memories…”

“Memories? Whose?”

“Your father’s. But I’m not supposed to be able to...not these memories, they’re too late in…” Desmond’s pained expression melted away to nothing, and Desmond’s eyes flashed golden. His body came to a complete stop, and Ezio found himself carefully guiding Desmond to a nearby bench, sitting beside him away from prying eyes.

When Desmond’s eyes darkened once more, awareness flooded back to his expression. A few shaky breaths wracked Desmond’s chest, and his hand gripped Ezio’s bicep firmly.

“Ezio…” Desmond whispered, “You father knows about Rodrigo Borgia...or at least he is going to know about him in the next 48 hours if he goes to Rome. They’ll have a confrontation in Rome, that’s why your father’s hidden blade is broken…”

Ezio’s mind was reeling with so much information, “So do we want him to go to Rome or no?”

“Probably not…” Desmond quickly wiped his nose again, before Ezio handed over his handkerchief once more for his bloody nose, “Shit, I hate having so much information scrambling my brains…”

“We’ll focus on our first step: convince my father to allow Leonardo to decipher the message.” Ezio nodded, “Once that’s taken care of...perhaps we can start picking off some conspirators?” If there was a note of excitement in his voice, he really couldn’t be blamed for that, could he?

Desmond smirked, “We’ll have to be quite sly about that, lest we scare the rats into scurrying away.” He hummed, before nodding down the street, “But perhaps I can interest you in beating the living daylights out of one, to tide you over.”

Ezio followed Desmond’s gesture, and smiled at the sight at the all too familiar bridge. Already, there were groups of young men gathering, rumbling with the promise of action and violence.

“Oh, to flatten Vieri’s face once more…” Ezio grinned, standing from the bench.

“You can’t kill him, Ezio.” Desmond chuckled, following Ezio’s lead, “Too public.”

“I know, I know.” Ezio gave Desmond a mock pout. “But later.”

Desmond smirked, “Well later, you can beat up Duccio, if we get things going with our plans.”

“Oh, Duccio…” Ezio was beaming now as he and Desmond made their way to the bridge, “So many blessings you have showered upon me: my family, Leonardo, now promises of violence on Vieri and Duccio…”

For all of Desmond’s protests about his divinity, Ezio felt well and truly blessed by Desmond’s gift. With the wisdom of his old soul, and the strength of his young body, he felt truly prepared to walk the path of Desmond’s prophet and wear the mantle of Mentor in the Brotherhood.

Even as Ezio looked up to see the stone Vieri had thrown, arcing dangerously high in the evening sky, he did not flinch or turn away. The sharp pain, and the taste of blood in his mouth was nothing. Bearing Desmond’s mark, armed with the knowledge and skills necessary to walk his path, was everything.

Chapter Text

Desmond wasn’t sure if Ezio noticed him falling into the background of his fight with Vieri de’Pazzi, or how long it would take him to realized Desmond had left the fight entirely. If he were lucky, Ezio would be well occupied by first the fight, then with Federico’s arrival (hopefully that much would remain the same), which would give Desmond plenty of time to think and sort out his next few moves.

Up until that point, He had only thought about changing Ezio’s life for the better. And while Desmond still intended to radicalize history in that fashion, he realized that he also needed to think about the impact he could have on the twenty-first century as well.

Ezio’s fight with Vieri de’Pazzi on that bridge was the first memory sequence Desmond had ‘relived’ (other than Ezio’s birth...he never did understand why Lucy forced him to relive that memory). Which meant that, as of right now, there was a real chance that Future Desmond, Future Lucy, Future Rebecca, and Future Shaun were seeing what Ezio was seeing.

Which meant that they would see him.

Desmond knew it was only a matter of time before Ezio would see and speak to him, it was unrealistic to try and avoid Ezio, especially if they were going to try and work together. But at the same time, he would have to decide the best way to handle this debacle.

For several minutes, Desmond allowed his mind to wander as he, in turn, wandered the streets of Firenze. He allowed himself to be carried away by the crowds, brushing against bodies, hands coming away with more and more florins before he melted into another crowd.

Perhaps he would have Ezio act as a prophet after all. But rather than rely on Minerva in the Vatican vault to relay a cryptic message to the twenty-first century Assassins, Desmond could always cut to the chase. He smiled at that. If Ezio was going to be a prophet, he was certainly not going to be some pawn for the Precursors to use and discard. Desmond would reclaim Ezio as his own prophet, so he could deliver better warnings to his future self. 

Granted, he wasn’t sure how relevant his warnings would be, depending on how much he changed history, but at least he could reassure his future self that he wasn’t going crazy.

With the matter of Ezio’s life being viewed by the Animus being resolved, Desmond allowed himself to turn his attention to his more present problem.

He had told Ezio that his father would intercept a Templar missive, encrypted and unreadable and that, if left to Alberti and Maffei, would remain a secret and delivered as if nothing had happened.

It was obvious to Desmond (and Ezio, no doubt) that the best move they could make would be for Maffei to not ‘translate’ the missive, but to have someone else do the decrypting to unravel the message within.

And both Ezio and Desmond happened to know someone who was very good at codes, ciphers, and secret messages.

The problem would be how to convince Giovanni Auditore to trust Desmond as a strange Assassin new to the city, enough to be convinced to allow some nobody painter to handle a message obtained during a secret mission for Lorenzo Medici.

Desmond sighed. If Ezio had already started his training as an Assassin, Desmond could have relied on Ezio to convince his father. As it stood, Federico was the only one who had his father’s ear as an Assassin in training, and Federico’s opinion on Desmond was...mixed, at best.

So either Desmond would either have to convince Federico to convince his father, or Desmond would have to convince Giovanni himself. He didn’t need Siri to run those calculations.

For the first time in several minutes, Desmond let himself take in his surroundings. It was evening time now, considering the way the sun hung barely above the horizon, yet there were still people milling about. Shopkeepers were maintaining business, clumsy merchants were carrying boxes far too heavy for them and would be dropped with the slightest provocation, groups of men and women were enjoying conversations with friends and colleagues.

Then Desmond noticed the all too conspicuous uniform of the Firenze guard. A group of four (it was always four, wasn’t it?), standing perfectly spaced in front of a completely open door. Now that Desmond had a chance to think about it, it was strange to have armed guards, yet leave the door wide open. But that hardly mattered.

Four guards, open door. That meant one thing lay inside.

Desmond smiled.

Oh well, that was just perfect.


No one really paid the courtesans much mind. Sure, wandering eyes may follow them as they walked by, perhaps a few flirtatious beckons or proposals, but such attention didn’t last long. It was much like admiring a lovely bird as it flew overhead. The moment they were out of eyesight, they were forgotten.

Unless, of course, they were paying.

Dolce and the others hadn’t had much attention of the paying sort that day, too many men in Firenze still playing at being holier than thou during the holidays. But Signora Paola had sent them out, and it never did well to disobey Paola.

That wasn’t to say the entire day had been a waste. Tomasia had spotted one of her regulars and managed to trade an hour of her time for his florins, and Pasqua had persuaded the blacksmith to join her in the back alley earlier that afternoon.

It wasn’t as much as they might make in La Rosa Colta , but it was their turn to work the streets, and keep an eye on the comings and goings of Firenze.

But mostly the comings. Lots of comings.

It was Salvaza who nudged Dolce’s side, slyly nodding to a stranger approaching them. It wasn’t like the courtesans knew every man in Firenze, but there was something distinctively...foreign about the man. Foreign, but thankfully not repulsive. It took more than a scar to mar the man’s looks. Not that it would matter to Dolce, a customer was a customer.

But it certainly helped matters.

 “Buona sera, signore. ” The stranger spoke like any Firenze man, but that did little to dispel the mystery around him as his scarred lip smiled at them. Not the predatory smile Dolce had become used to, or the dreadful attempts at seduction or charm. No, it was a smile of kindness, like the one a gentleman may give a lady after he picked up her dropped item, or helped her into her carriage. It was not a smile for courtesans.

But a customer was a customer. Dolce returned his smile, “Buona sera, signore. ” She cooed, pressing her shoulders back to ensure her best assets were on display. Sure, she may be frozen to the teat out on the streets in the December evening, but she knew how to draw a man’s gaze. “A strong man like you shouldn’t be all alone on a night like this. Perhaps I could give you some company for a little while?”

The man gave her another smile, hand already reaching for his purse. Interesting-- usually the eager ones were usually vile in their own way, while the pretty ones were usually a bit more standoffish or aloof. It was rare to get both eager and pretty.

“Well, I don’t know about company, but I am hoping you four can help me.” He replied, counting out coins into his hand.

The others perked up at the mention of all of them being involved. Either the stranger was quite lonely indeed, or there were more men involved. Either way, it was beginning to look like a very long night indeed.

“Sounds like quite the party.” Pasqua cooed, eyes flitting from his face to the coins in his hand.

“I’m afraid not.” The stranger smiled, “I’m willing to pay you ladies an hour’s worth for only a few minutes of work.”

“A few minutes?” Tomasia asked, before Dolce stepped on her foot. No need to comment on a man’s stamina, no matter how unfortunate.

The man nodded, already passing out florins to each of them, “Easy work. All I need you to do is to take all your charm and give those guards,” He jerked his head over his shoulder at the guards, “a bit of entertainment.”

A bit of entertainment. Dolce might not have been educated in any school, but she wasn’t an idiot. They were being hired as a distraction. The only people who hired them to distract guards were Signora Paola’s ‘friends.’ And Dolce certainly hadn’t seen this man around the brothel speaking to Paola before.

But then again, it was easy money.

It always was.

They always moved as a unit, approaching the guards together from across the courtyard, their bodies moving with the sort of sensuous grace that always drew attention. The guards never failed to watch them, never failed to call to them and entice them closer. When that would fail, the guards would always walk towards them, drawn to what they had to offer. It was slightly annoying that they never offered to pay for their company, but it wasn’t so bad knowing they were already paid.

Out of the corner of Dolce’s eye, she could see the stranger slip by them to enter the building the guards had been watching.

By the time the guards returned to their posts, the stranger was long gone, and the girls were already back at their post.

“So we are telling Paola about this, yes?” Salvaza asked under her breath.

Of course they were.


It was a rare day of productivity in the workshop, Leonardo had to admit to himself. A row of paintings was neatly lined up against the far wall, a collection of his rarely completed commissioned paintings. Then again, the paintings had been commissioned by Signora Auditore. Even if the young artist could afford to neglect his commissions (which he couldn’t), there was no way he could ever neglect work requested by the Auditore family.

But the paintings were completed, and Leonardo had allowed himself to set aside his paints and brushes for the evening. Instead, he had poured himself a cup of wine with his supper of bread, fruit, and cheese, and rewarded himself with an evening spent sketching designs in his sketchbook. He had seen a flock of birds flying outside, and had been struck by the notion of flight. What did it take to achieve flight, and could it be possible that flight could be recreated for man?

The door to the workshop opened, which surprised Leonardo. Had he forgotten to lock the door after closing up for the day? With a sigh, Leonardo set aside his sketchbook and stood to greet his impromptu visitor.

Mi scusi, signore.” He called as he approached the front of the workshop, “I’m afraid I have closed up shop for today.”

If the man who had entered his workshop was put out by his announcement, he certainly didn’t show it. The stranger shut the door behind him, saying nothing as his eyes slowly roved over the entirety of Leonardo’s shop. There was a glimmer in the man’s eye that Leonardo found odd: a soft fondness that one might expect to see in the expression of a man returning from sea to see his home for the first time in years, or perhaps a traveler finally coming across a place to lay their head.

It was not the expression one wore when entering an artists workshop for the first time.

And then the man turned his attention from the workshop to Leonardo himself, and the artist could have sworn the glimmer in the man’s eye was now a glow, stoked by the fond smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Leonardo momentarily found himself at a loss, briefly wondering if he should know who this man was who looked at him so fondly.

What might it be like to paint that expression?

“Signore?” Leonardo tried again.

The man blinked slowly, seeming to dispel whatever thoughts had preoccupied his mind, “My apologies, I couldn’t help but admire your workshop.”

It was a terrible lie, but it was the least of Leonardo’s worries, “Grazie, but as I said, I have closed up my shop for the evening. If you wish to discuss commissioning a portrait, you are welcome to stop by in the morning.”

The man raised an eyebrow, “Won’t you be delivering paintings for Maria Auditore tomorrow morning?” He gestured to the finished commissions.

Leonardo stiffened at that, glancing at the paintings in question, “I…”

Perdonami, I didn’t mean to alarm you.” The stranger smiled again, “I’m a friend of one of Maria’s sons, he mentioned it to me. But as it stands, I do not need your expertise with the paintbrush.”

“Then you must have come to the wrong place, signore.” Leonardo wasn’t sure if the man’s explanation did more to sooth his fears or exacerbate them. Especially if he was not here in regards to a painting.

The man shook his head, “No, I do not think I am.” He reached into his doublet, withdrawing a single piece of folded parchment. Slowly, he unfolded it and set it on the table in front of Leonardo.

Even though Leonardo hadn’t been inclined to meet the man’s request, regardless of his apparent connections to the Auditore family, his eyes couldn’t help but drift down to the document before him, and the mysterious writing that lay within it.

“You see, Signore, I need your assistance in deciphering this text.” He said calmly, before setting what appeared to be an old bracer beside it, “And I was hoping you might be able to tell me something about this blade.”


The fight hadn’t lasted nearly as long as Ezio might have liked, but he supposed that was simply par for the course. Even unarmed, Ezio had decades more experience fighting than Vieri de’Pazzi and his cronies. Hell, he probably could have handled them all single handed with minimal annoyance, let alone with the crowd that had gathered to defend the Auditore name. Though, if Ezio was honest with himself, he didn’t remember half of the names of the youths he used to run around with. But a fight was a fight. Though Ezio was slightly concerned that he could not see Desmond anywhere...

“And here I thought I was coming to see if my little brother has properly learned to fight.”

Ezio turned to see Federico stepping over the writhing bodies of Vieri’s men, watching Ezio with a calculating look.

“Oh?” Ezio couldn’t help but smile, ignoring the pain in his lip, “And what do you think?”

Federico observed the scene for a moment before looking back at Ezio, “I think the Pazzi’s will be quite riled to see their numbers so reduced...I’ll admit, you certainly have your own style, Ezio.” His eyes moved to Vieri’s retreating back and what few supporters still capable of walking, “I’m surprised you’re not trying to chase him down.”

Ezio shrugged. A few punches now was nothing compared to eventually killing him when Desmond gave him permission, “It’s one thing to land a few punches in a street brawl, but it is another to chase a retreating man down. I would not put it past the Pazzis to try and have the heralds paint me as a blood thirsty thug.”

“A rare moment of wisdom.” His brother raised an eyebrow, then looked at Ezio’s wound, “We should get you to a doctor and take a look at that lip…”

Even though Ezio knew the wound would heal and scar, he did not protest as Federico led him through the streets until they found the nearest doctor. It took everything in Ezio not to grin like a madman the entire time. He remembered this, this last fond night with his brother...

“Please, you must help him, that pretty face is his only asset.” Federico mock pleaded with the doctor, hands clasped even as he grinned.

Ezio had to stifle a grin as well, “Oh, not my only asset, Federico. I’ll simply have to rely on my swordsmanship from now on.”

His brother barked a laugh as the doctor shook his head, handing him a bottle of medicine as Ezio handed him the florins. The rush of his fight had begun to flag slightly, and Ezio found himself worrying if he should be searching for Desmond.

“How about a race, Ezio?” Federico clapped a hand on his shoulder, and Ezio’s heart swelled at the memory.

“Where to?” He asked, breathless. It took everything in him not to be carried away by the memories, the emotions of it all, and wrap his arms around his brother and never let him go.

Federico didn’t seem to notice as he pointed to the church behind them, smiling and laughing the entire time he scaled the buildings to the rooftop. Ezio felt like he was flying, feet barely touching the ground, hands moving hand over hand in quick succession, awareness only coming to him as his body came to an abrupt stillness as he found his destination.

Slowly, Ezio turned back to watch his brother finish the rest of his climb. He was good, Ezio noted, and it wouldn’t surprise him if his older brother had taken a longer route simply for the sake of giving Ezio an advantage (little did he know he hardly needed such advantage). He’d benefit from learning the leap climb technique, of course…

Federico smiled at him as he reached him, “Come on, let’s go even higher.” He nodded, making his way up the tower.

Ezio allowed himself to watch his brother’s form for another moment or so, mind already formulating his critique. Now that Ezio knew what to look for, it was obvious Federico had done extensive training in regards to climbing and his footwork. It wouldn’t surprise him in the least if Federico knew his way around a sword more than in crude innuendo.

But as Ezio climbed behind his brother, he could feel his heart beating louder and louder in his chest as he got closer and closer to Federico, smiling down at him. This moment before him, second only to that awful execution, was one he could never forget, no matter how old he lived to be.

Ezio reached out his hand, and his brother grasped him firmly, pulling him up with deceptive strength and keeping him close.

Say the words, Federico. Let me hear them once more...

“It is a good life we lead, brother.” Federico smiled softly, his free hand grasping Ezio’s shoulder.

Tears threatened Ezio’s eyes, but he quickly blinked them away, grasping his brother’s arm, “The best,” He whispered, not trusting himself to speak any louder for fear of shattering something so precious. “May it never change.”

A small chuckle bubbled past Federico’s lips as they looked out over Firenze, “And may it never change us.”

But they would change, wouldn’t they? Ezio knew that. They couldn’t remain spoiled rich children under their parents’ roof. Even though Desmond had promised Ezio the lives of his father and brothers, it had come with the price of Ezio stepping into his role as prophet. Though, if he were honest with himself, Ezio was sure that he would have stepped into the role regardless. All the Templar who were out there, who Ezio knew the names and faces of, he would hunt them down. He would rebuild the Brotherhood to something strong, even stronger than before.

Would Federico fight by his side through it all? Even if he was not Desmond’s prophet, perhaps Ezio would be permitted to bring his brother on his sacred mission, and teach him all the wonders that had been revealed to him. Or perhaps Desmond had another purpose for Federico, a path different from Ezio’s.

So much would change, and so much in the two of them would change. But for right now...the two of them could have that moment together.

It couldn’t last forever, but a moment was still something to cherish.

“Ezio…” Federico’s voice had lost its mirth from moments before, his eyes full of concern as he looked at him, “You promised you would tell me the truth.”

“About Desmond.” It wasn’t a question. And Ezio had known his brother would bring up this topic, he and Desmond had prepared for it. But while Desmond had managed to use his silver tongue to tell the truth and obscure it at the same time, Ezio knew he would have to be a bit more liberal with his deceptions. “I...I’m not sure if I fully understand it myself.”

“Try to explain it, Ezio.” Federico said softly, slowly sinking to the tower roof.

Ezio sat beside him, pressed thigh to thigh with his brother, “This morning...I was coming home from Cristina’s. It was early, I was sure I could sneak home without anyone noticing.”

Federico gave a quiet scoff.

“But on my route back on the rooftops, I saw Desmond laying on the roofs, in those strange clothes of his.” Ezio continued, “I wasn’t going to do more than look at his clothes as I ran by, but he saw me, and called out to me. Or rather, he grabbed my arm and asked if I was an Auditore.”

He knew Federico wanted to interrupt, but he stayed his tongue, so Ezio continued, “When I said yes, he said he needed to speak with father-- well, his actual words were ‘I must speak with Giovanni.’ I thought perhaps the man had fallen afoul of some gamblers and was looking for a loan, but when I told him father was away, his eyes got all wide and...I can’t describe it, it was startling.”

It was this next part that Ezio knew would either make or break his entire story with Desmond, “He grabbed my arms, and he starts rambling about Templar in Medici’s court, and some Grandmaster seeking out father, the Assassin…and how he pledged his blade to protect our family.” Federico’s face paled at that, though his facial expression remained the same. So Federico knew about Templar Grandmasters, that was interesting. “When I asked him what he was talking about, he asked me what I’d say if nothing was true.”

Federico nodded slowly, “And what did you say?”

“I told him he should stop drinking.” Ezio shrugged, “He stopped rambling after that, and apologized for his frantic behavior, saying it had been several days since he last slept. But he was still insistent on speaking with father, and he refused to take no for an answer.”

“So you let him sleep in your bed?” Federico raised an eyebrow.

He gave another shrug, “It was less me letting him sleep in my bed, and more of him passing out the moment his body stopped moving. Honestly, Desmond was only on my bed for a few minutes before you found him.” Ezio allowed his words to hang for a moment before he continued, “Federico...do you know what Desmond was talking about? He called father an Assassin, but he’s just a banker. Father could never kill anyone, could he? Desmond has father mistaken for someone else...right?”

Desmond had mentioned something about understanding Federico’s state of mind, how his brother wanted to prove himself to their father as a good Assassin, and being able to use that state of mind to gain the response Desmond desired. At the time, Ezio hadn’t understood what Desmond meant.

But seeing his brother’s expression now, the small twitch at his brother’s brow and at his fingers, Ezio understood. Federico was warring with himself: did he try to be a good son and Assassin by keeping the secrecy of the Brotherhood, or did he try and be a good brother (and arguably, a good Assassin) by informing Ezio of the situation? 

“We should return home.” Federico said at last, “We both need to speak with father…”

“Federico, what is going on?” Ezio pressed, “You do know what Desmond was referring to, don’t you? He was telling the truth…”

His brother didn’t say anything, and in a way, that told Ezio everything. Granted, he knew everything already, but it was interesting to watch how his brother acted. How much had it pained Federico to keep secrets from Ezio, to hide part of himself away from the world?

That thought reminded Ezio of Desmond’s other words concerning his brother, and his heart ached. “Why did you assume Desmond was my lover?” 

Federico stiffened at that, looking out once more at the skyline below them, “He was in your bed, Ezio.” He hissed, keeping his voice low as if there were a soul around to overhear them.

“He was on my bed, fully clothed down to his odd shoes. And you knew I had been with Cristina last night...” Ezio corrected, watching his brother closely. “So why, when you saw a man on my bed, your mind went to lover before anything else?”

Ezio knew this moment wasn’t the best time to ask Federico about the matter, but he couldn’t help himself. As much as he trusted Desmond’s judgement, he needed his own confirmation. 

And if Federico had stiffened before, he was living stone now; Ezio could almost feel the warmth of his brother’s proximity vanish into the night air. Several moments passed in which neither of them so much as breathed, as if fearful of setting fire to such a volatile, if unspoken, accusation.

Then Ezio saw Federico’s Adam's apple bob as he swallowed, he saw the mist in Federico’s eyes even as they refused to look at Ezio, he heard the quaver in Federico’s breath.

Even if Ezio had doubted Desmond’s words concerning his brother, this alone would have dispelled them.

Oh Federico…

If Federico had been about to speak, whether excuse or confession, Ezio interrupted him with a hand on his knee, “You do not need to answer, brother.” He said softly, before moving to kneel in front of his brother, eye to eye as he spoke next, “You do not need to tell me anything, not now or not ever, if you do not wish to.” 

He took Federico’s hand in both his own, holding them close to his own heart, “Just know that I am your brother, I am on your side.” He remembered Federico’s own words to him that morning, “I’m not going to turn you in or abandon you.”

Ezio didn’t wait for a response from Federico, pressing a quick kiss to his brother’s palm before slowly rising to his feet, pulling Federico to stand as well. 

“Let’s get home, Federico.” He said softly, “Perhaps father has returned from his business, and we can ask him about this Assassin nonsense Desmond was rambling about.”

Federico stared at Ezio for a long moment, as if his thoughts were only just now catching up with Ezio’s words. Then, dumbly, he nodded. “Yes, I’m sure mother will also be quite cross with us for being late to supper, let alone her ire with you for the brawl.”

The words were lighthearted, and Ezio gave a soft chuckle in response. But the words hardly mattered to Ezio in that moment.

What had mattered, in that moment, was the way Federico had squeezed his hand tightly before he was forced to release it.


Milano and Venezia had been exercises in failure and frustration, both of which Giovanni was finding himself facing more and more often. The death of Duke Sforza was a blow to Il Magnifico’s power in Firenze and Milano, and Giovanni knew the younger man was fighting to maintain that power every day. The lead to Venezia had only led to more confusion and dead ends (some more literal than others). 

It had taken much of his self control not to brood into his wine at supper, plagued by the questions he had uncovered. What did the House of Barbarigo have to do with Sforza’s assassins? And were they connected to the Templar Grandmaster? And what would be in Barbarigo’s missive that the courier had been willing to die for?

Despite his best efforts to school his features, Giovanni could see Maria casting him a concerned look from across the dinner table. He gave her his best smile, raising his glass to her before taking another sip of his wine. Though now that he was out of the labyrinth of his own mind, he realized it was not just his wife who appeared concerned. 

Federico had barely touched his food, and kept glancing his way. The moment their eyes met, Giovanni knew his eldest would need to speak to him sooner rather than later. Perhaps Federico had managed to uncover something of import while he was away Giovanni desperately hoped that would be the case, for both his peace of mind, and for Federico as well. He wished he had thought to begin construction on a proper blade for his eldest, it was getting close to time for Federico to test his mettle.

Giovanni’s eyes moved across the table to Ezio. Word of the fight with the Pazzis had already reached him, if it could be called a fight which, based on the accounts of Ezio’s prowess with his fists, it could not. The gash on his middle son’s lip seemed to be the only injury he had suffered, and while Giovanni knew he should have scolded Ezio for picking a fight with the volatile Pazzis, he couldn’t help but admit he was also proud. He’d have to begin training Ezio soon, and put his talents to good use.

Yet there was something off about Ezio, that much was obvious. Despite the fight, and apparently another tryst with Cristina Vespucci, Ezio was...calm. He took a bite of his food, smiled at Petruccio and Claudia, answered his mother’s questions, glanced from Federico to Giovanni, then took another bite of food. But his eyes would linger on them both, searching their expressions with every glance.

Yes, Giovanni would have to begin training Ezio as soon as it was safe.

But first, he had to speak with Federico, and hope that the answer to his questions might be held in a lead his eldest had gathered.

Supper went agonizingly slow after that, and by the time Annetta began to clear the table, Giovanni was already waiting for his first opening to slip away.

But first things first.

As they all made their way to the family library and lounge, Giovanni moved to his wife’s side and pressed a gentle kiss to her cheek, “Mio amore…”

Maria smiled to him, granting him a quick peck before taking his hand, “You seem troubled.” She murmured softly.

“I am troubled.” He admitted, keeping her close as his eyes scanned the room, “I hope all has been well in my absence?”

She hummed, “As well as could be expected. Though Ezio…” She trailed off, and Giovanni found himself focusing on his middle son once more.

Ezio was sitting at the chess table with Petruccio, speaking gently as he coached the younger to make the first move with his white pawn.

“He taught Petruccio to play this morning.” Maria continued, “He spent over an hour teaching him all the movements and strategy involved in chess, and then walked him through a game.”

Giovanni raised an eyebrow, “I did not realize Ezio had the patience…”

“Neither did I, nor did I realize he had such knowledge of chess strategies.” Maria replied, “I thought I overheard him discussing Ottoman variations to the rules. But what’s more, his spirit seems...tempered. He hardly reacted to Vespucci’s threat regarding Cristina, and even this recent fight with Vieri de’Pazzi, he treats it as if it was one of his more pleasant chores.”

He frowned at that, “I’ll speak with him.” 

“After Federico, of course.” Maria gave him a knowing smile, “I know you when you get in your troubled states, there will be no peace.” She nodded back to his study, “Go on, amore…”

Bless the day that had brought Maria de’Mozzi into his life, and the day she agreed to marry him. He smiled in turn, kissing her gently before retreating to the sanctuary of his study. Behind him, he could hear Maria’s voice calling, “Federico, go help your father, would you?”

Giovanni didn’t say anything as he entered his study, though he could sense his eldest’s presence beside him. Federico was getting better at masking his footsteps, that was good. It was getting close to time for Federico to make his vow to the Brotherhood.

As he activated the false wall behind the fireplace, Giovanni couldn’t help but feel at peace with his decision. His own failures in Milano and Venezia were a bitter reminder that he was no longer a spry youth. Perhaps his time with the blade was coming to an end, and he would have to content himself with merely being a banker and father. Il Magnifico would be displeased, but he could convince him that Federico would continue to serve the Medici family in his stead. 

In time.

The wall closed behind the two of them, and finally Giovanni decided to break the silence between father and son. “Thank you for keeping an eye on your siblings, Federico. Ezio only had one father threaten to emasculate him and one street brawl in the one day I was gone.” He smiled softly.

Federico flinched at his words, “Mi dispiace, father.” He murmured.

“Federico, I jest.” He rested a hand on Federico’s shoulder, “Ezio is hardly about to be controlled by my wishes, let alone yours.” 

His son gave him a short nod, though the troubled look on his face didn’t disappear.

Giovanni frowned, “What has you so troubled, Federico? What is wrong?”

“Ezio…” Federico looked to the stones beneath his feet, “He...he knows about me.”

“You told him about your training?” He should have known that Federico could only keep a secret from Ezio for so long. If anything, he should be impressed that Federico had lasted three years before breaking.

Federico shook his head, “No, father. He knows...about my perversion.”

Giovanni stopped, squeezing his son’s shoulder, “How? Did he find out about the trouble back in April?” he turned Federico to look at him properly.

“No, no!” Federico gave another shake of his head, “At least, I don’t think so. I don’t know how he found out… ”

“What did you tell him?”

“I didn’t tell him anything, I didn’t say anything.” He sighed, eyes drifting down to his feet, “And Ezio didn’t even press for answers. He just...he said I wouldn’t turn me in or denounce me.”

Giovanni sighed as well, pulling his son closer. He cupped the back of Federico’s head, resting his forehead against his son’s. “I’ll talk to Ezio, make sure he really knows and understands. But if he meant what he said, then you should take heart, mio figlio. Ezio is as loyal as he is fierce, your secret will be safe with him.”

He carefully carded his fingers through his son’s hair before speaking again, “When the current troubles pass, I should turn my attention to finding you a wife.”

“A wife is hardly going to fix things, father.” Federico murmured.

“No, but the image of respectability will give you a great deal of security.” Giovanni nodded, giving his shoulder one last squeeze before releasing him, “Once you have a wife and a son or two, no one will give a second thought to your guests...if you’re smart about it, of course.”

Federico flushed at his words, bright enough to be noticeable in the darkness.

“While not ideal, it won’t be difficult to find a woman vapid enough to be completely oblivious to both your life as an Assassin as well as any lovers you may have.” Giovanni nodded.

“What would be ideal?” his son asked, torn between shame and curiosity.

“A woman smart enough to keep quiet, and to be a partner, regardless of the goings on in your bedroom.” He nodded, ducking out of the secret passage out into the opening to the Firenze streets. “But enough on this topic, we have other business to discuss. I’m sure Ezio alone could not trouble you so deeply.”

Federico nodded, wasting no time in vaulting up the nearest wall to the rooftops above, with Giovanni following behind him. 

Once both of them were above the eyes and ears of Firenze, Giovanni turned to his son once more, “Have the Pazzi made any strange movements?”

“They’ve increased the number of staff and guard around their palazzo.” Federico answered, “Nor are they withdrawing from society like you would expect after Francesco’s arrest. The street brawl with Ezio and his friends is evidence enough of that. They are brazen.”

“They are confident…” Giovanni frowned, crossing his arms, “But why…”

“I don’t know, father…” Federico replied, “But...there is something else. This morning, another Assassin approached Ezio.”

“What?” Of all the news his son could have given him, that was the last thing Giovanni Auditore expected, “Another Assassin? You’re sure, you confirmed it?”

“He spoke to me away from Ezio, yes.” Federico nodded emphatically, “He knew the Creed, he had a blade, but the man is a strange one, father.”

“What did he look like?” Giovanni paced the rooftop, mind desperately trying to piece together an explanation. Perhaps Mario had made an unexpected visit, but would that be a good thing or bad? “Was he my age, did he have a scar over his eye?”

His son shook his head, “No, my age, perhaps a little older.” He said, eyes following him across the rooftop, “He had a scar on his lip, not his eye...and he had black markings all up one of his arms.”

Markings? Perhaps he was from one of the farther reaches of the Brotherhood, “What did you make of his accent? Could he have been Ottoman?”

“No father, that is just it, he spoke as if he had been born and raised in Firenze.” Federico sighed, “But his blade, the markings, and his clothes were all foreign to me, but that isn’t the crucial part, father: he claimed our family is in grave danger, and he came to pledge his blade to protect us.”

Giovanni froze mid-step, turning back to Federico, “What danger?” He hissed, “What did he tell you?”

“That’s just it, father, I wasn’t able to get that much from him before Ezio returned.” Running a hand through his hair, Federico began to pace the roof himself, “He said that there were Templar in il Magnifico’s court...but he told Ezio that the Grandmaster was looking for you, and that the templar know who you are.”

“He told Ezio?”  

“From what Ezio told me of his account of the meeting, the man was delirious from lack of sleep, and that all he asked of Ezio if he was an Auditore before he started rambling about needing to find you.” Federico sighed, “From what I gathered, when Desmond--”

“Desmond?”

“The Assassin, his name is Desmond, or at least that is what he told me and Ezio his name was.” Federico pinched the bridge of his nose, “But he claimed that he assumed Ezio had started his training, and when he saw Ezio didn’t understand what he was saying, he questioned him with the creed. Obviously, Ezio didn’t understand, and after that, Desmond refused to speak with him any more.”

Giovanni sighed, “But the damage is already done, I’m sure.”

“Ezio is curious, father. Ravenously so.” His son nodded, “He all but interrogated me before we returned home for supper, and he knows I know something...I can’t keep dodging his questions forever.”

“No, nor should you.” With a groan, Giovanni closed his eyes, “This was not how I wanted to tell Ezio, but I will have to tell him when we return. It is too dangerous for him to be wandering about with half knowledge.”

Federico nodded, “Ezio is ready to begin training, father. He can handle himself in a fight, I have seen that for myself, and he is agile on the roofs…”

Giovanni raised a hand, “I’m sure he will. But we have more important business to deal with.” He nodded, “Where is this Desmond? If he has such dire information for me, then I must speak with him.”

Federico looked sheepish now, “I...I don’t know. He vanished during a moment I didn’t have my eye on him.”

As annoyed as Giovanni wanted to be at his son, he knew he could hardly cast stones when he had failed both his missions today. “We must find him. Where is he staying?”

“I don’t know. Ezio said he found him half asleep on the rooftops, and when I saw him, he was asleep in Ezio’s room--”

“He was in Ezio’s room?”

“--he didn’t appear to have any florins to his name. I don’t think he’ll be in any inn or brothel.”

Giovanni nodded, though he’d have to revisit the issue of this strange man being in his own home. “We’ll see if we can locate him from the rooftops. With a bit of luck, we may be able to find him. If not, we’ll have to wait for morning and have Paola’s girls and the thieves start looking for him.” 

It was an annoyance, to be sure. If the man’s news was as dire as he claimed, he should not be hiding from him. But then again, there were always numerous factors at play when it came to their work as Assassins.

Federico did not seem to need any further prompting, moving quickly towards one of the taller roofs in the area, with Giovanni following close behind.

“You think you could recognize him if you saw him?” He asked Federico.

“Well, he’s wearing my clothes…” Federico muttered, and Giovanni couldn’t bring himself to ask about that bit of information. Instead, he watched as Federico scanned the Firenze skyline with his second sight, his normally dark eyes lighter under the December moon.

It had taken much of Federico’s three years of training to focus his second sight, to teach his son how to see the world through darkness. He was still afraid that his eyes weren’t as keen as they should be, so Giovanni allowed his own vision to fall to darkness.

Much of the skyline was dark, as to be expected, with only a few red figures in red patrolling the roofs (guards who were unaware of Giovanni’s employment with the Medici family). But nonetheless, it was best to give the area a thorough search before moving to the next vantage point.

As Giovanni made a slow turn to properly view his surroundings, his eyes were almost instantly drawn to a single gold figure, standing alone on one of the watchtowers that always served as such good vantages points.

He was impossible to miss to those with the second sight. And yet, Giovanni did not say anything to Federico about spotting their target.

1..2...3...4..

“There he is!”

Giovanni breathed a sigh of relief. So Federico was getting better at the sight. “Very good, Federico. Now. Let us see what this...Desmond has to say.”

With any luck, this Desmond would actually deliver something better than an encoded letter.


He had been standing on this viewpoint for a damn hour already, and he was pretty sure his foot was about to fall asleep. It took everything Desmond had to not shift from foot to foot like he had ants in his pants (or really needed to piss).

After he had run his various errands for the evening, Desmond had little time to spare to prepare to meet Giovanni Auditore and try to convince him to have Leonardo decipher the Templar message. Even with Siri, that was going to be a bitch to figure out.

Part of Desmond wanted to deny Siri’s calculations that Giovanni Auditore would go out looking for him so soon after returning home after a long day of traveling over half of Italy. But the moment Desmond had formulated a thought of doubt, he had been bombarded with the probability that Federico would wait in telling his father about Desmond (or lack thereof) or the slim chance that Giovanni would allow such a matter to be left uninvestigated. 

Lesson learned: Siri is a bitch when doubted. Especially when using Shaun’s voice.

Despite how sunny it had been that day, the temperature had dropped considerably, and Desmond was not looking forward to standing out in the cold all night.  So when Desmond’s vision shifted to Eagle Vision, he couldn’t help but smile.

Finally.

As he looked down from his perch, he was surprised to see two figures of bright blue making their way to him, rather than one. Of course. Federico accompanied his father, seeing as he had actually met Desmond. But then Desmond noticed a third blue figure following behind, ducking behind chimney stacks and hanging off the sides of the roofs on occasion.

Oh, so when Ezio has to tail someone, he does it right the first time. Meanwhile I have to do it fifty damn times because some pushy minstrel wants some coins.

Desmond banished the thought (if only for his blood pressure’s sake) before forcing his vision to normal as he looked down at the Auditore men below him.

“Would you like me to come down there,” He called down to them from his perch, “Or would you like to talk up here?”

Giovanni Auditore looked up at him with an eyebrow raised, and Desmond could have sworn the man’s eyes darken. Not in mood, though he didn’t doubt that either, but in actual color. Maybe he was imagining things, or seeing things in the dark. “If this conversation is as dire as I have been led to believe, it would be best to be far from those who may overhear.” 

“Fair enough, there should be plenty of room up here for us to talk.” Desmond nodded, stepping back from the edge. 

It took no time at all for both Giovanni and Federico to scale the tower. Damn, guess that was where Ezio got his stamina in his later years. And that stone cold poker face. No doubt Giovanni Auditore would be just as intimidating in his Assassin whites, not the more casual clothes he wore now.

But either way, it was showtime.

“Signore Auditore.” Desmond gave a slow nod to Giovanni, then another to Federico, “Federico, nice to see you again.”

Giovanni raised an eyebrow, “You have us at a disadvantage. You know who we are…”

“Ah, yes.” Desmond cleared his throat, “Desmond Miles, signore. I apologize for my disaster of an introduction this morning.”

“I’ve heard a number of things occurred this morning.” Giovanni replied, “But before we go any further: nothing is true--”

“Everything is permitted.” Desmond replied, shifting the items he was carrying to one hand as he raised his bladed wrist. He never got tired of extending his blade, it was so beautiful in its own simplistic way.

The Auditore patriarch nodded in appreciation, “An interesting blade, yet no bracer.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ve noticed these aren’t my clothes.” Desmond smiled weakly. “Mine are...obviously not from Firenze. I had neither time nor coin to replace them during my hasty travels here.”

“You told both of my sons that our family is in grave danger.” Giovanni didn’t seem eager to pick apart Desmond’s backstory, for which Desmond was grateful. He hadn’t really had too much time to sort out a fake past when he was a bit more concerned with the future. “I would like to know what information you have that would lead you to such conclusions.”

“The Templar have been far too active to be ignored, surely you’re aware of that.” Desmond began, “They seek to destroy the Medici family, and replace them with the Pazzi.”

“The Pazzi?” Desmond turned his attention to Federico, who seemed to regret speaking entirely.

Desmond nodded, “Of course the Pazzi family, the Templars have a habit of replacing murdered powers with one’s loyal to their cause.” He closed his eyes for a moment “I’m getting off topic. There have been whispers of an attack on Milano to weaken Medici’s alliances.”

Giovanni’s shoulders slumped at that, “Duke Sforza is dead. I was unable to stop the assassination.”

Merde. ” Desmond wasn’t really surprised, considering the fact he knew that bit of history, but it was fun to swear in Italian, “They’ll turn their attention to Firenze next.”

“Yes, I figured as much.” Giovanni shook his head, “Though this I already knew. Why would this entail a direct danger to my family, though?”

Desmond shook his head, “The Templar are already infiltrating Medici’s court, they are trusted , and they know who you are, Giovanni. Hell, even the Templar Grandmaster knows who you are. The Templar know your name, and they know you are an Assassin. You’ve probably spoken to them as allies.” He did his best to look distressed at his own words, “And do you think the Templar would make a move on Medici without first making sure his Assassin was permanently out of the picture?”

Silence reigned for several moments on that viewpoint, and Desmond was content to leave it be. He couldn’t appear too eager, lest Giovanni be more suspicious than he was.

“How is it you came by this information, if you have only just arrived in Firenze?” Giovani whispered.

“I arrived in Firenze last night, or perhaps it was the predawn hours of this morning.” Desmond admitted, honestly, before lying, “I tailed a Templar I suspected was supplying weapons to the Pazzi conspirators, one Bernardo Baroncelli, and my pursuit led me deep into the catacombs below Firenze.

“It was good fortune that I was able to follow the man and spy on a meeting with so many Templar.” Desmond continued, “I didn’t know all their names, but I could find out if given enough time. But they spoke of you, Giovanni, and their annoyance at you for attacking their Maestro, and capturing one of his men. Then another man joined them, and he said that he had prolonged the torture for as long as he possibly could before the plot against Sforza was revealed. He assured the other Templar that you would not reach Sforza in time.”

Desmond didn’t drop any specific names other than the ones he had to, it would be too obvious if he came out and claimed Uberto Alberti was a Templar, and Giovanni would be too suspicious.

But give a man enough dots, he could connect them to form the right picture. And judging by the look in Giovanni Auditore’s eyes, the man was starting to do some connecting.

“Did you get a good look at the others?” He asked.

“Like I said, I could pick them out if I saw them again.” Desmond nodded, “Most of them were in standard noble attire, but one of them wore a monk’s robes…”

Giovanni paled slightly at that, “Was he an old monk?”

Desmond shook his head, “No, he appeared to be my age.”

The older man began to pace the small space, causing both Desmond and Federico to watch him dart back and forth.

“I pray you are mistaken, Desmond.” Giovanni shook his head, “But I must prepare as if you are correct. If that monk is who I think he is, and the man you mentioned is who I fear he is, then the noose may already be around my neck.”

“Father…” Federico breathed, Adam’s apple bobbing slightly.

Giovanni sighed, “I investigated Sforza’s assassins, and my search led me to Venezia. I’m afraid all I have to show for my troubles is a message intended for their ‘master.’” He shook his head, “But it is encrypted, I cannot read it. And il Magnifico’s scholar, his man of ciphers...I fear he may be one of the men you saw. If I give the letter to him as planned in the morning...I may as well deliver the message to the Grandmaster himself.”

“Then you do not allow him near that letter, father.” Federico insisted, “And we must inform il Magnifico--”

I must inform him, Federico, when the time is right, and we have enough evidence.” Giovanni sighed, “Desmond, do you have any proof of what you saw?”

Desmond smiled softly, “I may not have written confessions, but I could take you to where they have made their den of lies. Irony would have it that they make their Templar plots just below the tomb of Darius.”

Something flashed in Giovanni’s eye, “Darius’s tomb is in Firenze? You have seen it?”

“I have seen it, and I have brought proof of that, certainly.” Desmond was all but grinning now as he held up the large seal for the Auditore men to see properly. It had been annoying having to go back to the tomb, but it was worth it to have Giovanni on his side. “Consider this an apology for my chaotic presence this morning.”

Giovanni took the Seal of Darius from Desmond, examining it closely as he turned it over in his hands. Desmond could only imagine the memories of the Sanctuary he might be having, and the stories he knew of the Assassins of old.

“I also retrieved this,” Desmond held up Darius’s blade, “According to my research, Darius was the first to wield a hidden blade. But that design is meant to be worn on the outside of the forearm, not the inside.”

Giovanni raised an eyebrow at that, taking a moment to examine the blade with his critical eye before, finally, passing the blade to Federico.

“These items are evidence to me that you have been to the tomb of Darius.” Giovanni said, “And I’m willing to see it with my own eyes. However, that does not solve the issue of the letter. Maffei is the only one who could possibly translate that letter.”

Desmond shook his head, “No, I don’t think so. I think there could be another.” Everything had been going so well, he just hoped Giovanni would continue to take him at his word, “I heard rumors of an artist in Firenze who also dabbles in a wide array of sciences, including ciphers.”

That made Giovanni frown, “Rumors are a dangerous thing to trust at this time.”

“I agree, so I decided to test him.” Desmond reached into his doublet to withdraw the Codex page that Leonardo had been so dazzled by, “I gave him this, without telling him what it was, or what the message was supposed to be.”

If Giovanni had been in awe of the seal, he was transfixed by the page before him, “Is that a page from the Codex of Altaïr?”

Desmond nodded, handing it to the man, “I’ll let you double check his transcriptions, but I’m willing to trust the man’s genius.”

“An artist, you say?” Giovanni raised an eyebrow, “What is his name?”

“Leonardo da Vinci.” Desmond smiled, hoping the hard part was over.

He hadn’t expected the sharp intake of breath from Federico, nor the way he had stiffened at Leonardo’s name.

Desmond did his best not to react to Federico’s behavior, and Giovanni seemed content to do the same.

“I know this Leonardo, he has done several paintings on behalf of my wife.” Giovanni nodded slowly, tucking away the Codex page, “He can be trusted to remain loyal to the Medici, as well as the Auditore family. We shall see what he can do with this letter in the morning.”

