Warning for whipping, intimidation, general kinkiness. Enjoy.
It was dinner and the spices were just right. Hot enough to be noticed, subtle enough not to overtake the food's flavor.
The conversation was anything but subtle. "We have need of a professional," Rodrigo said. He and Cesare were alone, a father-son dinner which meant politics were on the menu.
"What kind of professional?"
Rodrigo hemmed and hawed as he did whenever he was trying to be delicate in his speech. "Your manservant will do."
"Oh." That kind of professional. "His talents are yours to command. What do you need him for, Holy Father?"
"There is a Florentine banker," Rodrigo said hesitantly, as if he was afraid to speak of the matter. "He leant us a substantial sum of money and now requires it returned. With interest charged at an outrageous percentage. It is a debt we can ill-afford to pay."
"How much money?" When Rodrigo told him, Cesare choked on his tomato. His father had to thump his back before the vegetable dislodged itself and he could breathe again. "May I ask what need drove you to this Florentine banker?"
"If you must know, funds are in short supply. Funds are always in short supply and the French's ransacking the countryside only made it worse. Beggars, orphans, widows, all pounding at the gates of Rome to beg for mercy. And that does not even take into account our personal expenses." The Pope looked up from his dinner plate. "Cesare, close your mouth. You are not a fish."
Cesare obediently stopped gaping. "I was surprised is all, Holy Father. What is the name of this Florentine banker and I will send my manservant to deal with him."
A small slip of paper slid across the table. "It's all there."
Amused by the dramatics surrounding the scene, the eldest Borgia son smiled and gathered the paper. "If that's all,"
A hand gripped his sleeve. "Eh, we believe murder may not be necessary. There are some men who will see the light of Christ by less brutal means."
"Intimidation. Threats, well not threats, but promises of consequences. We would not have souls stained with blood if we can help it. If calmer methods do work, escalation is permitted."
"I understand, Holy Father. It will be done."
Rodrigo smiled. "You are a dutiful son. Never was a Pope so blessed."
Hours later Micheletto read the paper and threw it in the fireplace of Cesare's room. "He will be dead within a fortnight, Your Eminence."
"About that, the Pope believes the man might become more compliant if intimidated." He briefly summarized Rodrigo's wishes.
"Some men refuse to be intimidated. What if this banker is one of them?"
"I have faith in your ability to intimidate. If that doesn't work, kill him." Cesare paused. "These men who refuse to be intimidated, are you one of them?"
"There are very few who can intimidate me, Your Eminence."
"You might just be saying that because you think I want to hear it."
"If you do not trust me…"
"Go the Florence. See if this man can be intimidated. Then we'll talk about trust." He gave the assassin a little push towards the door. "Oh, and Micheletto?" He grabbed the back of the man's head and pulled him close. Their eyes met and he could feel the heat of his nervous breath. "Don't fail this."
Whether Micheletto failed or not was the subject of some debate and sleepless nights. A month went by with no word from him.
"Your manservant is causing us no little distress," Rodrigo seethed. He had received another letter from his debtor that day, demanding another payment. He paced back and forth in the dining hall, his vestments flowing and swishing behind him. "If he has abandoned us…" he didn't need to finish the thought. Micheletto knew enough to send the Borgia papacy to hell.
"He has not abandoned my service. He has as much to fear from the exposure of past…incidents as anyone here." Cesare did his best to sound soothing but inside he was as enraged as his father.
"Perhaps he found another man he enjoys serving better," Juan said, and laughed at his own double entendre.
His older brother glared. "Why are you even here?"
"Can a soldier not find rest at his father's table?"
"Cruel Cain! Holy Father, don't make me leave."
Rodrigo gave him a look. "We did not beat you enough when you were a child." When that shut up Juan, he turned that look to Cesare. "What did we tell you before we became the voice of God?"
"That you do not forgive failure."
"And we still do not."
Cesare went home and immediately penned a letter asking Micheletto how the weather was, how his dear sick Aunt was holding up, and had he finished that book yet? They were all dying to read it. When would he return to tell them about the plot? The letter went out the next day.
A few days later he got a reply. Messy handwriting scrawled, "the weather is well, aunt is dead and book is finished returning soon"
"He doesn't care much for punctuation, your manservant," Juan said. Cesare snatched the letter out of his hand and burned it in the Pope's fireplace.
"His punctuation doesn't matter. The banker is dead."
"May his soul rest with God." Rodrigo quickly crossed himself. "Your man took his sweet time."
"Doubtless he tried to intimidate the banker beforehand, like you wanted."
"I never meant for him to take over a month to finish the job."
"When he returns I'll flog him."
"Good." Rodrigo nodded.
"Can you?" Juan asked. "I mean, I never imagine men of the clergy being violent."
"That's because you do not have a good imagination," Cesare said coolly. "After I'm done flogging him, I'll flog you."
"Holy Father, Cesare's…"
"Good idea, Cesare."
"Thank you, Holy Father."
"It took you long enough," Cesare said several days later.
"I tried first to intimidate him, Your Eminence."
"Did you?" Much like a shark that smelled prey, the Cardinal circled his assassin. "How?"
"I drew him aside at a party to warn him of possible consequences. Then I dosed his house wine with a plant that didn't kill him, but made him wish for death."
