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This Was the Place I Grew Up (Now it's Ashes to Ashes)

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The sunlight streaming in through the tall windows is what wakes Lorenzo up, warm and content wrapped around Francesco. They’re likely only moments from being woken up by Lucrezia or some other servant, but it’s peaceful for the moment. 

It’s probably not entirely appropriate for Francesco to sleep at the Medici Palazzo most nights. He does still have his own rooms on the Pazzi estate after all, but to stay there would mean facing Jacopo outside of business hours. What’s more: if it’s inappropriate most nights, it’s especially so on Easter weekend while Cardinal Riario and Salvati sleep upstairs. But here he and Francesco are, collapsed in Lorenzo’s bed on Easter Sunday before Mass.

Here in the silence, Lorenzo can pretend that it’s just him and Francesco alone in a modest cottage out in the countryside somewhere. He can pretend that he doesn’t have an entire city who looks to his family to lead— doesn’t have a wife by technicality sleeping in a separate bedroom whom he’s quite fond of, but nevertheless wishes she were free to be with who she wanted. For these few minutes, Lorenzo gets to leave his head where it is pillowed against Francesco’s chest, his nose pressed into the hollow of the latter’s throat.

While he lies there, thoughtful, Lorenzo can feel the slight unevenness of Francesco’s breathing under his head— a telltale sign he’s begrudgingly awake. One of Francesco’s hands is lying still and heavy across Lorenzo’s shoulders. The weight is comforting and one of his favorite parts of waking up like this. Cold toes pressed into Lorenzo’s calves help ground him further in reality as well. If they weren’t expected to be at Mass within an hour and a half, Lorenzo would have no qualms with lying in bed all morning and exploring some of their quiet fantasies.

Even though they aren’t known to be particularly verbose in the mornings, the subtle scratch of Francesco’s nails now back and forth down the expanse of skin he can reach on Lorenzo's back is enough. Francesco only ever does it once he’s sure Lorenzo is awake, unable to deprive  him of any sleep if he can help it when they both get so little. It’s a small thing, one of many that fills Lorenzo’s chest up with a pleasant humming, and he loves Francesco for it.

They lie there in silence for just long enough that Lorenzo begins to wonder why no one has come to make sure they’re awake when a fist abruptly pounds on the door. The realization that their time alone is over forces Lorenzo to release a somewhat morose sigh from his chest. The knock itself is harder than his mother would use and nowhere near as polite as one of the servants, which means it can only be Giuliano who’s drawn the short straw.

“Yes?” Lorenzo calls, though he doesn’t bother to move from his position on Francesco’s chest. “Who is it?” He knows his voice sounds muffled, but the utter antipathy he feels is unquantifiable in that moment.

“Giuliano. Are you decent?” Giuliano only ever asks before barging in if he knows Francesco’s stayed the night, which simultaneously mortifies Lorenzo as well as fills him with gratitude toward his brother. Granted, they’ve never been caught out by Giuliano before, but he’s certainly not willing to start testing that now.

Reluctantly, Lorenzo rolls off of Francesco and onto his back just far enough so as not to give Giuliano ammunition for too much teasing later. It doesn’t escape Lorenzo’s notice how Francesco’s hand trails across his shoulders, hesitant in his own right to give Lorenzo up so soon after waking. Thus the way it usually goes on Sundays with their holy obligations.

“Yes, you can come in.” Lorenzo pushes himself up onto his elbows as Giuliano slips through the door into the sunlit room.

He watches Giuliano’s eyes purposely flit around the room, not settling on he and Francesco for more than a second or two. It takes Lorenzo a moment, but he realizes that when Giuliano had asked if they were ‘decent’, he likely meant ‘up and dressed’. They’re not even doing anything, and besides, it’s not like Giuliano is a beacon of purity. Lorenzo has walked in on Giuliano and Simonetta (and others) before doing much more than simply lying in bed in the morning.

“Did you know,” Giuliano begins, walking over to the window closest to Lorenzo, the latter’s eyes tracking him the entire time, “That by asking who’s at the door, you imply there’s someone who ought not to know what’s happening behind these doors? Which is absurd since you’d have to be both blind and deaf not to know what you two get up to alone.”

Francesco, who hasn’t moved from his spot hardly at all since Lorenzo rolled away, speaks up with the same bored tone he reserves especially for Giuliano. “What do you want , Giuliano?”

“Oh, mother just wanted me to come and make sure you were up. We’ll be leaving for Mass in about an hour. Just enough time for a quick romp if you so choose—” 

Giuliano , go bother someone else,” Lorenzo speaks over the end of Giuliano’s words. Giuliano raises his hands in surrender but leaves regardless, a light-hearted chuckle as the heavy door shuts behind him. Well, at least Giuliano seems to have regained some of his customary attitude. It’s come and gone over the months since Simonetta’s death, and this morning seems to be one in which it’s present. The thought comforts Lorenzo through his irritation.

Despite how they shouldn’t, Lorenzo rolls back over and smugly notes the half-smile pulling up at the corner of Francesco’s mouth when he sees Lorenzo doing so. He lets Lorenzo lean into his space and press a few largely chaste kisses to his lips, Lorenzo’s arms propped up on either side of Francesco’s head.

While Francesco’s walls are always largely down around Lorenzo in private, the feeling of the other man still lazy with sleep, taking and returning his kisses, is another one of Lorenzo’s favorite feelings. It’s such a mundane thing, something lovers do unashamedly— something he should do with Clarice instead, yet here he is.

“Are you about to seriously play into Giuliano’s hand?” Francesco mumbles, letting one his hands stroke through the wayward hairs at Lorenzo’s temple. It’s soothing and relaxing, almost mind-numbing in a sense.

Lorenzo can’t help but snort at Francesco’s question, moving his lips up to press against Francesco’s right temple. “And give Giuliano gloating privileges? Never. Besides, there’s something about both Salviati and Rirario sleeping upstairs that makes me wary about even lying next to you.” 

The act of Salviati walking into the courtyard yesterday without Carlo and flanked by an inordinate amount of men said to be a part of the Cardinal’s retinue, had been ominous in and of itself. Carlo hadn’t made any indication of such actions to Clarice in person, nor had there been any mention of it in the letter he’d allegedly penned of his own free will after the fact. The whole situation made Lorenzo uneasy. The fact that both men were under his roof, one of them known to be deep in Jacopo’s pocket, would make any rational person uneasy though.

“It feels odd to me too that Salviati would be the one to escort the young Cardinal here. And that message from Carlo from last night, I wonder if my uncle isn’t up to something.” Francesco muses before leaning up to press a quick kiss to the side of Lorenzo’s face, accompanied by a reassuring squeeze of his hand where he moves to grip on to one of Lorenzo’s arms.

“Surely he won’t try anything during Easter Mass though. Jacopo is a lot of things, but he’s not sacrilegious, surely.” Lorenzo pushes away from Francesco and up onto his knees, watching bemused as Francesco begins rifling through the blankets for his undershirt.

“I’ll take a dagger just in case. I don’t want to be caught off guard if something were to happen. I don’t trust my uncle no matter what day of the week or year it is.” The hard edge of Francesco’s public persona begins to settle into place then as he comes up empty from the blankets. It’s a revert back to normal life, and while Lorenzo doesn’t like it or the idea of Francesco bringing a dagger into Mass, he nods anyway. 

