AN: My first foray into the AC world. This story has been a long time coming. Started off as a small idea as I played ACII and only recently fleshed out to become a full-fledged story.

The story will revolve around my OC, Gianni. Some aspects of ACII have been altered to fit Gianni into Ezio's storyline (No big changes, I swear! And I'll make sure to make a note of it at the beginning of the chapter so everyone knows what's happening). As mentioned in the summary, the chapters will be in 1000 word vignettes...give or take a few words. ;)

A special thanks to quantumparadigm, iNf3ctioNZ, and TheRev28 for listening to my constant badgering of the Italian Renaissance and patiently answering all my questions. :D

Firenze, 1466

Her dark hair flew wildly behind her, small body light and agile as she soared from rooftop to rooftop. Quick feet padded quietly around the guards while they patrolled with their lighted torches. She kept to the shadows, using the cover of the night to her advantage just as her father had taught her.

The journal she had stolen was clutched possessively to her chest. It had been surprisingly easy to retain the object. A simple diversion had set up her con, leading away the occupants of the house she had been sent to mark. After that, it was just a matter of slipping in and out without being seen - a ghost, so to speak. And even if she was caught...well, who would suspect the little girl with the big blue eyes?

With a satisfied smirk, she dived off a low thatched roof, landing softly into a stack of hay, then rolling onto the firm ground before pressing herself against the wall. Once she was sure it was safe, she dashed down the alleyway. Weaving in and out of the late night crowd, she finally saw her destination. A burly man stood at the entrance, arms crossed over his chest as his eyes scanned the raucous patrons. She took advantage of his momentary distraction as one particular man tried to push past him in a drunken stupor.

She ducked inside and made her way to the back of the tavern where her father waited. He sat with his back against the wall, taking a large swig of ale from the wooden mug in his hands. His oldest and most trusted friend sat next to him - a man she had grown to love as an uncle, though they were far from being blood relatives.

Both men appeared relaxed as they enjoyed each other's company, laughing and sharing stories. But she knew that underneath their calm exteriors lay dangerous men. Her father's eyes were keen and calculating. From the moment he had stepped foot in the tavern, she knew that he had mapped out all the entrances and exits and studied every person in the room. Though he appeared intoxicated, her father would never compromise his inhibitions.

It was an act - a game she was too young to understand but was starting to learn. Sometimes things were not always what they seemed. And that's where she came in.

"Papa, Zio Mario," she called out as she neared them.

Her father's eyes softened when he saw her. "Gianni," he whispered, placing a kiss on her forehead as she settled on his lap. "Did you retrieve what I asked?"

"Yes, papa," she answered obediently, placing the book in his waiting hands.

"That's my little aquilina."

He stuffed it in a hidden pocket inside his coat then reached over to the table to hand her a small pouch filled with her favorite treat. She took it gladly, quickly unwrapping it and taking out the dried, purple fruit sprinkled lightly with sugar. She sighed in content, the soft flesh of the date melting in her mouth as she savored the rare delicacy. Sugared treats were uncommon in Italy and Gianni could only guess what her father had bartered for the small bag of fruit. She took great care in wrapping it again and saving the rest for later.

With a satisfied sigh, she snuggled up against her father. His strong arms cocooned her small body, and she relished his warmth. Her eyes began to grow heavy as the talk between her father and Mario turned to more serious matters and, eventually, to her.

"Nico," Mario whispered to her father. "Gianni will grow up to be a beautiful woman. Are you sure this is the life you want for her?"

"I know she deserves better," her father answered tersely. "But with her mother gone, this is all I can give her."

Mario seemed to understand her father's hesitation, and his voice turned to a more jovial tone. "I still don't understand why you insisted on giving your little girl a masculine name," he said teasingly.

She felt her father relax at the change in subject and a laugh rumbled deep in his chest. Gianni knew her name was always an amusing topic between the two though she had yet to understand why. What did it matter if it was masculine or feminine?

"I've told you many times, my friend, that a name does not make the person. The person makes the name. Gianni will grow up to be beautiful, yes. But she will also be strong and independent. I want her to know that she does not have to rely on any man to be happy."

"Any man except her father," Mario chuckled.

"No man is ever good enough for your little girl," her father joked, though Gianni caught a pensive undertone to his words. He let out a long sigh, adjusting her in his arms so that she could be more comforable. His body tensed, and when he spoke again there was no mistaking the serious weight of his words. "But...there will come a time when even Iwon't be around to protect her."

"Nico..." Mario began to admonish before being cut off.

"We live in a dangerous world, my friend," her father replied sagely. "And ours is a dangerous line of work. I want you to promise me that if anything happens to me, you will do all you can to take care of her."

"I will promise only if you stop talking such nonsense," Mario answered. "Now, come on. One last drink before we head out."

At that, her father let out another laugh before reaching for his mug again. And as he finally relaxed, so did she. Sleep quickly began to overtake her, and she closed her eyes knowing that her father was right there to protect her if anything happened. She felt warm and full and content.

But most of all, she thought as she nuzzled into his arms, she felt safe.