Ezio steps out of his hiding place, the guards' yelling growing fainter beneath the crowd's bustle. Brushing hay out of his clothes he catches a nearby woman's eye, grins at her from beneath his hood, all teeth. She blanches and even takes a step back before turning away. Her stiff back says she won't summon the guards and Ezio stares a few moments longer, wonders when his life turned from flirting with a woman to scaring her to ensure her silence.
He strides off down the street. Everything aches from the soles of his feet to the ends of his hair and what little concentration he can spare, from matching his pace to the crowd and keeping an eye out for guards, goes to putting one foot in front of the other. He's got enough presence of mind to stay with the flow but he can feel that people are aware of him, taking extra steps to let him pass, easing away as they feel him come up behind them.
Ezio doesn't think about where he's going. Everything is foggy and dull, an ache running right through him, joints too loose and too tight by equal measures. His feet are moving, the uneven cobbles would have tripped him up a thousand times over if his reflexes were a tad slower. At this rate he probably looks like a drunk who started the evening's entertainment hours early and is now searching the streets for company.
A man runs by, pushing through the throng, flailing and careening into bystanders. There are screams from the people he hits, mutters from those nearby as they question his sanity and what he's been drinking. The guards are hot on his trail, moving easily in the wake of the man's passing. Ezio watches it all from beneath his hood, calm and quiet, listening as the guards shout accusations for the death of their comrade. Their oaths are dark with fury and outrage, all of them clearly itching to put their steel to use.
The man is innocent, of course. Ezio has the bruises to prove it.
He had been making his way across the rooftops when the guard surprised him. In spite of his exhaustion, reflexes honed to a sharp edge had him ducking before he registered the whistle of steel slicing towards his head. It hadn't kept him from taking a couple of hits and he could feel bruises blooming across his ribs where his armor had caught the blows. He'd ended it with a hard shove towards the edge of the roof. The guard had screamed all the way down until a brutal impact with the ground cut it off.
If the world weren't tipping beneath his feet, Ezio might have arranged a distraction to give the man a chance to get away. A better man would have, a man who wasn't near dead on his feet, pushed to the end of his endurance and then some.
Ezio loses sight of the guards once they turn down a narrow alleyway, their shouts slower to vanish. He flows along with the crowd, moving without thought, no plans to fuel every step. A blacksmith shouts about his wares as the burnt metal tang washes over him. A couple argue in fierce whispers near the corner of the street. A group of courtesans nearby beckon to any man they can catch looking, angling to display bared ankles and ample breasts.
He thinks about purchasing their services but his feet carry him past them before the thought can take root into action. Walking is a challenge. Anything else would be beyond him.
The door seems to loom up in front of him without warning. He blinks, shaking his head. The fog that has slowed his thoughts recedes but does not disappear, lurks along the edges so that shifting his weight leaves his body feeling loose and heavy. Chills skate over him when he realizes he can't remember most of the walk. Some of it is memory, the layout of the street worked into mind and body since he recognizes the door, but not all of it.
He knocks by rote, the feel of the wood beneath his knuckles muffled as if he were wearing gloves. There's a rush of footsteps then the door swings wide to reveal Leonardo. On his chin is a streak of charcoal, which means he's hip deep in some invention, only touching his face when he's so deep in a puzzle he forgets his fingers are filthy.
"Ah, Ezio, my friend. What brings you to my studio?" Leonardo smiles, wide and bright, hands waving Ezio inside. They stop waving and one settles on his shoulder when he doesn't immediately start moving. The fingers squeeze as Leonardo leans closer. "Ezio, are you alright? You do not look well."
Ezio can't help but wonder what Leonardo sees in him, a man who saw such simple things as wood and plain canvas and turned them into the reality of flight.
"I didn't know where else to go." The words spill out of him without permission.
Leonardo's smile softens, growing smaller without losing any of its warmth. "Come inside, my friend. It is rarely a good idea for you to linger outside." The hand on his shoulder draws Ezio in even further so Leonardo can shut the door.
Ezio is led into Leonardo's studio. It is not as spacious as the one he had in Florence, the layout different enough that even exhausted, or maybe because of it, he feels restless. Leonardo guides him past a table covered with layers upon layers of parchment. Small sheets, books, long rolls half unraveled and trailing to the floor. The table is simply an impression beneath it all.
"I'm sorry I didn't bring you anything." Ezio can't help the guilt. He pulled Leonardo into this world of mysteries and questions. The least he could do was share the puzzles.
"That is quite all right. As you can see I have managed to entertain myself." He guides Ezio to a corner that has been curtained off. Tucked behind the curtain are a small bed and a chest. The blankets on the bed are rumpled, a paint stained shirt tossed over the sheets.
The bed is the most inviting thing he has ever laid eyes on but he resists against Leonardo's gentle urging. "I cannot take your bed, Leonardo."
"Of course you can. It is not as if I have any intention of using it tonight." Quick fingers unfasten the hidden blade, sliding the bracer off his arm. It feels strange without the familiar weight. Leonardo moves on to the rest of the weapons, sliding sword and knives out into the open, followed by his belt with its many pouches.
Ezio stands still, half entranced by the deft manner Leonardo pushes into his space, uncaring of all the lives Ezio has taken, all the lives he will take. No, not uncaring, but unafraid. Brilliant, warm Leonardo who studies the dead and gives him wings to fly. He doesn't like to go unarmed, not even here, in Leonardo's studio. Guards have come before, drawn by rumors that Leonardo is Ezio's accomplice. Which he is, and Ezio knows he wouldn't be able to bear it if something happened to Leonardo due to their friendship. He thinks about stopping Leonardo, of catching those quick fingers in his own. He thinks about it, but his hands remain at his sides.
Leonardo slides the cloak off his shoulders and snags it before it can hit the floor. Tossing it on the chest where he's set the rest of Ezio's things, he urges Ezio to sit back on the bed. Ezio does and it takes a phenomenal effort not to fall back on the bed and burrow his head beneath the pillow. The grip Leonardo has on his right boot helps.
Leonardo's hands are strong, a firm pressure through the soft leather, enough to make him acutely aware of the way it makes his heart beat hard within his chest. He shakes his head as Leonardo tugs the boot off. "Ezio?" Leonardo asks, concerned.
"I think I have over done it," Ezio admits with a half smile. His face feels warm and the feeling spreads down his neck.
"A good night's sleep will do you good." Leonardo slips the other boot off. He sees the knife tucked inside and quirks a brow.
"I carried a knife in my boot long before I became an assassin." It's not much of a defense and Leonardo huffs and shakes his head. Ezio swings his legs up on to the bed, falling back against the pillow. A groan is pulled out of him as his head sinks into the pillow. "Merciful Mother, I think I could sleep forever."
"I'll give you a day before I tip you onto the floor," Leonardo says, the words faint as they drift over his shoulder. He parts the curtain and looks back as he steps through. "Sleep Ezio. I will wake you if there is a need."
Ezio is asleep before he can say thank you.