"You're what?"

Leonardo sent his friend a pitying glance, fanning himself with a piece of paper. The day was stifling hot, and they had retreated from the bright sun into the relative coolness of his workshop. Both of them were reduced to chemises and hose now that the last of Leonardo's patrons had come and gone.

"I said that I realized how plain I am," he replied as if to a child. "I don't mean anything by it; just that after working with that beautiful model recently, I was thinking about how I compared." He sighed, gazing at the sketches he'd made. "It's an interesting concept, really-from a purely artistic standpoint, how does bone structure and shape define beauty?"

Ezio remembered the boy to whom Leonardo now compared himself. The model had been lazy and petulant, and though certainly he'd been pretty, Ezio had found him lacking any kind of...well, spark. "Don't be ridiculous, amico mio. You're far from plain. Have you seen yourself?"

"Oh, Ezio." Leonardo laughed, but it was obvious that he simply thought the words mere flattery. "That's very kind of you."

Something more would have to be done. Ezio cast about the workshop for a mirror. Finding none, he caught up a piece of highly polished metal he spotted amid whatever project Leonardo had been assembling earlier. "I'm not being kind, I'm being truthful. Here, look."

Ezio brought the shining silver piece over to where Leonardo sat and leaned in close, so that both of them could gaze into it together. Leonardo's expression was gently tolerant, bemused, but Ezio couldn't allow his friend to go around thinking he was plain of all things, now could he?

"See?" He said, "Look at your golden hair. I know women who try to attain that color with lemons and flowers, but it never comes out right. Yours must be the envy of all Venezia."

"Are you saying I look like a woman?" Leonardo sounded indignant, but he was laughing as well, over his shoulder at Ezio. "That doesn't do much to convince me."

Ezio frowned. "All right," he went on, "Then look at your beautiful blue eyes. They are like a springtime sky with no clouds, clear and bright."

Leonardo rolled his 'beautiful blue eyes'. "Please," he said, "This color is so common in Vinci it's not even remarked upon. And anyway, eyeballs are eyeballs. If they're healthy, they're pretty much the same from person to person."

"Fine, then." Ezio studied Leonardo's face in the reflection. "Your skin is perfect-creamy and unblemished. Anyone, man or woman, would be jealous of such skin."

At this, Leonardo snorted. "Ezio," he said, and this time he really did seem to think his dear friend had gone insane, "I have freckles. That's far from 'unblemished'."

"Well, they're only on your nose, and they're interesting."

"Not only my nose." Leonardo sighed. "I have them everywhere."

Something about that made Ezio's mouth go dry. "E-everywhere?"

"Oh, yes, they're quite numerous. Didn't you know that already?"

"But..." Ezio was trying to wrap his mind around the image. "Everywhere?"

Leonardo raised a curious brow and nodded. "Here," he pointed to his shoulders, "and here," his hand indicated his chest, "and quite a few of them on my stomach. My legs, too, and on my knees. And, ah, elsewhere."

"Huh." The progression of points lower and lower made Ezio's brain a little hazy. "I don't think I've ever seen that before."

That made Leonardo laugh aloud. "None of your courtesan friends have them? How funny!" He pulled the neck of his chemise aside to expose his shoulder. "You see? They're everywhere."

And indeed they were, slightly darker speckles against the otherwise pale (and, as Ezio had rightly pointed out, creamy) skin. It looked like Leonardo had been doused in spices. The thought gave Ezio a sudden, wild impulse. Before he could stop himself, and before Leonardo could cover up that very interesting patch of skin, he lowered his mouth to it. His lips brushed over the smooth, warm surface; underneath, he could feel lean muscle.

Leonardo gasped, but he didn't protest. Bolder, Ezio flicked out his tongue to see how they tasted. It was nothing like what he was used to. Women always seemed to taste of perfume or fragrant oils. Leonardo's taste was warm and salty and just...different.

He pulled back and when his eyes met Leonardo's, he could not hide the crooked grin that formed at the sight of his friend's dazed countenance.

"So," he murmured, and the heat that went through him had nothing to do with the weather, "You say they're...everywhere?"


"Hmm." Ezio nuzzled the other man's neck and chuckled. "I wonder if they taste the same."