"This idea of yours seems rather unwise," Ezio snorted, craning his neck upwards. Squinting against the glittering afternoon sunlight, he took in its reflection off the gold cross at the spire of the Ducal Palace. "Come now," he frowned, "The fall alone is liable to render you a lifeless, bloody mess on the cobblestones below. Not to mention, the rooftops crawling with the city guard-"
"So in other words, you're a sticchiu?" Rosa smirked, crossing her arms. Ezio learned months ago to not be shocked at her foul-mouthed retorts. If anything, he found them curiously endearing. Though he'd never tell her such directly. After all, he had little desire to be on the receiving end of a possible black eye.
"To the contrary," he grinned with a shrug. Ambling forward, his hazel eyes sparkled with mischief as she stuck out her chin defiance. Coming to a stop in front of her, so close that she was forced to rock back on her heels to meet his amused gaze, he shrugged again. "I've been climbing all over things since before you were born, bambolina."
"Hmph!" she sniffed, "As though you're that much older. Then again," she intoned, "With all your hemming and hawing, it's easy to mistake you for some scared old man."
Laughing, he reached down and brushed back a few strands hair that'd fallen into her eyes. Her grin deepening into a wicked smile, she cocked her head to the side. Gaze flitting over him, she quickly took him in.
Dyed Florentine Scarlet today, he wore his usual robes. His armor was in place as well. From the intricately wrought cuirass and pauldrons buckled across his broad shoulders, to the sword and dagger comfortably on his hip, to the bracers on his wrists that she now knew covered the hidden blades. He appeared as always; ready to slaughter at moment's notice. It never unsettled her. Growing up in the streets alongside the mercenaries, whores, and thieves, violence was a natural part of life. If anything, the startling contrast of that handsome face and his flair for the fatal nearly undid her.
Not that she'd ever say such out loud.
"Do you always have an answer for everything?" he chuckled.
"Of course," she retorted with infinite self-assurance. "For example?" she arched a brow, "I still think you're a sticchiu."
"And I, cara mia, am simply pointing out the various ways you could end up hurt. Or, you know, dead."
"You think that's ever stopped me before?"
"A valid point," he grinned. Hand lingering against her cheek for a moment, he withdrew. Turning around, he studied the pathways leading up the face of the Palace once again. "Are you sure you're up for it?" Glancing at her right thigh, he quietly continued, "It's only been a few months since that arrow-"
"Maybe you should worry about losing our little race to the spire, eh?" she archly cut him off. While she'd fully recovered, she didn't wish to be reminded of her previous injury. Hand instinctually moving down to scratch at the scar beneath her trousers, she could almost feel her thigh twinging at the mere thought of it.
"And thusly she throws down the proverbial gauntlet!" he declared, placing both his hands over his heart in exaggerated offense, "I fear for my pride-"
Before he could finish, she raced past him, taking a flying leap up the white-washed bricks jutting out from the wall. Swinging herself upwards, she nimbly moved sideways. Now parallel the winding vines of yellow roses sprouting forth from the iron-wrought balcony, she grasped the railing and pulled herself onto the patio.
"Impressive!" he called out.
"Meanwhile, it looks as though you're right on track to lose, amici," she smiled down from where she stood.
"Care to make a wager on that?" he smirked.
Expression contemplative for a moment, she shrugged. "And what terms are spinning through that devilish head of yours?"
Falling silent, his rubbed his chin. Suddenly he laughed, causing her to purse her lips with question. "If I win and make it to the spire first," he roguishly grinned, "Perhaps a kiss of victory from mia bella?"
"Just a kiss, eh?" she mused.
"Aye. For I have yet to be blessed with such gifts from my goddess of the rooftops."
Rolling her eyes even as she laughed, she launched herself off the balcony. Reaching out, she easily caught emblem of Venetian Lion's Head some feet above it. "And if you loose?" she declared, not bothering to look down at him.
"A dozen of those lemon cakes from the market in San Marco Square shall be yours." When confined to her bed in her quarters after getting shot through, he'd brought her a bag of them almost daily. Tongue darting out to wet her lower lip, she could almost taste them. Flavored with lemon, drenched in honey and rolled in hazelnuts, they were like heaven on earth. Light and fluffy yet sticky sweet, they almost melted in her mouth. Such was how they'd become her new weakness.
"You spoil me, signore!" she declared as he began his own running climb towards their goal.
"As any man is want to do to his mistress-"
"Except, I am my own mistress," she laughed out loud.
"I simply aim to please, signorina," he replied.
"A bene," she thoughtfully said as she moved ever-upwards, "I look forward to you losing this race, then!"
"But how shall my parched lips deign to taste the sweet honey of yours, mia bellaza?"
"Perhaps you should attempt less talking and more climbing, eh amore?"
