Umbra, Episode 6 – Death By Kiss, Part II

Art by Syd “Vetyr” Mills

The Proveditori Pacis were deemed an insignificant judicial body by the Inquisitori, yet their role was crucial in the administration of civil lawsuits involving commoners and small entrepreneurs. The judge, Aurelio Marcotti, a sixty-year-old Nobile Homo, took advantage of his position to live out his fantasies and perversions.

Besides being a corrupt magistrate, Marcotti was a manipulator who convinced public opinion about his broadmindedness and his support to the amanti’s cause. He was a patron of many brothels in the city. Fulvio was sure the mask he wore would be immediately recognised by that man, who would mistake him for an amante and get hooked.

Sitting at the bar, Marcotti was busy chatting with the elder bartender in a friendly, pleasant manner. He sounded like a polite gentleman, reassuring and distinguished as a man in his role was supposed to be. The ribbons of his mask, the same model as Leandro’s yet white and adorned with a few gold curlicues, were hidden in his dyed black, medium-length, wavy hair, over which he wore a tricorn hat.

The collar of his gold-trimmed velvet jacket was raised, a shiny satin shirt wrapped his gaunt chest. Perhaps he was trying to appear younger, but the wrinkles in his left hand and neck, as well as his curved posture, revealed his factual age. He was short-statured, a dagger-shaped earring in his right ear, a glove covering his left hand. According to Leandro, he hid it because it was augmented, therefore immediately distinguishable.

Fulvio took the stool at his left, turned towards the chaotic crowd of wriggling bodies dancing in the blend of colours and lights that made them one, a single, faceless mass gathered at Messalina’s behest. He sat spread‑legged, a foot placed on the footrest ring and an elbow resting on the counter’s edge. That pose displayed his lean chest, emphasising his finely sculpted abdomen and the astonishing beauty granted him by nature; a Mater Terra’s masterpiece none of those witnessing could ignore, especially the Proveditore who slowly put down his glass while gazing at him.

“Terra, this dance is deadly boring,” Fulvio yelled over the loud music, making a brief pause to give Marcotti a glaring, seducing smile. “It’s my first time. They told me incommensurable pleasures awaited me, but I beg to differ. Are you a regular guest?”

“Yes, I’m a regular,” Marcotti replied. He got off his stool and drew it as near as possible to Fulvio before sitting again. With a quick and nimble movement, Fulvio turned in his direction and bent towards him so their faces would be close. “I was getting bored as well before you arrived. It must be hard to find exciting activities outside your workplace, isn’t it?”

Fulvio sharpened his eyes, his closed lips turned upwards in a seductive half-smile. “You’re a man of knowledge,” he commented, “what a delightful surprise. It’s indeed terribly, terribly hard. That was a joke. Did you get it? Of course, you did, you’re clever. What’s your name?”

Marcotti blinked bewildered, yet his chest shook in a brief chuckle. Fulvio stared at him unmoved; his bizarre loquacity was a genuine part of him, and he wasn’t able to suppress it even when pretending to be someone else. He had no interest in trying since he was well aware his charm wasn’t affected by that peculiarity.

“You should tell me yours first,” the Proveditore said, “I never saw you at the Orchidea. I may ask about you next time I visit.”

Fulvio leaned towards him, stretching out to reach the glass left full on the counter. He got back to his previous pose and took a sip, his eyes fixed on Marcotti who instead swallowed nervously. He got hooked, exactly as planned. “Why would you wait?”

When he handed him the glass, Marcotti took a sip as well and put it down before grabbing Fulvio’s jacket and opening it. He observed him, focused for several seconds on the gold jewellery piercing his nipples. “Name your price.”

“No price,” Fulvio asserted, “I’m not working, it’s my free night.”

Marcotti tilted his head in surprise. He got up, walking past Fulvio and touching his shoulder with his gloved hand to invite him to follow his steps. A sinister, deadly grin appeared on Fulvio’s lips the moment it happened, for a young man and many others before him would be avenged soon. Justice lied in the shadows, as Leandro said. Justice was a shadow.

******

Resting in a captivating pose with a cigarette in her left hand, her legs charmingly overlapped, Messalina blew a cloud of smoke to the masked man who suddenly sat at her left.

“Wait for your turn,” Messalina said, the blue light of her artificial eyes visible through the smoke briefly veiling her face. “Can’t you see I’m busy?” she asked. She put a finger under the chin of a young man sitting at her right, who wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her towards himself as she placed a soft kiss upon his lips.