There would be no point in arguing with Francesco because once his mind is set to something, it’s notoriously hard to reverse. It can be done certainly, but not with the time they have, and not easily when it could concern Lorenzo’s safety at the hands of Francesco’s own uncle. Besides, it likely wouldn’t draw much note for Francesco to carry one, he already has a standoffish personality that many god-fearing men stray away from. If Lorenzo were to be seen carrying one though, the Cardinal may frown and take note. So, Lorenzo just nods and pulls back the blankets to get out of bed, tossing Francesco his shirt where he finds it at the foot of his side of the bed.

Lorenzo has a slight fear that Saviati and the others would beat him and Francesco out of their rooms— the image of the Cardinal and Bishop watching Francesco trail him down the stairs is mortifying in and of itself even if they were Medici allies. Out in the courtyard though, luckily Clarice and Lorenzo’s mother are the only two prepared to leave. They’re chatting amiably like always, both of them dressed in their Easter best.

Clarice smiles at him warmly and accepts the kiss on the cheek he gives her in greeting. She’s got a lovely blue dress on, her hair done up in a more elaborate braid than usual, which, Lorenzo thinks, might just be because going to Mass means innocent interaction in the eyes of the public with Lucrezia Donati. Rather than let her hands remain idle, they wander up to Lorenzo’s collar where he’d evidently missed a few of the buttons earlier. Though, that might partly be Francesco’s fault.

“I heard a rumor,” Lorenzo murmurs low enough for only Clarice to hear, though it’s no secret among those standing around, “That Lucrezia Donati’s husband is about to embark on a three-month trip to The Orient, in which she’ll be left all alone.”

Clarice’s lips tug upwards into the barest hint of a smile, much too brief for Lorenzo to even know for sure if it had been real. “I had heard that too. She’ll certainly need some company during those three months.”

“Well, not that you need permission since you’re just as much a head of this family, but you are more than welcome to invite her to stay here. I’d hate for her to get too lonely.” It’s true— Lorenzo’s tried to make it a point from Day 1 that Clarice shouldn’t stand in the shadows of the Medici. By marrying into the family, she’s just as much a part of them as his own mother is, and she shouldn’t be afraid to act like it. Besides, Clarice knows that she doesn’t need Lorenzo’s permission to say that Lucrezia could and should spend time here, he knows both Lucrezia and Clarice would be in and out of each other's homes regardless, but sometimes it’s still nice to reiterate her authority among the household.

If Lorenzo gets Francesco, Clarice gets Lucrezia. It’s only the fairest of trades, and one that Lorenzo couldn’t be happier for. They share a marriage of convenience, benefit, and respect. They’re both genuinely friends, which is better than the alternative, though Lorenzo figures part of this could be due to their like-minded natures. 

Clarice smiles and pats Lorenzo soundly on the chest, chancing a quick glance at Francesco where he stands next to Lucrezia fiddling with the buttons on his own sleeves. “I would be more excited if Salviati weren’t under our noses. I’m surprised Francesco stayed the night given the circumstances.”

In all honesty, Lorenzo doesn’t know either, though maybe a part of it has to do with the urge to be close to someone in the face of someone so fundamentally evil. “They’ll be gone tomorrow and then we can fully indulge in our sinful tendencies in private.”

This earns another laugh from Clarice, clear and as bright as a bell, before she playfully swats at Lorenzo’s chest. It’s only a moment or two before their gazes are pulled to Giuliano, stomping down the stairs dramatically, a sneer pulling at his mouth that hadn’t been there earlier. Now that he’s fully awake, Lorenzo is reminded of his brother’s absence from the feast the night before.

“We missed you at the banquet last night, Giuliano. It might give our guests feelings of ill will,” Lorenzo says, turning away from Clarice to direct his attention to Giuliano.

Giuliano tuts, rolling his eyes and coming to stand behind Francesco. “I think it’s for the best that I was off indulging in other company last night if we’re being honest. Speaking of other company, did you know the Papal Army’s been dispatched from Rome headed towards Imola?” Giuliano says this all as if it couldn’t be easily explained. 

“I don’t see why it’s so hard to believe that the pope would want to protect his purchase.”

“No, but the rumor is that the army is now headed toward Florence instead. Does that make sense?”

The news freezes the blood in Lorenzo’s veins, alarmed at the potential truth. He knows his eyebrows furrow, thinking through Giuliano’s words, giving away his concern rather than keeping up an air of indifference. This rumor coming on the heels of Salviati’s presence in his home with a large retinue following the Cardinal doesn’t bode well. They’re quickly moving from instances of coincidence to purposeful, interconnected events. What’s more, Giuliano doesn’t sound unsure. He says it like he’s seen the army with his own eyes.

“Where did you hear this?” Lorenzo tries to keep his voice neutral so as to ward off the concern that digs at the surface of his mind and wedges itself in deep and grows roots.

“On the street. Just thought you should know since the Devil’s representative on Earth is in our house right now.”

There’s no question about whether or not Lorenzo agrees with Giuliano’s statement, but he can’t be seen to think so while Salviati is in his house. Lorenzo doesn’t have the chance to rebut the statement though before Salviati, Rirario, and the entirety of the retinue are flowing into the courtyard, that permanent smug smirk forever plastered on Salviati’s face as usual. Nevertheless, Lorenzo nods and smiles before turning around toward where the carriages wait outside.

Lorenzo lets his eyes rest on Francesco for a loaded moment while he holds his arm out for Clarice to take. He does not miss the way Francesco shifts one of his hands to rest against the spot on his hip where Lorenzo knows his dagger rests. He gives Francesco a discreet nod as the latter falls in behind Lorenzo and Clarice.

Once outside, Francesco climbs into Lorenzo and Clarice’s carriage as is typical of a normal Sunday Mass. It’s incredibly telling, but Lorenzo doesn’t let himself look back at where Salviati stands— Clarice’s facial expression says everything he needs to know. Before Lorenzo can ask her about it, Francesco, who’s sitting next to Lorenzo, beats him to it.

“Clarice, is everything okay? You look uneasy.” His tone is not quite as soft as it normally is with Lorenzo, but it’s still incredibly caring and thoughtful. Francesco cares about Clarice in much the same way as Lorenzo does, which only adds to the easiness of it all.

Clarice pulls her gaze from the window and smiles half-heartedly back at Francesco. “I’m okay. It’s just… Salviati. I just can’t stop thinking about how Carlo acted when I visited him in Rome. He seemed troubled and like something was on his mind and told me he’d be with the Cardinal and yet he isn’t. Instead, he sent along a letter apologizing, though even the letter was strange.”

“Yes, I heard about the letter last night. It’s something to keep an eye on.”

“Giuliano said he heard rumors last night of the Papal army marching on Florence as we speak. I wanted to think Jacopo wouldn’t dare try something on Easter, but I find I may be wrong. Francesco will sit with you and my mother in the pews— he’s brought his dagger along.” Lorenzo supplies, looking over to Francesco for confirmation— he nods easily as if that had always been the plan.

“Besides,” Lorenzo continues, trying to smile for Clarice’s benefit, “I’ll have Nori next to me the entire time. Perhaps once Salviati and everyone has left us alone, we’ll take a holiday to Pistoria. Perhaps, we can even extend the offer to Lucrezia Donati?”

Clarice smiles wistfully at the suggestion, the thought of a peaceful aftermath to a suddenly stressful weekend almost too good to be true. Her smile makes Lorenzo all the more eager to see it through. Lorenzo reaches a hand over to where Francesco’s rests in his own lap and squeezes encouragingly until it draws a fond and exasperated smile of Francesco’s own from his lips.

