A/N: "Blood is Thicker Than Water", my own version of an imaginary season 4, is rated 'T' but borders on 'M' for its several graphic sex scenes. If this is a problem I will change its rating to 'M'. Take heed of this warning if elements like nudity or references to sexual organs are disturbing to you. Next, if you haven't seen the leaked finale of the show yet but would still like to read this chapter (which takes place immediately after), here is a summary of episode 3x10 given by Showtime: page/The+Prince
Starless, moonless night– on her side she caught a glimpse of the night on the opposite side of the window and the reflection of her body's spread across the bed. It seemed as if the blood stains, the scratches that marked her struggling husband's clawing, were magnified on the misty glass. They must already be whispering, she thought. Look what the Borgia Whore has done to her husband. Look what she's done… look what she's done… look what she's done… Or worse – did they blame another? Oh, God forbid – did they blame her Cesare?
She lay back down, she looked back up at the dark emptiness overhead. How long had she been a widow, now? Two hours? Three? Midnight, marked by the bells of St Peter, had come and gone. Her shocked sadness for her husband, a man once tender and loving turned jealous and drunken, still pried at her heart, but he was not on her mind anymore. God have mercy on his soul, he had not been fit to be her husband; he was kind but weak and the intrigues of Rome and the Borgias turned him mad, for the house of Borgia was no place for the weak and kind. Herself, she had narrowly escaped madness because she had grown, she had changed, and in the process, as had what she needed in a lover - and that was strength. She need a strong man. Someone she did not need to coax along on a gentle string; instead, someone who could overpower her, yet love her inch-for-inch and sin-for-sin, protect her, be gentle with her yet stir her like a mare on heat with desire. Someone who could handle the house of Borgia and stay sane.
Someone… oh, but she knew who. She had known who this 'someone' was, in the deepest part of her heart, always. And she had feared this and denied this, always - until the day her husband, then her fiancée, first spurned her, the first time she had felt unloved and the first time she realized there was only one man she could always go to, and always find waiting for her there.
She sat up suddenly, this realization had made her mind a clean slate. Suddenly she could hear his voice, as she had not been able to for the sound of her rushing thoughts. She could hear his voice, his every word from two hours earlier. She could remember everything, and she was smiling; her husband had died yet she was smiling, because… because – no, it was not her husband who had died, Alfonso d'Aragon had not been her true husband. Her true husband lived, and he was the force, pure and all-consuming, behind her smile.
Three Hours Earlier
She had felt the nibble of his teeth, the wet, urgent motion of his tongue, the heat and lust of his breath all over her neck, and the thousand words she had wanted to say wilted in her throat.
"Mine, forever. Lucrezia. And I should strip your dress from your body and clean you by my own hand. That's my word, and to you, I keep my word…"
A sigh was wrung from her shaking, bloody lips and her body was rising, gradually, uncontrollably to meet his desire. "Oh –"
Yet some alarum sounded when his mouth pressed on hers. Her loins took with flame but her mind spread with ice. She flew up into an upright position, and she sat, breathless.
"My husband lies dead on this bed beside us."
Silence, like an endless plane, a blackhole.
She expected Cesare to come back to her, ease her into his arms and beg for her, and it was with great shock that she watched him instead walk to the door.
"I know. I know he does, Lucrezia. He always will."
"He will haunt you always. I see that now. So there is no more place for me in your heart. I leave you now. And I can't stay here, not in this house, for your husband lies dead in this house. So I'll go to some inn, and sleep alone, and pray to the merciful Lord that I never wake up and live on in perpetual torment."
But he was gone, and some flood of servants entered to collect the dead body beside her, and they treated her with such sympathy because, poor thing, how she wept… how she wept for the loss of her husband.
Lucrezia called her maid into the chamber, and she explained that she would sleep now, and demanded that no one come to her until noontime on the morrow. She needed time to mourn in solitude. When the door closed Lucrezia stole some tattered servant's cloak that looked as if it were woven from the hairs of rats, and with some reluctance, she put the hood over her golden hair. She went through the privy, the hidden antechamber, down the staircase, and she tripped over her skirts through the dark gardens and went to town, and when she looked up, street lanterns lit a path through the expanse of quiet nightlife spread before her. The inn had to be at least a mile away.
