To Catch A Thief

I need to take a break from Bleach. I've recently gotten back into playing Assassin's Creed, and who can resist La Volpe? Not me, that's for sure.

Pairing: La Volpe/OC

Warnings: Slight OOC-ness, use of the Italian language, mature language, mature situations. Also, there is quite an age gap between La Volpe and the OC- at least ten years. However, the OC is an adult, in both the modern sense and the Renaissance sense of the term.

Disclaimer: I don't own Assassin's Creed.

A/N: I did my best to use the Italian language correctly. Undoubtedly there are grammatical mistakes. If you know a better way to say something, please do not hesitate to tell me. Also, I did my best to keep La Volpe in character. I apologize if he's not. The quote in the summary is by Linda Goodman.


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It was a breezy night in Florence. The gentle winds blew dry leaves along the streets, and stirred up dust as the city's citizens made their passeggiata. The Arno was dark under the dim light of a crescent moon, which required the people to set up more torches around the city than a brighter moon would call for. The torches lit the streets sufficiently enough for the strolling couples, but they cast dark shadows down the alleyways and side-streets, which Lia was quite appreciative of.

'More shadows mean more chances to steal,' she told herself as she leaned against the side of a Sarto's shop. The tailor had long since closed his doors, but the large unopened boxes lining the alley beside the store created the perfect hiding place for Lia to wait.

As people began to walk up and down the street, Lia adjusted her cap and sunk back into the darkness. Couples waltzed slowly by, arm in arm, and groups of girls tittered along, their accompagnatrice not far behind. Persons of various backgrounds and wealth were easily identifiable by their clothing and manner of speech, and it was the more affluent that Lia focused on. She didn't like thieving, but it was the only way she could survive on the streets, and avoiding those with backgrounds like hers gave her a false sense of honor. 'If I have to steal, it may as well be from those it will hurt the least.'

As the streets became more crowded, she decided it was time to go. She pulled her cap down to cover her face, short curly hair tucked away like a boys, and shoved her hands in her pockets. She slipped out of the shadows into a slow moving crowd of young ragazze, murmuring apologies as she bumped into a few. She managed to grab a few florins and a pretty pendant before moving away quickly as to avoid detection. 'I'm getting better at this,' she thought smugly as she pocketed her spoils. When she first started prowling the streets her rate of success was dismal, and she narrowly avoided capture by the guards more times than she liked. She didn't give up, her stomach and pride forcing her to keep trying. Lia was much better at stealing now, but most nights she still went to bed hungry. The people of Florence were not unaccustomed to thieves, and many went to great lengths to protect against them.

Tonight, though, she was lucky. A good mood had been filtering through the city all week, and it was evident in the lax security the people and the guards exhibited. By the time Lia had made it to the end of the street, she had collect enough money to pay for tonight's dinner and tomorrows breakfast, with a little to spare. The pendant she picked up could also be sold for a few extra pennies as well.

Lia was feeling good, better than she had in ages. She was tired of cutting her hair short and stuffing it in a cap, tired of the old, worn out pants and shirt she wore to make her look like a boy, tired of staying up all night just to collapse into a haystack at dawn, just as hungry when she started. The prospect of a hot meal made her happy, though. 'It's the simple things,' she decided, sidling down a dark street to count her coins and decided where to go. She crouched behind a box of flowers and poked at the coins her hand, when movement at the end of the street made her clench her fists and sink back into the shadows.

Someone had entered the alley and the opposite end she was at, but to her relief they merely stood back in the shadows, their back turned to her. It was obviously a man, wearing brightly colored clothes and a hood. Lia stood to go, but something made her pause. 'He doesn't know I'm here, and by his attire he's obviously got some money to spare. I've been having such a good run...why not give it one more go?' Sticking her coins back into her purse, she stepped quietly towards the stranger, careful not to make any noise.