There was a lot to Giovanni’s words that Desmond wanted to unpack, but he feared that if he started, he’d fall into another Siri-fugue state, and that was the last thing he needed to happen in front of Giovanni Auditore. Not after Desmond had gotten on his good side.

“Very well, I’ll meet you at Leonardo’s workshop in the morning.” Desmond nodded, “I’ll let you return to your home and family, signore.”

Giovanni raised an eyebrow, “Where will you go, Desmond, in your borrowed clothes and empty purse?”

Desmond shrugged, “I’m sure I can find a warm hay bale somewhere, or sneak into someone’s attic for the night.”

Desmond had thought that was a pretty solid plan, all things considered. He wasn’t sure why Giovanni found it so humorous.

“Oh no, Desmond, I’m sure we can find a better place for you to stay the night.”

Chapter Text

 

As Ezio raced along the Firenze rooftops in his efforts to beat his brother and father back home, he wasn’t sure how he felt about Desmond’s ability to lie so easily to his father and Federico. On one hand, it was to their benefit that Desmond work close with his family, rather than waste time and effort being evasive and secretive. On the other hand, it was always prudent to keep an eye on good liars, no matter who they were. Ezio shuddered to think what Desmond might accomplish if he were so inclined. But then again, with the power of the Apple, Desmond didn’t need to be a good liar.

Perhaps Ezio could take comfort in that.

What Ezio couldn’t take comfort in, however, was just how easy it had been to tail his father and brother. Honestly, he had only been forced to take cover twice, and even then it had only been for a few moments each time. And climbing the tower to eavesdrop on their conversation with Desmond had been child’s play. Federico had stood so close to the edge where Ezio was hanging that, if he had been so inclined, he could have snatched his brother's ankle and flung him to his death. If he had been a Templar spy or stalker, he could have easily taken them both out with minimal effort.

Federico, at least, Ezio could account for his inexperience with his lack of true Assassin duties (if his training hadn’t been truly in the field, as Ezio expected was the case). But his father, what excuse did he have?

Perhaps the fact he traveled to Milano to Venezia before returning to Firenze in a single day. Lack of sleep could do terrible things to one’s skills and awareness. Ezio would have never allowed any of his recruits to do that much travel for assignments without at least a few hours of sleep and a good meal under their belts, if only to try and limit the number of casualties within the Brotherhood.

He couldn’t help but snort to himself as he dropped off the edge of the roof over the Palazzo Auditore, taking care to slide into his bedroom window as soundlessly as possible. Here he was, critiquing his own father’s ability as an Assassin and mentor.

The thought struck Ezio, as he was stripping out of his clothes, that he was technically older than his own father by more than a decade. He wrinkled his nose at that. It was certainly an unsettling thought, to be sure, especially when he considered the fact that he wasn’t sure just how long he would be able to continue acting like his seventeen year old self. Federico was already noticing a change in him, and he was sure that the longer his father was around, the more he would notice as well.

Perhaps he would have to speak to Desmond about the matter, whenever he would be able to be alone with him.

But for now, Ezio crawled into bed, covering himself with the blankets in effort to feign sleep. It was only as his head rested on his pillow that he realized just how tired he actually was. It was no wonder that Desmond had all but fainted upon his bed that morning, his bed was so comfortable…

Ezio willed himself to stay awake, even as his closed eyes tried to coax him into sleep, at the faint sound of footsteps below him. So his father and Federico had returned finally. Focusing on the muted sounds kept the impulses of sleep from Ezio’s mind, so Ezio focused his attention on the subtle movements downstairs.

They were making their way upstairs now, and now Ezio could hear their voices, low and hushed, yet still so distinctive to Ezio’s ears.

“...do you think we can trust Desmond?”

“I fear we may not have the luxury of doubting him.” His father’s voice sounded exhausted, which was expected, “But we have more pressing matters see to now…”

They were on the second floor landing now, and their voices fell hushed in favor of their gentle footsteps. With the soft creak of a floorboard, Ezio knew they were now standing in front of his bedroom door.

“Wake Ezio.” His father’s voice broke the silence, “Bring him to the study. I will be with you shortly.”

“Now? Are you sure?”

“Time is not a luxury we have, Federico. And right now, Ezio is a danger to himself and us. He will need to know what danger hangs over us all.”

Ezio forced himself to steady his breathing as the door to his bedroom door opened. He was fighting years of experience and instinct telling him to drive his blade through the throat of the body trying to sneak up on him as he slept. Thankfully, he had no such blade at his wrists. Yet Ezio found himself desperately repeating a mantra to keep his instincts at bay.

It’s just Federico. It’s just Federico. It’s just—

The blankets moved, and Ezio felt a chill wash over him as he was exposed.

“I know you’re awake, Ezio.”

Ezio cracked open an eye to look up at his brother. “How did you know?” He found himself asking, more curious than annoyed at being caught.

Federico pointed to the open window, “You only leave your window open if you’re intending to sneak in or sneak out. And,” Federico’s hand grabbed Ezio’s ankle, “judging by the fact you’re cold to the touch, I expect you just snuck in.”

While Ezio was sure his seventeen year old self would have been annoyed at being caught, he couldn’t help but be impressed by Federico’s deductive reasoning. Perhaps Ezio had underestimated his brother’s ability as an Assassin after all.

“Where were you, Ezio?” Federico asked, “And don’t try and tell me you were with Cristina again.”

Ezio didn’t answer, instead sitting up and looking at Federico evenly.

Federico sighed, “Damn it, Ezio. You’ll be the death of us all…”

Ezio could only smile at that. Oh Federico. If only you knew how much I wish to be the opposite…

“Come on.” Federico pulled Ezio up out of the bed, “Father wishes to speak to you.”

Even though he had an idea of what the topic of conversation would be, he couldn’t help but feel his heart swell at the thought. Even though Ezio already knew about the Assassin Brotherhood and the Templar Order, there was still some remnant of Ezio’s younger self that craved to learn it all from his father. Even after all this time, there was still some trace of his father’s second son within his heart.

It seemed his silence did not go unnoticed by his brother, judging by the furtive glances Federico kept casting him as they made their way down the stairs. When the two of them reached their father’s study, Ezio decided to break his silence.

“Father isn’t just a banker, is he?” He had tried his best to make it seem like a genuine question, but Ezio knew the tone of his voice had left no room for question.

Federico sighed, “No, Ezio….he is not.” He murmured, his hand reaching out to the secret door.

As the door opened, Ezio could feel his heart pounding in excitement, “And...you’re involved in this too, aren’t you?”

“Yes Ezio.”

“How long?”

Federico gave him a small smile, “Since I was your age.” He said softly, leading him inside.

Ezio was sure that his heart was beating loud enough for Federico to hear as they entered the secret room, yet his brother said nothing. And it took everything in Ezio to keep his heart from leaping into his throat as he saw his father standing in the center of the room.

“Ezio,” His father’s voice was strong and steady as he spoke, devoid of the exhaustion that might have been expected, “It’s time for you to know the truth.”


Giovanni felt the weight of his entire day the moment Ezio closed the door behind him as his middle son returned to bed, and sank into his desk chair. If he wasn’t careful, he could very well fall asleep in this chair, and Maria would not be pleased to wake up alone when she knew he was home.

Federico stood on the other side of the desk, “That went well…” He said gently.

Yes, it had. Giovanni had explained the conflict of the Assassins and the Templar, the sacred creed of their Brotherhood, and even his own employment with il Magnifico to Ezio. He had spoken about their duty to protect the innocent, even by bloody means. He had even explained what he knew about the current danger that was creeping at the threshold of their home.

And Ezio...had accepted it all. He had stood before him as Giovanni spoke, nodding on occasion, absorbing every word spoken. And, at times, Giovanni could have sworn he had spotted a small smile tugging at the corners of his son’s mouth.

At the end of it all, after the flood of life changing information Giovanni had given him, Ezio only had one thing to say in response.

What do you need me to do?

If Giovanni hadn’t been concerned about Ezio’s strange behavior before, that moment would have changed that.

“It went almost too well…” Giovanni sighed, rubbing his eyes tiredly, “but as much as it pains me to say, Ezio is not our priority at the moment. As long as he keeps himself out of too much trouble, we can focus on our more pressing matters.”

Federico nodded, “Of course, father.” He murmured, looking at the items on Giovanni’s desk.

Giovanni was still in a state of semi-disbelief to see the seal and blade of Darius laying on his desk. They were relics of Assassin history, and Desmond had gifted them to Giovanni without hesitation. Either the man was eager to prove his loyalty to the Brotherhood and his family, or they were impressive fakes. Though Giovanni couldn’t imagine how any Templar would even know to fake the Seal of Darius, let alone how.

“What exactly is this, father?” Federico asked, fingers tracing the smooth surface of the seal.

He smiled softly, “A relic of our history. One of six seals marking a great Assassin of the past.” He hummed, “In our ancestral home, there is a shrine to these six...as well as the seventh.”

Federico raised an eyebrow at that.

“Another time, perhaps.” Giovanni sighed, “I fear if I get started on the topic, I may ramble. But...perhaps when this is all over, we can make the journey to Monteriggioni. I’m sure your uncle would like that.”

“It would be nice to get away from Firenze for a short while.” His son nodded, hands moving to pick up Darius’s blade, “Petruccio may benefit from some time in the countryside.”

“Yes...yes, he would…” He murmured, eyes fixed on the ancient blade in Federico’s hands. Despite the age the blade, it was in surprisingly good condition: the worn leather bracer had far less cracking than expected, though it would need to be replaced sooner rather than later; he couldn’t see any dirt or grime in the mechanism of the blade itself, even as Federico extended the blade to its full length; the blade appeared sturdy enough, broader than what he was used to, and the bronze was dull in the light of the study. All in all, an acceptable weapon.

And an acceptable weapon was better than no weapon at all.

When Federico moved to set the blade back on the desk, Giovanni raised his hand to stop him, “No.”

“No?” Federico asked, confused.

After a moment to consider his decision, Giovanni gave a slow nod, “Put it on.”

Understanding flashed across Federico’s face as he gave a nod in reply, slowly sliding the blade on his forearm.

“It’s a bit loose…” Federico murmured as he turned his wrist slowly.

“It doesn’t surprise me, given the state of the bracer.” Giovanni replied calmly “But a bracer can be repaired or replaced.”

Federico nodded, flexing his fingers before forming a fist. The blade extended with a metallic rasp, and Giovanni didn’t miss the way Federico stared at the weapon before him with a sense of awe and wonder. No doubt he had worn a similar expression when he first donned the blade. He couldn’t help but smile-- Federico had grown into a fine man, despite his own self-doubt.

“Perhaps it is time to see if you can put that old blade to good use.” He said softly.

Surprise snapped Federico’s attention from the blade back to him, “What do you mean?”

“It’s been three years, Federico.” Giovanni said softly, rising slowly from his chair, “It is time.” 

Federico didn’t need to be told what ‘it’ was referring to. He nodded, squaring his shoulders in determination, “Who?”

“I will speak to Desmond about the Templar he has already identified: Bernardo Baroncelli.” He nodded slowly, “If he is agreeable to relinquish his claim on the kill, I want you to handle the assassination.” 

A moment of stillness passed between them, an unspoken transition from father and son to mentor and initiate.

Finally, with another rasp of metal on metal, Federico withdrew the blade. His gaze did not waver from Giovanni as he gave a single curt nod.

“Nothing is true--” Giovanni began.

Federico’s voice was resolute as he replied, “--Everything is permitted.”


There was a time when Desmond found the idea of waking up surrounded by beautiful women would have been something of a teenage (and hell, young adult) fantasy.

Now he just found it damn creepy.

If it wasn’t the fact that he was certain Paola had ordered his ‘roommates’ to keep a close eye on him (no doubt Giovanni’s idea), then it was certainly the lecture he was getting about the health and life expectancy of a Renaissance courtesan via Siri that made the entire scenario lose whatever appeal it might have had. Especially when Siri was using Rebecca’s voice to list the most common causes of death. 

Great, Rebecca was in his head talking about STDs and safe sex. Was that better or worse than Shaun?

With a sigh, Desmond extricated himself from the bed, careful not to disturb any of the room’s other occupants as he made his way to the door. He wasn’t sure if it was dawn yet, as the shutters were closed, but he didn’t want to wake any of the working girls. The least they deserved was a few hours of actual sleep.

He had slept in Federico’s shirt and hose for the night (he didn’t care that Paola was an ally, he was not stripping down to nothing surrounded by strangers), so dressing was simply a matter of pulling on his doublet, breeches, and boots. He missed his hoodie in a strange way, like it was his security blanket from the twenty-first century. Hopefully Ezio was taking good care of his clothes, wherever they are.

Shaking the thought from his mind, Desmond carefully closed the door to the bedroom (or was it more of a dormitory if there were multiple beds?) behind him, making his way down the brothel’s hallway. Maybe, if he was lucky, he could find the kitchen and see if he could beg for some breakfast. Hell, he’d even be happy with a cup of tea.

If only Shaun could see him now.

Voices reached Desmond’s ears; soft, but not quite the hushed tones of a secret conversation. Without even thinking, Desmond’s footsteps slowed.

“Thank you again for putting up Desmond for the night, Paola.” It was the voice of Giovanni Auditore, devoid of the exhaustion that Desmond was sure the man was feeling.

“Think nothing of it, Giovanni.” Paola replied.

“I don’t suppose your girls noticed anything strange…”

So Giovanni was still a bit wary of Desmond. Fair enough, but Desmond wished he would have been this wary with Alberti the first time around. But whatever.

Paola gave a small chuckle, “Other than the fact he did not even look at them as he prepared for bed. He has no more a wandering eye as a priest, or better yet, your son. We have more priests in here than one might think.”

Giovanni gave a chuckle at that, but Desmond couldn’t help but frown. Was he supposed to be eyeing up the courtesans, instead of that beautiful, beautiful bed?

“Thank you for keeping an eye on him. And for keeping an eye out on the city, I fear we may need to be prepared for anything.”

“I’ll be sure to keep my girls updated on the situation.”

It was then Desmond decided to make his appearance, stepping into the brothel’s foyer with a slightly feigned yawn. It was only his forward momentum that kept Desmond from freezing mid step as he finally saw Paola and the figure in white she was speaking to.

Ezio...but no, not Ezio. Desmond remembered that the first Assassin whites Ezio had ever worn had been his father’s, but how strange indeed to see Giovanni Auditore wearing his own whites. Huh, they fit him better than they had Ezio (or at least Ezio in the beginning), but then again that made sense...

Paola noticed him first, nodding to him politely, “Ah, Signore Miles. I was wondering when you would wake.”

“I must admit, being able to get a full night’s sleep has been a wonderful luxury.” Desmond smiled sheepishly, not even needing to act. The previous three months (had it really only been three months since Abstergo abducted him?) had been nothing short of exhausting, and while the nap on Ezio’s bed had been a blessing, nothing could replace actual sleep. “Thank you for your hospitality, Signora. I hope I haven't slept too late.”

Paola gave him a wry smile, “Dawn has just passed, Signore Miles. My girls are usually not up at this hour for...obvious reasons, but I understand that you must start your day sooner.”

Giovanni nodded to Desmond in turn, “It is fortunate you are up and about already, Desmond, I was hoping we could take care of our business early this morning, as I’m afraid I have a long day of work ahead of me.”

“No rest for the weary, I suppose.” Desmond nodded. It would probably be for the best: if Leonardo could translate the Templar letter in a timely fashion, Giovanni could meet with Lorenzo Medici, and they could begin to thwart the Pazzi conspiracy.

Granted, that would depend on the contents of the letter. For all the knowledge that Desmond had courtesy of the Apple, he didn’t actually know what the letter said. Perhaps it was one bit of history that hadn’t been properly recorded.

If it wasn’t such a key element of his plan, Desmond might have found comfort in the fact he wasn’t actually omniscient. But he supposed he would learn what the letter said sooner rather than later.

“I apologize for not inviting you into my own home to rest.” Giovanni said softly as they exited the brothel through one of its many side entrances.

Desmond shrugged, “It’s fine, I get it. It was late at night, I’m still a stranger to you, let alone your family.” He hummed, “You have more than just brotherhood to worry about. I understand.”

“If all goes well today, perhaps we can work on that particular problem.” Giovanni kept his head bowed at such an angle so as to keep his face obscured as they walked the dawn-lit streets of Firenze without taking on an overly suspicious posture, “I did speak to my second son last night, informed him of our brotherhood and the dangers around us.”

“I apologize if my recklessness prompted such a conversation.” Desmond replied dutifully, though he wasn’t really sorry. At least now Ezio didn’t have to pretend to be ignorant about Assassin things, “It was not my place to assume how a brother trains his children.”

“You may have forced my hand, this is true.” Giovanni nodded, “But I must admit, my hand may have needed forcing. Ezio is of the age he should have begun his training...and Federico is of the age in which he should be ending it.”

Desmond considered for a moment before speaking, “From what I saw, he has good instincts.”

“You and I both know instincts can only get you so far.” Giovanni deadpanned, and Desmond couldn’t exactly argue with him. “Which is why I must ask quite a large favor of you. Brother to brother.”

“Oh?” Desmond hadn’t been expecting that. Perhaps he was gaining Giovanni’s trust after all, “How may I be of service?”

Giovanni didn’t speak right away as they crossed a more crowded section of the Firenze streets. There weren’t too many people out and about this early in the morning, but it was enough to cause concern, considering their choice of topics. When he did speak, his voice was low. “You spoke of a man you had identified as...a member of the enemy order. You’re sure of this?”

Desmond nodded, “Positive.”

 “I will trust your investigation then.” Giovanni murmured, “As I said, my son Federico should be at the end of his training. If you would be agreeable, I would have this be Federico’s first assignment.”

Well that was...unexpected. Allowing Federico to kill Baroncelli could have a serious impact on the course of history, it could be disastrous. 

Run the numbers, Siri.

Desmond did his best to keep his walk and posture as casual as possible while he slipped into Eagle Vision, Siri’s calculations on Barconelli’s role in the grand scheme of history playing out. Considering the fact that Desmond barely remembered killing him as Ezio the first time around, he didn’t expect it to be much. 

But it was still nice to have Siri’s confirmation.

“I think that would be a good idea.” Desmond answered finally.

Giovanni nodded, glancing at Desmond curiously, “...You have a strong second sight.”

Blinking out of his Eagle Vision, Desmond looked back at the older man, “Excuse me?”

“Your eyes,” He tapped the corner of his brow, “They are incredibly bright when you use your second sight, probably the brightest I have ever seen. I can only imagine what the world looks like through your eyes, especially since you can navigate the world while using your second sight.”

Desmond’s brow furrowed, “My eyes change color?”

Giovanni raised an eyebrow, “You didn’t know? I thought everyone in the brotherhood knew the change that occurs when we shift from one sight to the second.”

“My training was not...typical.” Desmond muttered, as if that wasn’t the understatement of the century, “Most of what I know, I had to learn through my own experiences… your sons and daughter are incredibly lucky to have their father teach and train them.”

“My daughter?” Giovanni frowned, and Desmond was grateful for the change in topic, “No, Claudia is a young lady, she is preparing to marry, not train.”

Right, news of Duccio...being Duccio wasn’t common knowledge yet. “Things can change in a moment, you know that. And never forget, Giovanni, that our brotherhood was founded by a woman. There’s a reason for the saying “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.””

Giovanni seemed confused, and Desmond was struck by the fact that maybe he shouldn’t have indirectly mentioned the formal founding of the Hidden Ones. But thankfully, there wasn’t time for Giovanni to question Desmond further, as they were already approaching Leonardo’s door.

“Ah, here we are.” Desmond nodded, stepping up to the door and raising his hand to knock. 

But before he could hit his knuckles against the wood door, Giovanni grabbed his wrist.

“One more thing, Desmond.”

Stifling a groan, Desmond looked at Giovanni once more, “Yes?”

“That favor I asked you for.” Giovanni murmured, “Federico’s assignment. You know what the man looks like, and you’ve tailed him before.  Could you assist Federico in locating him...and, if you could…”

Desmond understood now, “You want me to keep an eye on him.” At Giovanni’s nod, he couldn’t help but ask, “You don’t want to do it?”

“Of course I want to do it.” Giovanni sighed, “But there comes a time when a man must step off to begin his own path. If I was there… I may be tempted to take control, and I fear Federico would always question his own abilities. He needs to do this without me there.”

“Yeah...yeah, I get that.” Desmond nodded, “I can do that.”

Giovanni gave him a tired smile, “Thank you.” He said softly, before raising his hand and knocking on Leonardo’s door.

Right. Back to business.


Ezio couldn’t help but wake that morning with a smile on his face. Why shouldn’t he, when he was with his family, with the power to save them all. Even the slight twinge of pain in his lip from his still fresh cut couldn’t damper his joy.

He hadn’t been able to speak to Desmond since before the fight with Vieri, so he wasn’t sure what the other man wanted him to do to further their plans. But until he knew Desmond’s plans, he could perhaps enjoy what time he had with his family. 

Buon giorno , Ezio.” His mother smiled at him as he stepped outside, “All done recovering from last night?”

Ezio chuckled, kissing his mother’s cheek, “I’m not sure what exactly it is I’m supposed to be recovering from, mother.”

She gave him a knowing look, patting his cheek, “Of course not.” She murmured, brushing her thumb over his split lip, “Anyway, I have an errand to run. I’d like you to join me.”

In an instant, Ezio remembered exactly what errand his mother was referring to, and instantly his heart began to beat in triplets.

Leonardo.

For a single moment in time, Ezio’s mind was filled only with blue eyes that sparkled with spirit and genius, with warm smiles and warmer embraces, with a clarion voice that always made his name sound like a melody.

Oh, Leonardo. What Ezio wouldn’t give to simply wrap his arms around his dear friend and pepper him with kisses; listen to every one of his rambling musings and watch him pour himself into every new sketch. 

But this wasn’t his Leonardo, he had to remind himself of that. To Leonardo, this would be their first meeting. For all Ezio wanted to confess his undying love to Leonardo, he knew he would have to be patient.

But first, “ Con piacere, madre .”

Maria Auditore smiled, “ Bene . Let’s go then, it isn’t far.”

Ezio smiled, staying close to his mother as they walked from the Palazzo Auditore.  It was all Ezio could do to keep from grinning like an absolute fool.

“I’m still cross with you for your fight with Vieri…” His mother sighed.

Ezio chuckled, “I don’t know if I could call it a fight, mother.” He smirked, “But I could hardly allow him to spread slander to our family name unpunished.”

“I’m sure he’s having a hard time dealing with the accusations against his father. Francesco de Pazzi is many things-- none of them good.” Ezio couldn’t help but admire his mother’s attempts to find the good in people, even if they were undeserving of her kindness. 

“Especially ‘murderer.’” Ezio muttered bitterly.

Maria sighed, “Even I never suspected he’d be capable of that.” 

He raised an eyebrow, “Somehow, mother, I doubt that.”

His mother cast him a sideways glance, frowning slightly, “...Did your father speak with you last night?”

He nodded, “He did. A very...enlightening conversation.”

“About…”

“The family business.” He replied calmly, “And me joining it.”

“I did not realize you wished to be a banker.”

“Not that business, mother.”

Maria sighed, her shoulders slumping, “That’s what I thought...I suppose I should have expected this.” She shook her head, “I expected too much to ask your father to hold off an extra year before telling you.”

So his mother had been the reason Ezio hadn’t started his training at seventeen like Federico… had she felt guilty, in his last life, that he had been so ignorant and unprepared when he finally had to don his father’s robes? He didn’t want to think about it. His poor mother had suffered enough, he was not about to blame her for past mistakes.

“Forgive me, Ezio.” His mother continued, “I only wished to keep my son a little bit longer.”

Ezio took his mother’s hand, “Mother, I am, and always will be, your son.” He murmured softly, pressing a soft kiss to her palm.

She smiled softly, “Perhaps, but now you have a thousand shadowy brothers in your life.”

“A thousand shadowy sons for you to mother.” He teased gently.

Before they knew it, they stood before an all too familiar door. And whatever distraction Ezio might have found in his conversation with his mother, all his thoughts focused on that door, and the wonderful man that stood behind it.

His mother knocked on the heavy wood door, a firm yet precise sound.

A moment passed, longer than Ezio remembered the previous time he met Leonardo. But slowly, the door opened.

He looks so young… Not a single touch of gray graced Leonardo’s hair or beard; not a single wrinkle over his smooth, ivory skin; his full lips were partially curled in a smile at the sight of his mother; his blue eyes clearing of whatever had previously clouded his thoughts.

“Hello, Leonardo.” His mother smiled warmly.

“Ah! Madonna Maria!” Leonardo smiled in turn, but Ezio recognized in both the smile and his voice that Leonardo was less than calm. But as Leonardo and his mother exchanged friendly kisses, Ezio was able to see beyond the doorway into the workshop, and he suddenly understood why Leonardo was stressed.

In a dark corner of the workshop, Ezio spied two familiar shapes. Both Desmond and his father (and wasn’t it startling to see his father wearing the same white hood Ezio had worn for much of his Assassin journey)  were watching Leonardo at the doorway. Ezio’s eyes met Desmond’s in that moment, and the older man gave him the barest of smiles.

“--is my son, Ezio.”

Ezio blinked at the mention of his name, and turned his full attention back to Leonardo. His heart might as well have made a leap of faith within his chest as he had Leonardo’s blue eyes focused on him and only him, that perfect smile gracing his face once more.

Molto Onorato.” Leonardo beamed, giving him a polite bow.

Fighting every instinct to grab the man and embrace him properly, Ezio bowed in return, “ L’onore è mio.” And how much more did he mean the words this time around? Desmond had graced him with the chance to relive every blessed moment with Leonardo, and Ezio was honored with every shred of attention Leonardo bestowed upon him, when he was not but a lowly murderer compared to Leonardo’s genius.

Ezio didn’t think he had acted out of the norm, but he didn’t miss the flicker of shock that had flitted through Leonardo’s gaze, even as he quickly looked away from Ezio back to his mother, “L-let me go and fetch the paintings, I’ll be right back.”

And with that, Leonardo disappeared into the workshop once more. Ezio spared a glance to where Desmond and his father were, only to find that his father had vanished, with Desmond making his way toward the stairs to the upper level. Desmond gave Ezio a small nod and a large smile, flashing him a single upward turned thumb. For a moment, Ezio was confused as to why Desmond would use pollice verso in this situation; Desmond couldn’t be trying to communicate  to Ezio to spare or kill an opponent. 

No, the gesture most likely had a different meaning in his time, most likely a positive one.

“He’s very talented.” His mother commented.

“Of course he is, you would not have hired him if he were not, mother.” Ezio smiled, turning his attention back to his mother as Desmond disappeared.

“Self expression is vital to understanding and enjoying life. You should find an outlet.”

Ezio couldn’t help it, “Besides vaginas, you mean?”

“Ezio!” His mother gave him a firm swat, but it did nothing to wipe the grin from his face. He felt slightly guilty for stealing his mother’s punchline, but he had missed the strong, spirited woman his mother had been once upon a time. That woman would remain this time, Ezio would make sure of it.

Leonardo stepped through the doorway once more, his paintings in his hands. “So, back to your house, si ?”

“Let me help you with those.” Ezio wasn’t going to wait for his mother to tell him to help. Not when, this way, he could take the box of paintings from Leonardo himself, his fingers gently caressing Leonardo’s in passing.

“Oh, ah, thank you…” Leonardo murmured, a dusting of pink on his cheeks as the three of them began to make their way back to the Palazzo Auditore, “So, Ezio...what is it you do?”

Ezio could see his mother opening her mouth to answer, but he beat her to it, “I’m working with my father, actually.”

“Oh, so you’re a banker?” Leonardo seemed surprised at that.

Ezio chuckled, “ Si, though we’ll have to see how good of a banker I will be.” He smiled to Leonardo, “If I am half as good a banker as you are an artist, I will be quite successful indeed.”

“You flatter me, Ezio.” Leonardo mumbled, glancing at Ezio furtively, “In truth, it’s been difficult for me to settle. Painting is nice, but I often feel like my work lacks...I don’t know…”

“Purpose.” Ezio hadn’t meant to say the word out loud, he had been content to allow Leonardo to speak uninterrupted. Even after so many decades, he was still remembering those first words Leonardo.

Leonardo seemed stunned by Ezio’s response, and any other time, Ezio might have been amused by rendering his friend speechless, “I...yes...I’d like to contribute in a way that is more practical, direct even. Architecture, perhaps. Or anatomy.”

Ezio hummed, unable to stop the fond smile on his face, “Why simply capture the world, when there is so much to change and shape?”

Leonardo said nothing, and Ezio was content to allow silence to linger between their gazes. Ezio knew so many of Leonardo’s expressions: the small dagger between his brow, the slight purse of his lips, the twitch of his fingers in want of charcoal or ink. The look he so often had when trying to decipher a codex page, or rework the design of his damned flying machine. And Ezio knew, if he was not careful, Leonardo would unravel him and lay bare all his secrets. A prospect that Ezio was not entirely adverse to, but he had to consider Desmond’s wisdom on the matter.

“Leonardo, I have no doubt you’ll go on to do great things!”

In all his musings, Ezio had all but forgotten his mother’s presence. He tried not to be annoyed as her words ended the moment between Ezio and Leonardo, as the other man tore his gaze from Ezio. “ Vi ringrazio, Madonna. That’s kind of you.”

“My mother only speaks the truth.” Ezio murmured as they reached the palazzo’s front door, and Ezio was able to pass the paintings off to Annetta.

Maria patted Ezio’s arm, “Thank you for the help, son.” She said, and while there was a smile on her face, Ezio could see there were questions in her eyes. “Don’t let me keep you from your other duties.” 

She nodded to Leonardo once more before making her way inside, leaving Ezio alone with Leonardo. Ezio was loathed to say goodbye to Leonardo so soon, but he knew that he couldn’t be selfish with his time, nor Leonardo’s. Perhaps after his family was saved…

But as Ezio turned to Leonardo, expecting him to give his words of farewell, he found the older man standing much closer to him than before. Leonardo was staring at him with such intensity that Ezio couldn’t help the shiver that ran up and down his spine, nor his desire to stare back.

“We haven’t met before, have we, Ezio?” Leonardo asked, his brow furrowed, and how Ezio wished he could smooth that brow and ease his tension.

“I cannot say that we have.” Ezio said softly, even as his heart screamed at him to tell him everything, damned the consequences.

Leonardo frowned slightly, “And yet…” He looked deep into Ezio’s eyes, searching for the answer to a puzzle he did not have all the pieces for yet, “...how is it you look at me with eyes full of…”

Full of what? Fondness? Devotion? Love? 

“Familiarity.”

That wasn’t the word Leonardo wanted to use, and Ezio knew it, even if Leonardo’s actual meaning might not have been what Ezio had been thinking.

“How is it you know me better than I know myself?” Leonardo’s words escaped on a breath, and Ezio was sure that he had not meant to speak them aloud.

Ezio could only smile softly, daring himself to reach out and gently brush Leonardo’s hand, “I doubt I could ever know you better than you know yourself, if only because that would require a mind as brilliant as yours. Even my arrogance cannot fathom such a feat.”

Leonardo shook his head, disbelief in his eyes, “You speak to me with words that speak a lifetime, yet you are a boy. You look at me with eyes that paint a homecoming, yet you are a stranger... “ He stared with intensity into Ezio’s eyes, as if he could divine the strange truth Ezio hid, “What mystery have you wrapped yourself in, Ezio Auditore?”

Ezio’s smile didn’t dim. He should have expected that Leonardo would be too smart for his own good, and his heart gave a happy flutter to hear Leonardo speak such poetry of him, “I’m afraid a mystery will have to be all for now.” He said regretfully, touching Leonardo’s hand once more. 

Perhaps Desmond would give his blessing for Ezio to tell Leonardo the truth, and perhaps Leonardo would be able to truly understand. But not now. There was too much at stake, and Ezio dare not endanger Leonardo’s life if he could avoid it.

But there was a storm brewing in the brilliant blue eyes of Leonardo Da Vinci, and Ezio was not fool enough to believe Leonardo would be content with such vague words for long.

Chapter Text

There were times in his life when Giovanni Auditore questioned the list of events that led him to his current path. And more often than not, the day that he dove into the Arno river after a drowning child usually ended up on that list.

To think that tiny, lifeless child he had cradled in his arms that day twenty years ago would grow to be the most powerful man in all of Firenze. And Giovanni would certainly admit that Lorenzo had certainly grown into a fine leader and powerful businessman. 

Lorenzo was many things, but fool was not one of them. With the number of enemies waiting for him to fail growing larger by the day, Lorenzo never had a shortage of guards.

Which made sneaking into Lorenzo’s personal study mildly tedious. Tedious, but not difficult, as he slowly slipped in through the study window behind Lorenzo’s desk

Il Magnifico was where he usually was at this time of day: bent over his desk, pen scratching out numerous figures and letters with only a pause to dip for more ink. No doubt he would develop a hunch in his regal shoulders if he wasn’t careful.

“I can feel you lurking, Giovanni.”

Giovanni couldn’t help but smile, “You felt the breeze as the window opened, Altezza.”

Lorenzo did not pause from his work, not even looking up from his work, “When it is you, they are one and the same.” He drawled, “Now, stop lurking behind me and tell me why you’ve chosen to report in secret, rather than deliver your report with my gonfaloniere present.”

The smile on Giovanni’s lips vanished at the mention of Uberto, and a feeling of dread curling in his stomach. He desperately wished that Desmond was mistaken about what he saw, or that Giovanni had been too quick to find guilt in his friend in the conclusion he jumped to. But for his desperate wishing, Giovanni could not take a single risk if it meant harm to his family.

Why Giovanni found it so easy to trust Desmond Miles after only a few hours over his dear friend, he wasn’t sure. It had been so long since he had spoken to a brother, one who wore the blade and knew the dangers of their blood-drenched work… it had been surreal to be confronted with the fact that he was not, in fact, alone; what was more, that someone else was prepared to help protect his family. He knew Mario would have done so in an instant if he could; hell, he’d probably ride for Firenze the moment Giovanni sent him word. 

But this was different… Desmond owed Giovanni no such familial loyalties. Their only shared bond was their Creed, and yet the young man had rushed to Firenze with such haste that he had only his blade and his wits...all because whispers of a fellow Assassin and his family being in danger.

As Giovanni walked slowly around Lorenzo’s desk, he could feel the nobleman watching him keenly, finally setting aside his work for the moment. No doubt if il Magnifico ever set his mind and spirit to the task, he could develop a second sight like none other. Perhaps as bright as Desmond’s.

“I arrived in Milano too late to stop the attack on Sforza.” Giovanni admitted with a sigh, his head bowed in shame. Even arriving minutes sooner would have made the difference.

Lorenzo frowned, “So I have heard, but not from you.” His eyes narrowed, “Why is it that messengers from Milano brought me news of Sforza’s death half a day before you?”

Giovanni lifted his head once more to meet the younger man’s gaze properly, “I searched Sforza’s assassins, and I found several coins from Venezia, and I took my search there to uncover the source behind the attack.”

“And did you find anything worthwhile in Venezia?” Lorenzo leaned back in his chair, fingers steepled.

“The House of Barbarigo has aligned themselves with our enemies.” He said simply, “I tailed a courier leaving their palazzo, and intercepted the missive. The courier, unfortunately, chose death over questioning.”

Lorenzo scoffed, “Perhaps the wisest out of the entire lot.” He muttered bitterly, “And what of the missive?”

“It was encoded, but I found someone who could decipher it.”

A frown crossed the younger man’s face, and Giovanni could have sworn it made Lorenzo look closer to Giovanni’s age than his own. “You acted on your own accord quite a bit, my dear Giovanni…” He began, “Why did you not have Father Maffei decipher the letter?”

Giovanni sighed. And here he had hoped il Magnifico would be glad to have the deciphered letter, but no… “In addition to my investigation in Venezia, one of my brothers in the Creed caught word of a conspiracy here in Firenze and came to me to share what he learned--”

Lorenzo held up a hand to stop Giovanni mid-sentence, “I’m sorry, did you say there is another Assassin in my city?” His frown deepened, “Where is he?”

“Right here.”

Giovanni had to bite back a groan as he turned to see Desmond step out from the shadows of one of the Medici’s numerous bookshelves. The young man didn’t seem the least bit contrite about breaking into the home of the most powerful man in all of Firenze, and Giovanni could just picture the indignant and outraged look on Lorenzo’s face.

He could certainly hear the annoyance in his voice, not to mention the scrap of his chair as he stood, “How dare you--”

“I told you to wait outside.” Giovanni interrupted, pinching the bridge of his nose. 

Desmond gave a casual shrug, making his way toward the desk, “That’s where the guards are. Besides, I knew I would be questioned sooner rather than later. I just figured I’d just...speed things along.”

He had almost forgotten that Desmond was only a few years older than Federico, and was still prone to the impulses of youth.

“So I see breaking into the guarded homes of powerful men is an Assassin quality, rather than just an Auditore quality.” Lorenzo said drily, though a quick glance told Giovanni that he would be answering for Desmond’s...boldness later.

“Basically.” Desmond replied, before giving a shallow bow, “Desmond Miles, at your service, more or less.”

The statesman raised an eyebrow at Desmond’s insolence, and Giovanni groaned. This was something he might have expected from Ezio, not a supposedly competent Assassin. “More or less?” 

Desmond smiled, “I don’t actually work for you, but I am quite keen on crushing the current plot against you. So...more or less.”

Lorenzo looked to Giovanni, and if Giovanni had been a lesser man, he might have looked away from the chill of his gaze. He could just imagine the words the younger man was trying to say with those eyes of his: are you seriously expecting me to trust this man?

Giovanni sighed, “As I was saying, while I was away from Firenze, Desmond discovered and spied on a meeting composed of those who are plotting against you. And he has reason to suspect that some of them may be within your own ranks.”

At his words, Lorenzo leveled his icy stare at Desmond, “And what knowledge does a stranger to Firenze have of the inner machinations of her peoples and politics?”

It struck Giovanni, seeing Desmond and Lorenzo staring each other down, that the two men were actually closer in age than he expected. And for all the cold strength in Lorenzo’s stare, Desmond did not flinch or stir, his expression passive and tranquil. Like the surface of water. 

Ice against water.

“I’ll start with the low hanging fruit, shall I ?” Desmond replied simply, “The Pazzi family, or at least the men, let’s be honest, are panting for your blood like bitches in heat. And they certainly aren’t acting like one of their own is on his way to the gallows for murder; they seem rather confident he won’t hang at all. Where might this confidence come from, I wonder?

“Then, to the meeting I spied on early yesterday morning.” Desmond continued, “I knew one of the men as he was my original target--”

“His name.” Lorenzo bit out.

“Bernardo Baroncelli. He is the weapons man behind the operation.” Desmond replied easily, “The rest of the men at the meeting I didn’t know by name, but I can rectify that easily by the end of the day, I’m sure. But another man joined the meeting, and he spoke of prolonging the torture of one of your prisoners, but that he inevitably revealed the plot against Sforza.” He shrugged, “It stands to reason that the only men you would allow to conduct your secret “advanced interrogations” would be men that you actually trusted…”

Desmond stopped speaking then, staring back at Lorenzo evenly, knowingly. Giovanni had to resist the urge to smirk. Ice could freeze, but the calmest water could still drown.

And Giovanni knew Desmond’s words would ring true to the young statesman, even if that truth was a rather uncomfortable one.

“This man,” Lorenzo said finally, making the slow circle around his desk, “describe him.”

And Desmond did. From the exact shape of Uberto’s face and nose, to the style and color of his hat to the details of his clothes and jewelry Uberto was wearing the last time Giovanni saw him. And whatever hope Giovanni had held onto that Desmond was wrong about Uberto vanished. Cold dread settled in Giovanni’s gut anew, knowing what he would have to do to the man he had called friend.

Lorenzo’s brow was furrowed in discontent, “You have a very vivid memory.”

“An Assassin’s senses are their greatest asset.” Desmond replied simply, “I knew I would have to track these men, so it was prudent to remember what they looked like.”

“Be that as it may, you bring me troubling news.” Lorenzo murmured, “If you speak the truth…”

“If I was working with your enemies to undermine your allies, I would have tried harder to get on your good side.” Desmond shrugged, “But no matter, I have more important things to worry about than your personal opinions of me.”

Giovanni stepped in before Desmond could speak any further, “I’ve already made arrangements to get to the bottom of this conspiracy, and deal with the currently known threat.” He gave Desmond a pointed look, “Speaking of which, perhaps you should…”

Desmond, graciously, nodded, “I’ll go see that Federico is ready. Enjoy your scheming, you two.”

With that Desmond made his way to the window, vanishing with a flutter of the curtains.

For several moments, neither remaining men said anything, and for that Giovanni was grateful. But of course, it couldn’t last forever.

“So that man is the reason you’ve worked behind my back?” Lorenzo turned his glare back to Giovanni, “Your trust in the Brotherhood is almost blinding.”

“I assure you, I have practiced the utmost of caution.” Giovanni insisted, “When Desmond told me what he saw, I came to the same conclusion that you did about Uberto possibly being a traitor. Obviously, I need to confirm it for myself before I took my blade to him, but I couldn’t just ignore the possibility. What Desmond didn’t mention just now, that he told me, was that one of the other men in the meeting he saw was a young monk about his age.”

“You suspect it to be Father Maffei?” Lorenzo raised an eyebrow.

“I was wary enough to exercise caution.” He nodded, withdrawing the missive from his doublet, “Hence why I had someone else decipher the missive.”

The nobleman eyed the letter, “And what made you so sure you could trust this new individual, when your faith in both Maffei and Alberti was so shaken?”

“Because this man owes his neck to us.” Giovanni nodded, handing the letter to the younger man, “Leonardo da Vinci.”

Lorenzo seemed surprised by Giovanni’s words, even as he took the letter from him, “I was unaware the man knew his ciphers.”

“Neither was I, but Desmond had heard a rumor to that effect and had tested the man with another document of complex coding.” Giovanni admitted, “It was that document that got my attention, as well as watching Leonardo work on the letter.”

“Well let’s hope the man was worth all that trouble with the courts.” Lorenzo muttered, opening the letter. His eyes briefly flitted over the document before meeting Giovanni’s gaze once more, softer than they had been the entire encounter, “...How is your son, by the way?”

Giovanni gave him a tired smile, “He’s well enough, still a bit shaken by the ordeal, but he’s devoted himself to his duties.” He paused before continuing, “...Federico will be making his first kill tonight.”

“Who?”

“Baroncelli.” 

Lorenzo considered for a moment before nodding, “Very well. You believe he is ready?”

“I do.” Giovanni said softly, “...he will serve you well, Altezza.”

“Why do you say that as if you are not long for this world?”

He chuckled, “I’m not a young man anymore, Lorenzo. My son will be better able to serve you in the future.”

The younger man gave him an even look, “My dear Giovanni,” He began calmly, “I will decide when it is time for me to put you to pasture.”

With that, il Magnifico turned his attention back to the letter, and the traitorous contents within.


It was only when Desmond was two or three rooftops away from the Palazzo Medici that he thought that maybe he shouldn’t have been such an ass to the most powerful man in all of Firenze. But at the same time, Desmond was getting really sick and tired of having to regurgitate the same bullshit story over and over.

Also, Desmond had forgotten that Lorenzo de’ Medici was only two years older than he was. When he had lived Ezio’s life in the Animus, he had just assumed that the man was the same age as Giovanni.

At twenty-seven, Lorenzo de’ Medici ruled an entire city and banking empire.

At twenty-five, Desmond Miles thought he was hot shit because he had mastered a few advanced movements for his flair bar tending routine.

Really Desmond, petty jealousy over some dude with a bowl cut? Desmond had to roll his eyes at his own stupidity, scaling another rope bridge with ease. He’ll just chalk it up to his annoyance at being so mistrusted all the damn time.

Commotion at the street level below caught Desmond’s attention, drawing his eyes downward. At once, all his annoyance from earlier evaporated, and a smile spread across his face.

Damn Ezio, isn’t it illegal to throw hands at a fourteen year old like that?

Beating up Duccio de Luca hadn’t exactly been difficult for Desmond in the Animus, even if the ‘fight’ had been a guilty pleasure for Desmond. But this time, with Ezio’s incredible experience with fighting, unarmed as he was, Duccio was already on the ground in a whimpering puddle.

The boy’s face was all sorts of fucked up, Desmond was sure Duccio’s nose was broken, and he looked to be missing a front tooth. He wouldn’t be much of a looker anymore, which Desmond was sure Ezio had been going for. Well, between that and the fact Ezio was basically standing on the young man’s crotch, he was sure he wouldn’t be much of a problem for women in the future .

Though this time, Desmond was somewhat surprised to see Claudia Auditore standing among the onlookers.

Well looks like her tears dried quickly , Desmond chuckled to himself. 

Ezio looked back to his sister, “What do you think, Claudia? Has this rat been punished enough?” He was grinning from ear to ear now.

Desmond couldn’t hear Claudia’s response, if she had spoken it out loud, but he didn’t exactly need to; Ezio’s response was perfectly clear, as was Duccio’s pained screams when Ezio stomped on his groin.

Jesus fucking Christ Ezio…

Ezio didn’t seem the least be fazed by the fight, offering his sister his arm as they made their way back home.

“What effect might this have on the future, Siri?” Desmond murmured, following the siblings’ path back to their home, shadowing them from above. Desmond knew that the numbers and figures were running in his Eagle Vision, but he was getting better at intuitively knowing what Siri was trying to communicate without seeing it with his eyes.

Well, Ezio might not have actually emasculated Duccio right then and then, but the other boy was now running on only one functioning testicle. And a good deal of trauma that would result in the obsessive need to be punished. Desmond was grateful that Siri hadn’t shown him visuals of Renaissance sadomasochism. 

And Claudia...well, it was incredible, the change that might occur within a young woman, when given a taste of what it looks like to exact justice.

Sorry, not sorry, Giovanni. 