"Then I suppose had better start walking," she said softly to herself, for she could not take a coach and risk being recognized.
Just as she took her first step, it began to rain.
His body was a black silhouette against the pale moonlight, where he was sitting on the porch of the inn. She noticed that he was dressed modestly – leather pants, dark linen doublet – and he flew up almost immediately at the sight of her; his face was the very image of shock, then desire, then shock and then some potent mix of both. He went down the porch steps, and she ran to him, and he caught her in the spread of his arms, and the rain pouring over their heads, she closed her eyes and found herself savoring the parched, wild heat of his kiss. It went deeper and deeper, his tongue painting her mouth over in a thousand dogged strokes, and just as she found the strength to respond, to cling tighter to him, he withdrew, and he set back the hood on her cloak and looked into her eyes as if he would know her soul's every secret.
"No one knew me," she whispered. "See how I'm dressed? Everyone I passed thought me some peasant girl, not Lucrezia Borgia." She smiled shyly. "Only you know me for who I am." Her shaking fingers found his warm cheek. "And I, you."
"My love, what I said to you," he began hurriedly, "what I said to you, that I would leave you, and after your great loss, it was wrong of me, and that you're here now I must speak to you –"
Her mouth stopped that flood of words coming from his. She bit onto him, and her body ground on his, and she sighed and she spoke some words that he could not make out into his throat. "Cesare, but I'm here, you needn't speak," she whispered to him. "But I'm here. But I've come to you, Cesare Borgia. So we both know what we want then." Her eyes glimmering with tears like a pair of diamonds, she wound herself deeper into his arms. "And that is each other."
Silence save that sensuous pitter-patter of the falling rain.
And then she felt his body respond, and she heard him say, "Yes," and he lifted her higher, more firmly, onto him. He lifted her up in his arms and she held his neck in her hands, straddled him with her thighs as if on the verge of drowning, and she breathed him in and she kissed him.
They were like the water simmering to a boil in the tub, waiting, cooking from the flames of their own desire like animals on heat. In a small voice, her lust making her shy, Lucrezia reminded him of his promise – that he would strip her dress by his own hand, and wash her body till it was clean enough to glow like wax, and that, by his own hand too.
"I always keep my word to you," he said softly, and she felt his hands begin to stroke her body through the layers of her gown, and unlace and unpin, and probe and heave and sigh until he had her naked on his lap. Her body stirred under his touch, and her mouth was responsive to his eager kiss, her sharp little teeth grazing the rough beard along the side of his face and her careful hands undoing the top of his shirt and easing it over his head.
"As I'm yours, you're mine now," she whispered into his throat, and then she gasped, shocked and aroused as he removed his breeches and then his great codpiece in a single motion and the firm hunger of his manhood bit into her thighs like a blade of ecstasy. He kissed her hard now, his mouth slamming on hers and his cock easing up higher and higher inside her and his hands feeling desperately from the back of her neck down to her buttocks.
"You're mine now," he agreed, and she closed her eyes and she let the breath catch in her throat, and she let him take her.
"Oh, my love."
Cesare slid into the heated water of the tub, his eyes fixed on Lucrezia, naked before him like a pagan idol of worship; he opened up his arms and let her climb without hesitation into his embrace. He felt her breathe, deeply and repeatedly, and she felt him, his hands, caressing the blood of her dead husband lovingly from her face, and her arms, and rubbing her even where there was no blood. She tilted back her head, and his hands caught the pulsing throat lustfully and possessively, and then he heaved her up so she was on his thigh, above water from the waist up. Now his teeth began to graze the firm sharpness of her nipple, and at first he held her breasts in his mouth and hand with some uncertainty, but one sigh of arousal from her lips and his tongue was off, working doggedly and lustfully without shame.
Lucrezia took his hands in hers, and she kissed each finger and then braced them to her slender waist. "As these hands kill," she said softly, and then her own hands went on and took hold of his great, pulsing manhood, "this beauty gives life."
She heard his low moan of desire that could no longer be restrained, and she felt it in her soul like the wild cry of a beast on the verge of charging or gods singing their approval overhead.
She smiled at him and touched her nose onto his, playfully, intimately, desirously. "Promise me something," she whispered.
"The moon, the stars – ask and they're yours," was his breathy reply.
