The morning outside of Cesare's window was something indeed. Under the pale gold tone of the winter mornings first light, a thin veil of frost clung to the grass as if reluctant to leave it. The layer of icy green reached that lake, and it had been a view he had been lost in many times. The blazing sun was brilliant in the cloudless sky, a false comfort that brought no heat to the world. The day was beautiful, but it remained as cold and barren as his body felt.
He lay back, rubbing at his scalding forehead. Like the outside world, the contents of his room wouldn't change just if he wished them to. It was the same predictable scene of flickering candlelight, dark wood furniture and deep, passion red blankets. How ironic, for someone in his position. Even in the morning the shadows prevailed, mostly just out of the corner of his eyes but their threatening grip always frightened that sill human part of him.
Despite everything after all, Cesare still remembered what it was like to be human, after all. He had once been an innocent child terrified of the dark. After a while he just came to enjoy the irony of a wintery, impure morning and watching where the shadows lingered in the corners. That fleeting warmth had long been absent from his life, but he wanted to remember who he was and how far he had come to salvage that. Warmth and light never lasted forever anyway; and in turn the gathering frost and enduring winter would eventually be conquered by the sun. It was a pointless cycle.
Eventually however, both that frost and those shadows would grip hold of him and take him over. At moments throughout the years he felt he would welcome that, for it would be quite wonderful to see the world at its most terrible. For now though he couldn't die, and it wasn't time for such things. If he was careful it would even be Cesare surrendering on his own terms when the end came. He really wanted to be when he had personally relished in the cold art of war.
The door to his rooms creaked open, and whilst trying to compose himself he felt himself dissolve into coughing again. He brushed dark hair from his eyes as he watched His Holiness the Pope enter the room, and accompanied by Volpe's ever watching eye. His father, of course, would be neither worried nor concerned for his health. No, he was more resentful that his son was still alive, and the young cardinal knew better than pretend he wasn't respectful. Instead he gave him an overly sunny smile, which seemed a little like the false one overhead.
"Your Holiness..." Cesare's voice wavered, eyes falling as he bowed in a usual play of respect. He was already out of bed, falling to his knees and his smirk hidden by his hair as he kissed the large ring on the Pope's suspicious hand, how he must seem, that wretched devil-child who had been sold so easily and should rightfully be dead already. "I'm honoured you're here."
The same right hand of God who had sold Cesare's soul to the devil for power looked back with a mask that barely concealed his contempt and revulsion. He was even ignoring Volpe's ill placed murmur that he shouldn't be out of bed.
Father and son, however, both knew the warped power of silence. Every word was a piece of a chess board, needing to be uttered and placed at the right time and for greatest effect. He was his father's son, and that was perhaps why he was still alive.
"I heard that you were down by that lake again," the old man replied. Pope Alexander, Rodrigo Borgia, after all knew just what venomous rumours and scandals could lead to. Cesare just gave him an innocent smile, and ignored Volpe's eyes which never left him. "It's dangerous, when you go swimming in it. We wouldn't want you to catch your death, would we?"
"I'm sorry to worry you, but it remains a brilliant way to burn out a fever, your Holiness," he said sweetly.
The Pope just had the eyes of a predator who wanted nothing more than to strike its prey, "It doesn't seem to have worked."
"It did, I no longer feel my mind burning," he moved to stand, his balance failing and felt Volpe catch him. His father didn't move, and he didn't expect him to. "But I don't think my illness is what interests you, you sold this body to hell long ago."
He was flashed a dangerous look, but Rodrigo continued regardless. "It's taking longer than I thought, but never matter. From what I heard you were injured...in a very specific way. Who lay with you?"
Volpe's surprisingly strong hands kept it so he could keep level with that accusing gaze. Ah, how amusing it was at how the words of a man of God to talk of such things, in the act he had never given into such acts himself. "I have to wonder if everyone in the Vatican knows what that type of thing looks like. But then, would a true Pope know what that type of blood meant?"
"It doesn't matter; people would talk a lot about a cardinal being defiled in such a way..."
"And we wouldn't want them to talk, would we?" Cesare coughed again, amazed at how potent the demons were letting this sickness grow. He couldn't sound as threatening as he wanted to like this. "It would be unseemly, especially if it was your own son doing such things. They'd want to know why I did such a thing and blame you, and his Holiness must be chaste...pure. If you can make a mistake making me a cardinal, they might even conclude you weren't ordained by God...but by the Devil himself..."
