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You are My Familiar, You are My Famiglia

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It’s Guglielmo who accidentally lets slip about the fact that Francesco’s birthday is coming up. Or well, Lorenzo hears it from Bianca who hears it from Guglielmo one night when they’re putting Giovanna to bed.

It’s early December. The weather has just begun to lose the heat of summer, warranting a thicker jacket once the sun disappears behind the hills. The change in temperature makes staying outside in the peak hours of sunlight a bit more pleasant as well— the lack of that dry heat so characteristic of Tuscany only contributes to Lorenzo’s fondness for the time of year. 

The Christmas season is just around the corner, the promise of feasts and sweets lingering just beyond the forefront of Lorenzo’s mind. If he were a few years younger, content in his life of luxury while his father took care of the business, Lorenzo might have indulged fully in the spirit. He might have looked forward to the multiple parties hosted around the holiday across the city full of drinking and cheer. Now he’s head of the bank with his father well and truly gone. The time for truly childish things has since passed. 

It’s late one night when Bianca knocks on the door to Lorenzo’s study. He’s largely been sitting in silence for a good hour, kept company only by the crackle of the fireplace since Francesco went to bed. He’d been busy going through the bank records and books, trying to track down certain loans when Francesco had accidentally fallen asleep in his chair. 

When Lorenzo had looked up and seen Francesco curled into himself in one of the larger chairs on the other side of the desk, Lorenzo had felt his heart seize. In sleep, many of the harsh lines of Francesco’s face were often smoothed— he wasn’t even that old, but he looked ten years younger like this. If Lorenzo was sure that Francesco wouldn’t wake up with a crick in his neck and a sour mood because of it, he’d let him stay there and sleep. Lorenzo knew better though, so he gently woke Francesco and sent him to bed, promising he’d be in shortly.

Now, as Bianca steps through the narrow doorway, Lorenzo looks up and realizes how quiet it is— how late when he sees Bianca standing there in her nightclothes. She’s got a mischievous glint in her eyes as if she’s caught wind of something particularly scandalous— which wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if it weren’t so late. Nothing good ever comes from Bianca looking at him like that.

“What. Do I want to know why you look like the cat that got the cream?” Lorenzo sets down his pen and runs a hand through his hair without bothering to check for ink stains first.

Bianca hums and sits in the chair that Francesco had fallen asleep in. Lorenzo notes how much smaller she looks in it than Francesco had. “Oh Lorenzo, dearest brother of mine. Tell me, do you know when Francesco’s birthday is?”

The simplicity of the question almost startles him, if he’s being honest. Why does Bianca look so smug over something so trivial? Lorenzo narrows his eyes before saying, “Of course. It’s—” And then realizes he doesn’t actually know the answer. He can feel his eyebrows draw together, knowing he must look like a picture of astounded confusion.

Francesco and Lorenzo have been on amicable terms now for about a year with the last four or five months spent in what could actually be considered a relationship. How had the topic of birthdays never come up until now? And by way of Bianca of all people?

“I’m a terrible person,” Lorenzo says mostly to himself, but Bianca hears and nods almost sagely to herself.

“Yes, but you can be forgiven because we all know Francesco is notoriously tight-lipped about most things. I only know because Guglielmo accidentally let it slip while putting Giovanna to bed. It’s January 28th in case you wondered. Do with that information what you will, but know you did not hear it from me.”

And then Bianca is gone as quickly as she’d come, forcing Lorenzo to wonder for a moment if he hadn’t just hallucinated her entire presence.

He’s pretty confident he didn’t when morning comes and Bianca’s eyeing Lorenzo across the dining table with that same glint in her eye that she’d had in his study last night. No moves are made to so much as reference the act of her stealing into his study, which leaves Lorenzo wondering what she’s trying to accomplish.

For a brief moment, Lorenzo toys with asking Francesco outright about his birthday to confirm his information as correct. It’s too coincidentally close to bring it up out of the blue though, and what is Lorenzo supposed to say if Francesco asks where he came across that information? Bianca had told him not to tell Francesco he’d heard it from her, so Lorenzo can’t rat her out. He also sure as hell can’t make up a lie about looking it up because that’s disconcerting all on its own.

So, Lorenzo says nothing, stewing on the information through the beginning and into the Christmas season. As both couples walk home from Mass one Sunday morning the week before Christmas, Lorenzo catches Guglielmo alone, his curiosity finally getting the better of him. 

