A/N: Hey all, here's yet another one-shot of mine. I quite like ideating and writing certain points of Cesare's life. It truly is just my fiction, but it is nonetheless enjoyable to write. I've found myself in historical fiction, eh? Anyway, from what we've been shown in Assassin's Creed, Cesare wasn't on good terms with his father, so I've come to wonder whether it was always that way, since his childhood, from the earliest of his days. Thus, when Juan died, it's said that Alexander was in the deepest lament for a long time. To this, since it's purely fiction and Juan didn't die by Cesare's hand to begin with (or rather, there was never any true evidence to confirm his involvement), I've decided to add that he is thus angry at Cesare for taking from him his most beloved child. And so, this thingy was borne. Note that it contains mildly maturer themes, hence the ways Assassin's Creed has portrayed Cesare and Rodrigo. I should also mention that the title was inspired by Skillet's Open Wounds lyrics, as well as the initial idea of the ficlet. ("All I ever wanted to be was you; all you ever gave me were open wounds.")
Either way, my hopes are you will enjoy reading. Do drop a Review if you feel like it. :)
Notice - phrases written in Italian/Latin:
Benvenuto! - Welcome!
Grazie, carino mio. - Thank you, my sweet.
Salve! - Hello!
Buongiorno! - Hello!/Good day!
Padre - father
Si - yes
La città di Roma - the city of Rome
Grazie a Dio! - Thank God!
Madre - mother
Nessuno - nobody
Padrone - master
Cum numine Caesaris omen. - lat. With Caesar's divine will, good omen. (motto on Cesare's sword)
Bentornato! - Welcome back!
Sicuramente. - Certainly/Definitely.
Fantastico - fantastic/marvelous
Anche - also
Bastardo vecchio - old bastard
Sei arrivato. - You've come.
Francia - France
Duca - Duke
Duchessa - Duchess
Il Re - King
Niente, veramente! - Nothing, really!
Non sono stato io. - It wasn't me.
E' stata la tua puttana, lo so. - It was your whore, I know.
"Juan! Cesare! Your father is here!"
His blue eyes gleamed with uncertainty as his brother took flight for the door. He observed him intrude into their father's loving embrace.
"Papa! Benvenuto!" the boy greeted, prompting a smirk to broaden on the Cardinal's features.
"Grazie, carino mio," Rodrigo patted Juan's head, as his wife, Vannozza, approached with caution. Rodrigo lightly kissed her hand, as he went further into the house. He took off his traveling coat in one graceful move and placed it on the table. As he turned to sit into the armchair, located in the corner of the dimly lit room, he saw it already occupied.
"Salve, Cesare," Rodrigo muttered politely, narrowing his orbs as the boy nodded.
"Buongiorno, Padre," Cesare answered, intertwining his fingers in an anxious manner. It seemed he was lost in thought for a couple of moments, his feet dangling from the high recliner. His father didn't seem to crave the need to pay him any further attention, whence he would speak again.
"I trust your journey was swift?"
Suddenly, Juan burst into the room, bearing a goofy grin as he grabbed his father's opulent tunic. Rodrigo smiled, caressing his head diligently.
"Si, it was. Though I will be gone afresh soon enough," he explained, as Cesare sprang up from the chair and walked over to the two. Notwithstanding the bold yearn in his navy eyes, Rodrigo didn't even cease to acknowledge his presence. He finished coshering Juan, as he seated himself in the armchair, and the older boy would follow, leaving Cesare to stand alone, heavy bitterness plastered to his youthful face.
"Papa, tell me of Roma again!" Juan demanded avidly, as Rodrigo chuckled, placing him on his lap.
"Ah, la città di Roma - the city upon seven hills," the Cardinal began wistfully, immediately winning the utmost of Juan's attention. He excitedly giggled as Rodrigo continued to preach, wittily mantling his arm around the young one.
"Romulus and Remus - the two heroes, two brothers, are believed to be the founders of this pure marvel on earth..."
Time was wasted no more; Cesare was already running, his fists clenched and teeth gritted to the point of affliction. Ignoring his mother's puzzled exclaim, he stormed outside, into the dusk-tinted street. He ran, refusing to look back. It was always like this. He was always like this.
