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luna

May 2015

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cesare/lucrezia

Fic: For Thine is the Kingdom [2/3]

Title: For Thine is the Kingdom
Author: luna_plath
Pairing: Cesare/Lucrezia
Rating: NC-17
Word count: 2,185
Warnings: sexuality, incest, canon character death
Summary: In the days leading to Alfonso’s funeral Cesare hardly had a moment alone with his sister. She kept company with her ladies, in black gowns and embroidered veils, even dressing little Giovanni in a black doublet, a delicate onyx necklace fixed around her pale throat. Lucrezia remained enigmatic, her long looks revealing very little. It was maddening. He recalled the way she had spoken of Alfonso, the way she had sighed and said I grow so tired of my husband, knowing better than most how he had dispatched her previous one.


The three of them sat in silence while one of the Pope’s attendants poured goblets of wine, bowing his head deferentially before the Holy Father dismissed him with a wave of his ringed hand.

“What is it that brings you both here to speak with me?” he asked, taking a small sip from his glass.

“Naples,” Lucrezia said simply.

“Ah.”

The very word seemed to put their father off his drink. He sat down his cup, his shoulders seeming to take on a new weight, his brow furrowed in a manner that Cesare had grown used to seeing since his father took the papacy. In the light from the open window he could clearly see how gray his father’s hair had become, now shades of silver when it had once been dark brown.

“And I am assuming that you have some plan that you wish to tell me, if your united presence here suggests anything.”

Cesare had vowed to keep fewer secrets from his father in the future, and from Lucrezia, who deserved his trust most of all. The capture of Caterina Sforza had stunned their opponents into submission for the time being, but Cesare knew that it would take further acts of strength to keep it so.

“My plan is to journey to Naples, depose King Frederigo, and install Lucrezia as regent to King Louis of France,” Cesare said, carefully monitoring his father’s reaction. He knew that his father disapproved of heavy French involvement, and rightly so, considering the breadth of King Louis’ ambition, and yet without his support there could be no talk of binding the Romagna together.

“There is no one we would trust more than our own daughter, given the task, but will the French king agree to it?” his father asked.

“Leave that to me,” Cesare said.

Looking toward Lucrezia, he thought he saw a glint of triumph in her eye. If their plan came to fruition he would make her a Queen in all but name, a move that would surely earn the displeasure of the great Italian states, leaving their family to defend their prize from a pack of angry, mistrustful wolves.

Are we up to the task? Cesare wondered. Spain would certainly contest the loss of Naples, even while they conquered the New World and reaped all it’s lands and riches. An uncaring part of him believed that to be King Louis’ problem and none of his own concern, but Cesare knew as well as anyone that he could not leave the possibility of further foreign involvement to chance. After Forli he had some understanding of what it would take to invade Naples, but maintaining their gains would be the real test, the endeavor by which history would judge them.

“We entrust this task to you, Cesare,” his father said, his elbows braced on the arms of his chair, hands knotted in his lap.

“Must you ride north to plan your invasion with the French King?” Lucrezia asked.

“Yes, and soon, I should think. But it is his invasion, not mine, sis.”

“I doubt the other Italian states will see it that way,” his father said darkly. “Further alliances may have to be made to accomplish our goals, but that is a discussion for another time.”

His father rose from his seat, shrugging off the crimson outer cloak that he often wore about his rooms. Cesare took that as their sign to leave, offering his arm to Lucrezia and nodding farewell to his father, relieved to have settled on a plan to guide their family’s future.

--

Lucrezia had not anticipated keeping her separate household in Rome, not when she spent so much time at her mother’s villa or in the Vatican, but it was pleasant to have her own residence. It afforded certain liberties that she wouldn’t have been allowed in her parents’ homes, a degree of privacy due to her status as a young widow that was rarely infringed upon.

She loosened the clasps of her hair net, gently placing it in her lacquered jewel box among many others, a smile easily finding her lips when she felt the touch of Cesare’s hands on her shoulders. He dug his thumbs into the muscles overlaying her shoulder blades, drawing a sigh out of her as she closed her eyes, the tension easing from her as if she were a housecat basking in the sun.

Lucrezia placed her hand over his. “That feels good.”

Her skin prickling, she felt the lightest of kisses against the side of her neck, then along her jaw, her brother’s arm sliding around her waist and anchoring her to him.

You feel good,” he whispered, a lilting tone to his voice, like he had more in mind than chastely embracing her.

Lucrezia turned in his arms, placing her hands on the solid frame of his chest, one of her hands finding its way to the back of his neck, her fingers tangling with the curls there. Cesare slowly kissed the expanse between her neck and collarbone, the faint bite of his teeth making her shiver despite the warmth of the Italian sun through the open window, his lips dragging over the line of her jaw. With every kiss she grew more frustrated, standing to the tips of her toes and pulling his mouth to hers. His lips were warm and dry and familiar, drawing a shudder from low in her belly.

Wrapping her arms around his neck, Lucrezia could think of no want or need that overshadowed this moment. For so long her thoughts had been consumed with worry—over her child, her husband, her brother—that she had almost forgotten the distinct pleasure of simply feeling. Cesare brushed his tongue over hers and she sighed into his mouth, her toes curling in her shoes.

The crash of a silver serving tray colliding with the marble floor reverberated in Lucrezia’s ears, so loud that she was too stunned to move for a moment, thrown off by Cesare’s quick withdrawal from her, his jaw set in an expression of anger—or was it panic? She looked from her brother’s face to the source of the sound, a spilled pitcher of water and a fallen platter. Lucrezia’s mouth fell open in horror as she took in the sight of the spilled water soaking the hemline of Giulia Farnese’s gown.

