Rating: PG-13 (Warning: incest, hurt/comfort)
Pairings: Alfonso/Lucrezia, Cesare/Lucrezia
Disclaimer: Showtime is the almighty.
Summary: It’s been six days since Alfonso died, five since Lucrezia has secluded herself in her room, three since Cesare can’t sleep.
Notes: So this is what happened during a Brazilian cold, rainy winter morning, after some thoughts about the second season's possibilities. I tried to portray a more mature and acute Lucrezia fully aware of the potential violence of her verbal abilities and of Cesare’s vulnerability when it comes to their relationship.
This story was inspired by Bravestation’s White Wolves. Its dark melody and vague – yet lucidly applicable to our beloved siblings, in my opinion – lyrics were basically what shaped this piece of fiction. www.youtube.com/watch
What else...? My apologies for any grammar mistakes. And pretty please, feedbacks = my happiness, positive or negative ones. Really.
She said she’d never want me anymore
She said she’d never love me
But the lion, the lake and the lover are at your door.”
(Bravestation – White Wolves)
It has been eight days since he last talked to her. Six since Alfonso died. Five since she locked herself in her bedroom, refusing to see or to speak to anybody, even her mother. Three since he couldn’t sleep.
Cesare doesn’t dare to knock on her doors, he is certain she won’t open them. So he sits in a chair in the hallway a few steps from her room and waits, fumbling with his own fingers, trying to hold the golden cross placed against his chest… The crucifix he was obliged to wear while he served as a cardinal and carelessly threw at the bottom of some forgotten drawer when he gladly resigned the function. He had never prayed again. Not until three days ago, when in a despair he would find pathetic in any other man, he knelt and asked God not for His forgiveness, but hers. He raises his bent head when he hears a maid approaching his direction, carrying the meals Lucrezia has been ordering to be taken to her. When she opens the door to grant passage to the old woman, Cesare rushes in and penetrates the space, blatantly demanding the servant to leave.
“How dare you?” Lucrezia is sitting by the window and her voice is neither low nor loud, it is rather emotionless, an insipid tone that he barely recognizes. She has her back to him, but he can notice her hair is undone and she is still wearing her nightdresses, though it is already afternoon.
“Sister, please…” He starts to walk towards her but hesitates when she gets up and stares into his eyes.
“I am no longer your sister, Cesare. My dear brother is dead, lost and engulfed by unknown surroundings that I care little to discover. Now if you could please leave me alone…” She sits again and he realizes she’s holding a shirt and her needlework crafts are scattered across the nearby table.
“You are making… His shirts…?” He asks slowly, his brows furrowing in a confused gaze.
“I remember the first time I tried to sew. Actually sew. Mother has always insisted on teaching me, but I was so clumsy and impatient and could never properly learn.” She is not talking to him, her eyes are fixed on the floor and she has a sad little smile across her pale lips. “He liked embroideries, carefully designed, detailed garments, so I thought perhaps I could make him something. It looked awful and he had this disgusted expression when he saw the doublet…”, she bursts out laughing and covers her mouth with her hands, “but he immediately smiled, thanked me and wore it right then and there…”
“Lucrezia.” He doesn’t want to know, he doesn’t want to listen, he doesn’t want her to remember him, he doesn’t want her lifeless cheeks to become rosy and vivid when talking about him.
But she ignores his protests and continues, “You see, he was receiving the visit of the Florentines and he had to present himself in a polished fashion, which was simply impossible with that hideous doublet, so I told him there was no need for him to wear it, not at that moment.”
Cesare sincerely asks himself if she’s merely following a scarcely conscious, somewhat automatic flux of memories or if she’s deliberately punishing him by unveiling this lovely, gentle husband that he had grown to despise over the last years.
“’My darling, it is ugly indeed’, he said smirking, and taking my hands and kissing them, he continued ‘so I shall wear it as a form of encouragement: whenever you see this disturbing thing, you shall practice more and more… And one day, you will create the most beautiful embroideries in all Naples. And Rome!’ I never got to refine them enough…” She concludes bitterly, grasping the shirt and tightly holding it against her heart.
“Will you ever forgive me?” He finally asks, firmly and yet in such a fragile tone.
“Yes, I am making his shirts, it makes me feel he’s here still.” She takes the needle and resumes the sewing, ignoring her brother as if he has never entered the room.
“My love...?” He has never felt this impotent and powerless in all his life, and he surprises himself with a pained sigh when he hurts his fingers after clutching the end of his crucifix too hardly.
“I was happy. Did you know that?” Her voice is now loud and harsh, the words rapid and severe.
“I—“ He chokes and doesn’t have the time to recompose his speech, which is trampled by her.
“Funny how when I so was miserable with Sforza you did nothing and let me suffer in solitude. And when I was finally content, when I experienced deep tenderness, you ripped it away from me.” She raises her head and looks at him, her eyes cold and angry and her contracted lips stopping to punctuate each syllable with condemnation, “Carnage. That is all you know about.”
“You’re being unfair, sister, I… I asked you so many times how Sforza treated you, if you were satisfied with your marriage, I asked you so many…” Cesare suddenly falls silent, his breath out of rhythm, his weak legs seeking some support, which he finds in a bench opposite to where she is. He sits tiredly, sighting and running his hands through his hair. “You would not tell me, Lucrezia. You refused to give me the details, remember?”