Hitherto, he was probably half a mile away from home, as he finally lost his breath in front of the city's main square. It emptied before his very eyes, deeming the silence vaster and vaster in a moment's passing. There, he spotted a void bench.
Cesare sat, burying his head into his hands. He couldn't understand. He didn't want to understand either. What was it that Juan had, and he didn't? Never was he embraced or treated in the same manner as his older brother. Never did his father tell him stories, or put him on his lap, or caress him with kindness and vigor.
Does Father not love me?, Cesare would ask himself, his eyes brimming against his petite palms.
Am I not good enough for his love?, yet another question embarked. But how does a boy of eleven summers win someone's affection? Why would he have to to begin with? Cesare possessed no answer to these difficult inquiries.
Sitting there, in the darkness, lacked a point of its own after all. He wiped a few hot drops off of his cheeks, sternly, as if they were mud, and he stood up from the bench. The citadel would become a true ghost town at this time of the day, as there was not a soul in sight. And Cesare liked it that way, for nobody was there to see him weep like some weakling. Which he wasn't, in the end.
Nothing but the whistling of a cold, lonely evening breeze was there to keep the boy company. And Cesare sighed, kicking a pebble out of his way as he walked down the narrow street. He had a keen - almost too keen - urge not to return home. He didn't feel welcome there, for a long, long time already.
He still remembered the first time he saw his father - a young, vigorous figure tinted in blood-red, and even then, one of the most powerful men of the Sacred College. A shepherd of God. One would think that this title would bless him with an infinite, stunning love for all that walks, much less his own family. Loved ones. The ones that live and breathe, beg and plead, laugh and shed tears, for his sake alone.
But oh was there a surprise awaiting him, Cesare pondered as he took the left of the two crooks. To him, there was not a more nefarious sight than the one of Juan being cherished, beloved and encouraged, and when he would ask for the same to be done unto him, he would receive the most severe of scoldings.
And so happened, year after year after year. The repetition was there to be witnessed and to bring pain in abundance. And never could Cesare accept matters as they were, even if he wanted to. By all means, why would he? Did his father think him a pile of drabble, a pitiless fool with no dignity whatsoever?
Rodrigo had tainted his childhood, and both of them knew it. And also, Cesare thought as he pushed the door to his house open, all of his lies about bonds and fondness that he, of course, did not feel, were as false as could be.
"Cesare!" Vannozza worriedly rushed to her son's side, handling him tightly as her chocolate locks fell over his face, "Grazie a Dio! Where had you been?"
Cesare would return the act of love, appreciating his mother's concern.
"I just took a walk through the città. Forgive me for troubling you, Madre."
Vannozza released him, planting a passionate kiss on his forehead as she questioned, "At this hour?"
The boy nodded, as he made way for the living room. It appeared vacant at first sight, but not the second, however.
"Where the hell did you trail off to?" a voice Cesare was familiar with all to well hissed from the side. He took a deep breath, preparing himself for the rail to ensue.
"Outside, Padre," he replied calmly, as Rodrigo walked, stopping just in front of his son. Cesare would glance upward; austere, brown eyes reflected him, observing him from head to toe with some suppressed, unnerved vile.
"And who gave you permission to go outside?" the Cardinal asked, his hand finding Cesare's collar and pulling it upward. Fear was drawn at once on the boy's features, as Rodrigo's teeth were now on display, and his orbs providing enough disdain for his son to understand that he was in trouble.
So many times had Cesare seen his father in this fashion; one too many, perhaps. One would expect him to fall on his knees and apologize like a beggar, but his face remained in crude lethargy instead, as he eyed his father in the exact same way.
"Nessuno," he deadpanned, as a flicker of confusion escaped Rodrigo's face. This wasn't expected.
"You could at least show me some respect, rather than being an insolent brat," the Cardinal condensed caustically, but Cesare didn't falter.
"Should I address you as padrone, then? For I am unworthy to call you my Padre?" he bravely spat back, as a plethora of chagrin had already filled him to the very top, and he declined to contain it any longer.
