Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Brando/Riccardo (Bruce/Dick), Timotheus (Tim), Genovese Bertelli, Jason, Arturo Stromboli, Alfonso, Constable Bonacelli
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: Will Brando and Riccardo survive persecution by the Office Of The Night?
Date Of Completion: May 29, 2017
Date Of Posting: August 27, 2017
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count (this chapter): 1662
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: All chapters can be found here.
JUST A NAME
From cold marble,
Evoking warm flesh,
And smiling lips.
Grabs the sun
“You are a genius, Brando Venucci.” Riccardo’s lavish praise was heartfelt as he looked at the emerging statue.
Brando beamed. “I had a beautiful subject.”
“Of course.” Riccardo bowed elaborately.
Brando laughed and pulled Riccardo into an embrace. A knock on the door broke them apart.
Timotheus ran to the door. “Who is it?”
“Signore Genovese Bertelli.”
“Let him in,” said Brando.
Timotheus obeyed and slid back the bolt, opening the thick, wooden door. A plump, well-dressed man with longish gray hair stylishly turned up under his blue velvet beret entered. Bright blue eyes surveyed the house, alighting on the half-shaped marble.
“I see it is coming along.”
The visitor studied the sculpture. “I can assure you that the Guild will accept your application to place this work in the Piazza della Signoria.”
Genovese interlaced his fingers over his belly. “Luigi Marcello has been conducting a preemptive campaign against you.”
“I would expect nothing less.” Brando shook his head in mock gravity. “Envy is a terrible thing.”
“Yes.” Genovese sounded amused. “Terrible.”
“All I care about is my work.”
“This work is worth your attention.” Genovese walked around the statue, pausing in back. “I see that you are using your favorite model.”
“I have not started on the face.”
Genovese smirked. “I am not talking about the face.”
Brando’s eyes glittered in amusement while Riccardo puffed out his chest. The apprentices snickered.
“I ask that you keep this under your beret,” Brando asked.
“Si, si. Nothing until the unveiling.”
“How about some wine, Geno?”
The older man shook his head. “Next time, eh? I will see you soon, Brando.”
After Genovese’s departure, Brando said, “Geno is a good man.”
”His warning should keep you sharp, Master,” said Jason as he balled his fists.
“It will. It is getting too close to the end to slip up now.”
Late that afternoon, Riccardo left through the front door and went to his rooms in a building located in a neighborhood known for its artistic residents. After changing into fresh clothes, a half hour later he slipped out the back and to the abandoned house with the tunnel entrance.
He noticed some litter in the house, scraps of cloth or food wrappings and empty wine bottles. He was not surprised. Abandoned property attracted squatters. He went into the storeroom and down into the dark tunnel, grateful that the house was empty at the moment. Most likely the partying went on in the wee hours instead of the early evening.
He emerged from the storeroom and Brando lifted a glass of wine. “Just in time, caro mio!”
“What is the occasion, Brando?”
“Just time to celebrate, Riccardo. Right, boys?”
Jason and Timotheus smiled, nodding their heads eagerly. Riccardo laughed as he took the glass from Brando.
“Let us make merry!”
There was dancing and music (Riccardo and Timotheus played the mandolin and flute well), feasting and drinking. Laughter filled the air and it was a fine evening spent in the shadow of the statue.
There was a pounding at the front door. Everyone turned.
“Stromboli!” Timotheus gasped.
“Better hop into the tunnel,” Jason said to Riccardo while Brando frowned.
Riccardo ran to the storeroom and went into the tunnel while Jason followed and covered up the trapdoor. Down in the tunnel, Riccardo lit a torch and hurried along the passageway. He shivered at the dampness, its cloying fingers plucking at his clothes. He hoped that Stromboli would not stumble upon the trapdoor.
He reached the end of the tunnel and climbed up the ladder into the other storeroom. When he emerged from the trapdoor he frowned. Were those voices he heard?
He cracked open the door, appalled to see a group of young men milling around with many wine bottles in their possession. There were already plenty of empties scattered around.
He swore under his breath. This was a complication he did not need!
Riccardo pondered his situation. Perhaps waiting in here until they left was best. Annoying, as the storeroom was stuffy, but better than the tunnel. He covered the entrance up with a threadbare rug and was just about to search for a hiding place when a loud voice at the door startled him. He froze as the door opened, a drunken youth stumbling against it.
“Hey, Alfonso, get back here!”
“Wha’ for?” Alfonso could barely stand up. He had not looked inside the storeroom.
“Come on, Alfonso!”
The youth giggled and stumbled back toward his friends.
Riccardo quietly shut the door. There was no place to hide. He swallowed. Back to the tunnel.
Stromboli and five men spilled through the door after Timotheus opened it.
