Dio caro - Dear God
Va bene - Alright
Caro - Dear
Grazie - Thank you
Divano - Sofa
Judging by her clenched fists and the angry red hue of her face, Ezio knew Aria was seconds away from a destructive eruption, most likely aimed in his particular direction. But with prying eyes beginning to take note of the drama unfolding in the alley, it was time to leave.
Aria opened her mouth to speak, but Ezio quickly cut her off. "Not here, not now!" he insisted hastily. "I will explain once we get Antonio looked after," he said, casting a glance at the Assassin who was still clutching his bloodied arm.
Aria was not deterred. "And who will look after you once I tear out your entrails?" she demanded, voice rising, "What is he talking about?"
Ezio shook his head in frustration. "I promise I will-"
"No!" Aria stomped up to him and halted inches from his face, her piercing glare making Ezio feel a head shorter. "You lied to me! I want to know-"
"Aria, stop!" Ezio yelled, and she took a quick step backward, her anger faltering. Ezio sighed as he cursed his temper. "I promise to tell you everything, but this is not the place," he said in a softer tone, before nodding his head in the direction of the nosy spectators at the end of the alley.
Antonio and Aria both turned to look, meeting the wide eyed stares of the small audience. They all abruptly turned to leave, bumping into one another in their haste.
Once the crowd had cleared, Aria remained silent, glaring angrily at the ground. Antonio gave her a wide berth as he walked up to Ezio.
"The Palazzo della Seta is not far," he informed him. "We have the means to tend to this there," he insisted, gesturing to his wound.
Ezio nodded in agreement before falling in stride beside Antonio as they left the alley. At first Ezio did not think that Aria was following, but her reluctant footsteps soon came trailing behind them.
Their journey was painfully silent, and Ezio's unease was growing by the second. He had meant to tell Aria everything before they arrived in Monteriggioni, on his own terms, but that obviously wasn't an option now. Dio caro, this isn't going to be pretty.
The Palazzo della Seta soon came into view with its iron gates and tall, white walls. The thieves that were scattered about the grounds regarded them warily, whispering to one another. It was not long before Rosa and Ugo rushed to meet them as they strode through the large wooden doors.
Rosa looked over the three of them, her brow creased with confusion and worry. "What happened?" she asked, eyes flashing to his wound, "Antonio, you are bleeding!"
Antonio gave a strained smile. "It's just a scratch, but perhaps it would be best if Bianca takes a look."
"Of course," she said with a nod. "Ugo, find Bianca and tell her to meet us in the study."
He eyed Aria suspiciously and then turned to raise an eyebrow at Ezio, but conceded. "Va bene."
Ezio fought urge to shift about nervously. All eyes were on him, and the truth was not likely to inspire warm feelings toward the stranger beside him. The thieves were a close knit bunch, and outsiders were always regarded with suspicion.
Rosa led them up to the study, Antonio's new base of operation. The large room was not as lavish as it had been when Ezio had assassinated Emilio Barbarigo. The thieves had long since stripped the place of its valuables, returning them to the people of Venice.
The resident medic, Bianca, was waiting there with Ugo and her supplies. Only a few short words were exchanged before Bianca set to work. Ezio eyed the wound nervously, but it was indeed shallow. He huffed a sigh of relief, earning a curious stare from both Rosa and Ugo.
Then tension in the room was quickly escalating. No one said a word, only nervous glances and pointed looks were exchanged. When Bianca finally finished dressing the wound, Antonio spoke. "Thank you Bianca," he said, before addressing Rosa and Ugo. "Could you two leave us for a moment?"
Rosa crossed her arms defiantly, Ugo falling in beside her. "You owe us an explanation Antonio, what's going on?" she asked, but Antonio would not yield.
"You shall receive your explanation," he assured them, "Let me first speak with Ezio and then I shall regale you with the entire gruesome tale."
Rosa cracked a small smile. "I do love gruesome tales," she joked lightly, before turning to leave with Ugo and Bianca. She stopped, however, in front of Ezio, smiling up at him playfully. "And how are you caro?" she asked in a sultry voice, "It has been quite some time since our last meeting."
Ezio felt his insides twist nervously but kept his expression neutral. He and Rosa had been involved for a period of time during the initial struggle for the Palazzo della Seta. The relationship had dwindled as his quest had occupied his attention, but he still visited Rosa from time to time. At least he had until Aria had shown up.
Rosa moved closer, placing her small hands on his chest and Ezio snatched a look at Aria who was watching silently from the corner. Rosa caught his look and followed his gaze.
"Ah," she said thoughtfully, as she scrutinized the hooded woman, "I see." She planted a small kiss on Ezio's cheek before turning to leave. As she exited however, she looked back at Aria. "I recommend caution Signora," she said lightly, gesturing at Ezio, "This one is a handful."
