Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Brando/Riccardo (Bruce/Dick), Arturo Stromboli, Jason, Timotheus (Tim)
Genres: AU, Challenge, Historical, Drama, Romance, Slice-Of-Life
Rating (this chapter): PG-13
Claim: For my 2017 Bruce/Dick Bingo Card.
Prompt: Write That Art!
Pattern: Row B (Straight/Vertical Line Bingo) (1/3)
Prompt Count: (6/9)
General Summary: Brando Venucci is a great artist/sculptor/jeweler in Renaissance Florence and is desperately in love with his beautiful model, Riccardo Graciano, the centerpiece of an ambitious artistic project which will make them forever famous.
Chapter Summary: Danger lurks for Brando and Riccardo.
Date Of Completion: May 5, 2017
Date Of Posting: August 11, 2017
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count (this chapter): 1622
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: All chapters can be found here.
THE OFFICE OF THE NIGHT
Riccardo snuggled up to Brando in the sculptor’s bed. The filmy curtain was pulled and he felt safe, especially with Brando’s muscular arms curled around him as he slept.
Riccardo admired his lover’s face as the moonlight touched its rough beauty. He gently ran a finger through Brando’s wild, thick mane of hair.
Did he love this blustery man? He was a creative genius, gifted by God in so many ways: painter, sculptor, jeweler. Yet despite his confidence, he tended to drink too much, and he was not a happy drunk. Did he want to tie himself to a man with a fondness for the grape?
Riccardo regarded his companion solemnly. Despite the darkness within the man, he was still strongly attracted to him. Physically he was a fine specimen, but even more alluring was his compassion and generosity. He had taken in Jason and Tim when they needed someone, and he treated them very well, even giving them coins now and again for their spending pleasure.
Certainly Brando was generous with him. The pay was good and the fringe benefits were excellent. He smiled a very satisfied smile. He would be sore for a day or two, but it was a good soreness as far as he was concerned.
This project was a good one. Brando was already famous, but this work might catapult him into the category of eternal. Michelangelo was already there, and Cellini had probably arrived with The Medusa. Da Vinci was the gold standard, head-and-shoulders above them all.
Your time has come, amico mio.
He began to drift off back to sleep when he heard muffled noises downstairs. Tim and Jason were supposed to be asleep. Were they arguing or horsing around?
A creak on the stairs tensed his muscles. Tim and Jason did not sneak around. His stomach dropped as his mind screamed, Someone else is climbing the stairs!
He jabbed his elbow into Brando’s ribs. His companion yelped and Riccardo quickly put a hand over his mouth. “Hush,” Riccardo hissed. “Someone’s sneaking up the stairs.”
He was grateful that Brando had not over-imbibed and became alert immediately as he growled a savage curse.
“Exit stage right,” Riccardo whispered in Brando’s ear, and the older man grinned.
The moonlight made stealth easier than usual, which pleased the intruder. His men had the two apprentices downstairs under control. Now to catch the catamites in the act.
Arturo Stromboli had rooted out his share of perverted sodomites in the past five years for the Office of the Night, Florence’s anti-sodomy legal council. What was known as ‘Greek Love’ was shamefully practiced in Florence by the thousands, it seemed, rivaling even the perversion of the Holy City of Rome.
He knew the dirty little secret of the Vatican: they railed against sodomy while a good number of their priests practiced exactly that in private rooms and alcoves, furtive and grasping as the common folk were taught to despise those who committed such unnatural acts. The irony did not escape him, but the pay for this kind of work was too good to pass up.
An anonymous tip had him invading the dwelling of Brando Venucci this night. Stromboli noted the layout of the room with a practiced eye. The sin of Greek Love was almost endemic among the artist community. He had raided many a studio to catch the sinners, and the moonlight streamed through the windows to illuminate a path to the bed. Perfect! A curtain was draped across it. It would make a fine dramatic gesture when he pulled it back.
Arturo Stromboli stalked his prey with an anticipatory smile.
Downstairs, Jason and Timotheus glared at their captors. Bound and gagged, they were unable to warn their Master and Riccardo. They exchanged worried looks. Catamites were no strangers to Florence, but discretion was essential, and if someone caught you in bed, it went badly for you.
It could be the end of everything.
Stromboli saw the shadowy outline behind the filmy curtain. His fingers flexed in anticipation. Oh, this would be grand! He would nab another insufferable artist and his model. Brando Venucci was especially arrogant, and he would enjoy this arrest, oh, yes, indeed. He reached out his hand and grasped the edge of the curtain, yanking it back with an “Ah, ha!” on his lips.
