Cesare loves Lucrezia. She is his baby sister and he has sworn he will always protect her.

When she was eight years old a neighbor's boy taunted her and pulled her curls. He said she was ugly and her father was a man-whore. She ran home crying, not to Mama or Papa, but to her big brother Cesare.

He gathered her up on his lap and told her she was the most beautiful girl in Rome, that their father was a Cardinal, and that he, Cesare Borgia, would always be around to protect her.

Later he found the little boy who made her cry and made him cry. He made him cry so much, the brat was bedridden with a broken nose and more bruises on his body than anybody could count. Cesare got a pretty bad whipping for that.

But it was years before anyone else made his little sister cry.

Sometimes he worries if his doting has had a negative effect. She's naive, even for a fourteen year old. She still believes in fairytales; that every man will be as kind and gentle as her big brother. She doesn't realize that just because they should be good to her doesn't mean they will be.

He brushes off his doubts and worries. If worse comes to worse, he's got a dinner knife around here somewhere that's perfect for cutting out hearts.

Cesare wants to protect Ursula. At first he's just attracted to her, a physical desire reminiscent of teenage sexual urges. He's briefly convinced he'll love her forever, that she's his one true soulmate, that they are destined to be together.

It's only when he sees her standing next to his sister that he realizes that's not true. Turns out he has a weakness for blond women abused by their husbands.

Cesare wishes Juan didn't exist. He remembers when he was small and watched Vanozza's belly getting bigger and bigger and being excited about getting a little sibling. Then came the actual birth and she was in labor for days, screaming and crying. Rodrigo prayed, something rare enough that it frightened young Cesare. Then the red faced little blob of flesh came out and started screaming. Sometimes it feels like he hasn't stopped screaming since.

When they were younger, he was jealous of his little brother. Cesare would be stuck inside with his books and tutors while Juan got to go out riding and playing soldier. That was annoying enough, but what really bothered him was when Juan came home to their father.

Rodrigo would pull Juan into his lap and listen to his babble about his training, about how this sword had good balance, that horse had a bad gait, and anything else. It hurt because Rodrigo, who entered the Church at a young age, had no need to ask his eldest son about his studies. Juan's exercises were a novelty to the old man.

He bides his time; one day Juan won't exist and Rodrigo will have nobody but Cesare to question.

Cesare idolizes his father. In addition to being the leader of the Christian world, Rodrigo is his father, the man whose attention and approval he has always strived to earn.

When he was a teenager and upset over the perceived (real?) favoritism of his younger brother, he found a master of the blade and became a proficient swordsman. When his teacher told him he was ready, he assembled his family in the yard of their villa for a demonstration.

He disarmed the other man in a very short period of time with very few moves.

Rodrigo claps and that sound was sweeter than any choir in any cathedral. The Cardinal tells his son how proud he is, what a good fight that was, how those skills might come in handy soon…

That last one makes Cesare pause. He knows his father is ambitious but ambitious enough that his priest-son would need a blade?

He shrugs off his misgivings. He knows the only way to become a good fighter is to practice and his father's ambition will afford him that.

Cesare appreciates Vanozza. Many times he feels she is the only one who understands him.

Once, when he was a (very) young Bishop and a particular woman was being obstinate (something about him being a man of the cloth and her being married, he doesn't really remember anymore) it was his mother he turned to for advice. He knelt by her chair and tearfully asked if running away and becoming a goatherd was a logical alternative career to the cloth.

She petted his hair and told him the secrets of the Church; that the only Cardinals who didn't have wives were those who had husbands. If he wanted a woman, all he had to do was find one who didn't notice his vestments. Look at his father, did those red robes stop him from siring four children?

He appreciated the advice, but it left him feeling a little sick. He wasn't innocent to believe the Roman Catholic Church was free of corruption, but hearing someone spell out Her sins is jarring. He thinks his mother looks sad, as if she accepts how things are but wishes they were better.

He ignores the little bit of cynicism that stings worse than a pin. His mother has given him good advice and the woman he finds that night uses her tongue well.

Cesare doesn't think about Gioffre very often. Sometimes he feels guilty; the little boy is by far his favorite brother and has done nothing to deserve his apathy. If asked, he would easily admit to loving his youngest sibling, but nobody asks.

The guilt goes away because he has other, more pressing concerns to occupy his mind.

Cesare stands in awe of Cardinal Della Rovere. As if the man were not gifted enough in manipulation, he is also admirably steadfast and unwavering in his convictions.

He was almost hesitant to approach him after the French intrusion (not invasion, they were just on their way to Naples) and ask him to join forces with the Borgia family. Della Rovere survived an assassination attempt, Machiavelli's mind games, and working alongside the French. Cesare had to prepare himself to talk to him.

He sides up to him, his usual smirk in its proper place and starts a conversation.

His request for this worthy opponent to ally with them is predictably turned down.

He can't get rid of the awe, nor the feeling that he will match wits with Della Rovere again.

Cesare is not sure what to think about Micheletto. There are two sides of the man and both are more than a little frightening.

The first side is the quiet and competent murderer for hire. This is the man who will never trust his master not to stab him, who can't be beaten with a sword, and who always carries two blades (probably three). Cesare uses this man because he needs someone who can kill without hesitation.

This is the man who admits to strangling infants in their beds, but only after he's been paid.

When he fails to kill Della Rovere and when the monk winds up dead by a letter opener to the eye, Cesare wants to whip him again but doesn't because the second side briefly shows itself. This side is like a dog that doesn't where to go, so he follows Cesare around. This is the side that doesn't shy away from a slap but isn't sure how to respond to a caress.

This is the man who offered his bare back to the whip to prove his loyalty.

Cesare keeps the man close because if ever left on his own, Micheletto might gravitate to the Pope's enemies, if only to find someone to tell him what to do. All things considered, he'd rather have the assassin on his side.

Author's notes: I wrote this while doped up on cough syrup. When the plot muse bites, she cares not if I am sick.