A hand reached up to strike him but Volpe stood between them, and Rodrigo dropped his arm. Cesare knew he still wore that innocent expression, and his father wouldn't take his chances harming him. "So it would seem, but know this. Taking a woman is one thing, that doesn't leave any marks. But being taken by a man is...just dispose of the evidence and don't let yourself be seen. Stay away from the lake, or who knows...you might even suffer an unfortunate accident."
"My life is one set of unfortunate accidents, one more just makes things interesting," his father drew back to the door, the door slamming as the purity of that white mantle faded from sight. He felt Volpe push him gently back onto the bed, his strong hands steadying him as once again his body gave in to that awful coughing.
Hollow as his body was, Cesare had always counted on the fact his body was immune to such trivial things as a fever. He just thought the demons within him found some benefit in him being weakened like this. If he suffered, they would benefit from it, and he was past anything like that surprising him. His thoughts fell to Chiaro, him relying on that warmth and strength, but he was not there. Even if swimming did nothing for a fever, it cured that assassin's absence from his side.
"I doubt his Holiness will say anything," Volpe said quietly, watching as Cesare drew a blood stained hand away from his lips. Concern flashed in those pale eyes, and he watched the man fuss over cleaning it.
"No, admitting he made a mistake trusting me wouldn't be something he'd do. It would be like him admitting to fathering bastards...it's unseemly."
As Volpe pushed Cesare back, he knew that man was looking over his body, such impure thoughts evident from the look in his eye. His hand lingered on his chest for one thing, holding him there and ignored his laboured breathing. He simply looked away, pretending to be concerned with outside of his window before the other man cleared his throat. "And what of Chiaro? He was with you, correct?"
Lilac eyes smiled at him. "If his Holiness said I am still pure, I can't talk about such things can I?"
"...Very well..." a darkness crossed Volpe's face, something that looked like either disappointment or jealously and Cesare pretended not to notice it. Eventually he left, his footsteps growing faint as the cardinal looked back to those frosted blades of emerald grass outside. His body was forcing him to sleep yet again. "Feel better soon, then, your Grace."
Countless hours of precious time were lost as Cesare continued to fell in and out of consciousness; and the day seemed to pass him by in a mere moment. When he finally woke it seemed the night was there to greet him. He preferred that really, it meant there wouldn't be so many people about and he would be pleased to do as he wanted, provided he was careful where he went. He dressed into clean set of vestments and left his room without looking back.
He passed through an endless hallway, looking through the long line of windows into the diamond and velvet expanse that was the night sky. It was almost as if the grounds were frozen, coated in ice and he stared at the sight. It was breathtaking, even for someone like him. He lifted his sore body to sit in one of the countless large, marble lined sills to look out at it. Scattered amongst the wintery scene, a flurry of white snowdrops were already in bloom, and with eyes half closed he allowed his forehead to press against the glass to watch his breath fog against it.
"I think you're not supposed to be wandering around like this," he turned to the whispering of a masked man, breaking him out of thought. He yawned, looking back to watch Chiaro. "Especially alone, they won't like that after last night."
"The demons might still have plans for me...who knows," he replied in a hushed voice, leaning in and allowing the tip of his tongue to run over the assassin's lips. The other man just stared back as if transfixed before his faced flushed bright red. How amusing... "I've been resting, and with you with me I'd have recovered sooner. It just seems you're the only thing that satisfies me – but then you know that."
"I..." nervously the man raked a hand through his blonde hair before looking away. Cesare could only guess the rumours that had cascaded the light strewn hallways when he had been brought back there. He wished he had been awake to see it. "You know I promised to protect you all those years ago. But last night I...couldn't stop myself. It will never happen again."
"I'm hurt; you make it sound like you regret it..."
He felt Chiaro reach out; a cool hand linking with his own yet the other man seemed almost puzzled by his own actions. Within a moment the blonde was up on the windowsill by his side, and Cesare had leaned into his shoulder. He felt a cautious hand stroke through his long dark hair, as if knowing there would always be something. And he would be right; the Cardinal knew better than not to have an agenda he wouldn't share with his protector.
