Disclaimer: Belongs to You Higuri, etc.

Warnings: AU, incest, OOC

Illusion (Or So They Say)

By Cory

Rome, Italy
1996

The white lights scurry across the ceiling above, and each reflects in Chiaro's eyes. Cesare sobs (he doesn't sob!) and kicks his legs so hard his pants fell down his hipbones and the ankle cuffs tear with the force.

The doctor says not a word to the floundering child he held tightly, still kicking and screaming about the "black spots" and "talking moth" but most often, that one name over and over and over again: Chiaro, Chiaro…!

The boy is fitted with a straitjacket of chapped, old leather that pressures his elbows and wrists and flung into his new living quarters.

Cesare Borgia is soon shut up in the room and was left to mewl helplessly in his drug-induced sleep, tossing restlessly to images floating through his head of a beautiful blond boy professing his…feelings for the thirteen-year-old and telling him over and over again that he was very much real.

They don't understand, Cesare. You know I'm here, and you know I will not go without you. I will not leave you. Who are you going to believe: fools who tell you I am imagined, or me?

You, Chiaro, always you…

--

Cesare remembered a boy that had met at school. Alfonso had attended a different school, really: an apprentice school, fitting as he was nearing his majority. Alfonso had come to Cesare's school every day to visit his younger sister, Sancia. (That sort of things was definitely not allowed, but Cesare had thought him mindful enough.) Sancia had always treated him like nuisance: a bothersome distraction that refused to leave, no matter the abuse she pressed upon him with a curled lip and a flounce of raven ringlets. Alfonso had treated her gently, like a treasure; he had always come to her with a ready smile. Cesare had never found out what Sancia had thought of her brother, but he had noted that she had never told him to leave.

Around the time when Sancia—who had been a senior—had been within months of graduating, someone had set the school on fire. (Cesare hadn't been there, but had heard of it in detail from his tearful sister after the event.) Sancia, as she had been wont to do, had been sitting atop the roof to await the lunch bell. Alfonso had been meaning to go up and see her, but had been herded with the rest of the actual students outside. When he had realized that Sancia was not outside, he had pushed back a teacher (who had probably been quite shocked) to dash inside.

Sancia had, naturally, died in the fire. Alfonso had died before he had reached his sister, in the stairwell just below the roof—evidence proved that he had suffocated before being scorched beyond recognition.

Cesare finds himself thinking of Sancia and her brother. Groggy, half-lidded eyes stare unseeingly at the floor as he whimpers quietly into his gag. To burn…what had it felt like? What had it felt like to choke on smoke, feet away from your angel?

Cesare feels like his heart is drowning in vomit, in cheap words, in tears, in salt pork.

Sleep, Cesare…you need to get well.

They say there's something wrong with me, Chiaro.

No. There's nothing wrong with you. Just sleep.

--

Two weeks later

"How are you today, Cesare?"

Cesare moans. All he sees is white, blurred and incomprehensible. His mouth twitches as the gag is removed.

There's an expectant pause, then the same voice

Male. Deep. Insincere.

asks, "Do you want to talk today?"

Cesare presses his cracked lips together. His throat feels tight and dry, and he swears that he feels the fleshy walls of his throat gliding together. "I want Chiaro."

"There is no Chiaro." The voice sounds firm. There was a hint of patience lost, but there also seemed to be a sense of duty. Cesare doesn't think about, because Chiaro tells him not to. "Please talk to me, Cesare. You're in control."

No, I'm not. I'm not in control and I'm not in class and I'm not seeing my sister and I'm missing my mother and you won't listen to me.

Cesare says nothing, but his vision is slowly clearing, along with some coherence.

"Would you like something to eat? Nothing too much, now, we don't want to ruin your appetite."

Yes, Cesare prays.

No, Chiaro pleads, and warm fingers of sunlight and adoration lightly touch the longish brown hair sprouting from the nape of his neck.

"No."

"Alright, Cesare." The voice is intelligent and—while not quite compassionate—it sounds concerned. Interested. A lanky, adult form is coming into shape before Cesare. "I've talked to your mother recently. Perhaps she will be able to visit you in a month's time, depending on our progress, of course. She misses you very much. Little Lucrezia does as well."

Cesare says nothing for some time, before saying, "I'm alright, sir. I want to go home."

"You aren't alright, Cesare. If we can't convince you that Chiaro isn't real, things will never be alright again."

Cesare wonders how many times the man will say his name. He sees his blue eyes, now. It's difficult to tell because he's sitting down in the chair opposite Cesare, but he doesn't seem very tall. His straw-blond hair is cut close to his head—not shaved, but cropped—and curls against his forehead.

"Who is Chiaro to you, Cesare? What does he do?"

"He takes care of me. He tells me that I'm okay, and you all are lying to me. He's an angel, and keeps away the darkness."

"Darkness?"

"It's always been there. I don't know why."

The man stares at him in an unblinking examination until he reaches over to a wooden desk and makes a note on a paper atop it with a sketchy flourish.

"Is he kind to you?"

"Always. He protects me and makes me laugh. I think he's older. He loves me."

The man looks discomfited before telling him firmly, "Cesare, that's ridiculous. A boy can't love another boy."

"Chiaro loves me. He loves me so much, and I love him, too. He won't ever leave me, because I asked him."

"Where is he now?"

"Um…right behind you."

"What's he doing?"

"He's crying for me." Every tear was liquid crystal that tracked down sunned cheeks.

"Does he like you here?"

Cesare wonders why he's answering the same questions over and over again. They write down his answers every time, so Cesare thinks it all very ridiculous, and he's losing patience.

"No. He hates it all, and he says we're leaving soon."

"He cares for you, then."

Cesare is tired of answering that, and it's not really a question, so he doesn't answer.

"What exactly does Chiaro feel for you?"

Cesare hears the inflection and wants to yell at the man that he has no idea what he's talking about and that Chiaro loves him (and he's said it so many times), but he calms himself at Chiaro's meaningful look.

"He loves me. He cares about what happens to me, like my mother and sister, but he would do anything to protect me. He says that he serves me, and that he'll never leave. He's devoted to me, and I feel it."

"What is his devotion like, Cesare?"

"Loyalty. Affection."

"What is your devotion to him like? I now you feel it for him."

Cesare locks eyes with Chiaro and croaks, "Like running into a burning building."