Bianca and Francesco are walking a few steps ahead, Bianca having tugged an unwilling Francesco into a conversation about gifts and the upcoming family Christmas party. She’s insisted that she wants Francesco’s opinion since she’s already talked Guglielmo’s ear off, so the burden now falls on the younger Pazzi. 

“Did Bianca get her information about Francesco’s birthday from you, Guglielmo?” Lorenzo is sure to keep his voice down, glancing up to the two in front of him to make sure Francesco is still engrossed in conversation.

Guglielmo casts a glance at Lorenzo but doesn’t immediately make any other indication that he heard Lorenzo’s question. Ahead, Francesco and Bianca turn the corner off the main road, still oblivious to Lorenzo’s questions to Guglielmo.

A ghost of a proper smile passes over Guglielmo’s lips. “I don’t know where Bianca could have heard that from, but I’m sure the information is accurate if you were wondering. I didn’t tell you that though if he asks— which he will.”

The conversation ends there as Guglielmo calls out to Bianca, offering to relieve her of Giovanna. The smile that splits Bianca’s face at the request is so soft and simple— like she’d forgotten about Guglielmo for a moment until he’d made his presence known again. It’s a smile like coming home, and it melts Lorenzo’s heart to see his older sister still so happy.

Francesco catches Lorenzo’s eye then, an indecipherable look furrowing his eyebrows. He looks thoughtful, but the look softens soon enough, a small smile tugging at the edge of his mouth. It’s almost as if Francesco were contemplating his own future with Lorenzo, thinking about how their own relationship has evolved over the last year. Lorenzo doesn’t think that he’ll get tired of that hesitant happiness any time soon.

— 

Lorenzo doesn’t say anything to Bianca or Guglielmo again, partly to allow them to have plausible deniability and partly because he knows that if he keeps talking about it Francesco will undoubtedly find out he knows.

As the days creep closer, and the temperatures dip just a bit further, Lorenzo tries to decide how he’s going to discreetly celebrate with Francesco. A public display complete with the family and dinner will be too much— too much attention solely focused on him will not be a recipe for success. The over-involved nature of the Medici at Christmas already seems to be borderline as it all unfolds around them.

It’s incredibly subtle, but to the untrained eye, nothing about Guglielmo and Francesco changes during the course of celebrations. Lorenzo sees it just enough though to know it’s there, the uncertainty of these elaborate displays of family and friends overflowing with holiday cheer. Lorenzo’s aware of the number Jacopo did on the boys, but it’s times like these where it’s startlingly apparent.

There have been a few instances where Lorenzo has caught Francesco lingering on the edges of the room during a party, entering into a sort of self-preservation mode that no one can wholly pull him from. It’s a give and take at the end of the day— of course, Lorenzo can’t expect too much unreasonably from him.

Then one morning while he’s tuning out Jacopo arguing with Vespucci at a city council meeting, Lorenzo thinks of a perfect low-key day with no one around to bother Francesco— other than Lorenzo of course. He’s already looked at the calendar and sighed inwardly to see that the 28th was a council day, so he’ll need to make an arrangement with the board explaining his and Francesco’s absence. The easiest thing to do would be to masquerade their absence as a business trip to Rome so as to not draw attention to the true nature of their travel. In reality, Lorenzo will plan a trip to the Medici vineyard— a move that will no doubt cause Francesco to roll his eyes at Lorenzo’s mushy sentiment once he figures it out. It’s the least Francesco deserves after years of likely uncelebrated birthdays though.

— 

The morning of January 28th is clear if a bit on the chilly side. Unlike most days, Lorenzo doesn’t feel the overwhelming need to get up and be productive. Officially, he’s setting off to Rome with Francesco to talk business with Carlo. Unofficially, he’s dragging Francesco out to the vineyard on false pretenses. As the date has grown closer, Lorenzo has grown more and more sure that the plan will be met with resistance. Even though being the center of attention isn’t something Francesco thrives on, it’s a risk Lorenzo has to take.

Lorenzo wakes up before Francesco like most mornings, however, today Lorenzo carefully pries himself out of bed rather than lie there and wait for the latter to wake as well. Before leaving their bedroom, Lorenzo dons a pair of pajama pants, which turns out to indeed be the correct decision when he walks into the dining room and meets Guglielmo and Bianca already there sipping coffee and feeding Giovanna.

