Getting Ezio into the bed was easy; the man was still drowsy from his nap by the fire. Unresisting, he let Leonardo lead him up the stairs, where he sat on the edge of the bed while Leonardo tugged the boots from his legs. Next were the belts, the spaulders, the cape, the bracers. All of these, Ezio shed willingly, a faint smile curving his lips. Leonardo tried to scowl at him, but in the end, he could not help but mirror the expression. The whole thing was so overwrought and ridiculous that he simply went with it.

"You're not making this easier," he said, and Ezio's smile widened into a grin.

"I am just sitting here," he teased, yawning. "You are the one who decided to help me undress."

Leonardo smacked him lightly on the arm. He tried not to think about how that shoulder was just as unyielding in only a chemise as it was in armor. Best not to think about Ezio's body at all, if possible. Which meant that he was all too aware of it, the curve of muscle and the hard, straight lines that led the eye along a pleasing path from head to chest to waist to hip, down along the leg, the knee, the foot. "Lie down," he said as if to a playful child, hoping that his tone would not betray the flutter of his pulse.

Ezio obeyed, flopping bonelessly back to the mattress. One of his hands landed outflung beside his head, the palm up and fingers curled as if beckoning. He watched Leonardo remove his own boots and raised a brow when the grey-green doublet joined them on the floor. His face was still sleepy, though something lurked beneath his faint smile.

"What do you find so amusing?" Leonardo demanded as he crawled onto the mattress clad only in his chemise and hose. "I wish you understood how difficult this is for me."

"Mmm," said Ezio. His eyes drooped closed. His other hand groped blindly for Leonardo's, found it, tugged. Leonardo tumbled, off-balance, the rest of the way into the bed. Ezio did not let go and instead rolled over, pulling Leonardo's hand with him. When he finally stopped moving, he lay on his right side, Leonardo tight against his back, his right hand intertwined with Leonardo's left.

"Ezio!" Leonardo protested. He tried to disengage, but already the other man's breathing had become shallow and even. Had he honestly fallen asleep so quickly? Leonardo sighed, gave up, and buried his face against his friend's broad back. He could only hope that the night would go quickly, that it might be over soon.

Or else that it might not ever end.

Sleep came more easily than Leonardo expected. He woke hours later, the candle long cold and the room dark except for the moonlight that streamed through the window. He spared a glance for the hearth, where the fire had died to mere coals. It would need to be built up soon.

However, it was unlikely that he'd get the chance. Ezio had turned again in his sleep, and now he lay with his head on Leonardo's shoulder. Their hands were still joined, loosely, resting together on Leonardo's chest, over his heart.

He sighed. His other arm was pinned beneath a warm body. Leonardo did not want to move except that his hand had fallen asleep. Very carefully, and with no little regret, he began to inch himself free.

Somehow, he succeeded. Liberating his other hand was harder; Ezio's fingers fit between his as comfortably as if they were his own. It was difficult to pull away from that easy clasp, and harder still to leave the shelter of the blankets that surrounded them both. Leonardo swung his legs to the floor, rose slowly so as not to disturb his sleeping friend, and went to the fireplace.

Thank goodness he had remembered to bring extra wood up to his room sooner. He would not have relished the prospect of crossing the cold, empty workshop in search of more fuel for the fire. Leonardo shoved the old ashes aside to clear the stone and set a few new logs into the grate. With the fire flaring back to life, the shadows in the room softened and took on a reddish cast. Leonardo turned back to the bed, only to find his thoughts arrested for the second time that day.

Through the window, the cold moon edged the bed and its occupant in crisp, pale, blue-white light. It picked up strands of Ezio's hair as well and played across the plane of his cheek. On the lower angle of his jaw and the hard curve of his shoulder, however, the fire lent its warm, golden glow. The flickering light disguised the rise and fall of breathing and made motion difficult to detect. Because of this, a full minute went by before Leonardo realized that he was not the only one awake.

Amid the shadows of his face, Ezio's eyes glinted where they caught the unwavering light of the moon. His gaze was heavy, still sleepy, but steady. Leonardo could not move, could not look away.

Leonardo wondered how he must appear to Ezio, silhouetted against the fire. He hoped his own face was unreadable, for he wasn't sure he was ready to give voice to his thoughts quite yet. But the longer he stood there and the longer he waited, the more he felt like he needed to say something. He wanted to explain himself, explain why he had responded like that earlier, why he was just so afraid all the time.

In the end, he was saved from saying anything, for Ezio spoke first. "Leonardo," that low voice murmured, "you should see how beautiful you are."

The temptation to assign some other meaning to those words, some other intent, was overwhelming. But there was no mistake. Leonardo took an unconscious step forward; the shift in his position caused an answering shift of light in Ezio's eyes, from motionless white to endlessly moving amber.

No longer sleepy, those eyes smiled at him. Leonardo couldn't see Ezio's scarred lips curve in the shadows but he could see the shape of those eyes change, easy enough to read even in the dark.

Another step, and another, brought him back to the bed. A hand worked free of the blankets and reached up toward him. Leonardo took it, fingers lacing in with fingers. He let himself be drawn down without resistance until he knelt on the mattress, hands planted on either side of Ezio's head. "What-" he had to start over, for the first word came out dry, "Ah, what-"

"You stayed." A lazy smile was visible from this new, intimate vantage point. "It was a good idea to come to you. I always feel safe here."

Leonardo could not ignore the heat those words sent through him. "You are safe here, amico."

