Disclaimer: These particular versions of historical characters and situations owned by RAI.
Spoilers: for both broadcast seasons.
Timeline: starts shortly after 2.05 "Ties that Bind" and ends during 2.08 "Mass", with flashbacks to previous times. The character death mentioned is the canonical one.
Guglielmo, predictably, tried his best to talk Francesco out of ending the alliance with Lorenzo, out of sending his wife Novella home to Venice like damaged goods.
„You know what Jacopo is like," Guglielmo said. „None better. Why would you trust anything he says?"
Because Jacopo might have made an art of distorting the truth to get what he wanted, Francesco thought, but he never made things up wholesale. Because, while Jacopo's own motives in this might have been obvious, at least they were consistent. Jacopo never pretended to want anything but what he said he did: the Medici destroyed, the Pazzi triumphant. He also didn't claim this was for the good of anyone but the Pazzi. Lorenzo, on the other hand, Lorenzo had a way of persuading you to hand over your worldly goods and your heart with them and then claimed it wasn't for himself at all, but for the good of Florence.
Guglielmo, who'd been ready to throw his life away for a Medici without hesitation and never had to doubt that she gave everything she had in return, would never understand. One just had to watch him arguing now, like a schoolboy pacing up and down in Francesco's studiolo.
„Even if Jacopo is right about Lorenzo arranging for you to meet Novella," Guglielmo said, „was that such a terrible thing to do? She is of good family, is devoted to you, has been an examplery wife. You couldn't have asked for a better match."
„Or a better spy on me on Lorenzo's behalf," Francesco said between clenched teeth. Guglielmo threw up his hands.
„Now you're being ridiculous! What on earth is she supposed to tell him about you that he doesn't already know? For God's sake, Francesco, these last ten months you've spent as much time with him as with her, if not more!"
Before he could stop himself, Francesco retorted: „I didn't spend that time in his bed. She might have done!"
This shocked Guglielmo into silence. The hell of it was this: of all of Jacopo's insinuations, this was the one Francesco truly did not believe, not even for a moment. He would have known if Novella had ever done more than let Lorenzo kiss her hand. He'd have smelled him on her. Or her on him, during all those countless moments when Lorenzo had draped his arm over Francesco's shoulders, sat close to him, embraced him in greeting and departure. During any of those casual touches.
But ever since Jacopo had made his taunt about the Medici and their utter disregard for marriage vows, Francesco hadn't been able to get the images out of his head: Lorenzo in bed with Novella, or against a wall, or on the desk in the Medici kontor, unabashedly nude, because the Medici truly had no shame, her hands on his buttocks, his cock in her mouth.
„If this is what you believe," Guglielmo said at last, „then she might really be better off in Venice."
There must have been a time in Francesco's life when he'd been utterly indifferent to Lorenzo de' Medici's existence, during that early childhood spent in the nursery with Guglielmo, but he didn't truly remember it. He remembered the misery of his parents' deaths being subdued, made easier when the Medici took them in, he renembered not just the comfort but the actual joy that came from Lorenzo making every day an adventure with the imagination that transformed the Palazzo Medici into a knight's castle besieged by ogres which only the two of them could defeat, or, conversely, a strange island full of wonders and terrors to explore. And then he remembered Jacopo coming to claim him and Guglielmo, with all the colours fading away as they started their lives in the shadow of their uncle as the new head of the Pazzi family.
„The truth about the Medici," Jacopo said, „is this: they're nothing but a bunch of jumped up wool traders. You, on the other hand, are the descendants of the oldest, the most noble family in Florence. That's what they can never be, and so they aim to trick you to your doom. This is what happened to the Albizzi. They, too, were an ancient family, and noble, our allies. Until Cosimo de' Medici ruined them, drove them from the city and had them murdered for good measure. That's Medici friendship for you."