When Ezio returned Claudia to the Palazzo Auditore’s front door, Desmond allowed his shadow to cross the courtyard. Ezio’s eyes easily caught the movement, though he only looked up once Claudia was inside and the door shut behind him. Desmond gave him a knowing look, jerking his head in the direction of the roof behind him. Ezio, of course, gave only a small nod before scrambling up the closest wall.

“When I said you could beat up Duccio, I didn’t expect you to bring your sister to watch you traumatize a fourteen year old.” He said wryly as Ezio approached him.

Ezio gave a sheepish, though still joyful, smile, “Forgive me, I was caught in the moment. And how could I not allow Claudia to watch his punishment being exacted?”

“Remember that when she comes to you wanting to learn to throw a punch or slit a man’s throat.” Desmond chuckled, “She’ll expect you to be on her side against your father and brother.”

“And so I shall.” Ezio nodded, solemn this time as the two of them walked away from the palazzo. “...I trust everything is going according to plan?”

“So far, yes.” Desmond hummed, “Leonardo decoded the letter, and your father and I delivered it to Lorenzo de’ Medici, though I’m sure the man hates me.” He smiled at that, “And I assume you had a lovely first meeting with Leonardo?”

Ezio’s face lit up like the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, “He’s so young, so brilliant and full of life…” He gushed, “I only wish our meeting was not so brief...” His smile faltered slightly, and the sheepish expression seemed to be creeping over his face.

Desmond snorted, “I should have figured you couldn’t play it cool when it came to Leonardo.” He shook his head, “Alright, what happened?”

Ezio frowned, “It’s December, it is quite cool in temperature…”

“It’s an idiom where I’m from. It means ‘act without allowing emotions taking control,’ now tell me what you did.” Desmond was surprised at the ease of his response, and there was a part of his brain that was questioning if his Italian had been tainted with a British lilt for a moment.

Ezio didn’t seem to notice any of Desmond’s discomfort, too wrapped up in his own, “I may have been too...enthusiastic during our conversation, and he asked me how I knew him better than he knew himself.”

Desmond groaned, rubbing his eyes, “Please tell me you didn’t tell him you were a pining time traveler from the future who is eagerly awaiting the proper time to seduce him.”

“Of course not!” Ezio huffed, “I told him that I would have to remain a mystery for the time being--”

“Oh, that is so not going to keep him at bay for long.” Desmond sighed, “I should have expected this. We’re talking about fucking Leonardo da Vinci --”

“Not yet! I'm not that brash. Let me woo him first.”

Desmond leveled his best glare at Ezio, but considering the fact that Ezio was technically more than twice his age regardless of his teenage body, it held little effect.

“Alright, we’ll have to deal with the Leonardo issue a bit later.” Desmond murmured.

“Do you think he might be able to understand and accept the truth?” Ezio asked, almost hopeful.

Desmond pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment before taking a quick peek at Siri’s numbers, “This early in your relationship, there are still thousands of possible outcomes for you telling him the truth: ranging from him thinking you’re lying or making fun of him to thinking you’re absolutely insane or that you’re the ‘simple-minded’ son of the Auditore family.” Ezio’s face seemed to fall at Desmond’s words, and damn it if he didn’t look like a kicked puppy, “But...there are a few deviations where he...to varying degrees, accepts parts of your story.”

“So there’s a chance?” Ezio’s smile was back once more.

“It’s a slim chance, and you’ll need to tread incredibly carefully if you want to do it right.” Desmond sighed, snapping out of Eagle Vision, “But I’m afraid we’ll have to talk about Leonardo some other time. There’s another issue we need to talk about.”

Ezio nodded, “Of course, what is it?”

“The future.” Desmond answered, “As in my future, humanity’s future. In my time, last night would have been one of the first memories of yours I experienced in the Animus.”

“So, my stories are being shared across centuries already.” Ezio spoke softly now, reaching up absently to touch his temple.

“Yeah, but at least you didn’t go to Cristina’s last night this time.” 

Mio Dio, you saw that?”

“Yes, but that’s not what I wanted to get at.” He shook his head quickly, “My point is that, if I haven’t mucked up history too badly, then right now, there is a team of Assassins in the year 2012 who are looking at me through your eyes, listening to me with your ears.”

Ezio’s eyes widened slightly before he nodded, “You need me to be your prophet.”

“I’m sorry to make you play messenger boy again.”

“No.” Ezio shook his head, “I agreed to serve you on this path already, and I understand that my senses are not always for my benefit alone. For all you have done for me, this is the least I can do.” He smiled, taking Desmond’s hands in his own, “Speak, so your voice may reach through centuries.”

Damnit Ezio, Desmond really hoped this wasn’t part of his weird-ass god-fixation Ezio had with him. But considering the nature of their conversation up to this point, whoever was in the Animus living Ezio’s life must be really fucking confused right now.

And now that Desmond finally had a chance to deliver his warning, he found himself at a complete loss for words. 

“I...um…” Desmond shook his head, clearing his throat, “I think maybe I should say this in English...so that way nothing gets lost in translation. I can tell it to you in Italian after, if you want to know what I said.”

There was a question in Ezio’s eyes, but he only nodded slightly, meeting Desmond’s gaze with resolution.

Right then.

Desmond had to focus on speaking English, switching from one language to another in a way he was sure polyglotism didn’t actually work. Vocabulary changed, his phonetic alphabet shifted, even his tongue seemed to behave differently as he spoke.

“I’ll try and keep this short and to the point, because time is of the essence for you. This message is specifically for any Assassin who is currently using the Animus to live the memories of Ezio Auditore da Firenze. This is not a glitch, not a program error, this is real.

“If the person in the Animus right now isn’t Desmond Miles, here’s what you need to know,” Desmond realized that, depending on how much he toyed with Ezio’s life, there was a real chance he would never be born. It could be any Assassin given the task of living Ezio’s life, any team given this assignment. So he’d give them, whoever they were, as much information as he could muster. About the solar flare, the date, the location of the temple, the trap Juno had set, about who Minvera and Juno even were.

“I can’t explain how I’m here, not with the time I have. I only hope that I can make enough of a difference that maybe that warning I just gave you isn’t necessary…” He trailed off, his eyes almost straying from Ezio’s before he forced himself to continue.

“If the Assassin in the Animus right now is Desmond Miles, and the ones watching right now are Rebecca Crane, Shaun Hastings, and Lucy Stillman...fuck, I miss you guys.

“I’m sure by this point in this memory, Desmond--fuck, I-- have started freaking out, Shaun’s made some sarcastic as fuck comment about the Animus having some fatal error, and Rebecca has defended Baby’s honor. But like I said: I’m real, I’m Desmond, and I’m somehow in two times at once.” A weak smile tugged at his lips, “I really wish I had time to explain everything to you guys, and maybe I’ll have to sit Ezio down in the future to give you more pieces of the story. But for now… I’ll try and keep this brief.”

Too late, his brain thought, even as his mouth began to move again, “Rebecca, you don’t need me to tell you you’re smarter than the whole of Abstergo put together, we’re already witnessing proof of that. I’m sure with enough time, you’ll come up with technology that will revolutionize the Brotherhood. But beyond your brilliant mind, I want to thank you for your optimism, for staying upbeat and positive even when the rest of us are down. I know that isn’t always easy, but never forget how much small kindnesses can impact a person’s day or life. Speaking of which, thank you for including background music for the Animus, I never realized how much I missed it…” He smiled softly at that, picturing what Rebecca’s reaction might be at his words. Would she be the same Rebecca he knew, or would the future be forever changed, and her with it? He didn’t know, but all he could do was try…

“Shaun, I know you’ve been grumbling this whole time, but you and I both know your surly remarks are just your coping mechanism.” Desmond gave a cheeky smile before continuing, “I’m not going to tell you how brilliant you are, Shaun, because you’ve probably already said it several times while I’ve been talking. What does need to be acknowledged though, is just how damn hard you work compiling research and databases. I still hear your voice in my ear the most… but I also know how much other Assassins in the brotherhood depend on your research, strategy and expertise. It’s almost a good thing you don’t have a blade strapped to your arm, because then you’d be absolutely unstoppable, and we can’t have that going to your head. But also, fuck you Shaun, you’ve actually got me craving Earl Gray tea, which, I’m sure you already know, won’t be fucking invented for another three hundred years. So I guess I gotta invent Earl Gray tea or something equally stupid.”

For all the jokes, Desmond couldn’t help but feel his gut curl into a tight knot as he tried to figure out what to say next. What could he possibly say to the woman who had saved him, yet was secretly working for the enemy?

“And Lucy…”

“Desmond! Ezio!”

Whatever Desmond might have told Lucy, whether greeting or warning, it was lost at the sound of Federico Auditore’s voice and the sight of his form approaching them on the rooftop. He sighed, looking back at Ezio. He’d have to finish his message to the future later then. 


It was almost hypnotic to Ezio, looking into Desmond’s eyes and listening to him speak in his foreign tongue. Perhaps it was arrogance on his part, but Ezio had assumed that Desmond was a native Firenze man from the distant future. Yet, it would seem that Desmond was Inglese , and the language flowed off his tongue just as fluid as Ezio’s language had. Ezio hadn’t ever considered learning the language before, but perhaps it might be prudent...

Federico’s interruption almost annoyed Ezio as much as it must have annoyed Desmond, because Ezio could tell that Desmond was not finished with his message. And Ezio knew he would be playing prophet again soon, because while Ezio might not understand Inglese, he did recognize Desmond’s final word as a name. Lucy .

A woman then. His woman, perhaps? Desmond’s expression seemed somewhat wistful as he had said her name. Of course he would be wistful, if he had left behind a lover five hundred years in the future… 

In the moment before Federico was close enough to properly observe them, Desmond shifted to hold Ezio’s fingers, his eyes staring at Ezio’s knuckles.

Ezio didn’t miss how his brother was staring at their joined hands, a conflicted expression on his face as his eyes moved from their hands to Desmond’s face. He remembered what Desmond had said about Federico staring at Desmond changing, and he felt his heart squeeze slightly. How did he feel about his brother’s attraction toward Desmond? It wasn’t disgust, but there was still an unease. Especially if there was this Lucy woman involved with Desmond. His brother could end up hurt...

He was pulled from his thoughts as Desmond spoke a few more words of Inglese, before he seemed to realize his mistake. He cleared his throat, his eyes flashing gold for the briefest moment. By the time he spoke again, Federico was standing beside them, “You’re lucky you’ll only have bruises on these knuckles. Punching the face is a sure fire way to end up with split and broken fingers.”

Ezio blinked, looking at his knuckles as he realized what Desmond was referring to. He could feel his brother’s gaze move to Ezio’s hands, where his frown became one of annoyance, “Ezio, don’t tell me you went after Vieri again…”

Ezio pouted. As if he would waste his time for another slightly amusing brawl, “Of course not, I have better things to do with my time.”

“So who is it you were fighting this time?” Federico sighed.

“It was Duccio, if you could call it fighting.” Ezio shrugged, taking his hands back from Desmond, “I call it executing punishment.”

“Duccio de Luca? Ezio, are you trying to ruin Claudia’s marriage?” Federico hissed, looking genuinely upset, “Ezio, father did not tell you about the Brotherhood so you could go around hurting whoever you saw fit! It doesn’t matter if you don’t like Duccio, I don’t like him either, but we have to be better than this!”

Ezio blinked, surprised at his brother’s outburst. He realized what it must look like to Federico: the morning after being told he comes from a family of trained killers who exact justice on the evil, he brutally assaulted their little sister’s betrothed. If a similar situation had happened with one of his recruits, he would have been just as upset. He had severely punished recruits for similar offenses.

“Federico, it isn’t like that.” Ezio argued weakly, “I wouldn’t...not over something so petty…”

For all his experiences and wisdom, Ezio could not will the words to come to him.

Desmond, merciful Desmond, took pity on him, “I saw the altercation, Federico. Be at ease, it was not a rogue recruit with bloodlust. Merely a foolhardy young man being an overprotective older brother.” Desmond gave a dismissive wave, his voice light and casual, “I didn’t hear it all, but I thought I heard something about six other women...I’m afraid I don’t know the exact context of the situation.”

Federico stiffened at that, “Six other women?”

Ezio nodded, “Claudia was in tears, Federico. The other girls were the ones who told her. She was completely heartbroken! And that cazzo had the nerve to say he could do better than an Auditore.”

“That figlio di puttana …” Federico grit his teeth, his fists clenched, “I’ll kill him myself…”

Desmond cleared his throat, “The boy has been punished to your sister’s satisfaction, you’d only be acting on your own anger, Federico.”

“Claudia...Claudia was there?” Federico looked at Ezio in disbelief.

Ezio shrugged, “She was the one who was wronged, why shouldn’t she watch as punishment was meted out?”

“She’s a young lady!”

“She’s a woman scorned.” Desmond murmured, “But regardless, the matter is settled, though Ezio will have to give a detailed account to your father, considering the fact that Claudia’s marriage agreement has been effectively dissolved.”

Ezio winced at that. He didn’t remember telling his father about beating up Duccio the last time around, but it would be for the best if he was the one who told his father, rather than someone from the Luca household.

“And while Ezio is doing that…” Desmond turned to Federico. “We have preparations to make. Are you ready?”

The anger that had been on his brother’s face fled in an instant, replaced with a stony resolution that Ezio had come to know all too well on the faces of many initiates.

Federico was going to kill before the day was out.

“Ready.”

And Desmond was going to guide his blade.

“Alright then.” Desmond rested his hand on Federico’s shoulder, guiding him away from Ezio, “Let’s go.”


The sun was low in the sky by the time Federico followed Desmond to begin his assignment, though he couldn’t find it within himself to be annoyed with the delay. Desmond had insisted on spending the daylight hours scouting out Baroncelli and the best possible locations for Federico to make his kill, not to mention ensuring they were both well equipped for the task.

“Having your first assassination be in broad daylight is ludicrous, not to mention your ass is going to get destroyed by the fuckton of guards that would chase you.”

Federico didn’t quite understand everything Desmond had said, but he understood enough to glean the wisdom of his words. Attacking at twilight did have less risk of bystanders and witnesses, and while the ideal would have been to attack under the cover of night, Desmond did raise the point that night brought its own challenges, namely breaking into Baroncelli’s home if he was asleep at the time.

So, twilight was the best compromise: fewer people with the chance of Baroncelli still being out on the streets.

When Federico learned that his father had asked Desmond to be his shadow for his first assassination, he had mixed feelings. On one hand, Desmond was the only one who actually knew what Baroncelli looked like, and had tailed him once before, so it made sense. 

On the other hand…

Federico chanced a sideways glance at Desmond. The sharp angles of his face caught the evening rays of sunlight, making them all the more striking. His broad shoulders filled Federico’s borrowed shirt far better than Federico’s ever had. It had taken all of Federico’s willpower to keep his eyes from drifting down as he followed Desmond to see if he filled his breeches and hose just as well. And even then, he was lying to himself if he hadn’t drunk in his fill as he followed Desmond over one of the many rope bridges, and his throat had gone dry.

He had thought he could control these urges, like he had since April. Yet not one day after meeting Desmond, he was back to entertaining his...unnatural desires. If he wasn’t careful, Desmond might see him for what he was, and Federico didn’t want to think about what that might mean for his family and his place in the Brotherhood.

“You alright there, Federico?”

Federico blinked, banishing his wretched thoughts from his mind as he focused back on Desmond properly, “Yes, I’m alright.” He nodded, “Just…”

Desmond smiled, “It’s alright to be nervous, Federico.”

“I’ve been training for this for years.” Federico squared his shoulders, not daring himself to show any weakness.

“I don’t care if you’ve been training for a decade, nothing prepares you for this.” Desmond shook his head, “And that’s alright. If you weren’t nervous, I’d think you were either an absolute idiot or a sociopath.”

“A what?” Federico couldn’t help but ask.

“Ah, fuck.” Desmond waved his hand absently, searching for words, “Someone without morals or regard for human life.”

Federico could only nod, “Alright…”

Desmond shook his head, “Anyway, let’s go find our man, so we can get this done before I freeze my balls off.”

Before Federico could comment about Desmond’s strange phrases, or even ask what he meant, his breath caught in his throat at the sight of Desmond’s eyes. Desmond’s eyes were already far lighter than Federico or anyone in the Auditore family, but now Federico couldn’t help but gape at the stunning gold that peered from under Desmond’s brow.

Was that...was that Desmond’s second sight? Mio Dio… Federico had seen his father use his second sight, but even then, his father’s eyes only lightened to the color of burnished copper. And Federico’s second sight wasn’t nearly as strong as his father’s. What could Desmond see with those stunning eyes of his…

“Alright, got him.” Desmond blinked, and the gold faded once more to hazel as he turned his attention back to Federico, “...Um, do I have something on my face?”

“No!” Federico blurted, “I’m sorry, I was just...your second sight is incredible.”

Desmond nodded, “Oh, yeah, your father mentioned something about my eyes changing color. I didn’t know that was a thing. And before you ask, I had a really, really abnormal, self taught training.”

That only brought a thousand other questions to Federico’s mind. How was it that Desmond was self taught, yet he had such a strong second sight? How did he learn the ways of the Brotherhood without a mentor? 

But those things could wait. He had an assignment to finish.

With a sigh, Federico willed his second sight forth, and the world plunged into darkness.

The edges of his vision were completely black, and only the forefront of Federico’s vision held any form of clarity. It was as if the entire city was bathed in night, with only the faintest traces of light showing outlines of buildings and objects. There were few moving figures on the streets below, and almost all of them had the same lifeless outline about them. On occasion, Federico could see the figures of guards and the wisps of red clinging to their frames. But the further the figures were, the harder he had to concentrate to properly identify them.

He wasn’t sure how long he had been staring out in the direction Desmond had been looking, but Federico couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief when he finally saw a figure making his way through the streets with wisps of gold about his figure.

“There he is.” Federico sighed in relief, turning his attention back to Desmond. Only for his heart to leap into his throat.

Desmond stood before him, bathed in the blue darkness of his second sight, aglow with cerulean. But Federico’s sight wasn’t poor enough that, this close, he didn’t see the occasional wisp of gold that rippled over Desmond’s being: from his shoulder to his hands, up his neck, across his face...

No, stop this...Desmond isn’t a target...Desmond isn’t my target…

Quickly, Federico abandoned his second sight, willing his heart to cease its racing.

If Desmond had noticed any of Federico’s distress, he chose not to comment on it. Instead, his only words were, “Cafe au lait.”

“What?” Federico blinked.

“Your eyes,” Desmond nodded, “They lighten to coffee with a splash of cream.”

He stared at the other man, “I...don’t know what that means…”

Desmond waved him off, “I’ll explain some other time. Right now, you got places to be, people to kill.”

Federico nodded, looking back to where Baroncelli was walking along the Firenze streets. The man he was going to kill…

“However you want to play this, I’ll shadow you.” Desmond said calmly, “But I won’t intervene unless you call for my help. This is your show now.”

He paid no mind to Desmond’s strange use of phrases, instead stepping to the edge of the rooftop to survey the scene before him. 

Baroncelli was a large man, disgustingly so. His movements were slow and sluggish, but they were still approaching the street below Federico’s perch. He could easily just wait until the man was below him and make the jump…

Federico examined the junction below his perch. Around one corner, there were a handful of shopkeepers still closing up their shops. At the other end of the street, a trio of guards were making their patrols. There was a chance he could kill Baroncelli out of either groups sight, but the window for success was too small, one error would find him at the gallows for murder.

No, he couldn’t make the jump. Not here.

A slow breath flowed in and out of Federico as he watched Baroncelli pass below him and continued on his path. He took a step to follow behind him on the rooftops.

“Ah, you’re forgetting something.” 

Federico stopped, looking back at Desmond, “ What?” He hissed, annoyance filling him. Desmond was supposed to shadow him, and shadows didn’t speak.

Desmond seemed to read his annoyance, and looked appropriately sheepish. He said nothing, instead reaching for Federico. The man’s callused fingers brushed against his collarbone and neck, and it was only when he felt the touch of fabric against his ears that he realized that Desmond had pulled Federico’s hood up for him.

“There.”  Desmond smiled, “Go get ‘em, tiger.”

Federico turned away quickly, lest he allow the other man to see his flushed cheeks, and returned his attention back to Baroncelli.

For several minutes, Federico merely followed the man from the rooftops, noting each street and alley had at least one other person present who could clearly see Baroncelli if Federico made his move. It was too risky, and Federico had to keep his nerves under control. Impatience was his enemy, and haste could spell his end.

And then, as if fortune was smiling down on him, Baroncelli turned from the streets to a more secluded alley. Unfortunately, the alley was on the other side of the street from Federico’s rooftop perch, and he had to make a snap decision: did he make a mad leap across the broad street, a leap he wasn’t sure he could make without drawing attention, or did he abandon his high ground and continue his pursuit on the ground?

His feet traveled down awnings and shipping crates before he had finished his thought, his boots finding easy purchase among the cobblestone once he was on the street. Despite how desperately he wanted to chase after Baroncelli, Federico kept his pace to a brisk walk, only once stepping around a group of women as they walked in front of him. Even as he was in the alley, Federico’s pace was controlled. Baroncelli was slow, and even Federico’s brisk walk was gaining ground on him.

But the alley was only so long, and even Baroncelli’s sluggish gait would reach the end of it soon. Did Federico rush for the man, risking being detected by his target and, even worse, giving the target a chance to cry for help? Could he clear the distance before the man could yell?

No, not yet.

A little bit closer.

But as Federico drew closer to Baroncelli, Baroncelli in turn came one step closer to the end of the alley, where Federico could hear the voices of potential witnesses. The window of opportunity was closing by the second, and Federico wasn’t sure when he would have such a perfect opportunity again.

He wouldn’t. He realized that now. It was now or never.

And never wasn’t an option.

Federico finally let loose his impulse to sprint at the man, closing the distance between him and Baroncelli rapidly. By the time Baroncelli heard enough to turn around, Federico was already close enough to see the alarm in his eyes, the way his mouth fell open, from shock or attempt to cry out, Federico wouldn’t find out.

He knew exactly where to drive his fist into the man’s fleshy form to stop a cry for help, the ancient blade surging forth.

Everything went white.

The alley melted away, Firenze melted away. There were no voices of potential witnesses, no chittering of birds overhead.

Everything was white.

Except for Baroncelli in his arms. 

The man’s girth made it impossible for Federico to hold him upright, and so he was forced to lay the man’s body down. Federico could feel Baroncelli’s blood beneath his hand: hot and sticky and so much of it..

I know who you are…”

Federico froze. No, that was impossible. He knew where he had struck Baroncelli, his blade drove home straight to his heart. The man should have been dead before he was on the ground.

And yet, as Federico looked at Baroncelli’s face, there was no mistaking the fact that the man was speaking to him.

“I know who you are…” Baroncelli repeated weakly, “ Assassin…”

The single word shook Federico to his core. Assassin. 

“But no… you can’t be the Assassin…”

“There is more than just one Assassin.” Federico found himself saying, “Just like there are more of you, Templar.”

“You cannot possibly hope to hunt us all down.” Baroncelli hacked a blood-filled cough, blood gushing down his chin to his chest.

“Where are your fellow conspirators?” Federico asked, unable to take his eyes away from the blood. So much blood…

“We meet under Santa Maria Novella…” Baroncelli’s voice was weaker now, his beady eyes losing focus, “ You cannot hunt us all…”

Baroncelli was still after that: no movement, no words, no movement, no surges of new blood over Federico’s hand. His eyes were open, but unseeing; his mouth lax, but silent.

The man was dead, and Federico had made him that way.

Slowly, Federico moved his hand, intent on finishing the job. Something twisted and boiled uncomfortably as he saw his own hand drenched in the other man’s now cooling blood, and his tongue felt too large for his mouth as he reached for Barconelli’s face.

“Req...requies--”

Federico’s stomach lurched.

A distant voice cut through the haze: “Into the gutter, into the gutter!”

In an instant, all of Firenze flooded back to Federico. And all of Federico’s stomach flooded onto the Firenze cobblestone. He was no longer kneeling over Baroncelli (or rather, Baroncelli’s body); instead he was on his hands and knees, retching and sputtering in the filthy gutter like some filthy drunkard.

A warm hand was at his back, moving in slow circles, “That’s it… get it all out…”

Federico flushed as he realized who was at his side, ashamed to look and see Desmond kneeling over him and comforting him like a child.

Desmond made no comment about Federico’s shame, the warmth of his hand moving to squeeze Federico’s shoulder, “Feel better now?”

He did, or at least the churning in his stomach had stopped. Dumbly, he nodded, moving to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand before he realized his hand was still covered in blood.

“You can clean your hand on Baroncelli’s clothes.” Desmond nodded back to Baroncelli’s body, “But first, you need to finish it.”

Federico nodded again, willing himself to stand with as much dignity as he could muster before he approached the body. There was a pool gathering around the large man now, the blood dark and thick. He crouched down by the man’s head, reaching for his eyes once more.

“Requiescat…” Federico took a deep breath, willing his nerves to settle as he closed the man’s eyes, “ in pace.”

He could feel Desmond standing next to him, the man’s calf brushing against his thigh, “Alright, let’s strip the body.”

Federico blinked, “What? Why?”

“Baroncelli wasn’t working alone.” Desmond nodded, “The moment they hear word that Baroncelli is dead from a stab wound, they’ll know it was Assassin work. If we strip him of his nobleman’s attire, it will be slightly more difficult for him to be identified. It won’t be much, but it will buy us some time.”

The man’s reasoning was sound, and thankfully, Desmond didn’t make Federio do the work himself. Together, they were able to rid the man of as much of his noticeable attire as they could before they were climbing out of the alley.

It was when they were several rooftops away that Federico came to a stop, whatever force that had been driving him had suddenly left him boneless as he fell to his knees once more.

He had just killed a man. He was still covered in the man’s blood, he was holding his stolen clothes.

And that dead man had spoken to him.

You cannot hunt us all…

It was Desmond’s warmth that told Federico that the man was at his side again, rather than Federico seeing or hearing him. His hand was on his shoulder once more, thumb rubbing circles into the meat of his shoulder.

“You want to talk about it?” Desmond asked softly.

No. Yes. He didn’t know. But how much more could he possibly lose, after Desmond had witnessed his utter failure earlier?

“He spoke to me.” Federico’s voice was a croak, “I killed him, I know I did...but he still spoke to me.”

Desmond’s eyes widened slightly at that, “Did the world go all white, and it was like only you and him were the only things in existence?”

He blinked, “Yes...you saw that?”

“No, I didn’t. To me, you went from lowering him to the ground to throwing up in a matter of seconds.” Desmond shook his head, “But I’m familiar with the phenomena happening to other Assassins during kills.”

“What is it?” Federico looked at Desmond, “Father never spoke about this happening.”

Desmond shrugged, “I’m not sure how exactly he would have talked to you about it. There’s no easy way to say ‘ Oh, by the way, your target might have some final words for you after you kill them, so get ready for that conversation.’”

Federico shivered at that, “I...will that happen every time?”

“No.” Desmond shook his head, “I’ve never had it happen when I killed during combat. Usually, when I see it happen, it’s with targets I’m specifically trying to assassinate.”

Slowly, Federico nodded, “So...what do you think it is?”

“If I had to hazard a guess,” The other man gave a low hum, “It’s the last shared heartbeat between Assassin and target.” He murmured, “The dead have one last chance to pass on what they know, and we have the duty to send them off in peace. Plus...I think it forces us to actually face our targets, and what we’ve done.”

Neither man said anything for a long while after that, both simply sitting as the sky grew darker. 

Finally, when Federico could take it no longer, he spoke, “I assume you will have to tell my father about my failure.”

“Failure?” Desmond raised an eyebrow.

“Please, don’t patronize me.” He shook his head. It was bad enough that Desmond had watched his shameful display, Federico couldn’t bear it if the man treated him like a child on top of it, “You saw everything…”

“I must not have seen everything, if I missed you killing an innocent.”

Federico snapped his head to look at Desmond, “What? I would never…”

“Oh, I see…” Desmond nodded in understanding, “Oh, okay, so you killed Baroncelli in the middle of the crowded streets with plenty of witnesses.”

Frowning, Federico shook his head, “No...you saw me kill him in the alley…”

Desmond hummed, “Oh, so that must mean you endangered me, your father, or your brother.”

“That doesn’t even make any sense, Ezio and father are nowhere near here, and you were in the shadows.” Federico rolled his eyes, “Are you daft?”

The other man didn’t answer Federico’s question, instead rubbing his chin in a faux pensive expression, “So let’s see…you stayed your blade from the innocent,” He raised a finger, “You hid in plain sight,” A second finger, “And you did not compromise the Brotherhood.” A third finger, “Huh...three tenants of the Creed...and you broke none of them. I’m not seeing a failure here.”

Federico scoffed, “I didn’t even have the stomach to finish the job…”

“You think you’re a failure because you threw up?” Desmond shook his head, “Jesus fucking Christ, Federico.”

The blasphemous outburst startled Federico, “ Scusi ?”

“Sorry, sorry.” Desmond gave a dismissive wave, “What I mean is… fuck, you throwing up at your first kill doesn’t make you weak or a failure, Federico. It makes you a fucking rational human being.”

Federico blinked, “I’ve been training for this for years…”

“I told you already, no amount of training prepares you for the feel of someone’s life blood gushing through your fingers, or the feel of their heart slowing and stopping under your hand. Nothing prepares you to watch the light go out in their eyes, or to hear their death-rattle, or the release of other bodily functions.” Desmond sighed, shaking his head as he rested his hand on Federico’s shoulder, “Death is never pretty, Federico. I don’t blame you for losing your lunch over it the first time seeing it up close. If anything, I would have been more concerned if you hadn’t been affected by it.”

Federico bit his lip, trying desperately not to relive those moments in Baroncelli’s death. Instead, his mind focused on Desmond’s hand, the warmth of it penetrating Federico’s many layers and burning hot against his skin. He should shrug off the other man’s touch, for Desmond’s own good. But he didn’t, selfishly soaking up the touch.

“Did you throw up after your first kill?” He found himself asking, unable to take his eyes off Desmond’s face.

Desmond sighed, looking out into the distance, “I don’t think my situation is comparable to yours.” He admitted, “My first kill was a combat situation. I had been held prisoner by some Templar forces, and a fellow Assassin helped me escape. It was...messy, and I’m sure I killed a few of them.”

Federico’s heart all but stopped at Desmond’s words. The image of Desmond in chains, at the mercy of the Templars… it turned his stomach, “That’s awful…”

“Yeah, I know.” Desmond nodded, “But we got out of it in one piece...and like I said, our situations aren’t comparable. I was in the heat of combat: kill or be killed, you know? I didn’t have time to think of them as individuals, all I could think about was getting out alive. And none of them triggered that ‘dying declaration’ scene that you had.”

“They really weren’t the same at all…” Federico murmured, turning his attention to his knees, “I don’t know if I could have gone through what you did…”

“I would say I hope you never do, but realistically, you will need to fight for your life sooner or later.” Desmond murmured, “And I’m sure you’d do just fine.”

Federico scoffed, “About as well as I handled Baroncelli…”

“Which was damn near perfect, Federico. You killed Baroncelli so quickly and quietly that we were able to strip the body without being detected. We didn’t have one damn witness, and the only evidence that we were there is one small puddle of vomit.” Desmond squeezed his shoulder tightly, “There are going to be plenty of people in the world who want to beat you down, they do not need you helping them.”

It was a blessing that Federico had his hood up, if only so he could hide the flush across his cheeks. Desmond barely knew him, yet he was speaking to him like they were intimate friends. And for all Federico knew the dangers of allowing Desmond too close, he couldn’t help but crave the companionship. Petruccio and Claudia had Ezio to depend on, and Ezio had him… Maybe for a few moments, Federico could have Desmond.

“You’re a good Assassin, Federico. And you’re only going to get better from here.” Desmond said softly, “But you need to prepare yourself for what comes next.”

Federico swallowed, looking at Desmond once more, “What comes next?”

“You’re going to have nightmares about Baroncelli.” Desmond sighed, “Some will have you waking up in a cold sweat, a few might even have you sick to your stomach. You might even find yourself trying to kill the person who wakes you up.”

The very thought of it made Federico’s stomach churn.

“It’s not going to last forever, and it does not mean you are weak.” Desmond continued, “But you gotta promise me something, Federico.”

Federico sighed, “And what’s that?”

“Promise me that you are not going to try and find solace in the bottom of a bottle.” Desmond’s voice was gentle, yet firm. “It’s going to be very tempting to tell yourself that you’re only drinking wine to help you sleep at night, to put you at ease. But once you’re on that path, it’s going to get to the point where you feel like you can’t make it through the day without several drinks under your belt. And that...that will kill you faster than a Templar blade.”

Federico groaned. He hadn’t even thought about getting absolutely drunk until Desmond mentioned it, and it was suddenly all he wanted to do. “That sounds like the voice of experience.”

“Trust me, I’ve seen more than my fair share of men and women drinking their lives away.” Desmond muttered.

The warmth of Desmond’s hand moved from his shoulder, drifting dangerously close to his cheek before Federico realized that Desmond was pulling his hood down. In that instant, Federico couldn’t help but feel exposed without his hood to hide his features.

“So, can you promise me that?”

Meeting Desmond’s gaze, Federico realized that he probably would have promised Desmond anything he asked for. “I promise…” He murmured.

“Good.” Desmond smiled, reaching up and ruffling his hair, “Now let’s get you home, it’s cold as fuck out here.”

With that, Desmond stood, extending his hand to Federico. Federico clasped Desmond’s hand in his own, feeling each and every callus against his own as the older man pulled him to his feet. 

There was a fleeting moment when Federico didn’t want to let go of Desmond’s hand, even as they stood chest to chest above the Firenze skyline. A fleeting moment when he wanted to say to hell with everything (he was going there anyway), and throw himself at Desmond. The man would surely snap his neck for the offense, but at least he would feel those warm hands against his throat.

It was a fleeting moment of madness.

But Federico still had a few tatters of self control left in his possession.

So he let go of Desmond’s hand.

“Here, give me Baoncelli’s clothes.” Desmond murmured, “I’ll find somewhere to get rid of them, or maybe Paola can find a good way to dispose of them.”

Federico passed what items of bloodied clothes he had to Desmond, “I...you should come with me back to the palazzo.” He murmured, before clearing his throat, “You’ve been in those clothes for two days now...you need fresh clothes.”

Desmond looked down at himself, “Yeah, I suppose so, I am a bit ripe…” He chuckled.

“I can have Annetta draw you a bath.” The words were out of Federico’s mouth before he could stop himself. Because the last thing Federico needed to deal with was Desmond bathing in the same house as him.

Desmond smiled, “Let’s focus on getting you home first. Also.” He held up a bloodied handkerchief, “This is yours to present to your father.”

Confused, Federico took the bloodied item. It was wadded up, but he could tell there was something wrapped in its folds, “I...thank you?”

“They’re Baroncelli’s, both of them.” Desmond nodded as Federico unfolded the handkerchief.

In the center of the blood-crusted fabric was a single ring. Baroncelli had been wearing numerous rings, but Federico didn’t need to be told why this ring was most important.

The red cross in the center of its metal surface told him everything he needed to know.

“Welcome to the Brotherhood, Federico.”

Chapter Text

 

The floor was littered with scraps of torn and crumpled paper. Supper lay untouched on the lone table, surrounded by broken pieces of charcoal and additional examples of discarded paper. The room was filled with distracted muttering, the occasional scritch of charcoal against paper, and the dueling light of a single candle and what beams of the near-full moon that had crept through the window shutters.

Leonardo ran a shaky hand through his hair, unsure when he had discarded his hat, and unable to bring himself to care. His fingers were stained dark, and he had several black streaks over his face and beard from thoughtless gestures. Not a single one of his commissions had been touched that day, Leonardo’s entire focus absorbed with his private sketchbook and capturing the vision in his mind to perfection.

So many tries, so many failures.

And yet, now…

Leonardo cautiously set aside his charcoal, his tired eyes admiring his work with renewed vigor.

To capture the basic features of Ezio Auditore was no difficult task for Leonardo. Strong, square jaw, prominent nose, high cheekbones, wisps of full hair framing his brow and face. If Leonardo was to do a basic portrait of the young man to hang on some faceless noble’s wall, he could possibly put together something adequate.

Leonardo didn’t want adequate.

He needed perfection.

He needed to capture the fond smile that had curled in the corners of Ezio’s full lips, undisturbed by the fresh wound that cut through his flesh. He needed to see the glow that warmed the young man’s countenance.

He needed to see the endless mystery held within his eyes…

There was no telling how long Leonardo stared down at his finished sketch, how long it had taken him to reclaim his captured breath, how long it was before he could tear himself away from the vision of charcoal and paper.

It had been only the briefest of meetings. Leonardo had only met Ezio Auditore once, only spoken to him for a few minutes, and yet he found himself reduced to Pygmalion obsession.

When Leonardo looked back to the sketch, his eyes met the monochromatic eyes of Ezio Auditore, and felt himself pulled hours back in time.

I’m afraid a mystery will have to be all for now.”

Leonardo should not have been surprised to find the Auditore name as an intimate lover with mystery and intrigue. Even from that first encounter all those months ago…

 

They couldn’t risk meeting too regularly, not with L’ufficio della Notte prowling the streets hunting them down. None of them were eager to lose their testicles, or worse.

Their social circle knew all too well the risks of them meeting. And yet, every so often, they’d meet for a night of drinking and gambling in the back room of La Rosa Colta.

The bets were always minimal. The drinks, hardly touched.

Older men would observe younger men, and the young men would observe back. There would be the occasional brush of hands, touches that lingered too long while passing drinks or dice. A hand would rest on another man’s thigh. A mumbled excuse to leave the table with another, saying they’d ‘be back shortly.’ They wouldn’t be back, but none found it rude.

Leonardo hadn’t been to the table in quite some time, so busy trying to prove himself to the various patrons who sought his work, to keep himself fed with his talents.

But now, Leonardo could admit he was lonely, and craved a bit of company, even if only for the night. If it developed into something a bit more regular...well, that would be an early birthday present to himself.

The young man in the seat next to Leonardo was unfamiliar to him, and judging by the bow of his head, the nibble of his bottom lip, the bounce of his knee, the youth was uneasy.

“First time?” Leonardo asked gently, tossing dice onto the table without care if it was a winning roll.

The young man spared him a quick glance, his dark eyes nervous. A shaky, fragile smile tugged at one corner of his mouth.  “That obvious?”

“I’d remember you if I saw you before.” Leonardo gave him a warm smile. An honest smile to go with his honest statement. The young man was lovely to look at: soft features, dark eyes and hair completely uncovered by any sort of hat. The only mar on his looks was the small scar over the bridge of his nose. But even that didn’t detract from his beauty; Leonardo certainly would have been pleased to have him be his model.

But that was not why they were there that night.

The young man blushed, looking down once more, “I...maybe this was a mistake…” He whispered.

Leonardo rested a hand on the other man’s, “It’s alright...you’re among friends.”

The other bit his lip, “I just… I’m unsure what I feel…”

“You’re not alone.” Leonardo gave his hand a gentle squeeze before returning to the game, though he’d be lying if he didn’t keep his eye on the beautiful young man beside him.

The other man never shied away when Leonardo brushed against him.

His breath hitched slightly when Leonardo rested his hand on his upper thigh. They shared a look, and the younger man gave a shy nod.

“We’ll be right back.” Leonardo murmured as the two of them stood.

He shouldn’t have brought him back to his workshop, but Leonardo craved the comfort of his own bed, the privacy of his own space, if only so he could take his sweet time in undressing the younger man and laying him on his bed. Here, there would be no interruptions as they shared soft, tentative kisses that drew longer with each passing breath. Here, Leonardo could ease the younger man’s fears, prepare him properly for their forbidden pleasures.

They shouldn’t have exchanged names, if only for their own protection, so they could not be used against the other. But the words escaped from behind their swollen lips, danced from one tongue to another to caress the other’s ear.

They shouldn’t have fallen asleep together in the afterglow of their act. But Leonardo couldn’t help but enjoy the warm body curled up against his chest.

 

If Leonardo had known what would happen next, he was sure he would have avoided the young man and his pretty face entirely, if not avoid the gambling table entirely.

The next morning, Leonardo had been woken by city guards pounding on his door. Calling for his arrest for the crime of sodomy. Leonardo had barely blinked sleep from his eyes before he watched his bedfellow bolt out of bed. He urged the younger man to make his escape, but even he was surprised to see how gracefully his temporary lover could grab his clothes and climb out the window and up to the roofs above, vanishing into the morning light.

He had only been able to marvel for a moment before the guards were upon him, hauling him to an unforgiving jail cell.

The days and nights Leonardo had spent in that cell were nothing short of a nightmare. He knew what lay in store for him: if the courts were ‘merciful,’ he would be castrated; if not, he was destined for the gallows.

His guards knew this too, and never let Leonardo forget it.

That should have been the end of it: either his life or his reputation…

 

The guards had pulled him from his cell in the middle of the night, sparing no chance to sneer at him. Leonardo didn’t bother asking what was happening or where he was going; he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know.

Yet instead, Leonardo found himself led to a comfortable looking room, one that spoke of class and money.

And Leonardo was not alone.

The man standing across from him seemed unassuming at first glance. Slender in build, dressed with the modest wealth of a successful businessman. His light brown hair, uncovered by any sort of hat, reached his slender jawline to frame his long, narrow face. His fingers long and nimble.

It was only when Leonardo met the man’s gaze that he realized the truth. For all the airs of nobility about him, Leonardo could see death in the man’s eyes.

“Leonardo...da Vinci.” The man’s voice was collected and calm, though Leonardo could hear the judgement about his lack of family name. “The artist...and the sodomite.”

Leonardo didn’t flinch at the man’s words, though it was a near thing. If this was to be his sham trial, he would not give his judge the satisfaction.

The man raised an eyebrow, amused, as he began to cross the room, “You’ve done quite a bit of work for notable families in Firenze… it would be a shame to ruin such a reputation so early in your promising career.”

It wasn’t long before the man was standing before Leonardo, pinning him in place with the steady gaze of his death. “I’ll get straight to business, shall I?” He asked, though Leonardo knew he did not require an answer, “There are several families who would be...embarrassed by the news of your crimes. Such embarrassment would preferably be avoided, so the courts are willing to offer you a deal— to make the charges...go away.”

The thought of freedom made Leonardo’s heart jump into his throat, but he desperately tried to keep his expectations low. There was always a catch, a price to be paid. It could very well be that death would be preferable to what the man was about to offer him.

“I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume you were the...assertive party.” The man continued, “Easy to explain away a man of your age having too much to drink and looking for...companionship in the wrong company. However, the courts are far more concerned with those who would willingly allow themselves to be sodomized. A despicable act… all you need to do is identify your partner.”

Leonardo swallowed heavily at that. Was this what happened to every man facing the sodomy charge: save yourself by turning in another? His gut twisted at the thought.

“Just a name will do.”

A name. What a deceptively simple thing to say. A single word to save himself and condemn another.

“I never learned his name.” He murmured.

But that was a lie, wasn’t it? Leonardo knew his young lover’s name from their time together. How easy would it be to just...say it.

The man eyed Leonardo with a knowing smirk, “You’re a terrible liar, do you know that?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Leonardo insisted, trying to avert his gaze.

The other man was not having it, though, as he grabbed Leonardo by his jaw, his elegant fingers betraying an iron grip, “You should think very carefully about your situation, Leonardo. I am giving you a chance to avoid the gallows…” 

Something cold scrapped against Leonardo’s collarbone and up his throat, causing Leonardo to stiffen. When had the man drawn a knife?

“All you need to do is give me his name, and you can walk out of here.”

It was just a name, right? It wasn’t even like Leonardo had his full name to give him, they couldn’t possibly find the young man based on that, right?

But then Leonardo thought of the shy young man who had seemed so frightened of his attractions, and just how much trust he had placed in Leonardo during their one night together. How, as the older partner, Leonardo had that much more power over his younger lover. 

“I never learned his name.”

Even in his most selfish moments, Leonardo could never bring himself to ruin a young man’s life, never mind condemn it.

The man stared at him for a long while, the death in his eyes searching Leonardo down to his very quick.

Then, the man smiled.

“Discretion is an admirable quality in this day and age.” He said calmly, “As is loyalty. It will serve you well to remember that, Leonardo.”

He stepped away from Leonardo then as if nothing had happened. Leonardo was surprised to find there was no trace of the blade that had just been at his throat and, if he had not felt the metal against his skin, he might have been convinced it had never been there in the first place.

Leonardo never got a chance to question the man about what he meant by his statement, or even find out who he was, as the guards returned to bring him back to his cell. He spent the rest of the night pacing his cell, wondering if he had just made a horrific mistake.

Yet, as dawn rose, new guards came to unlock his cell door.

“No evidence” they said. 

“Witnesses won’t come forward, no trace of them” they said. 

“Charges have been dropped.”

Leonardo was numb as he was led out of the prison, unable to believe he was truly awake. Even as he made his first few steps out of the prison without the guards at his side, or chains around his wrists, he kept waiting for someone to run him through or some cruel laugh to cut through his last wisp of hope.

It was only when the prison doors had closed behind Leonardo after his exit that he realized he was being watched. 

His eyes drifted up, heart leaping into his throat as he saw the figure of a man  staring down at him. Although the man was shrouded in a white hood, Leonardo could tell that the man’s eyes were full of death.

And he was smiling.

But the most troubling part of it all was the fact that, at the man’s side...was the shy young man Leonardo had refused to identify.

 

Leonardo hadn’t put together the entire picture until several weeks later (weeks of very little sleep and jumping at every sudden noise), when Madonna Maria had come to him to commission several paintings from him. It had been a pleasant conversation, and the woman hadn’t seemed concerned with his previous arrest. 

But then she had spoken of her eldest son and his work with his father.

And then, at the end of her visit, she had been greeted by a man Leonardo had seen before, though the death in his eyes was replaced by adoration for Madonna Maria.

That had been the first time Leonardo truly understood that the Auditore family was a mysterious, and possibly dangerous, one.

And the events of the past day had only served as a vivid reminder. 

