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Instants That Carry You

By, Nicole Silverwolf

'The children play all around the throne
Innocent of sin
A trillion voices sing the name
The mortals may not know
And Heaven's walls too high to hear
The trouble down below'

-'Step By Step' Jesse Wincester

He had been sitting with her for over an hour. A small hand inside his own and a hopeful gaze in warm brown eyes.

Five years of trying. Maybe today she would do more than stare through him like he was a ghost.

Conversation had been one sided and forced at first. Ezio had lost the ability to make small talk abruptly after leaving Florence. That had gotten easier as he'd ranged further away from the villa, stories about the people he'd met or Leonardo's terrifyingly brilliant inventions were never in short supply. Claudia would join him sometimes and they would fill the gaps where the third response was meant to be. He never mentioned what brought them here even if it loomed in the shadow of Ezio's every action.

If Maria heard or acknowledged them, it was impossible to say.

It felt foolish to still crave her approval or at the least her reaction. At his age and after experiencing what he had, there was no reason to still want this. It was childish and he was no child. It was selfish and he was doing his best not to be that either.

Yet there were still days when he'd have some question, need some advice. Minor or major, related to assassinations or not when he would forget that his father was not there to offer the wisdom of experience. That his older brother wouldn't back him up when he found himself in a tight corner. When he needed someone to help just a little, share the burden of everything.

He'd only ever begged once, several months after they'd arrived at Monteriggioni. "Please don't leave us too. We're still here and we need you."

It had stayed her hand from the blade she'd pressed so firmly to her own throat. Ezio wondered for not the first time whether she was even trying to live instead of simply existing. She seemed incapable of offering more to either of them.

Like so many things large and infinitesimal, he'd learned to live with that ache.

This was a day when simply being near to family wasn't enough to calm him. Death took something from him in tiny little increments these days. It didn't waver his belief in the mission, but it was tiring some fundamental part of him. Coming home and seeing his remaining family, the villa he was slowly but surely bringing back to its former glory was often like filling a water skin for the journey ahead. It renewed him.

At least it usually did.

A careful kiss to his mother's cheek told her he was leaving before he all but fled the room.

Ezio raced out of the city. Making sure to avoid Claudia who was perceptive and aggressively opinionated about his avoidance of the real issue. A week of hard travel, back to back contracts that blurred together found him back in Florence for the first time in several months.

Still restless and ill at heart Ezio hoped to at least fall into unconsciousness for a few hours. Quiet and easily defensible he'd hunkered down in the loft of a tiny church that hadn't been a memory of childhood. Granted their family had attended church at the larger basilica where the Medici worshipped as was dictated by their class. So it was possible he'd simply never seen such an unassuming house of worship.

Regardless, it would take the edge off the tremors buzzing through his hands and steady him for a little longer.

Sleep did eventually come. He dreamt of impossible things, a young man startlingly similar and yet nothing like him. Warm eyes and a quick smile trapped in a building of metal and glass so high that the sky was uninterrupted. It didn't exactly feel like home but there was something familiar about the young man that felt right.

The shrieking children jolted him awake.

Ezio was instantly on edge, weapons ready, perched on actively bent knees and ready to spring to the fight.

All to apparently attack a rowdy bunch of students.

They were bouncing with energy, running, dancing, spinning, poking, unable to hold still for one second.

Ezio quirked a lip. He and Federico had been just like that. Their tutors had despaired at getting through a single lesson without one of them up and out of their desk. They'd much rather be scaling the walls of the palazzo than doing their assignments.

What on earth were they doing here?

Most of the thirty or so children were settling down into the pews, facing the altar. Even then they were chattering away, all excitement, exclamations and big gestures. To judge from their dress all were children of the lower classes. The clothes were clean but worn and frayed in places that indicated hand me downs from older siblings or near continuous wear. Most were clearly not from Florence. Skin tones ranged far beyond the norm of the region and their features varied wildly as well. Girls and boys in equal measure filled the seats which was unheard of.

The arrival of one of those dreadful city minstrels put Ezio on edge. Terrible songs and even worse timing, they had been responsible for him losing targets on numerous occasions. Suffice to say they had never endeared themselves to the assassin.

"Alright everyone, settle down and we'll go through scales yes?" This minstrel was young; only older than him by a few years at most.

"Yes Mr. Bee," they chorused back, still bouncing from left to right but generally coming to order under the minstrel's word.

