Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Brando/Riccardo (Bruce/Dick), Jason, Timotheus (Tim), Adolfo Gemelli, Mercutio Primo
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: As the Great Project continues, there are spies everywhere.
Date Of Completion: May 19, 2017
Date Of Posting: August 19, 2017
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count (this chapter): 1765
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: All chapters can be found here.
THE GREAT PROJECT
Caress cold marble
He breathes his soul
Out into the stone
And transforms it
Into living flesh.
“The Sculptor’s Art”
Brando Venucci’s most ambitious project began with ‘all hands on deck’, as he said. The buzz of activity filled the house as Jason and Timotheus reviewed the procedures for sculpture work and Brando continued sketching Riccardo. The excitement of creativity was everywhere.
Brando and his Household also kept an eye out for Stromboli’s minions. Jason said sardonically, “Thug in the market at the vegetable stall” and Timotheus declared a man who sat at the café every day was suspicious. Brando was tempted to confront him but decided that stealth was best for the moment.
Brando began work on his bozzetti, a small clay model of his Grand Project. He worked intently as Jason and Timotheus studied his sculpture designs. Riccardo wrote on foolscap with a quill, the feather wafting as he scribbled a letter to a friend in Greece, then he concentrated on poetry. He also watched the stages of the sculpture process and recorded that as well.
He also kept an eye on the spies in the piazza. He was expert at distracting people with his flamboyant clothes and gestures, observing the observers. He used the secret tunnel on a daily basis, staying most nights with Brando, who had reinforced the front and back doors with heavier beams as bolts.
Jason and Timotheus supervised the baking of the bozzetti in the kiln, and the object was kept in a box once it cooled. The four of them ate supper together, the boys chattering away as they recounted gossip from around town. No one mentioned the sinister forces outside their house of safety, preferring to talk of frivolous things. There would be time enough for serious discussions, but for now there was freshly-baked bread, cheese, and good fruit and wine.
That evening in their shared bed, Riccardo said, “Your talent will outshine all, my Great Sculptor.”
Brando smiled. “High praise from you, my Beauty.”
Riccardo kissed his lover deeply, wrapping his legs around Brando’s. “Take me, my Great One.”
Brando laughed and said, “With pleasure.”
The next step was to arrange for the block of marble to be delivered after Brando’s visit to the quarry. The quarry master was exceedingly courteous. The business of Florence was art, and artists, especially sculptors, needed marble.
Brando brought along his two apprentices for teaching purposes, and Riccardo tagged along out of curiosity. Brando inspected the marble, discussing specifications with Signor Alcazari, whose sharp eyes peered out from a weatherbeaten face. He knew how to handle difficult artists.
Brando was surprisingly cooperative. He had no particular requests except that the quarry deliver the dimensions he wanted. Alcazari assured him that that he would deliver.
“Very well,” Brando said after negotiations for price were completed, his entourage grinning amongst themselves as he drove a hard but fair bargain.
“A pleasure doing business with you, Signor Venucci. Cellini had to use bronze for his Medusa, and bypassed my poor marble quarry.”
Brando clapped a hand on Alcazari’s shoulder. “No worries, my friend. Marble will stay my material of choice.”Alcazari beamed. Brando snapped his fingers and said, “Come!”
Riccardo, Jason and Timotheus followed with amusement plastered on their faces.
Brando studied the bozzetti. A good miniature, but how to make the grand statue?
Riccardo awoke in bed and saw Brando sprawled in a chair as he gazed at the bozzetti in the moonlight. Wearing only breeches, the sculptor’s hair was wilder than ever. Riccardo got out of bed, walking toward the table. He put his hand on a warm, bare shoulder.
“What do you see?”
Riccardo smiled. “Always a wordsmith, caro mio.”
Brando chuckled. “You are one yourself.”
“We make a good pair.”
“Yes.” Brando looked up at Riccardo. “We do.”
Riccardo embraced him.
When they parted, Brando said as he gestured expansively, “See how the moonlight caresses the bozzetti? Every curve, every muscle? With love and passion!”
“As do you.”
The lovers smiled as they returned to bed.
The block of marble arrived and there was a flurry of activity by all concerned. Fortunately the ceiling was high enough to handle this block. Timotheus and Jason laid out all the tools: hammer, chisels, pick. Timotheus ran to get the apron Brando would wear. He always got a new one before each major sculpture project. Riccardo sat in a comfortable chair, helping when needed.
Brando was absorbed by the sculpting but was also aware of Riccardo watching. Pleased at his lover’s attention, he worked with even more energy than usual.
Riccardo drank a hot chocolate while he ate apple slices. He felt very relaxed while the house buzzed with activity. This pleased him, as the world of creativity was one in which he felt extremely comfortable.