Leonardo wasn’t sure how the man who had been with Giovanni that morning played into the family. He doubted he was another son, he knew Federico was the eldest son, and this man seemed older than him. Perhaps some other kin to Giovanni.

Only the evening before, the stranger had looked at Leonardo with such fondness that it had disarmed Leonardo from seeing the inherent danger about the man.

And the fondness was nothing compared to the look held within the eyes of Ezio Auditore.

Blinking, Leonardo quickly grabbed the nearest piece of unsullied paper, groping for the closest bit of charcoal to scribble down his thoughts.

Ezio Auditore + The Stranger

What is the connection? What do they know?

There was something the two of them knew something that others didn’t, something even Giovanni didn’t seem to be privy to. And somehow, it involved him in some way.

Leonardo bit his lip as he remembered the intensity behind Ezio’s gaze as they talked about purpose and shaping the world around them, a flush creeping up his neck and cheeks. There was no way the younger man could have possibly known Leonardo’s true feelings about his trade; even he had only just given such emotions concrete thoughts.

The charcoal danced across the page:

Ezio -> does know me better that I know myself. How?

Because Ezio was lying when he claimed he didn’t know Leonardo better than he knew himself, hadn’t he? He had dressed up the lie with lovely flattery, and Leonardo had been taken in by it in that moment.

Leonardo groaned, running his hand through his hair. Ezio was seventeen, according to conversations with Maria. Seventeen, and he looked at him with such unabashed…

Want.

Because that was it, wasn’t it? There was want in Ezio Auditore’s eyes. Perhaps not wholly sexual or romantic...but even Leonardo was not that naive.

“The Auditore men will be the death of me…” He murmured.


The streets of Firenze were nearly empty at the late hour, the moon overhead the only witness of the city’s movements. Most of the honest citizens were in their beds, oblivious to the goings on in the shadows.

The man walked through the streets with purpose, keeping to the less open areas. It was never good to be seen coming from il Magnifico’s dwelling at such a late hour. Especially on his way to his destination.

Sforza was dead, a great blow to the Medici’s power. And now everything was in place for the next stage of their attack, the last piece before taking out the Medici family permanently.

They just had to wait for Lorenzo to leave Firenze, and they would move. 

The man had been so focused on his next task that he failed to notice a second shadow cast by the near full moon.

But not so focused that he didn’t feel the cool kiss of metal against his throat.

“Let’s walk.”

He could barely comprehend what was happening before he was being ushered away from the street and into the secluded side alley. This made no sense, Giovanni wouldn’t attack him like this. But no, this wasn’t Giovanni, was it.

“What are--”

“Let’s not ask stupid questions, alright? I’ve had a long day, and I’m on a bit of a time crunch.”

He grit his teeth at the stranger’s words, coming to a sharp halt. He would not move another step, blade or no.

The stranger didn’t seem the least bit annoyed, “Fine, we’ll do this here.” He leaned forward, whispering in the man’s ear, “In case you were wondering, there’s no information I need to pump from you. I already know all about your little plot with the Pazzi family.”

The blade moved away from his throat, “And don’t worry, I won’t cut your throat.”

The man blinked, hand touching where the blade had been as the barest hints of relief began to trickle in.

“After all, it would be a bitch to get the blood stains out of your robes.”

A firm hand cradled his jaw while the other cupped the back of his head. Breath was hot against his ear as the stranger spoke one final time.

“Would this be a bad time to say “Forgive me father, for I have sinned?””

There was a sudden twist, a sharp crack, and the whole world melted away to whiteness.


Federico had gotten through the first night rather well, in Ezio’s opinion.

While Ezio had no idea what had actually occurred during his brother’s first assassination, there was no mistaking the look in his brother’s eyes when he had sat down for supper that night. Baroncelli was dead, and his brother was his killer. 

Federico must have changed clothes and washed up in the secret room, because Ezio saw no evidence of the bloody deed on his brother’s hands or clothes. But Ezio had seen it in Federico’s eyes and heard it in his voice.The light in Federico’s eyes had dimmed ever so slightly, and Ezio knew that, while Federico may recover from the shock and horror of what he had just done, it would never be as bright as before his first killing. For the time being, Federico had been quiet, speaking only when responding-- though he had taken longer than usual for him to reply to Annetta, declining her offer to fill his wine glass.

No one had paid Federico much mind over supper, as the focus of attention that night was Claudia and her broken engagement, not to mention Ezio’s involvement in the debacle. Ezio was more than willing to play the role of overprotective and indignant big brother (even if he was scolded for it), if only to see Federico smile at his retelling of the tale.

But that hadn’t stopped Ezio from staying up after the lights had gone out, and the family had retired for the night. He knew better than to simply fall asleep.

 

It had only been a few hours when Ezio first heard it. It was soft, and if Ezio hadn’t been sitting with his back against the wall shared with his brother’s bedroom, he might have missed it. But he knew what to listen for.

A muted thud of foot meeting footboard, the rustle of blankets being tossed in fitful sleep. Ezio couldn’t hear it through the wall, but he was sure that there was erratic breathing as well. With a sigh, Ezio stood, taking the candle from his bedside as he made the slow walk to Federico’s room.

Federico had never been an active sleeper from what Ezio could remember, usually waking in the same position he fell asleep in, so seeing his brother’s bed in such disarray as he entered the bedroom would have been enough evidence to Ezio of his brother’s distress, even if Ezio hadn’t already been expecting as much. Federico was on his stomach, his breaths coming in short pants. Every so often, Ezio could see his brother’s hand tighten to a fist and jerking deeper into the thick bedding.

Carefully, Ezio set the candle on the nightstand, making sure the room had as much light as possible. He put one knee on the bed across from his brother, carefully laying one hand on Federico’s shoulder, and the other on his hip. Federico didn’t react to his touch, which Ezio decided to take as a good sign that he wasn’t easily startled.

With that, Ezio gave his brother a firm, full body nudge, backing off from the bed immediately after.

Which, it turned out, was prudent, as Federico’s clenched fist shot to where Ezio had been just a moment before. Federico’s knuckles were nearly as white as his widening eyes, and for a moment, he was frozen in place.

“Federico,” Ezio said softly, “You’re in your bedroom. You’re safe.”

Federico quickly withdrew his trembling fist, “Ezio…” He whispered, “What are you…”

“You were having a nightmare.” Ezio nodded, sitting once more on the edge of the bed.

“I’m sorry if I woke you…” Federico murmured, pushing himself up onto his elbows, “You can go back to bed…”

Ezio shook his head, moving to sit with his back against Federico’s headboard, “I’m more concerned with you, brother.” He said softly, “Do you want to talk about it?”

Federico shook his head, but was moving to sit up regardless, “I shouldn’t burden you with my troubles--”

“You are my brother, Federico.” Ezio interrupted, “And now I know the family secret. If I can’t fight by your side, at least let me be a sympathetic ear.” Ezio would not let his older brother hide from him out of shame or misplaced belief that he had to protect Ezio. They would fight this world together, and protect each other.

Federico bit his lip, sitting side by side with Ezio once more. Neither said anything  for several moments, allowing the silence to linger. Ezio could remember a few of his recruits who were much the same way, both in Roma and Constantinopli-- they didn’t want to talk, but they appreciated someone sitting with them through the night after their first kill. Beatrice, who hadn’t moved so much as an inch until dawn; Stefano, who had rivers of tears down his cheeks that neither of them acknowledged… 

So far in the past, yet still in the future…

“I killed tonight, Ezio.”

Ezio looked at his brother, nodding, “I...guessed as much...do you want to talk about it?” He asked gently.

“I…” Federico closed his eyes for a moment, “He spoke to me, after he died.”

Ezio listened to his brother’s account of Baroncelli’s death, and while as a Mentor, he was impressed by the precision of the kill, as a brother, he sympathized with the haunted look in Federico’s eyes.

“He said that there was no way I could hunt them all down.” Federico murmured, “I know I shouldn’t allow such things to shake me but...I can’t help but wonder if all the training I’ve done with father, everything I’ve learned… will it really matter in the long run?”

If Federico had spoken only about the horrors of a body in death, Ezio could have easily soothed him. That, he was used to. But of course, Federico was asking the hard questions. Questions that perhaps even Desmond didn’t know the answer to.

“The alternative is to not even try.” Ezio sighed, “To just...give up.”

Federico shook his head, “That is no alternative.”

“Then it matters.” He smiled softly, nudging him with his shoulder, “If to no one else, then it matters to you.”

His brother looked at him for a moment, brow drawn in concentration. “Who are you, and what have you done to my idiot brother?”

Ezio stifled a laugh, “Much has changed about the two of us in the past day, hasn’t it?”

Federico sighed, “So much for not allowing life to not change us…”

“There are still some things we can remain unchanged.” Ezio said softly, “We will always be brothers, and we are Auditore. We will be loyal until the bitter end, no matter the odds. My blade is yours, and yours is mine.”

“You don’t have a blade yet.” Federico mused, “Though I never figured you for a poet, Ezio…”

“I have a hidden appreciation for art.” Ezio smiled. Or at least a hidden appreciation for an artist.

Federico rolled his eyes, shifting his pillows to get comfortable. Ezio followed suit, shoulder to shoulder with his brother.

The silence in the room was heavier than before, and it lingered uncomfortably. It took his years of experience for Ezio not to fill the silence with inane chatter. Other times, maybe, but not on a night like this.

A long, shaky breath escaped Federico, “You were right, you know.” He whispered.

Ezio blinked, “Right?”

“Last night...at the top of the church tower.” Federico bit his lip, staring straight ahead, “I…”

He nodded slowly, gently taking his brother’s hand in his own. He said nothing, simply listening.

“I am…” Federico’s voice was thick as he spoke, “I am a… a sodomite.”

Ezio took a slow breath, taking care to lace his fingers with his brother’s, “Federico,” He said softly, “you are my brother. Your choice in lover, or who calls to your heart, changes nothing. Not between us.”

Finally, Federico looked back at Ezio, and Ezio had to resist the urge to pull his brother into a tight embrace, if only because he feared he would not let him go.

“How can you be so...accepting?” Federico frowned, genuinely confused.

“Federico, last night father told me about our family’s secret life as assassins.You preferring men seems...mild in comparison.” Ezio murmured,

Federico shook his head, “There’s nothing mild about it...I could hang, Ezio.”

And didn’t Ezio know that all too well, “We all could, brother...for various crimes.” He whispered, “You might as well love while you can...we are not guaranteed tomorrow.”

His brother sighed, resting his head against Ezio’s shoulder, “Last time I… met someone, I almost got arrested, and they were almost killed.”

There was a story to that, Ezio could tell, but he also knew that his brother had already laid bare a great deal of his soul already, “Well perhaps you need to find someone who can take care of themselves…I’ll put that on my list for your perfect lover.”

Federico gave a faint chuckle, and Ezio took that as a good sign.

Ezio spent several minutes discussing his hypothetical list of his brother’s potential lovers: ranging from the absurd (“He’ll need to be completely dim, if he’s going to be stuck with you”) to the genuine (“He should be able to protect you and have your back”). Federico had given his input on each item, albeit quietly through hums and grunts, never letting go of Ezio’s hand.

It was only when Ezio felt his brother’s body go completely lax against his side that he realized that, against all odds, Federico had fallen back asleep.

A small smile tugged at Ezio’s scarred lip. Slowly, he eased Federico further into bed until he was laying on his back.

“Sogni d’oro, fratello mio.” Ezio carefully covered Federico with the blankets on the bed before getting up.

Federico gave only the faintest of noises, a sigh more than anything else, but Ezio had been close enough to hear the single word that had escaped his brother’s lips.

“Desmond.”

Sweet dreams, indeed.

 

Ezio had slept lightly enough to know Federico had slept soundly through the rest of the night, and for that, he was grateful. His brother deserved a bit of peace and happiness in the midst of all their ugly business.

Seeing Federico smiling at the breakfast table, gently teasing Petruccio about his little treasure box, filled Ezio with a great deal of relief.

“It is about time you got up, Ezio.” Their mother chided gently as Annetta served him.

Ezio shrugged, “What can I say? The dreams were simply too good to leave.”

Petruccio wrinkled his nose at his words, a silent ‘ew’ forming on his lips, and Ezio had to stifle a snort. He had forgotten that his baby brother was entering his teen years, where everything could be misconstrued toward the debauched. And now, he realized, it would be on him alone to teach Petruccio the wonders of women.

His mother paid Petruccio no mind if she had noticed his expression, “Your father left you and Federico both several errand he would like you to run.” She nodded, “And the sooner you begin, the better.”

“Has father already gone to the bank?” Ezio frowned. Surely he hadn’t slept in that late, if everyone was still eating breakfast. 

“He had to leave on important business.” She replied, resigned, “He left before dawn.”

Ezio’s heart stopped.

No. No, it couldn’t be.

Surely his father hadn’t been sent to Roma. Not when the letter had already been deciphered by Leonardo…

But even as Ezio tried to deny it to himself, he could feel the truth instinctively. 

It was only a matter of hours before Alberti would tear the Auditore family apart, and his father was on his way to face the Grandmaster of the Templar Order.

Chapter Text

Desmond had figured that Giovanni would end up going to Roma regardless of if the letter was translated or not. Because Lorenzo was nothing if not thorough-- he was never going to be content with a letter containing names involved in the plot against him, he wanted to know the source and crush it himself.

But damn it if things wouldn’t have been easier if they didn’t have to worry about Giovanni being exhausted from his fight against Borgia. But Desmond couldn’t allow himself to be too caught up in the things he could not control. 

He had to focus on what variables he could still manipulate to his, and the Auditore’s, advantage.

Desmond was surprised to learn just how true the old notion of “just act like you belong” really was, as he walked the halls of the Medici stronghold in the dawn hour. Of course, it probably helped that the guards were used to seeing a monk around the Palazzo Medici.

So glad I didn’t stab Maffei.

It was weird, entering a room from an interior door in broad daylight, but Desmond banished the thought before he could ponder it too long. He had to focus on the man in front of him.

Lorenzo was at his desk, as Desmond expected he would be, the furrow in his brow the only response to the intrusion to his office.

“This had better be important.”  His voice was calm, but only an idiot would miss the annoyance and warning laced between his words.

Desmond smirked, “I’m sure the plot against you is somewhat important.”

At the sound of Desmond’s voice, Lorenzo jerked his head upright. Confusion on seeing Desmond in Maffei’s robes lasted only a moment before he spoke again, “You are either quite bold or quite stupid to come here.”

“You and I both know it's the former.” Desmond nodded, pulling back his hood.

“Where is Father Maffei?” The older man frowned.

Desmond only gave him a smirk, moving to his desk and setting down a single ring.

Lorenzo, to his credit, did not need the words to understand Desmond’s meaning, “So Maffei is dead. And Baroncelli?”

He nodded, “Of course. But I didn’t come to report to you.” He carefully picked up Maffei’s Templar ring, “Nor did I come to question you about sending Giovanni to Roma.”

The nobleman frowned, “How could you have possibly--”

“Because you trust me about as far as you can throw me, of course you’d send Giovanni to double check.” Desmond rolled his eyes, “But that is neither here, nor there. I want to talk to you about what comes next.”

The man was staring at Desmond, his fingers steepled under his chin, “And what, pray tell, is that supposed to mean?”

Desmond smiled, “Well, in just a few moments, a courier is going to deliver an ‘important missive’ to you. A missive that is going to demand your presence outside of Firenze.”

Lorenzo opened his mouth to question Desmond further, but it was that moment that a knock sounded at the door. It was easy enough for Desmond to find cover behind one of the numerous bookshelves in the office, no doubt the courier never even noticed there had been a second man in the room. And by the time Desmond stepped out of the shadows and back to Lorenzo’s side, the other man was already reading the missive intently.

“Well?” Desmond asked as he leaned over the other man’s shoulder.

To Lorenzo’s credit, he didn’t jump or start at Desmond’s sudden presence, though he did tilt the paper away from his eyes, “Sforza’s gonfaloniere has written on behalf of the family in regards to Galeazzo’s funeral in the next few days.”

“You trust it?”

“You believe it a forgery?” The other man seemed more annoyed than anything else.

“I believe it oddly convenient that you’re being called away from your city and guards mere days after your ally was killed.” Desmond nodded, “Tell me, when you are absent from Firenze, who carries out your wishes on your behalf?”

Lorenzo didn’t answer, but then again, he didn’t need to. He already had, when he spoke of Sforza and who wrote for him now in the wake of his death.

“The moment I leave the city, Alberti will have free reign over my court.” The older man sighed, his shoulders slumping, “I cannot leave the city until this conspiracy has been flushed out and dealt with.” He murmured. “I shall have to send my regards and condolences via courier.”

“I’ve got a better idea of what we should do.” Desmond smirked, leaning forward.

Lorenzo glared at him, “Give me one good reason why I should trust such an arrogant upstart?”

“I’ll give you the only reason you care about.” Desmond replied, his voice low as he was nearly eye to eye with the other man, “Are you really prepared to gamble Giovanni’s life on whether or not you can handle this conspiracy on your own?”

There was a wary spark in Lorenzo’s eye at Desmond’s words, “I have no idea what you mean to imply--”

“I’m not implying anything.” Desmond shook his head, “But whatever this...thing you have with Giovanni,” He gave a vague wave at the words, “is clearly special, and incredibly delicate.”

“And I suppose only you are capable of resolving this ordeal?” Lorenzo sneered, “How long do you really expect me to capitulate to your demands?”

Desmond decided not to comment on the irony of Lorenzo’s words, instead giving him his best smile, “Not long. By this time tomorrow, we can have the city painted red with the blood of your enemies. I’ll even let you pick out if you want their heads on pikes or platters.” He couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought, “Now...the plan.”


 

Federico didn’t like it: Father being sent to Roma so soon after uncovering the plot against il Magnifico and their family. No doubt it had something to do with il Magnifico’s plans to unravel the conspiracy, but it still made Federico uneasy. Whatever was going to happen, it was going to happen soon. He could feel it.

Ezio seemed to be feeding off of his unease, given how he watched the skyline like a sentry as they went about their father’s errands for the day.

“Keep an eye out,” Federico murmured as he passed one of his father's messages to his thief contact.

“So the usual then?” The contact smirked, then nodded to Ezio, “Baby brother in on the game now too?”

“To a degree, yes.” Federico nodded, “But I fear there’s something amiss in the city. Have you noticed anything concerning?”

The thief raised an eyebrow, considering, “The guards aren’t on their normal rotation or patrols. Me and the boys were going to consider it good luck, but if something’s a brewin’ we may just keep our fingers to ourselves today.”

Federico frowned at that. Why would the city guards be on a different patrol today? “If you could send my regards to La Volpe, I would appreciate it.”

“Of course.” The thief gave him a curt nod before slipping away into the folds of the city below.

With a sigh, Federico turned his attention back to Ezio, “What exactly are you looking for, Ezio?”

Ezio looked back at Federico and Federico could have sworn that he saw a flash of gold in his brother’s eyes, “I’m trying to find Desmond…”

Federico blinked, “Were you just using your second sight?” 

“I...yes…” Ezio admitted, and Federico could only stare at his brother. He couldn’t fathom how his brother had mastered his second sight so quickly and without any guidance a mere day after learning about the Assassin way. 

“You’ve been blessed with a strong second sight.” Federico murmured, refusing to lower himself to envy his younger brother. He had always known that Ezio would be a strong Assassin, he just hadn't anticipated just how quickly he would master everything. “Your eyes are almost as strong as Desmond’s.”

Ezio at least had the decency to take the compliment with grace, “Thank you...though it does not seem to be helping me locate Desmond.”

“We can head to La Colta Rosa .” Federico nodded, then, at Ezio’s bewildered expression, he clarified, “Father arranged for Desmond to stay in one of the empty beds.”

“Ah, that...that makes sense.” Ezio conceded, “I had wondered where he had been staying…”

Federico shrugged, making his way back down to the streets, “Hopefully, if Desmond is not still there enjoying the beds and girls, Paola will have some idea where he might have gone.”

“While I highly doubt Desmond to be the type to be distracted by the courtesans, perhaps we will be lucky.” Ezio nodded, keeping close to Federico’s side.

He couldn’t help but agree with Ezio’s assessment of Desmond. The man hardly seemed like the type to allow any vice to deter him from his given task, but then again, given the solitary nature of his life as an Assassin, it could very well be that Desmond had yet to find what his vice was.

Or perhaps, Federico mused, the man had found his vice years ago, and went out of his way to avoid it. Desmond certainly had strong thoughts about drink, perhaps he had lost himself in the bottle for a while before he regained his strength.

Though, if Federico was being honest, he was sure he was simply trying to imagine Desmond with a vice simply for his own comfort. Some sort of flaw to put a damper on this thrice damned infatuation of his.

Federico was jerked from his thoughts as Ezio quite forcefully pulled him into an alley, pressing them both up against the while behind a vendor's crates.

“What are you—“ Federico’s words were cut off as his brother pressed his hand against his mouth.

Only moments later did Federico hear the heavy pattern of rapid footfall and the clatter of armor.

“Damn it, where did those two brats go?”

“They can’t have gone far.”

“Spread out. And remember, rough ‘em up if you must, but they need to be arrested alive.”

Federico’s heart froze at that. Arrested? Them? No, that was impossible, there was no way il Magnifico would arrest anyone in their family, he simply would not allow it. 

But hadn’t that been the entire point of Desmond’s warning? That Templar were within the Medici court, perhaps even with enough influence to control the city guard.

The city guard that now wanted him and Ezio in prison.

“We need to go.” Ezio hissed, pulling Federico by his wrist down the alley until he was satisfied with the pace he was keeping.

If he weren’t preoccupied by the current situation, Federico might have spared more time to ponder Ezio’s natural grace with Assassin skills, despite the fact he had not actually begun his training yet.

But Federico couldn’t think on such things. He had to focus on the twist and turns of the Firenze alleyways, passages that Federico had long since committed to memory in case of such an occasion.

Perhaps it was because of Ezio’s speed, or Federico’s wandering mind, that gave Federico a good view of his brother as he ran behind him. As such, it was obvious to him when a shadow fell over Ezio’s form.

“Look out!” Federico did the only thing he could think of: grabbing his brother by his collar and roughly pulling him back.

Ezio was still staggering back to Federico’s side when the large form of a guard dropped into the space where Ezio had just been running into. The guard swore at landing on the hard ground rather than a somewhat soft seventeen year old. Either way, Federico was not about to allow the man to recover.

His arm was around the man’s neck before he could even think about it, ignoring the guards grunted protests. When he tried to stand to fight off Federico’s hold, he kicked out the man’s knees, squeezing all the tighter against his throat. Only when he stopped struggling did Federico allow his body to drop to the stones.

He couldn’t dwell on if the man was dead or not. In the time that he had spent choking the man, more guards were upon them. 

Federico grabbed at the fallen guard’s sword, tossing it to Ezio, “Defend yourself as best you can!”

Ezio did not miss a step, catching the sword just in time to bring it up against an incoming attack aimed at his gut.

Everything seemed to move in a blur after that. He grabbed the dagger in his boot, locking it with another guard’s sword just long enough for him to drive his first into the man’s neck.

The dagger went to the next attacker where the thigh met the torso.

He twisted another guard’s sword from his grasp before slamming his head against the stone wall.

Another guard tried to attack him from behind. Federico ducked under his guard to drive his dagger into the soft flesh of his underarm.

Federico tried to keep track of Ezio, but when his vision was filled with the figures of men trying to kill him, he often could only spare his brother the occasional passing glance.

It was the sudden heavy clang and the sound of his brother cursing that forced Federico to turn his attention to Ezio. A swear of his own soon fell from his lips.

A heavily armored guard had his arms wrapped around Ezio, the blade of his ax pressed against his younger brother’s throat.

“Drop the weapon!” The guard all but bellowed at Federico.

For a moment, Federico considered rushing the guard. But no, Federico had no clear shot at any of the few vulnerable points in the guard’s armor, and even if he did, there was no guarantee that he could kill the man before he hurt or killed Ezio.

Gritting his teeth, Federico allowed his dagger to fall from his hand with a clatter on the stones below. He kept his hands aloft, glaring at the guard threatening his brother.

“Don’t get any dumb ideas, boy.” The guard snarled, and Federico would have liked nothing more than to rip the man’s arms off for harming and threatening Ezio. He was sure his father would have done the same in his position. “You’re already in a heap of trouble, let’s not make it any worse. Come along now, and keep those hands where I can see them.”

Federico began to slowly make his way to the guard, his hands raised to shoulder level. He could feel the still foreign weight around his left wrist, and resisted the urge to ball his hand into a fist. He kept his eyes on the guard, barely able to make out his eyes through his visor.

But Federico had not spent three years under his father’s tutelage to become anything if not observant. he could see the direction the guard was looking, his focus on Federico’s right hand— his sword hand.

His pace quickened, closing the gap between himself and the guard holding Ezio. It wouldn’t be enough to be quick, he’d have to be precise as well. It was like an echo of Baroncelli, though there was far more at stake should Federico fail.

The guard seemed wary of Federico’s speed, as he adjusted his hold on Ezio, “Don’t try anything stupid.”

Funny, that was exactly what Federico had in mind, as his right hand reached down to his hip.

“Oi!” The guard reacted immediately, shifting Ezio to shield himself from Federico’s attacking right.

Leaving Ezio clear of Federico’s left hand, already surging forth in the fastest left hook Federico could muster. Federico gave only the smallest of grunts as his knuckles struck the guard’s metal armor, his blade sinking deep into the sliver of vulnerable flesh between.

For a split second, no one moved.

Then the guard, and all his armor, fell to the ground, giving Federico only the briefest of moments to withdraw his blade. 

“We need to move before more come.” Federico gave a quick flick of his arm to dispel most of the blood from his hidden blade before turning his attention to Ezio, “Are you hurt?”

Ezio was staring at him, no doubt in shock from his first real fight (at least he wasn’t vomiting— though he had to admit Desmond was right: it was quick different when it’s a life and death situation). He didn’t respond to Federico, and Federico was concerned by the smile on his brother’s face.

“Ezio!” He snapped, grabbing his brother’s collar and giving him a firm shake, “Are you hurt?”

Thankfully, that seemed to be enough to dispel Ezio’s little spell, “I’m fine, brother. That bastardo caught me off guard, that’s all.”

Federico nodded, grabbing his dagger from where he dropped it and cleaning it off before sheathing it once more, “Grab a weapon, I fear we may need to do more fighting before the day is out.”

“We need to get back to the palazzo, Federico.” Ezio’s senses had returned to him in full, his resolve firm, “We left Mother alone with Claudia and Petruccio.”

Ezio’s meaning hit Federico like a punch to the gut, at the same time he remembered Desmond’s first warning to him.

If the Templar were so brazen as to have the city guard try to arrest him and Ezio in broad daylight, just because they were their father’s sons...

“Petruccio…” Federico’s blood ran cold, “We need to go. Now:”


Claudia Auditore wasn’t sure just how much she believed in the concept of ‘a woman’s intuition,’ or if it did exist, she did not have such a gift. Surely if she did, she wouldn’t have been so fooled by Duccio, regardless of what her mother said about the whole affair not being her fault. 

The cazzo had been openly kissing on some puttana in broad daylight, spitting on their engagement and her family name. But at least Claudia had some vindication in watching Ezio make Duccio spit a few of his teeth.

It wasn’t very ladylike, indulging in vengeance and enjoying it, but perhaps it was just further proof of her lack of feminine intuition.

But regardless what Claudia thought about her own wiles, she couldn’t dismiss the feeling that something was going to happen.

Father had been traveling quite a bit for work, and whenever Father was gone, Federico always acted strange. Ezio had been acting strange as well the past couple of days as well, both by being less outspoken and brash, but also in just how... nice he was being to her and Petruccio. Teaching Petruccio how to play chess, and even playing a few games with him after supper (not to mention letting him win). Not making even one snide comment about Duccio to her, or shying away from her tears. Even offering to bring her along while he beat up her ex-fiance.

She had no idea what had her older brothers acting so strange, but Claudia wasn’t that much of a fool to simply dismiss it. Especially given how shifty the two of them acted during breakfast when Mother said that Father was away on business once more.

Ezio and Federico had vanished shortly after breakfast, leaving Claudia with Mother and Petruccio. Which, granted, wasn’t terrible, even if Mother was trying to take Claudia’s mind off of Duccio by getting her involved in a large scale embroidery project. 

At least Claudia could pretend to stab Duccio’s face multiple times.

But then came a heavy knock at the front door.

Mother looked up from her book, “We aren’t expecting company, are we?”

Claudia could only shake her head, “No Mother…”

Maria Auditore set her book aside, “Annetta, please get the door. I’ll be there shortly,” She said, rising to her feet gracefully as Annetta moved to answer the door.

Claudia was only paying half attention as the front door opened, and Annetta quietly greeted whoever was on the other side of the door.

However, the harsh sound of the heavy front door slamming opening and Annetta’s startled cry had Claudia’s full attention. She was on her feet and following her mother before she was even aware of her movements. Petruccio was close behind her, peering over her shoulder at the scene and, more importantly, the guards stepping through the front door.

Mother took one look at Annetta, who had stumbled back several steps from the door, to the guards stepping into their home, “What is the meaning of this?”

The guard who was already inside, possibly the squadron leader, turned to face her, “Signora, we are here for the arrest of Giovanni Auditore and sons on the charge of treason.” 

Claudia gasped. Treason? That was impossible; her father was a banker, what could he possibly do that would be called treason? And Federico and Ezio weren’t capable of anything of the sort…

But they had been acting strange lately...could it be…

No. It was ludicrous, Claudia refused to believe it.

“You cannot be serious!” Her mother shook her head, hands balled into fists, “My husband and my sons would never do such a thing.”

“That’s for the courts to decide.” The guard replied curtly, “Now step aside.”

“Absolutely not!” She hissed, “My husband is away on business, and my sons are not home. Leave this instant!”

One of the guards gave a nudge to his commanding officer. When he had the other man’s attention, the guard pointed directly where Claudia was.

No, Claudia realized, her blood running cold, not where she was . She turned her head to see her little brother, pale faced and wide eyed. They couldn’t possibly mean…

“Got one, sir.” The guards were quick to move in on Claudia and Petruccio, ignoring their mother’s protests. Claudia was roughly shoved aside as the armored thugs grabbed Petruccio by the arm.

“Let go of my son!” Mother screamed, held back by one of the endless guards.

Claudia could only stare at the scene before her in horror: her mother struggling against the city guard, reaching for Petruccio in vain while her little brother was lifted bodily off his feet when he attempted to reach back for their mother.

“Mother!” Petruccio’s eyes were filled with fear as irons were clapped on his wrists.

“His damn wrists are too tiny!” One of the men growled as the shackles slid off Petruccio’s wrists.

“He’s a child!” Maria Auditore’s face was a scarlet fury, spitting at the guards, “He’s a child , you figlio d’un cane !”

The guards did little more than shove her to the floor as they began to pull Petruccio out the family home. Annetta rushed to Maria’s side, but Claudia found her own feet pulling her out the front door where the guards had taken her baby brother.

She never got any further than the threshold.

The palazzo courtyard was filled with city guards, in addition to the guards holding fast to Petruccio. Claudia felt her mouth filled with bile at the thought that the rest of the guards would have been there for her father, Federico, and Ezio. But none of them had left the courtyard, and Claudia had to peer around her brother’s frightened figure to see why.

A monk stood at the courtyard doorway, observing the scene impassively. Claudia couldn’t see much of the man’s face from under his hood, only his mouth, curled into a slight frown.

“Step aside, father.” The commanding officer was infinitely more polite to the monk than he had been to Claudia’s mother.

The monk didn’t move, only the slight shift of his hood revealing his gaze traveling over each person in the courtyard, “What seems to be the problem, officer?”

 

The officer shook his head, “Merely an arrest, nothing to concern yourself with.”

“Ah, I see.” The monk’s hood turned to the guards holding Petruccio, “Clearly a dangerous criminal...I can see how he might be too much for you to handle.”

Claudia found great satisfaction at the officer’s indignant sputtering, though she could not hold her own tongue, “My brother is no criminal!”

The monk looked to her before giving a small nod, “I’m sure we’re all well aware of that.” he replied calmly, “Why don’t you all just let the boy go and we can all go about our day like nothing’s happened?”

The officer scoffed at that, “You should leave, Father,” he sneered, giving the monk a firm shove. Claudia almost gasped as the monk stumbled back a few steps, but the officer didn’t seem content with simply shoving the monk away, already pursuing him, “You should leave before you get yourself hur--”

The words died abruptly, but try as she might, Claudia couldn’t see anything but the officer’s back. For a long moment, no one so much as moved: the guards waiting for their officer’s command, Petruccio too frightened to move, and Claudia...she wasn’t sure why she didn’t move.

But then, the officer crumpled to the stone courtyard, and lay there, unmoving. Claudia might have thought the man had fallen in a fainting spell, but even she wasn’t that naive to think the dark stain spreading across his uniform was wine.

The monk carefully stepped over the officer’s body, “So,” He began, a wry smile on his face, “I take it that’s a ‘no’ on letting the boy go and leaving peacefully?”

In response, several of the guards not holding Petruccio drew their weapons.

“Yeah, that’s about what I figured,” the monk sighed, carefully rolling up his sleeves, “But it certainly didn’t hurt to try…”

The first movement was so fast, Claudia wasn’t sure she believed her eyes: the monk  stepping forward and slamming his hand against the gut of the nearest guard, then grabbing the same man’s sword to block an incoming swing, running the second guard through before the first guard’s body had hit the ground. Another swung at the monk, but he blocked it with a blade Claudia hadn’t seen him pick up. The block served as enough distraction for the monk to slam his boot against the inside of the guard’s knee; the guard’s cry of pain at his dislocated knee was cut off as the monk drew his blade across his throat.

She should be horrified at this display of blood and violence. She should find herself ill at so much blood and death before her very eyes. Any lady worth her family name would find herself faint if exposed to such gore.

But Claudia couldn’t stop watching.

The monk was outnumbered and out armed, it seemed only logical that he would be overwhelmed. But yet, he still stood, fighting with his hands, a knife that kept appearing and vanishing from his hand, and the occasional sword he’d borrow from a fallen guard. And while most of the monk’s movement’s were concealed by his heavy robes, Claudia couldn’t help but acknowledge that it took a great deal of dexterity for such feats.

Claudia, on the other hand, only found the wits to move when the guards holding Petruccio released him to fight the monk. She rushed forward, grabbing her brother’s arm and pulling him back to her, retreating back to the threshold of the house. Should things end poorly, she could at least shut the door and lock it behind them.

She spared Petruccio a quick glance to ensure he had not been harmed by the guards in the meantime. But then she saw the look in his eyes. Or rather, what lacked in the look in his eyes.

There was no horror in his eyes as he stared at the bloodshed before him. What fear he had when the guards first took him was gone. Claudia could see the slight movements of Petruccio’s eyes, and she knew her little brother well enough to understand his various quiet expressions.

Petruccio was an observer; taking in his surroundings with great detail and memory, and Claudia didn’t need to guess what Petruccio was observing. 

The monk made it all seem so easy: out-stepping any guard’s attack, then striking them down with either his own blade or a borrowed blade before moving on to the next guard, all without so much as allowing his hood to fall.

It was then that Claudia noticed the shadows that fell across the courtyard. But she only just just turned her head skyward before the shadows came hurtling down to earth with a sickening crunch. Time seemed to slow as Claudia took in the scene before her, and her own mind could catch up with what she was seeing.

Both of her older brothers were suddenly before her, crouched over the lifeless bodies of the guards they had ultimately landed on. Federico was pulling a thick blade from the back of one guard’s neck, dispelling the blood with a flick of his wrist before driving his fist, and the blade, into the visor of another guard. Ezio leapt from where he had been standing on a guard’s neck, drawing a sword with ease and plunging it into the throat of the massive guard charging directly at them.

It didn’t seem real to Claudia. These were her brothers , two of the biggest idiots in all of Firenze. And yet, there they were, spraying blood across the courtyard and dropping bodies with practiced ease.

“Did you know they could do that?” Petruccio asked softly.

Claudia shook her head, “No…”

And just like that, it was over. The courtyard was flooded with blood and bodies, and the only ones standing were Federico, Ezio, and the monk.

Claudia watched as both of her brothers turned their weapons on the monk, ready to strike him down.

The monk raised his hands, “Relax, you two! It’s me!” He called to them, before reaching up and pulling off his hood. 

Claudia didn’t recognize the monk, nothing about the sharp angles of his face or the faint scar on his lip seemed familiar (other than the fact Ezio now had one to match now from his stupid scuffle with Vieri). 

Her brothers, however, relaxed at seeing the monk’s face.

“Desmond…” Federico breathed a sigh of relief, “Thank god…”

“I got here just in time.” The monk, Desmond, nodded, adjusting the sleeves of his robes, “The guards were trying to arrest Petruccio on charges of treason.”

Ezio quickly turned his attention to both Claudia and Petruccio were standing, “Are you both alright?” He asked, making his way to them, “You’re not hurt?”

Petruccio shook his head quickly, “No, I’m...I’m alright.”

“As am I.” Claudia said softly.

“Where is Mother?” Federico asked, trying to peer into the palazzo beyond Claudia and Petruccio.

Claudia glanced back over her shoulder, “She should be with Annetta…”

“We should head inside before we continue this conversation.” Desmond cut in, briefly gesturing to the carnage surrounding the courtyard, “And we need to decide our next move quickly.” 

Federico gave Desmond a quick nod, carefully ushering Claudia and Petruccio back inside.

Claudia turned her attention back to where her mother was picking herself up off the floor with Annetta’s help. Her eyes widened and filled with tears when she saw them, “Oh grazie Dio… my babies…” She rushed forth, grabbing Petruccio and pressing him to her bosom. Petruccio, to his credit, made no fuss about his mother’s actions, and neither did the rest of the Auditore children. “I feared the worst…”

“Federico and Ezio saved me, Mother,” Petruccio murmured softly, giving her a quick hug in return, “and Father Desmond.”

The mention of the man’s name caused Maria Auditore to turn her attention the stranger standing in her home, “Thank you, Father. I don’t know how I can ever repay you.”

Desmond quickly raised his hands at her words, giving them a nervous wave, “Oh, no, please, just Desmond...I’m not actually a monk…” His cheeks seemed to redden during his bumbling response.

“Why are you dressed as a monk, Desmond?” Federico asked, eyebrow raised.

“I had a errand to run,” Desmond shrugged, “the robes made it easier, I guess.”

Ezio frowned, “Should I even ask what happened to the monk whose robes you stole?”

“Not in front of your mother, no.”

“Boys,” their mother asked, her voice wary, “How exactly do you know this man?”

That was something Claudia would very much liked to know as well, among other things. Federico and Ezio shared a look, neither one speaking immediately, and even glanced back at Desmond as if he could give them a proper answer.

“He’s, uh…” Federico began, though it seemed words failed him in that instant.

Ezio shook his head, looking back at their mother, “One of your thousand shadowy sons…” he finished cryptically.

Claudia frowned at the words, whatever they were supposed to mean. Certainly Ezio wouldn’t suggest their mother had abandoned a child out of wedlock prior to marrying their father, let alone suggest that there were a thousand like him…

But whatever meaning Ezio meant, their mother understood. Her posture went stiff, her expression stony. Even the hand that had been stroking Petruccio’s hair stilled.

“I see,” she said, before taking a slow breath, “and am I to understand that this is their doing?”

Desmond stepped forward, “I’m afraid so, signora. And they will keep coming for your family until they are stopped.”

“Please tell me there is a plan.” 

The man nodded, “The first step is to get you three,” he gestured between Claudia, Petruccio, and their mother, “someplace safe.”

Claudia couldn’t hold her tongue anymore, “And where do you suggest we go, if we are not safe within our own home?”

“For now, Annetta can take you and your mother to her sister’s house.” The poor maid started at the stranger saying her name so casually, but gave a shaky nod, “I’ll have to get Petruccio there myself.”

Mother shook her head firmly, clutching Petruccio tight, “Why must he go with you?”

Ezio stepped forward, “Mother, the guards are after the men of the Auditore family. They will not go after you and Claudia alone, but if Petruccio is with you…” He trailed off, making a vague gesture to the courtyard, “If he goes with Desmond, then Desmond can protect him should the worst happen.”

“But what of you two?” She argued, waving her hand at him and Federico, “The moment the guards see you, you’ll be arrested.”

“Luckily, I’ve thought about that.” Desmond nodded, before looking back towards the courtyard, “Ezio, Federico...go find a guard close to your size and not too bloodstained. We should probably do something about the rest of the bodies as well...”

“They’ll never pass as guards.” Claudia shook her head. “Anyone who knows the guards will know they don’t belong.”

“Very true, Claudia.” Ezio grinned, “But no one will spare a second glance at a distance. If disguises give us a few seconds of advantage, then it is effort well spent.”

Federico was already back out the door, searching the various bodies that littered the palazzo, and Ezio soon joined him. Desmond watched the brothers for a moment before turning back to face the rest of the Auditore family.

“I’m suddenly struck with another idea to help get Petruccio out of here safely.” Desmond murmured, turning his attention to Claudia, “Claudia, you wouldn’t happen to have some old clothes that are too small for you, would you?”


Damn the name Borgia to the deepest pits of hell, and damn the rest of the Templar for good measure.

Giovanni hissed as he stumbled though the entrance to his secret room, desperate to get off the Firenze streets. His hand pressed firmly against the wadded bandages under his shirt, and he feared he could already feel his fingers becoming damp with blood once more.

The wound was bad enough as it was, but the ride back from Roma must have reopened it to make it bleed anew. He would need Maria to tend to this one, he never did master the art of sewing his own flesh.

It was only out of habit that Giovanni was able to undress from his Assassin garb, years of practice and habit overriding his pain. For all il Magnifico claimed that Giovanni was nowhere near the end of his career, Giovanni couldn’t help but think he’d be better off not wearing the whites and blade anymore.

A thought for another time. First, he had to address his wound. Then he had to reveal to Lorenzo just who was at the true heart of the conspiracy against him.

As Giovanni stepped out of the secret entrance connecting his two ‘offices,’ he knew at once that something was wrong.

The house was dark.

And quiet.

There was no sign of his family gathered around the supper table, no sign that the kitchen was in use. No idle chatter from the study, nor boisterous laughter from his sons. Not even the soft humming Maria usually did when she believed herself to be alone.

Which meant that the house, for some reason, was empty. Or at least, it appeared to be.

Giovanni resisted the urge to call out Maria’s name, though barely, as he slowly made his way from room to room. If someone was hiding, he’d rather he find them than they find him.

It was as he was crossing the entrance hall that he nearly fell flat on his face, barely able to catch himself with the hand that wasn’t pressed against his bandages. From his place on the floor, he reached out to feel what exactly had tripped him.

It was large. It was soft.

And it was cold to the touch.

Giovanni Auditore knew all too well what a corpse felt like. And if it wasn’t for the blood seeping through his bandage, he would have sworn his heart had stopped.

“No…” He whispered, shaking his head as he searched for the nearest lamp, “ per favore dio , no…” he’d plead with whatever power held dominion over man, just as long as the corpse in his home was not one of his sons, or his daughter, or his beloved wife.

Had he been too late? Had Roma been a tragic mistake? Had Desmond been a mistake?

When the flame flickered to life finally, casting a waving light across the floor, Giovanni breathed a sigh of relief.

The dead body on the floor was no one he loved.

Dread filled him in the next moment, as he took in the sight before him. There was a strange, semi dressed man dead on the floor of his home. And he wasn’t the only one.

There were blood smears across the entryway, leading to several small piles of bodies. Bodies wearing the uniform of the Firenze city guard.

What in the world had happened in his home while he was gone? And, more importantly, where was his family?

The reality of his situation hit him like a mace. Or perhaps it was the pommel of a soldier’s sword. Either way, Giovanni’s vision exploded in white as he was sent sprawling across the floor. His head swam as he struggled to his feet, lashing out when a hand roughly grabbed his arm.

He twitched his wrist, intending to slit the man’s throat, before he realized his arm was woefully bare. Of all the times to leave his blade among his belongings…

Giovanni had to make due with a well placed kick. But where one guard was away from him, several more were already upon him. Their voices were a cacophony, and Giovanni realized that his vision was still swimming, black flowering across his sight. Whether it was from the blow to his head, or from the blood seeping from his chest, it didn’t matter.

The next time reality hit him, he wasn’t awake to contemplate it.

Chapter Text

The longer that Desmond spent with Siri, the more he appreciated just how complicated the future could be. 

When he first arrived in the past, Desmond had thought that he would find one single plan that would correct what he wanted to correct. It really should have been obvious that things wouldn’t be that simple. Every decision made by him and other people caused the future to shift. Sometimes it was minor things that would only shift things that didn’t matter in the long run, sometimes it was enough to cause an apocalyptic future and Desmond was forced to find a way to correct the matter.

Desmond had never been much of a chess player (other than the occasional glimmer from the memories of others), but he was beginning to also appreciate the skill and strategy involved in plotting out each and every move two, three, and four steps ahead.

Desmond warns Giovanni about the plot against his family. The conspiracy becomes more eager to move forward with their plans.

Giovanni gets the letter deciphered. Uberto Alberti writes his own missive to Borgia containing his concerns.

Federico kills Baroncelli. The conspiracy is frenzied by blood in the water, eager to kill in turn.

Desmond kills Maffei. The conspiracy rushes to get Lorenzo out of Firenze.

The moment Lorenzo’s carriage left Firenze, Desmond knew the conspiracy would move against the Auditore family. Federico was armed and prepared this time around, and between him and Ezio...being Ezio, the two of them could have taken on any guards who came at them. And Desmond was more than prepared to deal with the squad sent for Petruccio. The Auditore brothers were easy enough for Desmond to keep safe.

Giovanni was always going to be the wild card, the live wire, of the entire scheme. He was the only known Assassin meddling in Templar’s current affairs, and now Borgia wanted to ensure that Giovanni would no longer be a nuisance. Last time, Federico and Petruccio had simply been...a bonus— two young Assassin’s snuffed out before they could become a problem. Giovanni had always been the priority.