The easy thoughts of ‘later’ are forced away though when their carriage pulls up to the stairs of the Duomo, revealing Jacopo, Vespucci, and to men who Lorenzo doesn’t know, standing at the top of the stairs chatting in what looks like low voices. As if the doubt and uneasiness couldn’t get any worse.

Next to him, Francesco tenses, muscles in his shoulders and hands going tense in a way they’ll likely remain until they’re home again. Even years on, Jacopo’s presence stresses Francesco out in a way he can’t ever properly seem to describe to Lorenzo. His actions tend to be a combination of a stone facade and learned deference— it makes Lorenzo want to kill Jacopo for that reason alone.

No one in the carriage dares to say anything about Jacopo or Francesco’s feelings toward him, about how the atmosphere has changed for the worse. Everything from the morning, from the past two hours, still sits heavy on Lorenzo’s mind as he sees Bastiano approaching the steps of the Duomo. 

An idea occurs to Lorenzo then, as a safety measure. If there’s really an army on their way to Florence to coincide with Salviati’s presence, they’re probably not far away. Could Salviati be acting as a man on the inside? There really is no way to be sure, so he approaches Bastiano, convincing him to hear him out as Lorenzo catches his arm on the way past. He hasn’t successfully gotten the chance to speak to him since Luca’s death, and even now Bastiano is hesitant over the murky circumstances of the death. Lorenzo asks him if it’s possible to get into contact with the Cavilcanti cousins, to get to the Palazzo Vecchio and be prepared for anything to go sideways.

Bastiano, bless him, doesn’t ask any questions before turning and walking back the way he’d come. Giuliano gives him a questioning look, but also thankfully doesn’t ask any questions. To be honest though, Lorenzo doesn’t even know how he’d answer them. How does he rationally explain that there’s an inkling of worry, of suspicion, that won’t leave him alone even though it’s probably nothing?

Turning back to Giuliano and Francesco, Lorenzo sees that Clarice has gone ahead and walked inside with his mother, leaving them standing on the stairs. His mother must think that whatever this feud is that Jacopo thinks they have shouldn’t concern her and Clarice. Lorenzo doubts that Jacopo would stop at Lorenzo and Giuliano if he were determined to take out the Medici though— perhaps they should concern themselves.  

Clarice and Lucrezia have gone inside without incident, but unfortunately, Jacopo and company are still standing near the door. It almost seems that they’re deliberately standing in their way now that the women have left them. Lorenzo braces himself.

He can’t see Francesco’s face easily from where they’re standing right now, but he can guess that it likely includes narrowed eyes and a clenched jaw. The wind biting at their faces and whipping at their clothes lends a deeper sense of eerie dread to the entire situation. It’s no substitute for a true show of comfort, but Lorenzo claps Francesco on the shoulder and guides him up the stairs with him.

Predictably, Jacopo steps directly in front of them as they draw closer, his arms held out at his sides as if in welcome. Francesco stiffens further under Lorenzo’s hand if possible.

“Nephew, you’re well and still following around the Medici like your brother, I see. Speaking of which, where is Guglielmo anyway?” It’s cool and icy— intentionally barbed and no longer falsely warm like Lorenzo had been told Jacopo was when trying to pull Francesco back to his side.

Francesco doesn’t answer, so Lorenzo clears his throat instead. “He and Bianca will be along shortly. If you don’t mind, Messer de’ Pazzi.” He tries using his most polite voice so as not to start anything this morning, but Lorenzo’s not sure how successful he’ll be if Jacopo continues down this road.

Jacopo turns his gaze on Lorenzo, and if anything, his sneer grows. His eyes flit down to Francesco’s hip where his dagger can be seen under his cloak as the wind blows before they look over to Lorenzo’s own bare hip.

“Of course. A happy Easter to you all. Including you, Francesco, even though it seems that you’re now acting as Pazzi banker and Medici bodyguard.” Despite his combative words aimed at drawing a rise from Francesco, Jacopo steps aside and allows Lorenzo, Giuliano, and Francesco to pass un-molested.

“Who the hell does he think he is?” Giuliano grumbles as they walk down the aisle, Giuliano stepping to the side to let others pass.

“He’s just trying to get under our skin, it’s what he does best. You can’t let him win— can’t let him know his words got to you.”

Lorenzo notices how Francesco remains silent until they get to the family pew. Before Francesco gets the chance to part from him and Giuliano, Lorenzo takes the moment to murmur to him. “Just remember: we just have to get through this and then Pistoria’s calling our name.”

Francesco hums and takes his seat next to Clarice, who smiles at him in that warm characteristic way that can get anyone to smile back.

Across the aisle, Lucrezia Donati and her husband sit and make what looks like pleasant chatter. She smiles briefly at Lorenzo when they make eye contact from his seat with Giuliano up near the altar.

Giuliano sits a few benches to Lorenzo’s left looking merry yet observant of the people around them.

Despite the foreboding feeling he’s had all morning, the feeling of being surrounded by his local parishioners on Easter Sunday sets Lorenzo’s heart alight. Over the years, Lorenzo has found himself questioning his faith, but sitting here, now, looking out to see the content faces of his family reaffirms that faith just a bit.

Across the room, he sees Clarice talking quietly to Francesco, hands close but untouching while in public. Lorenzo even sees some of that stiffness brought out by Jacopo begin to fade away as a small smile pulls up one corner of Francesco’s mouth. He looks up and meets Lorenzo’s eyes, that small smile remaining until he seems to notice someone behind Lorenzo some ways back. 

Behind him and off to the left a bit stands Jacopo alone. That previous sense of foreboding descends upon Lorenzo. Why isn’t he sitting out in his family pew? Lorenzo tries to tell himself that perhaps it’s because he’s alone.

There is a certain amount of talk that accompanies an heirless man like Jacopo de’ Pazzi. So, despite all of the signs telling him it’s odd, Lorenzo tries to push it from his mind as the Cardinal begins to make his way down the aisle with a procession of choir and altar boys both preceding and following the older clerical members.

Ther ceremony is beautiful, calming, and uplifting as an Easter service should be up until the Cardinal raises his hands in offering the host.

They’re down on their knees, about to pray, when a shrill scream is suddenly torn from his mother’s throat. It’s a loud and drawn out, “ No! ” that abruptly causes everyone to pause and wrench their eyes open.

Time slows down in that instant, moves like honey. At first glance, everything seems to be okay in the pew, which would only leave Giuliano. Next to Lorenzo, the body of Jacopo plunges his knife into Giuliano’s unsuspecting body.

Lorenzo can’t believe what he’s seeing— that Jacopo is stabbing Giuliano. There isn’t time to mull over the fact though because a pair of arms are circling around Lorenzo’s own throat, the sharp edge of a dagger digging into his own neck.

The burn is excruciating as he wrenches the arms away from him and flings himself to the floor.

Screams erupt around them as parishioners rush toward the exits, afraid for their lives. Lorenzo’s suddenly found himself in the middle of an assassination plot, and he has no weapon. If he has no weapon, there’s no way he makes it out of this alive, not while the others all do. Nori’s disappeared from his side, but he can’t look for him because Giuliano’s nearly within reach now, standing while Lorenzo is on the floor and reaching up to grasp the dagger that Giuliano tries to give to him. Lorenzo can’t look for Nori because he’s busy watching his brother be stabbed by Jacopo over and over again.

