Merry Christmas, Babycakes.

Because I will always care.

The air is sharp; cold and crisp. It's refreshing, but Cesare still adjusts the thick scarf around his neck, burrowing down slightly as he walks down the school's front steps. The other kids chatter with excitement and jump around with exhausting energy. He's above such behavior, but his mouth quirks up, pleased. Christmas Break. Finally. Classes were growing far too dull and his patience for the tedious work was it at its limit.

Suddenly Lucrezia stops beside him, feet digging into the ground and tightening the grip she has on his arm until it's painful. She glares darkly, and with a twinge of curiosity he looks to where her gaze has caught. For a moment he can't breathe.

Leaning casually against the large front gate is Ezio. His hood is up against the softly falling snow, and the resulting shadow makes his scar shine in the clear light. The other kids have already noticed him, whispering and giggling amongst themselves; pointing and wondering behind poorly shielding hands.

Cesare takes a step forward, but Lucrezia tugs on him hard, possessive and on the verge of violence. "Come now, don't be stupid," he snaps, yanking his arm free. She turns her glare onto him instead, eyes sharp and mouth pursed, blonde curls a feral mass tangled in her scarf. He just sneers and waves her away. "Go on home, I'll deal with this and meet you there shortly."

She doesn't obey right away, fuming and shooting daggers at the older man, but with a hard shove from Cesare she stumbles along, looking betrayed and muttering under her breath.

Cesare sets his mouth firm and jams his hands into his coat's pockets, trudging through the fluffy snow. A bright smile breaks out on Ezio's face from under the hood, but Cesare just grabs his arm and herds him around the side of the school's high wall, out of public view.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" he hisses.

Ezio's grin twists. "To see you, il mio amore," he teases, a slight foreign roughness in his voice. And Cesare scowls, swatting the hand away from where it picks at the crest on his blazer. Ezio's Italian class seemed to be the only one he attended regularly. For whatever reason.

"Shouldn't you be taking finals or some shit?" Cesare snaps.

"M'already done. I thought you'd be happy to see me."

Cesare looks at him dryly, venom rolling off his tongue as easy as Ezio's broken Italian. "It seems you've confused me with a fluttery school girl. It's almost been a whole term, so I doubt you've dropped by just to make a spectacle of yourself."

"Il mio cuore, you wound me! Am I not allowed to see il mio bambino uccello?" Ezio makes a show of clutching his jacket front, staggering, as if he truly cares, as if it all actually means something. Cesare can taste the bile in his throat.

"Don't fuck with me, Ezio. I'm not some toy to be played with at your leisure."

Ezio cocks an eyebrow and grins wickedly, leaning in a little too close. He radiates heat and smells faintly like gingerbread. "No? Could'a fooled me—"

With a snarl Cesare slaps him hard, but the other barely flinches, his smile cheeky and eyes bright. It's infuriating, and Cesare just wants to scream. Because they only meet under two circumstances anymore: when Ezio torments and teases, or the midnight searching, seeking relief in the shadows. And that's all it's ever been, all it'll ever be, and it's completely ruined him. Makes him wait with baited breath, anxious and ever wanting, Unable to be satisfied by any other.

"I came to pick you up, take you home with me over break."

Cesare's thoughts derail, warning signals exploding behind his eyes. "What?"

Ezio's grin is gone, hunching his shoulders against the wind. "You're spending break with me. I won't let you go home, not to that."

"How do you…? That's none of your business!"

"Don't get all defensive. I have my ways, non preoccuparti."

Cesare fumbles for words, opening and closing his mouth like a fish out of water. "I'm not worried," he finally hisses. His prep school requires two years of Latin, so usually he can make out whatever Ezio is tossing around. "And anyways, you don't have any control over me. I wont go home with you, just to have you go gallivanting off every night!" He shuts his mouth quickly, Ezio's expression turning amused at the implied slip. With a snort he gathers the smaller boy close, brushing back his mop of hair to press a kiss to his temple.

"I won't stand to have him keep hurting you." The statement is practically a growl in his ear, and Cesare's knees almost give out.

"Hasn't made a difference to you up until now," he bites back. But Ezio has won, they both know it. Because he pulls Cesare closer, and Cesare lets him. He's not some pathetic damsel, needing to be saved, but the prospect ensnares him completely. His masochism won't let him refuse. He knows how it'll end, how it always ends. Ezio will shower him in affection; tear down his defenses as if smoke and treat him as if he's the only one. And then he won't come back. He'll blur with the shadows and disappear. He knows this for fact, and yet he still has the gall to hope. That maybe this year, he'll have a real Christmas.

So he let's Ezio kiss him, knocking his hood off so as to tangle his fingers in his hair. Traces of generic chapstick linger under the taste of chocolate and peppermint schnapps. He lets Ezio pull off his mittens and press his lips to his bruised knuckles. He lets Ezio sling his school bag over his own shoulder and tuck him to his side, a heavy arm wrapped around him like garland.

He lets Ezio take him home, burrowing into his radiating warmth. And he feels his heart stir.