As Desmond sat in the room Paola had provided for the Auditore family, he knew at that very moment, Giovanni was being ‘arrested’ for treason.

It had to happen, Desmond had realized. If Giovanni evaded capture, Alberti would use the Medici guards to turn over every stone in Firenze, including the very stone the rest of the Auditore were hiding in. And that would put the family right back in danger, making the whole effort utterly worthless.

So Giovanni is arrested, and the conspiracy feels accomplished. The rest of the Auditore family, they think, can be rounded up later.

Desmond lets the conspiracy take a knight, so he can put the king in check. Or something like that, he was still a bit fuzzy on the rules of chess.

As for the rest of the Auditore family, Ezio and Federico were doing their best to comfort and assure their mother, brother, and sister. Luckily, this time around, Maria Auditore seemed a bit more aware of the situation. Giovanni may have shared some of what he knew with his wife, for which Desmond was grateful.

Claudia and Petruccio, on the other hand, were just...staring at their older brothers. At first glance, Desmond might have chalked it up to being in shock over the whole situation. But, given Desmond’s new “enhanced insight,” he could practically see the gears turning in their young minds as they pieced together everything they had seen with everything they weren’t being told.

Oh, Giovanni would have to deal with that particular problem later, but right now, Desmond had bigger things to worry about.

Ezio chose that moment to look back at Desmond, and Desmond didn’t need Siri’s insight to see the worry in his eyes as he made his way to Desmond.

“What do we do now?” Ezio whispered, shooting a glance back to his family, “We still need to find my father…”

“At this point, your father has already been arrested,” Desmond admitted, rubbing his temples. At least no nose bleed this time, but he hoped he wouldn’t start developing migraines as a Siri-symptom, “and he’s nursing a serious chest wound. Borgia got in a lucky throw with a knife.”

Ezio paled at that, “Did you...see this?”

“Basically,” Desmond nodded, “But he had it the last timeline as well. I’m not sure if he was just better at hiding it last time, or if this wound is more serious.”

The concern in Ezio’s eyes only darkened, “How do we go about breaking him out of the prison?”

Desmond sighed. Ezio wouldn’t like this one bit, “We don’t.”

What?” Ezio’s words escaped through tightly clenched teeth, concern burning away to outrage in his eyes, “You cannot be serious.”

“If we break him out of prison, the Templar will tear Firenze apart looking for him.” Desmond tried to explain, “And that would put the rest of your family at risk. And then we’d be back at square one.”

“And so you’ll sacrifice my father to the Templar?” It was obvious that Ezio was straining to keep his voice low enough that his family wouldn’t overhear him, “You promised you’d save them all.”

“And I will!” Desmond nodded emphatically, rubbing his hand over his face, “We know what’s going to happen in the morning.”

“Yes. An execution!”

“A public execution, Ezio,” Desmond nodded, “Alberti will be out in the open, on stage. And the rest of the conspirators will be out in the open for the event, you know they couldn’t resist watching the death of an Assassin--”

Ezio’s fists clenched tightly, “You’re going to use my father as bait?” Desmond was beginning to wonder about the validity of the ‘hotheaded Italian’ stereotype, because he was half sure he was about to get a facefull of Italian fist, “My father is not your pawn to use as you see fit.”

“Trust me, I know.” Desmond sighed, shaking his head as he stood, “We’ve got a lot of work to do, both with the plan, and for your father’s safety net.”

Ezio blinked, “Safety net?”

“Yeah, like a backup plan. So that way, no matter what happens, your father won’t be hurt.” Desmond nodded, turning his attention to the rest of the Auditore family, “Federico, we need to go.”

Federico looked at Ezio and Desmond, giving a stoic nod. He pressed a quick kiss to the cheeks of his mother and sister and Petruccio’s forehead before he made his way to join Desmond and Ezio as the three of them quietly made their exit.

“What do we do now?” Federico asked softly.

Desmond smiled, “We’re going to have ourselves a riot in the morning.” He nodded, “Federico, I want you to track down La Volpe to get the thieves in on this. I’ll speak to Poala about having her girls help us.”

The longer Desmond spent detailing how Giovanni’s execution was going to be derailed by an outraged mob, the more the Auditore brothers stared at him in stunned disbelief.

“We’re going to use mob mentality to our advantage,”  Desmond nodded, “any questions?”

“That seems rather counter productive to saving our father…” Federico protested, more out of confusion than any sort of outrage.

“It’s easier to hide in plain sight among chaos, so we’ll be free to strike down the rest of the conspirators,” Desmond replied, doing his best to keep Siri’s rambling calculations of the numerous ways things could go wrong at bay.

Ezio nodded slowly, “No, that makes sense...but what about this back up plan you have?”

Desmond smiled, withdrawing a slightly crumpled page from the sleeve of his monk’s robes. He was sure Lorenzo de Medici wouldn’t miss a single piece of paper from his desk, or the ink used for his drawing, “I need you to go and have Leonardo build this design.”

At the mention of Leonardo, Ezio’s eyes brightened slightly, and Desmond could see the smile tugging at his lips as he took the paper from Desmond. And it was all Desmond could do to keep from rolling his eyes.“Don’t get too lost in his eyes, loverboy.” He muttered, making his way down the hall, the Auditore brothers following behind, “We all need to meet back at the Palazzo to properly regroup and gear up, so you don’t have a whole lot of time to waste flirting.”

He could hear both brothers responding to his words with varying degrees of fluster, but he really couldn’t be bothered with dealing with Renaissance sensibilities when they were less than ten hours away from Giovanni’s execution. He quickly turned on his heel, facing both Ezio and Federico, “You both know what you need to do. Federico, find La Volpe and fill him in. Ezio, go to Leonardo and get him to build that device. We meet up at the Palazzo Auditore to gear up for phase two. Got it? Let’s go, we’re burning moonlight here!”

Sure, Desmond might have left both brothers standing in a bit of stunned disbelief, but Desmond knew they’d snap out of it soon enough.


It was one of the longest days Leonardo could remember, and he knew it wasn’t due to his sleepless night. It was hardly the first night he had gone without sleep, or had to bury himself in his work. But it certainly didn’t help matters.

Leonardo had barely been able to focus on his work for more than a few minutes before his eyes would wander to where his journal lay, where the sketch of Ezio Auditore and all of Leonardo’s manic notes were held. In the end, Leonardo had been forced to hide his journal in his room in a vain hope that, once out of sight, the journal and all the madness it contained would be out of his mind.

It hadn’t helped at all. 

Neither had the bottle of wine.

So when Leonardo first heard the sounds of footsteps overhead, he was sure it was simply another sign that he should turn in for the night before he spent another night obsessing over Ezio and the mystery of the Auditore family.

But then Leonardo made his way to the bottom of his stairs, only to find that the footsteps he had heard hadn’t been nearly imaginary as he thought.

At the top of the stairway was a single city guard.

Leonardo’s heart stopped in his chest. How did the man get in? Why was he there? Dread cascaded over him. Was this one of the guards who thought he had gotten off far too easily back in April? Was he here to ‘correct’ the courts’ mistake?

“Leonardo…” The guard didn’t speak with half as much venom as Leonardo expected, but it was hardly enough to put Leonardo at ease, especially as the man made his way down the stairway.

“What are you doing in my house?” Leonardo whispered, taking a step back. “ How did you get into my house?”

The guard paused, seemingly taken aback by Leonardo’s words. Then, with a quick sweep, the guard removed his helmet to reveal--

“Ezio?” Leonardo blinked, rubbing his eyes. Was his exhausted mind playing tricks on him? Or had he fallen asleep at his table, and he was now being plagued with strange dreams of the young man.

But the notion that he was dreaming shattered under Ezio’s touch as the younger man grabbed his arm, “Leonardo, are you alright?”

Leonardo blinked, looking at Ezio’s hand on his arm, “I… why are you dressed as a guard?”

Ezio looked down at himself, “Oh, it’s...it’s a bit of a long story,” He chuckled, though the sound was dry and brittle, “The guards are hunting down my family, and I needed a disguise to get around Firenze.”

“What?” Leonardo stared back at Ezio blankly “Why are the guards after you?”

Ezio sighed, rubbing his free hand over his face, “The simple version: someone in il Magnifico’s court wants the Auditore family wiped out, and is using il Magnifico’s absence to use the guards to hunt us down.”

Whatever exhaustion had been plaguing Leonardo’s mind at that point fled at Ezio’s story. That was the simple version of the story?

“Why would anyone come for your family?” He whispered, his mind racing through all the possibilities. “That...that doesn’t make any sort of sense…”

Was it Giovanni’s involvement with Leonardo’s case, whatever that might have been, all those months ago? Leonardo had no idea what shadowy business Giovanni actually did among the courts, for all he knew, Giovanni could have been a member of L’uffica della Notte who had made Leonardo’s case go away purely for his own son’s sake. Perhaps others among the court had discovered this, and were delivering swift punishment…

Ezio gently shook his shoulder, “Leonardo, before you allow your mind to run wild with theories, I need your help.”

“Me?” Why were the Auditores so keen on seeking his help now? Leonardo tried to hush the part of him that was excited from all the wonderful puzzles the family (and the Stranger) brought for him. “I’m not sure how I can help…”

The young man gave him that damned knowing smile, “I saw you helping my father and Desmond, I know you understand the complexities my family deals with.”

“I understand that your family is complicated, not why your family is complicated.” Leonardo hissed, “Remember, you’re the one who even described yourself as a mystery.”

Ezio sighed, “I did, and I’m sorry about that. I’m sure that’s made it hard for you to get any sort of sleep.”

“I haven’t gotten any sleep, and the fact that you know that after only one conversation with me is—“ Leonardo stopped, realizing that he was clutching tightly at Ezio’s doublet. There had to be a reasonable explanation, he couldn’t allow himself to be swept up in whatever fantasy his mind was trying to conjure, “How much did your brother tell you about me?”

That had to be the reason Ezio knew so much about Leonardo, Federico must have told him. But even as the thought crossed his mind, he knew it wasn’t true. Even if Federico had been the type to disclose their encounter, Federico had only known Leonardo for one night. And they hadn’t exactly done a great deal of talking…

For the first time, Leonardo saw confusion cross Ezio’s confidant face, “Why would my brother tell me anything about you?”

“Nevermind.” Leonardo shook his head quickly, “You said you needed my help?”

For a moment, Leonardo feared that Ezio would press him for more information, uncover Leonardo’s brief tryst with his brother. But despite the sharp focus that lingered in the depths of Ezio’s dark eyes, the young man gave him a small nod, “Very well. I need your help in building something.”

“Building?” He raised an eyebrow at that, his mind already thinking of ideas before he saw Ezio pull a piece of paper from his doublet, “You have designs?”

“Desmond drafted them.” Ezio nodded, handing the paper to Leonardo.

Leonardo took the paper, glancing down at the sketch, “And Desmond is…” He asked, feeling a bit more nosey than he had any right to be, but considering how well Ezio knew him, it seemed minor in the grand scheme of things.

“Desmond is a lot of things, and unfortunately he’s a major component in my own mystery.” Ezio murmured softly, “I’d love nothing more than to bare my soul to you and reveal every secret about me, Leonardo.” His hands reached out, cupping Leonardo’s own as he held the sketch, “But Desmond told me I needed to be careful about how I tell you everything, lest you think I’m mocking you or that I’m soft in the head.”

Leonardo looked at Ezio, the gears in his mind already at work. First Ezio speaks of this grand mystery that has enmeshed the two of them, but now to find that the Stranger— Desmond— was also a major factor in the mystery as well. In fact, it seemed Ezio was following Desmond’s lead. Was Desmond the mastermind behind everything, and what exactly was ‘everything?’

He didn’t have time to think about that particular mystery, looking down at the designs before him, “So what exactly is the purpose of this?”

Ezio told him.

Leonardo wasn’t sure what was more alarming: the purpose of the designs before him, or that Ezio had complete faith that it would work.


 

Federico did not run across the rooftops of Firenze that night. In his stolen uniform and borrowed helmet, Federico walked through the nearly deserted Firenze streets. To any rare and casual observer, he would appear to be any young guard making his rounds around the city. But should any of the few passerby peer just a bit more closely through the dark of the night, they might see the dark stain blossoming from the single tear in Federico’s uniform, the tear positioned directly over Federico’s heart and looked suspiciously like it came from a stabbing blade.

But no one gave him a second glance, if anything, the few people on the streets went out of their way to avoid him. Which had been finding La Volpe a bit more of a challenge, considering all the thieves kept running away and hiding from him. But Federico was nothing if not determined. Especially when his father’s life was hanging in the balance.

It was after midnight that Federico finally got to speak to La Volpe to inform him of the situation. Of course the master thief was already aware of his father’s arrest, he should have expected as much. And if the situation hadn’t been so dire, Federico might have taken some pleasure in La Volpe’s stunned expression when he told the man Desmond’s outrageous plan. 

But at least La Volpe had agreed to spread the word among his thieves, so they would be ready come morning. Federico hoped that, between the thieves and Paola’s girls, they would be enough. That Desmond’s plan would be enough.

The thought of Desmond brought Federico’s thoughts back to the words Desmond had said before they had all separated.

It was nothing short of offensive, how blithely Desmond accused Ezio of sodomy with Leonardo. Federico had no idea how Desmond had learned about Leonardo’s sodomy arrest, but Desmond was nothing if not resourceful when it came to finding hidden information. And while Federico had to admire that quality in an Assassin, he couldn’t forgive Desmond for the slight against Ezio.

And Ezio...Ezio hadn’t reacted. He hadn’t protested, he hadn’t raged at Desmond for the offense, hadn’t insisted he didn’t even know Leonardo, let alone...engage in the acts Federico had. He had simply...nodded and went on his way, as if Desmond hadn’t included the barb in his instructions.

Had Ezio held his tongue for Federico’s sake? His brother had been surprisingly accepting of Federico’s preferences, if not outright supportive. Had Ezio refused to respond to Desmond’s slight in an effort to spare Federico’s feelings? Federico would have to speak to Ezio about defending his honor (or lack thereof) in public. It hardly mattered what Ezio’s feelings on the matter were, the courts would just as soon have Federico swing from the gallows if his sodomy was every discovered.

Federico sighed, his hand sliding over the stone latch that revealed the secret entrance to his father’s study. Once he was safely inside, and the wall closed behind him, Federico quickly removed his helmet, unable to bear wearing the ill fitting helmet anymore. Whoever the guard had been, he must have had a small head.

“Oh good, you’re back.”

Federico stiffened at the voice, realizing that he was not in fact alone in his father’s study. It was only as Desmond stepped out of the darkness that he allowed himself to relax, however slightly.

“How did you get in here?” He couldn’t help but ask. He knew as Assassins, they were skilled at infiltration, but it was still unsettling that Desmond had a knack for getting into his family home.

Desmond only smiled, his eyes flashing to the stunning gold of his second sight for the briefest of moments, “It’s easy enough to find when you know what to look for.” He nodded, slowly meandering around the study, “I hope finding La Volpe wasn’t too much of a bitch for you, running around in that guard uniform.”

More of Desmond’s strange phrases. Federico shook his head, “I found La Volpe, and he is prepared to have his thieves aid us in the plan, regardless of how outrageous it is.”

“You’ll find outrageous plans are a way of Assassin life, better get used to it.” Desmond chuckled, “But hopefully they won’t all be as stressful as this one.”

Federico was about to point out that Desmond seemed more amused by the situation than stressed, but decided against it, “Has Ezio returned?” He asked instead.

Desmond shook his head, examining the various weapons on display in the study, “Not yet, he’s probably swooning over Leonardo right now, but he won’t let himself be distracted too long, he knows this is far too important.”

The comment brought Federico’s thoughts back to Desmond’s previous words to Ezio, a frown crossing his face, “Your slights against Ezio are completely uncalled for, Desmond.”

The other man turned to face him, “Slights?” He asked, as if oblivious to what Federico meant.

But Federico wasn’t about to allow the matter to lie, “I don’t care if you are a fellow Assassin and an ally of the family, I won’t ignore your lurid suggestions that Ezio would engage in...perversions with Leonardo.” He said as firmly as he could, as he imagined his father might address the matter.

For several moments, Desmond didn’t respond, simply staring at Federico, and Federico wasn’t sure what exactly was going on in the other man’s head. Would he take offense to Federico speaking out against him? Surely he wouldn’t withdraw his support of the family, his honor wouldn’t permit it.

Finally, Desmond sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, “Fucking Renaissance homophobia…”

“What does that even mean?” Federico didn’t huff like a petulant child, absolutely not “I don’t understand what you’re saying half the time!”

“I know! Trust me, I know!” Desmond groaned, “I’m not from around here, and technically speaking, Italian is my third language, so forgive me if  I say things that don’t translate that well.”

Third language? Federico had assumed Desmond was native to Firenze, but he was getting distracted, “What does that have to do with your comments about Ezio and Leonardo?”

Desmond snorted, “When you see those two interact, you’ll understand they are completely in love and that your brother is a complete idiot when it comes to Leonardo--”

“My brother isn’t a sodomite.” Federico hissed, cheeks red even as he said the word.

“I’m pretty sure it’s less about Ezio being homosexual—it means being sexually attracted to your own gender,” He raised a hand when Federico opened his mouth to question, “and more about Ezio loving Leonardo, who just happens to be a man. I’m sure if Leonardo had been born a woman in the same role of life, Ezio might have fallen in love regardless.”

Federico shook his head, “Falling in love? Ezio only met Leonardo yesterday!”

Desmond smiled back at him, and Federico wished he could tell himself that his heart hadn’t skipped a beat at the other man’s smile. That knowing smile that seemed to hold the answers to questions Federico didn’t even know how to vocalize, and at the same time, leave him with a thousand questions more.

“I guess we’ll see how those two turn out.” Desmond said instead, though Federico could not shake the thought that there was more hidden behind Desmond’s casual words and smile, “But back to your main complaint. I hadn’t intended for my comments to be a slight against Ezio, because there’s nothing wrong with loving another man.”

Federico stared. Was the man serious? “The courts and church would beg to differ.”

An ugly scoff escaped Desmond at that, “Yeah, forgive me if I’m not going to allow my life to be dictated by a bunch of men who can’t even remember to follow half of their own commandments.” He chuckled, opening the chest Federico knew his father used to store his robes.

“It is illegal , Desmond.”

“Federico, we kill people. Wanting to kiss a handsome man seems...really tame in comparison.” Desmond smiled, carefully removing the white robes and laying them out on the table, “Besides, how does our creed go again?”

The world seemed to tilt and spin at Desmond’s words, and just how confidently he said them. Federico couldn’t help but marvel at just how sure of himself Desmond was, as if he was prepared to take down anyone who might try and stand against him. And given what Federico knew of the man, he very well might. What did it feel like to stand against the entire world and declare that he would walk his own path, thank you very much?

Federico realized that Desmond was looking back at him expectantly, and hoped the room was dark enough to hide his blush, “...er...Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.” He murmured softly.

Desmond’s smile was hypnotic, “Everything is permitted.” He repeated, and Federico could feel his heart skip a beat at the implication. 

Everything is permitted. Such a deceptively simple phrase, and yet so dangerous at the same time. But before Federico could allow his traitorous mind to wander too far along the path of his forbidden fantasy, Desmond spoke once more, “We’ll need to continue this particular conversation at a later time. Right now, we need to focus on saving your father.”

Federico nodded quickly, desperate to dispel the distractions from his mind, “Of course, that is our main priority.”

Desmond gave Federico that damned smile once more, running his hand over the white Assassin’s robes, “Guess it’s time for you to get dressed, then.”


Despite the high stakes that weighed heavily on the next few hours, as well as the fact it was literally a matter of life and death, Ezio had been sorely tempted to spend the entire night with Leonardo. Watching Leonardo work, the delight and excitement on his face as he marveled at Desmond’s design, the adorable concentration on his face as he tinkered and experimented, never failed to bring Ezio a sense of peace.

But Ezio knew all too well that he did have to leave Leonardo to meet up with Desmond and Federico to prepare for their takedown of the Pazzi conspiracy and saving his father. That didn’t mean that he couldn’t be slightly disappointed when Leonardo finally finished with his work.

Leonardo carefully passed the finished work to Ezio, “I suppose this means you’ll be leaving…” He said softly, pursing his lips slightly.

Ezio nodded, “I’m afraid I must, Desmond and Federico will be waiting for me…” He murmured, cradling Leonardo’s work under one arm. It was so much harder than he anticipated, willing himself to leave Leonardo, even saying goodbye. He hoped Desmond would give him guidance for how best to tell Leonardo the truth, because he didn’t think he could go much longer keeping things from him. “I wish I could say I’m sorry you’ve gotten mixed up in all this, but I can’t. For all the madness going on, I am glad I’ve been able to reunite with you.”

For a long moment, Leonardo watched Ezio, and Ezio knew immediately that he had said something wrong. Or, perhaps not so much wrong as something that has that dagger forming between Leonardo’s brows, his thoughts already at work.

Leonardo finally spoke, his eyes never leaving Ezio’s, “You said ‘reunite,’” He murmured, “not ‘meet.’”

Ezio could have kicked himself. Of course Leonardo would have picked up on that. “I don’t suppose you’d believe me if I said it was a slip of the tongue.”

“I’m sure it was a slip of the tongue.” Leonardo nodded, “But that doesn’t mean you didn’t mean what you said.”

He sighed, “You’re right...there is so much to tell you, Leonardo, I know. But I can’t right now.” Before he could stop himself, Ezio reached out and cupped the other man’s cheek. He couldn’t help but love the feeling of Leonardo’s stubble under his fingertips, and had to resist the urge to move his traitorous fingers through Leonardo’s hair, cup the back of his head, pull the other man close to him…

Leonardo’s eyes widened at Ezio’s touch, and Ezio could hear the faintest hitch in Leonardo’s breath.

“You’ll be the death of me, won't you?” Leonardo whispered.

Ezio shook his head, his voice low and resolute, “Never. I’d sooner die myself.” 

He couldn’t take it anymore. Let Desmond chastise him; he was only mortal.

Ezio leaned forward, just far enough to close the gap between them, just close enough for his lips to brush against Leonardo’s. 

Leonardo’s lips were warm as Ezio always knew they would be, and Ezio could taste the faint trace of the sweet wine he knew Leonardo favored. What he would have given to take a deeper drink from Leonardo’s lips in that moment, to bury his fingers in Leonardo’s hair, to shut out the outside world so it could be just the two of them, without a care in the world.

But he couldn’t. There was work to be done, now and for several years to come. Reluctantly, Ezio pulled back, smiling softly at the soft flush on Leonardo’s cheeks, “Sorry...I couldn’t help myself,” he murmured softly, resting his forehead to Leonardo’s, “...Firenze will become quite chaotic tomorrow, if not dangerous. It may be in your best interest to leave Firenze for a time.”

Leonardo didn’t pull away from Ezio, his eyes wide and bewildered, “And where would you have me go so suddenly?”

Ezio considered for a moment, unable to stop smiling, “There is a small town south of here, Monteriggioni. It isn’t much, but my uncle is the de facto leader of the area. My family will be fleeing there as soon as the coast is clear.”

“And you expect me to just...leave everything behind and follow you into the countryside?” Leonardo whispered, wary.

Ezio could only smile as he stepped back, “It is up to you. But if you want answers...that’s where Desmond and I will be…” 

It was a terribly rude way to leave Leonardo, bewildered and out of breath, but Ezio knew if he didn’t leave Leonardo now, he would never be able to.

He had no memory of his journey back to the palazzo, his thoughts full of Leonardo and the far too brief kiss between them. It wasn’t the way Ezio had imagined kissing Leonardo for the first time; but then again, he never imagined he would be granted a second chance…

It was second nature, slipping into the palazzo unnoticed. Ezio didn’t doubt that, despite fighting off the guards earlier that day, there could very well be eyes on the palazzo, laying in wait to arrest any Auditore men they could snare.

Not this time. Not ever again. Ezio would make sure of that, even if he had to kill each and every Templar who threatened his family. Again.

The secret door in his father’s office slid open under Ezio’s hand, bringing his thoughts back to the present moment. No more distractions, only the mission.

He only made it a few steps into the hidden room before he froze at the sight before him.

Desmond was standing there, having discarded Maffei’s stolen robes at some point, hands carefully smoothing white fabric Ezio was all too familiar with.

Almost forty years ago, Ezio had discovered his father’s secret study for the first time. Forty years ago, he first donned his father’s Assassin robes without a single clue of the legacy he was putting on his own shoulders, the meaning of the symbol around his waist, the duty held within the hood and blade. It had taken Ezio nearly twenty years to truly understand what it meant to be an Assassin, rather than just a killer hell-bent on vengeance. By then, Ezio had shed his father’s robes to step into Altair’s armor…

Though, now that Ezio understood the larger picture of his destiny as Desmond’s Prophet, perhaps he had always been meant to don Altair’s armor, for however brief of a time it had been. It had been a second connection between Ezio and Altair through the centuries, between two Assassins who had lived their lives with Desmond watching over them.

But Ezio wasn’t wearing his father’s robes this time.

This time, it was Federico.

Federico was always closer to their father in stature, and Ezio could admit that their father’s robes suited his older brother. And, what was more, Ezio couldn’t help the swell of pride he felt in his chest at the sight of Federico draped in white, the crimson belt around his slender waist with the silver symbol of their sacred brotherhood.

The only thing Federico wore that was not their father’s was the bracer Federico was carefully adjusting at his wrist. It was a far thicker blade than Ezio had ever used, and the design was an odd one for the Assassin’s, being on the outside of the wrist. But as Federico curled his fingers into a tight fist, causing the bronze blade to surge forth, Ezio had to admit that, regardless of how strange he found the design, it certainly got the job done.

It was then Federico noticed Ezio’s presence, giving him a small smile, “We were beginning to fear you had gotten lost or captured, Ezio.”

Ezio chuckled, “Never,” he shook his head, continuing his previous path into the study, setting down the package from Leonardo on a nearby table, “You look...like an Assassin, Federico.”

“He is an Assassin.” Desmond corrected, and Ezio had to resist the urge to grin. How could he forget, seeing his brother fight and use his hidden blade on the oaf who had caught Ezio off guard?

But as Ezio got closer, he realized there was a dark stain in the white robes where there should not have been, a tear that had not been there when Ezio had put on the robes all those years ago.

“Father was hurt in these…” Ezio murmured, touching the stain on Federico’s chest.

Federico nodded, “A serious wound, I fear.”

“Be glad that stain isn’t bigger, or over the heart.” Desmond murmured, “But regardless, your father is probably quite weak, so we can’t rely on him in a fight, should it come to that.”

“I hope it will not.” Federico replied, though all three of them knew that, more likely than not, there would be a fight. “You’re sure the conspirators will come out of hiding for Father’s hanging?”

“They won’t be able to help themselves,” Desmond nodded, as Federico selected one of their father’s daggers to slide into the hilt on his belt.

Ezio shook his head, “I still don’t like the idea of using our father as bait for the Templar.”

Desmond gave him a small smile, “Trust me, Ezio, your father isn’t bait.” He grabbed a set of throwing knives and tested the weight of them in his hand, “If anything, he’ll be the distraction.”

Ezio frowned, “That doesn't exactly make me feel better, Desmond.”

“Me either,” Federico shook his head, taking the throwing knives from Desmond and meticulously sliding them into the hidden folds of the robes, “we will simply have to act quickly.”

“That won’t be too difficult.” Desmond crossed his arms over his chest. He nodded to the throwing knife in Federico’s hand, “You any good with those?”

Ezio watched as, instead of responding, Federico flipped the blade in his hand with a graceful toss, before his arm moved in a quick, powerful arc. The movement was so quick that Ezio missed the instant the blade had left Federico’s hand, his eyes traveling across the study at the sharp thunk of the blade meeting its mark. Ezio couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Federico’s blade dead center in one of their father’s paintings, the handle of the knife protruding between the eyes of the nameless subject.

Desmond gave a low whistle at the display, “A simple “yes” would have sufficed, Federico,” He shook his head, though there was a smile on his face, “no need to give me a boner...”

Federico furrowed his brows, glancing at Ezio. Ezio could only give him a shrug; no doubt Desmond would explain his odd turn of phrases if asked, but Ezio was sure that, whatever Desmond had said, it was teasing more than a serious chastisement.

Though, as Federico went to retrieve the throwing knife from the painting, Ezio couldn’t help but notice that Desmond’s eyes followed him, the smile still on his face. Was there a deeper meaning there, in addition to Desmond choosing to dress Federico in his father’s robes? He wished he could speak to Desmond alone, but he knew there was no time.

It could wait until after.

It would have to wait until after.

Desmond slowly took his attention away from Federico, looking back at Ezio, “You should probably get changed as well, Ezio.”

Ezio raised an eyebrow, “What should I wear?” he gave a vague gesture to Federico. He couldn’t exactly wear what he had worn in his previous lifetime.

Desmond didn’t seem concerned by this particular change, “You still have my hoodie?”

“Your what?”

“My clothes,” Desmond explained, “my hooded shirt with the zipper you found so interesting.”

Ezio blinked, “You would have me wear your clothes?” Now what did that mean? Desmond had chosen to dress Federico in the white Assassin robes of his father, and in the same gesture, would have Ezio wear his own Assassin hood?

“At least the hoodie, I think,” Desmond shrugged, “You could probably wear your own breeches and boots, and maybe wear a red doublet over the hoodie.”

“Why red?” Ezio asked.

Desmond chuckled, “It fits with the theme,” He grinned, “there’s also this.”

He tossed something to Ezio, and it was only when Ezio caught it that he realized just what Desmond had given him. Even without looking at it with his eyes, his fingertips could feel the supple leather, the smooth metal clasps and mechanism. Twenty years he had worn this blade, his father’s blade. It felt like coming home...

But yet...

“Wait,” Ezio blinked, turning the bracer over in his hand, “But I thought—“ He stopped, triggering the hidden blade’s mechanism. To his surprise, his father’s blade extended to its full length; complete and undamaged.

“It seems our meddling has produced a bit of fruit,” Desmond spoke softly, glancing back to where Federico was to ensure he could not overhear, “Your father may have been more seriously injured, his blade is unbroken.”

Ezio nodded. Desmond’s meddling had produced far more fruit than simply one undamaged blade. Federico had made the final step to become an Assassin, his father knew not to trust Uberto Alberti, Federico and Petruccio had escaped arrest, and Ezio had managed to share a brief kiss with Leonardo. 

And it hadn’t even been three days.

Such bountiful fruit indeed.

Federico must have noticed Ezio holding their father’s hidden blade, “Are you sure that is wise, Desmond?” He raised an eyebrow.

“We need every blade we can muster,” Desmond said calmly, “And I’m sure we can both agree that Ezio is a bit of a prodigy. He must get it from his brother.”

Ezio couldn’t miss the way Federico’s cheeks reddened slightly, and the smirk tugging at the corner of Desmond’s mouth. 

What had he missed when he had been with Leonardo?


 

The tower was absolutely freezing, and the stones of his prison cell were doing nothing to keep the chill from settling in Giovanni’s bones. Then again, it could very well be what Uberto was betting on. 

Bastardo.

Giovanni groaned, hand pressed to his chest as another shiver wracked his body. If these stupid shivers caused his wound to reopen...

“Giovanni...”

Blinking, Giovanni looked around his cell for the source of the voice. It certainly didn’t sound like Uberto, come to gloat or possibly feign friendship and promise to free him. But no, there was no one in his cell.

“Giovanni, up here.” 

This time, Giovanni looked to the one window in his cell. A laugh burst forth before he could stop it, chest pain be damned. There, hanging from the outside of his tower cell, was Desmond.

“I won’t ask how you managed to get up here,” He murmured, slowly making his way to his feet.

Desmond gave him a small smile, “That would be a stupid question,” his eyes looked over Giovanni, “You look like shit.”

Giovanni nodded slowly, “I was ambushed in Roma...Templar bastard got a lucky hit.”

“You going to be alright?” Desmond asked, “Not feeling dizzy or faint?”

“The dizzy spells have passed.” Giovanni murmured, then shook his head, “Enough about me, Desmond. What happened while I was gone? My family—“

“Your family is safe, Giovanni,” Desmond cut him off, reaching through the bars of the window to rest his hand on Giovanni’s, “Federico and Ezio were both able to fight off the guards who tried to arrest them, and I was able to intercept the guards who went for Petruccio, and Federico and Ezio helped take out the rest of the squadron.”

Giovanni swallowed the lump in his throat at the thought of his sons facing down enemies on their own. Even though Federico was, in the eyes of the Brotherhood, an Assassin, it had only been a day. And Ezio had only known about the Brotherhood for a day, and now he had fought for his life against Templar agents. What might have happened if he hadn’t told Ezio the truth? “Where are they now?”

“Maria, Claudia, and Petruccio are with Paola now, tucked away in one of the private rooms.” Desmond nodded, “Federico and Ezio are in your study, helping me with the plan to take down the conspiracy and rescuing you.”

That sounded like something his boys would try, “How do you plan on getting me out of this cell? It’s the top of a tower, surrounded by guards. There’s no way I could get out undetected, not in the shape I’m in.”

There was an apologetic look on Desmond’s face, “That’s the thing...we aren’t breaking you out of here.”

Giovanni frowned at that, “Then what is the plan?”

Desmond sighed, “Alberti plans to hang you tomorrow, Giovanni. He’s taking advantage of Lorenzo’s brief absence to do as much damage as he can.”

Giovanni nodded, closing his eyes, “Of course he would...” he couldn’t help but wonder why Lorenzo would choose now to leave Firenze, knowing what he did about the dangers to him and his family. “I assume my hanging will draw quite the crowd.”

“A massive crowd, I imagine,” Desmond nodded, “I’m sure a few Templar will want to watch the spectacle. Out in the open like that, surrounded by crowds of people who might not notice a few white hoods.”

It was a dark joke, but Giovanni hadn’t lived as an Assassin without learning to deal with death in various forms, “At least my death will bring a great deal of good for the Brotherhood.”

Desmond shook his head, “Don’t start picking out your coffin just yet, Giovanni,” with great care, Desmond shifted a tightly wrapped bundle from under his arm through the bars of Giovanni’s window, “You’re going to need to undress and put that on under your clothes.”

Giovanni raised an eyebrow, carefully unwrapping the bundle, “Should I even ask what this is?”

“A little something from our little artist friend,” Desmond smiled, “It should be enough to save your neck, just in case.”

Chapter Text

Petruccio Auditore knew people didn’t expect much of him. He was well aware of how the outside world viewed him: the sickly child of the Auditore family, the fourth child, the poor baby. He was sure there were a good number of people who didn’t expect him to live long enough to grow his first whiskers on his chin.

And Petruccio didn’t hold any of these people any ill will. He knew he hadn’t achieved much in his thirteen years of life, housebound and bed ridden as he often was. He wasn’t intelligent and cunning like Federico, or charming like Ezio, or strong willed like Claudia. They were the Auditore children, and he was most often the afterthought.

He didn’t mind being overlooked, oddly enough. He didn’t need attention like Ezio and Claudia did. So many days spent with only his own company had taught him that his own mind had more than enough to keep him occupied. He would watch the streets of Firenze through his bedroom window, listen to a room full of people who didn’t notice him, and he could think and imagine.

He noticed things most people didn’t.

Like how his mother didn’t like mushrooms, even if she’d always eat them if they were present on her plate; she’d always chew a bit more forcefully, swallow a bit more quickly than normal, like she wanted the ordeal over sooner rather than later. Or how Ezio’s eyes would widen slightly when he was telling a lie--like he was willing the other person to believe him. Or how Federico’s eyes would sometimes follow a man as he walked by, sometimes even brightening while he watched them.

But it wasn’t just details about his family he noticed. Sometimes, when he watched someone, he could imagine where they were walking after they left the room or stepped behind a wall. He could picture them clearly in his mind’s eye, though he did sometimes wish he would imagine something a bit more creative than simply walking.

Petruccio wasn’t sure when he realized he wasn’t exactly normal.

When he was younger, Claudia once forced Petruccio to help her to find a necklace she had “borrowed” from their mother without asking, and had promptly lost. Her reasoning had been that Petruccio always found the items he looked for, and never had to ask Annetta or Mother to help him. At the time, her comment had confused him, and he asked her why she didn’t just listen for the bells while she was looking.

The bewildered expression on Claudia’s face had been enough for Petruccio to realize at his young age that no-- people didn’t hear the rustle of tiny bells when they were close to what they were looking for-- and never mentioned it again. Though Claudia’s diary was never safe from Petruccio after that, and neither was Ezio being constantly accused of the snooping.

There were also the shiny things that always drew Petruccio’s eye. Not gold or glass, or really anything that was actually supposed to be shiny. No, things like carts of hay or flowers, wells, pigeon coops, even a few doors. He wasn’t sure how these things would shine-- it had nothing to do with the sun, because the shine remained the same regardless of time of day or night. And the shine wasn’t the same; it was more like the pearls on his mother’s favorite earrings, or her opal ring that he had been caught admiring more than once.

The back wall of his father’s office had the same shine. He was afraid of what exactly that meant.

He wasn’t an idiot, nor a child-- he was thirteen, not six. He knew that his father worked far too much at night for a banker. And bankers didn’t come home in the middle of the night with knife wounds. Too many times, Petruccio overheard his parents' hushed conversations through the shared wall between their bedrooms: of his mother tending to his father’s injuries, rather than call for a doctor.

Father did dangerous work, though Petruccio wasn’t sure exactly who for.

And apparently, his brothers were also part of the dangerous work.

Petruccio knew that he should have recoiled from the bloodshed that had taken place in front of his eyes just a few hours ago: Federico and Ezio had murdered a dozen men in broad daylight, and neither showed any remorse for it. He should have been afraid of the not-Father Desmond, the stranger who insisted he escort Petruccio alone to Annetta’s sister’s (he still didn’t understand the appeal of brothels, but that was beside the point).

But he didn’t.

The scene in the courtyard, while bloody, was oddly enchanting to watch. Petruccio could practically feel time slow each time Desmond or his brothers blocked a would-be devastating blow, his heart beating twice in that suspended moment before time returned to its normal flow. Both Desmond and Federico seemed to have knives strapped to their arms, but they seemed to be able to sheath them without using their hands, the metal an extension of their arms. The three of them moved with grace, not allowing a single movement to be wasted on something ugly like stumbling or taking a hit.

Petruccio liked to imagine what it would be like to be able to move like that.

But then there was Desmond. Petruccio couldn’t help but feel somewhat guilty-- the man had saved him from arrest, after all-- but whenever he looked at Desmond, he was overcome by a sense of wrongness. Not like the man was an enemy or not to be trusted, at least Petruccio didn’t think that was the case. It was more like… when Father had one book on the shelf that was bigger than the rest, causing it to jut out of line from the rest of the spines. It wasn’t like the book didn’t belong on the bookshelf, but it obviously displaced the smooth surface of the neat and tidy line of the bookshelf with its presence.

Then again...as Petruccio looked over to where Mother and Claudia were sleeping in the bed Signora Poala had provided, he couldn’t help but feel the same way about himself. It was as if, for some reason, Petruccio wasn’t supposed to be in this cozy room in the back of a brothel. No doubt Ezio and Federico would have cracked jokes about it being three years too soon for him to be visiting a brothel, but he wasn’t exactly sure why he was feeling this way. If he wasn’t supposed to be here, safe and sound, where was he supposed to be?

With a sigh, Petruccio rubbed his eyes. He should be sleeping, but his thoughts wouldn’t settle down long enough. It didn’t help that he was curled up on the chaise lounge, rather than an actual bed, but his mother refused to allow him out of her sight, not even to another bedroom.

Petruccio stilled as his ears picked up on a single sound cutting through the dark of the night.

The light rustling of bells.

He knew that now that he had heard it, he wouldn’t be able to ignore the bells until he found their source, so he quietly pushed himself to his feel. His feet moved on their own accord to the bedroom window, his fingers unlatching the lock without realizing he knew how to work the lock.

The December night bit at Petruccio’s cheeks, causing him to gasp softly. His eyes peered into the darkness, drawn upward by the sound of the bells.

It was a single feather, slowly drifting down from the dark blanket of the night sky. Petruccio didn’t realize he had reached out his hand to catch the feather until he heard the final crescendo of the bells, and felt the shaft between his fingers.

He couldn't help but smile. The feather was white, his favorite. But on second glance, Petruccio realized that the feather must have been a blood feather, judging by the broken shaft and the red stain spreading through the fibers of the feather.

And Petruccio’s fingertips.

In the back of his mind, Petruccio hoped whichever bird this feather came from was alright, though, he had a sinking feeling that, judging from the amount of blood on Petruccio’s fingers, that might not be the case.

He only hoped it was not an ill omen.


 

The skies on December 29th, 1476 were far clearer and bright than they had any right to be. 

Forty years, Ezio had cursed that day. Forty years, he tried to drown that day in the bottom of a bottle. Twenty years, he tried to paint over that day with blood. Twenty years, he had no purpose but wreck destruction in a vain attempt to undo that day.

Yet, it was a beautiful day.

Ezio kept his head bowed as he leaned against the courtyard wall, unable to bring himself to look at the gallows in the courtyard’s center.

Giovanni Auditore, you and your accomplices stand accused of the crime of treason. Have you any evidence to counter this charge?

Yes. The documents that were delivered to you last night!

He thought he had laid these ghosts to rest. He thought he had been able to find peace with the events of that thrice-damned day. Ezio willed his stomach not to rebel, willed his mind not to become lost in the phantoms of his past.

In the absence of any compelling evidence to the contrary, I am bound to pronounce you... GUILTY.

No, it wasn’t the same day, not really. That wretched day was a lifetime ago. This time, it would be different. He would fix everything this time, they would be safe. Ezio’s hand reached up to grab the clasp of Desmond’s shirt, his thumb running over the strangely shaped metal. Things were different this time, right down to Ezio’s clothes. It wasn't the same day.

You and your collaborators are hereby sentenced to death.

Ezio forced himself to breathe deeply, his nostrils filling with the foreign aroma that pervaded Desmond’s clothes. The complex mix of citrus, spices, and musk that Ezio had never smelled before-- an aroma that was uniquely Desmond. Every deep breath was filled with the foreign scent, so different from that day a lifetime ago.

You are a traitor, Uberto –

The soft fabric of Desmond’s hood caressed Ezio’s cheek-- soft like silk, yet warm like wool, and light like cotton; beyond the make of any tailor in Firenze, beyond the make of centuries of tailors.

Things were different this time, even Ezio’s clothes.

Ezio opened his eyes, unsure when exactly he closed them. The courtyard was the same, but at the same time, Ezio knew that it was completely different.

Was this why Desmond had instructed Ezio to wear his shirt? So that, while Desmond could not be with Ezio in person for this stage of the plan, his presence could still ward off Ezio’s demons, drawing him back to the present when the past threatened to haunt him?

“Thank you, Desmond.” Ezio murmured softly to himself, too low for those near him to hear, before his eyes scanned the packed courtyard.

It was only his years of experience that allowed Ezio to spot Federico across the courtyard, and even then, his brother would disappear and reappear among the crowds like a fish vanishing into the depths of the ocean.

In one of the few instances Ezio could see his brother, Federico gave Ezio a slow nod. Ezio nodded in turn, pushing off from the wall he had been leaning on and making his own dive into the throng of people. At the same time, Ezio allowed his second sight to take over, plunging his world into azure.

They had Templar to hunt.

Ezio knew the faces of all the Pazzi conspirators, nothing could have scrubbed them from his memories; his second sight was more out of habit than true necessity.

Francesco Salviati.

Stefano da Bagnone.

Francesco de’ Pazzi.

Jacopo de’ Pazzi.

Uberto Alberti.

Ezio knew where Alberti would be standing, as well as Rodrigo Borgia: on the scaffold of the gallows. Which left the remaining four.

Four targets in a crowded courtyard, surrounded by guards waiting to attack and kill him on sight. It had been a while since Ezio had such a leisurely mission. At least he wasn’t suspended in a parachute, being dragged by a runaway carriage.

Salviati was the easiest to track, but the archbishop's white robes were a double edge sword. Yes, he was easy to track, but that was because he was noticeable. No doubt if he wasn’t careful, Salviati’s death would cause a commotion.

It took Ezio a short while of simply tailing Salviati before he saw the best place to make his move.

His pace picked up slightly, still weaving through the crowd with practiced grace. No one paid him any mind, no one even realized he was there. By the time Ezio was at Salviati’s back, the man was circling around the outskirts of the courtyard.

With one hand on Salviati’s shoulder, and the other through his back, Ezio welcomed the whiteness rushing to greet them both.

Salviati, of course, was a bit surprised to find himself dead.

“What? No, this is impossible!” The Templar sputtered, looking up at Ezio with disbelieving eyes, “Auditore is--”

“There is more than just one Auditore Assassin, you realize.” Ezio interrupted, “That is why Alberti sent his thugs to try and arrest me and my brothers, isn’t it? Or is that what you Templar ilk tell yourselves to justify wiping out an entire family?”

Salviati glared at Ezio, but Ezio couldn’t bring himself to care. He didn’t have questions needing answered, not really; Salviati was insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

“We knew you would try to stop the hanging.” Salviati spat, “We’re expecting you.”

“Of course you are, you’re not that stupid.” Ezio rolled his eyes, absentmindedly playing with the clasp of Desmond’s shirt, “Though I hope your attempt to catch us is at least a little better than your harebrained scheme to kill the Medici family. I’m a little bored.”

A low blow, perhaps, but Ezio told himself he earned this.

“It’s a shame I won’t get to watch you watch your father die.”

Ezio just smiled, “We’ve made arrangements to properly derail my father’s untimely demise. I’m not worried.” He knelt down beside the older man, “You can go ahead and die now, unless you have anything else to say.”

If Salviati had anything to say, Ezio wasn’t actually paying attention. He already had his hand over the man’s eyes with a muttered “Requiescat in pace.” By the time the world began to come back into view, Ezio was ready.