At first, Francesco hadn't wanted to believe it, but when he asked about the Albizzi, the essentials of Jacopo's story were confirmed to him by scribes, servants and bakers alike. Then he told himself that maybe Lorenzo was different from his grandfather. Except that he saw Lorenzo running through the street with that brother of his, escaping from their teacher, playing, laughing, and evidently not missing Francesco one bit. If Lorenzo had truly been his friend, he wouldn't be able to be happy without him. Francesco certainly wasn't.
True, Lorenzo showed up at the Palazzo Pazzi not long therafter, claiming that he wanted to stay friends. If Francesco hadn't observed him two days earlier, he might have believed him, but now he knew better. He just wanted for Lorenzo to feel as miserable as he did, and as it turned out, insulting Lorenzo's father produced that very result. Truly, Francesco was far better off with his uncle than if he'd remained with the Medici, raised by that cripple Piero, who wasn't strong like Jacopo, who'd never in all the time Francesco had been staying in his household had raised his voice against his children, let alone his hand, but allowed them to tease him and joked and laughed and listened to his wife as if she was the head of the family. His wife who was there, unlike Aunt Maddalena, mourning all those dead cousins in her nunnery. Who would want to be a Medici?
Lorenzo was so disgustingly lucky and didn't know it, and Francesco hated him and counted the days till he was old enough to represent the Pazzi bank in Rome, which meant he wouldn't have to live with Lorenzo's presence just a few streets away any longer.
Jacopo was not one to waste a single scrap of information, so once he'd calmed down about Lorenzo's manoeuvre of separating the papal accounts from the alum trading rights, he asked Francesco whether there were any secrets, anything useful he'd learned during his ill-advised time as a Medici ally. His uncle didn't mean just trading details, but those seemingly insignificant observations that could provide him with a weakness to probe, much as, Francesco was aware, he had done when catching Novella out with her lie of having come to Florence for Bianca de' Medici's sake. The truth was that Jacopo and Lorenzo had the same type of minds, like steeltraps, able to discover loopholes and strategies where others saw nothing. And that was why Francesco did not regret re-committing himself to his uncle. He himself was a reasonably good businessman and a capable warrior, but as a strategist, he wasn't their match. He needed Jacopo to destroy Lorenzo. And Lorenzo had to be destroyed. He couldn't be allowed to continue after making Francesco fall for the lie of his friendship twice.
So Francesco spoke of everything he could think of, including the fact that Giuliano de' Medici, spoilt brat that Lorenzo's younger brother was, hardly bothered to show up at business meetings or family meals any more, and that if Giuliano did, the expression with which he'd watched Lorenzo and Francesco talking could only be described as sulking.
This made Jacopo's eyes light up. Dissatisfied younger brothers of powerful men, he informed Francesco, had been agents of their destruction throughout history. Especially brothers who had in the natural course of things no chance of ever achieving their brother's position. Might not be Giuliano used against Lorenzo?
„I doubt it," Francesco said, but he was also ceased by a cold curiosity to find out how Giuliano who could be provoked so very easily would fare against a vivisectionist of the heart like Jacopo. So he arranged for them to run into each other in one of Giuliano's favorite taverns, with no other Medici anywhere in sight.
Jacopo was in fine form. He didn't pretend this was an accident, or that he suddenly was moved by thoughts of Medici welfare. Instead, he openly spoke of his own interests, thereby creating the impression of blunt honesty: how the stalemate between him and Lorenzo might be ended the same way the one between him and Piero de' Medici had done, by the removal of one Medici through another. How what had been good enough for one brother surely would also serve another, how Giuliano's loyalty had gone unrewarded by Lorenzo long enough to make any fraternal restraint superfluous. He said this and many more things, including pointed asides about how Lorenzo had never taken Giuliano seriously precisely because it served him well to have his brother considered an irresponsible child, and about how easily Lorenzo had handwaved any retribution for the beatings Giuliano had endured. When Jacopo paused not because he'd run out of insinuations and arguments, but because even he had to draw breath at some point, Giuliano's expression, which had started out quizzical, changed. The corners of his mouth twitched, and with disbelief, Francesco saw Giuliano was losing a battle to hold back laughter.
