Night runs were Ezio’s favorite. He ran whenever he could fit it into his schedule but running at night let all the distractions of the day melt of his back. And with over five hundred years of life, there were a great many days’ worth of distractions built up. All of the talk of ghosts and visitors today hadn’t completely left his mind, but it had faded to the background as he took the stairs up to their apartment and let himself in the door.
“It’s getting chilly out there,” he called out in greeting, kicking off his shoes by the door. “But the sky is beautiful tonight, Leonardo. Maybe after dinner we can go up to the garden and fool around under the stars.” He was smiling a Cheshire smile as he stepped into the living room and leaned over the sofa to kiss Leonardo’s ear. “I’ll keep you warm, I promise.”
He felt someone in the apartment without seeing them and his grip on Leonardo’s shoulder tightened. “Is someone visiting?”
Leonardo, who was safely nestled in a little warm blanket cocoon on the couch with soft classical christmas music playing nearby and an ancient greek book settled precariously on his knee, went from looking pleased to looking confused. Aside from his festivities, it was otherwise quiet in the apartment, and he was certain the roast in the oven wasn’t talking. Or considered company.
Normally he would have leaned into the kiss and added to it, pulled a sweaty Ezio over the back of the couch or into the shower. But he trusted his husband’s instincts more than anyone’s, and the hair on the back of Leonardo’s neck stood up with the well timed grip on his shoulder.
“Not that I am aware of.” His reply was soft, quiet, he was not the stealthiest of them, or the most attuned to fighting, but he had learned a few things from Ezio over their centuries together. He reached over and slid the drawer on a nearby table open, revealing a hidden dagger for his husband to grab if he so wished.
While he almost felt bad for immediately putting that tension in Leonardo’s neck, Ezio was quietly pleased with how linked they were after all these years. He probably could’ve said nothing at all and Leonardo would’ve known he was checking the apartment for auras. There was nothing noteworthy in the bedroom or Leonardo’s workshop. Ezio frowned and stood up straight, still keeping one hand on his husband.
“Nice place you’ve got here.”
He hadn’t heard that voice in over five hundred years but there was no mistaking it. Not when his heart squeezed tight and he could picture his brother’s face so clearly even before he turned to see him standing near the dining room table.
“Dio mio. Federico,” Ezio murmured, shocked into stillness.
Leonardo hadn’t scrambled up from the couch so fast since Venice in 1973. He was up and behind Ezio in a manner of seconds, hand reaching out to touch his husband in some kind of act of stability, for whatever it was worth. “Really?” He asked, curious and looking to where Ezio was watching. He saw and sensed nothing, of course, but had a feeling even if he was blessed with Ezio’s vision, he wouldn’t have been lucky.
He still peeked out, still looked to where he suspected his brother-in-law to be. That was a tricky conversation, due to being a product of time, and it made Leonardo hesitate a little. It was a topic to put in the hands of Ezio, just as it had been with Maria and Claudia so long ago.
Instead, he defaulted to pure Leonardo. “Hello Federico. I would invite you to dinner but--”
Federico smiled at Leonardo. His eyes seemed to land on every detail with unerring accuracy - the touching, their closeness, their rings. He scanned the room next and Ezio had to remind himself that his brother had been an assassin in training before Ezio even knew the Brotherhood existed.
“Things have changed greatly, haven’t they? And you have a fine life for yourself here?” He appeared to have more to say, something taunting and brotherly by the quirk of his mouth, but he suddenly looked apologetic and stepped forward instead. “Please, tell him thank you, for the kindness of the offer, even if it seems that’s not meant to be.”
Ezio took in a sharp breath, like coming up out of icy water, and moved so he could press a hand to Leonardo’s back. “He says thank you,” Ezio whispered. “He--” His attention turned back to Federico and his normally smooth way of speaking was stuttered with tightly held emotion. “You...have been gone a very long time, brother. It’s...good to see your face.”
