11 - Death and All His Friends

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**THERE ARE SOME MATURE THEMES IN THIS CHAPTER. 

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July 30, 1476

Florence, Italy

The air was cool tonight, despite a warmer afternoon. The sun was almost down below the horizon, the last vestiges of sunlight seeping over the tall buildings. It painted the sky reds and blues that mixed together to form purples. To the east, the sky was fully dark and the thin crescent of light of the waning moon could be seen. A few stars flickered into view, though it would still be some time before they reached full luminance. There was a cool breeze to bring it all together, and Catherine was just glad she was able to enjoy it. She was also glad for her company—her two favorite boys. Well, after Petruccio, anyways.

Catherine sighed happily as she kicked her legs over the side of the building, leaned back on her arms, and watched the city. There were still quite a few people out. Some were just finishing up chores at their stores; some were heading to brothels or a tavern. Some were guards going onto their night shifts. Some were just out because they loved the night. Some were out to do mischief. And some were like the three of them—just enjoying life. It was how she wished every evening could go here with the Auditore's, and she wished every day would go how it had before, too. She loved spending time with Petruccio, and she almost regretted leaving him after dinner to go out with the older brothers. Still, she needed to do some "training"—she actually had done a bit—and so left with them, and now here they were.

"Soo... how much of slackers were you two today?" she snickered after a bit, looking first to Federico on her right, who was the most notorious. The older brother laughed from his spot lying on his back, arms folded behind his head for support. He brought up one knee as he looked to her, grinning like a fox.

"As much as possible. Only just barely managed to meet the daily quota."

"Oooh... that's tough to beat. Ezio?" the redhead hummed, turning to face the younger brother. He was lounged back on his elbows with a leg up while the other hanging over the edge like hers. He chuckled as he kept his gaze on the city.

"My brother always has me beat. Father makes me run errands, and I am unable to slack off for that. He is... very adamant I return as soon as possible all the time," he rumbled, pouting some.

She snickered, "It's probably to keep you from wasting your allowance on women and wine. Right, 'Rico?"

"Indeed. He has quite the bad habit of doing so."

Ezio gave them both a rude gesture, "I only do so every once in a while! And it is generally just women. Besides, brother, you are just as bad!"

"Good grief," Catherine laughed, rolling her eyes. "No wonder your mother and father love me so much—I do enough work for the both of you."

"'Work'? What 'work'?" Ezio snorted.

"Why, I tend to your little brother, of course. I also keep you boys out of trouble when we go out on the city. Just think—if I didn't keep you in line you'd be at a brothel getting wasted and losing all your money right now. Giovanni and Maria would be furious."

"They would have to find out first," the younger Auditore snickered, and then sat up with a mischievous grin. "Perhaps we should escape our keeper, brother—the women and wine of Firenze await us!"

Federico stood up, stretching, "Hmm, that does indeed sound tempting, but we would be poor gentlemen if we left our lovely lady alone by herself at night."

"Is that why you're standing up to leave then?" Catherine hummed, smirking up at him. He smirked right back.

"I am... only hoping I might persuade you to return to the Palazzo—."

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