“Trying again?” Brando asked.
Stromboli waved a piece of foolscap. “The Office Of The Night will search this house. Also your catamite’s place.”
Brando knew that Riccardo was on his way to his building. Hopefully he would beat them back there.
Brando gestured Jason and Timotheus over to him. Timotheus had thrown the cloth over the statue. Stromboli and his thugs were looking for a flesh-and-blood man, not a marble one, so they ignored it.
The search was not a long one. One thug opened the storeroom door and looked in but shut it again. Brando, Timotheus and Jason all breathed easier.
Stromboli’s dark eyes glared at Brando. “You are a slippery one, Brando Venucci.”
“Coming from you, I consider that a compliment.”
Riccardo stood at the foot of the ladder. Were the invaders finished with their search? Could he go back up to Brando? He started to climb up.
“There must be a hiding place around here,” Stromboli mused, tapping his chin with his index finger. He looked around and his eyes alighted on the storeroom door. A cunning gleam appeared in his eyes. He started toward the storeroom.
Brando was proud of his apprentices. Neither youth gave away their apprehension as Stromboli strode toward the door.
Riccardo reached the top of the ladder and listened. It was quiet…wait…
Stromboli turned the handle and pushed the door open. It banged against the wall.
Riccardo flinched and lost his balance, refraining from crying out as he fell off the ladder.
“Come out, come out, Catamite! Are you rolled up in that old, dusty carpet? Hiding behind that cracked, full-length mirror? Hidden in that old, warped wardrobe? Let us see.”
Stromboli turned the handle just as Genovese Bertelli walked in through the open front door. He was followed by a stout man in constable dress.
“Now, what have we here?” Genovese asked.
“A search by the Office Of The Night, Councilor,” said Stromboli.
“All right, fine. You have searched. Now go.”
“We are not finished.”
“Yes, you are. Is that not right, Constable Bonacelli?”
Bonacelli nodded. “Very right, Councilor Bertelli.”
“You have no right to throw us out before we are finished!” Stromboli protested.
“You are finished,” said Bonacelli firmly.
Stromboli’s eyes narrowed but he did not argue further. He had been in this game long enough to recognize political clout when he saw it. He gestured angrily to his men.
“And there will be no more searches or spying,” Genovese said. He cut Stromboli’s protest off. “You have found nothing after weeks of spying. Leave this Household in peace.” He waved his hand. “I am sure you can find new cases for your spyglass.”
Stromboli stomped out and his men slammed the door behind them.
Genovese laughed. “I told you I take care of my artists.” The Councilor walked close to Brando. “Adolfo Gemelli tipped them off.”
“Why? I only know him by reputation.”
“Seems Riccardo helped him avoid this same situation the other day.”
“Ah. Thank him for me.”
Genovese smiled. “Enjoy your evening, Brando.”
After the Councilor and Constable Bonacelli left, Jason asked, “Is Riccardo waiting in the tunnel?”
“He was supposed to go home, but check, anyway.”
Jason nodded and ran to the storeroom. He threw aside the rug and lifted the trapdoor.
Jason quickly went down the ladder while Brando and Timotheuse rushed to the storeroom.
“Ugh.” Riccardo held his head.
“You all right?” Jason asked.
“Just got the wind knocked out of me.”
Brando was already down the ladder. “Caro mio!”
“Just a little fall.”
Brando touched Riccardo’s face. “You are too precious to fall.”
By autumn, the statue was done. On the night before it was to be hauled away to the Piazza della Signorio for the grand unveiling, Brando, his apprentices and his model made merry.
After the apprentices went to bed, Brando and Riccardo stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they gazed up at the statue, wooden wine goblets in hand.
“Magnifico,” Riccardo murmured.
“I had a great model.”
“You will be taking your place among the greats, caro mio,” Riccardo said as he smiled.
Riccardo laughed. “No false modesty for you?”
“No.” Brando lifted his goblet to the statue. “To Riccardo, my finest work!”
His companion beamed with pride at the statue’s title. “Just a name, eh? Like Michelangelo’s David?”
“You are more beautiful than David.”
Riccardo proudly accepted the compliment. He and Brando clinked goblets and drank the rich wine.
The moonlight streamed in through the windows, illuminating the statue in ways that Brando appreciated very much. Every curve, every sinew, every expanse of smooth flesh was nearly perfect, but somehow he had managed to capture Riccardo’s personality, which was not perfect but human.
Brando looked at Riccardo, who smiled and tossed away his empty goblet. Brando did the same and grasped his lover’s shoulders. He drew Riccardo to him and as they kissed, they dropped to the floor onto a thick carpet remnant left by someone (or two someones). Cold marble became warm flesh, and let the world stretch out at his feet, Brando thought, as long as it included Riccardo.
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