Of course she remembers: she wanted to be strong for her family’s sake and most of all didn’t wish to worry him. But the only desire in her mind right now is to torment him in any way possible and she knows he will believe in anything she says, “And you accepted my position so easily! If you knew me so much, as much as you always say you do, you would have noticed how anguished I was and would have insisted, you would have visited me in Pesaro to be certain I was being properly taken care of… Yet you did nothing, Cesare! You have no idea of my unhappiness at that time, Sforza was the cruelest husband. His words hurt my spirit daily and his hands bruised my body nightly.”
And yes, he believes her. He was battling to remove the filthy stain between them left by his recent misconduct, but now he finds yet another blemish, too old to be remedied. He feels so foolish for having prayed for forgiveness and redemption and imagines God bitterly mocking him by ripping away any kindness from Lucrezia’s heart.
“Alfonso... He was such a charming gentleman, a pleasant company who’d always keep me amused, we would go to the baths and we would ride for hours. We loved to dance together and curiously our taste in music was identical.” Her oneiric expression unexpectedly assumes somber shades, and in a mix of caution and insolence, she bites her bottom lip and starts “His words cheered me daily, and his skilled sensuous hands explored my body—“
He doesn’t allow her to continue. Rising noisily, he murmurs a simple “No...” while clenching his fists. He will gladly take her reprimands, he will listen to all her accusations, he will let her strip him bare and deliver him to nothingness, but he will not permit her to scornfully remind him of all the ways she was no longer his.
His whisper sounds both like a warning and a menace. For a second she fears him and senses that she went too far. His tall and broad figure has gotten stronger since he joined the military career and his black dense clothes wrap him in a dangerous aura.
“He reminded me of Djem, you see. He was my best friend.” These were no longer her torture lines, they are merely a confession, an alleviation. The sentences are not meant to hurt him, they are devoid of violence and are filled with sweetness. And after some minutes sewing one of the sleeves of the shirt in silence, she mumbles an incredulous inquiry almost inaudibly: “And you slaughtered him…”
Cesare reaches for the door, but when he touches the heavy metal holders, he rests his head against the wood and lastly succumbs to perdition, desolated by the fear that if he leaves, he’ll never see her again, will never listen to her voice, will never smell her scent. “I thought I was your best friend...” He delivers faintly, his trembling tone fighting against the lump in his throat.
Lucrezia interrupts the sewing and sets the needle aside, reclining against the back of her chair, closing her eyes and breathing deeply. “You are my brother, Cesare.” She says calmly, almost as if she was addressing a child.
“You said—“ He doesn’t finish. He only wipes the tear that is running through his cheek and returns to the bench, his shoulders small and arched, his troubled heartbeat erratic. And at that moment his vigorous intimidating figure seems to Lucrezia to have instantly vanished, for his frame is hunched, frail and crooked.
“I have spent these last days fiercely thinking about how I ought to hate you for the rest of our existences. How I should never pardon you…” She leaves the chair and lies on her bed underneath the furry covers.
He shakes his head slowly and rests his arms on his knees, inhaling arduously. When he hears her calling his name, he looks at her direction and she lifts the covers, gently tapping the mattress.
“Come.” She smiles discretely and adjusts her position so she’s sitting.
Cesare opens his mouth but no sound is produced, his pupils rapidly wander through the bed and his steps are confused and loose. He sits by her side and her hands soon find his cloak, undoing each one of its laces and finally removing it. Lucrezia rests her hand against his chest and her touch feels warm against his cold tense skin. He feels another tear forming in his eyes and cursing himself mentally, he lowers his head embarrassed.
“Don’t. Let me see…” She holds his chin and analyses his face, waiting for the tear to descend all the way and meet her fingers, which she takes to her lips and licks, the salty taste of the drop strangely satisfying her. Cesare stares at her and blinks, sighting in a mixture of melancholy and vacillating hope. She proceeds to chastely kiss the wet traces on his flushed cheeks, and finishes by caressing his eyelids in a feather-like touch.
He takes her in his arms and buries his head in the crook of her neck, exhaling and murmuring muffled, incoherent sounds from which he can only distinguish “Why…?”
When she doesn’t answer, he relaxes their tight embrace and seeks her expression. Suddenly he sees that Alfonso’s shirt is still on her lap and swallowing uncomfortably, he scratches his forehead.
Lucrezia places a kiss on his lips, her tongue gently brushing against his soft pink flesh, making Cesare moan smoothly and search for her waist, rubbing it idly. And so she throws the shirt on the floor and lies down on the bed, taking him with her, “I keep having this dream… Alfonso’s gone and everything around me seems distant and foreign, and I forget all the words and forms that I know. But then you arrive and it all returns so alive, safe and true. And so I am able to speak and see again. Will you ever stop being the rules that delineate my universe, I wonder…” She smirks, playing with his chin.
He smiles modestly and lies on top of her, caressing her collarbone and kissing it tenderly. He finishes by speaking huskily, “Where do you think I get my thoughts and names from?”