He doesn’t have the strength to yell, too many emotions running through his mind. Lorenzo’s got a hand pressed desperately to his own neck to stem the flow of blood while he tries to scurry to his feet as men with daggers turn to him with renewed interest now that Giuliano is out of the way. Luckily, Nori seems to be back, jumping in front of Lorenzo while he regains his balance with a fiery torch and a dagger of his own.

The vague screams of his mother and Clarice can still be heard, so Lorenzo yells at them to get out. He’s clearly already lost a brother today, he cannot lose anyone else who means so much to him. He will quite literally lose his mind if they get anyone else.

Lorenzo watches as Francesco rushes Clarice and Lucrezia further into the church, the latter fighting them the entire way. Lorenzo’s paying so much attention to them that he misses that he’s been pushed into the pews, a man on every side of him. It’s four on one with Nori gone again. Lorenzo doesn’t know how he’ll come out of this even with a dagger now, but as long as the rest of the family survives, that will be all that matters.

A few blows fail to land on Lorenzo before a voice breaks through the din of his mind.

“Lorenzo, get to the sacristy!” The yell is panicked and loud echoing against the marble of the cathedral. There’s so much going on that even though the crowd has thinned, so many people are still running and screaming, surrounding him with daggers and swords, that Lorenzo can’t be sure of who calls his name. It might be Clarice or his mother— it might even be Francesco, but it’s not Giuliano who’s lying on the floor with too many stab wounds to count.

Someone to Lorenzo’s right, Vespucci he notices, lunges at him, though it’s done inexpertly as he brandishes his whole right flank. Vespucci is in over his head, but Lorenzo can’t help but internally sigh in relief as he slashes at Vespucci’s arm with Guliano’s dagger.

An arm to Lorenzo’s left forces him back a step, far enough away that he attempts to make a break for it over the pews, to run to the safety of the sacristy with his family.

Lorenzo only gets a few steps though before the tip of a blade catches at the fabric on his back and causes his feet to fumble over each other. Then, he’s falling, catching himself on the hard marble on his forearm and hand, the pain at contact not even registering in this moment.

His dagger skitters away before he can catch it, but that’s not ultimately what’s important. There are only seconds to catalog what he’s feeling before flipping himself over to see Jacopo Pazzi staring down at him with the most bone-chilling smirk on his face he’s seen before.

The smile calls for blood, for pain and suffering— retribution. Jacopo doesn’t chase after Lorenzo absurdly fast as he shuffles backward on his elbows, but rather stalks him like a predator who knows it has its prey cornered.

Lorenzo tries to steer himself in the direction of his fallen dagger, but Jacopo must see through this plan, coming up to the side with Vespucci rounding on the other. 

“Jacopo… Jacopo you don’t want to do this. You don’t—” Jacopo doesn’t let Lorenzo get the rest of his words out before he lunges toward him. Unlike Vespucci, Jacopo is skilled, if a little cumbersome in his older age. If he’d managed someone younger to do the deed, someone like Francesco, Lorenzo imagines he’d have a harder time barely dodging the blows. In the midst of it all, the thought of Francesco turning on him makes a shiver of dread race up Lorenzo’s spine.

Lorenzo manages to jerk out of the way from another of Jacopo’s lunges by a slimmer margin than the last. He’s lucky this time, but he doesn’t know for how long this luck will last. One of them is bound to land a blow on him eventually.

For a moment, there’s nothing but the sound of harsh breathing surrounding them until the wrenching of a door fifteen feet away and the sound of heavy footsteps. A distinctly male voice echoes across the room, followed by a clash of blades to Lorenzo’s right.

“Lorenzo, get to the Sacristy, now !” The presence of Francesco seems to distract Jacopo for a moment, just long enough for Lorenzo to reach for his dagger and slash upwards, catching Jacopo across a bicep. He hears Jacopo yell, but Lorenzo pushes himself to his feet and runs. Off to the side, Francesco has someone that looks remarkably like Maffei held back with his dagger while, unknowingly, Vespucci runs up to Lorenzo’s unprotected side. At the last minute, Nori, flaming torch still in hand, steps in front of Lorenzo, dagger lost in the scuffle. Vespucci’s hand, too committed to the movement, plunges the blade into Nori’s stomach as if it were nothing.

Vespucci seems to be in a state of frozen shock as Lorenzo tears his eyes from Francesco and shouts Nori’s name, catching the latter in his arms and dragging him in the direction of the sacristy. He makes it past Francesco before he realizes the other man isn’t behind him. “‘Cesco, let’s go!”

The use of Lorenzo’s own voice directing a diminutive at his nephew must shock Jacopo out of his stupor, because suddenly he’s rounding on Lorenzo and breaking out into a run, chasing after him before Lorenzo can make it to the safety of the sacristy. A loud and throaty, yet unintelligible shout comes from the direction of Jacopo, and Lorenzo looks up to see Clarice rushing past him and Francesco, brandishing a heavy candlestick and striking Jacopo across the head, sending the larger man sprawling. If Lorenzo’s life weren’t in danger, he might spare a laugh or two, an amused chuckle, but that is not the case.

The other conspirators are rising from where they’ve fallen— Francesco had put a good gash across Maffei’s brow, and they still look as murderous as Jacopo had. Lorenzo doesn’t waste any time in sprinting the rest of the way into the sacristy, Nori still in his arms, Francesco and Clarice hot on his heels. By some benevolent twist of fate, they’re able to slam the doors in the same moment that Vespucci and Jacopo throw themselves at the heavy wood.

Muffled shouts and fists fall against the heavy oak doors, but Lorenzo can’t find it in himself to pay it any mind. Nori stumbles away over to the table in the center of the room to catch his breath while Lorenzo stays leaned against the door for several seconds, his blood rushing in his ears. There’s blood coating his hands and the collar of his shirt and jacket, evidence of the failed assassination against him.

Lucrezia is sobbing against the far wall, her arms clenched around her middle. Once the doors are shut, she seems to realize that they’ve come in without Giuliano, her eyes clearing momentarily as she rushes at Clarice. She’s sobbing at Lorenzo to go back out and get his brother, but Lorenzo can only look at Nori who’s leaning heavily against the table, breathing in harshly and unevenly. 

There is too much happening, too many emotions coursing through Lorenzo’s brain. He stumbles over to the table, a sob wracking his body as he collapses to the ground and gently ushers Nori into his lap. He knows his own injury needs tending to, but Clarice and his mother are yelling at each other, each yelling louder in their grief to be heard over the other. He doesn’t immediately know where Francesco is.

Now, knelt over Nori, he tries to assess the severity of the injury. There was no mistaking how Vespucci’s dagger had plunged into Nori’s stomach, but Lorenzo had been so focused on Giuliano and not dying himself, that he hadn’t seen if Nori had been injured elsewhere earlier on.

Nori pries his eyes open and grimaces at Lorenzo’s own injury, but his breaths are coming faster and Lorenzo’s own tears begin flowing in earnest at the sound. Nori was a confidant, a friend, a protector through everything, and this is how he was going to go out? Lorenzo will worry about himself when Nori is taken care of— the adrenaline still running through his veins prevents him from feeling the full extent right now anyway.

Lorenzo chokes out apologies and tears, trying to apply pressure to the wound, but knowing deep down that it’s worthless to try and stem the flow of blood. Nori’s choking out his own placations and thanks for everything the Medici have done for him over the years. It’s too much and not enough. 

Jacopo, Vespucci, and the others will hang for this. There are two murders and an attempted murder pinned to Jacopo de’ Pazzi’s back now, and Lorenzo will have justice if he has to push the conspirators out of the top Palazzo Vecchio window himself.