„Moreover…" Jacopo began, and that was when Giuliano exploded. His snorts and loud guffaws were loud enough to cut even through the noise of the tavern. Jacopo sat frozen.
„I'm sorry," Giuliano said at last, wiping tears of merriment out of his eyes. „You were saying?"
„Nothing of interest to you, clearly," Jacopo retorted icily.
„Well, no," Giuliano said, but he didn't look at Jacopo. He looked at Francesco. His blue eyes, so similar to his brother's, suddenly were without any hilarity whatsoever. „Because I never claimed to be a genius, but only a fool would betray Lorenzo for the likes of you."
When Francesco had chosen Lorenzo over his uncle, it had been the hardest decision he'd ever made. There were reasons, good reasons, he told himself. Lorenzo chosing to treat Guglielmo as family where Jacopo chose to banish him was but the start. The Pazzi bank would benefit from the partnership Lorenzo offered. Jacopo's struggle to ruin the Medici was going nowhere anyway and was just using up resources.
But the truth was that being near Lorenzo, being sought out again and again and courted by him as an ally was as powerful a drug as any sweetened wine was. Francesco hadn't suddenly forgotten his old resentments. Even while riding with Lorenzo to Volterra, he'd felt torn between two impulses. There was that odd sense of protectiveness, because Lorenzo, for the first time since their childhood when he'd defended his father to Francesco, seemed vulnerable and in pain. But there was also, flickering in Francesco like the flames of a half extinguished fire, some dark satisfaction, because now Lorenzo, too, would learn what it felt like to have blood on his hands, to have his hopes foiled. All the way to Volterra, Francesco had wanted to spare Lorenzo, and he'd wanted to rub his nose into it, both at the same time.
Things didn't get less contradictory for Francesco after their arrival at the sacked city, when Lorenzo, horrified, had started to shout for his brother. So it wasn't about the dead of Volterra at all for Lorenzo, Francesco thought with a bile worthy of Jacopo, it was just about another Medici, and the most useless, irritating one at that. In the next moment, he'd felt ashamed. If it had been Guglielmo, he, Francesco, would have been beside himself with worry. Lorenzo being afraid for Giuliano didn't mean Lorenzo wasn't simultanously horrified by the slaughter committed in the name of Florence, of Florence and the Medici.
Still. Watching Giuliano stumble towards Lorenzo, watching Lorenzo embrace his brother fiercely with tears in his eyes and utterly without that sense of effortless invulnerability that usually shielded him from the world's miseries, Francesco thought: so that is what it takes.
It was an ugly thought, which he tried to surpress. On the way back to Florence, he was more considerate and courteous towards Giuliano de' Medici than he'd ever been, and even attempted to comfort Lorenzo, as awkward and new as that attempt felt, muttering „this is not your fault" and patting Lorenzo on the shoulders before Lorenzo got back on his horse. With a shadow of his usual smile, Lorenzo said, „but it is, Francesco," , and clasped his hands for a moment, and that felt good, so Francesco managed to bury what he'd thought earlier deep inside.
But he never forgot it.
Bianca de' Medici, it turned out, was as big a natural meddler as her older brother. While she and Guglielmo lived in the Palazzo de' Medici with the rest of her family, they did occasionally retreat to one of the Pazzi country estates instead of the villa in Careggi the Medici owned, and this was where she'd invited Francesco to, to spend some time with her and Guglielmo. Since he couldn't very well continue to visit his brother at the Palazzo de' Medici, Francesco accepted the invitation, and wouldn't you know it, Guglielmo and Bianco weren't anywhere in sight when he arrived. Lorenzo was.
„Using your sister instead of my wife now?" Francesco asked. „I suppose it will be my confessor next."
