Micheletto moved. He packed his things, carried them to his new home in one trip, and casually informed his employer of his new address the next day.
"You still live in a hovel. A different hovel, but a hovel," Cesare commented after a few hours of intense carnal pleasure. "Do you hate the idea of decent living?"
"This," the assassin waved a hand to indicate his one room apartment, "is all I need, Your Eminence. Anything more would be a distraction."
"A distraction from what?"
The questions again. Every time the Cardinal visited his bed he brought questions. They were often more intrusive and painful than any sexual act. They ignored all Micheletto's boundaries when it came to power plays and he silently hated them.
Which was why his mind was racing towards a way to make the Cardinal stop asking them. "A distraction from my job, Your Eminence."
"Serving you." At least half the problem with the questions was that he can't lie to the Cardinal.
"I like that answer." Cardinal Borgia turned on his side and reached out. His fingers traced along the ridge of Micheletto's ear. "You're a wicked man. I'd rather you be on my side."
The assassin fought the urge to roll out of arm's reach; for one thing it would be insulting and for another he'd end up on the floor. The bed was not very wide. "Would you hear my confession, Your Eminence?"
"You'd only tell me what I already know."
"I'll have to find another priest then."
The fingers stopped and within a matter of seconds Cardinal Cesare Borgia was on top of him. This was not unusual but what did make Micheletto pause was the feeling of his own knife pressed against his throat.
Cardinal Borgia's nostrils flared and his eyes looked as sharp as the dagger that was usually sheathed underneath the mattress. "Did you just threaten to betray me?"
"No, Your Eminence." There was a need stemming from more than a desire to keep his neck intact, a need for the Cardinal to believe him. It was a sign of how dependent he was on the man; he needed his approval more than he wanted to keep breathing.
"If I didn't need you I'd kill you."
"If you didn't need me I'd kill myself."
"You wouldn't though, wouldn't you?" Cesare let the knife fall and flopped back down on the bed. "Betray me, I mean."
"It would not be in my best interests." He hesitated before continuing, "even if I were to confess to another, the priest would not be able to repeat whatever was told."
"Micheletto, you cannot possibly be naive enough to believe modern priests follow their vows. Confess to the wrong person and you bring down the House of Borgia. Priests prefer politics to prayer."
"Do you ever pray, Your Eminence?" It was a risky question, but Micheletto hadn't become one of Italy's best assassins by avoiding risk.
"Impertinent. Who said you could ask questions?"
"You never told me not to, Your Eminence."
"Right." The Cardinal sounded unconvinced. "And you're not asking because I made you tell me how you became an assassin?"
"If you think so then you should flog me, Your Eminence." That would have been a welcome return to the norm.
There was a derisive snort. "Your back couldn't stand anymore punishment. Anyways, I told you I would torture you with kindness, did I not?" He paused. "I pray for my sister's happiness. I pray Juan discovers wisdom and prudence. I pray my mother finds peace. I pray my Holy Father's reign is easy. I pray for many things, although who I direct those prayers to I am not certain."
"God is religion and religion is my job. Faith is something I would keep separate."
"One has to organize one's life, Micheletto. I can't let my sister know I killed Baron Bonadeo, for example. It would serve no purpose except to scare her. When you're acting as a manservant, do you also act as an assassin?"
"I have heard it said that when a man is walking down the street he should constantly be thinking about what he would do if he were attacked then and there. When I am a manservant, I am also an assassin."
The Cardinal smirked. "When did you meet Machiavelli?"
"I haven't, Your Eminence. Have you?"
"Once. He's a gifted man. Where did you hear that then?"
"I might have read it somewhere."
"Didn't know you could read."
"A little." Micheletto realized too late that control of the conversation was not his. His talents included blade and poison. He could move the sword as easily as his arm and he could lie without remorse, but twisting a conversation to his advantage was difficult. "Isn't it hard to keep part of yourself separate from the rest?"
Cardinal Borgia sat up and played with the knife they had left on the bed. "You're not very good at sparring with questions. And you should know the answer to that; one has to pry your secrets out of you."
"Hidden is not the same as separate, Your Eminence."
"Hmph." The Cardinal sounded skeptical. "If you must know, it is less difficult and more annoying. I am a cleric by day and by night I am who I wish to be. All day I wait for nightfall and all night I fear the dawn."
"That sounds less annoying and more," Micheletto stopped.
"First you ask questions and now you offer an opinion on my answer. You are feeling talkative tonight."