The scientist in him wanted to study the ghostly form ahead of him, the husband in him wanted to support Ezio the best he could. But Leonardo did smile, relieved that it seemed to be going well for Ezio’s sake. Some people had bad experiences with these ghosts, and Leonardo only knew the number of enemies either of them could have seen.
He touched Ezio again, a hand, warm and steady, pressed in at his side. He wasn’t sure what to do here, what to offer. Leonardo leaned in close, “Do you want me to leave you? I can go to the kitchen and give you two a few minutes?”
A frown darkened Ezio’s expression at the thought of Leonardo leaving, but then he thought it must be unsettling to watch your husband have a conversation with thin air. “Just...a moment, per favore.”
He took a deep breath and took Leonardo’s hand in his, staring at their clasped fingers for a moment before he held them together over his heart. “It is like you said. A lot has changed. You met Leonardo when we were young. But you have never known him as my husband.” His gaze shifted from his brother’s face to Leonardo’s and he mustered up a smile that wasn’t nervous per se, but it bordered somewhere near it.
“And here I thought you intended to bed your way across Italy,” Federico teased.
Ezio choked on a laugh. Maybe it was better Leonardo couldn’t hear his brother. Although it was a relief that he’d gone straight for the harassment. “It has been no one but Leonardo for...well hundreds of years.” Federico’s eyebrows rose and Ezio turned a pointed look to his husband. “I should make you explain that part. But I know it is strange talking to an empty space. I can take Federico for a walk.”
Leonardo would have been disappointed to not hear that tease, if he knew it existed. He saw the little flush on Ezio’s cheeks though and knew something teasing had happened, and was glad for it. That firm introduction of husband had already stopped his heart for a second and made him as openly fond of Ezio as he had ever been before.
And he had been openly fond of Ezio more times than he could possibly count. Ezio’s words made him feel as if he didn’t have to school his face and the love in his eyes, and he sucked in a choppy breath. “I can if you wish but the short version is just that-- the Apple of Eden works in mysterious ways. But you should! You will make his eyes bulge out of his head when he sees the wonders of this world and the short skirts that go with it.”
There was a little pause, and Leonardo leaned into Ezio’s space and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek. “But I also do not mind being around while you catch up with your brother.”
Ezio smiled big enough, it made his cheeks ache. It was a bittersweet thing, Federico being here and the mention of the apple making him think about all the could have beens. But he was very good at putting on a brave face and he refused to squander this time with his brother feeling melancholy about the life that was robbed from them. He leaned over to copy Leonardo’s kiss, but pressed it to his jaw instead.
“Ti amo,” he murmured warmly. He could feel Federico’s smirking gaze so he turned back to him with a gesture of his hand. “I can see you coming up with ways to torture me about this. Just do it as we look around, okay?”
“As you wish, brother,” Federico laughed.
It made Ezio’s heart grow too big for his chest so he wrapped an arm around Leonardo to steady himself. “I would like you to join us, maestro. We can show him your jet pack.”
Oh, that warmed Leonardo’s heart even further, between the kiss and the whispered words of love and the jetpack. All three of his favorite things. He laughed at Ezio’s threat directed towards Federico, reminded of their banter with Claudia often enough. His own time with the eldest Auditore brother had been so long ago it was a difficult memory to conjure, but he could almost picture Federico standing there, looking boastful.
“I will go turn off the oven and get the jetpack, then we can go.” He squeezed Ezio’s arm before disengaging, and flashed a blinding grin towards the open air where Federico was not. “We will show you the most magnificent sights, brother! I promise you that.”
Ezio had shed many tears for his family over the years. He tried very hard not to do so now, but Leonardo calling Federico brother made it a challenge. He returned Leonardo’s squeeze with a graze of his fingers over his husband’s back as he turned to go.
Federico shook his head, suddenly looking sad and very much the ghost. “I know, Ezio.”
A tightness wedged in Ezio’s throat for a moment. He could only nod and gesture towards the kitchen. “Let’s follow Leonardo,” he said quietly, once he could speak. “It will lessen the chances he will get distracted piling up things he would like to show you.”