Part of him wants to turn around and walk the other way at the sight of them, but Bianca catches him before he does so, her eyes brightening. Lorenzo should have remembered they were early risers. “Lorenzo! You’re up early. What’s the special occasion?” To Bianca’s credit, she says it with a straight face.

He pointedly ignores her question, going instead to say good morning to Giovanna where she sits in her high chair picking at some cheerios. Chancing a glance at Guglielmo, Lorenzo sees a semblance of a grin pulling at his eyes even while he takes a sip of his drink.

“If anyone asks today, I’ve gone into Rome on business to see Carlo, and Francesco is coming because you were busy, Guglielmo.” It’s not as if they’d rat him out to inquiring council or board members if asked, but it might be nice to only have one story floating around.

“And what is it Guglielmo is meant to be busy doing?” Bianca asks. The smug smile has fallen from her face. Lorenzo is pleased to see, but she doesn’t look particularly put out at the lie. She just seems inquisitive— covering all her bases.

“He’s busy being a father to a ninth-month-old and minding his business.” He includes the last little bit purely for Bianca’s benefit, who squints in response.

Before Bianca can get a word in about how she’s the reason Lorenzo even knows about Francesco’s birthday, Guglielmo pipes up with a valid point. “Does Francesco know he’s going anywhere that’s not the bank or the city council building today?”

Lorenzo knows that by not telling Francesco anything, he’s effectively making it a surprise, which Francesco does not like. He’ll have to tell him about the fake meeting with Carlo in Rome then and hope Francesco doesn’t investigate. He’s sure Francesco will get passive-aggressive about driving instead of taking the train too, but it’s not as if they’ll actually be on the road for the three hours it takes to get to Rome by car.

Bianca’s looking at Lorenzo intently over Giovanna’s head where she’s holding a cheerio up for her to take. Wasn’t Giuliano usually the one to harass Lorenzo over everything he did? When did Bianca turn into the resident Medici antagonist? Without saying anything, Lorenzo takes the coffee Guglielmo pours for him and promptly leaves. Still feeding Giovanna cheerios, Bianca makes sure to throw a wink Lorenzo’s way.

Lorenzo wanders the hallways until he emerges onto the balcony overlooking the back gardens. It’s quiet, as usual, and serves as Lorenzo’s place to pass time without the interference of technology. Now, sipping his coffee, he takes the time to go through a mental checklist both with things he needs to finish up by Friday at the bank, as well as what he’ll need to follow up on with various council members. He takes his time because there’s still a bit of time before he plans to wake Francesco 

The cup is empty by the time Lorenzo figures that Francesco’s slept late enough.

Back in their bedroom, the curtains are still drawn, letting in only the light clever enough to sneak in through the cracks. It creates an oddly ethereal halo around the windows, as if they’re artificially being lit from within. On the bed, in much the same position as when Lorenzo had left earlier, Francesco’s lying on his stomach with his face practically buried in the pillow under his head. He’s burrowed into the thick blankets and duvet, his eyes shut tight as if aware of the impending rude awakening. Lorenzo isn’t that mean though.

Instead, Lorenzo quietly goes to his side of the bed and picks his way across the blankets so that he’s practically hovering over Francesco’s face. From this close, he’s able to admire the way Francesco’s eyelashes fan out, the way his freckles dust his cheekbones and nose— just small and light enough that they blend into his face a few feet away. Lorenzo has to admit they’re one of his favorite aspects of his boyfriend’s face. Francesco doesn’t stir, so naturally, Lorenzo has to take it up a notch.

Slowly and carefully, Lorenzo lowers his mouth so it hangs right above the jut of Francesco’s jaw— made more prominent than usual by the position of his head pushed into the pillow. Still, Francesco doesn’t wake until Lorenzo presses his lips, cool from the outside air, to Francesco’s sleep-warm skin.

“Mmm why are you up so early? Leave me alone. It’s my day off and we don’t have to be down at the council building for a few hours,” he mumbles, his voice thick and deep with sleep. Francesco doesn’t make any effort to move his head, so drowsy with sleep still that he puts up no fight as Lorenzo buries his face into the former’s neck, pressing kisses up along both it and his jaw.