He was at her heels now, despite starting some distance behind her. If he stretched, he could easily reach up and grab her by the ankle. It was admittedly breathtaking, how he moved with such fluidity. Every action carried out with controlled efficiency and nearly silent ease. Never mind his tall frame or the weight of his armor. Though lithe and quicker on her feet from years of thieving and fleeing the city guard, she barely came up to just above his shoulder. His strength and stealth made up for her speed and sheer determination.
It still didn't mean he'd win this one.
Actually, he would, if she kept dilly-dallying.
Out the corner of her eye, she could see Ezio was but a few feet below her. Putting the leaping grab she taught him to good use, he was soon ahead of her, just to her right. But she had another trick up her sleeve. While the pathway to her left proved more difficult, with larger gaps between the stones, his pathway was within the eye line of the guards. Hence, he was forced to continuously zig-zag back and forth as they made their rounds to and from the lip of the roof. Accordingly, he couldn't keep a constant pace. Meanwhile, Rosa was left to steadily climb upwards without interruption. Steeling herself, she grabbed the next ledge of the balcony another story above and continued.
Within minutes, it became evident who would win their little wager.
Ignoring the growing ache of her arms, she hauled herself up to the cross at the spire of the Palace. It was well worth it to see his surprised expression as he pulled himself over the edge a few minutes later.
"Brava, signorina!" he clapped, gazing up at where she appeared precariously perched at the top of the cross, "I say, I have been soundly beaten!"
"'Tis a pity," she grinned with a wave.
"Oh, in particular for me. I was rather looking forward to savoring my prize." His boldness bordering on the outrageous, she flashed an appreciative smile. "Another chance later, then?"
"Whenever you wish," she languidly replied.
Though she easily dropped down to the more stable side of the cross' mooring, she didn't mind his hand of assistance. Especially as it protectively lingered at the small of her back. Guiding her to a less guarded section of the roof, he took a seat. She didn't protest as he pulled her down next to him.
Sitting in comfortable silence, they watched the sun make its slow descent below the horizon. Painting the sky blood red and fiery orange, it soon seemed swallowed whole by the shimmering canals. Though Ezio had been Venice for some months, this was one of the few times he witnessed the sunset from so high above; the changing of the guards at dusk allowed him a rare opportunity to travel along the streets relatively unnoticed. It was a luxury he was seldom afforded since everything changed on that fateful day, five years ago.
What is done is done and we cannot hope alter the past. Stealing a gaze at where Rosa sat flush against him, legs crossed and comfortably leaning back on her hands, he bit back a smile. Yet if you did, would you have found yourself here?
"I'm certainly looking forward to those lemon cakes," she drawled, breaking him out of his thoughts as she jumped to her feet. The rising full moon above cast them both in its luminous glow. Below, the torches lining the pathways of the streets began sputtering to life.
"Debts are always paid by a gentleman," he resolutely replied. Following her lead, he moved to his feet as well.
"Funny, I was unaware you were such," she teased.
"Ah, her tongue is as sharp as her blade!" he playfully frowned. Leaning down, he graced each cheek with a fleeting kiss of departure, she doing the same in return. "Until tomorrow, then?"
"Certamente," she nodded. Soon, she disappeared over the side of the building, leaving Ezio to chuckle after her.
Climbing up the scaffolding that led to her quarters on the third floor of the Thieves Guild, Rosa let out a yawn. It'd been a long day. Since she had a profitable time cutting purses from nobles disembarking from the docks, there was no need for her venture out tonight.
Leaping over her balcony, she dropped down into her room. With its molding, sloped ceiling, peeling yellow paint and creaky, scuffed floors, her quarters could never be considered luxurious. But she'd proudly made them her own. A few cracked vases filled with wildflowers were scattered throughout. Hanging over of the stone mantle of the tiny fireplace was a beautifully carved harp, fully strung. There was even a small bookshelf along the opposite wall, filled various codices and scrolls. Thankfully, as soon as she started her apprenticeship, Antonio taught her to read. While she despised it initially, she'd grown to adore it. Hence, the bookshelf contained her most valued possessions.
Taking off her woolen cap, she ran a quick hand through her short, black hair. Unwinding the scarf about her neck, she tossed it on the small, rickety dressing table opposite her bed. Though she took off her shoes and stockings, she didn't remove her swordbelt; that never came off until she went to bed.
As she lit the candles placed around her room, she didn't notice the shadow behind her. Moving with blinding speed, it silently leaped down onto the balustrade outside of her window. In what seemed less than a second, it was now at her back.
Without warning, a large hand clamped down on her shoulder, another arm snaking around her wrist. Thankfully, her reflexes, honed by years of various and nearly fatal excursions, allowed her to speedily unsheathe her stiletto blade. Grinding her heel into the inside arch of her attacker's foot at the same time had the desired effect. Hearing his hiss of astonished pain, she reared back her elbow. Effectively jabbing the wind out of him knocked him off balance. But she knew surprise would be on her side for only a few moments.