It was the same moment as the one Ezio had stabbed Salviati, and Ezio didn’t skip a beat. With one hand on his shoulder and the other on his back, it was all too easy for the passerby to assume Ezio was guiding the archbishop to sit at the closet bench, sitting beside him with a bowed head. Two men with heads bowed in prayer for the soon to be condemned man.

Ezio gave a careful scan of the courtyard. No guards making their way toward him, no civilians backing away in horror, no suspicious whisperings. Well, at least no whisperings about Salviati.

There were plenty to be had about the man being led to the gallows in that moment.

For all his bravado to Salviati just moments earlier, Ezio was nervous. There was so much that could go wrong, and his father’s neck was literally hanging in the balance.

But he had to have faith.

Faith in his own skills.

Faith in Leonardo’s handiwork. 

Faith in Federico’s training.

Faith in Desmond’s plan.

Ezio took one more deep breath before standing from the bench. He could see Bagnone across the courtyard, and there were still plenty of Templar to hunt.


 

Federico could only look on in stunned disbelief as Ezio made his way back into the crowd, leaving Francesco Salviati alone on a bench. The man’s hands were folded in front of him, his head bowed forward-- the perfect picture of pious prayer for the condemned. But he knew the truth, that the man was dead, and his little brother had killed him.

Ezio’s kill was absolutely flawless: the stalk, the strike, the stash-- all without a single person so much as looking in Ezio’s direction. And all without Ezio so much as flinching or batting an eye at taking Salviati’s life.

Had Ezio even experienced the white afterlife like Federico had with Baroncelli? Perhaps that was why he seemed so unaffected… But there was something terribly wrong, Federico could feel it.

Desmond had said that he would have been more concerned with those who didn’t react to the calculated taking of life the first time. Should Federico be concerned with the callousness of Ezio’s first kill? 

But could this even be considered Ezio’s first kill, after the number of guards the two of them had to kill the previous day? Desmond had said his own first kill had been very much in a similar situation: kill or be killed. Perhaps Federico could put his worries about Ezio’s lack of emotion to rest.

That didn’t explain the skill in which Ezio killed.

It was more than Ezio being a prodigy, it was more than him picking up the skills Federico taught him. Federico thought back to the events of the past three days: Ezio’s effortless defeat of Vieri and his thugs with his bare fists, his flawless grace in their climbing race to the top of the church, his eager acceptance of Desmond’s chaotic presence, his lack of shock or disbelief in being told the truth of the Auditore family and the war between Assassins and Templar, his brilliant second sight, his natural proficiency with a sword, with killing. 

His familiarity with their father’s hidden blade and how it worked. His calming words of comfort to Federico after his first kill.

Ezio wasn’t a prodigy. 

He was experienced.

Federico’s gut twisted at the thought, at the implication that Ezio had managed to keep such a secret from him. But what was worse was the fact Federico knew it hadn’t been their father who had trained Ezio.

Which begged the question of where Ezio learned to be an Assassin. And from whom.

But Federico couldn’t dwell on Ezio for too long, not when they had a mission to carry out. Not when the crowd's attention turned at once in the direction of the condemned being escorted from the prison toward the scaffold.

Federico could feel his wrist itch to release his blade as he saw Uberto Alberti strutting through the crowd as if he had any right to breathe the same air as the rest of them. He didn’t recognize the man at his side, and his hood made it hard to see him properly, but Federico could feel it in his bones that the man was Templar. He would warrant watching, if not Federico’s blade in his throat.

But then Federico saw his father, and his heart stopped in his chest.

What had they done to him? Federico knew his father had only been in prison overnight, but somehow, his father looked like he had wasted away for years in his cell. He was far too pale, Federico had never seen his father so pale, or his eyes dark and shrunken in. There was at least one bruise Federico could see, and he was sure there was more where that one came from. His father’s clothes were rumbled and dirty, and he was sure one of his sleeves had been torn (no doubt during his sham of an arrest).

And yet, for however poorly his condition was, Giovanni Auditore walked with his head held high, his shoulders squared to carry what remained of his dignity he still possessed. He stumbled only once, and the guard at his side quickly grabbed him and pulled him to his feet, and even then, his father pulled himself from the guard’s grasp.

Federico couldn’t help but smile slightly. They would make sure his father was alright, this plan would work.

It had to.

As if Federico needed reminding of the work before him, his eyes quickly lighted on the frail form of Jacopo de’ Pazzi, who was watching the scene unfold with a smile on his face. No doubt gloating at the scene of his apparent victory over the Auditore family and the current Assassin threat.

Not a chance.


There was no good way to wake up on the morning of your execution. Though, for the life of him, Giovanni couldn’t figure how he had managed to even fall asleep in that cold, dingy cell of his. Then again, he could have very well passed out rather than actually fallen asleep, but in the end, it hardly mattered.

The clang of the metal door rasping against the stone floor was enough to jolt Giovanni to wakefulness, and even if it hadn’t been, the guard roughly pulling him to his feel certainly would have.

Giovanni met the eye of the man standing at the entrance to his cell, his eyes narrowing to a glare, “So you show your true colors at last, Uberto.” As battered and exhausted as he was, he refused to give Alberti the satisfaction of seeing him brought low. The point might have been moot, but he still had his pride, after all.

Alberti’s nose wrinkled ever so slightly in disdain, and Giovanni had to resist the urge to smile. Even as the ropes around his wrists burned as they were tightened, he did not look away from his former friend.

“Out of curiosity, what did Borgia offer you to betray your friends, countrymen, and lord?” The guard gave Giovanni a small shove, but he was already walking forward as best he could despite the tightness in his chest, “After all, I just want to see how easily you’re bought. More than thirty pieces of silver, no doubt...you’d argue for at least forty.”

“Be silent !” Alberti’s cheeks were a ruddy purple, his meaty hand balled into a fist.

Giovanni allowed himself to smile, though he knew the gesture didn’t reach his eyes. What good times and friendship he might have had with Uberto Alberti were null and void the moment he put his family’s life in danger, “Perhaps we shall see if Alighieri had the right idea in regards to Hell and those who betray their Lords.”

This time, Alberti’s meaty fist met Giovanni’s gut. The man couldn’t punch to save his life, but Giovanni was already in a great deal of pain and discomfort as it was, so he figured he could be forgiven for the grunt of pain he emitted.

“I suppose you’ll be able to find out for the both of us soon enough, Giovanni.” Alberti hissed, turning on his heel.  “And don’t think we aren’t expecting your foolhardy boys to show their faces. They’ll follow you soon enough.”

Giovanni resisted the urge to snarl at the man for threatening Federico and Ezio, schooling his features. “I’m sure you’ve thought of everything, Uberto. Not a single thing you need to worry about…”

And with that, the march to the gallows began.

There was no right way to march to one’s own hanging. Keep your head high, and the world sees arrogance. Shy away from the approach of death, and the world sneers at cowardice. Loudly proclaim innocence, and the world shakes its head at the utter brazen lack of repentance.

Giovanni had nothing to repent for, and he damned well wasn’t going to allow anyone think him a coward. Let him be accused of arrogance, at least then there was the slightest sliver of truth.

But regardless, it was hard to walk. The tightness in his chest was now nearly unbearable, and being upright had caused the world to sway and twist in his field of vision. Even so, he only stumbled the one time, even if that was once too often for his liking.

The guard who grabbed him seemed to find the fall too frequent as well, nearly wrenching his shoulder out of place as he pulled him to his feet once more.

“Stay strong, Giovanni, we’re almost there.”

The words were a whisper, and for a moment, Giovanni didn’t believe his ears. He knew that voice, though it should not have been coming from beneath a guard’s helmet.

He didn’t dare turn his head to see for himself, schooling his features lest Alberti or one of his accomplices be alerted to the disturbance. It was all he could do to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, his eyes forward on the approaching gallows. He didn’t hear his own shoes scuffing against the wooden stairs, or the creak of the wood under the weight of traitors and the condemned, but he knew the sounds must have occurred beneath the sounds of the frenzied crowd at his feet.

It was a surreal feeling, watching so many people gathered to watch his death. How many of them had he been on good terms with in the past, friendly even? Were they all that so easily swayed, or had they always harbored some secret desire to watch him swing? 

He did recognize a few of the faces in the crowd. One of Paola’s girls was close to the front of the gathered crowd-- Dolce, if Giovanni remembered correctly-- though she wasn’t dressed as she usually was for work. If Giovanni hadn't known better, he never would have guessed she was a courtesan beneath the heavy blue gown she wore.

Giovanni only gave a slow blink as the rope passed over his line of sight, the coarse material rubbing against his throat as it was tightened.

There was only the faintest click of metal against metal in Giovanni’s ear, before Desmond’s voice filled them once more.

“No matter what you hear, remember that your family is safe. Hang in there...no pun intended.”

It was easier said than done, while he listened to Alberti drone on in the farce of a trial. What sort of trial began with a noose around the accused’s neck? 

“Giovanni Auditore, you stand accused of the crime of treason. Have you any evidence to counter this charge?”

It took a great deal of strength not to roll his eyes at the theatrics, “You know good and well that there isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest I am treasonous. Why else would you wait until il Magnifico was not present in the city? I’d very much like to see his signed order for my arrest, let alone my execution; but you aren’t about to produce those documents, are you?”

Perhaps Giovanni took more pleasure out of Alberti’s mottled face screwed up in fluster than he really should have, but considering his past few days, he was owed a few simple pleasures.

But then a voice cried out of the masses.

“Where is il Magnifico?”

A murmur spread through the crowd, whispers wondering where their leader was, and why an execution would be conducted without his oversight.

“...isn’t he always here for executions?”

“Especially for treason…”

“I hear the arrest only happened last night…”

“It’s true! I saw the storming of the Palazzo Auditore myself!”

Giovanni couldn’t keep track of who was saying what, but he recognized several of the voices speaking dissent.

Alberti, to his credit, recovered quickly, “Silence!” He bellowed to the crowd, before turning his ire back to Giovanni, “In the absence of any compelling evidence to the contrary--”

“What proof do you have of treason!”

That was Dolce’s voice, Giovanni was sure of it.

“We want the evidence!” Giovanni knew that voice came from Piero, one of Volpe’s thieves. But why was he dressed as a blacksmith?

What had been a murmur before was now disgruntled complaints. There were even a few raised fists shaking in frustration.

“All evidence has been presented to the courts!” Alberti shouted, spittle flying from his lips. Giovanni couldn’t help but find it fitting-- like a rabid dog spraying foam before it had to be put down, “The courts find Giovanni Auditore guilty of the crime of treason, and his conspirators-- Federico Auditore, Ezio Auditore, and Petruccio Auditore-- will be arrested and stand trial for their crimes--”

“Liar!”

Giovanni had no idea who spoke that time, one of Paola’s girls or perhaps someone else entirely. Whoever it had been, it was enough to cause a tumultuous stir in the crowd. Alberti made a violent gesture to the guards, who were already wading through the mass of people to no avail.

“Murderer!” It was a man’s voice this time, shouting above the din of the mob, “Those boys are already dead!”

Whatever semblance of order might have been had with the guards’ presence unraveled like a frayed sleeve. Men and women could both be heard screaming at the top of their lungs.

“The Auditore courtyard looks like a slaughterhouse!”

“I’ve seen it!”

“Signora Auditore screamed for her baby boy!”

“He was a child! A sickly child!”

“The women didn’t deserve the fate you gave them!”

“Where have you hidden the bodies! They deserve a proper burial!”

With every shout, Giovanni could feel his stomach turn, his heart cold with dread. He tried to ward against the horrific image of his home bathed with blood, though he knew for a fact that bodies littered the inside of his home. He tried not to imagine his Maria screaming at the top of her lungs for Petruccio, or his youngest son’s eyes wide with terror at his impending death. He tried to keep the image of Federico and Ezio, eyes staring unseeing as they lay in a pool of their own blood. He tried to keep his mind from conjuring images of what Alberti’s men might have done to his Maria and Claudia...what barbarism they might have faced. 

His mind was only so strong.

No matter what you hear, remember that your family is safe.

This had to be part of Desmond’s plan, though to what end, Giovanni couldn’t fathom.

The crowds were pressed against the gallows now, the force of their bodies causing the scaffolding to jostle slightly. Giovanni had plenty of practice remaining upright, but he was still perturbed by the uneasy creak of the wood beneath his feet. He hoped whatever was holding the trap door in place was sturdier than the rest of the frame.

With a slow inhale, Giovanni closed his eyes. He shut out the throbbing in his temple, the constricting tightness in his chest, the weakness in his limbs, the fear in his heart, the horrors in his mind.. 

He couldn’t focus on any of that.

As his breath released, Giovanni opened his eyes into a world of darkness.

The mob was a writhing mass of blue against the wine-dark landscape, with only the occasional flecks of crimson of the nearby guards. But Giovanni saw them, his gilded enemies radiating like sunlight through the darkness. Desmond had not been exaggerating. The Templar truly could not help but watch Giovanni’s supposed demise, even if things were not going to plan.

But then one of the golden lights flickered out.

Blinking, Giovanni’s vision returned to the world, his eyes focusing where the gold had been just a moment before. He was only able to get the briefest of glances, but Giovanni trusted his eyes well enough to see legs vanishing into the confines of a hay cart. It took everything in Giovanni not to laugh outright at the sight, but he took comfort in it nonetheless.

A moment later, a youth slipped from the hay cart, tugging his hood over his head as he moved back into the mass of the crowd.

Giovanni didn’t recognize the hood, and he couldn’t see his face, but Giovanni recognized the shape, the gait, the carriage of his middle son. Ezio was alive, and he had just watched him assassinate a Templar in broad daylight, surrounded by guards.

If the circumstances were different, Giovanni would be bursting with pride for Ezio-- no, damn the circumstances, he was bursting with pride. Ezio was a natural, and no doubt Federico had been teaching him behind Giovanni’s back--for which he could not be more grateful.

But then Ezio looked up from his position in the crowd, and Giovanni knew his son was looking at him.

And he nodded.

Giovanni couldn’t nod back, or even smile at his son, not without risking the chance of tipping off Alberti, or worse, Borgia. But Ezio didn’t seem to mind the lack of reaction from Giovanni, instead nodding his head to one side.

It was easy to take Ezio’s cue, eyes carefully following the direction.

And he was sure his heart stopped in that moment.

Twenty years ago, when the midwife had first informed him that he had a healthy baby boy before placing the tightly swaddled bundle in his arms, Giovanni knew he would some day watch his baby boy become a man, and then an Assassin. It was the Auditore legacy; he and Mario had made that journey, and now so would his son.

Giovanni had dreamed of the day he would bestow Federico his first set of Assassin robes. He had dreamed of the initiation ceremony in which his eldest would wear the robes of their brotherhood as he took the brand of the Assassins, a vision in white as he took his first leap of faith.

Expectation was always so different from reality, but Giovanni couldn’t keep his eyes from misting with tears, blinking them away only so he could keep watching his eldest, dressed in his robes-- the robes of an Assassin.

He looked just like Giovanni had at his age. It was a startling realization, and yet he could not contest it. Nor could he argue with the way Federico carried himself-- his footsteps sure, body moving with the undulation of the crowd, disappearing and reappearing with ease-- that there was no doubt that Federico Auditore was an Assassin.

And Giovanni had the perfect view to watch as his eldest slipped behind Jacopo de Pazzi and his guards. He knew the exact maneuver Federcio used to drive his ancient blade through the heart of the Pazzi patriarch, because he had practiced it with his son for almost three years. 

Absolutely beautiful.

Giovanni was proud of Ezio, to be sure, but Giovanni couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face-- damn Alberti, damn Borgia, they couldn’t take this from him. He was so proud of Federico, not just for the killing of Jacopo, or Barconcelli, not just for his actions the past few days as the family faced peril, but for everything.

He was so proud, and he desperately needed to tell Federico that. Doubt plagued his son, Giovanni knew that, and April had only made his doubt stronger. The moment he was able, Giovanni needed to remind Federico that he was proud of him, no matter what. He didn’t care if Federico found the dimmest, ugliest boy in all of Firenze as his lover-- hell, he didn’t care if the boy was a Frenchman or a Spaniard at this point-- Giovanni would still be proud of him.

He was proud of both of his boys. And he would not allow himself to take his time for granted again.

He was still smiling, standing with a noose around his neck above the gallows trapdoor, when a new voice bellowed over the cacophony of the mob.

“What is the meaning of this?”

That voice, Giovanni knew all too well. 

Stunned, Giovanni turned as much as he was able, back to the new entourage of guards and, more importantly, just who they were guarding.

Lorenzo.

Giovanni’s heart leapt into his throat. Lorenzo was in Firenze? When had he returned? Had he ever left? What did this mean for Desmond’s plan? Was Lorenzo part of the plan?

He couldn’t keep his eyes off of Lorenzo as the younger man pointed directly to the gallows, “Guards, arrest Uberto Alberti for conspiracy and treason!”

As Giovanni looked back at his former friend, he couldn’t help the smirk that pulled at his lips at the wide-eyed and frantic look on Alberti’s face.

“What’s the matter?” He asked, unable to help himself, “Didn’t think of that?”

Alberti met his gaze, though only briefly, before his eyes flicked back to Lorenzo’s approaching guards.

And then to the trapdoor’s lever.

Their eyes met once more, and Giovanni could see the unbridled hatred in the other man’s eyes.

Before he lunged for the lever.


Federico was ready for the white afterlife this time, standing over the prone body of Jacopo de Pazzi.

“No no no no….” The old man chanted feebly, shaking his head like a petulant child. “It’s all gone wrong…”

“Indeed it has.” Federico nodded, wiping his blade on Pazzi’s clothes, “You underestimated the Assassins, and it has cost you dearly.”

You are cockroaches, scurrying about in the dark, only to scatter with the light of progress would shine.” Jacopo sneered, though Federico couldn’t help but find the gesture rather pathetic.

He smiled, “I wonder if you’d still think the Templar in such high esteem if they had replaced il Magnifico with a different family, rather than your own.” He shook his head, “But no matter. Once this is done, I think I’ll pay your murderous nephew a visit in his prison cell. Since we’re speaking about vermin, after all.”

Jacopo’s reaction wasn’t what he had expected.

The old man laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Federico frowned, kneeling down to grab the man’s shoulders, “Tell me!”

Silence was Federico’s only answer, and he swore to himself. He had squandered his time with Jacopo with pointless banter, rather than learn anything useful.

Requiescat in pace.” Federico muttered, closing the old man’s eyes as he waited for the world to return in its full color.

He had forgotten just how loud everything had been prior his assassination of Jacopo de’ Pazzi.

The crowds were screaming.

The guards were shouting.

Il Magnifico was giving commands.

It was madness.

And yet, Federico’s senses could discern noises through the cacophony.

The groan of wood against wood.

The rasp of a metal hinge.

The thunk of wood giving way under great force.

The sharp twang of rope being pulled taut.

The whine of rope fibers straining under the weight they held.

Federico knew what had happened before he saw it, but seeing the gallows, and his father’s lifeless body hanging at the end of a noose, was enough to cause Federico’s own heart to take the same plunge.

He had failed his father.

Unable to look at his father’s body, Federico turned his attention to Alberti, who was already fleeing from the gallows with another man. Clenching his jaw and his fist, Federico moved to give chase. He might not have been able to save his father, but damn he would not avenge him.

He had only made it a few steps through the riot of the courtyard when another voice screeched through the air.

“Death to the Medici!”

It was then that Federico knew why Jacopo had been laughing when Federico mentioned dealing with Francesco in his prison cell.

Because he wasn’t in prison.

He was charging through the chaos, sword in one hand, dagger in the other. Directly for Lorenzo de Medici.

It was a split-second decision: did he chase down his father’s murderer, and possibly the best lead they had on the Templar plot; or did he stop Francesco, protecting the man his father had sworn allegiance to?

His feet moved with the practiced ease of the past three years, ducking and dodging through the mass of the crowd, vaulting over fallen crates and debris as he desperately searched for a clear path for his feet to fly.

His heart beat a panicked tempo, his mind frantic in it’s chant.

He wasn’t going to make it.

He wasn’t going to make it.

He wasn’t going to make it.

But he had to.

He had to make it.

He had to make it.

The world slowed in the final moments, with Fransceco de’ Pazzi’s manic face twisted in sadistic glee as he fought past the guards, his blade aimed directly at il Magnifico’s throat.

Federico could only make one last dash forward.

Blood filled his mouth; red spreading through the white fibers of his robes where blood fell upon them.

Chapter Text

When Federico had been in the beginning of his training, just days before his eighteenth birthday, he had nearly lost his eye. He had been sparring with his father, mastering his swordsmanship, and he had only just managed to convince him to use real swords instead of blunted training swords for a change.

It had been a stupid mistake, Federico thought he spotted a pattern in his father’s strikes, and had grown complacent. He expected his father to strike low, so he had blocked low.

Seeing his father’s sword swinging directly for his face had scared him half to death. It was only a combination of Federico flinching back and his father pulling his strike at the last moment that had saved Federico’s sight. But regardless, Federico’s blood splattered against the cobblestones.

It was strange, because Federico hadn’t felt any pain. Even when they both dropped their swords, and Federico could see the blood pooling in his cupped hand, he didn’t feel pain.

“The rush of the fight can dull pain,” His father had said, grabbing a rag to mop the blood, “But it doesn’t last long.”

His father had made him wait for the rush to fade so he could feel the pain. Then he made Federico run across the city’s rooftops to the city gate and back, partly in punishment for his mistake, but mostly to give Federico experience in freerunning while bleeding and in pain.

“I wish I could say you won’t have to do this often, figlio ,” Giovanni had sighed, walking Federico to sit at his desk, “But I will not give you comforting lies.”

He then placed a needle, thread, a mirror, and a small glass of liquor in front of him. And so Federico had received his first lesson in sewing his own flesh, with only a shot of liquor to dull the pain.

The next morning, Federico had come up with a story of being jumped by a few Pazzi thugs (“I assure you, they are far worse off”). And while Ezio had been quick to believe the story, and quicker to seek retribution, Federico hadn’t missed the look in his mother’s eyes, both when she looked at his wound and when she looked at his father.

The wound healed with only a small scar across the bridge of his nose. But the lessons learned that night stayed with Federico with far more impact.

Standing now in his father’s robes, literally wearing his mantle in the wake of his death, Federico could not allow the taste of blood to distract him. Not with Francesco de Pazzi before him.

It had been pure chance that Federico hadn’t been run through by Francesco’s sword, his mad dash sending him inside the man’s reach and out of range of an effective sword strike. The dagger, on the other hand, was far more lethal.

Federico tasted blood before he had been able to grab Francesco’s wrist and break his hold on the dagger. He barely heard the clatter of the metal against the cobblestone over the sound of the older man’s cursing and shouting.

He should have pressed the element of surprise, should have driven his blade into the man’s heart while he was close, but his window of opportunity was gone before he knew it, and all Federico could do was stand between Francesco de Pazzi and Lorenzo de Medici. 

“Fortune must be smiling on me,” Francesco’s eyes were wide and manic, the grin on his face without mirth, “Both the Medici and the Auditore families will die today.”

Federico didn’t dignify the older man with a response, taking the chance to draw his father’s sword from its sheath. His sword now. The weight of it in his hand was both familiar and foreign in the same stroke, but he knew it was a blade he could trust with his life. Because, as he lifted the blade before him, he knew he would have to.

The Templar barked out a laugh, “Eager to follow in your father’s footsteps to the grave, boy?” 

It was a taunt, a sloppy attempt to draw Federico into attacking first, making the first mistake. Federico knew that, refusing to dwell on the ache in his chest. The rush of battle, it seemed, did not dull the pains of the heart. But he had a job to do, regardless of his heartbreak.

“Bold words from a man without ally,” Federico said instead, settling into his fighting stance.

“What are you babbling about, you fool?”

Federico watched the other man carefully, a small smirk on his face, “I would say you should ask your uncle,” He gave his sword a small flourish, “but I’ve already finished with him.”

Oh, if looks could kill… Federico had always known that Francesco de Pazzi was unstable, half mad on the best of days, but now, he was sure he was watching the last shreds of sanity begin to unravel. 

“In fact, now that Ezio has finished with Salviati and Bagone,” Federico continued, “That just leaves you and Alberti on my to-do list for today… how does it feel,” He continued, doing his best to fake an easy smile, “knowing that, after all those months and maybe even years of plotting and scheming for this moment, your entire Templar conspiracy has been run to ground by a couple of fledgling Assassins in a matter of days?”

Blood was pooling in his mouth as he spoke, and his lips were beginning to burn. He didn’t even think about what he was doing, he just did it: spitting his blood at Francesco de Pazzi.

He wasn’t nearly as accurate as he was with his throwing knives, otherwise he would have hit the older man square in the face. Instead, Federico had to settle for the fact he had stained the one white element of Francesco’s clothing.

And if Federico’s words hadn’t been enough to break the last resolve of the Templar, then the blood certainly had.

Francesco let out a blood curdling shriek, charging forth with sword swinging wildly for Federico’s head. There was no pattern for Federico to try and predict, only instinct and training guiding him. 

Time seemed to slow as metal met metal. Federico felt his heartbeat in his ears as his sword slid down the length of Francesco’s, locking at the hilt. They were nearly chest to chest as Federico’s right hand forced their swords to the side. Leaving his left hand free.

He would not be wasting this window of opportunity.

Francesco had not even had the chance to react to his sword being blocked before Federico’s first shot up in quick uppercut, Federico’s knuckles barely touching the other man’s chin before his blade surged forth through the tender, unprotected flesh.

This time, Federico embraced the white nothingness that rushed to greet him.

 

If Jacopo had been a petulant child in the face of his death, then Federico supposed Francesco was throwing a full on tantrum.

You worthless pezzo di merda!” Francesco fumed, face contorted with rage (though Federico noted the effect was somewhat less considering the man was laying on his back motionless), “ Medici puttana.”

Federico shook his head. He imagined that, if he could move, Francesco would have been flailing about wildly. “Pull yourself together, man. You’re embarrassing yourself,” He muttered. Even Claudia at her moodiest had never lowered herself to such a display, “Face death with a shred of dignity.”

He really should have expected that dignity wasn’t in Francesco de Pazzi’s repertoire, given the number of curses hurled at him. No wonder Vieri turned out to be such an ass, if this was his male role model. 

“Did your son know about your little plot?” The question was out before he realized the thought had fully realized itself, but now Federico found himself needing to know the answer, if only to plan his next move, “Did you induct Vieri into the Order yet?”

It was unsettling, the thought of having to hunt down and kill someone his brother’s age. But then Federico remembered that the Templar had been more than willing to kill Ezio and Petruccio, and his resolve returned at once.

“That useless boy…” Francesco spat, face twisted in a sneer, “ Utterly worthless…”

“Is that a no?”

To Federico’s frustration, Francesco spoke no more.

With a sigh, Federico knelt beside the vile man, pressing his hand over his entire face, “ Va ‘e porta con te la tua distruzione.”  He slowly moved his hand down, his fingers closing the man’s eyes, “ Requiescat in pace.”


Lorenzo de Medici was no fool. From the time he was old enough to keep track of numbers and letters, he understood that information and influence were a currency all their own, and infinitely more valuable than coin alone. Because coin alone could not buy power, power was gained through transactions of all three. And Lorenzo had known from the start that would become his bank, his empire.

It was inevitable that enemies would seek to raze all his hard work to the ground, fueled by envy and greed.

If Lorenzo had ever held stock in the concept of fate, he would have cited the day Giovanni Auditore entered his life as evidence. There was no possible way for the child he was then to understand just how big of a role the then nineteen year old Assassin would play in his life. He was Lorenzo’s thief of secrets, his eyes that never closed, his ears that never deafened. He was his falcon, swift and elegant even while hunting prey. He was perhaps the only man who Lorenzo did not have to guard his words with, to plan his actions three steps in advance.

Lorenzo had dared not put a name to their relationship, and Giovanni, mercifully, never asked him to.

It had been infuriating to listen to that arrogant upstart speak about him and Giovanni with all the tact of a drunken bull.

And it had been humiliating, how Lorenzo had cowed to Desmond’s mad plan, simply because Giovanni had been in danger.

“I’ll let you in on a secret,” Desmond had the audacity to smile while he was pocketing letterhead from Lorenzo’s desk (he wasn’t sure if the Assassin assumed he couldn’t see him), “we Assassins...we don’t work for people.”

“You don’t say.” He had replied dryly.

“No, you don’t understand,” Desmond repeated, leaning over Lorenzo’s desk, “We aren’t mercenaries, we aren’t hired blades, no matter how deep the pockets. In fact,” He shrugged, head bobbing from one side to the other as if indecisive on something, “more often than not, we’re killing men just like you: rich and powerful men who like to play puppet master.”

Lorenzo wasn’t about to admit that he didn’t know nearly as much about Giovanni’s secret order as he would like, gleaning small bits whenever he and Giovanni shared a late night drink and conversation. He could just imagine the scene Desmond was painting: Giovanni sneaking into his office, not to deliver news, but death. Would Giovanni slip from the shadows to kill him from behind: one hand clasped over his mouth to silence him as his blade punched through his chest? Or would he leap from some overhead perch like a bird of prey, pinning Lorenzo to the floor with his blade through Lorenzo’s heart?

Would Lorenzo’s last sight of the world be Giovanni’s shadowy visage beneath that ivory hood of his? Would he even be able to see the man’s eyes before his world went dark?

The thought made something in his chest twist in anguish, but he refused to allow this stranger to see his discomfort. So instead,  Lorenzo glared, “I agreed to play along with your mad scheme, and now you threaten me?”

“I’m not threatening you, I’m letting you know that you seem to be the exception to Giovanni’s service to the Creed.” Desmond’s voice had lost the mirth from before, “At some point during the years you’ve known each other, Giovanni has come to believe you can be a good leader, and he’s willing to bet his blade on it.”

Despite the seriousness of his tone, Lorenzo could see the small smile pulling at his lips, “For some reason, you are the exception to his rules, just as I’m sure he is the exception to whatever rules of yours.”

He was, even if Lorenzo couldn’t even name those broken rules himself.

And now Giovanni was dead. All that planning, hiding, and sneaking; it had all been for nothing. Lorenzo had been unable to tear his eyes from the gallows, and the body that hung there. He heard the cry for his death, but it was distant and muted. For all that he prided himself on planning three steps ahead, he found himself at a loss for his next step forward without Giovanni.

It was only when he was roughly pushed to the ground that reality rushed back to him: the bite of the stone beneath his palms, the roar of the crowd turned riot, the drops of blood on the back of his hand. For the briefest of moments, he thought the blood might have been his, but dismissed the thought as he noted he was uninjured. His eyes followed the spatter of blood and, if Lorenzo was the type to indulge such nonsense, he would have thought his heart had stopped entirely.

There was a time when Lorenzo had thought Giovanni’s choice of attire was utterly impractical: the white and scarlet attire seemed completely counterproductive to the stealth and secrecy, not to mention the bloody aspect of the work. He had told Giovanni as much shortly after Lorenzo had taken over the family bank, and began enacting his plans for Firenze.

The older man hadn’t taken any offense at Lorenzo’s disapproval.

“In the Brotherhood, the white robes are meant to be the mark of a truly skilled Assassin.” Giovanni had smiled into the glass of wine Lorenzo had poured for him, “After all, it takes a great deal of skill to melt into the shadows dressed in white, and to drive a blade through a man’s heart without getting a drop of blood on you.”

Lorenzo knew that ivory hood and cape, the scarlet sash and belt, he’d seen it countless times over the decades. But they shouldn’t be before him, not with Giovanni at the end of a rope.

And yet, Lorenzo could see Giovanni’s sword pushing Francesco de Pazzi’s blade to the side (and when had the man gotten so close?), he could see Giovanni’s cape fan out in the rush of motion, he could see Giovanni’s sash fluttering in the morning air.

And he could see Francesco de Pazzi frozen in time, his eyes wide and unseeing, his mouth gaping as his hold on his sword failed. He could see the flash of bronze within the cavern of Francesco’s gaping maw, and he could see the slender wrist attached to the blade. 

With a sharp flick, Francesco de Pazzi’s lifeless corpse fell to the stones as his blood was flung from the Assassin’s blade. Lorenzo’s eyes couldn’t help but follow the line of the man’s arm right down to the tip of the bronze blade.

Not a single drop of blood on that white cuff.

And then the Assassin turned to him, and suddenly Lorenzo was that six year old boy again, looking up into the face of a young man beneath the white hood. But instead of being soaked from a dive in the Arno, this Assassin had blood dripping from his lips.

Lips that were moving.

“...zza?” The young man rushed to kneel before him, the blade vanishing as his hand grasped his shoulder, “Altezza, are you injured?”

Lorenzo quickly blinked, banishing the boy he had once been from his mind. This was not Giovanni, Giovanni was dead. And there was only one person Giovanni would have ever allowed to wear his robes. 

He quickly held up his hand to stop his guards from rushing and confronting the young man, “I am unharmed, Federico.” He murmured, “It seems I have you to thank for that.”

And hadn’t Giovanni told him as much, only days ago?

“He will serve you well, Altezza.”

“Why do you say that as if you are not long for this world?”

“I’m not a young man anymore, Lorenzo. My son will be better able to serve you in the future.”

Had Giovanni known of his impending death? Surely not, it was impossible, even with the mysterious senses Giovanni and his kind had. And yet...

The only injury Giovanni’s son had sustained, it seemed, was a gash through his lips. A clean slice from a blade Lorenzo suspected had been intended for him.

Federico nodded, “I am glad I was able to be of service, Altezza.”

So polite, so reverent, so...unlike Giovanni, “I am sorry about your father, Federico.” Lorenzo couldn’t reveal just how deeply he meant those words.

The young man stiffened slightly into a rigid kneel, and Lorenzo knew that the youth was avoiding looking at the gallows just as much as he was in that moment, “His death will not be in vain.” He said softly. Soft, yet resolute.

“The conspirators?” Lorenzo asked.

“Ezio and I killed Bagone, Salviati, as well as Jacopo de Pazzi before--” Federico stopped, swallowing once before continuing, “With Francesco’s death, Alberti is the only one who remains. Alberti and the Grand Master.”

The mere mention of Uberto Alberti, that figlio d’un cane , made Lorenzo seeth in ways he had not since his own youth. The man had tried to steal the city from under Lorenzo, and what he did to Giovanni…

Lorenzo roughly grabbed Federico’s hand from his shoulder, leaning in close.

“Uberto Alberti does not live to see sundown,” He hissed, teeth gnashing as even in that moment, he could hear his own blood rushing in his ears, “ Do you understand?”

In that moment, Lorenzo saw the softness of Federico Auditore vanish, his eyes flashing bright like the bronze of his blade. “Uberto Alberti,” He said calmly, turning their clasped hands so his next words were breathed over Lorenzo’s signet ring, “will not live to see noon.”

He kissed Lorenzo’s ring, his eyes never leaving Lorenzo’s. The blood from his lips covered Lorenzo’s knuckles, but Lorenzo was beyond caring. For the time being, only one thing mattered.

In that, Assassin and noble were of the same mind.

“Go now, and run him to ground.”

 And, like the wingbeat of a bird of prey, Federico Auditore was gone, taking flight through the chaos of Firenze.


The courtyard was utter pandemonium, and no one had even discovered any of the dead bodies yet.

Ezio was impressed just how effective Desmond’s plan had been, or how convincing Paola’s girls and Volpe’s thieves could be. Now the whole of Firenze was outraged at the merciless murder of Giovanni Auditore, and horrified at the implication that the entire family had been massacred. If Uberto Alberti wasn’t attacked by the mob, Ezio would be surprised.

With practiced grace, Ezio carefully weaved his way through the throng, his eyes never once leaving the gallows. For the briefest of moments, Ezio was back in his past, crying out in outrage at the murder of his family, only to be attacked by Alberti’s guards. But no, there was only one body hanging there; Federico wore the robes of their father and the mantle of an Assassin, Petruccio was safe with Mother and Claudia.

No one paid him any mind as he climbed the scaffold, only the hangman-guard rushing to meet him as he moved to where his father hung.

“Well that went about as smoothly as could be expected.” The hangman chuckled, removing his helmet.

Ezio laughed, “I’m not sure if I could ever call a riot ‘smooth.’” He shook his head as Desmond tossed the helmet off the scaffold.

Desmond shrugged, “True enough,” He conceded, grabbing his father’s bound hands and carefully pulling him toward the side of the open trapdoor, “How are you doing, Giovanni? Hanging in there alright?”

Despite the trust he had in Desmond’s wisdom and insight, despite how he clung to the promises Desmond had granted him, there was a moment that Ezio feared that something had gone wrong; that his father would be motionless, lifeless, that his head would lull on a broken neck.

But Ezio saw movement behind his father’s eyelids before they finally opened, he felt the warmth of his skin when Ezio pulled his father away from the trapdoor, heard the small curses that fell from his father’s moving lips.

“That was not ‘smooth’ from where I was standing.” His father muttered, “And now the city is in turmoil.”

“Eh, that won’t last long. Maybe sundown,” Desmond shrugged one shoulder as his blade surged forth, “Ezio, be ready to catch your father.”

Ezio nodded curtly, readying himself to take his father’s weight. It should have been a simple task. And four days ago, it would have been for Ezio.

The again, four days ago, he had been a fifty four year old, highly trained master Assassin, with the muscles and stature to prove it. As it was, his seventeen year old knees nearly buckled under the sudden weight of his father, forcing him to ease him to lay on the scaffolding a bit faster than he would care to admit. He gave his father an apologetic smile, using his blade to cut the bindings from his wrists.

Desmond made quick work of the noose around Giovanni’s neck, unclasping the hook he had hidden in the hangman’s knot, “I trust Leonardo’s work was satisfactory in saving your neck, Giovanni.” He commented dryly as he unlaced his father’s vest to begin unfastening the buckles of the makeshift harness.

Ezio couldn’t help but smile as his father looked between him and Desmond, “My neck, certainly, though I fear for some of my other extremities.”

“Yeah, looks like Leonardo slightly underestimated your size, it’s a bit tight,” Desmond muttered, freeing the straps that ran under his father’s arms before moving to cut the ones at his hips (after all, he could hardly as Giovanni to remove his breeches in the middle of the Firenze gallows), “Well you and Maria were done having kids, right?”

“Desmond!” Ezio cheeks burned at the mere mention of his parents… no matter how old one became, there were simply some things a man didn’t want to picture.

To his credit, Desmond gave Ezio a sheepish look before turning his attention back to his father, “Luck is on our side, the drop didn’t reopen your wound. But if we don’t get that treated soon, it will get infected, and we might still lose you.”

“I have had worse.” His father muttered, stubbornly trying to push himself to his feet.

Desmond rolled his eyes, pulling Giovanni upright by his shoulders, “You’ve been stabbed, hit upside the head, beaten, and hung , Giovanni--”

“--do not forget nearly emasculated--”

“--let’s not add any other injuries to that list because of some dumbass Auditore pride.” Desmond leveled a serious look at his father, but Ezio couldn’t help but notice the twitch of a smile at one corner of his lips, “Right now, we need to get to La Rosa Colta , and there’s no telling how much cover this chaos will give us. Federico, you--”

Desmond turned to his left to address Ezio’s absent brother, and seemed genuinely confused to find him absent. He blinked owlishly for a moment, “Where…”

Ezio wasn’t sure what Desmond would have asked, or what had his mind so befuddled. But the confusion in his eyes was replaced by the bright gold that overcame his vision whenever he used his divine wisdom and vision. His eyes moved rapidly, as if reading some unknown text, his lips formed silent, intangible words. By the time the Apple’s light dimmed in Desmond’s eyes, the confusion was gone.

Only to be replaced by abject horror.

Desmond’s face was ashen, and Ezio swore he could see a sheen of sweat on his brow despite the December morning, “Ezio...I fucked up.”

“What?” Ezio shook his head, “What do you mean? What’s happened?”

“I never told Federico about the back up plan,” Desmond hissed, “Fuck, he doesn’t know your father is still alive.”

“How could Federico not know what your crazy plan was?” Giovanni looked between Desmond and Ezio, “I thought he was part of planning it!

“He knew there was a back up plan, I just never told him what that was!” Desmond groaned, “Damn it…”

“We need to find him!” Ezio urged, his heart racing. Where could his brother be, believing their father was dead? 

The answer was obvious, even after only a moment’s thought. Or perhaps it was a moment’s memory, from the life in which it had been him acting in the wake of his father’s death? “He’s going after Uberto.”

Desmond nodded, “Uberto and Borgia. And I have to find him first…” His gaze met Ezio, “Take your father, find your family. If Federico and I aren’t there by sundown, proceed to Monteriggioni, and we’ll meet you there!”

Ezio shook his head, “Desmond, I--”

“There’s no time, Ezio!” Desmond shouted, already vaulting from the scaffold, “If I don’t get there in time, Federico will be killed!”


The Auditore family was powered purely by spite and dumb bitch energy, Desmond was sure of it. As his feet pounded against the roof tiles of Firenze, he couldn’t help but curse his own foolishness as well as Federico’s.

He could have sworn he had told Federico about Giovanni’s harness, even if he had left out the fact he had been inspired by a work of fiction. It had been a sickening realization that what he remembered hadn’t been reality, but rather one of Siri’s variable-calculation visions. Perhaps that was what upset Desmond more than the fact that Federico was on a suicide mission (that much, Desmond could expect: Federico was Ezio’s brother, after all); the fact that Desmond had confused one of Siri’s images with reality, and now Federico’s life was in peril.

Luckily, Desmond didn’t need Siri to know where Federico was likely headed. Anyone with half a brainstem would know Federico would go after Alberti and Borgia.

However, that didn’t mean Siri wasn’t making its presence known. To say Siri was showing Desmond where Federico was would have been a stretch. It wasn’t like the Animus with its master map and clearly marked objective points and nearly measured distances. 

And yet...Desmond was aware of everything. He could feel exactly how many roofs away Federico was in his mad dash for vengeance. Which, Desmond was man enough to admit, was incredibly sexy, but terribly inconvenient at the moment. Desmond knew he wouldn’t be able to catch Federico before Federico got to Borgia and Alberti. And all of Borgia’s guards.

“So help me, you better stay alive long enough for me to get there, you asshole.” Desmond groaned, leaping across the gap between rooftops.

By the time Desmond finally had Federico in his literal sights, he could also see Uberto Alberti and Rodrigo Bogia racing to the outskirts of the city where, oh goodie, there were Templar reinforcements.

He was on the wrong side of the street from Federico, but he had nearly caught up stride for stride with the other Assassin on the rooftops, much to the protest of his calves and lungs. Apparently there was a limit to Assassin stamina, but that might have also been from the fact Desmond was wearing his guard armor still, but no matter.

The next moment seemed to slow. Without missing a step, Federico reached for his belt, withdrawing a single, slender blade. Desmond watched as the younger man’s arm flung forward, eyes barely catching the flash of steel catching the mid-morning sun.

It was not nearly the same deadly precision Federico had shown in the hidden study: both Federico and his target were moving, and Federico was also having to navigate the uneven rooftops of Firenze. Had they both been standing still, Desmond was sure that Uberto Alberti would have been dead before he hit the ground.

That being said, it was still quite satisfying to hear Alberti’s cry of pain as the blade sunk into the flesh of his shoulder. No doubt Federico’s blade had hit down to the shoulder blade, and hurt like a bitch. Good. The force of the blade’s impact, not to mention Alberti’s less than graceful gait, caused the man to be forcibly turned and nearly stumble over his own two feet.

And that was all the opening Federico needed to strike.

Every time Desmond had seen an air assassination, it was always from his own perspective through the eyes of whoever he was living through. Watching it from an outside perspective… fuck. The flutter of the cape behind Federico like wings, Federico’s form seemingly frozen in midair before he came hurtling to earth, the way Alberti’s body crumpled under the weight of sheer unrefined badass.

Really, really unrefined badass.

Desmond realized that a year ago, he wouldn’t find the sight of a middle aged man being pinned to the ground through his esophagus by a vengeance-driven Italian in a doublet and breeches sexy in any way. And yes, he absolutely did.

The vengeance-driven Italian part. Not the middle-aged man with the surprise tracheostomy part.

Of course, while Federico was busy with Alberti, Borgia was already barking orders to his guards, all of whom were already closing in on Federico.

Desmond had to bite back a groan, already mentally planning which guards would be best to jump on. Probably the biggest guys, if he could pull it off.

Damn Federico. Sexy as hell, but inconvenient as fuck.


Federico wanted to look Alberti in the eye when he killed him, but more importantly, Federico needed Alberti to see the face of his death and know exactly who had ended him.

When the whiteness came for them both, Federico was ready.

“My father trusted you, you spineless worm.” Federico hissed, grabbing at Alberti’s collar, “Did you really think you could get away with this betrayal? That I wouldn’t come for you?”

If Federico had expected any sort of regret or repentance from Alberti, he was sorely disappointed. The murdered man’s face scowled back at him, “ Just because you wear your father’s clothes does not make you an Assassin, boy.”

“No, my kill on Baroncelli does.” Federico smirked, “In fact, now that you’re gone, the entire conspiracy is dead. You probably didn’t notice me and Ezio killing your co-conspirators while you were running your mouth…”

Alberti spat at him, “ You know nothing of sacrifice. I did what I had to for my family.

“Only a coward hides behind excuses, especially piss poor ones,” Federico shook his head, “You knew damn well and good that my father and I were the only ones actively fighting the Templar, and yet you went after Ezio and Petruccio too. You tried to kill children. I did what I had to for my family, you acted for your own selfish reasons.”

It took a great deal of control to not spit on Alberti in turn, or slap him, or kick him or stomp him. But that was not the way his father taught him. Respect for the dead, even if they did not deserve it. “ Requiescat in pace.”

It was only as the world  rushed back to meet him that Federico realized the mistake he had made. In the half moment where time seemed to be catching up with him, he could see the number of guards that were circling him, each armed to the teeth and heavily armored. And he could see the hooded man Alberti had been with on the gallows, watching it all in mild amusement.

