42 - The Beginning is the End is the Beginning

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January 5, 1480

San Gimignano, Toscana, Italy

The night was cold. The winter from the end of the year had continued into the new one, bringing with it even colder breezes and an occasional snowfall. Tonight was thankfully free of a white blanket, but Catherine still pulled her cloak closer and kept her arms tight to her body. Besides her, Ezio was much the same as he pressed closer to her, sharing what body heat they could as they waited. Every so often they might stand and stretch, but they were keeping still for the most part. She only wished she had more of the soup they'd eaten an hour ago—it had been perfectly warm and soothed her in the safe house. Unfortunately, they could not afford to miss out on their vigil, so here they were; sitting together; waiting for their target to arrive.

It had been a long time coming. For months now they'd waiting for news on Jacopo's movements while they spent their time in the countryside, doing what they could to help remove Pazzi influence, place in their own, and keep in shape. Every so often they had returned home—such as for Claudia's birthday a few days ago. It had been a great festive affair with much happiness to be had, but was cut short by the next day when they left again. Beyond the young woman's day of birth, there just wasn't much happening at home with the winter bringing things to a slower pace. There was less work and less crops, although shops, brothels, taverns, and such were kept busy. Mostly they stayed to get new supplies, equipment, or information, and take the time to relax. Despite the Pazzi no longer being all-powerful in San Gimignano, they could never be at total ease in a safe house, but in Monteriggioni they no longer had to sleep with a knife under their pillow. It was home, and they were always sad to say farewell again and spend yet more weeks in Toscana, worried they may miss their target if they lost their diligence even for a moment.

Thus here they were, bracing against the cold of the winter as they hoped, at last, the elderly man would show himself. Their thieves had seen him—briefly—so they knew he was here, or had come here. They hoped he still was around, and they had to think it would be hard to leave completely unnoticed. Not to mention the words of the fellow conspirators had said the Templars would meet. When, they hadn't and still weren't sure, but they hoped soon. They were more than ready for things to be done so they could go home. Or, at least, Ezio was. Catherine had her own reservations—mostly for what lay in her pocket—but she was determined to go through with it. She had said she would, and she had been tasked with helping Ezio. If she tried to avoid going home by not doing so then who knew what could happen. The first time he had almost died—what if leaving would lead to the same fate? She couldn't bear the thought even if it meant she may never see him again, so here she was.

"I can feel you shaking—let me wrap my cloak around you," Ezio spoke up suddenly, pulling Catherine from her thoughts. Now that she noticed, she was shaking, but she still shook her head.

"No, I'm fine—don't worry. I'll get up and stretch soon," she replied, but the young man only rolled his eyes and lifted his arm anyways. It was soon wrapped around her, pulling her to him, and he made it so he was able to grasp the other edge of his cloak, encompassing them both.

"Don't be stubborn. This will keep us warmer while we wait," he huffed, and she didn't complain. He was right—it was already warmer.

"Wish the old fart would show up already. Getting tired of my ass freezing every night," she grumbled as she grasped his cloak, too, and did better to seal it around them.

He chuckled, "I have to agree. This is worse than training and doing work in the city like we did last year."

"We were working and moving then—and had warm food and drink at our disposal. Here we're just sitting... ugh, this sucks."

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