"Promise there will never again be pulling away."
He responded to this, not with words, but with actions, and this was more binding than a promise of love in any language – Catalan, Italian, French, Greek, how little it mattered. She marveled at the flames that caught in his eyes, and then the suddenness with which he had her, in his arms against the wall of the tub. The water seemed hotter now, or perhaps it was just the spread and the heat of his flesh over every inch of her.
He kissed her deeply, a thousand forevers backing his lips, and then he heaved his body up and she gasped at the potent feeling of his heat beginning to rise inside of her. He filled her in an instant, he filled her need to be loved that all the ill-fated husbands and lovers before him could not, and with it, her lust that was nearly a decade in the making. He filled every dark void in her life from ever since their father had become Pope, since loneliness and corruption had stolen her under their wing, and it was as if a dark cloud overhead was giving way to the sun; he eased every pain, and every frustration, every unmet desire, and suddenly there was no past, there was no future – there was him and there was now.
Pleasure became like an earthquake centered at her loins, shockwaves of satisfaction and yearning rising higher and higher with his every thrust. She held tightly to him, and moved with him, rose and fell on him as, together, they climbed higher and higher up the ladder of blissful sensuality.
"Cesare," she heard herself say his name softly, and then, again, "Cesare!" but louder. She could feel him as high as her belly now, and then she sunk and pulled up to meet him. She could feel it coming now, her own climax, chasing her as a hunter did its prey; yet still it came as a surprise. They were breathing as one, screaming as one, their dripping bodies ground tighter and closer than iron and magnet. One single, biting moment he felt himself drinking in her wetness, soaking up her pleasure, and he held onto her and kissed onto her for dear life, the waters rising and threatening to drown them.
Then it was over.
When he found the strength to, he kissed her deeply.
She smiled at him. "My husband does not lie dead in this room," she said softly, breathlessly. "No. God does, and when I am holding you, I feel He is very much alive."
They loved each other at least a hundred times more that night, and each time harder than the last. Come morning they were both deliciously exhausted, and they lay on their sides and watched the sun beginning to rise through the thin linen curtains.
"I am sorry to have hurt something you loved," Cesare said softly into her neck when he felt her stir. "I am left in awe still that you've forgiven me."
She looked up, and the sadness and sincerity in his face warmed her heart. "I did not love Alfonso, Cesare. But I cared for him. I realized… I realized that things we care for can be taken from us and that can't be helped. We must pick ourselves up and move on… but I would not be able to do that if it was you I lost…"
"Lucrezia," he said suddenly. "Once you asked me to marry me."
She laughed. "Yes, Brother."
"And now I would ask you."
She smiled but she did not laugh, for in Cesare Borgia's eyes there was passion, not humor. "Well of course," she said softly. "I'm yours forever, aren't I?"
Everyone around her was garbed in black, and they marveled that Lucrezia Borgia was attending her husband's funeral in a beautiful gown of white. There was hardly anything mournful about the dress; the corset framed her breasts tightly within ropes of pearl seeds, the veil over her face was sewn with white lace flowers and little diamonds, and the train, why, it was like that of her wedding gown from not two years earlier!
As she went down on her knees before the casket, the onlookers watched her begin to weep. Then, wiping at her eyes and sobbing, she rose up and flew to the chapel door and was gone.
The chaplain sighed. Very well, let the poor widow mourn. But when he looked around, he sighed again, for he saw that Alfonso d'Aragona's good brother-in-law was absent too.
In the garden of the Santa Maria Palace there was Cesare Borgia in a handsome black doublet, and there was, to Lucrezia's sincere shock, Micheletto. He, too, was handsomely dressed, and his beard trimmed a bit. They were standing under an awning woven with vines of summer flowers and before a marble fountain like a makeshift altar.
"My lady," he said warmly, "I was informed that there was to be a wedding this afternoon and I was chosen to stand as a witness. You are the bride?"
She smiled at him. "Yes."
"Then we shall begin forthwith."
She walked up closer and stood across from Cesare, the fountain between them, and his hands reached and they lifted the veil from her face. He leaned in and he kissed her softly on the lips.
"I, Cesare Borgia, do take thee, Lucrezia Borgia, to be my lawfully wedded wife."