Spinning about, she caught a flurry of robes. Windmilling his arms, he rocked back on his heels in an attempt to regain himself. Snarling, she made a flying leap at him. Catching him across the middle sent him careening backwards. It should have sent him crashing to the floor with a painful thud. But he was standing too near her bed. Instead, he staggered back onto the more forgiving surface of her mattress. Completely ignoring the shock of pain reverberating through her from colliding with a solid mass of man, she slashed downward with her stiletto. Aiming for his shoulder would incapacitate him, perhaps even deal some permanent damage to that arm. She didn't wish to kill him outright.
Well, not yet.
But by now, he'd recovered. As he rolled away at last second, she hit nothing but the mattress. Unable to stop her momentum, she sheared it down the middle. Using her distraction, he grabbed her other arm and yanked it upwards, effectively locking her wrist above her head. Even though he was almost supernaturally fast, it didn't hurt as much as she assumed it would. But it didn't make it any less maddening. Especially as he grabbed her other arm with an efficient flick of his wrist. Pressing a gloved finger into the spot where her wrist met her palm, he caused her fingers to inexplicably spasm. She then was forced to drop her blade. Weaponless, he now had her by both arms. However, she still sat on top of him.
"Vaffanculo! Vai in culo, figlio di puttana!" she screamed in frustration. Trying to wrench her wrists out of his grip was to no avail. It only caused him to let out a low chuckle, which was in turned met by even more of her insults. She vainly attempted to knee him in the groin. But he was too quick for that. Clasping both her wrists in one of his hands, her snatched her by the waist with his other and flipped her over onto her back.
"Now see, Rosa" he smirked, even as he balanced his weight so that he wouldn't crush the breath out of her, "While some would accuse you of attempted murder, I'm far more forgiving."
Eyes widening at the familiar voice, she really took a good look at him. And then it began to make sense. From the finely woven and dyed robes, to the silver-wrought pauldrons and cuirass, to the engraved, polished bracers. The red silken sash tied about his waist confirmed her suspicions.
Not to mention his fucking smug retort.
Her expression slipping to a glower, she snorted, "Ezio?"
"Who else could it be?" he grinned. Unhanding one of her wrists, he shoved back the hood of his cloak. There was no mistaking him now.
"Merda!" she shouted, dark eyes blazing with murderous intent, "Vai in culo, figlio di puttana, you plague-ridden bastardo! I could've killed you, tu che va in culo a sua madre estupido!"
"But you didn't. Besides-"
But all Ezio could let out was a stunned grunt as she soundly smacked him across the cheek. Before he could react to the slash of pain searing across his face, she'd shimmied out from under him. Twisting herself around, she wrapped her legs about his waist. It allowed her to use his body weight against him. Sending him sprawling to his back, her knees locked on either side of him. Now, he immediately found her on top of him again. Admittedly, that would've been all well and good. Except that his sultan's dagger was firmly pressed against his jugular.
As he put up his hands in surrender, he distantly marveled at how she was able to snatch his own weapon from his sheath without him noticing, up until now. "I've always liked a woman who knew to handle a blade," he winked, "Especially my blade."
"You're extraordinarily lucky I don't open up that pretty little neck of yours," she snorted. However, she withdrew. With a expedient flick of her hand, she quickly flung his dagger into the door behind her.
As its point hit the wood with a loud twang, Ezio let out a loug sigh. "What, you're not going to give it back?" he pouted. In spite of her best efforts, she found herself fighting the grin beginning to come to her face. She had to admit, he did look quite wounded at the prospect of loosing his precious toy.
"Think of it as your punishment," she sniffed.
"Considering your current position," he gave her a purposeful once-over, "I can certainly think of a much more gratifying punishment," he arched a brow, wicked smile coming to that unfairly handsome face of his.
"You're shameless, diavoletto-"
"And you wouldn't have it any other way."
"How unfortunate for me," she smirked.
"By the way," he grimaced, rubbing his jaw, "You possess a rather respectable left hook."
"You should see my right one," she casually retorted. Taking a deep breath, she relaxed slightly, through she remained sitting on top him. Not that she minded such a position, if she had to be honest. "So, to what honor do I owe this pleasure of your visit?" she asked, crossing her arms and staring down at him.
"I simply wished to put up my payment on our little wager," he shrugged, expression mischievous as ever.
"In the dead of night?" she doubtfully replied with a knowing grin, "I doubt that's all you came swooping into my window for, Auditore."
"Oh, how I so do love it when you say my name," he said with a irreverent sigh.
"I really need to start locking that," she nodded at the window.
"You'd miss me."