“Sandra told me you’re never busy when it comes to her deliveries,” Leandro replied.

Messalina put a hand to the young man’s chest and pushed him away, ignoring his complaints when she turned to see Leandro pulling out an ampoule from his jacket’s pocket. At the sight of her emphatic grimace, he grinned behind his mask.

“It was about time,” she said, throwing her half-smoked cigarette away. She moved closer to him, about to grab the ampoule, but Leandro put it away before her hand could reach it.

“Not here, Dominia,” he asserted, “This delivery is not the only thing I’m here for. We must talk in private.”

Messalina let out a flirtatious giggle. Her eyes were expressionless as all augmented eyes appeared, yet her face brimmed with so much vitality it made up for that lack, especially when she was tipsy. She didn’t seem aware she was talking to Leandro, nor that her allure, though indisputable, did not affect him. She reached out her hand, and Leandro grasped it to help her get up. With a quick movement of her head, Messalina made a sign to her bodyguards to follow her.

The underground level of that club was its VIP area, but it also included a few private rooms available for those who preferred enjoying their time in secrecy. Messalina guided Leandro to one of those spaces and when they crossed the door, her bodyguards placed themselves in front of it.

It was a wide area, surrounded by large and comfortable velvet couches and soundproof walls, illuminated by red perimetral lights. The music was inaudible inside, hence Leandro’s tone was quiet when he spoke. “Is there any video surveillance here?”

Messalina sighed, walking around the room and raising her eyes searching for cameras. “There doesn’t seem to be any,” she replied. Her voice and gestures appeared different like she was previously feigning her apparent drunkenness. “I chose this place for this reason. You’re safe, Your Majesty.”

Leandro blinked surprised. It turned out she knew who she was talking to, after all. He lowered his hood and untied his mask’s ribbon, his feather-shaped earring dangling as he took the mask off. “How could you tell it was me?”

“Intuition,” Messalina affirmed as she shrugged, turning in his direction. She halted in front of him and lifted her cybernetic eyes to observe his face, unimpressed and daring exactly like hers. Her attitude was regal and tenacious, something they shared in common. “What did Sandra tell you about that medicine?”

“She just told me you take it regularly, but I don’t know what it is,” he replied, “I don’t care, actually, and you can have it once you listen to me carefully. I have a feeling your husband is doing his best to slow down the investigation about the conspiracy and he’s also trying to dismiss the case. Decima Marianna Dei Rizzi suggested involving the Signori Noctis, and Claudius Herrin voted against their participation. I must know what’s going on and let me tell you in advance I won’t believe you if you affirm you don’t have a clue. Umbra told me to ask you, and I trust him as much as he trusts you.”

“Is Umbra here?” Messalina asked, her expression now astonished. “How do you know him?”

“With all due respect, I won’t tell you,” Leandro said with a smirk, “and I won’t ask you how you know him, although I must confess my curiosity is immense. I swear I won’t put you in any danger, I just want to know what’s happening.”

 Messalina drew in an emphatic sigh. “Claudius is a stulto,” she said, “He wouldn’t be capable of setting up a conspiracy even if he tried his hardest. He’s not innocent, though. You’re right, there’s a conspiracy going on, and believe it or not, I don’t know who the mastermind is. No one does, except for the conspirators. I know Claudius has a small part in this scheme, but I don’t know who the others are or what their role is.”

“They tried to kill my father and they’ll try again at the first chance,” Leandro affirmed, “Does my activism have something to do with this?”

“Maybe,” she confirmed, “but Prince Bastiano is the main target for sure. I spoke in your favour and against the Empirian influence many times, so I’m probably a target too. If I had been on Palazzo Aulicus’ terrace during the Dove’s Flight, I’d be probably dead. My bodyguards protect me in my residence as well. I don’t trust my husband and I don’t trust my eldest son. Even Ottavia has a personal guard, an illegally augmented puera I hired from a gang in Bassoborgo. She pretends to be Ottavia’s diletta, so she may live with us without arousing suspicion. If a month ago they told me my daughter wouldn’t feel safe in her own home, I would’ve laughed.”

Leandro looked down, clamped his hand over his mouth and closed his eyes to sigh. “Do you know who the targets are, besides my father, at least?”

Messalina nodded. “It’s not hard to guess,” she said, “You, me, Marianna Dei Rizzi, Marco Accorelli, Ercole Argenti, and all those who survived the attack. I heard Ercole took his diletta to the ceremony and she was marked as a target as well.”