"Perdonate, Messere," she mumbled in her huskiest voice, stumbling past the man. He didn't say a word, and merely stepped out of her way. Lia lowered her head, and hurried down the street, holding the contents of his split purse tightly in her hand. 'In bocca al lupo!' She snuck quietly down an adjoining garden, congratulating herself on another job well-done. "I am getting the hang of this," she dared to say out loud. "I think I want some soup tonight..."

"Not so fast," a silky voice came from the entrance to the garden. The man she had just stolen from stood there, face hidden in the shadows of his hood. Lia froze, unsure of what to do. 'How did he know?!'

"You are not as sneaky as you think you are, piccino," the man said smoothly, stepping into the garden. Lia backed away slowly, body ready to flee. "I've been watching you all night, laughing my poor culo off."

"Fottiti!" Lia snarled. There was a low fence just behind her. Just a little closer, and she could hop over it and make an escape.

The man grinned, a creepy gesture since all that was visible was his thin mouth. "Such language," the man said mockingly. "Give me back my money, and all that you stole from the others, and I will let you go. Capita?" He opened his arms wide.

Lia straightened, as if to move towards him, but just as he took another step forward she kicked up as much dirt as she could and ran towards the fence. Leaping over it in one great bound, she landed hard on the packed earth street and ran as fast as she could. Footsteps hurried behind her, but they disappeared almost as fast as they had started. Not wanting to risk looking behind her, she ran until she had crossed the river and made it back to the pile of hay and old storage boxes she had called home for the past few months. Breathing heavily, she collapsed against a wall, finally allowing herself to stop. "I think I lost him..."

"Did you now?"

Lia gasped, heart leaping into her chest. Standing above her on the rooftop ledge was the hooded man, grinning down on her. She tried to run, but before she could even take a breath he was upon her. She clenched her fist to hit him hard on the head, but he caught her hand mid-strike with an inhuman quickness, and twisted her arm around her back, slamming her against the wall. Lia gasped in pain, the breath pushed out of her as he leaned against her.

"I've had enough of your games, marmocchio," he hissed. "It was amusing you watch you flail about at first but your stubbornness will be the end of you. You should learn to heel in the presence of your superiors, idiota." Lia winced in pain, pissed beyond anything, but also afraid for her life.

"Figlio d'un cane!" She spat, and dropped her purse. The man chuckled, letting go of her to let her fall to the ground, while she held her sore arm. In the struggle, her cap had come off, and her hair stuck to her face from the sweat of the struggle and the chase. 'Damn it all! Why didn't I just go?!'

The man stooped to pick up the purse, tossing it lightly in his hand. "Glad to see you have some sense in you." He stepped towards her, but stopped, as if in surprise. "Ma che?" He said lowly, kneeling and taking her chin in one hand. "Una ragazza?"

Too tired to fight, Lia collapsed back onto her bottom, legs spread out in front of her. "Si, signore," she snarled. "A girl."

"Ah, how interesting," the man said, standing. "You don't see many female thieves on their own around here. But I suppose that explains your attire," he gestured to her dirty outfit.

Lia sighed. "Got anything else to say, messere? You've wounded me sufficiently enough for one night, I think."

The man laughed. "It's not that bad, girl. Besides, you've intrigued me. I was thoroughly convinced that the little thief I had been tailing for the past few weeks was a young man. It's not everyday that La Volpe is fooled, even if it is just a dirty little girl mascheramenta as a dirty little boy."

'La Volpe? Where have I heard that name before?' Lia thought to herself. "La Volpe? Is that your name?"

"It is what I am called," the man said, bowing shortly. "I have many names...but La Volpe is preferred." He extended his hand to her. Lia looked at it waringly, before accepting it and letting him pull her to her feet.

"And you, piccina? What are you called?" Lia dusted off her clothes, not that it helped any, and frowned.

"Lia," she said simply.

La Volpe smiled again. He was dressed in the oddest shade of mustard orange Lia had ever seen, the clothes rich with embroidery and remarkably clean. His eyes gleamed from inside the hood, and Lia could barely make out the features of his face, though she would put him somewhere around ten-fifteen years older than her own nineteen. There was a distinct air of mystery about him, like everything he said held some sort of double meaning. The way he looked at her, like she was something to be observed, made her shiver with displeasure.