Francesco wrinkles his nose at the feeling and “hmphs” at Lorenzo’s movement. While their late nights always result in early mornings for Lorenzo, that’s not often the case for Francesco. Ordinarily Lorenzo wouldn’t disturb Francesco, much too wary of his wrath, but there’s too much to do today to warrant a lazy morning lie-in. 

“Nope. No council for us today. We have business down in Rome with Carlo, and you’re coming with. Guglielmo said he’d take care of everything.” Lorenzo punctuates the statement with an over-the-top kiss to Francesco’s cheek— a move that gets the other man sufficiently moving if only to get away from Lorenzo’s mouth.

Francesco rolls over onto his back, shoving Lorenzo out of the way as he goes. Of course, Lorenzo only ever goes so far, merely rearranging himself so that he’s still hanging over Francesco. Even though Francesco is sufficiently awake now to form coherent thoughts, his eyes are still a touch glassy with sleep, his hair a significant tangle of overgrown curls. It’s a picture of familiarity and comfort that Francesco would sooner die over than let anyone besides Lorenzo see.

“You are disgusting,” Francesco bites out half-heartedly, all venom disappearing by the end of the sentence.

Despite his supposed disgust, Francesco reaches up and scratches idly at Lorenzo’s exposed forearms where they bracket either side of Francesco’s head. He lets Lorenzo press an actual kiss to his mouth, just on the edge of chaste so as to prevent a spiral into distraction. It’s happened a few times now— enough that Lorenzo knows the day’s plans will be for naught if he lets Francesco distract him.

He pulls away though. Lorenzo’s actually very proud of himself for having the wherewithal to peel himself out of bed before he thoroughly wrinkles his clothes. He takes a moment to smooth out his shirt, during which he really tests his willpower. Standing there, watching Francesco lying in bed watching him is more tempting than Lorenzo thought it’d be. Maybe he should just climb back in and spend the whole day worshipping Francesco like this instead.

“When are we leaving?” Francesco asks before Lorenzo can make good on this change of plans.

Ah, yes. Appearances and minor deception. “As soon as you pull yourself out of bed and get some coffee into you.”

Lorenzo doesn’t leave the room until Francesco has pulled himself up into a semblance of a vertical position, not trusting him in the least to stay awake. While he waits, he makes another pot of coffee and avoids Bianca’s looks when she wanders back into the kitchen.

Giovanna sits upright on Bianca’s chest, her little head poking over Bianca’s shoulder as she’s burped. “You actually managed to rouse him before noon? I’m impressed. Guglielmo and I took bets.”

Lorenzo can’t help but snort, pouring out a second serving for himself after he’s finished preparing one for Francesco just the way he likes. “And which of you had faith in me then?”

“Neither of us had much, but Guglielmo had a bit more than I did. Francesco on a day off waking up early? Few have succeeded.” And then, as if to retaliate for her lost wager, she snatches Lorenzo’s coffee off its saucer and walks swiftly out of the kitchen.

“Bianca!”

“Think of it as reparation!” She yells back from down the hall.

Francesco surprisingly needs little additional encouragement to finish getting ready. When Lorenzo finally makes it back to their room with two coffees, Francesco’s at the sink in the bathroom scrubbing at his face.

Despite the lie of business with Carlo, he’s not dressed in his usual business attire, but rather a pair of dark-washed jeans and a loose dark green sweater. He looks exactly as Lorenzo would expect someone to look who’s about to spend an extended amount of time on a train.

He either doesn’t hear Lorenzo come in or just doesn’t care, so Lorenzo sets the coffee cups down gently on the side table and perches himself on the edge of the bed in direct view of the bathroom.

Like most things in life, Francesco is meticulous with his morning routine. He shaves and then washes his face and then brushes his teeth. The contacts come last, giving him the opportunity to ponder if he really wants to wear them that day or just throw on a pair of glasses. Francesco’s joked to Lorenzo that it depends on if he thinks he’ll need to intimidate anyone that day. Or well, Lorenzo thinks it was a joke.

Watching Francesco like this, defenses fully down and calm, is one of Lorenzo’s favorite times. There aren’t any fronts to maintain or impressions to keep intact. He’s just existing .

Today, Francesco decides on slipping his contacts in, likely thinking he already used up his allotment of casualness on his outfit. A few blinks later, he’s shutting off the bathroom light and turning to see Lorenzo on the bed.