“I remember her,” Leandro said while sharpening his eyes, “She was the only one who grasped something was wrong that night, besides me. I don’t even know her name.”

“Cornelia,” Messalina said, “Cornelia Dionei. She’s a painter and a sculptor, we had a pleasant conversation about art when I got to know her. The fact they tried to kill her too is a mystery to me, but it makes me think Ercole will do everything in his power to make them pay.”

“Even I am shocked I’m asking,” Leandro said, “but what would you think if you and I made a deal?”

“Do you want to interrogate her?”

“I want to ask her what she knows about the conspiracy and to help us in thwarting it,” Leandro sighed, “I’m starting to think the only way to get rid of this problem is by joining forces.”

Messalina looked down and blinked contemplative for a few seconds. “I don’t think Cornelia would be of any help, she’s clueless about political affairs. However, I agree all the targets should join forces to find out who’s behind it all. You should attend the next dance, I invited some of our fellows to discuss a way to approach you. You never accepted my previous invitations, but your presence would solve our problem and make that gathering our first reunion.”

“I never accepted because I don’t like high society,” Leandro replied, “It’s a known fact. No offence.”

“None taken. What do you think, anyway?”

“I’ll come,” Leandro replied. He was unsure about that decision, but knowing he wasn’t the sole who was searching for answers persuaded him to accept.

Messalina smirked. “Can I have my medicine, now?”

Leandro furrowed his brow and shook his head snickering. “Absolutely not,” he stated, “You’ll have it once you help me with something else. Did you know Aurelio Marcotti is an extortionist who ruins young men’s lives? Umbra knows, and that’s why he’s here.”

Messalina goggled open-mouthed. “I didn’t know,” she declared, “I would have never guessed. I’ve always deemed him a pleasant company.”

“He’s not. Umbra is luring him to do his magic, as he said right before we split. I need to know if that bastard came here alone.”

“I invited him alone, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he brought some men to protect him. My dances have rules, and he’s not allowed to hurt anyone. If he did, I would take care of him personally.”

“You should,” Leandro stated, “Umbra is with him somewhere at this moment. Any idea of where Marcotti took him? A room like this one, maybe?”

“There are six private rooms, this one included. I’ll check them all, but I suggest you leave immediately. Nothing personal, but things might get dangerous and I don’t want to be liable if something happens to you.”

 “I don’t want to leave, Dominia. He’s the one who might be in danger.”

“You will, Your Majesty,” Messalina stated, “We can’t allow ourselves to lose your father, as we’ll do whatever it takes to not lose you as well. You must go home, now.”

Leandro sighed and pulled out the ampoule to hand it to her. She observed it for a bit with her cybernetic eyes before grabbing it. “I’m surprised you’re fine with Umbra killing someone during one of your dances. Didn’t you just say they have rules?”

“Rules should always be bent for Umbra,” she affirmed with a smile, “Don’t you agree?”

******

The room Fulvio ended up in was already occupied by two muscular cyborgs wearing white masks similar to Marcotti’s, matching veils covering their heads and necks and tricorn hats, velvet trousers and long coats worn over their partly mechanical chests. They carried assault rifles, plasma weapons comparable to those of the royal guard.

“I’m used to being watched during sex,” he commented, “I find it exciting, I swear, but do they really have to hold those rifles while attending?”

Marcotti took off his hat and threw it away. “They must,” he said, slowly raising his hands to untie his mask. Ten minutes had passed since they left the bar counter. “Precautionary reasons. I highly doubt you’re going to kill me, but one can never be sure, am I right?”

Fulvio chuckled while observing the cyborgs at his left and right. He was annoyed by that hindrance, but he wasn’t surprised. Marcotti let his mask fall on the floor and walked backwards, towards the nearest couch. His face was wrinkled and skinny, a thick circle beard surrounding his thin chapped lips, dark circles around his eyes. He wasn’t certainly the most appealing man in Florydia, but luckily Fulvio was an expert in pretending to be attracted to his targets when required. “I’m an amante, not an assassin,” he stated, taking off his jacket and throwing it on the floor before reaching Marcotti. “I’m trained to love.”

The latter sat on the couch, his arms extended on the backrest. Fulvio felt uncomfortable when Marcotti’s eyes studied him head to toe with lustful eyes, and his discomfort became sudden rage at the thought that the man’s previous victims, unlike himself, were defenceless in front of that disgusting stare.

“Your Matrona trained you to kill too,” Marcotti affirmed, “If it were for me, that filthy bitch would already be in prison. I wonder who she fucked to run her business this way without consequences.”