He was furious, but he also couldn't help but notice that the stablemaster, some grooms and a cook aside, they were alone here. No other Medici. No other Pazzi.
„Your wife is an honorable woman who'd have died for you," Lorenzo said matter-of-factly. „I don't know who or what made you believe otherwise. No, forget that: I can guess who. But you're not a child anymore, Francesco. You should know better. You should know me."
Oh, the arrogance of him. So certain that no one, being told the gospel according to Lorenzo de' Medici, could ever committ the heresy of doubting its commandments. Francesco stomped inside, and Lorenzo followed him.
„But that's just it," Francesco said. „I do know you, Lorenzo. I see clearly now. The way you did when you offered to help Guglielmo in front of me, when my uncle disowned him. You knew you had found the right angle with me then, didn't you? And it worked."
„That's not what…"
„But you knew it wouldn't be enough. I suppose I ought to be flattered that you went to all the trouble of getting a Venetian noble to bribe me with, instead of a Florentine girl. Never let it be said that Lorenzo de' Medici is cheap."
They were in the solar now, where someone, the grooms or Lorenzo, had made sure there was enough wood in the fireplace to keep the room warm. After all, these were the last sunny autumn days, and it would soon be winter. Already, the nights were cold.
„If you must know, the marriage I wanted to arrange was between Novella and Giuliano," Lorenzo said. „That was why she and her father were invited to Bianca's wedding. But he chose otherwise, and so did Novella. She gave her heart to you, and…"
Trust Lorenzo to utterly miss the point. In terms of mere facts, what he claimed could very well be the truth, though the thought that, like Imola, Novella had been offered to Giuliano first and had been declined didn't lessen Francesco's anger.
„I don't care anymore," he interrupted. „However my marriage came about, you used it to your benefit. Because at heart, this is what you are, Lorenzo. Someone who uses people, just like Jacopo does, except that he's honest about it, and you dress it up in pretty words." Lorenzo had been hot on his heels when they entered the room, which meant that when Francesco abruptly turned around now, they were standing close enough that he could feel Lorenzo's breath on his face. „For the good of Florence," Francesco continued with his best imitation of Lorenzo's voice, and suddenly, something inside of him snapped. „There is nothing you wouldn't do to get what you want if you can just tell yourself it's really for Florence, is there, Lorenzo? So tell me, just how far would you go for the papal accounts? To get me back as an ally? There is no more wife to sell to me, but would you whore yourself out as well?"
His words were met by utter silence. Francesco could hear his own ragged breath. He hadn't meant to say it, had barely admitted it to himself, but now the words were spoken out loud, and could never be taken back. He could see very detail of Lorenzo's face in the dusky light, close, so close. Lorenzo must have been waiting for him for a while, for he'd already gotten rid of his vest, and was simply dressed in a comfortable shirt. When they were children, Francesco had been smaller, but now he was the taller man by far, and he fancied he could even smell the smoke from the firewood in Lorenzo's hair.
„You're not serious," Lorenzo said, with an eerie calm. Francesco had never hated him as much as in that moment, when he also would have given his soul for Lorenzo to reach out and kiss him. And suddenly, he had it. What to say, how to destroy that smug certainty, that sense of self.
„Not to me, you wouldn't," he said, and took a step back. „After all, you're a reformed man now, and faithful to your wife, and you've kept the alum trading rights, so the papal accounts alone don't rate adultery. And we're bankers, aren't we, so we know about costs and benefits. I suppose you could always ask Giuliano to step in for you, though. Since he hands out his favours so freely."
That did it. Lorenzo's arm shot forwards, and he slammed Francesco against the next wall. Francesco felt the brickstone hit his back, felt his heart hammering and Lorenzo's arm pressed against his throat. But between the two of them, it was Francesco who had more experience in physical combat. He used the momentum of Lorenzo's movement against him, and soon had their position reversed.