"Apologies, Your Eminence. I was curious."
"Curious about what?"
Cesare blinked. "The touches?"
Micheletto demonstrated by awkwardly tracing his finger along the ridge of the Cardinal's ear. "That."
"Oh." The Cardinal shrugged. "When I was young my Holy Father was busy not being Holy and Mother was busy running the household. Hugs, petting, things children claim to resent but miss when they are not given, were absent."
Something about that explanation was off. "I would think that if you missed being hugged as a child, you would want to receive rather than give."
"You're not exactly pawing me, are you?" The Cardinal sounded slightly bitter. "My God, we're in the same bed and you're as far away from me as possible without moving to the floor."
"In my line of work, Your Eminence, the people I touch most are the ones I'm killing." He looked at the knife that still lay on the bed.
"Then shouldn't touching someone you're not going to kill be a relief?"
"Possibly." It had never occurred to him that Cardinal Cesare Borgia wanted physical attention beyond sex.
"Or at least a novelty."
Micheletto fought for words. Articulation failed him when discussing sensitive matters. "Turn over."
Cesare arched an eyebrow. "What?"
"I don't know how to paw at anybody, but I do know something."
"Now I'm curious." The Cardinal turned over on his stomach.
Slowly, but forcefully, the assassin rubbed his employer's back. His hands traveled the pale flesh, massaging away knots and tense spots. He paid particular attention to the spine and rubbed his thumb into each bone.
"Where," Cesare murmured in the bed, "did you learn this?"
"1489 was an interesting year, Your Eminence."
"That doesn't answer my question." The Cardinal turned to look at him, putting a halt to the massage. "We share a bed regularly. I put my trust in you and your skills, despite evidence that you are not as talented an assassin as you claim to be."
That was just insulting.
The Cardinal continued, "I expect a little trust in return. It is difficult to put my faith in a man who does not return it."
"Trust and touch," Micheletto said, to drive home the point of how much the Cardinal was asking of him. "I do trust you, as much as I trust anyone."
Cardinal Borgia gave a frustrated sigh. "Then show it, will you?"
"How would you have me prove my trust, Your Eminence?"
"Where did you learn how to massage?"
"From a Spanish Jewess."
"Was she good?"
"She was." A pause. "So am I."
Another sigh. "I could not ask for a better assassin."
"Thank you," Micheletto said quietly.
Cesare pushed himself into a sitting position and pulled the redhead closer. Their lips met and there was none of the usual domination. The kiss was slow, and while not quite gentle it could have been described as kind.
"I take back what I said," Cesare said when they broke apart. "I will hear your confession. But not now."
"What would you do now, Your Eminence?"
He turned over on his stomach again. "Now, I would have you show what else the Spanish Jewess taught you."
It was, Micheletto thought as he started to massage the Cardinal's shoulder blades again, a deviation from the norm. This new agreement he had with Cardinal Borgia was akin to finding himself alone in an unfamiliar city, with an unfamiliar language, tasked with killing someone whose name he didn't know and whose face he had never seen.
"Harder," Cesare murmured.
But, if this was the new norm, Micheletto thought he could get used to it. He might not have liked touching, but it came with trust and the kiss implied a give-and-take.
He surreptitiously slipped the knife under the mattress and continued the massage.
Author's notes: I so want a backrub right now.
So um, I hate RPF. Hate it with a passion. Hate it like it killed my imaginary puppy. It's creepy. It's weird. It's an invasion of a person's privacy.
Suddenly! The Borgias.
And I said, "Damn it." There is no way the actors don't know the vibes they're giving off.
So here is a bonus for you. Enjoy my hypocrisy.
"Cut," the director yelled. "Guys, I'm sorry but I'm just not feeling the homoerotic tension in the scene."
Francois Arnaud and Sean Harris immediately broke apart. His eye twitching nervously, Francois turned around to look at the director.
"Seriously? I'm leaning against him, my hand is on his hip, and we're talking about making travel arrangements to France to kill Cardinal Della Rovere in the same way people plan a honeymoon. The only way there could be more homoerotic tension is if we started making out."
"We can't make it blatant, the censors would be after us."
"You made it blatant with Lotte and Holliday!"
The director sighed happily. "Yeah, and our ratings went up. Ok, good point. You two make out."
Sean face-palmed. "That did not have the desired effect. Um, that's not in my contract."
"Do it or we'll make you give an interview!" the director threatened.
Sean turned to Francois. "I blame you for this."
"Close your eyes and think of England."