He knew instinctively that this was the true mastermind behind it all, the Grandmaster Templar. He also knew instinctively that there was no way he could possibly take out all of the guards. It wasn’t like the squadron that had been sent to arrest Petruccio, there were too many, they were too armed, they were too tough…

It would just be a matter of if Federico could get to the Grandmaster before he was cut down. Maybe with a throwing knife, but he had no idea if the man had any armor under his cloak…

The Templar Grandmaster held up his hand, keeping the guards at bay as a small smirk played across his lips, “I don’t suppose you thought this far ahead, young Assassin,” He drawled, “Then again, I suppose that is to be expected, thinking of the larger picture has never been the Assassin strong suit.”

Was the man seriously gloating? “Your conspiracy has failed,” He answered, slowly standing upright once more,  “All of your little cronies are dead, and il Magnifico remains alive and well.”

“So it would seem,” The Grandmaster gave him a careful once over, “Though forgive me if I don’t believe that was the work of a lone Assassin who has to wear the robes of his fallen brother.” He pointed to Federico’s chest, “I remember that particular wound, after all.”

Federico grit his teeth, “Borgia…”

“Ah, so you do know who I am,” Borgia smirked, “And it isn’t hard to see who you might be, Federico Auditore. So quick to follow in your father’s footsteps.”

“You know, you’re the second person to say that to me today.” Federico replied, “The first one is already dead.”

“All the same tact as your father, it seems,” Borgia’s expression seemed bored, “As entertaining as this has been, it would be a mistake to allow you to live, especially given your proclivity to hold a grudge.” 

With that, Borgia waved the guards forward, turning to make his exit. Federico debated on his next move: did he go for a throwing knife in a mad bid to get Borgia? Did he draw his sword to try and defend himself?

A sickening crunch interrupted his frantic thoughts, causing Federico to whip around to face the sound. Behind him lay an armored guard bearing a heavy ax, and poised over his prone body stood a less armored guard. But as the guard withdrew his blade from the fallen soldier, Federico immediately recognized the newcomer, “Desmond…”

Desmond gave Federico an exasperated look as he took to Federico’s side, “You’re a real dumbass, you know? Not endangering your fellow Assassins means not getting yourself killed too.”

Federico sighed, drawing his sword, “I’ll admit, I probably could have thought this one through a bit more.”

“Yeah, no shit.” Desmond rolled his eyes, “Though it is partly my fault, but let’s not play the blame game. Oh, by the way, your dad is fine.”

“What?” Federico wanted to stare at Desmond, but had to dodge the swing of a mace before attacking the guard in question, “What do you mean he’s fine? He was hung!”

“I said I had a back up plan!” Desmond had managed to get the upper hand of a guard with a poleaxe, and was now doing his best to wield the long weapon, “I just forgot to tell you what it was! He’s fine, well not fine fine, he’s still injured and whatnot, but he was okay enough to bitch at me--”

“Desmond!” Federico shouted, rolling out of the way of an axe, “Focus!”

Desmond snorted, sweeping at any guard that came at him, “You don’t get to nag me about focusing, when you’re the one who came kamikaze-ing into a swarm of Templar thugs!”

“I don’t,” Federico kicked at the juggernaut who was charging at him, “know what,” He slammed his sword against the weak point in the other’s armor, “that fucking means!” He drove his blade into the soldier’s neck, quickly kicking away the body before he was swarmed by the other guards.

If the guards had been weaker, they could have taken care of them. If there had been less of them, they could have overcome them. But there were too many, and they were too strong. There was no winning this fight, and Federico could see that the guards were also allowing no room for escape. Every attack he or Desmond made, the guards closed their ranks tighter.

Federico had always known that he would most likely die a violent death. His father had been quite clear of that truth, and had counseled him about not thinking less of Federico if he decided not to walk the Assassin’s path. But there was a part of him that had hoped he wouldn’t have died so early in his life. He was just getting started.

He glanced at Desmond, who had so bravely come to his and his family’s aid. If nothing else, his father and brother’s were alive because of Desmond, and Federico would forever be grateful for that. He just wished it hadn’t been at the cost of Desmond’s life. But then again, there were worse ways to die than side by side with a loyal brother.

Desmond, however, didn’t look like he had come to accept their fate as Federico had. In fact, his eyes were burning the same bright gold of his second sight. Federico had no idea what Desmond was trying to see, other than the swarm of red that surrounded him. Desmond’s eyes flickered from side to side, though what he was seeing, Federico had no idea.

“Damn it all…” Desmond hissed, shaking his head.

When Desmond finally moved, eyes still golden in his second sight, it was to grab Federico’s arm, roughly pushing him to the ground.

“Desmond!” Federico started, pushing himself to his knees, “What are you--”

“Stay down, Federico.” Desmond sighed, turning his attention back to the circle of guards. Faintly, Federico could hear him mutter to himself, “...this had better work, Siri…”

Desmond held out one hand in front of him, completely weaponless, facing the guards.

And then a low whine filled the air.


Ezio knew the sound the moment he heard it. The low whine that escalated in intensity. It was a sound that would forever haunt Ezio’s dreams. Even when he had wielded the Apple back in Roma, it had terrified him to know what power he held in his hand, the devastating effects it left behind.

The moment he heard the sound, he raced from La Rosa Colta without so much as a warning to his family.

That sound meant the Apple.

The Apple meant Desmond.

And Desmond, hopefully, meant Federico.

He had no idea why his feet had chosen the path they had, he simply trusted that they would guide him in the right direction. With every step, the sound became louder.

When the golden shockwave hit him, Ezio was nearly knocked off his feet. It was only knowing what to expect that kept him upright and on his path.

Firenze was far too silent now. No hum, no riots, no shouts. Nothing.

Ezio kept running until he saw the first body of a guard, and even then he only slowed to a jog. From there, it was a matter of following the bodies until he found the center of the destruction. The street was littered with heavily armored bodies, heavy weapons beside them. They were not wearing the same livery as the Firenze guards, so Ezio could only assume they were Borgia’s guards. But he couldn’t bring himself to worry about those bodies.

He was more concerned about the single white hood in the middle of the carnage.

“Federico!” Ezio shouted. Federico was upright, thankfully, even if he was on his knees. But he did not respond to Ezio’s call. Ezio made his way closer to his brother, “Federico?”

Federico didn’t move, and slowly, Ezio began to circle his brother, bracing himself for what he might see.

As Ezio crossed in front of Federico’s bowed head, he realized that his brother was cradling something to his chest. No, that wasn’t right. Not something, some one

“Desmond…” Ezio quickly knelt in front of Federico, his hands moving to examine Desmond’s motionless form. The blood from his nose was easy to see, though Ezio could not see any other wounds. As he put his ear to Desmond’s mouth, he breathed a sigh of relief to hear breath leaving Desmond as well, “He’s alive... mio dio… Federico--” Ezio turned his attention to his brother, only for his words to die in his throat.

It was only now, so close to his brother, that he could see under Federico’s hood.

Only now could Ezio see Federico’s perfectly cut lips, and the twin rivers of tears that flowed from his brother’s vacant eyes.

“Federico…” Ezio whispered, cupping his brother’s cheek even as he was unable to tear his eyes from his brother’s wound. He didn’t need a doctor to know it would scar, and it made his heart race at the very thought, “Oh brother...you have been marked…”

Federico’s scarred lips began to move, though his voice was so soft that Ezio missed his words the first time.

“Federico, come back to me,” Ezio urged him, “We need to get you and Desmond out of here…”

Finally, his brother’s gaze came back from whatever abyss they had been lost in, though even now they seemed to be looking through Ezio rather than at him, “...I shouldn’t be alive, Ezio…”

Ezio bit his lip, grasping his brother’s shoulders, “We’ve had more than our fair share of close calls today, Federico. We need to get moving before more guards come.”

“No Ezio, you don’t understand!” Federico’s voice cracked slightly, his grip on Desmond tightening, “I shouldn’t be alive, Ezio…”

“Don’t talk such madness, Federico, we’re alive and still fighting!” Ezio urged him, giving him a firm shake, “Snap out of it!”

“I swear I’m not mad, Ezio! You have to believe me!” Federico reached out with one hand to grasp Ezio by the collar of Desmond’s shirt, “Ezio, I was supposed to die today .”

Chapter Text

Ezio, I was supposed to die today.

Of all the things Federico could have said in that moment, he had to say that. Ezio’s heart squeezed to the point of pain not just by the words themselves, but by the conviction with which his brother spoke. Of course he knew all too well the truth within Federico’s words, but could Federico possibly know just what he was saying?

“Federico…” Ezio whispered, his hands slowly moving from his brother’s shoulders to cup Federico’s face between his palms. It was a small mercy that he was already on his knees, because Ezio was sure his legs would not have been able to support him at that moment.

What was he supposed to say? How could he possibly comfort his brother in such a time? For all the years of experience he had, all the knowledge he had acquired, it all fell short in the face of his brother teetering on the precipice of madness. And this time, Desmond could not provide him counsel.

“I’m not mad…” Federico replied weakly, his eyes still shining with tears as his grip on Ezio tightened to a white knuckle hold, “...I’m not mad…”

It broke Ezio’s heart to realize that Federico wasn’t trying to convince Ezio of his sanity, but rather himself. Choking back his own tears, Ezio rested his forehead against his brother’s, “I know you are not mad, Federico,” His voice broke as he spoke, never breaking the gaze they shared, “I believe you…”

Federico’s head shook ever so slightly, his voice barely above a whisper, “How can you believe me, when I don’t even believe myself?”

“I trust you, Federico.” Ezio gave him a watery smile. Slowly, he brushed away his brother’s tears with his thumbs.

“You shouldn’t.” Federico’s gaze began to lose focus once more, and Ezio half feared he would lose him to whatever abyss his mind had been trapped in, “I don’t know what is real and what is illusion…”

Ezio stiffened, and it took everything not to tighten his hold on his brother’s face, “I am real, Federico. Focus on me,” He urged, then glanced down to Desmond, still held tight to Federico’s chest, “Desmond is real--”

“Desmond…” Federico frowned, “No...Desmond isn’t real….there was no warning. We didn’t kill the conspirators… I couldn’t fight off the guards that arrested me…” 

“Yes, you did!” Ezio hissed, “We fought them off together!”

Federico only shook his head minutely, “You were running errands...you came to the prison…” his lips moved, but no sound came out of them. No matter how Ezio strained his ears, he could not hear anything until, “...you took the evidence to Uberto…”

Whatever remaining doubt Ezio might have had about whether Federico had seen their previous lifetime vanished like florins on the Firenze cobblestone. It made his gut churn to think what Federico had seen, possibly even experienced.

The focus returned to Federico’s eyes, only for it to be drawn to the hand clutching at Ezio’s borrowed shirt. He released him suddenly, examining his own sleeve in disbelief, “I...never wore these…” He breathed, then looked back at Ezio, “It….it was you who wore them to...to…”

“Federico, don’t...” Ezio shook his head, but he knew it was already too late to banish the demons haunting Federico’s mind. How many times had he tried to care for Assassin’s under his command when haunted by visions of missions gone wrong and waking nightmares? So many times comforting and counseling his students, and now he was helpless to care for his own brother in the fits of memories he shouldn’t even have experienced this time.

Federico’s shaking hand went to his own throat, fingers groping at flesh beneath as if to loosen the phantom noose around his neck. If he strained, Ezio could hear his brother’s shallow and labored breaths.

But then he couldn’t hear them at all.

Ezio’s eyes widened, “Federico.” No response whatsoever from his brother: his eyes once more gazing into the abyss, his hand as unmoving as his chest.  Ezio’s heart was hammering in his chest as he tried to shake sense back into his brother, “Federico, snap out of it!” 

He knew all too well the moment Federico was reliving. How many times had that very same moment seared itself into Ezio’s mind when he closed his eyes? How many times had he woken in the middle of the night with a scream on his lips and regret in his heart? And yet Ezio realized that no matter what horrors Ezio had faced from the memories of that wretched day, it could not possibly compare to the horrors of living through his own death. Ezio had never wanted to think about the day long enough to ask whether his father and brothers had died from their necks breaking or if they had slowly suffocated at the end of their nooses. And yet, in that moment, Federico’s death was playing out in the macabre theater of his mind. 

Ezio tried shaking Federico, he tried calling his name, he even tried slapping him to free him from the prison of his mind and the illusions of the previous life. Yet nothing seemed to pull Federico free, and Ezio knew all too well how long a grown man could go without air before he succumbed.

“No, not like this…” He shook his head. No, Federico couldn’t die like this, not after all they had done to right the wrongs of his previous life. Not after Desmond had promised…

Desmond.

Ezio’s eyes moved to the blood on his brother’s lips, the still fresh wound seeping red through the cracks of coagulation. Federico could not die like this, not when he had been freshly marked. He hadn’t thought beyond that, as he drove his thumb into his brother’s mark.

Hard.

In any other situation, Federico’s scream of pain would have been the last thing Ezio wanted. But right then, Ezio couldn’t help but be relieved to see his brother jerk away from his touch, face contorted in pain and discomfort at harming his mouth further.

And if his brother was able to scream expletives, then at least he was breathing again.

Federico’s hand flew to his mouth, staring when he saw the fresh blood on his fingers.

“Stay with me this time, Federico,” Ezio pleaded, grabbing his brother’s wrist, “Stay with what is real! You didn’t bleed in that other life, your lip was never cut!”

For a moment, Federico’s eyes didn’t move from his bloodstained fingertips, and Ezio feared he would once more lose his brother to the illusions of the past. Then, after several long, agonizing moments, his gaze met Ezio’s once more, “...I have gone mad, haven’t I, Ezio?”

Ezio sighed, shoulder’s sagging with relief, “No Federico, you have not gone mad,” he slowly rested his hand on his brother’s shoulder once more, “You mind has merely been laid siege to by visions of a history that is not our own.”

Federico frowned at that, “How could you possibly know--”

If Desmond had been awake, Ezio would have asked for guidance on how to help his brother. If Desmond was awake, he no doubt could have fortified Federico’s mind against the illusions and madness of the Apple. If Desmond was awake, no doubt this situation would not have happened in the first place.

But Desmond lay between the brothers, still half cradled in Federico’s arm and in no shape to do much of anything. And so Ezio had no choice but to use his own judgement in that moment.

“I know what you saw, Federico,” Ezio murmured, “This morning was supposed to be the morning of your execution after Alberti betrayed our family.”

Federico opened his mouth to speak, but Ezio used his free hand to cover his mouth (much more gently than the last time he touched his mouth), “You stood on Father’s right side on the gallows,” Ezio’s voice was little more than a deadpan, if only because he feared the emotion that might escape on the timbre of his words, “and Petruccio was on Father’s left…”

His brother’s eyes widened at Ezio’s words, slowly reaching to pull Ezio’s hand from his mouth, “You...saw it too…”

“I was there, Federico.” Ezio nodded, taking a deep breath to banish the quaver in his voice. “I...I lived it too…”

“...you were wearing Father’s robes…” Federico whispered, his eyes never once leaving Ezio, “You were in the crowd, trying to push your way to the front…”

In all the years Ezio relived that wretched memory, not once had he considered the possibility that his family might have seen him in the crowd. That Federico might have seen him just before that final drop.

But Federico wasn’t done, “I was afraid they would get you too…then I had a brief flash of hope that perhaps our allies had devised a plan, maybe they could save Petruccio if nothing else…” He swallowed heavily, blinking away tears, “then...then all I could think was ‘so that is what Ezio will look like as an Assassin…’”

Forty years of resolve, built with the bricks of vengeance, grief, anger, destruction, and acceptance, crumbled like the aqueducts of Roma at Federico’s words. Tears blazed trails down his cheeks as Ezio’s shoulders shook with sobs, the ugly sounds drifting down the Firenze streets. How could he expect to keep his emotions at bay now that he knew his brother’s final thoughts before his murder had been about him?

He had no idea how long he had knelt there, sobbing for the whole of Firenze to hear. It could have been moments, it could have been days. It was only the warmth of Federico’s hand against his cheek that drew Ezio from his sobs. This time, it was Federico’s thumb that brushed away Ezio’s tears.

“What devilry has bewitched us both, Ezio?” His brother murmured softly.

Ezio shook his head slightly, “It is no devilry, Federico...what you saw...that was real, but is no longer. A life that will not be lived.”

“That makes no sense, Ezio,” Federico shook his own head in turn, “Either it was real or it was not…”

“It was real, Federico, a long time ago... a bygone error finally corrected and overwritten,” Ezio took a deep breath to gather what shambles of his strength he had left, “I lived that day where you and Father and Petruccio were murdered by the Templar…and I lived every day after that.”

He clenched his fist for a moment, ignoring the bewildered look in his brother’s eyes, “Twenty years I spent hunting down every Templar who had any connection with that day. 

“Mother became a shell of her former self  after that day, going mute for nearly a decade. Claudia’s heart grew cold and distant, and in time she took to killing as well…” Ezio’s throat burned from the salt of his tears, but he could not bring himself to care, “I could not see a feather without feeling the compulsion to collect them for Petruccio… I could not climb a tower without thinking of the words we shared on the top of that church, Federico…”

Federico looked at him in disbelief, “Ezio, that isn’t possible…”

“This is the second time my life is playing out, brother,” Ezio interrupted Federico, “I have had a lifetime of regrets and pain and experiences, and I will have another lifetime more, but I could not live this second life without you, without Father, without Petruccio…”

In the moment Ezio stole to try and compose himself, Federico only stared at him. His brow was furrowed, lips turned down in confused concentration, but Ezio would gladly take that over the vacant look of earlier.

“How…” Federico closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose, “How could you possibly be living your life over again?”

“Oh Federico, that is a very long story indeed,” Ezio couldn’t help but laugh slightly; not so much out of humor but rather that Ezio felt if he didn’t release some of his emotions, he would start sobbing once more, “But the short answer begins and ends...with Desmond.”

Federico’s hold on Desmond, which had understandably grown lax over the past few minutes, tightened once more, and Ezio could see a wave of tension cascade over his brother. Even if he hadn’t been able to read Federico, Ezio would have known the cause of his distress. “You saw what Desmond can do.”

“I don’t know what I saw, I can’t even tell reality from illusion!” Federico shook his head rapidly, “I cannot even trust my own mind, Ezio.”

“Then trust me enough to listen and reserve judgement.” Ezio reached up and took Federico’s hand, squeezing it firmly, “What happened?”

Federico closed his eyes for a moment, his brow furrowed as he collected his thoughts, “I had gone after Alberti, but I let my desire for vengeance outweigh my judgement…” 

He looked around, and Ezio had to take in the various bodies that surrounded their location. Sure enough, the body of Uberto Alberti lay nearby, his entire front stained with the blood that gushed from his throat. Ezio hardly blamed Federico for his lapse in judgement, considering his own reaction to Alberti in his previous lifetime.

“I was surrounded by Borgia’s guards while I was distracted with Alberti,” Federico admitted, shaking his head, “Desmond was able to save me from being decapitated right away, but even with his help… there was no way we could have taken them all.”

Judging by the build and armor of the bodies closest to them, Ezio would have had to concur. Even with his own abilities and skills and experience, he would have no doubt thrown a smoke bomb and found a place to hide and regroup, or perhaps called for aid from several of his more trained pupils. Or better yet, call for an arrow storm, limit the risk of death completely.

But Federico and Desmond hadn’t had any of those options. Not now, at least. Perhaps when they were able to regroup in Monteriggioni, they could discuss their arsonal and repertoire for rebuilding the Brotherhood.

“Desmond…” Ezio had to pull himself from his thoughts as Federico continued. His brother’s expression had grown more bewildered as he spoke, “He pushed me to the ground, and told me to stay down. Then he held out his hand towards the guards closing in on us...like he was trying to offer them something, but his hand was empty…”

Ezio nodded. He knew the posture, he had done the same in the Roma streets, even as Cesare’s forces tried in vain to resist the Apple’s power, “Did the whine come first or the light?”

Federico blinked from his confusion to stare at Ezio, “They came at the same time, how--”

He sighed, “Because I have seen that power before...I have even wielded it for a short time, but that is a story for another time.” Ezio shook his head quickly, “What you saw, Federico, the golden ripples of light, the ear shattering whine, the concussive blast that consumes life and will in a single stroke...it is a power derived from something called The Apple of Eden.”

“The Apple...Eve’s apple?” Federico blinked, “How…”

“I don’t know about Eve, but I know the Apple isn’t an apple as you might imagine it.” Ezio shook his head, “It was a relic of a civilization long ago, golden in color and of a metal unlike any I have ever encountered, capable of enormous power. Power no man should wield, and it was power the Templar desperately craved. When the Apple came into my possession, I sealed it away, so they could never use it for their own machinations.”

Ezio took a moment to consider his next words, and how best to proceed. Desmond had cautioned him about revealing too much to Leonardo too quickly to avoid disaster, and Leonardo was...well, Leonardo. Ezio could only imagine the damage he could do to Federico in his delicate mental state, “In my previous life… when my thirst for vengeance was slaked, even when my heart had not fully healed, I learned that I was to be more than a mere Assassin, but also the Prophet,” He sighed, “I will not boast of my deeds or titles, Federico, because in the vast tapestry of life, I was but a single glittering thread. Through wisdom and powers beyond even my understanding, I served as a conduit to allow the ancient past to speak to the distant future.” 

“Ezio, that is impossible, how could that even happen? ” Federico’s eyes were wide now, the incredulous expression a welcome change from the lost and confused looks he had been wearing as of late, “Do you even hear yourself right now?”

“Federico, you just lived through your own death, remember that.” Ezio cautioned, a shaky smile on his face, “I am trying to explain, but there is...so much, and I fear what may happen if I do a poor job…”

With a reluctant sigh, Federico nodded, “So you can speak to people long dead...and people who haven’t been born yet?” He ventured.

Ezio quickly shook his head, “No, it isn’t like that, I possess no power of my own,” he hadn’t even thought about his role being interpreted that way, “It’s more...the ancient past sending a message to the future, and I am merely the paper it was written on--” Ezio rushed to continue when his brother opened his mouth to speak once more, “When I was forty years old, I entered the Vault below the Vatican. There was the ghostly visage of this woman who I at first thought was a god. She said she was not, merely one who had ‘come before.’ She said she had a message, but not for me...she spoke to Desmond.”

“Why was Desmond with you?” Federico asked, “And what does this have anything to do with this Apple and the illusions I saw?”

“I’m getting there, Federico, I promise!” Ezio bit his lip, “But to answer your first question, Desmond wasn’t with me, I was the only living body in that vault. I didn’t even know who Desmond was, I hadn’t even heard the name Desmond before! And that name drove me mad searching for answers for over a decade… but I could find nothing to explain the mysterious being I had seen, and the unknown being I only knew as Desmond.” Ezio took a deep breath, considering the next words, “What I wouldn’t find out until only a few days ago, was that cryptic message I had heard had been delivered to Desmond in the year 2012.”

A choked sound escaped Federico at that, “Ezio, you cannot be serious!” Federico shook his head frantically, “That is nearly five hundred years in the future! And Desmond can’t be in that year, because he’s right here!” Perhaps in another circumstance, Ezio might have chided Federico for roughly shaking Desmond’s unconscious body the way he had. But given the emotional strain they were both under, he was sure Desmond would forgive them both.

“If Desmond was a mere man, I would agree with you in a heartbeat, Federico!” Ezio hissed, “But I must tell you of what happened mere days ago, at the end of my first life. The day I first met Desmond...the day you first met Desmond.”

“The day he was in your bed?” Federico asked, incredulous.

Ezio shook his head once more. He was getting distracted from his point, if he had even had one, “Day ago, Federico, I was an Assassin at the end of his journey. I had accessed the library of Altair Ibn-La’Ahad in one last desperate attempt to unravel the mystery of the ghostly woman and Desmond,” He sighed, closing his eyes, his voice squeezed tight with emotions he couldn’t name, “I found nothing but Altair’s skeleton. I had come to terms with the fact I would never know what my purpose had been that strange day, and I had begun to remove my blades and leave my Assassin days behind me...but that was when I met Desmond for the first time. And...he offered me a deal…”

Federico’s incredulity didn’t seem to reach his voice, “What sort of deal did he offer you...and...how did he offer it to you from this...distant future?”

Ezio smiled softly, “Apparently, in Desmond’s time, he had not only found the Apple, but one of the temples of this ancient powerful race. I cannot possibly go into details of his purpose there, but he decided that history had gone wrong and...through what power, I know not, Desmond has become the Apple of Eden.”

He opened his eyes to look at his brother, “That is why Desmond was able to wield the power of the Apple to defeat the guards, why he shines with golden markings and eyes that make the sun shy away. That is why he speaks words we do not understand despite them being in our tongue, why he knows of concepts and ideas that are outlandish to us…” He gripped Federico’s collar tightly,  “He holds all the power and knowledge found within the Apple in the confines of his own mind and body. He will claim he is not a god, but Federico, he is no mere man...if he is not god, then I do not know the word for what he is…”

Ezio wasn’t sure if it was his words or the conviction with which he spoke, but Federico was not watching him with apprehension or incredulity, though he could not properly name the wide eyed look in his brother’s eyes, “Ezio, what deal did Desmond strike with you?”

He couldn’t help the tears that began to flood his eyes as he spoke, “Desmond offered me a choice: I could leave the abandoned library, and live out the rest of my life in peace...or I could live my life over again as his prophet, armed with the knowledge and experiences of my life.”

Federico shook his head, “Why would you live again, after so much?”

“He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse…” Ezio smiled, his hand moving from Federico’s collar to cup his cheek once more, “He said that, if I would pledge myself to be his prophet once more...that he would ensure that you and Father and Petruccio would not die today.”

Silence hung in the air after that, brother staring at brother, neither daring to move and shatter the uneasy stillness that had settled between them.

Federico’s lips moved, but no sound emerged at first. When he recovered sense for sound, it was only enough for a single word.

“What?”

Ezio nodded, surrendering to his tears once more, “Desmond promised you all would live this time...that you all wouldn’t die on that awful gallow today… so yes, Federico, you technically aren’t supposed to be alive right now, you were supposed to die today,” He pressed, But Desmond is a god who keeps to the deals he strikes with his chosen.”

Federico blinked repeatedly, “So...you accepted Desmond’s deal and… you were reborn?”

“Not reborn, Federico,” Ezio shook his head, “One moment, I was in the library as an aging Assassin, the next, I was laying on the Firenze rooftops in my seventeen year old body, Desmond smiling down at me with his golden eyes...from there, you recognize the story: we returned to the Palazzo, where Desmond fell asleep on my bed, having exhausted himself not only by traveling five hundred years into the past, but also by pulling my soul through forty years as well. And that’s...that’s how you found him.”

Federico, it seemed, still had a few shreds of denial left, “I should think you’re absolutely mad, Ezio, you know that, right?” Federico shook his head, “If it weren’t for the fact that you’re an awful story teller, I would have thought you had made all this up. But I know that you at the very least believe all of this… and despite what anyone might say to the contrary, you are not an idiot or a simpleton…” 

He was trying to find a rational explanation, Ezio realized, thinking out loud to find a possibility that was more reasonable than the truth. Ezio wished there was one, or that the truth was far easier to explain, but it was somewhat difficult since he hadn’t exactly had the chance to get many answers from Desmond yet.

Finally, Federico focused on him once more, “Ezio...how old exactly are you supposed to be?”

Ezio smiled, “When I struck my deal with Desmond, I was fifty four. Now, I have the body of my seventeen year old self with all the wisdom of my years.”

Federico looked away, his eyes distant, but not like they had been when he had been lost to the phantoms. Finally, his shoulders slumped, “Salviati…”

“What?” Ezio blinked, his turn to be confused.

“I watched you kill Salviati, Ezio.” Federico sighed, “It was...perfect. Too perfect for my kid brother who has only known about the Assassins for a day and a half, and had no training at that.”

Ezio nodded, “But not too perfect, I hope, for an aged Master Assassin and Mentor blessed with a young body.”

Federico was shaking his head, though less with disagreement than a stunned revelation, “Desmond kept trying to play things off as you being a prodigy…”

“I’m sure even Desmond knew that was a temporary measure.” Ezio sighed, “You would only be distracted with rescuing Father for so long…and even I’ll admit, I don’t know how much longer I could have pulled off acting as my old, impulsive teenage self.”

Suddenly, Federico paled, “Ezio...I threatened Desmond last night!”

“What? Why?” Ezio blinked at that.

“When he made that comment about you and Leonardo…” Federico’s voice was somewhat weaker at the mention of Leonardo, “I thought he was slandering you…”

“Ah, no…” Ezio blushed at that, “No, he wasn’t...my last life, Leonardo and I were dear friends, and I…” Looks like he wasn’t the only Auditore brother with a deeply personal secret to air out, “I realized my feelings far too late...Desmond has encouraged me to ensure I do not make the same mistake twice.”

Federico groaned, bowing his head, “And I threatened him over it…I threatened the closest thing we’ve seen to god.”

“I’m sure he has forgiven you, Federico.” He couldn’t help but smile, “After all, he has marked you as one of his own now.” Slowly, gently, he brushed his thumb over his brother’s lip, over their shared scar now.

His brother’s eyes widened at that, “What do you mean by that, Ezio?”

“The scar.” Ezio nodded, at peace now that Federico knew the truth and, at least in part, accepted it, “It will scar just like mine will, just as it did in my previous lifetime...it is identical to Desmond’s. It is his mark upon those whose paths he guides. Altair wore Desmond’s mark, I wore it...and now so do you.”

Ezio could only imagine how Federico’s heart might be racing at the revelation, and Ezio himself couldn’t help but marvel at the thought of Federico being one of the chosen. What role would Desmond have Federico fill? Would he serve as prophet to some other far distant observer? What wisdom would Desmond grant his brother?

“It isn’t identical, though, it isn’t the same mark.”

Blinking, Ezio frowned, “What do you mean?”

Federico pointed to his cut lip, “My cut is on the opposite side to yours and Desmond’s…”

As Ezio observed, he had to admit that Federico was right. While his scar, and Altair’s and Desmond, were all on the right side of his mouth, Federico’s, while still perfect in shape and angle, was on the left side of his mouth.

That made no sense, what purpose would putting the mark on the other side serve? And why had Desmond set Federico aside from his other marked ones?


At first, Desmond thought he was hungover. With the way his head was killing him, the light was too damn bright, even from behind his eyelids, and how he really needed to throw up, it felt like he was nineteen again thinking he could down a bottle of Jagermeister without consequence.

But Desmond quickly remembered that he didn’t even remember the last time he had ingested alcohol besides a glass of wine offered by Paola with his meal. And with the memory of Paola came rushing back all the memories of Italy and--

Where the fuck was he?

When Desmond opened his eyes, all he could see was white for as far as the eye could see. As he got to his feet, he realized that he was wearing his sneakers. Not just his sneakers, but his jeans and hoodie as well. Hell, he still even had his messenger bag on.

“What the hell…” Desmond took a few steps. Despite not having an actual floor, Desmond’s feet hit an abstractly solid surface. Now that he had regained his bearings (sort of), he realized where he was, “How am I in the Animus’s loading program? I’m not in the Animus!”

Or was he? What if his whole ‘save the Auditore’ mission had been some sequence that Rebecca had whipped up to help him with his training? But why? Hadn’t they figured out how to stop the solar flare? They found the key Connor hid, hadn’t they?

What if that had all been the Animus as well? How much of his experiences had been real?

“I’ll just stop you before you go full on A Beautiful Mind then, shall I?”

Desmond whirled around, eyes widening, “Shaun?”

There was no way Shaun should be with him in the Animus’s loading program. But there he was, right down to his stupid ‘sweater over a collared button down with the sleeves rolled up’ number he had insisted on sporting in the early days of knowing one another.

“I’ll have you know this is incredibly fashionable, Desmond.” Shaun scoffed, plucking at his sweater, “Not all of us can wear the same sweatshirt for months on end.”

“How are you even here right now?” Desmond shook his head, “What’s even happening?”

Shaun sighed, “Technically speaking, Desmond, I am not ‘here.’ At least, Shaun Hasting is not here.”

“He’s right, Desmond.”

Desmond turned, but he already knew who he would see based on her bubbly raspy voice alone, “Rebecca…”

“Not quite.” Rebecca shook her head. The headphones she normally wore on her ears were now around her neck, though there was no mistaking her, “Shaun Hastings and Rebecca Crane aren’t here right now, they will won’t be born until 1985 and 1984 respectively.”

“And that is still roughly five hundred years from now, in case you forgot how to do basic math.” The Shaun who apparently wasn’t actually Shaun added.

“So I’m still in 1476,” Desmond pinched the bridge of his nose, “Okay, then who the fuck are you.”

“Not exactly a who, Desmond.” The not-Rebecca smiled gently, “And I guess the simple way to explain it is the same way you’ve explained away our voices the past couple of days.”

“You’re Siri…” Desmond raised an eyebrow.

Shaun shrugged, “Close enough, really. Your subconscious was already used to hearing our voices interrupting at random intervals with bursts of information and guidance--”

“--so it made sense to interface that same information dissemination process to make things easier.” Rebecca nodded, smiling, “Really, we’re part your subconscious, part the Apple’s processing. Well, your processing, really, they are almost the same--”

Shaun placed his hand on Rebecca’s shoulder, “Why don’t we create a more familiar environment for us to continue this conversation?”

Rebecca nodded, “You’re right. Any added stress on Desmond’s neural processes will slow the recovery process, and we need consciousness restored sooner rather than later.”

Just like that, the whiteness melted away, details building themselves just like Desmond had seen happen to Firenze, Venezia, Roma, and so many other locations. But this time, it was a smaller, more intimate location.

“The warehouse?” Desmond blinked, looking around.

It was exactly as he remembered it: the hardwood floors, the windows revealing the exact same view, the same cluttered desk where Shaun now sat with tea cup in hand, Baby was position exactly where Desmond had spent so much time, and Rebecca was at her station, though she was sipping from a coffee mug rather than pouring over various technical data.

“What can we say? You’re nostalgic.” Shaun took a sip of his tea, “After all, this is where all of us first met, isn’t it? You, me, Rebecca, Ezio...good times, good times.”

“But what exactly is going on?” Desmond shook his head, “Last I remember, Federico and I were about to get our asses handed to us…”

“Well yeah, that did happen.” Rebecca nodded, smiling, “But you were able to access the Apple’s ability to remotely deactivate the neural processes of the nearby hostiles.”

“What?”

“You killed them, Desmond.” Shaun supplied, “Your subconscious has brilliantly allowed all hard-science and medical data to be disseminated by Rebecca. Hence why you got that lovely STD talk from here, not me.”

“Oi, and why shouldn’t I get to talk about science and medicine!” Rebecca glared at Shaun from across the room, “I literally built Baby! And I was the one in charge of making sure Desmond’s brain didn’t fry. You keep your humanities judgement on your side of the room.”

“Humanities and soft sciences, remember!” Shaun rolled his eyes, “Though technically speaking, we are one entity, we’re just wearing two different faces.”

Desmond sighed, “Let’s not go into that, Shaun. For the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to pretend that you two are...you two…”

Rebecca nodded, “Whatever makes you comfortable, Desmond,” She smiled softly, “As I was saying, after utilizing that much Isu power outpaced the rest of your brain’s activity, which basically caused your brain to panic and forcibly shut down your body. Think of it as a hard reset.”

“So I’m in a coma?” Desmond raised an eyebrow, “What, no Animus Island?”

“Thankfully, it isn’t anything nearly so drastic.” Shaun drawled, “Though if your subconscious really wanted, I’m sure a manic Clay could come storming in here to joining the party--”

“Shaun is right about things not being so drastic, Desmond,” Rebecca interrupted, pointedly ignoring Shaun’s comment about Clay, “In fact, this isn’t even the first time this has happened to you. Remember after you pulled Ezio out of his place in time?”

Desmond nodded slowly, “I remember Ezio saying I had been out for a few minutes, but I definitely didn’t remember you guys.”

“That’s because the rest of your brain was able to catch up quickly since it still held the majority.” Shaun shrugged, sipping his tea (and fuck if Desmond couldn’t smell the bergamot from across the room).

“What do you mean by that?” Desmond frowned, “What’s wrong with my brain?”

“Nothing is wrong with your brain, Desmond.” Rebecca cut in before Shaun had a chance to open his mouth, “It’s just going through several massive updates.”

“My brian is not a computer.” Desmond replied stupidly.

Rebecca gave him a knowing look, “I mean, technically the human brain is the most powerful supercomputer on the planet. But yours...yours even more so, Desmond.”  She set her coffee mug on her desk, sitting at her computer and typing away at her computer.

At once, a translucent image of a brain appeared in the center of the room. Desmond had no idea what was projecting it, but considering this was all in his head anyway, and Rebecca hadn’t even needed to type on her computer, it hardly mattered.

“So, here’s your brain prior to your little stunt in the Grand Temple.” Rebecca nodded, “When you used the Apple to travel through time, there was a fusion of sorts.”

At her words, the centerline of the brain, as well as a small portion of the front and back of the brain illuminated. Absently, Desmond thought it almost looked like a dumbbell: a weird, thing looking dumbbell in his head.

“So with the initial fusion, the Apple had fused with your entire corpus callosum, as well as a small portion of both your frontal and occipital lobes,” Rebecca pointed out the highlighted areas, “Since the frontal lobe is where judgement and planning can be found, that’s why you were able to do troubleshooting with the calculations, and the occipital lobe deals with vision…”

“Which is why the calculations were appearing in Eagle Vision.” Desmond nodded, “Okay...so the Apple is literally in my brain…”

“I’m not done, Desmond,” Rebecca cleared her throat, “As I said, that was the initial fusion… as time goes on, and you exercise the Isu-infused brain cells, the cells in your brain will replenish through neurogenesis and be replaced by the higher performing cells the Apple provided.”

More parts of the brain were illuminated. What once looked like a dumbbell now looked closer to a rugby ball.

“Right now, each lobe of your brain has been affected now, with rapid growth in the temporal and parietal lobes. Which makes sense, the temporal dealing with memory, sequencing and organization, and the parietal dealing with sensory interpretation and spatial and visual perception. You’ve been using a lot of that lately.”

“Is this something I need to worry about?” Desmond couldn’t help but ask, “Like...I don’t have a brain tumor made of Precursor artifact, do I?”

Rebecca shook her head quickly, “No, like I said, it’s like your brain is getting an upgrade as you use it. Soon, your entire brain will be up to date, and you won’t have these fainting spells anymore.”

“Why am I passing out?” He refused to call it fainting. It just...wasn’t.

Shaun got up from his chair, “I believe I can answer that, or rather give an illustration to explain what’s going on,” The Brit made his way to the brain image next to Desmond, “So I’m sure we can all agree that the Precursors were...infinitely more advanced than humanity, yes?”

“I suppose so, yeah.” Desmond nodded slowly. Call him bitter, but he wasn’t quite willing to dole out compliments to the Precursors too freely.

Shaun didn’t seem to notice (or knew better than to comment), “And here we we that your brain is running on a part Isu/ part human brain. It would be the equivalent of taking just the engine from a Concorde jet and placing it in a Cessna, or the engine from a Formula 1 race car and putting it in a Fiat, and trying to get them to run. Even if there is some initial success, sooner or later there is bound to be a crash.”

Desmond raised an eyebrow, “Did you just call my brain a Fiat?”

“Yes, yes I did.” Shaun smirked, “How does it feel, when even your subconscious demands I talk down to you?”

Rebecca rolled her eyes, “Boy is trying so hard to convince everyone he isn’t the biggest bottom on the planet.” She stage-whispered to Desmond conspiratorially, causing Desmond to nearly choke on his own spit (which...how? He was in his own brain…), “But Shaun’s humiliation kink aside, his analogy is a good one. Your un-updated brain cells just cannot keep up with the Isu-braincells, and when the performance discrepancy becomes too large, the entire brain essentially has an emergency shut down to run diagnostics and update any brain cells that are too damaged.”

“Hence the occasional nose bleed.” Shaun nodded, tapping his nose, “This will sometimes happen without the emergency shut down.”

“But the bright side is, as more of your brain fuses with the Apple’s Isu-braincells, you should be experiencing fewer of the side effects.” Rebecca smiled.

Shaun hummed, “Like the headaches, those have been getting fewer and farther between, correct?”

“Which means that things that used to take a lot of will power and focus from you are becoming easier.” Rebecca added, “Like running calculations, you can do that while multitasking now.”

“And access a pseudo Eagle Sense without reverting vision,” Shaun nodded in agreement, sipping his tea, “So while the occasional fainting spell is annoying, you are actually getting better.”

“So that’s what’s happening now? My brain is down for maintenance?” Desmond asked. At Shaun and Rebecca’s uniform nod, he continued, “But I somehow have enough brain activity to have...this…” He gestured vaguely to the entire setting before them.

“‘This’ is occurring within the areas of your brain that have already been fully updated.” Rebecca explained, “And remember, Isu Brain is capable of way more, even while running on power saver.”

Desmond crossed his arms over his chest, “So I’m just biding my time here before my brain gives me permission to wake up?” 

“More or less, yes,” Shaun nodded.

“But on the bright side, you do currently have a couple of hot Italians crying over your motionless body,” Rebecca shrugged, “Which honestly, isn’t the weirdest beginning to a porno I’ve seen.”

Desmond couldn’t help it, he laughed, “What the absolute hell, Rebecca?”

“Remember, I’m your subconscious!” Rebecca grinned, utterly unashamed.

Shaun rolled his eyes, “For the love of all that is good, she’s going to be insufferable until you get laid, I’m sure.”

“Like you wouldn’t watch some sweet, sweet Auditore on Desmond action, Hastings,” Rebecca snorted, “Which, speaking of which, kinda, there’s some good news and some bad news.”

Desmond wasn’t quite sure what was more jarring: Rebecca’s open discussion of his sex life, or using that as a non sequitor into a good news/bad news situation, “Um, okay?”

“Bad news: while your brain was going into shut down, Federico caught you while you were falling. Which means he got a tiny zap of raw Apple power.” 

“And is he okay?” Desmond frowned.

“If by ‘okay,’ you mean he saw the final hours of his life and death  in the original timeline,” Shaun cut in, “Then yes, he’s perfectly fine.”

“Oh fuck…”

“Good news!” Rebecca interrupted, “Ezio talked him down of the proverbial ledge of sanity, and did a pretty decent job explaining the truth to him, so his brain isn’t gravy right now. Which is also why you have two Italians crying over you like some sexy version of Michelangelo’s Pietà.

“Wait,  how do we know this?” Desmond blinked, “Aren’t I, we, unconscious right now?”

Later, Desmond wouldn’t be able to recall for sure if Shaun and Rebecca actually did their best approximation of jazz hands while saying “Isu-braincells,” but damn it if it didn’t feel like it.

“Yeah, your awareness is going to go through the roof as things progress.” Rebecca added.

Shaun hummed, “Which brings us back to the next round of bad news.” He snorted, “Bad news: good fucking luck trying to convince the Auditore brother’s you are not a god.”

Rebecca was grinning now, “Which means good news: the plan for sexy god-worship Auditore threesome is still totally a go.” To top it all off, she actually shot him finger guns.

Desmond had to stifle a grin, “I am not having a threesome with Federico and Ezio, Rebecca.” He snorted, unable to contain it now that he had put the ridiculousness to words, “Have you forgotten Ezio is absolutely head over heels for Leonardo?”

“Okay, invite him too, I’m not picky.” 

“I’m not having sex with Leonardo Da Vinci, Rebecca...and I can’t believe that is a sentence I had to say out loud.” Desmond shook his head, “And, more importantly, if Ezio and I were both involved in the same orgy, that would mean that there would be a chance that you’d both have to watch it through the Animus.”

Neither Shaun nor Rebecca said anything, though both of them took unnecessarily long sips from their drinks (which, hadn’t Rebecca left her coffee mug by her computer?) while they maintained eye contact with Desmond.

“You’re both weirdos…” Desmond rolled his eyes, “...fuck I miss you.”

“Of course you do, you wouldn’t have made us the ambassadors to your subconscious if you didn’t view us as important.” Shaun nodded, “Which...perhaps we’ll need to examine that further another time. For the time being, your brain seems to want you to wake up and get the hell out of Firenze.”

Desmond could feel it: the feeling in his limbs changing from the experience within his mind-waiting room to that of laying on the Firenze street, the sound of Shaun and Rebecca’s bickering replaced by the soft murmurs of Italian.

The not-Shaun-and-Rebecca gave him one last wave before they vanished in a cascade of gold light.

And Desmond opened his eyes.

Oh wow, Rebecca hadn’t been kidding, there had been a lot of crying he missed out on, thank fuck. Both Federico and Ezio’s cheeks were tear stained, though thankfully Desmond couldn’t tell if they had been ugly-crying or not.

And man, Federico was holding onto him pretty tight for a one arm hold.

No, Desmond did not entertain any of the suggestions Rebecca hadn’t given him. Subconscious be damned, he could think with his dick later.

“Uh, hey, sorry to interrupt the moment,” Desmond muttered. Brilliant, Desmond, brilliant, “But...maybe we should get out of here? It’s getting dark.”

Both Auditore brothers froze, their eyes instantly going down to Desmond. But rather than relief or surprise at his sudden return to consciousness, there was confusion on both of the brother’s expressions.

Federico looked back to Ezio, “ Cosa sta dicendo? Che lingua è?”

È inglese, credo. La sua lingua madre,” Ezio gave his brother a small shake of the head, “ Non sappiamo cosa stai dicendo, Desmond. Non parli italiano.”

What the absolute fuck? Desmond knew Italian, he knew he did, he wouldn’t have gotten through several days in literal Renaissance Italy if he didn’t know Italian. All the advancements of Isu-braincells, and he couldn’t automatically process a language he knew. 

Desmond held up a finger to the brothers for them to give him a moment, focusing on the language he had spent so much time learning through Ezio. The process happened much quicker than the first time when he had given Ezio the first message for the twenty-first century, but it was still annoying to have to manually switch languages in the first place.

“Alright, I think I got it…” Desmond murmured, “This is Italian, right?”