Fulvio’s pretence almost crumbled when he heard that insinuation. His face trembled, his tight-lipped smirk tensed while a shiver of rage slithered up his spine. He clenched his fists, containing himself from stabbing Marcotti to the throat. Patience was needed on that occasion, though. Only fifteen minutes had passed.

“I told you it’s my free night, my handsome, stunning beloved,” he sighed, kneeling in front of the man who followed his movements with craving eyes. “I don’t talk about work when I’m out. I mean, I love to talk, but not about that.”

Marcotti took a deep breath when Fulvio started unbuckling his belt. “What do you like to talk about, then?”

“I love to talk about random facts I learn. For example, poisons are a topic I find deeply fascinating,” Fulvio replied languidly, slowly unbuttoning the Proveditore’s trousers. Besides being aroused, Marcotti appeared puzzled, but he kept listening in silence. “There’s a poison, almost unheard of, named Mors Osculi by its creator. We’re all willing to die for a kiss, and a kiss has the power to kill us.”

Marcotti opened his eyes wide and started shaking uncontrollably. His eyes were empty, lost in nothingness and deep fear. His body was quickly becoming paralysed, apparently without a reason. Twenty minutes had passed, the exact time Fulvio expected that to happen. “W-What the—”

“This poison can be administered in two ways,” Fulvio explained in the same tone of his previous sentence. He lowered Marcotti’s trousers with an abrupt pull, uncovering the old man’s soft penis. “It can be hidden in lipstick or put in drinks through a tiny and transparent pill. You drank from that glass right after me, and now you’ll die with your crumpled dick out.”

Marcotti’s eyes rolled upwards, his body completely motionless, static like a sculpture. Mors Osculi required twenty minutes to paralyse a victim, twenty-five to make their brain go haywire by causing them an ecstatic pleasure, thirty-five to make them experience the most excruciating pain they could ever feel, and forty to finally end their life. There was no antidote to that specific poison, Sandra Dominici’s masterwork was only supplied to Fulvio and Aspasia, and no one could be saved by its effects even if aided before twenty minutes passed.

Many years before, Aspasia went through a procedure in Sandra’s lab that made her immune to all poisons and allowed her to mix Mors Osculi to her lipstick. Fulvio was injected with the immunisation fluid six years before, but he almost died in the process; after his miraculous survival, obtained through a counter-injection of various antidotes and medicines, Fulvio decided to have one of his lower molars pulled to carry the pill when needed.

He spread his Icarus wings right before the cyborgs started shooting. The vision of that winged young man would be Aurelio Marcotti’s last memory, a symbol of his vice, the embodiment of his demise. Fulvio smirked triumphant, as once again he turned a living monster into nourishment for Mater Terra.

He got up as quickly as he could and counter-attacked, grabbing the barrel of one of the rifles with impressive rapidity and pushing it away from himself right before he pulled out the stiletto in his opposite forearm. He tried to stab the cyborg under his mask, but his enemy dodged the attack; with his wings still spread, Fulvio managed to avoid the shots of his second adversary and hit him with his wing, throwing him towards the couch and making him fall disarmed at Marcotti’s side.

The cyborg still standing attempted to hit Fulvio with his rifle’s stock; Fulvio folded his wings and bent down, avoiding the strike with a graceful move resembling a straight-legged barrel roll turn. He landed behind his enemy, but the cyborg was fast, though not as fast as Fulvio. They kept fighting and dodging each other’s attacks until the man’s head was hit by a hail of plasma shots that started melting his face and mask from the back.

What made the Cortesane Honeste different from the amanti was their influence over high society and their impeccable education, but their hidden augmentations, along with their fighting skills, represented another significant divergence. They were full-fledged killers and Messalina Fiorabaldi was just as lethal as her peers, hence her augmented bodyguards were comparable to a reinforcement unit since she was perfectly capable of defending herself.

Once the man collapsed on the floor, Fulvio noticed that the other guard was lying at his employer’s left with his eyes stabbed out, his mask stained with the blood still flowing from the eyeholes. Messalina had killed him with the retractable blades installed on her wrists while Fulvio was busy battling against the other man.

He finally saw her holding her first victim’s rifle, a feisty look on her furrowed and bloodied face. She had to look terrifying from a more innocent person’s perspective, but Fulvio could only find her adorable. He looked at her with a wide smile, tired yet surprised as the Nobile Monna’s look became gentler. “Did anyone ever tell you you’re a gift to this country and this world?” he panted, “If not, I just did and I’m ready to tell you again.”