His senses were alive: the delicately bitter sweetness of the chocolate, the stronger sweetness of the apple, the touch of the smooth porcelain cup, the smell of marble dust in the air, the sound of the hammer striking the chisel and the sight of the muscular Brando as he wielded the hammer, his shoulders and arms bare as he wore only the apron and breeches. Sweat gleamed on his skin as he worked.
All-in-all, it was a very satisfactory setting, one which Riccardo allowed his indulgence.
The day went well, and in the late afternoon Riccardo left his chair and went upstairs. He changed into dark clothes and wore a hat that shadowed his features. He went back downstairs and left the house, via the back door, everyone else too absorbed in their tasks to notice his departure.
The day was cool with clouds overhead but still fine for spring. Riccardo crossed the piazza to the café and sat at a table outside. He was certain that no one was watching the back door at this time of day so his disguise should work. He ordered a cappuccino and waited.
Someone had to be pushing this case. Men with influence could usually wiggle out of severe punishments and despite the Office’s reputation, many cases quietly went away with the right bribe. Who had Brando crossed?
Yes, there was a spy over in the carpet stall. The vendor was keeping a sharp eye on the Venucci house. At the fruit stall, a prospective customer lingered a little too long. The Office of the Night was busy during the day.
Riccardo sipped his drink as he kept his attention on the occupants of the piazza. The vendors were doing a brisk business as the afternoon wore on, people hurrying out to buy last-minute ingredients for supper. Riccardo noted the change of spies as dusk approached and he drank his third cappuccino. He was just getting ready to leave the café when a pair of men sat down at the table next to him. A large, flowering plant in a pot obscured him from view.
Riccardo noted their expensive clothing. The older man was bearded while the clean-shaven youth sighed as he said, “Nothing is working out, Adolfo.”
“Mercutio, you are so impatient.”
“Life is meant to be lived at a fast pace!”
Riccardo smiled at the youth’s pouting tone. A lovers’ spat, mayhaps?
“Stromboli’s on the prowl. We will have to be careful.” The older man sounded worried.
“You had better watch yourself. Stromboli is a Master Hunter for the Office of the Night.”
“He is a thug,” Mercutio said flatly.
“Be that as it may, you still should be wary,” Adolfo said.
“Bah will put you in chains.”
“Now that could be interesting.”
Riccardo nearly laughed at Mercutio’s enthusiasm. He finished his cappuccino and suddenly noticed the carpet dealer eyeing the couple. He stood and walked over to the table, pretending to head inside. He dropped his purse and bent down to retrieve it and spoke quietly.
“The carpet dealer is an Office spy. So is the customer with the blue scarf.” The latter had been hanging around various stalls after leaving the fruit stall.
Mercutio began to turn around but Adolfo kicked his leg under the table. “Stay calm, my boy.” Mercutio pretended to be very interested in his scarf while Adolfo said, “Thank you, kind sir.”
Riccardo stood, his hat tilting as Adolfo saw his face. Riccardo pushed his hat back down and gave him a quick nod, disappearing inside the café.
When he came out ten minutes later, Adolfo and Mercutio were gone.
“Where were you this afternoon?” Brando asked as he and his companion got ready for bed.
“Spying on the spies.”
Brando froze. “What?”
Riccardo explained. “Who did you cross, anyway?”
“Name half of Florence,” Brando grinned.
“Ha, ha, quite the jolly jester. Come on, think. Has anyone shown any particular animus toward you?”
Brando frowned. “Luigi Marcello.”
“Marcello? What conflict have you gotten into with him?”
Brando told him about that day in the Piazza della Signorio. Riccardo sighed. “Of course he is the one!”
“Most likely.” Brando fluffed up the pillows.
“Why are you not concerned?”
“Marcello has connections with the Office. I do not. We can only be careful.”
Brando climbed into bed and held out his hand. “Come on aboard.”
Riccardo smiled and joined his lover while shaking his head.
As the days stretched into summer the block of marble gradually took shape. Riccardo posed for other artists on some days, and watched the work on the other days, helping Timotheus and Jason when necessary. He also kept an eye on the spies situated outside.
At night he used the tunnel to get back into the house after leaving in the late afternoon, in full view of the spies. He disliked the tunnel, feeling too closed in, but it was certainly handy to have around.
Summer in Florence could be uncomfortable in the heat, so Brando took a few days off and took Riccardo and his apprentices up to Lake Como. They swam, fished, and sailed in small rowboats. They occupied a small but comfortable cabin.
“What, no palatial villa?” Riccardo teased.
“Of course not. I am but a poor artist.”
Riccardo laughed. “So put-upon, amico mio.”
The time away from Florence did everyone good. When they returned to the city, Brando tackled his project with rejuvenated enthusiasm. Everyone threw themselves back into their work, eager to see the Great Project to its conclusion.
Whether or not they would be free to complete it depended upon the events of the next twenty-four hours.
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