Jason glared at their sniggering captors while Timotheus gripped the arms of his chair with white knuckles. They were tied with rope, annoying but effective. Timotheus wished he knew how to get out of ropes like a magician in a traveling minstrel show. He…his head jerked up as he heard a shout upstairs.
“What is this?” roared Brando.
Stromboli glared at him. “Where is he?”
“Who?” Brando was sitting up, barely covered by the sheet.
Brando’s eyes narrowed. “Watch your tongue."
“That is what he is.”
“I do not sleep with men! You have your nerve, breaking into my abode and accusing me of such a thing.”
It was Stromboli’s turn to narrow his eyes. “Where is he?”
Brando leaped out of bed, causing Stromboli to step back. “Do you see anyone here? Get out before I call the policia, you housebreaker!”
Stromboli was not easily chased away, however. “Your model never left this building,” he sneered.
“So now you are spying on me?” Brando strode to the head of the stairs and yelled down, “Jason! Timotheus! Go to the policia!” Silence. “What have you done to my apprentices?”
“They are fine, Venucci. Tell me where your catamite is.”
In all his naked glory, Brando stalked toward Stromboli. “If you do not get out right now with your low-born cutpurses, I will throw you down the stairs headfirst.”
Said in a quiet, cold voice, Brando’s threat was all the more chilling than if he had shouted. Stromboli was a robust man who could brawl with the best of them, but he had recently suffered a leg injury that would make the outcome of a fight with the muscular Brando an iffy thing, who could probably make good on his threat. In this business, he knew when to make a strategic retreat. Cursing, he stomped to the stairs but pointed a finger at Brando.
“Your sins will see you in the dungeons, Venucci.”
Brando crossed his arms across his broad chest but said nothing as a storm cloud revolved around his head.
Stromboli clattered down the stairs and Brando quickly pulled on a pair of breeches and tunic. He listened until he was sure everyone was gone except for his boys. He moved swiftly to the bed and knelt on it, opening the window. A smiling Riccardo climbed in from the ledge. He was wearing a pair of breeches and boots.
“Is the Inquisitor gone?”
“Oh, yes.” Brando pulled Riccardo close and kissed him happily.
Footsteps clambered up the stairs and the lovers broke off their embrace. Jason and Timotheus popped in breathlessly.
“Where the hell did you hide Riccardo?” Jason asked.
“Out on the ledge.” Riccardo smiled. He rested his arm on Brando’s shoulder and struck a casual pose.
Timotheus laughed. “You two are something else!”
“As are you,” Riccardo said. “I am wagering you put up quite a fight?”
Jason thumped his fist into his palm. “You would be right.”
Timotheus frowned. “They are sure to be watching this place. How can you leave, Riccardo, without proving you were here all along?”
Brando smiled conspiratorially. “Come with me.”
Curiosity was the order of the day as Riccardo, Jason, and Timotheus followed Brando down the stairs. He led them to a storeroom and pulled aside an old, tattered curtain at the back.
“A door!” Timotheus exclaimed.
“Correct.” Brando opened the door with a key he took down from the lintel. He opened it and eager faces fell into disappointment.
“Empty,” Timotheus said while Jason scowled and Riccardo puted.
“Surely, on the surface. But look below.”
All looked down at the floor. Jason said, “Wait a minute!” He crouched for a better look. “It appears to be a trapdoor!”
“Excellent observation, my apprentice.” Brando opened the trapdoor after pulling a small ring. The door creaked and groaned but revealed a black hole. A musty smell drifted up from the depths.
“What is this, Brando?” Riccardo asked, his curiosity aflame.
“Come and see.” The older man’s grin was impish.
Riccardo and the two apprentices trusted Brando not to lead them into danger, and they followed him down into the darkness via an old, wooden ladder, which creaked perilously but held.
The musty smell was much stronger. Suddenly light flared as Brando lit a torch he took from a wall holder. Shadows danced on stone walls as Brando began to move down the passageway.
It was not a long distance, for which Riccardo was grateful. The ceiling was low and the passage narrow. He was also grateful that he had grabbed Brando’s shirt before leaving the upper floor as it was chilly in these tunnels.
“Catacombs under Florence?” Timotheus asked, intrigued.
“Nothing elaborate,” Brando said. “But, very handy, as you will see.”
They reached another ladder and all climbed up, emerging into a small room similar to the one in Brando’s house.
“What is this place?” Timotheus asked.
“An abandoned house a few blocks down from my place.” Brando smiled. “And how you are getting out of my house, Riccardo.”
Riccardo smiled and nodded.
Let the Office of the Night post its spies. He and Brando would own the night.
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