There isn’t much to do but comfort Nori now, tell him through his tears how lucky he is to have known him, to have called him a trusted friend and ally. The younger man is struggling for breath when Lorenzo feels the warmth and presence of someone behind him. Thin yet strong hands rest at his shoulder and against the back of his neck. It’s Francesco, and the weight is comforting and grounding through the haze of violence and death. It helps calm the wracking sobs ever so slightly.

A harsh pounding on the doors followed by Jacopo’s booming voice draws Lorenzo’s attention for long enough that he misses Nori’s last breaths. Everyone in the room startles at the noise, Clarice’s own sobs renewed at the prospect of the murderous conspirators only feet away. The weight of his friend’s body is suddenly overwhelming enough that Lorenzo collapses back into Francesco’s arms, into his firm chest that feels a bit like home. Home. A sob and renewed tears bubble up from Lorenzo’s throat and eyes for the grief he feels. Of all days— in all places.

“I should have listened to him. I should have taken his warning more seriously. Giuliano…” Lorenzo’s pulled from his train of thought and flinches at the feeling of damp fabric wrapping around his neck— forgetting for only a moment who’s behind him.

“Shh, it’s only me. You’re still bleeding heavily and I’m trying to stop it. This is what they want and I will not give it to them.” Lorenzo knows what the ‘this’ is— his heath. This whole thing had been orchestrated as an attempted coup. “I won’t—” 

Francesco is interrupted though before he can finish by Jacopo calling his name as well now. “It’s not too late, Francesco! If you turn over the young Medici, I will not harm you. They are silver-tongued serpents— I do not blame you for falling under their spell as you have!”

Lorenzo knows how Jacopo uses trickery and innuendo to garner favor between his nephews. He also knows how much Francesco has warred with himself these past few years as Jacopo has continually tried feeding him ideas about Lorenzo, trying to coax Francesco out of Lorenzo’s bed and back to the Pazzi’s side.

Like this morning on the steps outside, Francesco tenses under Lorenzo at Jacopo’s words, his fist tightening where it rests at the fabric of Lorenzo’s collarbone. But Jacopo keeps talking, keeps taunting everyone in the room, including Clarice. He taunts the false pretenses of hers and Lorenzo’s marriage, about how everyone knows how she spends just as many nights with the Ardinghellis as Francesco spends at the Medici Palazzo. He even goes so far as to taunt Lucrezia over Giuliano’s quickly cooling body still sprawled out at the altar, like some kind of twisted sacrifice.

Lorenzo can’t stop his own sobs at how his mother cries out in renewed anguish, for trying to rush the door. Clarice holds her back as she has been since Nori had collapsed into Lorenzo’s arms, but where Clarice succeeds, Lorenzo fails.

Weighed down by Nori’s lifeless body, he’s much too slow to chase after Francesco, who coaxes Lorenzo’s weight off of him and stands, striding towards the door. Clarice makes it to him a few seconds before Lorenzo is able to, tugging at his arm and somehow snaking her way in between him and the door. Lorenzo carefully lays Nori down to the side before he’s pushing himself up and stumbling over to Clarice.

He’s exhausted and in pain, but it’s nothing compared to what he’ll feel if Francesco goes out to greet his uncle. Almost as if anticipating Francesco walking out to greet them, the sound of something heavy hitting the door, perhaps a pew, rattles the doors on its hinges. Clarice jumps forward away from the entrance, Francesco taking steps back to avoid touching her. It sets Lorenzo’s teeth and nerves on edge. Jacopo is trying to force entry to get to them.

The few feet that Francesco has left between him and Clarice is still present as Lorenzo stumbles closer to them. It’s as if Francesco’s only trying to get out because confronting his uncle is what he needs to do, not what he wants to do. “Get out of my way, Clarice. I need to go out there. They will not leave us alone by choice and I will not have anyone else die in here.” His voice is hard, almost normal, but there’s an edge to it, something panicked.

Lorenzo can’t see Francesco from this angle, but he sees Clarice. She has tear tracks down her face, her eyes red and hair thoroughly disheveled. Nothing has even happened to her, so Lorenzo can only imagine how he looks himself. She doesn’t cast a glance at Lorenzo though, locked in a battle of wills with Francesco that she can’t afford to lose. Lorenzo feels a surge of love for her in that moment. 

“We need to save him! It’s not too late!” Lucrezia sobs, also stumbling to the door now.

Lorenzo doesn’t know what they’d be doing without Clarice, because she’s the one who’s talked sense into everyone up until now, including now as she meets Lucrezia’s pained sob with one of her own, pleading with her to realize her son is dead. Predictably, this doesn’t calm Lucrezia much, but she does collapse into one of the wing-backed chairs away from the door.

Francesco is still standing in front of Clarice, unmoving. Wordlessly, Lorenzo steps in between him and Clarice, his hands reaching out to touch Francesco’s chest, to placate him. Francesco’s eyes, Lorenzo notices, are also red-rimmed, though he sees no evidence of tear tracks. His eyes widen before narrowing back to the way they do whenever Francesco is unamused.

“Going out there will do nothing but give you uncle what he wants, ‘Cesco. He knows how to dig at all of us— you cannot play into his hand— not today,” Lorenzo murmurs, quiet enough that Clarice is likely the only other one to hear.

Some of Francesco’s muscles relax at Lorenzo’s words, at the nickname that unintentionally slips out. “He will die for this, I don’t care what you say.”

“He will don’t worry. We just have to bide our time because we have two daggers in here, and I don’t think that will get us very far with the five of them out there.” Lorenzo lets one of his hands creep up to the exposed hollow of Francesco’s throat. He only lets the tips of his fingers rest there, a silent and minimal reassurance that he’s there, that he’s alive.

The silence that settles over the room is heavy with anticipation. It would be so easy for Francesco to push both Clarice and Lorenzo out of the way and pull open the doors, but he doesn’t. He freezes and lets Lorenzo walk him back into the room.

Lorenzo chances a glance over his shoulder and sees Clarice lingering by the archway, throwing concerned glances to Lucrezia in the corner. He can’t worry about his mother right now, because if he worries about her, he’ll worry about Giuliano, and he doesn’t know if he can open himself up further to that right now when there’s so much left to do. 

Giuliano is dead. Francesco reminds Lucrezia when she picks herself up to walk across the room and begs for Clarice to open the door. From where Lorenzo has collapsed to the floor again and pulled Francesco down next to him, he squeezes his hand in warning.

Against Lorenzo’s wishes, Francesco insists on putting another layer of fabric against his wound, the first layer showing signs of soaking through. He relents to Francesco sitting behind him and pulling him into his lap on the pretense of it being a better angle. Lorenzo doesn’t put up a fight, finding a moment of much-needed solace in the heat and weight of Francesco.

Perhaps the feel of the other man is what gives Lorenzo the courage to voice a risky thought that’s been eating away at his subconscious since they’d found refuge in the sacristy. Part of his brain admits it’s just paranoia— an irrational thought— while the other half thinks about their past.

“Francesco, I’m going to ask you a question and I need you to not get upset with me.” Lorenzo doesn’t voice the statement particularly loud, just loud enough that the other man can hear where he’s pressed up to Lorenzo’s back.

The only thing that betrays any kind of apprehension is the breath in through his nose that Francesco takes. He’d be willing to bet that Francesco knows what Lorenzo is about to ask. “Okay. I won’t.”

