A/N: My first Ezio/Leo fic. This took me forever, but was worth it in the end. I know how many of these types of fics are out there, so I just had to put my own up. I hope everyone who reads gets some enjoyment out of this!

Also, massively HUGE kudos to mah bestie, Barbwire Rose, for being completely awesome and totally coming through with finding me a title, which was never going to happen on its own. You rock.

"You'll come back once you've completed this…mission?" Leonardo asked, his long fingers worrying the frayed end of the tablecloth, trying not to watch Ezio pat down his armor, trying not to allow the glint of steel and the sound of metal grinding against metal distract him, and worst of all, trying so very hard not to let the assassino see that he was worried. Ezio grunted and hefted the heavy breastplate over his shoulders and head, securing it around his side with clasps and ties. His gloved fingers slipped as he attempted to tie the leather straps, and Leonardo quietly swatted his hands away, tying neat, tight knots that wouldn't come undone in the heat of battle. "You'll come back, si?" Leonardo repeated, louder, wanting a definite answer before Ezio left for Roma, before Ezio left him.

"Questo dipend," Ezio said, "on how long it takes for me to kill this bastardo." Leonardo hated the uncertainty that vague answer exuded. He hated not knowing, not being able to count the days until Ezio's return.

"Promise me one thing," Leonardo said, his hands moving from Ezio's side to tug on the spaulder, making sure it was secure. This was Altaïr's armor, he knew it would not fail Ezio…but still, he worried. "Promise me when you do return," Leonardo said, "you will return to me first."

Ezio smiled and clapped a hand on his lover's shoulder, squeezing him tightly. Leonardo felt his lips curve upwards into a weak return smile as his hand raised to cover Ezio's, and he thought, for just a moment, that Ezio would begin to laugh and say something childish, like, "Come, mio amico, I am merely kidding with you! I do not intend to go to Roma at all. Your expression, it was funny, no?"

Even as he allowed his hopes to rise, just a little, he knew that such a silly daydream would never actually come true. Ezio was dead set on traveling to Roma and there had never been any doubt as to his going. It was too soon for Leonardo, though, too soon and all too real. So was the thought that Ezio might never return to Venezia…

Leonardo darted forward and pressed his lips to Ezio's, wrapping his arm around the other man's neck and hugging him fiercely. Ezio responded slowly, holding Leonardo close with hands on his waist, sliding up, caressing his back through his shirt and pulling him closer. Leonardo felt Ezio's warm, wet tongue against his and melted into the embrace, wishing they could remain that way forever, Roma be damned. But, like he had known it would, the kiss ended all too soon and Ezio parted with a longing glance.

"Sicurezza e pace," the assassin whispered, and at once, before he turned to leave, Leonardo was struck with how much older the man looked, his face grim and bearded, his eyes bright, but haggard and shadowed. He'd have given anything to save that man all the pain he had suffered through. He'd have given anything to stop him for one last kiss, one last roaming touch, one last heady moan…but Leonardo couldn't move, stood rooted to the ground as Ezio departed, the flutter of his cape and the soft clinking of metal the only herald he had.

"Sicurezza…e pace, mi amore," Leonardo whispered, staring at the open door with a heavy, empty feeling in his chest that felt suspiciously like a broken heart.

"And when love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony."

William Shakespeare

Five years wasn't so long a time when one had hobbies and other small joys to occupy his attentions. Five years was not so bad, not so lonely when wealthy families paid large sums of money to apprentice their semi-talented or lazy sons to the genius painter-inventor. Leonardo was never in want for companionship with the constant presence of patrons, models and muses, apprentices, and mentors he acquired throughout the years. No, five years was not so long a time.

"Perhaps we may try a new scene, mi amore?" Isabel purred as Leonardo tried to ignore the lusty gaze she gave him from where she lounged across the crimson chaise. The chaise had been a gift, but it had come with Isabel, and Isabel Leonardo felt he could do without. Her fiancé, a wealthy nobleman of Venezia, had learned of Leonardo through a friend who happened to have a few lovely portraits strewn about his villa, and had immediately demanded the attention of the artist in the form of a life sized portrait of his bride-to-be.

Normally Leonardo was more than happy to comply with any commission handed to him…but Isabel was proving to be more than he bargained for. The Venetian beauty was two decades younger than her bulbous fiancé, and she was well aware of the sway her appearance held over men. The first sitting she did for him ended innocently enough, with all her childlike curiosity blooming in the eyes he had painted, her shyness at her fiancé's suggestion that Leonardo paint her nude, and her eagerness to see the unfinished piece. Leonardo found her to be a joy to work with.

His feelings changed as the painting neared completion. Rotti, the commissioner of the piece, attended Isabel for the first couple sittings before deciding that his wasted time could be put to better use. Isabel had put up a small fight when he told her he would be leaving her alone with Leonardo, but in the end she accepted his decision and was the very picture of serenity and obedience. The moment Rotti left, she let loose with a string of expletives so vulgar that Leonardo could do no more than gape in astonishment.

It appeared the pretty little signora was not quite the shy and serendipitous creature he had first allowed a part of his artist's soul to fall in love with. The next few days revealed more and more of Isabel's true nature, and Leonardo wished with all his heart that Rotti had not displeased her so. Isabel, in an attempt to make her fiancé jealous, started flirting with Leonardo, brushing against him provocatively, touching his hair and face when he wasn't paying attention, somehow sneaking up behind him to press her hips to his—it was appalling behavior, but Leonardo did not know how to address her. She had threatened him from the start, after the first incident that bade him to jerk away from her searching, lecherous hand with such force he nearly tipped over.