Rodrigo looked as if the whole wide world had went awry in this very moment. His mouth recoiled to speak, but Cesare was quicker.
"Name it, and I will obey. Isn't this what you want?" the boy added with blistering delicacy, careful not to betray a single bit of limbo that had triggered bonfires inside of his chest. And is seemed that this had the desired effect on Rodrigo; he was startled, almost dreaded by these powerful words, poured out of such small mouth.
"What are you talking about, son?" he inquired, his tone savored with sooth and tenderness, unhinging his hand and patting Cesare's shoulder instead. Phased himself, the boy managed to keep his behavior.
"What you heard," he bit, attempting to step away from his father's touch, but no could do as Rodrigo's hand firmly kept him in place.
"My dear, dear boy. Had you fallen from grace?" the Cardinal studied Cesare's features solicitously, dragging his hands over the latter's cheeks. Hopeful, Cesare took a deep look into his father's eyes; yet, he saw not what he wanted to see. A love so counterfeit, so twisted, a fraud's affection, with nothing but vanity to garnish its expired cause.
The boy's expression was empty, not out of confusion, but out of bate. Pure, white fury of a wild bull.
"Leave me. I am finished for tonight," Cesare confessed, incarcerating his vision and turning his head away from Rodrigo. And thus, the man would allow him peace, as Juan and Vannozza innocently bid him a fair night.
From then on, his nights were never fair. He barely slept, barely lived. The night was day, and the day collided with night. But dream he did. And on Juan's corpse he stood and with his blood were his hands tainted as he received his red cape, iron vest and noble sword, his most faithful companions until the very end of his days.
He didn't hesitate to wave at the clamoring mass of citizens, an unfathomable smile widening on his face as he abandoned the carriage.
"Bentornato, Cesare," Micheletto awaited beside the gate of the Castel Sant'Angelo. A brotherly embrace ensued between the two. If there was someone in whom the hitherto renowned General could lay his trust unto, it was his loyal, most diligent servant.
"Ah, Don Michel!" Cesare replied, "I trust Roma is quite in order?"
The latter smiled.
"Sicuramente. I swear that to your own solemnity," said Micheletto, prompting Cesare to pat his shoulder.
"Fantastico," he praised, "Then I am free to depart for Napoli when the time occurs."
Nodding, Micheletto stepped away, allowing Cesare to walk past. Suddenly, however, he gasped, as if having a rash flux of recollection strike him.
"Anche, His Holiness awaits in his apartments at the top of the Castello," the underling cited, promptly ruining Cesare's spirit.
"Ah, si, I should visit the bastardo vecchio," he strained, "Hence, is he still wholly among us?"
Notwithstanding the fact that Micheletto was familiar about the foul relationship between the two Borgias, Cesare's candor on the matter could still cease to discomfort him.
"His Holiness is in marvelous health," he reclined with a hint of nuisance, but maintained his temper. Realizing his own wrong, Cesare nodded, restraining himself from further conversation. He would lose Micheletto somewhere among the opulent quarters of the fortress, abstracted as he silently entered Rodrigo's apartment.
He was certain he heard him. But the old man refused to acknowledge him, blissfully ignorant for the time being. As if he wished someone else bore his crest and armor. That someone else spilled blood and wrought justice in his name.
"Sei arrivato," Cesare almost jumped out of his skin as Rodrigo faced him unawares. His features were austere and beard smoothly shaved, as he remembered him since his last advent in in the capital.
The two of them stood in passionless silence, their eyes and faces averted from one another.
"I trust matters are fortunate in your freshly-achieved domains?" Rodrigo asked, but Cesare saw through the question. The Pope was trying to deem him selfish in this way, and that he would not allow.
"Our domains, Holy Father," he answered shrewdly, "The envoys of my trusted vicars have hitherto brought only news of good faith to me. I worry not for their commitment, but the ongoing siege at Piombino I had quit."
Rodrigo knitted his brows at the ending of this explanation, humming caustically as he eyed Cesare help himself from the basket of apples that sat on the table.