"Well, Lia," he said. "Here I was, thinking I needed to scared the sense into a new young ladro patrolling my city, making a fool of himself, but instead I find a young lady with too much bark and not enough bite. May I ask why you are sneaking around Firenze in the shadows?"

"Why don't you use that big head of yours?" Lia snapped. She gestured around her, at the pile of hay where she slept, the boxes she used to hide herself. "Welcome to my humble abode. I would offer you a drink of wine but, ahime, it seems I am all out. Can I interest you in water from the Arno? Or perhaps something from the puddles, hmm?" Dropping her arms, she glared. "Thieving is the only way I've survived, messere La Volpe."

The man held up his hands, as if to ward off her anger. "I did not mean to offend you, signorina. I understand." Lia scoffed, crossing her arms. La Volpe smiled again, and opened the purse in his hand. Taking out his own money, he closed it and tossed it to Lia, who caught it in surprise. When she looked inside, she could count all of that she had stolen earlier, minus the florins from the man standing in front of her.

La Volpe turned, one thin hand motioning for her to follow. "Come," he said. "You do not have to drink from puddles this night."

-0-


-0-

She followed him, albeit reluctantly, to a small osteria on the water's edge. The oste seemed to recognize La Volpe, for they was shown to a small and private table near the back without question. Red wine, soup, and bread were brought out as well, and when La Volpe gestured to the plates, Lia dug in hungrily.

"You know," La Volpe said as Lia spooned soup into her mouth eagerly, "When I gave you the chance to steal from me, I didn't think you'd actually take it. You are more confident than you look."

Lia frowned. "What do you mean, 'gave you the chance'?"

La Volpe laughed again, like a bark. "What, did you think I was just standing there for the fun of it? The only reason you noticed me is because I wanted you to. If I was truly concerned with protecting the contents of my purse, you would not have been able to get within a foot of me."

"Why did you want me to notice you?" Lia asked. Her pride was hurt. 'I didn't think I was that obvious...'

"I make it my business to know everything that goes on in Firenze, especially when it concerns thievery. When a new thief appears, I know about it. And you weren't exactly subtle, mio caro." La Volpe leaned back into his chair. "You should be more careful. You have attracted a lot of attention, especially amongst the guards. They're onto you."

Lia set down her spoon. "I had no idea," she said quietly. "All this time, I thought I was getting better at stealing, and I was just being set up?" La Volpe was silent.

'Now what? I have no money, no job, and now I can't even steal without messing things up? What am I going to do now?' She looked up at La Volpe, who was gazing intently at her. "Why are you telling me this?" Lia asked suddenly.

La Volpe cocked his head to the side. "You are not a good thief, that is true. But I have taught many worse than you. I am extending to you an offrire, signorina. Let me train you to become a true thief."

Lia didn't know what to think about that. "What do you get out of all of this?" She asked, incredulous. "There's no way you would do this if there wasn't something I had to give in return."

La Volpe paused, looking her up and down briefly. Lia shivered- she did not like being unable to see his face in the dim light. "Nothing, at least, not yet. When the time comes, your skills and loyalty will be worth much more than any amount of coin. Think of it as an investment on my end."

There was silence as Lia thought it over. 'How do I know I can trust him?' Inside, she knew it was foolish to even think about that. 'But it would help me, if he can train me.' La Volpe was obviously a dangerous man, no doubt about it. A dangerous enemy..and a formidable ally.

"Can I think about it?" She finally asked. La Volpe inclined his head.

"Si, certo," he replied. Standing, he put out a hand to stop Lia when she tried to rise as well. "No, you stay and finish the food. I must be off. Think about it while you eat."

"And when I make up my mind?" Lia asked, sitting and picking up her wine glass.

La Volpe smiled again, and when he turned his head, Lia saw up under his hood. A lined face, a pointed nose, and sharp, violet eyes all twisted up in a grin.

"I will find you," he said simply, and then was gone.

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