Falling back on his haunches Ezio settled in to investigate. If ever asked about the slight smile curving his lips almost like peace, he'd deny it until the end of days.

But after listening to imperfect voices work themselves into tune through the major scales his scorn for perhaps this one musician might be...slightly lessened. At least the man was contributing to society in a way more productive than their kind usually did.

The church did not have an organ, so the minstrel strummed the chords on the mandolin. He was clearly skilled and his playing held an earnest tone to it that was welcome.

"We can sing a few of the favorites and then we must rehearse for mass alright?" he announced to much cheering and general noise. The names of countless popular songs jumped from children's lips, everything from sea shanties to hymnals to songs Ezio was quite sure young children were not meant to be listening to.

God how that thought made him feel old.

"How about the list song?" the minstrel suggested mildly. An equal amount of dismay and joy was expressed at that suggestion. But when the particular chord that clearly marked the opening bars rang in the air, the chorus came to near still attention.

Ezio had to wonder at that. Gestures ten times as grand could not move entire populations. It was impossible not to compare that thought to his own life.

Five years and he was no closer to answers, no closer to destroying the Templars, no closer to lessening the guilt that he had lived while his brothers and father were dead. No one that he could confide in truly (he would never burden Claudia, Leonardo or Rosa with such thoughts). Uncle Mario had been away for almost two years, and his mother had proven she was unable to live for the family she still had.

What if every effort he had ever made since the day his world ended was for nothing? All those lives he'd taken and what if it didn't change a thing about history? These men of power, there were hundreds waiting to take their place; like insects.

It was a fools errand he was on.

And the thought was more crushing than he would have imagined a realization could be.

Let's go slowly discouraged
Distant from other interests on your favorite weekend ending
This love's for little miss only when we're the fortunate only
No, I gotta be someone else
These days it comes, it comes, it comes, it comes, it comes and goes

The voices rose from below sweetly in tune like any group of children might sound under a good tutor.

Even in song these children never stopped moving. They gestured and bounced in time to the downbeat. Two boys near the front were clearly attempting to outdo themselves and impress (some might say clown around) with the rest of the students.

Follow, misguide, stand still
I've been looking for something else
These days it comes, it comes, it comes, it comes, it comes and goes

The words were no hymn though he realized suddenly. Their voices were confident and the words flowed effortlessly, practiced and memorized.

Unabashed, the energy they radiated was something Ezio couldn't ever truly describe. It was like the feeling right before a summer thunderstorm storm. Driving and powerful, anticipation of everything that could be pouring from them in waves.

Think less but see it grow like a riot, like a riot, oh
not easily offended
hard to let it go from a mess to the masses

His life had been privileged once; he'd heard music played in the most opulent of Florence's churches, seen the greatest art of the day, witnessed history unfolding around him, through him now. Those things had never quite moved him the way the artist had meant them to be perceived.

This music was something quite different. Earnest, truthful, imperfect and all the better for being that way.

For the first time in a long while, he was filled with hope.

These were the future of the world. Thirty some odd children, just a sample of the ordinary.

And they far outnumbered the corrupt officials, the power hungry of the church, the Templars and Assassins too. They outnumbered everything that made some impact on his life before that time.

Proof positive that there was something beyond all that had become his life. It was beyond him now, the choice to go back to the life he once led. To ever gain back what these children had in overflowing quantities. Bittersweet of course. And yet something so very worth continuing the fight for.

The words of the song swelled and were cut off with crisp efficiency. A single praise from the minstrel and the room erupted in cheers and clapping. Ezio retreated back from his perch, out the second entrance in the roof.

Those few minutes had been enough. Leonardo's workshop was only a kilometer west, and a forgotten page of the codex nudged at his side. It had been too long since he had seen his closest friend, one he'd been avoiding of late for fear of endangering his life or burdening him with his presence.

A blur of shadow could have been mistaken for a bird as he soared towards the center of the city.

So absorbed in his listening Ezio failed to notice the points and stares from the chorus. Most if not all of them knew nothing of what an assassin was. Though he'd built quite the reputation among the rest of the citizens they hadn't yet started to use his story as a bedtime threat. For them it was infinitely exciting and all together too amazing to see a man perched like a raptor in the rafters.

Their parents were less amused when they began climbing ledges, over fences and free running everywhere. "Imitating the white eagle!" they would insist joyfully.