Federico still looked confused (which, bless his heart, he was doing that a lot), but Ezio smiled, “Yes, we understand you now.”

“Good, because we really need to get out of here. It’s getting dark, and someone left their vulnerable family unattended, Ezio .”

Chapter Text

Petruccio had seen his father injured before, most often when he wasn’t supposed to notice anything at all. The nights when his father would come home in the middle of the night, the nights where he would hear his parents hushed arguments, his mother’s gentle chiding; nights that would lead to mornings where his father would favor one leg slightly, or faintly wince if he moved too quickly. Petruccio was no stranger to the fact his father often hurt himself doing whatever it was that wasn’t banking.

But the way his father looked when Ezio had returned with him; the way he had leaned so heavily on his middle brother, the pale pallor to his face, the glassy look in his eyes...Petruccio had never seen his father in such a state. Whatever had happened to his father in the past few hours, it had certainly not been good.

His mother had nearly knocked Ezio out of the way upon seeing his father, not that Ezio was protesting. But he had barely helped their father to the nearest chair before their father had all but fainted, much to their mother’s dismay.

To say it was frightening would have been an understatement. His father’s near-death state only added to the mystery of their family, and Petruccio's mind refused to cease wandering long enough to even panic over their situation.

And even if Petruccio had half a mind to panic, it felt like he simply didn’t have the time. It barely seemed like he was aware of his father’s condition; the next, the air was split by a sound Petruccio had never heard before: low and ceaseless, building and unwavering. For a moment, he was prepared to write it off as one of the oddities he had to hide about himself.

Petruccio wasn’t sure if his mother or the brothel owner (Paola, he remembered) could hear the sound, as both of them were tending to his father, but Petruccio did notice how Claudia’s brow furrowed ever so slightly, looking around as if she could find the source of the sound.

And Ezio…

Ezio had reacted as if he had been struck by lightning, his body going taut and his eyes wide. His lips moved with words unspoken, and Petruccio didn’t even have a chance to ask his brother what was wrong before Ezio had raced out the brothel door and around the corner, disappearing into Firenze’s depths.

“Where is that idiot going?” Claudia hissed.

“Probably to go find Federico and Father Desmond.” Petruccio nodded. He knew Desmond wasn’t truly a monk, but it felt strange to call a stranger by his given name. “At least, I hope so…”

Claudia nodded, “I hope so too…” She turned her attention back to their parents and Paola, “What do we do now? Should we fetch Father a doctor?”

Before their mother had the chance to open her mouth to respond, Paola was shaking her head, “I’m afraid we cannot call on a doctor for your father. As of this instant, almost all of Firenze believes the Auditore family is dead, and those who know you are alive want you dead.”

Their mother turned her attention back to Paola, clutching their father’s hands in her own, “How do you know this?”

“My girls helped spread the rumor of your murders at Giovanni’s hanging.” Paola replied with a slow nod, “Firenze is in outrage at the injustice of your deaths.”

Hanging? Petruccio had known that his brothers and Desmond were trying to rescue their father from prison, but what could their father have done to deserve being hanged?

“What have you gotten yourself into, mio amore?” While Petruccio could hear the fear in his mother’s voice, he couldn’t help but think she wasn’t as ignorant to the situation as he and Claudia were.

Their father merely gave them all a shaky smile, “I would say I have been in worse situations...but I know better than to lie to you, mio caro.”

Paola looked out the window, frowning, “We need to get you out of Firenze, we don’t know how many of them might still be lurking under the guise of the city guards.”

“Giovanni has a brother in the countryside, he would welcome us.” His mother nodded.

His father smiled, “I’m sure Mario would be overjoyed to have us, though not under these circumstances…”

“Yes, your sons already spoke of the plan to get you to Monteriggioni,” Paola frowned, “Though Giovanni’s condition does make things more complicated…”

The whine had crested into a single boom that Petruccio swore had deafened him, if the lingering silence was anything to go by.

Paola and his mother still tended to his father.

Claudia still watched with a mixture of worry and confusion.

And then Petruccio heard it once more. Not the low whine or the concussive boom. But the light sound of bells.

It was not the time for feathers and trinkets, he knew that. And if he had any control over the sounds he could hear, Petruccio would have shut out the distraction to focus on what was important. But that had never been within Petruccio’s control, and so he was powerless to keep from turning his head in the direction of the sound. With any luck, the source would be close by, so Petruccio could quickly find whatever it was he was supposed to find, and be done with it.

As Petruccio’s gaze flitted to the open window, his hopes were quickly dashed that he would be able to quickly find a feather or bauble within his reach, yet he was unable to tear his eyes away from the busy street just beyond the glass. 

Paola had not been exaggerating the state of chaos Firenze found itself in: people moved with more urgency than normal, people grouped to share dire news and gossip, guards were making rushed patrols, questioning individuals and breaking up groups. It should have been a singular mass of chaos. And yet, through it all, Petruccio could somehow, in the back of his mind, recognize groups and patterns, the differences in movement and posture.

Then his eyes caught on something shining that unnatural shimmer. It was no cart full of flowers or straw, but it must have been a cart or simple carriage of some sort, slowly making its way through the streets, no doubt towards the city exits. It was certainly strange, because Petruccio had never seen an object so large, let alone moving, bear the ethereal glow. Nor had he ever seen a person with the shine, and yet, Petruccio could clearly see the driver shining from his perch as he tentatively guided his horse and cart around the throngs of people in the streets.

And through it all, Petruccio could hear the bells.

His feet moved before he could form a single functioning thought to convince himself to stay put, already slipping from La Rosa Colta ’s door without a sound. As Petruccio heard the door’s latch click behind him, he was suddenly struck with fear. What was he doing out here? He’d heard Paola: there were people who wanted him and his brothers dead, and they were actively hunting for his family. He’d nearly been ‘arrested’ once, not to mention his father had barely escaped a hanging and his brothers being who knew where with Desmond. The last thing he should be doing is leaving the safety of the brothel.

And yet… it was like something in him had said that he needed to reach this man and his cart, if not to silence the bells, then for...reasons. Reasons he couldn’t explain yet.

And for all Petruccio’s fear, he wasn’t nearly as afraid as when Desmond had first walked him through the Firenze streets after his failed arrest. And at least he wasn’t wearing one of Claudia’s overly stuffy dresses this time.

 

“I don’t understand why I have to wear Claudia’s dress…” He wished his protests had sounded a bit more firm, but he was aware enough to know he sounded like a whining child.

Father Desmond, or rather, just Desmond, at least gave Petruccio the courtesy of giving him an apologetic smile as they made their way from the palazzo using the servant’s entrance, “The guards are actively searching for the Auditore men, so they’re going to be on high alert for any boy matching Federico, Ezio, or your descriptions. The guards aren’t exactly going to expect you to be walking around as a young lady.”

“I look ridiculous.”

“Only because you’re acting ridiculous,” Desmond nodded, taking a moment to adjust the modest headpiece concealing just how short Petruccio’s hair was, “Three quarters of any good disguise is confidence. You act like what you’re up to is completely normal, most of the time, people won’t even spare you a second glance.”

 

It was completely normal for anyone in Firenze to walk through the streets, there was nothing suspicious about that act. Petruccio did his best to repeat that mantra to himself as his feet slowly moved over the cobblestones, his eyes fixed on the slowly moving cart. His racing heart screamed at him to run, urging him to catch up with the shimmering cart before it had a chance to get away. But Petruccio could tell even without attempting, that he wouldn’t get halfway to his destination before his delicate lungs would give out and he’d be left coughing and sputtering in the street. And even if Petruccio had the strength to run the distance… it was too big a risk.

 

“Walk, don’t run,” Desmond muttered, his hold on Petruccio’s arm tightening when Petruccio tried to hurry past a group of conversing guards, “Suspicious people run, because running is out of the norm for most people.”

Petruccio shook his head, staring at the guards as they drew closer to their group. Oh mio dio, they were going to recognize him, weren’t they? Desmond couldn’t fight them off in a busy street like this, could he?

“Hey.” At Desmond’s words, Petruccio turned his attention back to Desmond. The older man smiled to him under his hood, “Who’s your favorite apostle?”

“What?” Petruccio blinked, unsure if he had heard correctly.

“I think I like Peter best. Bit of a hot mess, and dramatic for no reason, but I can relate to that.” Desmond hummed, “What about you?”

“Why?” He shook his head.

Desmond shrugged, “You’re not the only one wearing a disguise, Petruccio, and honestly, I have no idea what sort of things monks talk about, so I’m taking a stab in the dark here. Plus, I think Peter is actually the only apostle I could name besides Judas”

Petruccio shook his head, “How do you not know the apostles?”

“Didn’t exactly grow up in a church-going environment…” Desmond muttered, “But I’ve gleaned enough, I think...besides, at least now you’re staring at me being a moron, rather than staring at the guards and blowing our cover.”

With a jolt, Petruccio realized that Desmond was right. They had long since passed the guards and already rounded the corner.

 

It took a great deal of strength not to watch each and every guard that crossed his line of vision, to flinch every time one walked passed him a bit too close, to ignore every instinct of his that screamed at him to run and hide. One foot in front of the other, closer and closer toward the shimmering man and his cart.

Then one of the guards looked at Petruccio, and his gaze didn’t immediately turn away. Petruccio could almost feel the man’s suspicious gaze the longer it followed him. The urge to panic and run was strong, but he knew better than to listen to his panicked heart. His feet instead took him to the closest group of passerbys. They moved slower than Petruccio did when he was walking, but he willed himself to keep with their slow pace, nodding along to their conversation.

 

“They’ll lose interest, just give it a bit of time…” Desmond murmured softly to him as they stood with other shoppers in front of the tailor’s.

“This isn’t going to work, they’ve already seen us…” Petruccio whispered.

“It’ll work, it always does…”

 

The moment the guard’s head turned away, Petruccio continued on his way, the fear in his heart weaker than before. The process repeated itself a couple times: a guard would cast a suspicious glance at the lone boy walking alone, Petruccio would join one of the innocuous groups either walking around or standing or even sitting on a bench until the suspicious guards would eventually lose interest.

And, somehow...he had made it. Petruccio could run his fingers over the side of the cart as he moved from the back of the cart towards towards the front; he was easily able to reach up and grab the cuff of the man’s sleeve, tugging it gently so as not to yank the reins of the horse too much.

But as the man turned his attention in his direction, Petruccio realized belatedly that he had no idea just what he was going to say.

“Can I help you?” The man asked gently, his brow furrowed slightly over his blue eyes. They were kind eyes, Petruccio thought, and it was a strange comfort.

“Yes, signore… ” Petruccio bit his lip, “Please...my father is injured, and we need to get out of the city…”

The furrow of the man’s brow deepened, “If your father is injured, why not fetch a doctor?”

“We can’t, please…” Petruccio was torn. Did he tell the man the truth, and risk being turned in to the guards, or did he try and keep his family’s secrets and risk the man not helping them at all? “If you can please help us out of the city, we could figure out the rest of the way on our own…”

“I’m sorry, I would help you,” The man did seem genuinely upset, “But I’m afraid I’m late as it is, and I’m supposed to meet...someone out in the countryside. I’ll have to push my horse as it is if I hope to reach Toscana by sundown.”

Petruccio pressed, “We’re headed to Toscana as well! If you help us, I’m sure my uncle will repay you for your kindness. If you need a place to stay for the night, there would be room for you in our family villa in Monteriggioni.”

“Monteriggioni…” The man trailed off, before closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose, “...You wouldn’t happen to be an Auditore, would you?”

Petruccio froze at that. He couldn’t openly admit to being an Auditore while there were guards within earshot, could he? What would Ezio or Federico do? 

That was a stupid thing to ask: Ezio and Federico would have just stabbed their way out of the predicament, which was out of the question for Petruccio. But as fate would have it, Petruccio didn’t need to answer the man at all, if his expression was anything to go off of.

“Even the little one will be the death of me…” The man muttered, shaking his head as he got down from the driver’s bench, “Very well, I suppose I really should have expected something like this, honestly. Did your brother tell you to come find me?”

Dumbly, Petruccio shook his head, “No, signore… forgive me, but I don’t even know who you are, let alone which of my brother’s you’re talking about.”

The man blinked, genuinely surprised as Petruccio led him back toward the brothel, “You don’t? Then how did you know to come to me for help?”

“I just…” How the blazes did he explain to this stranger that he went to him because he appeared shiny without sounding soft in the head? “I just… knew. It felt right.”

“Great, another Auditore mystery, I take it.” The man sighed, “But that is no excuse for me to ignore my manners.” He extended his hand to Petruccio, “I am Leonardo.”

“Oh, Mother’s painter friend!” Petruccio breathed a sigh of relief, taking Leonardo’s hand, “I’m Petruccio.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Petruccio, even if it could be for better circumstances.” Leonardo smiled softly to him as they walked, “Forgive me if this sounds presumptuous, but...you wouldn't happen to know about some of the...strangeness concerning your family? I don’t mean to pry, but I have lost quite a bit of sleep trying to understand you Auditores...”

Petruccio raised an eyebrow briefly, but he couldn’t exactly find the question too out of place, given all he had seen and heard concerning his family the past few days.

“I’m afraid you may know as much as I, signore .” He admitted, keeping his voice low, “...I suspect my father isn’t just a banker…”

“I suspected as much as well.” Leonardo nodded. “He is… quite an intimidating figure.”

Petruccio frowned at that. He never considered his father to be very intimidating-- even when he was cross with Federico or Ezio, it never lasted long. Perhaps it was different for others outside the family, “I suppose, though he’s always been a good father to the four of us,” He paused to consider everything that had happened over the last twenty four hours, “My brothers are...very good at killing people. I don’t know if they were training for some military service, or something else, but Federico and Ezio were able to fight off an entire squadron of guards along with Desmond.”

“Is that why there is so much blood at your house?” Leonardo whispered, “Forgive me if I come off as a snoop, but there are some salacious rumors, and I might have visited your house to investigate what I could…”

“The guards had come to arrest me; Ezio and Federico stopped them.” It was cathartic, in a way: recounting everything to Leonardo despite him being a relative stranger. Claudia and Mother didn’t want to talk about what had happened, leaving Petruccio with no one to talk to, “I didn’t know my brother’s were fighters before then...or that they knew Father Desmond.”

“Desmond is a monk, then?”

“No, not really. He was just wearing a monk’s robes when I first met him.” Petruccio nodded.

Leonardo frowned at that, puzzled, “Then who is he? A family friend?”

“I don’t know.” It was frustrating to Petruccio as well, not knowing anything, but he was only just now beginning to grasp just how ignorant he was. He could have died without knowing anything about his brothers, his father...he didn’t even know what he didn’t know. “When Ezio introduced Desmond to Mother...he referred to him as ‘one of her thousand shadowy sons.’ I don’t know what that means, but Mother did.”

“A thousand shadowy sons?” Leonardo sighed, “I fear you may have given me more mysteries rather than help me solve any.”

Petruccio bit his lip, “I’m sorry…”

“You have nothing to apologize for, Petruccio.” The artist smiled kindly, “I should have known better than to try and cheat my way through this mystery...your brother has my mind tangled the past couple days.”

“Which brother?” He asked.

“Ah,” Leonardo blushed at that, “Ezio…has he always been so…”

“No.” Petruccio shook his head, not needing Leonardo to elaborate further, “Ezio started acting strange three days ago.”

Leonardo blinked, “That is quite specific…”

“I remember it quite clearly, that morning.” Petruccio nodded, “Before, Ezio was just my idiot older brother: loud, brash, obsessed with flirting with girls and getting into fights. But that morning...it was like he grew up overnight: he greeted my mother and sister warmly, he didn’t pick a fight with Claudia when she teased him...he taught me how to play chess and promised to help me...with a project I’m working on.” He finished lamely. “He acted more like my father than my brother only four years older than me.”

“Three days ago…” Leonardo murmured, “So what happened three days ago…”

“I wish I knew.” He admitted, “If you find out, would you tell me? I...I’d like to not be so ignorant about my family.”

Leonardo nodded, “I suppose this might be easier with the two of us investigating. After all, we are going to the same place now.”


 

Ezio had no idea where the time had gone. It had seemed that morning had been upon them mere moments ago, and now he, Federico, and Desmond were racing against the setting sun back to La Rosa Colta .

“I would say I can’t believe you left your family unattended to race into danger,” Desmond muttered under his breath, “But I absolutely believe it.”

“Can you blame me? I heard the Apple being used, I didn’t know if it meant disaster!” Ezio sighed.

“If I’m involved, then disaster is probably pretty damn likely!” Desmond nodded, “But at least now I know I can use the Apple that way.”

“Wait.” Federico frowned, doing his best to keep up with Desmond and Ezio, “You didn’t know you could do that?”

“I knew the Apple could do that,” Desmond gave a sheepish smile, “I mean, I’ve seen Ezio use it that way, and I’ve used it--kinda-- when the Apple was a physical object. I just didn’t know if I could use it that way now that the Apple is literally my brain.”

Ezio had to give Federico credit, he was taking news of Desmond’s power far better than Ezio had originally feared he might. Granted, he was still staring at Desmond in a mixture of awe and abject terror, but Ezio couldn’t really blame him that much.

“So it’s true…” Federico began as they rounded a corner, their run slowing to a walk as they began to weave their way through the groups of people, “Everything Ezio said, you really are that powerful.”

Desmond’s lips pressed together tightly, and Ezio had the feeling he was resisting the urge to deny his abilities, “I know what it sounds like, but don’t give me too much credit, Federico. And for the love of...anything, really, don’t think I’m a god. I’m not. I’m just an ordinary guy who got in way over his head.”

They had to press in close then, their heads slightly bowed as they mimicked the movements of the millings crowds. Desmond was nearly pressed between Ezio and Federico, and Federico was leaning in all the closer to Desmond.

“So you aren’t from five hundred years in the future?” Federico whispered.

Desmond groaned, “I am…”

“And you didn’t travel back in time?”

“I did…”

“And you didn’t pull Ezio’s...soul back through time for him to live his life over?” Federico shot Ezio a look, and Ezio could only give him a shrug. He had no idea if it was his soul or his mind or something else entirely. In all honesty, he hadn’t really cared.

It seemed Desmond didn’t know either, “I don’t think it was his soul, but I honestly don’t know exactly how I managed to pull that off. I’m just glad I didn’t have a brain aneurysm trying to do it.”

“A what?” Ezio found himself asking.

“It’s basically where a blood vessel in your brain bursts and you bleed out in your brain.” Desmond shrugged.

“You’re joking, right?” Federico stared, though the look on Desmond’s face was answer enough.

“It’s amazing what medical advancements can happen in five hundred years.” Desmond chuckled, “Though I will let you know now: blood letting isn’t good for nearly anything, and the whole humors thing is complete bullshit. Also, don’t use any of the cures you hear the doctors peddling: lead is literally poisonous and will kill you over time.”

“So much for the lead and pomegranate tonic…” Ezio muttered.

“Forget the Templar, the doctors are the real threat to your health in this time.” A smile tugged on Desmond’s lips, “Though I’ll hold off on revealing any medical marvels until Leonardo is up to speed.”

Ezio couldn’t help but smile in turn, already imagining Leonardo’s eyes lighting up with each new discovery, determined to soak up every iota of wisdom that might come from Desmond’s lips.

His thoughts were quickly derailed by Federico speaking once more, “How can you speak of such wonders, the feats you have done, and still deny you own power?”

Desmond sighed, “Because it isn’t my power, Federico, it’s the Apple. I couldn’t do jack shit if I didn’t have the Apple.”

“But you are the Apple, isn’t that correct?” Federico pressed.

“Yes, technically , the Apple has basically fused with my brain-- and I’m still trying to understand that one.” Desmond shook his head, “Remember, Ezio once wielded the Apple too, he did some pretty weird things with it too. Like that one time he made like five copies of himself to fight the Pope.”

What?” Federico’s voice was little more than a hiss, yet Ezio feared a few heads may have turned their way.

“Borgia, Borgia was the Pope in question.” Ezio muttered sheepishly.

“That Templar became the Pope?” 

“Still has to, unfortunately.” Desmond sighed, shaking his head, “No matter how many calculations I run, any scenario in which Borgia doesn’t become Pope ends up...awful. Thankfully, he doesn’t need to be Pope very long.”

“Then what are we supposed to do for the next twenty years, Desmond?” Ezio muttered as La Rosa Colta came into view.

“Well there’s still Venenzia to clean up, plenty of Templar there to kill.” Desmond nodded, “Not to mention Roma, you can get an early start on gathering new recruits-- and maybe you can even think of a different opening line than just “The liberation of Roma has begun!”-- oh! We can take your father to see Masyaf and the Library, I’m sure he’d enjoy that.”

Ezio couldn’t help but hear a note of mania woven through Desmond’s words, not to mention the way Desmond’s words seemed to burst forth with no rhyme nor reason to the logic they were following. He thought back to the last time Desmond had lost consciousness due to abusing his powers, and how he had seemingly rambled about anything and everything concerning his life prior to traveling back in time. Perhaps Desmond was, in his own way, still recovering from overexerting himself, and this was a more subtle symptom than the nose bleeds or fainting spells.

At least Ezio could listen to Desmond’s ramblings with a modicum of understanding, and the discernment of which things he should ask for clarification and which things he accept he’d never understand. Federico, on the other hand, seemed to grow more bewildered the longer Desmond talked. Ezio had a feeling he and Federico would have another talk sooner rather than later.

As it stood, they needn’t return to the brothel at all, as Paola had told them. And while Ezio felt somewhat guilty that his father’s condition had deteriorated while Ezio had abandoned him, he was grateful they had left Firenze sooner than sunset. The sooner they were in Monteriggioni, the better.

And to make things even better, Leonardo was with them. He really should have expected that Leonardo would want to see for himself if the harness he built had actually worked, though Ezio hoped that he had not been harmed in the ensuing riot. How close to the gallows had Leonardo been? Could they have passed each other without noticing the other?

“So are we going to talk about the fact Petruccio was apparently the one to find Leonardo?” Federico asked when they finally made their way out of the city limits. In hindsight, hiding in a cart full of straw might not have been the most comfortable way to escape the city, but it had been the easiest. “I didn’t know he even knew Leonardo.”

“He doesn’t, from what I remember.”  Ezio had to admit, plucking stray strands of stray from Desmond’s shirt. The last thing he wanted was for it to get dirty. 

“I didn’t even know you knew Leonardo, Federico,” Desmond replied, shrugging as they started their way down the road, “But I suppose that’s not the main issue here, but rather that Petruccio’s metaphorical balls dropped while we were away.”

Ezio frowned, “I beg your pardon?”

“Sorry, that was a bit crass.” Desmond shook his head, pressing his palms to his eyes, “What I meant to say was that Petruccio has suddenly learned the Auditore trait of having less fear than he should.”

“That doesn’t sound like Petruccio, he’s always been quiet and meek.” Federico said softly, “I can’t imagine how scared he must have been…”

Ezio saw the expression on Desmond’s face change slightly, his eyes flickering gold for only the briefest of moments before he spoke once more, “If you remember the aftermath of us stopping his arrest, Petruccio wasn’t scared. Neither was Claudia.”

“They were in shock, surely.”

Desmond shook his head, “I don’t think so. Think about it, you two: if you were their age, and you witnessed your father do an assassination, or fight off a squad of Templar, how would you react?”

Ezio shared a look with his brother, curious how Federico would react. He tried to remember what he was like at Petruccio’s age: far louder, far more naïve in his own way, and so eager to please his father. How would he react to watching his father kill someone for the first time, let alone perform an assassination?

“I might be frightened at first…” Federico admitted, “But...I don’t think I could have ever been afraid of Father. If anything...I’d have questions.”

“I’d probably pester father about where he learned to fight, and when I could learn.” Ezio chuckled, “I think I’d be too dumb at that age to realize the danger.”

“At that age, Ezio? You still have trouble staying out of danger.” Desmond snorted.

Ezio shrugged, “We are Assassins: we plunge into danger so the innocent can avoid it.”

“That is the most poetic way to say you’re a dumbass I've ever heard.” Desmond smirked, “But back to Petruccio: if he’s half as inquisitive as the two of you, he’s probably bursting at the seams with questions. Which is hilarious, considering now Leonardo is traveling with your family, and we both know how he is when he fixates on something.”

“That something just so happens to be me now.” Ezio couldn’t help but grin.

Desmond rolled his eyes, “Yes, because you couldn’t act normal for five damn minutes. You were lucky that you were able to explain to Federico the concept of time travel without reducing his mind to mush, let’s not play ‘double or nothing’ with Leonardo’s brain, shall we? Humanity literally needs his genius”

“I still have a great number of questions regarding that.” Federico muttered. “I just can’t for the life of me think of what those questions are.”

“They’ll come to you later, Federico.” Ezio nodded, “At least, they did for me--”

“Cowards!”

Ezio nearly jumped at the new voice behind them, turning on his heel with his blade at the ready. Beside him, Ezio could see that Desmond was affecting the same posture, while Federico had already palmed another throwing knife. And before them…

It was all Ezio could do to keep from grinning at the sight of Vieri de Pazzi, sword in one hand and utterly alone. What a lovely way to end the day this would be…

“You seem to be missing your usual lackeys this time, Vieri,” Ezio smirked, “Are you sure you want a rematch right now?”

“Shut up!” Vieri’s face was red with rage, his grip on his sword shaking ever so slightly. But he wasn’t looking at Ezio, he didn’t even spare him a glance.

Instead his focus was solely on Federico.

“You’re nothing but a filthy murderer!” Vieri shouted, keeping his sword pointed at Federico, “And now you’re sneaking out of the city like the coward you are…”

Federico raised an eyebrow, “Are you serious?” He sheathed his throwing knife, his hand moving toward his sword at his hip, “I highly doubt you want this fight, Vieri…”

“You are sorely outnumbered, and even more so outmatched.” Ezio added, “This will not end well for you.”

“That’s enough, all of you.”

Ezio turned his attention to Desmond as the other spoke. Unlike Federico, Desmond had relaxed his fighting stance, his blade sheathed and stance at ease. Desmond looked first to Ezio, then to Federico, “Stand down, both of you.”

Stand down? What was Desmond thinking? This was Vieri de Pazzi, one of the very Templar they were supposed to be hunting down, and he was just supposed to...stand down? Reluctantly, Ezio sheathed his blade, and he saw Federico move his hand away from his sword, though if his expression was anything to go by, he was just as displeased to do so.

It was predictable, really, that Vieri would choose that moment to rush at Federico, sword raised and a shout on his lips. But before either Ezio or Federico could react, Desmond had stepped between Vieri and Federico. There was the clang of metal against metal, so Ezio could only assume that Desmond had used his blade, but Desmond’s movements were nearly too fast for Ezio to follow: one arm locking around Vieri’s outstretched sword arm, while the other surged forth, the heel of his palm striking Vieri’s Adam’s Apple. For a moment, Ezio thought Desmond had killed Vieri with his hidden blade, but judging by the fact that Vieri was sputtering and gasping for air, rather than gurgling and rattling as he drowned in his own blood, it would seem he was mistaken.

As Desmond stepped away from Vieri, he was now holding the other’s sword in his hand. He had disarmed, not killed, unfortunately.

“Now what? You want to try again?” Desmond asked as Vieri struggled to catch his breath. “I can kick your ass again until you calm the fuck down.”

If looks could kill, Ezio might have actually feared Vieri in that moment, the way he glared at Desmond.

Desmond sighed, throwing the sword aside “Look, I get it: you’re angry and full of what you think is righteous fury. But you have no idea what’s really going on, and I know even if I tried to explain the bigger picture, you’d just call me a liar--”

“Who the hell are you?” Vieri spat between his gasps of air.

“Absolutely nobody to you, and I’d like to keep it that way.” Desmond shook his head, “But let’s cut to the chase, shall we? We’ve got places to be, and you have bigger things to worry about than thinking you need to avenge your psychopath of a father’s death.”

“How dare--” Vieri’s words, whatever they might have been, were lost the moment Desmond’s eyes blaze their all too familiar gold, “What the--”

“Shut the hell up already.” Desmond muttered, eyes darting rapidly as his mind was no doubt running through a thousand futures in a single moment, “In exactly one hour and eight minutes, Medici’s guards will storm the Pazzi palazzo to arrest anyone who might have been involved in the attempt on Lorenzo’s life today.”

“You’re absolutely mad…” Vieri shook his head, though Ezio couldn’t help but notice he wasn’t shouting as he was before.

“Your father literally shouted “Death to the Medici!” at the top of his lungs before trying to kill Lorenzo, do you honestly think Medici wouldn’t try to prevent a second attack?” Desmond raised an eyebrow, “Now, you and I know you knew nothing of your father or great-uncle’s little scheme against the Medici family, but do you really think Lorenzo is going to waste time splitting hairs trying to determine who might be a threat, and who among your family just has the misfortune of sharing a family name with the true conspirators?”

Desmond crossed his arms over his chest, “So here are your options, Vieri: you can keep trying to attack us in a vain attempt to avenge your father’s honor or whatever the fuck this is about. Or you can use this one hour and eight-- sorry, seven-- minutes to gather who and what you care about and put Firenze behind you.” 

It took Ezio a moment to realize what Desmond was saying. After all they had just gone through, and he was just going to let Vieri go?

It seemed Vieri was just as confused, “I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t, this is way bigger than you could possibly imagine.” Desmond shook his head, “But you need to decide what’s more important: knowing, or surviving. You can’t do both today.”

For a long moment, nothing happened. Ezio was hoping that perhaps Vieri would do something stupid like rush Desmond again, or maybe even attack Ezio or Federico. But, to his disappointment, it wasn't long before Vieri looked from Desmond to Ezio to Federico, before turning on his heel and running.

And while Ezio was mildly amused at the sight of Vieri running like the coward he was, he still couldn’t help but be annoyed. “Why did you let him go?” He frowned, looking at Desmond, “He’s a Templar!”

Desmond shook his head, “Not yet, he isn’t.”

“He’s right, Ezio.” Federico nodded, “I questioned Francesco after I assassinated him, and he seemed to imply that Vieri hadn’t been inducted into the order yet.”

Desmond nodded slowly, “According to what I saw just now, Vieri was originally informed about the Templar order on the night of December 29th, 1476.”

Ezio blinked, “That’s...tonight.”

“Yeah, in the original timeline, Francesco must have told Vieri about the Templar after their ‘victory’ in killing half the Auditore family.” Desmond murmured, “Sorry, Federico.”

Federico raised an eyebrow, “It is still incredibly strange to talk about my supposed death as if it was a thing of the past…”

“I can only imagine,” Desmond gave him a gentle clap on the shoulder. “But anyway, since we’ve already decided to fuck up the original timeline, technically Vieri isn’t a Templar, and he might never become one.”

“Might.” Ezio repeated, deadpan.

Desmond sighed, “Ezio, let me tell you a story, and stop me if it sounds familiar: a young man born into privilege, arrogant and self assured of his way of life. Then, suddenly, in one incredibly violent day, his entire family is rocked by murder and a conspiracy larger than himself, leaving him suddenly as the man of his family.”

Ezio shook his head, “You do not need to remind me, Desmond. I know this story well.” He murmured.

“Yeah, well, it isn’t your story this time around, it’s Vieri’s,” Desmond replied calmly, “We can probably assume that Vieri was somewhere in the crowd watching the hanging. From his perspective, he watched his father die brutally at the hands of a mysterious hooded figure in white, before a riot breaks out, and he discovers that his great uncle and family patriarch has also been murdered in a similar way, and the entire city wants the rest of his family dead. And now he discovers that killer is none other than a relative of his sworn enemy?” He shrugged, “And that’s without even touching on the greater conspiracy and the Assassin/Templar war.”

If asked, Ezio would never admit to ever having an iota of pity for Vieri de Pazzi. Vieri was an arrogant, abrasive, crude son of a bitch. But at the same time, having experienced what he had, he would not have wished his fate on anyone, not even his worst enemy. That being said, “If the pattern holds true, then Vieri will end up being recruited by the Templar and begin his quest for vengeance by hunting each of us down and killing us.”

Desmond nodded, “According to my calculations, there’s about a twenty-eight percent chance of that happening.”

Federico raised an eyebrow, “And the other seventy-two percent?”

“Well…” Desmond’s eyes flickered for a moment between gold and their natural hazel, “there’s a twenty percent chance that he’ll end up going on a self destructive drinking and fighting binge, dying in some gutter and buried in a pauper’s grave. Another thirty percent chance that he, his mother, and his sister will sink into obscurity, living out their lives either under assumed names or far from where anyone might look for them. And a seventeen percent chance that...oddly enough, he becomes a better man once he learns the truth.”

Ezio blinked, trying and failing to comprehend a situation where Vieri de Pazzi could ever become something other than the complete ass Ezio knew him as.

“What about the last five percent?” Federico asked softly.

Desmond sighed, “Margin of error.”

“What does that mean?” Ezio frowned.

“I have no idea…”


 

He shouldn’t be alive, and yet he was. His little brother was older than their father, yet living his life twice. And Desmond…

Desmond, who could not only see the future, but could walk through time at his discretion. Who could kill an army with little more than the wave of his hand. Who could rewrite history to his whims.

If Federico had any sense left in his head, he should be absolutely terrified of what Desmond could do, of what Desmond was . Instead, he found himself a moth drawn to the flame that could very well consume him: unable to stay away and completely surrendered to the inevitability of his end. Ezio had said that Desmond had marked him as one of his own, and while Federico knew logically that his cut lip had nothing to do with Desmond, he couldn’t help but think, perhaps Ezio was right...

Learning about Desmond’s true nature had forced Federico to reexamine every single interaction he had with Desmond in the past few days: their first confrontation in Ezio’s bedroom, Desmond meeting with him and Father ( dio , Desmond had handed Father the blade that would become Federico’s. Had Desmond known?), the hunt for Baroncelli--

Federico’s heart did a flip in his chest as he remembered that night. Desmond had been so patient and understanding with him in the aftermath of his first kill, comforting him and easing  his mortal fears. Desmond, who could have killed Baroncelli with the snap of his fingers, had murmured soft praises to Federico as the moon had risen overhead. Perhaps it had been then that Federico had first fallen--

No, he couldn’t finish that thought. Could Desmond peer into the minds of mortals as well? If that was the case, then Federico had already been laid bare before Desmond. Again, that thought should have terrified him. And yet--

“You’re getting too quiet over there, Federico.”

Federico turned to look at Ezio as the three men continued on their way down the road toward Monteriggioni. It would be fully dark soon, and if they couldn’t find a faster way to travel, they may have to stop for the night. “Sorry...I’ve got a lot on my mind, as I’m sure you know.”

“Well if you have any questions, feel free to ask.” Desmond replied, “I promised Ezio that I’d answer any question he has to the best of my ability, and I see no reason not to extend that to you, now that you know some of the bullshit we’re dealing with.”

“I don’t even know where to start, I feel like I am dreaming…” He admitted, “Like I’ll wake up and...I don’t know.”

Ezio reached out, taking his hand and squeezing gently, “It has been a trying day. Things will be clearer in the morning.”

Federico watched his younger brother, now so much older and wiser than he could have ever imagined, “Ezio, that morning, when you walked in to see me and Desmond in your room, you were--”

A small smile pulled at Ezio’s lips, but did not reach his eyes, “I was emotional seeing you again after forty years...the last time I saw you...I-I had snuck past several guards to carry your body--yours, Petruccio’s, Father’s-- to a boat to burn.”

“Your last memory of me was carrying my lifeless body?” Federico whispered. No wonder that Ezio had been emotional upon seeing Federico alive and well. Had their places been reversed, Federico was sure he would have fallen apart at the seams at seeing Ezio alive again, “Ezio...how can you be so strong?”

Ezio gave him a watery chuckle, “I’m an Auditore, Federico. You know that…”

“Enough bravado, Ezio…” Federico shook his head, pulling his brother in close, embracing him tightly. Their journey to Monteriggioni wasn’t going anywhere, it could wait a few moments longer. Federico rested his hand on the back of Ezio’s head as his brother buried his face in the crook of his neck. Ezio’s hands slowly crept up to Federico’s back, embracing him just as rightly. How long had Ezio gone as the one others had to depend on? How often had he been the strength and will of others? When had the last time been when Ezio could count on another to depend on?

“You’re not alone this time, Ezio…” He whispered softly, “I know I don’t understand the madness of  everything, but I promise I’ll try my best to learn as quickly as possible...whatever you had to face last time, we’ll face it together. My blade is yours and yours is mine.”

Ezio squeezed him tightly at that, “Until the bitter end.” He murmured softly  as he raised his head, “And nothing will change that…”

“It is still a good life we lead, Ezio.” Federico urged, resting his forehead against Ezio’s.

This time, Ezio’s smile reached though his tear-flooded eyes, “The best…”

Federico wasn’t sure how long they stood their, their heads bowed and holding each other tight. How strange to think that only a few nights ago, they were both young men with such simple concerns in the world; now they both shared the burden of knowledge no mortal should be privy to, conscripted to the service of a power greater than themselves.

When the brothers finally parted, Federico could see that Desmond stood some ways off, back to them in some semblance of privacy. Either that, or Desmond hadn’t wished to witness another moment of the brothers being emotionally vulnerable just yet.

“We’re almost out of sunlight…” Desmond replied, as if that had been their topic of discussion all along, “I don’t suppose we’re anywhere close to Monteriggioni?”

Ezio laughed at that, “We shall count ourselves lucky if we reach the village by tomorrow night if we continue travelling on foot.”

“Joy…” Desmond muttered, rubbing a hand over his tired face, “I don’t suppose there’s a village close where we might stop for the night?”

“I suppose we’ll have to check the next road marker, though if I recall correctly, there should be a couple villages not far from here with decent enough inns...or at least serviceable barns with haylofts.” Ezio nodded, no doubt speaking with the voice of experience.

Desmond hummed at that, “Why don’t you run ahead to the next road marker to check?”

Ezio raised an eyebrow, but didn’t question Desmond’s request. Though as Ezio began to jog further along the road, Federico could see his brother casting him a curious expression before he was out of sight.

And that was when Federico realized that he was now alone with Desmond.

“Hopefully the next road marker isn’t too far away…” Desmond murmured, “But also I hope it isn’t too terribly close.”

“Why do you say that?” Federico asked.

Desmond watched him carefully, “Maybe I want to talk to you without an audience of any sort.”

Ah. Federico bit his lip, wincing as he remembered the still healing cut that Ezio swore was Desmond’s blessing, “Oh…”

“Please don’t be scared of me, Federico.” Desmond began, “I don’t know Ezio has this strange fixation with painting me as this godlike figure, but I swear, I’m...completely ordinary.”

Federico couldn’t help it, he had to laugh at that, “Ordinary? Desmond, you’re not serious, are you? You killed a dozen men with your empty hand, and let’s not forget the fact you traveled through time.”

“But those aren’t things I could do myself,” Desmond insisted, “All of those things would be impossible without the Apple.”

“But aren’t you the Apple now?” Federico asked, shaking his head, “Or the Apple is in your mind now?”

“Yes, and I’ve just learned that with each passing moment, the Apple is replacing more and more of my own mind...and it scares the shit out of me, Federico.” Desmond’s words were barely above a whisper by the end.

Federico couldn’t help but stare, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you scared of anything.”

“You’ve known me for three days, Federico. I’m scared of a lot of things.” Desmond admitted, “Before, I knew how things played out the first time, and I could use the Apple to plan the strategy for me and Ezio. But from here on out, things are new. I’ll know some of the events, and I can calculate the things I focus on, but I’m not all knowing and all seeing. Please, Federico, you have to believe me when I say I’m an ordinary guy who managed to get ahold of some extraordinary power.” 

“You keep saying that, Desmond, but--”

“You want to know what sort of life I lead before I got caught up in all this?” Desmond cut him off, stepping forward, “Before I got myself kidnapped by the Templar, I was a bartender. I served drinks to people all night in hopes that they would tip me enough for me to buy myself a decent meal for the next couple of nights. I was a nobody, a complete loser that no one would have thought twice about.”

Federico wasn’t sure what some of Desmond’s words meant, or how exactly he was supposed to respond. Instead, what came out of his mouth was, “Is that why you told me not to drink after Baroncelli?”

Desmond blinked, staring at him for a long moment. Then, a chuckle burst forth, “I can’t believe that’s what you fixated on.”

“Neither can I, to be honest.” He admitted, cheeks burning, “It just...I don’t know.”

“Yeah, I get that... “ Desmond sighed, “But yeah, that was kinda why I warned you about drinking away your problems...I watched a lot of people ruin their lives one drink at a time, and I was the one pouring the poison…” His words trailed off, though his gaze never wavered from Federico, “I didn’t want that to happen to you.”

“Because you promised Ezio that I would life?” He couldn’t help but ask, unable to look away from Desmond, but also unsure just how long he could hold his gaze.

“Not everything has to be about Ezio, you know,” Desmond smiled softly, “Is it so hard to believe that I might want to keep you around because I like you, Federico?” His hand brushed against Federico’s, and Federico had to stifle a gasp. How did Desmond always know how to come so close to him without him being aware of it? How could he ever not be aware of Desmond?

“I…” Federico swallowed, “It is as you said, you’ve only known me for three days. I’m not that special outside Ezio’s destiny.”

“I don’t know about that, Federico.” Desmond murmured, his voice low enough to almost draw Federico to lean in closer, “I think you’re pretty special, all on your own.”

The flutter in his chest was back, and it was suddenly far too hot for a December evening. It was almost a repeat of the night of Baroncelli’s assassination, and Federico wasn’t sure he had the strength to resist again.

Federico shook his head, “You’re mocking me.” He muttered, taking a step back.

Desmond reached out, grabbing Federico’s hand and pulling him close once more, “I am not mocking you. You think so little of yourself, despite all you have accomplished even within the past twenty-four hours. You saved both of your brothers from the guards who would arrest them. You killed Jacopo de Pazzi in the middle of a crowd without his guards being any the wiser. You foiled the attack on Lorenzo and killed Francesco, a man twice your age and experience. You hunted down and assassinated Uberto Alberti with absolute style and grace.” He smiled softly, and Federeico was close enough that he could see the slight pucker of his scar, “And you know what else?”

There was a knot in Federico’s throat, so much so that he wasn’t sure if he actually spoke so much as mouthed the word “What?”

“Listen.”

For several moments, there was stillness. Federico could feel the last few rays of the sun on his cheeks, the bite of the winter breeze on his skin, and the utter heat of Desmond’s proximity. He could see every elegant angle and detail of Desmond’s face highlighted in the twilight. He could taste the tang of blood from his healing lip. But he could not for the life of him hear anything over his own shaking breaths and the thundering of his traitorous heart. “I don’t--”

“Every breath you take,” Desmond murmured, “Every heartbeat you have, Federico, is a rebellion against destiny and fate. History said Federico Auditore da Firenze died on December 29th, 1476. And yet I hear you breathe. I think that’s special.”

How was he supposed to hold strong against such words? Even if he had not already been so fully snared, he would have in that very moment. Though now he was unsure if he was damned in the eyes of god or baptised in his salvation. “My rebellion is not through my own doing…” He whispered, unable to trust himself with anything louder, “I was caught up in something greater than myself…”

“Perhaps in this we are the same.” Desmond smiled, his fingers delicately tracing over the back of Federico’s hand, “Ordinary men who have been caught up in something greater than themselves.”

He wanted to argue, he wanted to remind Desmond that they were very obviously not the same, that Desmond still had abilities beyond his wildest imagination. But the words would not come.

“Because if I were a god…” Desmond murmured, bringing his face close enough that their foreheads were touching in an echo of the gesture Federico had shared with Ezio, though the gesture now took on a new life under Desmond’s touch, “...this would be wrong…” 

Federico couldn’t contain the gasp that burst from his lips as he felt Desmond’s free hand rest on his hip, his thumb lazily rubbing the soft valley where Federico’s thigh met the rest of his body.

“If I were a god, this would be a terrible abuse of power,” Desmond released Federico’s hand, but before Federico could find himself mourning the loss, Desmond was cupping the side of Federico’s face. Despite its warmth, the touch send a shiver down Federico’s spine, “seducing a poor innocent mortal…”

“Is it really a seduction if I’m already yours?” Federico could feel his cheeks burning at his own bold words. The two of them were out in the open, any traveler passing by could possibly spot them and condemn them; and yet Federico leaned into Desmond’s touch. Man or god, it didn’t matter; he was Desmond’s. 

Desmond smirked, “I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t seeing things that weren’t there.” 

Their noses brushed then, and Federico could feel Desmond’s breath against his lips. 

And then, it was the warmth of his lips. They were softer than Federico imagined they might be, both in texture and in the way they claimed Federico’s own lips. Every gentle movement was mindful of Federico’s wound, and yet every little sting of pain was a reminder that perhaps Ezio had been right about him being marked.


The road marker hadn’t been that far at all, and thankfully, the nearest village they could stay in was less than a mile away. If they moved quickly, they could get their before it got too dark.

The road to Monteriggione was less of an ordeal traveling with Federico and Desmond than it had been with Claudia and mother, but that was a given. This time, Ezio was filled with hope and excitement for the future, of what might be accomplished this time around now that he had Desmond’s guidance.

Ezio had been in such a rush to tell Desmond and Federico the good news that he didn’t recognize their posture right away. He had almost called out to them when he reallized that they were not, in fact, standing close in discussion, but rather in an altogheter different engagement.

It wasn’t that Ezio hadn’t been aware that Federico had harbored some attraction for Desmond, and Ezio had known that Desmond, at the very least, did not find such attractions undesirable. But it was still a bit of a surprise, to find his brother and his patron locked in such a reverent embrace. 

He had been fully prepared to turn away, give them some semblance of privacy before he announced his presence. But then his eyes fell on his brother’s still fresh wound.

Federico hadn’t been mistaken when he said it was on the wrong side to match Ezio and Desmond’s scars. But as the other two men kissed, Ezio realized that with each gentle movement of their lips, Desmond’s scar and Federico’s wound lined up in utter unison. Mirrored so they would touch with each embrace.

Federico’s mark had not been one of a prophet.

It had been one of a consort.