“Honestly, it astounds me how you’re able to look so good wearing both the most form-fitting clothes and the loosest. That sweater must be a size and a half too big. Are you sure it isn’t mine?”  

Rather than make his way directly to Lorenzo, Francesco is drawn to the side table and to the sweet relief of caffeine that the coffee promises. He rolls his eyes, taking a few grateful sips before addressing Lorenzo.

“I figured ‘business with Carlo’ wasn’t paramount bank business that required business attire. Plus, you’re not exactly a walking model of formal business-wear right now. Was I wrong? I can change if I need to.” Francesco isn’t wrong per se, but Lorenzo still glances down at his own khakis and well-loved long-sleeved shirt.

“Mmm no. Please do not do that,” he rebuts. Lorenzo has no qualms about letting his gaze travel up the length of Francesco’s body, coming to rest on his face where the latter looks back at him with a smug smirk and raised eyebrows.

“Are you going to be able to hold it together all day?” Lorenzo knows Francesco is making fun of him, but he is nothing if not shameless.

He shrugs. “Guess we’ll find out. I’m ready whenever you are.” For once, it’s true. Lorenzo’s got his keys in his back pocket and his messenger bag on the chair by the door. For once, he’s not the one to wait on.

Also sensing this out-of-the-blue development, Francesco watches Lorenzo with renewed curiosity and narrowed eyes. Maybe Lorenzo should have dawdled a bit rather than been the one to push them out the house.

“What time is our train?”

Francesco’s interest is already piqued just because Lorenzo’s the first one ready for once, and now Lorenzo has to tell him they’re not taking the train? Out of everything, not taking the damn train is what’s going to do them in. Lorenzo tries to quickly come up with an excuse that isn’t painfully transparent and only halfway succeeds. “We’re driving, actually. Didn’t want to be dictated by time tables the whole afternoon.”

If anything, Francesco’s expression gets more suspicious. “It’s half the time, which means that I didn’t have to wake up early. Why are we driving? You’re a sadist, you know that?”

Lorenzo knew that’d be a point of contention. “Hush. Would it kill you to just go with the flow for once in your life?”

Thankfully, Francesco doesn’t say anything more on the matter while he finishes his coffee and grabs his jacket from where it hangs on the coat rack next to the door. They get all the way out to the car before Francesco pauses at the passenger side door. He’s got his phone in his hand, looking down at something with his eyebrows furrowed.

Lorenzo throws his bag into the backseat before dealing with whatever the matter is now.

“Where are we going, Lorenzo?” It’s a bit more accusatory this time and causes Lorenzo to pause on his side of the car before leaning forward against the door and folding his arms on the roof. 

“What do you mean? I already told you we’re going down to Rome to talk business with Carlo.”

Wordlessly, Francesco passes his phone across the expanse of the car’s roof so that Lorenzo can see a text from Carlo that sounds confused over the prospect of a meeting that day. Two thoughts run through Lorenzo’s mind back to back. 1) He should have told Carlo to cover for him and 2) Since when did Francesco and Carlo have each other’s numbers?

This surprise will not be ruined because Francesco is an uncompromising and untrusting pain in the ass. Lorenzo is determined not to fold this easily. So, he rounds the hood of the car and comes to stand in front of Francesco.

“I knew you were stubborn, but out of all the days, you couldn’t throw me a bone?” Lorenzo doesn’t even realize what’s come out of his mouth until it’s too late, until Francesco’s eyes widen in what might be understanding, a knowing smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth after a moment.

‘He’s just fucking with you’, Lorenzo tries to tell himself. He won’t fall into Francesco’s trap so easily though. Lorenzo steps closer, reaching a hand down and out to find the door handle, all the while maintaining eye contact with Francesco. Does Francesco truly think Lorenzo will fold this easily? Leaning in even closer, Lorenzo’s lips find Francesco’s right temple and plant a firm kiss against it, lingering for a moment afterward to whisper in time with his opening of the car door, bumping Francesco out of the way. “Just get in the car, Pazzi.”

Francesco snorts, that knowing glint still present in his eyes even as he climbs into the car.