“Please tell me you had no idea of your uncle’s plan for today leading up to it. I don’t believe you did, but I need to hear you say it anyway.” Lorenzo can see Clarice, now sitting against the wall near the door close enough to Lorenzo and Francesco to unintentionally eavesdrop, look up at Francesco with wide eyes and furrowed brows. He can tell without her saying anything that she’s appalled by his question.

Francesco’s fingers clench for a moment where they grip onto Lorenzo’s shoulder, but they release before he speaks. Unlike before, his voice is filled with emotion, with enough conviction that even if he had been involved, Lorenzo thinks he’d believe the would-be lie that comes out of his mouth.

“Jacopo doesn’t talk to me if it’s not about business. I told you this morning I was concerned, but I didn’t think he would actually plan something like this. I would have made you bring your own dagger if I knew, if not stop them before they killed Giuliano and Nori. I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you. You and Guglielmo are my family, okay?”

Francesco’s worlds, paired with a tender kiss first to the back of Lorenzo’s head and then to his temple, is almost enough to bring fresh tears to Lorenzo’s eyes. He knows that Francesco considers him family, but to hear him say it every so often still tightens his throat.

“I know. I just know others will question, but I wanted to get that out before the accusations begin. You saved my life out there.”

Lorenzo winds one of his bloody hands around Francesco’s calf and lightly scrapes his fingers against the fabric. It’s more intimate than they almost ever are in front of the family, but Lorenzo finds he doesn’t care much right now.

“I didn’t have a choice— I never do when it comes to you.” It’s mumbled against the back of Lorenzo’s head, so quiet he’s sure Clarice doesn’t hear.

Lorenzo wants to turn and look at Francesco’s face, to see the earnestness and love reflected there, but the pressure on his neck prevents him from doing so. Instead, he turns his head to rest against Francesco’s shoulder and just breathe through dry sobs. He doesn’t know how long they’ll be here, but he takes solace in the knowledge Bastiano left for the Cavalcanti before Mass started. As long as the doors hold, they’ll be rescued soon enough. Even though the assault of the pew against them has stopped, replaced with an eerie silence, it doesn’t necessarily mean Jacopo has gone. 

Way too soon, a meek knock, nothing at all like the pounding fists of Jacopo, echoes against the wood. It’s oddly ominous, like an omen of an oncoming storm. Rather than a deep voice threatening them with their sins and secrets though, it’s a voice of a young boy, likely one of the altar or choir boys who had hidden when the violence had broken out.

It’s simple, a shaky, “They’re gone. They’ve gone down to the Priori. I heard them talking.”

All members of the room freeze, directing their collective gaze toward the door. There is an equally likely chance that Jacopo could be using this boy as a ploy to draw them out, to kill them once and for all, as there is that Jacopo’s grown tired of waiting for them. Perhaps Jacopo thinks Lorenzo is living on borrowed time with his neck wound. Maybe he thinks he’s getting a head start on overthrowing them among members of the Priori.

“Do we think it’s a trick? Would Jacopo really just leave because he thinks you’re about to die?” Clarice asks, doubt evident in her voice. She pushes herself unsteadily to her feet, her gaze meeting everyone’s face before settling once again on the door.

A sudden resurgence of fury courses through Lorenzo’s veins at the thought of Jacopo playing a trick, of him trying to beat them to the Priori to declare death to the Medici. “There’s only one way to find out.”

For a moment, Lorenzo thinks that Francesco will try to hold him down as he tries to get up, but he meets no resistance, Francesco’s hands falling from the cloth at his neck. He’s stronger on his feet than he thought he would be, so at least there’s that.

His dagger still lies on the table untouched since he’d flung it there, so Lorenzo grabs it before striding to the door. No one tries to stop him unlike when Francesco and Lucrezia had tried to leave earlier. The moment of truth lies in Lorenzo wrenching open the door to see either a small lone boy or the end of Jacopo’s dagger.

Miraculously, it’s just the little boy. The cathedral is really empty, save for Giuliano, Jacopo and the others have evidently migrated to the next phase of the plan.

The pain of watching Giuliano breathe his final breaths in the arms of his family is enough to make Lorenzo see red. It was bad enough watching Giuliano seemingly die once already at the hands of Jacopo and Vespucci, but to see it again reinvigorates that hatred.

Giuliano’s body isn’t even cold when Lorenzo pushes himself from the marble floor, dagger in hand, and stalks to the entrance of the Duomo. There’s only one way this ends, only one way it possibly can— they’ll all hang.

Vaguely, Lorenzo hears two sets of footsteps behind him, one of them with the signature click of heels that Clarice wears. She’s pleading with him not to go back out there, not to face Jacopo and his men while he’s still hurt because they could kill him. The other set of footsteps don’t say anything, but Lorenzo knows they belong to Francesco. Clarice even goes so far as to clutch at Lorenzo’s sleeve, pleading pointlessly over a matter he will not be swayed from.

“I have to go, Clarice. The people need to know I’m alive and that Jacopo and the others failed. You should take Giuliano and go back to the Palazzo.”

Clarice’s hands fall from Lorenzo’s clothes, accompanying the pause in her footsteps. “Please keep him safe, Francesco.” It’s just as pleading as earlier, but there’s determination behind her words now. If anyone can look after Lorenzo and help him to see another day, it’ll be Francesco.

Though no words of affirmation arise from Francesco, Lorenzo figures he must nod his assent because he doesn’t find that he’s suddenly alone. They’re halfway to the Palazzo Vecchio by the time Francesco speaks up.

“Jacopo will not go down without a fight, you’re aware of that, right? He’s clever and has what appears to be an entire army behind him.” It’s said as a statement of fact as if they were discussing something mundane. Lorenzo knows Francesco is right though, as much as he wants to refute the statement, as much as he wants to counter with the fact that they too have an army.

Francesco doesn’t know about the plan to call on the Cavilcantis though, so with any luck, that will help tilt the scale into their favor and they’ll manage to corner Jacopo.

Lorenzo doesn’t look at Francesco as he finally finds the strength to reply. “Failure is not an option.”

— 

Needless to say, the crowd gathered in the square outside the Palazzo Vecchio is beyond surprised and relieved to see Lorenzo, though they look wary when they see Francesco trailing behind.

The feelings of elation from the people of Florence towards him should ordinarily be enough for Lorenzo, enough to keep him moving forward. The shock and outrage apparent on Jacopo and Salviati’s faces at the two of them take the cake.

Jacopo is outside the Palazzo behind the armed guards, the doors shut behind him. With Salviati watching from the upstairs window, clearly they’ve taken control of the government— there should be no reason for the doors to be voluntarily shut, no reason to be afraid with force on their side. Lorenzo hopes against hope that the doors being shut means the Cavilcanti are already inside, separating Jacopo and trapping Salviati upstairs with Petrucci. Regardless of them being separated, Jacopo looks duly protected behind his wall of soldiers.

Lorenzo, in all of his silver-tongued glory, compounded with the raw and untapped grief he feels, rebukes Jacopo, letting the city’s people see not what the Pazzi have done to his family, but what the actions of a bitter old man has made of the Medici.

Lorenzo’s words stir murmurings and animosity, enough that they begin testing the wall of armed men. He and Francesco don’t have to push their way through, the people will do the dirty work for them. It’s only a matter of time before they’ll have the government back under their control.

Jacopo is nothing if not a coward at heart, so it’s not surprising that they watch him mount the nearest horse before likely galloping towards one of the city gates as the bell tower of the Palazzo Vecchio tolls with hope and insistence. Its ringing is the agreed-upon signal that Bastiano has been successful. It’s the signal to close the city gates which means Jacopo de’ Pazzi will be going nowhere.