It seemed behind their masks, figurative or literal, the one he called his guardian angel would watch the night overhead with someone like him. Nothing more than a shell of a man prey to so many demons. Both assassin and cardinal remained silent until Chiaro sighed slightly. "This just...it isn't right. It feels strange to me."
""How interesting. You take something from me, and then tire of me?" he looked up into the other man's eyes, watching him look away and shake his head. But he drew Cesare's head back in to lie against his shoulder. "I don't think it's strange, there's more to it and a lot more between his. After so long maybe I just became a sweet poison forever destined to run through you..."
Chiaro seemed to surrender again, leaning in to hiss his hair before leaning in to kiss him properly. It seemed the previous night really had affected him. Gold glittered in Cesare's eyes, but the other man didn't notice as he kissed him once more before drawing away.
"Can you tell me what's happening with your father?" he asked finally as the assassin's slender fingers circled against his neck, even if he seemed scared to touch him. "Everyone was so quiet and polite, but they seemed to know something happened. They wouldn't even let me near you, they suspect me don't they."
Cesare laughed slightly, amazed at how convincingly innocent and sweet his voice remained after everything. "Of course my father would know the signs of such a deed. He doesn't like any scandal he can't benefit from, and he likes it less if it involves me and could hurt him."
"I am just...so sorry," Chiaro continued to stroke over his cheek, as if knowing exactly what he had done. It was a great sin after all, touching one who served God in such a way. It just seemed to matter little if under appearances Cesare was more marked by the devil himself. But it was a reminder, and an inescapable one.
"Your heart is beating too fast to make me think you regret our precious, loving hours when you had me last night," their eyes met, Cesare holding him in a heated yet cold gaze. He leaned up to kiss the blonde's throat, watching him shiver yet moaned and leaned into him. The temptation was there, intoxicating, and more lustful to be any simple poison. "I know what you did to me...I wanted it as much as you did."
The assassin didn't answer, instead watching his hands trace down the Cardinal's arms as if he was a puppet and not doing such a thing himself. And he wasn't. Just as in the next moment he wasn't the one reaching up those deep, sinfully red robes to run a guilty hand over his thigh before sighing and leaning in. A confused look ran over his masked face, never quite knowing how much was desire and how much he was controlled; but wasn't that what made it fun? "I thought you might have been sent away from the Vatican after something like that. You'd want that, wouldn't you?"
"If my getting free from this prison was done simply by you deflowering me, I'd have been out of here a long time ago," he watched anger build in the other man's eyes, drawing his hand back. "it would be a fun way to get my freedom back, but his Excellency doesn't think as I was the one assaulted I was breaking my vows. But then we could try again..."
In a sudden moment, Chiaro had Cesare by the throat, forcing his head to collide with the window. The sudden violence chimed in the empty hallways and was soon forgotten, his gloved hands not quite willing to strange him. The dark haired man wasn't afraid, but perhaps he was too over-confident his saviour would never hurt him. The assassin composed himself, but a deep anger clung to his voice. "Is that all I am to you, a game you play to get what you want. You'll have me...make love to you, to keep me with you and to get you out of here. It wasn't about us, was it? Am I anything but a toy for you to play with?"
"Last night you were the one playing with me...not the other way round. And you weren't exactly playing nicely," he replied silkily before pushing his hand away. The coughing returned in the next moment, drops of red appearing on his hand as he reached up to stop himself. He reached in, sharing the metallic, sickly taste with Chiaro in a kiss and he didn't move away as he did. "You can surely see that God himself sees a lot of humour in this twisted world. Why else would you be the one to save me. But without you I..."
Anger was gripping Chiaro's teeth together a moment ago, but between seeing the blood and experiencing the kiss it faded. So much was between them, and maybe that assassin really did crave the deception and warmth Cesare offered him. Perhaps he just wanted to heal him; the blonde closed his eyes as if foolishly wishing the words weren't so inviting and he wasn't affected by the sweet poison they offered. "If they think I did that to you, is it the best idea?"
"They'll think more of it if you act like its true and avoid me," Cesare gave him a charming smile. The masked man nodded, playing into his hands as he descended from the window sill and paused to help him down. He wrapped an arm round his waist as they retreated back to his room. "You'd expect people not to lie or spread rumours or lie in a place of God. But in the end, if you leave you'll just be hurting me...us..."
For now, the masked man simply nodded and said nothing. But in the end it didn't matter that much if he believed him or not; for now at least they were together.