"Was it wise of you to leave in this moment?" he questioned mockingly, "What if the men's morality lowers in gratitude to your absence? My navy is skilled, but not omnipotent."
Cesare's bite was deep, devastating through the apple, as he tried to conceal his agitation of Rodrigo's words.
"Don Michel will be my replacement," he blurted through the swallow, "Thus, Francia calls for me to enjoin its belligerent in the conquest of Napoli. Did you not hear?"
Rodrigo could not oppose his son's reason, and thereupon he would quail, "I have. The French lances make a good portion of your troops, do they not?"
"As do the Swiss," Cesare added nonchalantly, to his own appease, "And it had only contributed to our , if it desists your remembrance still, I am the Duca Valentino, and it is His Majesty's merit alone that I bear the title, as well as my Duchessa."
Rodrigo had gotten loftier in acrimony as Cesare concluded his distorted lecture. He was eager to prove himself over his son.
"You dare not swagger out of the shade of il Re's wing, then," he bit Cesare whither he knew he is most vulnerable.
"What do you imply, Holy Father?" the youth demanded, attempting to crumple another bite of his apple. Rodrigo betrayed a cunning smile.
"Niente, veramente!" he rhymed joyfully, as his voice echoed throughout the room, "Yet, your actions might beg me to question your adherence to me. To us."
Cesare granted him a libelous stare.
"My work is as pure as morning dew," he exiled the reluctance from his voice, but rejoice faded from Rodrigo's face.
"Was it so whence you had killed my son?" he finally decided to be direct in the matter, to which Cesare paled a bit.
"Non sono stato io-"
"E' stata la tua puttana, lo so."
Cesare stood in disbelief for the longest time. It seemed Rodrigo began to lose his temper at this point.
"You thought I did not know? That I would not find out?" he stung, emphasizing each of his words with a plethora of fume, "How foolish do you conceive me, that I must trust unconditionally a man who murdered his own brother? What might stop that man from butchering his father next?"
Cesare was silent. He waited, without any interruption or recoil, for Rodrigo to finish what he began.
"Do I have to remind you what happened to the young Manfredi, for instance? Where is the justice in that? You dare aggravate me with such falsehood!" thus the Pontiff continued on, "You are a disgrace to this family. You always were nothing but a disgrace. A stain on my tunic of awards."
And as suddenly as he began, Rodrigo silenced, as his was quick to reply him.
"Rest assured, for you will not be harmed. The Papal forces are my primary utensil in war, and are about the only thing that make me in your debt," the beginning was calm, only to be replaced by a rant most perilous, "I should also suppose bribery to one's own renown counts as an award? Do not forget, then, who stood by you during the voting. Who was foolish enough to dispatch countless envoys and pleas to the Cardinals for your sake? It was me! Me and me alone!"
He threw the apple away, approaching Rordigo, now dangerously close to him.
"Who conquered all of the tyrannies and granted them to the Church? Me! For all you care, I could've taken them all for myself!" he yelled, unleashing all of the dissatisfaction that had been building up inside of him for years, "Juan was a mere fisherman's daughter in comparison to myself! It is not mine to bear your sin for separating us in your heart since we were children!"
Cesare paused to catch his breath, cold sweat cloaking him in whole.
"All I had done, all of what is valor and what is not, I had done for the good stature of this family. For you," he poked his finger onto Rodrigo's chest, "I went as far as to raze the citadel of Monteriggioni to the ground! The Assassino no longer troubles you because of me!
"At one point, I was even foolish enough to believe that you would accept me as I am, that you would appreciate all I had done," Cesare bit his lips, blue eyes narrowing toward the Pontiff, "You're nothing but a liar. A senseless fraud. Failure. Thus, know that the Apple is hereupon mine alone, and that your well-being is as worthy to me as the life of some street rat."
With that off of his chest, the General took a deep breath, rushing out of the papal apartments as fast as his legs would provide him. For once, he was sincere. For once, weakness was shown. And for once, he could feel at peace, for now, his father knew everything. Again, he turned day into night, and night into day, as new victories awaited him to grasp and fresh blood clamored for him to shed it.