As far as Lorenzo knows, all of the conspirators, save for Jacopo now, are inside the Palazzo Vecchio. They have no control over the building anymore, which means no one will be coming at Lorenzo with swords or daggers when he and Francesco walk past the now guardless front door. Along with Jacopo, the soldiers for hire seem to have fled in fear and self-preservation.

The resulting justice is swift.

It turns out that Vespucci briefly escapes out the way the Cavilcantis sneak in, though the angry mob of Florentines do an adequate job in tracking him down and carting him back to Lorenzo, back to join his other conspirators.

In Petrucci’s office in front of him now are Vespucci, Salviati, and the soldier named Montesecco. Sandro and the Cavilcantis are off to the side while Francesco lingers against the wall, behind the large and ornate desk Lorenzo leans against. He absentmindedly twirls the dagger in his hands while he simply watches.

Salviati glares at Lorenzo as if his very existence were a hindrance to his own. Well , Lorenzo thinks, it’s certainly about to be .

All three practically spit at Lorenzo when he asks if they’ve got anything they’d like to say before he passes judgment. Salviati pitches a fit about being a bishop and that to hang him would be a crime against God. Francesco regrettably snorts in contempt from his position against the wall behind Lorenzo. The action does nothing to alleviate the situation.

“You Medici have destroyed the oldest and most noble families in Florence whenever they seem to get in your way. First the Albizzi and now the Pazzi.” Salviati intentionally redirects his gaze from Lorenzo to Francesco then. “You Medici have either killed them all or made lap dogs out of them— let them follow you around at the heel whenever it suits you.”

There is no point engaging in Salviati’s rhetoric since it won’t do any good or prove anything to anyone. But while Lorenzo seems to have this mindset, Francesco doesn’t. Before Lorenzo can stop him, Francesco rounds the desk, out of reach of Lorenzo, and approaches Salviati, close enough so that Lorenzo can’t see the bishop anymore— obscured by Francesco’s form. 

“Francesco,” Lorenzo warns. It won’t do them any good for Francesco to stab Salviati out of retribution for slander to his name and family just yet. No matter how justified he would be. Their grasp on the situation is tenuous right now, and they cannot be seen violating any modes of justice for revenge.

“My brother and I bow to no one. As for destroying the name ‘Pazzi’, you can thank my uncle for that when you see him again in Hell.”

Lorenzo may not be able to see Salviati from this angle, but he knows he likely bristles from the comment, pulled close by Francesco’s grip on his robes. Francesco’s words aren’t spoken lightly, but then again, nothing Francesco ever says is.

Calling his name once more drags Francesco away from Salviati, who looks on in haughty frustration. “I am an innocent man of God, you cannot do this! You should be the ones hanging for the sins you’ve committed.” He doesn’t elaborate, but the ‘you’ is said in the direction of both Lorenzo and Francesco, so it’s not too difficult to understand his meaning.

Lorenzo sees red. The dagger he’s holding loosely finds itself embedded into the oak of the desk then, his own breaths coming harsh yet measured. “ You orchestrated an attempt on my life, my brother’s life, on consecrated ground. You tried to organize a coup. There is no greater sin. Hang these two,” he bites out, gesturing to Vespucci and Salviati.  He looks over at Montesecco. “This one can die a soldier’s death by the sword.”

Sandro, for some unknown reason, tries to plead with Lorenzo to think of the Pope’s retribution, but Lorenzo hears none of it. If he lived his life by fear of the Pope, nothing would ever get done. This is the only justifiable action for a crime of murder and conspiracy. If a man of faith wanted to engage in the sins of man, he should be willing to pay the price.

Perhaps at one point, Lorenzo might have been a bit more merciful, but unfortunately, that mercy died along with his brother and Nori.

The guards pull the three men to their feet and out of the room leaving Lorenzo, Francesco, Sandro, and the Cavilcantis. Sandro takes one look at Lorenzo and motions for the others to follow him out into the hallway.

“You should stay here while we look for Jacopo,” Lorenzo says without preamble. He turns to look at where Francesco’s moved to lean against the open window. There’s a crowd gathering below again as they likely await for what they anticipate to be entertaining hangings.

Francesco has never liked being told what to do by anyone, so Lorenzo doesn’t anticipate that this time will prove any different. He’s right, of course.

“Why? You think I’m suddenly going to side with him?” Francesco’s words are just sharp enough to prick if Lorenzo doesn’t tread carefully around them. This is a sensitive issue for both of them after all.

In Lorenzo’s defense, that’s not one of the reasons why he doesn’t want Francesco out there right now, but he can see why it might come across that way. “No. I’m afraid that angry mob out there will see a Pazzi and start swinging. I’m afraid that you’ll find Jacopo and stab him yourself like you almost just did with Salviati a few moments ago. You can’t kill him with no audience out of revenge— not for this.”

Francesco turns away from the window and walks back over to where Lorenzo’s still leaning against the front of the desk. The dagger still stands straight out of the wood, the sight pulling what looks like a ghost of a smile briefly from Francesco’s lips. It’s gone as quick as it comes.

“I wanted to stab Salviati, yes, but because he insulted my name— insulted you. I am no lap dog. What you and I have makes me free, releases me from Jacopo, but I am still a Pazzi, and so is Guglielmo.”

Now is probably not the time, or maybe it is, for Lorenzo to reach out and pull Francesco closer, his fingers curling into the velvet of his Sunday best. “I know. And that’s why I love you and why I need you to stay here. You can have your way with Jacopo once we get back here. I just need you to trust me on this one thing, okay?”

For a brief moment, Lorenzo thinks that Francesco is going to try and argue again, insist on accompanying him, but miraculously he relents. He tips his head down in a half nod and lets one of his own hands come up to grab at Lorenzo’s wrist.

“Of course I trust you. It’s Jacopo I don’t trust. Please be careful because if he hurts you, I will go out and kill him, I hope you know.” Francesco sways into Lorenzo’s space, let’s his forehead come to rest against the bridge of Lorenzo’s nose.

It’s a small gesture of comfort and affection, and it cuts through the anger and hate and pain Lorenzo feels. It’s not something he ever anticipated happening between the two of them, but God , is he thankful it did.

“I can grant you that concession I suppose. I’ll be back soon enough.” He cants his head up, displacing Francesco’s forehead momentarily before placing a hard and quick kiss to his lips. “I’ll see you soon.”

Francesco lets Lorenzo pass easily to wrench the door open. As Lorenzo walks out into the room, Vespucci is pushed from the window while Salviati sits off to the side with his hands still bound behind his back. He has a sneer on his face that deepens when he sees Lorenzo stride into the room. It’s reinvigorating, enough to remind him of his mission.

Thankfully, Lorenzo has the foresight to put on some chain mail before fanning out to search for Jacopo. It takes a few attempts of searching various buildings near the city gates, but they’re ultimately successful. A part of Lorenzo finds joy in dragging Jacopo back through the crowd, hands tied and stumbling behind Lorenzo’s horse.

Both Vespucci and Salviati are hanging out of separate windows when they return, the sight making Lorenzo want to smile out of some twisted lustful need for revenge. He looks up and sees the outline of Francesco standing there, watching. They’ll both get some kind of retribution tonight.

The guards are none too gentle in hauling Jacopo up the stairs when they get through the throng of observers. Lorenzo is sure to trail them, all too aware of how his great uncle Lorenzo met his end. Nothing untoward happens though, and when they reach the top level, Lorenzo sees that Francesco is the only one in the room.