“I…I did not mean to startle you, my lady,” Giulia said, her expression clearly one of shock. “I only meant to call on you in your time of mourning.”

The Lady Giulia turned and left. Her heart knocking against her breastbone, Lucrezia chased after her, a litany of excuses rushing through her brain. It’s not what you think. Cesare only meant to comfort me. It is my fault, I am mad with grief. Please don’t tell my father, please don’t tell my mother, please don’t, pleasedon’t pleasedon’t—

“Giulia!” Lucrezia said, her hand catching Giulia’s elbow.

“I must speak with you,” she said seriously. “Tomorrow, in private. But please, do not breathe a word of what you have seen until then. I beg you, if you ever thought of me as a friend then do me this one courtesy.”

Giulia Farnese, normally so kind and easy to read, wore a purposefully blank expression, too much of a lady to scold her, even if it was rightly justified.

“As you wish,” she said.

Lucrezia watched her leave, even in that moment wanting to seek comfort in her brother’s arms, knowing as she did that it was what had led her to this peril in the first place.

--

“It is a crime, Lucrezia,” Giulia said, her perfect mouth drawn into an uncharacteristic frown.

“A crime without a victim,” Lucrezia replied, feeling like God himself had reached down and snatched her hopes and dreams from her hands.

They sat in one of the private gardens that belonged to Giulia’s betrothed, the pair of them seated beneath a silken canopy, surrounded by the last blossoms of summer. She had been served wine when she first arrived but Lucrezia could hardly think of consuming a drop with her stomach so twisted with worry.

If she had any hope of keeping her family together then the Holy Father and her mother could not learn of what she shared with Cesare. Lucrezia knew not how to make Giulia see that. She could only hope that her one-time friend would take pity on her and keep her vile secret from becoming circulated throughout Rome, the very ammunition against the Borgia family needed by her father’s enemies.

“Have you ever had a love that was so consuming that you could not bear to be parted from it?” Lucrezia asked, unable to meet Giulia’s eye for fear that she might cry. “If something were to happen to him I would be in my grave the very next day.”

Giulia reached over and took her hand. She may have been renowned for her beauty, but Lucrezia saw only kindness and sympathy reflected in Lady Giulia’s features, the older sister that she had always wished for.

“You are dear to my heart, and for that reason alone I will keep your secret, but if your father or your mother asks me directly I will not lie.”

Lucrezia rushed forward and hugged her, awkwardly bent over Giulia’s seated form, her face pressed into Giulia’s neatly plaited hair.

“I thank you,” she whispered, surrounded by the scent of her friend’s perfume. Lucrezia pulled away, wiping at the tears that had leaked out of the corner of her eye.

Giulia bade her to be seated and remain, “So that we may catch up on one another’s lives.”

“We shall be here for quite a while, then,” Lucrezia said, earning a true smile from her friend.

--

Lucrezia arrived at her mother’s villa in low spirits. With Cesare in Milan and the heavy heat of late summer bearing down on her she had taken to feeling ill, often finding herself unable to eat a morsel of food without feeling nauseous. In spite of her poor health she was determined to dine with her mother. They were both in need of company.

During the course of her marriage she had been too occupied to assist her mother and Lady Giulia in the revitalization of the city, but now that her time had fewer demands Lucrezia intended to redouble her efforts. While dinner was served she listened to her mother’s plan for alms to be delivered to the poor every Sunday, taking a small portion of what was offered by churchgoers and using it to feed the less fortunate residents of Rome.

“It is a lovely idea, mother,” she said, taking only small bites of the meal lain before her. “But I fear that father will be in great need of funds if he means to go through with his plan for the Romagna.”

“You mean your brother will be in great need of funds,” her mother replied wisely. “He has the French King to supply his endeavors, does he not?”

“In some respects, yes, but I fear that father’s designs will require significantly more men, which means…”

“Significantly more coin,” her mother finished. “We will simply have to find some other way to bring this project to fruition.”

“Between you and Lady Giulia I trust that you’ll find a solution,” Lucrezia said agreeably.

In the midst of their conversation she found herself too nauseous to even look at her food. Hardly hearing her mother’s reply, Lucrezia laid down her fork and looked away from her plate, her stomach churning like a deck on the high seas.

“Lucrezia, my dear, are you alright?” her mother asked, rising from her seat and kneeling by her side.

Closing her eyes, she felt her skin turn to goose flesh as another wave of nausea overtook her.

“I feel rather ill,” she said, using her napkin to fan cool air over herself.

Her mother called for an attendant to bring water and a clean cloth, ushering Lucrezia into the sitting room where she dabbed cold water over her brow.

“What ails you, my love?”

“It is only my stomach, mother. It will pass.”

“How long have you had this illness?” her mother asked.

Pressing the cold cloth to her clammy neck, Lucrezia said, “It is the illness of pregnancy, nothing more.”

She felt her mother’s hand still against her brow, the soaked cloth pressed to her skin. Lucrezia opened her eyes to see her mother looking at her very closely, still more beautiful than any woman she had ever known, her mother’s almond-shaped eyes drawn with obvious surprise.

“And this child is your husband’s?”

“I highly doubt that,” Lucrezia confessed. “Alfonso and I…he did not lie with me often. This child is almost certainly not his.”

“Oh, Lucrezia,” her mother said, comfortingly bringing her arms around her. “I can hardly judge you for such an act. It would not be the first time that the sorrow of widowhood had driven a woman into the arms of another.”

Lucrezia did not have the heart to correct her.

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