For the first twenty minutes or so, Francesco doesn’t make any comments about the drive or the route. He doesn’t say anything about Carlo’s text, nor does he complain about how suspicious Lorenzo is apparently being. Truthfully, Lorenzo savors the silence so as to avoid digging himself into an even deeper hole.

Only when Lorenzo turns off the main highway does Francesco make another quip, one which Lorenzo drowns out with the radio. He doesn’t miss Francesco’s smirk.

Passing through the small towns, they see a few people eating at cafes or strolling along the sidewalks. It’s before noon on a weekday, so everyone’s likely at work or still home.

The Medici vineyard lies on the outskirts of Greve, a small town about forty-five minutes from Florence. It’s just far enough to qualify as rural living with its rolling hills and practically ancient clusters of stone houses all packed together along roads barely accessible by car. Vineyards cover nearly every speck of ground the eye can see, and everyone knows each other and their family lineage.

It’s always been one of Lorenzo’s favorite places to escape to with their house situated at the end of a dirt lane made up of two stone buildings that overlook the vineyard below. The house and vineyard itself has been in the Medici family since it was built in the 16th century to accompany the already existing vines and to replace the smaller cottage down the hill.

Francesco’s been to the vineyard a few times before, enough at least to recognize where they’re going when the telltale collection of houses appears up on the hill in front of them, and the road begins to narrow. By now, it’s apparent where they’re going, but Francesco seems to be humoring Lorenzo enough not to say anything. 

Instead, he watches the trees and old buildings pass through the windshield. It doesn’t matter if they grew up only forty-five north, the colors and the sights still draw their eyes like little kids to a colorful storefront all these years later.

Lorenzo’s able to get the car all the way up the driveway and into park before Francesco speaks up. It’s quiet and thoughtful, not at all accusatory like it had been earlier. “Who told you?” His head is turned toward Lorenzo, but his eyes are downcast as if he’s waiting until the last moment before looking up and submitting himself to revealing one of his more closely kept secrets.

This trip isn’t meant to be steeped in sorrow and self-loathing though, so Lorenzo wordlessly reaches over the center console and takes Francesco’s hand, squeezing it in silent acknowledgment. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Lorenzo says before withdrawing his hand and climbing out of the car into the chilly January air. At the very least, if they’re going to have this conversation and a whole ‘woe-is-me’ thing, they might as well do it outside in the open air.

Francesco follows Lorenzo and trails after him to the far end of the driveway where they can look out at the rows and rows of grapevines in the valley below. Looking out over the family land, Lorenzo’s eyes drift over to the man next to him. The first thing he notices is that Francesco seems to have gotten out of the car without his coat, resulting in the image now of Francesco with his arms wrapped around himself loosely while the cool breeze pulls at his hair. 

He’s silent next to Lorenzo for several moments. They’re approaching a sticky and uncomfortable precipice that’s mired by Francesco’s adolescence— it’s one that Lorenzo had been anticipating if he’s being honest. Stoicism is a quality that’s often taught, a learned behavior from those around, and it often makes Lorenzo curious as to what Francesco would be like without it. What would Francesco be like if he’s spent just a bit more time with his parents as Guglielmo had? Would he be more open, more emotionally driven?

At the same time though, Francesco wouldn’t be the Francesco Lorenzo knows without the bouts of silence and brooding. He wouldn’t be the same if he gave his emotions freely and with trust. This Francesco, the one who holds his cards close to his chest and doesn’t make a big deal about his birthday is the one Lorenzo wants.

“Why didn’t you tell me it was your birthday today?” Lorenzo finally asks, looking openly at Francesco now. He understands why it wasn’t announced to the entire family, but Lorenzo would have thought he’d be an exception.

Francesco stands there and shrugs, looking down at his feet while he seems to search for the right words. “Jacopo was never one to celebrate birthdays.” Is what Francesco finally settles on. “He thought they were frivolous and just another extravagance. That doesn’t mean we didn’t acknowledge them, but they were just another day of the year is all. Sometimes, I forget other people care,” he finishes, looking up into Lorenzo’s eyes.

There’s nothing remarkable about Francesco’s expression— nothing there that Lorenzo hasn’t seen before. He’s got one eye squinted from the sun, its bright nearly noon light highlighting the lighter spots in his hair and the dusting of freckles that spans Francesco’s nose and cheekbones. There’s nothing remarkable or new from what’s always there, yet Lorenzo is entranced as always.