Ezio groaned in dismay – this situation couldn't possibly get worse. He looked up sheepishly at Aria, but she had not budged. There was no poisonous glare, or angry words, only the slight clenching of her jaw to indicate that something was amiss.
Her silence was frightening, but now was his chance to get everything out in the open. Both Aria and Antonio deserved an explanation.
The door shut behind the thieves, and the three of them were left alone. Antonio took a step forward and gestured to a few soft chairs. "Please, sit," he said.
Ezio gratefully took a seat, but Aria remained in her corner. Ezio released a great sigh. Where to begin? But Antonio spoke up first.
"So I understand that Aria is not a Templar and isn't trying to kill you?" Antonio asked, shooting her a pointed look.
Ezio managed a small smile. "Despite all her threats, no," he jested, trying to provoke a smile from her, but she her face remained a mask of stone. Ezio gulped nervously before continuing. "We nearly killed each other upon our first meeting," he explained, "But when we discovered one another's identity, the fight ended and I returned to Monteriggioni."
"Where your Uncle presumably told you to kill her," Antonio added flatly.
Ezio shot him a small glare but continued. "He believed that she might still attempt to hunt me down, along with the rest of my family."
Ezio heard movement behind him and turned to see Aria cross the room and leave the study. He winced as she slammed the door behind her, battling the urge to go after her.
Much to his surprise, Antonio spoke up. "Give her some time Ezio," he suggested, "She'll come around."
Ezio stared longingly at the door, but nodded and turned back to Antonio. "So you have been training her to become one of us?" Antonio asked thoughtfully.
"She has no place in this world anymore, not after I killed her family," Ezio explained, "I thought I could at least give her purpose again." Ezio stood from his chair and crossed the room, staring into the warm blaze that crackled in the hearth. "When I returned to Venice, I found her speaking with Borgia. She was looking for answers, but he didn't like the questions. I managed to intervene and we escaped."
Ezio turned back to Antonio, who was still listening quietly. "I thought if we had a common enemy, perhaps she would join our cause and find a place amongst the Assassins."
He was surprised when Antonio suddenly spoke up. "She would make a fine Assassin, that much is apparent," he remarked lightly.
Ezio turned an incredulous stare on the thief. "You are willing to accept her, just like that?" he asked, astonished, "What about your arm?"
Antonio smiled. "It is only a small wound," he shrugged passively. "Ezio, she thought I was a Templar," he explained, "She tried to kill me because she was protecting you."
Ezio felt his chest ache. He should have told her. He should have told her everything, especially after she had come to his aid in the Assassin's tomb. He had been a coward, afraid that she would leave, and now he might lose her for good.
Antonio twisted his moustache thoughtfully. "You have trained her well," he added, "She's nearly as deadly as you with that weapon you gave her." Antonio chuckled, "I was certainly caught off guard."
Ezio managed a wan smile. "I am sorry Antonio, I should have told you."
"As you should have told Aria?" the thief said with a raised eyebrow.
Ezio's gaze dropped, ashamed, but Antonio stood and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Do not worry Ezio, you can still make things right. Just know that when the time comes to speak to Mario, should you require my voice, you need only ask."
Ezio smiled. "Grazie, Antonio," he said, before exiting the study.
Aria sat in a small chair by an open window, staring out over the city with her knees curled to her chest. Her thoughts swirled in a deadly maelstrom of emotion, threatening to drown her. He lied.
He hadn't lied so much as he had purposefully withheld vital information. The fact that the Assassins want me dead. Aria cursed herself for being so blind. There was always a catch – nothing was ever black and white. Despite her own rules, Aria had let herself trust him, and now she was paying the price, just like so many times before.
As if on cue, Aria heard footsteps behind her as Ezio entered the small room. He moved to the windowsill, staring down at the streets below. Aria was a bit surprised that he hadn't looked at her yet, instead his eyes were distant and his thoughts far away.
Finally he spoke. "I will not make excuses, Aria," he said, still not meeting her gaze, "I should have told you long ago, but I was afraid you'd leave."
Aria felt her stomach knot uncomfortably. She tried to muster her anger, but it was difficult to be mad with him when he was being so sincere. This was a side of Ezio that Aria had not yet seen. "Why are you doing this?" she asked in a small voice, "The bracer, the training; why do you want me to become an Assassin?" Everyone wants something.
Ezio finally turned to look at her, the intensity in his eyes catching her off guard. "Because I am the reason you have nothing left. I took your family as they took mine, and where I had my uncle and the other Assassins for help, you had no one."
Aria felt tears stinging her eyes, and her breath caught in her throat. Ezio moved closer, crouching in front of her chair before continuing.
"Yes, my Uncle asked me to kill you, but he made the decision out of grief. Our creed dictates against the slaughter of innocents," he explained before cracking a small smile, "And despite your many threats against my well being, you are innocent, Aria."