"And he still bragged around Florence that he had a hand in the Vatican's purse. So I left his dog's head in his bed."
"His dog's head?"
"It would have been his horse's head but I only had a knife. No axe."
"He still shouted to the world that the Pope was in his debt. So one night, when his wife was gone," Micheletto paused.
The assassin shivered when Cesare's breath touched his neck. "One night when his wife gone, I snuck into his house and into his bed."
"And what did you do in his bed?"
"I covered his mouth to stop him screaming and held a knife to his eye. I threatened to carve out his eyes if he didn't release the Pope from his debt."
"Did he agree?"
"He had a knife under his pillow, Your Eminence, and tried to stab me. I considered then, that since intimidation had failed it was time to try…other means."
"Took you long enough to reach that conclusion."
"For that I apologize, Your Eminence."
Cesare ran his fingers through the red hair and gripped it by the roots, pulling Micheletto backwards and forcing him to his knees. "I promised the Holy Father I would flog you." He held the other man's face closer to the fire. "Should I?"
"If," Micheletto licked his lips, "if that is my penance then yes, Your Eminence." Cesare let go and he fell to the floor on all fours.
"Punishment only works if you don't enjoy it."
"It is possible to hate and love something at the same time."
"Is it? Do you hate and love when I intimidate you?"
"Yes, Your Eminence. It is difficult to allow another to have power over me, but I would not like to be without a master again."
The assassin's voice became uncharacteristically soft. "It was a lonely way to live."
Cesare didn't know how to respond to that. He was quiet for a moment before deciding to respond to an earlier comment. "So you allow me to have power over you? Take off your shirt."
The rag came off and Cesare fetched the whip from underneath his bed. He paused to admire the outline of Micheletto's body against the firelight. The white scars from the time in the dungeon were still visible and gruesome. They stood out against the nature paleness of his skin.
He went back and traced his fingers across the lined flesh.
"Do you need something to hold onto? Something to bite?"
"That is for you to decide, Your Eminence."
"Is it? I don't want you biting off your tongue."
"I've had worse."
Cesare frowned. "We'll see."
Without another word he brought the leather down on Micheletto's back. The man barely moved. He twitched after the second blow but it wasn't until the third that he grunted in pain.
"Does it hurt?"
"A little, Your Eminence."
Cesare's brows knit together and he brought the whip crashing down. He didn't pause between blows but kept whipping, criss-crossing the assassin's back with stripes. The exertion of the whipping turned annoyance to anger and he put as much force in the blows as he could. Thin rivers of blood ran down Micheletto's back and sides, but neither of them cared. The crack of leather echoed through the room, mixing in with Cesare's growls and Micheletto's sharp intakes of breath.
Cesare was in a fury. Where the need to strip the flesh from his manservant's back came from, he didn't know. It was a million different feelings at once. Erotic, enraging, exhilarating. The Cardinal couldn't remember the last time he had felt so caught up in a moment.
It wasn't until Micheletto finally cried out in pain that he stopped the whipping. The whip dropped to the floor and he knelt next to Micheletto. The man was breathing hard and Cesare helped him to his feet.
"I said, come on." He half-led, half-dragged the other man to his bed, where he pushed him down.
Micheletto landed on his back and let go of his usual stoicness to hiss in pain and sit up. Cesare helped him roll over on his stomach, then sat down himself.
"This is your bed, Your Eminence. I shouldn't…"
"I'm a Cardinal and the son of the Pope. I can have whoever I want in my bed and right now that's you." There was a bowl of water and a rag on the table next to his bed. He used them for washing his face in the morning but now they served to wipe the blood from Micheletto's back. "Have you still had worse?"
"1489 was an interesting year for me, Your Eminence. I can tell you that I have never had better."
Cesare stopped wiping the blood. "Impudent."
"My apologies, Your Eminence."
"Apologies do nothing." Cesare slapped the seat of Micheletto's leather pants.
"Your Eminence, if you feel the need to chastise me, then let my punishment be a man's, not a child's."
Cesare smirked and slapped him again. "I'll decide what your punishment will be. And since your back is unable to take anymore, it will be thus."
"If not my back then my stomach."
"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were begging for more punishment."
"Once you have tasted the wine it is hard to put down the cup, Your Eminence."
Cesare continued wiping the blood away until the wounds closed. He placed the rag in the bronze bowl and lay down on the bed, next to his manservant. "Have you ever done this before?" He knew the answer but was curious for details.
"Never with a Cardinal, Your Eminence."
"Still impudent." Cesare yawned. "You're lucky I'm tired."
"I would not call it lucky."
Another yawn. "I have not had your years of practice. Another time. Once your back is healed."
"Are my sins forgiven then, Your Eminence?"
"You will order me to commit new ones soon."
"Again, once your back is healed."
"And in the meantime?"
"In the meantime," Cesare thought fast, "I promised Juan a whipping. You can watch."
Micheletto shrugged and winced. "Good night, Your Eminence."
"Good night, Sweet Assassin."
Author's notes- written in less than a day while listening to Viking death metal. I think I got Micheletto's characterization okay; it's not a stretch to say he enjoys pain, both giving and receiving. Cesare's went out the window.
In case you couldn't tell, Micheletto is my favorite character. He steals every scene he's in. I adore you, Sean Harris.