It’s a macabre yet beautiful sight, Francesco standing there in the window framed by sunlight and ropes.  The sandbags hover a few feet above the floor, pulled up by the weight of those hanging against the outside of the building creating a sort of obstacle course in the middle of the room. 

Neither Francesco nor Lorenzo make any move to cross the room and embrace the other, all too mindful of their surrounding company. Instead, Francesco stays standing by the window and watches the guards throw Jacopo to the marble floor in front of a chair that’s been pulled from against the wall. The guards leave the three of them in favor of standing outside the hall.

Lorenzo barely sits down before Jacopo’s running his mouth. “I see I get to meet with my nephew one last time before I’m to be hanged with the rest.”

Lorenzo braces himself against Francesco’s ire that Jacopo is likely making worse. It’s as if Jacopo’s sole goal before he dies is to make Francesco as angry as possible. “You are not my uncle. You forfeited that right once and for all when you murdered Giuliano de’ Medici in cold blood and tried to do the same to Lorenzo. You deserve everything that’s coming to you.”

Jacopo hums, almost thoughtful, and looks back at Lorenzo. “Tell me, what will the Pope say when he hears of Bishop Salviati’s hanging? Isn’t your own uncle trapped in Rome? Father Carlo, I believe his name is.”

“Well I suppose it’s a good thing that Cardinal Riario is still in Florence then. I am no stranger to negotiation with the Pope.” Even talking to Jacopo makes Lorenzo’s blood boil. “Why did you do it? You know, Giuliano warned me this morning of whisperings of an army marching on Florence. Even Clarice knew something was amiss when Carlo didn’t come from Rome with Salviati. But I almost brushed it all away.”

“I did it because the Medici are tyrants. Florence cannot flourish while under your rule. You take and you take, destroying everyone and everything in your wake. You have taken my entire family from me, Medici, essentially stolen my bank, and will now destroy my name. How else is one supposed to react to years of injustice?”

Jacopo makes everything sound so sinister and malicious— makes it sound like Lorenzo stole into the Pazzi Palazzo and kidnapped Francesco and Guglielmo from their beds as they slept. When in reality, all the Medici offered was kindness and love, a real sense of family that both boys lost when their parents died.

Lorenzo briefly makes eye contact with Francesco and sees loathing and contempt written plainly across his face. “We did nothing but offer Francesco and Guglielmo a home free of abuse. Tell me, did Guglielmo know about this plot?”

“No, and neither did Francesco. But that’s what I would say, isn’t it?”

“I already know Francesco didn’t know. I was asking about Guglielmo for the sake of my sister and her family. Though, I suppose you disowned him years ago after he decided to marry someone he loved. There’s no use in arguing. I’m finished talking. Would you like to say anything, Francesco?”

Turning to look over at Francesco again, Lorenzo sees that the other man is already looking at him. Unlike when he’d been in the room with Salviati, the outward fight looks to have abandoned Francesco. Lorenzo can unconsciously remember what Jacopo does to Francesco all he wants, but those thoughts are nothing compared to seeing the toll Jacopo’s presence of more than a few minutes takes on Francesco. Meeting him outside of Mass for a minute is one thing, but being here with him as Jacopo makes his final scathing remarks must be borderline overwhelming. Years and years of abuse bring out minor ticks of deference even now with subtly averted eyes and a slight stoop in Francesco’s stature. If Lorenzo can see it, surely Jacopo can too.

Nevertheless, Francesco still walks closer, coming to stand next to Lorenzo to face Jacopo head-on. “You made my life hell for eleven years, filling me with hatred and lies. I will never forgive you for that, though I know you don’t care. Just know I will not mourn you when you are gone.” Despite his stooped shoulders, Francesco’s voice is harder and icier than Lorenzo’s heard in a long time, almost bringing back memories of their own interactions prior to their reconciliation. In a sudden moment of startling clarity, Lorenzo can’t fathom how lucky he is.

Jacopo doesn’t say anything for several moments, enough that Francesco nods resolutely before turning to Lorenzo. “I have nothing else to say. Do with him what you will.”

Lorenzo nods and summons the guards back into the room. Jacopo is largely silent while he’s outfitted with a crude noose. During the whole process, Francesco stands a smidge too close to Lorenzo to be appropriate, but the latter understands it as a plea for comfort for several things that Lorenzo also feels acutely.

The cheers of the crowd below feel oddly disjointed from the feelings of grief and rage swirling beneath the surface of Lorenzo’s own mind. His fingers twitch close to Francesco’s own, brushing against the back of his hand when Jacopo goes over the window sill. 

And then it’s over.

The bodies of the conspirators will stay hanging for now as an example, meaning Lorenzo’s job is finished here.

It’s Lorenzo who lightly tugs Francesco in the direction of the door, the toll of the morning finally hitting Lorenzo in full force. There’s so much to do still, but all he wants now is to collapse in his room and ignore the outside world. For now, he doesn’t want to think of how this all changes the political and financial landscape of Florence. 

Outside, he declares that there will be no looting of the Pazzi, but he makes sure to omit the others from his statement— the people can do what they want with those Palazzos. They’re all justly angry over the coup and the cold-blooded murder of their own, and Lorenzo cannot, will not, fault them for that.

At home, the mood is solemn and quiet, a stark contrast to the newly unleashed chaos outside. Clarice almost bowls over both Lorenzo and Francesco with hugs and cries of relief, followed by his mother and Bianca. Lorenzo can see the tear tracks on Bianca and Guglielmo’s faces, the way her braids sit disheveled and half undone on her head. She explains how they were late to service, how they got stuck standing in the nave. With fresh tears, she confirms that Guglielmo had no idea of the plot— she swears her life and her children's on it.

Lorenzo can only bear being around people for little more than it takes to see Giuliano, all the knife wounds Jacopo and Vespucci put in him on full display with his mother hunched over him, her head on his cold shoulder. The sight is enough to bring fresh tears to his eyes once more before he’s pulling himself up and out of the room.

He makes it all the way to his study before collapsing into the chair by the lit fireplace. Leaning forward to place his head in his hands, Lorenzo finally lets the emotions flood out of him that have been building up for the last few hours. Grief for his brother, for Nori, for Francesco and Guglielmo who lost their own family and innocence years ago. It’s too much.

Francesco finds him later, legs drawn up to his chest and eyes red and raw. He doesn’t say anything to Lorenzo, knowing that his words aren’t needed. Instead, Francesco kneels down in front of Lorenzo and takes the latter’s hands into his own.

Lorenzo’s heart aches at the intimacy of the small kisses Francesco places on his knuckles before he turns them over to place more on his palms. Small yet meaningful gestures.

He stays there, on his knees for entirely too long to be comfortable until Lorenzo finally relents and shifts his legs down so he has a lap. The two of them are nearly the same height, but it doesn’t prevent Francesco from climbing up and sitting with Lorenzo, Francesco’s head on his shoulder and fingers gently rubbing circles into Lorenzo’s hands.

No one bothers them, a small fact for which Lorenzo is immensely grateful. Francesco gets up at one point to add a log to the fire but returns to his position soon enough. 

The sky outside has begun to dim by the time Francesco finally speaks up, voice rusty from disuse. “I will help hunt down every last man who orchestrated this plot, just so you know. I’m with you all the way.”

In a way, Lorenzo had known Francesco would be, but the admission still makes his heart beat a little quicker at the knowledge. They’ll follow each other anywhere, and this will be no exception— Medici and Pazzi, side by side.