Lucrezia drew in a breath, and then she let it go. "And I, Lucrezia Borgia, do take thee, Cesare Borgia, to be my lawfully wedded husband."
She felt him kiss her, again, and again, and she could feel his mouth laughing softly in hers. The quiet air was shattered when Micheletto took up a wine bottle and noisily popped its cap.
"Shall we celebrate now?"
"We shall be feasting with our family and friends tonight, and will see you then," Cesare said with an uncertain little laugh, and both he and Lucrezia were smiling very uncomfortably at the henchman.
"Oh, I see, you'd have me leave now." He coughed a bit, and then he stuck the wine bottle between his lips and walked off humming something.
Left alone, for a while Cesare and Lucrezia merely laughed. Life felt too sweet to be real; it felt like they were children, and this was just another game. And it was something like a game; but they were adults now.
The next thing she knew he was holding her in his arms and kissing her passionately. She kissed him back tenderly, and then she drew away and held him at arm's length.
"Do you pull away, Wife?" he said softly, and he smiled distantly.
"There's always a guard about, Cesare. You can't have me in the garden." But she was smiling as she said this, and so was he. They both knew that when someone told Cesare Borgia he could not have something… well, he would get it, by his own means, anyway.
Suddenly her back was braced to his hardness, and he was kissing her neck and easing her up against the smooth stone wall of the castle. He was gathering her skirts in his fists and the skin of her buttocks was barred to the warm summer air until that biting moment arrived when she could feel his flesh break in and swell between hers. He sunk and rose, lower and then higher with every thrust, all the while breathing wildly and whispering her name, and then she turned her head a bit and sighed and savored the curve of his lips on hers.
That evening there was roast peacock and game pie and breads and cheeses and a fountain flowing endlessly with wine in the great dining hall of the Borgia apartments. Cesare and Lucrezia had spent every minute together since the little ceremony in the garden; they had gone up to her room, and he had stripped her of her wedding dress and made love to her nearly half a dozen times within two hours, and then they went riding, and returned and sat talking for hours like children again. Then he helped her dress into a cloth of gold evening gown and they went to dinner.
Giulia Farnese and her brother were dancing, and Micheletto standing by the wine fountain, and it was just Rodrigo, Vanozza, and the newlyweds together at the table.
"Cesare," Rodrigo said, "the arrangements for Caterina at the Castel St Angelo – they are ready?"
"Yes." Cesare smiled. "And the rooms fit for a king – perhaps even a Pope. And the guard has been highly-trained."
"I'm glad. For there is good news everywhere, Cesare," Rodrigo said. "I have appointed twelve new cardinals, and I have enough money from the bribes for you to pursue a campaign in Romagna. Duke of Valentinois, Duke of Romagna – I see 'king of Italy' in the future and I like it very much."
"I like it too."
"And the Duchess – do you know how your wife fares?" Rodrigo said conversationally. He caught the intimate exchange of smiles between his children.
"She fares well I think," Cesare said, beaming at Lucrezia.
In his chamber before a fire, Rodrigo had Vanozza on his lap, and his graying head was pressed on her shoulder.
"Your son asked me of some property in the lowlands," she said softly, gazing intently into the flames. "I thought it strange but I found him a little manor and he has paid the landlord already."
"Far, but not so far, from Rome. Private," Rodrigo said speculatively. "I would bet a great fortune that he's found a mistress he wants some time alone with."
"That is his business I suppose," Vanozza said quietly. "He is so much like you."
"And Lucrezia is so much like you," he said warmly. "And did you see them at dinner tonight? They are so much like us."
Vanozza laughed. "But surely you cannot mean –"
Rodrigo merely shrugged. "Their business, my love. Not ours."
In the morning Rodrigo went to see his son. He was surprised to walk in on Cesare frantically packing a luggage.
"Cesare, we need to talk," he said.
"Regarding Romagna? Surely it can wait," Cesare said distantly.
"That," Rodrigo said, "and the remarriage of your sister."
"Yes, she's your only sister is she not?"
"Were that I had a dozen sisters so you could sell them off like cattle and she could be spared," Cesare said softly.
"But you don't. Will you come to my study this evening and discuss this with me?"
For a long time Cesare said nothing. And then he nodded his head very solemnly. "I give you my word that I will – in one week. Give me a week, Father. And then I will be back to do your bidding."