"Don't be such an idiota," Isabel had snarled, her hands on her hips and her head held high, "you have no right to refuse me. And if you try to tell my fiancé, that swine, Rotti, then I shall tell him it was you who accosted me!"

Leonardo had paled at her words and he knew that she was right. No one seemed to know of this vindictive side to Isabel; every word he received about her person was so heavily laced with praise he wondered if the true Isabel was trapped somewhere, and a succubus had taken her place among friends and family.

The abuse continued, until that day Leonardo found her trying his patience once more, refusing to sit for him and instead sashaying across the room to rifle through some of his older works, inventions, paintings, diagrams and the like. Annoyed for the last time by her nosiness, he called out to her in the sternest tone.

"Signora, please," he said, walking over to the area of his shop where he kept his unfinished and older paintings, "Signora Isabel, how many times have I expressed my wish for you to not go through my personal things! Please, it's very rude!"

"Who is this man?" Isabel asked, her normally soft, sweet voice high and nasally with disdain as she ignored Leonardo, favoring a smaller canvas. "He looks familiar…is he someone of importance?"

Leonardo's breath caught in the back of his throat as she lifted the canvas and turned it toward him. For the first time in four years, he stared into the mischievous golden eyes of Ezio Auditore, and as he did, he felt his heart break all over again.

"Madonna! Isabel! Put it down!" Leonardo cried, grabbing the canvas and yanking it out of her hands so forcefully she lost her balance and fell back, bumping her head on the one of his many work tables.

"Ooowww, you clumsy pompinaio!" Isabel shrieked, clutching the back of her head and looking up at Leonardo with furious eyes. She stumbled to her feet without the artist's assistance (not that he offered any), and slowly cursed her way to the chaise, where she swooned dramatically. Leonardo neither noticed nor cared. He could do nothing but stare at the painting in his hands.

Magnifico, he thought to himself. The painting, it was magnificent. No, no, not the painting, it was the subject who made it a masterpiece. Ezio's handsome face, his strong, square jaw, bright eyes, full, sensuous lips (dios mio), and smooth brown skin stood out against the black and gold background Leonardo had painted, and he felt as if he only had to reach out with two fingers to be able to feel the smoothness of Ezio's skin beneath his touch.

Isabel raged in the background, complaining of a headache, dizziness, and then wondered if her brain was injured and bleeding to death within her skull. Leonardo heard naught but a pleasant buzzing that did nothing to distract him from Ezio's likeness. He couldn't believe that five years had passed since he last saw his lover….five dreadfully long and lonely years, now that he thought about it.

But da Vinci, he tried to tell himself, five years is not so long, and you have all the company in the world! What is there to long for? He didn't know, damnit, perhaps he missed the comfort and warmth of Ezio's embrace as they lounged in Leonardo's bed, perhaps he missed the handsome Tuscan's wit and his silly, childish pranks, perhaps he wished to be of use to someone who truly needed it, and not just fat bureaucrats with fat change purses and fat, simpering wives wanting him to paint something pretty to hang upon their walls. And if he wanted to be completely honest, then yes, he missed the time they would spend making love, anywhere they chose, so long as they were discreet.

And al diavolo questo! He missed the times Ezio's passion overtook them both, in a darkened alleyway, half hidden by the skirts of prostituas, giggling and laughing and whispering encouragements to Ezio; in the rain on an empty street, where anyone could have opened a window and seen them; on a gondola in the middle of the river, kissing and grinding against one another until they were sick with need; and bella Madonna, how could he forget, that time at Carnivale when Ezio had kneeled between his legs and—

"You don't care that I've been injured?" Isabel screamed, so loud she jerked Leonardo right out of his little fantasy. The artist turned and mumbled something incoherent. Isabel rolled her fierce eyes and threw a hand up in the air, cursing loudly and vehemently.

"I am leaving!" she proclaimed, gathering her things and storming for the door. "Rotti will hear of this! He will have you imprisoned, quartered and drawn, hanged, stabbed, and drowned! And you can forget the commission, bastardo! Expect a messenger by tonight!"

The door slammed behind her with a loud crack, like thunder, and Leonardo swayed where he stood, his painting clutched to his chest. Only a part of him registered Isabel's words, only a part of him felt anxious. The other part of him wondered where Ezio was, what he was doing, if he was even alive at all.

No, he thought, Ezio is alive,I can feel it!True, he could not promise that he would return; how could he? Ezio could not predict the future, and he was not invulnerable. The possibility that he had met with Signora Morte was very strong, but Leonardo refused to let himself think of that. No, he had made Ezio promise to come see him first.

In promising to do so, Ezio had unknowingly made a promise to stay alive, and Ezio was a man of his word. He would come back…eventually….someday. But it had been five years. Five long years, and there had been no word, none at all. Perhaps Ezio forgot… But perhaps he was just busy. That happened too, right?

Exhausted from the onslaught of emotions, already tired from yesterday's endless work, and dreading the thought of Rotti seeking revenge for Isabel's accidental injury, Leonardo felt he had barely enough strength to drag his self to his bed, where he collapsed with all his clothes on and Ezio's portrait clasped to his chest. Sleep would not come easily, but he was prepared for a night of restlessness.

It has been far too long, mi amore, he thought to himself as he closed his eyes and started to drift off. It has been too long a time, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, you idiota. Four years of trying to forget, and I find that I am still as foolishly in love with you as I was then.