"I know." Ezio's gaze wandered over him, searching for something. "I think about it often. You are so different from anyone I know, Leonardo. Most men I meet, I think of them in terms of how I might fight them. But never you." The other hand now emerged to trace the line of his jaw, to trail over his lips. "Not because you are weak, but because I have nothing to fear from you."

It was at that moment that Leonardo knew he would have to kiss Ezio. There was no question; it simply would have to be done.

He held himself back, hovering over Ezio's supine form. Leonardo's breath ghosted over the dusky skin beneath him and stirred the very male scent of it, the warmth, the faint hint of perfume that still lingered from the earlier flirtation with Rosa. Ezio waited, eyes deep golden and burning, his body at once tense and nervous, though trusting...always trusting.

Their lips were so close-so close-and yet Leonardo still hesitated. Once he moved, this would be done, and they would have taken a step down a path they could never then leave behind. The decision could never be un-made.

But even as he had that thought, he knew it was too late. Nothing would make him pull away now, not when his prize was right there, willing, lying under him and just waiting for him to close that last sliver of space between them. Leonardo could not think of any man strong enough to resist such temptation.

Certainly, he was not.

And so he dipped his head, arms shaking with the effort of holding that position for so long, and let his lips brush against Ezio's. The whispery slide of dry, sensitive skin was sharp and sweet. He did it again, teasing, barely making contact. Ezio gasped hard as if he'd been struck, eyes first going wide, then falling closed. He lifted his own head from the pillow in order to find Leonardo's mouth with his, and though at first Leonardo tried his damnedest to keep control, he quickly relented and gave himself over to it all.

It was difficult to tell who parted their lips first, or whose tongue touched whose, but by then it didn't matter. Leonardo threaded his fingers into thick, dark hair and tilted the other man's face just so. A hoarse moan vibrated between them and once more, Leonardo wasn't sure whose it was. Ezio just tasted so very good.

Leonardo knew suddenly that he would always associate the earthy scent of the olives they'd eaten and the heady taste of deep red wine with this moment. In the part of his brain that still worked properly (for there was always one part he could not silence), he could envision himself years from now, reliving this first taste, this first kiss, the way Ezio's skin felt under his tongue, all over again.

He felt hands kneading his hips through the linen of his chemise. The sensation forced him to calm; even so, he shuddered with the effort of pulling away. Leonardo cupped Ezio's face with both of his hands, stilling all movement, and when he spoke, it was still close enough that his mouth brushed Ezio's.

"Amore," he murmured, drawing out the word, as Ezio gave a deliciously broken gasp in response, "Oh, I want you. Dio mio but I want you."

Ezio arched under him, tried to surge upward, but Leonardo held him down. This was too important to take lightly, though all he really wanted to do was to meet those hips full force.

"Then do it," Ezio entreated, "Leonardo. Augh, Leonardo.*"

He decided he loved the way Ezio said his name. Pausing only long enough to drag his tongue over those scarred lips, he replied, "I would in a heartbeat, believe me. But I have to be the only one." He fixed Ezio with a stern gaze. "The only one, Ezio."

"Anything you say-"

"No, Ezio. No women, either. Not while you're with me." He smiled fondly, sadly. "Please don't take this the wrong way. I love you, but I don't believe you."

His words finally sank in; first there was the expected indignation in Ezio's eyes, then self-conscious guilt. Ezio stared back at Leonardo, obviously wanting to protest, but in the end, he looked away in shame. "How do you always know my thoughts before I do?"

"Your heart is less complex than those Codex pages you bring to me, caro." Leonardo closed his eyes and rested his forehead on the broad chest beneath him. He hoped his voice did not waver too much when he said, "I just hope that one day you have a different answer for me."

"Mi dispiace." Ezio sighed, idly stroking Leonardo's arms through the chemise. "I feel like I am always making you sad. It's all so confusing. I never intend-"

"I know. It's all right." And on some level, it was. Even if it wasn't entirely. "And once again, I find myself in bed with you anyway." Leonardo smiled again. "Perhaps that is what gives me hope. You keep inching closer and closer to my desire. I am certain you will make up your mind eventually."

Ezio gripped Leonardo's shoulders and pushed him away just enough so they could look deep into each other's eyes with utter seriousness. "I will," he promised. Then, as if he just couldn't help himself, his attention flickered to Leonardo's mouth and back. He caught himself almost guiltily, like a child stealing sweets.

Leonardo had to laugh. He nuzzled Ezio's neck, nipped at the soft skin under Ezio's ear, and enjoyed the hiss of delight that garnered. "I fear," he said matter-of-factly into that ear, "that you are too much of a temptation to resist for long." He sank down to cage Ezio in his arms, his blond locks cascading forward to frame their faces. It cast striped shadows over Ezio's skin and played tricks with the light.

This time, when he lowered his head to kiss that full, warm mouth again, Ezio responded with hunger strong enough to make himgasp. Amid the heat and the taste and the overpowering desire that flared with each meeting of their lips, Leonardo knew he was in danger of losing himself completely. They should stop; they really should set some limits-rules of engagement, so to speak-before things got too far out of hand.

Then Ezio's fingers tangled into his hair, crept around the back of his neck, feather-light touches coaxing him closer, closer, closer.

In that moment, nothing else mattered enough for him to stop.

Leonardo supposed that setting the rules could wait until morning.


A/N: Thanks again to Falxumbra for talking me back from the ledge on this one. Why are you still reading my stuff? Go check hers out instead! ;)