„He'd do it, to," he hissed. „For you. Because in the end, the Medici only care about the Medici, and the rest of us get fucked."
He'd gone too far. One moment, Lorenzo was all coiled tension beneath his hands, and anything seemed possible – Lorenzo attacking him again, or the two of them tearing each other's clothes off while Francesco finally got what he wanted, what, he now knew, he'd always wanted from Lorenzo. In the next, it was if a sponge wiped all of Lorenzo's anger away and left only a nonedescript blankness in his face, and pure ice in his eyes.
„But not you," Lorenzo said, each word clipped and precise, „not today, and most certainly not by me."
Watching Jacopo fling insults at Lorenzo at the Signoria which Lorenzo just shrugged off, Francesco had often wondered what it would take, what it would be like to have Lorenzo succumb to fury. Whether he'd shout or murmur, lash out indiscriminately or push back with deliberation. He'd never have bet on Lorenzo going for complete humiliation. And succeeding. Francesco let him go, and wished the earth would open and swallow them both. Lorenzo watched him a moment longer, then turned away, heading towards the door.
„Goodbye, Francesco," he said, without turning back.
It had always been clear that both Medici brothers had to die; nothing else made strategic sense. Once Montefeltro had refused to kill either of them during mass on consecrated ground, it was also clear that Francesco would have to yield the knife himself for at least one of them.
„I suppose you'll want to kill Lorenzo," Jacopo said, observing him closely. He couldn't possibly doubt Francesco's loyalties now, surely, but then, he was Jacopo and prone to consider all eventualities. Francesco shook his head.
„No," he said, „Giuliano."
Jacopo raised an eloquent eyebrow. In other circumstances, Francesco would have come up with an excuse, but he doubted it would matter anymore, now. He might as well tell the truth.
„I want Lorenzo to see," he added. „I want it to be the last thing Lorenzo sees before he dies. Me killing his brother."
He had no illusions. Papal backing or not, Francesco would damn himself with this deed. Murder in a cathedral, during the holiest day of the year – there could be no greater sin. So he would end up in hell, but it would have been worth it. For the good of Florence, Lorenzo, Francesco thought, words still spoken in a parody of Lorenzo's own voice. A Florence transformed, changed utterly. A Florence of the Pazzi.
But that wasn't the deepest reason, and Francesco knew it. He'd killed before, in battle. By now, he'd also been responsible for ordering murder. He hadn't committed murder himself yet, and yet he didn't doubt he'd be able to do it. He imagined it all through the sleepless night from Easter Saturday to Easter Sunday, and when the moment came, it was everything he'd wanted it to be and more. He barely noticed Vespucci clinging to Giuliano de' Medici to get his own revenge while Francesco plunged his knife into Lorenzo's brother, again and again, his eyes never leaving Lorenzo's face.
Heat rose in him, and he shuddered. It was over all too quickly, with Lorenzo managing to fight off Baroncelli. Someone, perhaps Jacopo, shouted something in anger, but Francesco wasn't angry for once, not a bit, because this meant he'd be able to kill Lorenzo, too, with the same blade. At that moment, he didn't care what came after. Lorenzo was on the floor in front of him, saying his name, and the heat came back. Maybe they could have had this another way, but it wouldn't have been as good. As final.
Then Lorenzo managed to get up, managed to reach the sacristy, with the door flung in Francesco's face with a crash. The rush that had carried him till this point started to ebb away while he drew a deep breath. Suddenly, he noticed it had become cold in the cathedral, with everyone gone save for a few people. From inside the sacristy, through the thick door, he heard people crying. It seemed an outrage that Lorenzo would hide now, would die out of sight. That Francesco was denied that last glimpse. But so be it. He'd gotten his wish, after all. For however many irrelevant moments Lorenzo managed to prolong his life, he was broken. He would die unshriven, unforgiven, and then they'd meet again, in hell.
Francesco was looking forward to it.