He reached a hand to Aria's chin, lifting her gaze to his. "You were so full of rage and hatred, that night you tried to kill me – I was the same after my family's death. It was like looking into a mirror of what could have been, if I had remained angry and vengeful."
"I thought that perhaps I could change you, take away that anger and hate." A tear rolled down Aria's cheek. Ezio let her turn away, but wiped the tear away with his thumb. "I think I may have undone some of it," he said with a small smile.
When he stood, Aria looked back up at him, startled. "I will not ask you to come with me," he said firmly, "I deceived you and it is up to you to decide whether you can forgive me or not." He placed his hand on her shoulder. "But I want you to know that Antonio thinks that you would make a great Assassin."
Aria looked up at him incredulously. She tried to speak, but the words dried up in her throat. It was probably for the best; Aria scarcely knew what to say anyhow. Her mind was dizzied and confused with all that he had said.
Giving her shoulder a light squeeze, Ezio began to walk away. "You know where to find me," he said quietly, before his footsteps disappeared down the hall.
Aria remained in the chair by the window, for minutes or hours, she could not tell until the sun had begun to shrink on the horizon. She knew that she should feel angry; he had mislead her, but not out of treachery. The old Aria would have left Venice in an instant, but Ezio was right, she had changed.
Aria vaguely heard a tentative pair of footsteps pass by every once in a while. The thieves were obviously still disgruntled by her presence, but Aria didn't care. There was too much on her mind to be bothered with what they thought of her.
She could scarcely believe that Antonio would want her in their order after she had attacked him, but it truly had been an accident. Aria had not realized how much she hated the Templars until that moment. Knowing now that Antonio wasn't a Templar didn't change the way she had felt. The need to stop the Templars had become important to Aria, and not just for the fate that had befallen her family. Altair's writings had stirred a sense of purpose within her, and it was a purpose that she couldn't simply cast aside. That was the problem.
Aria's old instincts were still begging her to leave, but she couldn't. Not just because of the Templars, but because Ezio was the only person in the world who knew exactly how she felt, what she had gone through when her family was killed, even if they had died at his hand. Despite their bickering and disagreements, Ezio was the only one who truly understood her.
She had learned so much and had come so far; Aria could not give up now. To have a home, a purpose, and to have friends again, was all Aria had ever wanted, and now that it was within her reach, there was only one obvious choice.
Aria's feet moved of their own will, guiding her from the Palazzo della Seta and down the darkening streets of Venice. She was unfamiliar with this part of the city and shamefully lost her way more times than not, but eventually the city began to look familiar again. It was not long until Aria was standing outside of Leonardo's workshop.
Aria hesitated at the door, shifting nervously. This was her last chance to walk away and leave everything behind – to start anew – Aria stood with her hand wrapped tightly around the door handle for a moment, before she took a deep breath and opened the door.
She peered into the workshop, the light of a few lanterns illuminated the quiet room. Shutting the door quietly behind her, Aria stepped into the workshop with a tentative glance around. Her gaze settled on Ezio dozing peacefully on the divano by the fireplace.
She stalked towards the fireplace and found a bottle sitting on a nearby table with a glass half full of wine. Aria remembered the last time she had gotten herself too far into a bottle of wine, in this very spot; her cheeks heating at the memory. She brushed the thought aside as she snatched up the glass, taking a small sip.
Swirling the wine around the bottom of the glass, Aria contemplated how best to wake him, until she tasted the idea on her tongue. Aria smirked wickedly. While she had already forgiven Ezio in her head, she'd be damned if she'd admit that to him. Aria decided to get even instead.
Aria filled the cup, taking one last sip before walking up to Ezio's sleeping form. Sorry Leonardo, she thought, before up-ending the cup over Ezio's face.
He awoke with a start and wine sprayed from his lips as he sputtered in confusion. Wiping the red liquid onto a white sleeve, he blinked stupidly at Aria, completely confounded.
"If you lie to me again, I'll slit your throat," she warned, but a smile was stealthily winding its way across her lips. Ezio merely grinned back, and Aria turned on her heels to head to her room, trying to hide the blush tingling in her cheeks.
Bluuh. Sorry this took longer than expected. I was slacking and my editors were slacking, but whatever. If it makes you feel any better, I'll send the next chapter to my editor right now!
Reviews are awesome. I love to hear from you guys. :)
** UPDATE: I am not sure when my next update will be posted. My roommate/editor/grammar nazi is doing a course in Quebec so she doesn't have a lot of opportunities to use the internet. I wish I could just suck it up and post without her editing, but alas, the grammar wouldn't be nearly as spotless. Bear with me. I'll try to get as much writing done as I can for now, and maybe once my editor is back, I'll upload 2 chapters instead of one! :)