"Of course…if I may?" he gestured as he attempted to move. Lithely rolling off of him, she took a seat at the foot of her bed. Sitting up, he drew out a small paper bag from a pouch on his swordbelt. "As promised, piccola," he handed it to her, "A dozen cakes. Though you shall have to forgive me."
"Why?" she grinned, taking them from him, "You've made good on our wager."
"I know they are your favorite, but there were no lemon ones to be had," he blithely replied. "I'm afraid you shall have to settle for honey instead."
"Well," she sighed with supposed insult, "If I must."
He watched with mounting interest as she popped one into her mouth. Closing her eyes, she sighed with contentment as the flavors danced along her tongue. A pleasant contrast to the sticky sweetness of the honey, the hazelnuts almost made up for the lack of lemon. Inavertedly letting out a blissful moan, the combination of sweet and crunch exploded into a dizzying rush.
A bit of honey sticking to the corner of her mouth, Ezio found himself reaching up and wiping it away with a gentle brush of his hand. "You're right," he said, holding her gaze as he briefly tasted the honey upon his fingers, "They are sinfully good.
"Really?" she teased, eyes fluttering open, "I hadn't noticed."
"Oh, I assure you I have," he steadily replied, mesmerized as she slowly bit into a second cake. Eyes never leaving his, her tongue darted out to lick a bit of honey from her lower lip. "You've missed a spot," he breathed, wiping more from her cheek with his fingertips, "Again."
"Hmm," she languidly smiled, taking her hand in his, "What a shame, mio bello." Bringing his sticky fingers to her mouth one by one, she sucked each of them clean as his eyes went wide.
"Perhaps I should…rethink taking my leave," he drawled. Pulling her to him by her shirttails, his hands purposefully trailed down to her waist.
"Perhaps," she murmured, swinging a leg over him. Effectively straddling him, she firmly pushed him back onto the bed. Slowly peeling off the glove he always wore on his right hand, she tossed it to the floor. "Then again," she smoothly said, beginning to unbuckle one of his bracers, "Do you not have your usual assignments for Lorenzo di Medici?" An ally of the Thieves Guild for some months, his work was now no secret to them.
"That," he breathed, tongue wetting his lips as she now started unbuckling his other hidden blades, "May wait."
"I've no desire to interrupt your duties," she smirked. Making quick work of them, she dropped both of his hidden blades to the floor. Hands leisurely traveling downward, they caressed the intricately wrought silver "A." of his sash. "Are you sure you're free to ignore them, Ezio?"
"Say it again," he huskily ordered, dark gaze narrowed and full of need.
"Ezio?" she lightly chuckled. Gaze never leaving his, her fingers deftly moved along the buckle of his sash. Within a few seconds, it was undone as well. Immediately followed by his swordbelt.
"Dio mio, mia tesorina!" he grit, breath coming in short spurts as she purposefully pressed her hips into his. Closing his eyes, his laced a hand with hers.
"Indeed, Ezio." With that, she leaned down, took him by the collar, and soundly kissed him.
Her mouth was as soft and sweet as he'd imagined since he first laid eyes on her. And the lingering taste of honey made it all that much more tantalizing. Particularly as he felt her slide her fingers under the ties of his cape. With practiced ease, they were undone and he shrugged out of it. Next came the lacings of his cuirass. Then his pauldrons, swiftly dropped to floor with a metallic clang. Her own swordbelt soon followed. His fingers beginning their frantic work along the line of buttons of her waistcoat, he nearly ripped them free. Withdrawing, she graced him with a throaty laugh as he slid it down over her shoulders. Hands reverently tracing along her warm, flushed skin, he was met with her appreciative gasp. Especially as they steadily made their way upwards, under her tunic.
Ezio never thought that loosing a wager could be so rewarding.
Awaking the next morning to find Rosa still comfortably nestled in his arms made it even more so.
Who knew defeat could be so…delicioso?
Translations (by the way, if you find any mistakes among these, please let me know!)
Sticchiu - A rather colorful term for female reproductive parts that infers being scared. In English, it starts with a "P" and ends with a "Y"…Rosa doesn't exactly have the cleanest mouth!
Bambolina – Baby doll, baby (babe)
Cara Mia – My darling (literally "Darling of mine")
Amici - Friend
Mia bella/Mio bello – My pretty one (feminine and masculine)
Signore/Signorina – Sir/Mademoiselle
A bene - Okay
Mia bellaza – My beauty
Amore – (My) Love
Certamente – Certainly, of course
Vaffanculo! Vai in culo, figlio di puttana! – F**k off! F**k you
Merda! – S**t!
Bastardo! – Bastard!
Tu che va in culo a sua madre estupido! – You stupid motherf***er!
Diavoletto – (You) Little devil
Piccola – Sweetheart
Dio mio, mia tesorina! – My God, my little treasure (darling)!