Lorenzo reaches out an arm, an invitation and plea to bring Francesco closer into his arms. Taking the invitation, the latter folds himself into Lorenzo’s embrace, Francesco’s chin coming to rest on Lorenzo’s shoulder. The familiar weight and smell of Francesco and his cologne is grounding and like home. It makes Lorenzo’s heart feel like it’s several pounds lighter.

Here, even though the wind is blowing and the winter chill still clings to the air, Lorenzo is warm. “I don’t ever want to make you uncomfortable if I can help it. I figured you wouldn’t want a big fuss made, hence the silence. Coming out here with you for the day seemed like the next best thing in my head.”

Francesco raises his head so he’s looking at Lorenzo, a hint of a genuine, heartfelt smile on his face. There isn’t anything snide in it for once today, and it reassures Lorenzo that he made the right decision.

Without saying anything, Francesco tilts his head up and closes the few inches between the two of them in a quiet and gentle kiss. If possible, it warms him even further even if Francesco’s fingers at the base of Lorenzo’s neck are ice cold.

Lorenzo wants to stay there in that moment long enough for Francesco’s fingers to warm. He wants to run his own through Francesco’s thick, dark hair and trail them down the notches of his spine and up under his sweater. The sweater that Lorenzo’s not wholly convinced wasn’t his first.

Francesco pulls away only a hairsbreadth, though it’s premature and close enough that it has Lorenzo trailing after him until he’s stopped by the former’s thumbs gripping either side of his face, rubbing at Lorenzo’s cheekbones.

“But seriously, who told you.” The question has no malice behind it, but it still manages to pull a suppressed little chuckle from Lorenzo’s lips.

“I promised I wouldn’t say. You know, to protect them from your wrath.”

“‘My wrath’? I bet I could figure it out if I tried hard enough, you know. Or , you could be a good boyfriend and tell me, since you dragged me all the way out here.” As if to seal the deal, Francesco leans close once more and presses another quick kiss to Lorenzo’s lips, the tip of his tongue swiping against Lorenzo’s upper lip. It’s a calculated move, one that ordinarily would turn Lorenzo into putty. Francesco plays dirty.

“Promise you won’t get mad?” It’s a long shot, but he might as well try.

“Depends on the context, you know that.”

Lorenzo sighs internally. “Bianca told me at the end of November after you’d gone to bed one night. Guglielmo told her, but I don’t know what that context is. You’ll have to take it up with your brother.”

“Mmm,” Francesco hums and nods before sliding his hands down from Lorenzo’s back until they’re wrapped around his waist. He leans forward and lets his head rest sideways on Lorenzo’s shoulder so that he’s looking up at an angle. “I’ll have to unleash my wrath on him later when I’m not being sequestered at the world-famous Medici vineyard. For now, I think I’ll just enjoy the calm of today with you.”

“You will, will you?” Lorenzo jokes. “Happy birthday, Francesco,” he murmurs into the top of Francesco’s head, punctuating it with a kiss to his scalp.

Predictably, Francesco is open to spending the rest of the day alone with Lorenzo away from the loud voices of their family members and colleagues. They spend the rest of the day relaxing and making a big, homemade lunch with the groceries their neighbors down the lane had bought for them in advance.

At one point, while Francesco is trying to recreate an old family tiramisu recipe, Lorenzo decides they should have a bakeoff to determine who’s the better baker. It ends with powdered sugar all over the counter and speckling both boys’ shirts, faces, and hair. Francesco though, ever the clean and caring person, does his best to clean the sugar from Lorenzo’s being using various methods, the most successful in Lorenzo’s opinion being his mouth.   

Lorenzo drags Francesco into the vineyard at one point after their foray into baking while the sun’s still halfway in the sky and its warmth lingers in the dirt. If Francesco jumps on Lorenzo’s back and tackles him to the ground, pinning him where he straddles Lorenzo’s hips and holding the latter’s wrists to the ground above his head, attacking Lorenzo with his mouth for the second time that afternoon, then that’s no one’s business but their own.

They drive home late that night, rolling back into the house at nearly a half-hour before midnight. Giuliano’s still up and miraculously present when they stumble through the door, giving them nothing more than a raised eyebrow in passing.

Lorenzo will no doubt be teased all day tomorrow, but for now, he drags Francesco to bed in preparation for a new day.