"A week," Rodrigo agreed softly.
They took a very private-looking coach down a very private road descending into the lowlands. The inside of the carriage had a fitted mattress spread with a blanket of purple velvet and a silver platter with wine and dark, candied chocolate and a gold bowl of strawberries, and they lay naked under the blanket, feeding each other, laughing, and making quiet, gentle love.
Cesare roused from sleep at about twilight, and when he reached for his sister he found that she was not there. He knew her inclination toward the stars, and the moon, and her love for summer night air, and so he opened up the glass doors of the bedchamber and went outside, not bothering to put on clothes for there was no one around for miles. It was beautiful outside, but humid and with wisps of silver cloud spread across the sky as if it might rain.
Sure enough, Lucrezia was sitting naked with her feet dangling from a swing which hung on the thick branch of an oak. She looked like a child, and her eyes, fixed on the silver expanse of lake spread before them, were serene like a nun's on the day of rapture.
She saw him from the corner of her eye and she smiled wide, but she did not look directly at him. The last stars of twilight, hanging above their heads – they were blinding enough.
He went behind her, and held the thick ropes and he spread his warm along the pale skin of her back, and he pushed her gently, and pressed his chest to her and breathed, gently.
"Yes," she whispered back, "that is what I am, Cesare. What is on your mind?"
"You, always you."
She laughed; he could always make her laugh. "Tell me."
"I don't jest," he said softly. "You always are. When I was in cardinal's robes and I loathed everyone and everything and myself above all… you were on my mind. Every battle I fought and every battle I ever will fight, you were and you will be on my mind, as I think of what would happen to you, who would care for you and love you as I do, if I died."
"No one," she whispered. "And I would not return it if they did."
"I don't deserve you," he said. "I ran from my love for you because I feared how people would perceive it if they knew, and I feared the fires of hell but now I see there is no greater torment than to hold you away from me. But more than anything I ran from you because I knew I did and do not deserve you."
"Do they call our love sin, Brother?" she said. "My greatest joy, my only joy, the single joy I will never be ashamed of – do they call it sin, Brother?"
"They would," he whispered.
"No matter." She was smiling up at him, now, mischievously. "For I've my potions, and you've your blade. What a pair we are."
"Yes," he said with a quiet longing. "Borgias."
She leaned back, rested her head on his heart. "I had a husband who treated me wickedly, and a husband who lacked the strength to love me. You would think I felt unloved, and sometimes I did, and if I did then I would wish to hang myself, for there is no life for me, Brother, save to love and be loved. But you will see, now, I am quite alive." She smiled, and caressed him from behind her, and she breathed him in. "I never felt unloved – because of you. No matter the darkness and hopelessness and loneliness – one touch of your hand and God came rushing back."
She could feel his hands filling with her breasts, from behind, and she could feel them stroking her belly and finding her thighs, and lovingly and skillfully beginning to caress her nether lips.
"Do you feel God now, Lucrezia?" he whispered.
"No," she said softly, and she giggled when he stopped, obviously shocked and disappointed.
"I feel you," she said, "and you are greater for me than any God. Now come here and let me see you."
He obliged her. He stood before her and Lucrezia reached up and felt from his face to his chest, and she tilted back her head and kissed each and every hair before he bent his head and she kissed his face.
"It feels as if this night is in flames," she whispered to him.
"And I am a moth drawn to the warmest flame."
"I think it the opposite, for you could burn me, Brother."
She started with a gasp of shocked arousal when his hands spread on her thighs and eased them apart and framed them up to him. "Only with your consent," he said softly.
She threw her head back, her gold hair tumbling to her waist like a waterfall of honey, and she put her hands on his throbbing manhood and wound him closer. Just as his head dropped and he began to kiss her, as did the rain begin to fall, soft diamonds dripping down their backs and faces.
She propelled the swing closer to him, and she straddled him tighter.
"Cesare," she whispered, "did you know that water puts out flames?"
"Lucrezia," he whispered, "did you know that blood is thicker than water?"
She smiled at him, for she knew what he meant, and she kissed him hard and sighed into his mouth for pleasure as he sunk into her and the world began to melt away. "I know it," she said into his mouth, and between kisses, the rain dropping in sheets overhead, she whispered, "for only a Borgia can love a Borgia."