“Many told me, but only a few proved they meant it,” she provoked him with a grin, “Want to give it a try?”

She giggled in the same moment Fulvio did, a provocative smirk on the latter’s lips. “Where’s Leandro?”

“I told him to leave,” Messalina said, “and you should go too. Three men are dead and I have to pretend to be shocked, burst into tears and blame someone else.”

Fulvio nodded, observing Messalina who lowered the rifle and studied him with an outlined smile. “You and I should meet and have a chat soon.”

“We definitely should,” Messalina agreed, “Come visit me when you can. I might have some work for you.”

******

Not long after Fulvio left the Dionysia with his quick and stealthy steps, the Signora Noctis Giovanna Castelli and her Custodi reached the site to begin their investigations.

Leandro was already long gone when that event occurred; after Messalina’s plea, he got in the rented motorcycle that originally brought him to that destination and rode it towards the district of Parvocorso, where a rowing boat traversing Canale Imperio finally took him home.

The night was far from over, and while Leandro spent it sleeplessly in his room, Fulvio spent it riding back to Bassoborgo aboard Donatella’s bike Melusina, wearing his habitual costume and resuming his patrol that ended almost at dawn as usual.

Despite fighting off the temptation to reach Palazzo Aulicus all night, Fulvio gave in when the dark nocturnal sky was painted by the deep blue shade immediately preceding the twilight. He smiled impressed when he noticed something new on one of the balconies facing Canale Imperio; a familiar owl mask was tied by the ribbon to the parapet, shaken by the soft wind.

He flew towards that destination and snuck into the room as quietly as he could. Leandro’s room certainly wasn’t the biggest, but it shared the luxury and architectural elegance of the rest of the palace with its gold-filled coffered ceiling, the dark wooden chest of drawers, the wardrobe and the desk decorated with floral gold accents.

The terminal on the desk wasn’t even shut down, the prince’s clothes were scattered all around the room and on the elegant armchair upholstered in purple velvet. Fulvio smirked when he noticed how messy that space was, and smiled when he spotted the placards Leandro used for the latest protests and the attire he sported during one of those marches, held by a hanger and displayed with pride.

All of Florydia remembered the videos and pictures depicting Leandro clothed in a red dressing gown and a half-face mask with the colours of the Orchidea, a leather harness on his bare chest. Outrage was probably expected among those of high society, but most commoners considered that image evidence of Leandro’s dedication towards Florydia’s original moral values, something Prince Bastiano, unlike Cosimo, wholeheartedly supported. Fulvio agreed and clearly recalled thinking he would’ve hit on Leandro if he ever had the chance to meet him. How ironic.

The prince had apparently fallen asleep in his large bed, furnished with silk grey sheets and a majestic floral headboard slightly illuminated in golden light. Fulvio approached him silently and sat on the bedside, studying him from above. He had a large tattoo on his upper arm, a dynamic male statue covered in cracks and vines, a true work of art that made Fulvio want to get a new tattoo soon, assuming he found a way to get it free.

Looking at Leandro made him smile softly, and he caressed his cheek with a finger once he took off one of his gloves. Leandro seemed to tremble, right before Fulvio finally spoke.

“I know you’re awake, you goofy prince,” he said, “is your chest the only naked part of your body or do you have a delightful surprise under that sheet?”

Leandro’s shiver turned into a chuckle, and Fulvio’s soft laugh sparked as a result of his. “I’m not fully naked, but I can fix it,” Leandro replied. He opened his eyes and gazed at Fulvio, who gave him a smirk. “That mask worked once again. I’m glad you came.”

“I haven’t yet,” Fulvio said, giggling when Leandro released a puff of air through his nostrils.

“Terra, that was an awful joke,” Leandro said, rubbing his eyes with one hand.

“You laughed, though,” Fulvio responded, “You either like awful jokes or you like me that much. Both, perhaps? Yes, I think you like both. You would alert the royal guard otherwise.”

Leandro sat up and stared at him in awe, his eyes now wandering on Fulvio’s face and stopping for a few seconds on his black-painted lips. Fulvio turned up one side of his mouth, his eyes sharpened seductively. “Do you ever stop talking?” he asked him with a charming smile.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Fulvio whispered, gently grabbing his chin with two fingers. Leandro quivered visibly, and Fulvio drew his face nearer as if he was about to kiss him. When Leandro chuckled tensely, Fulvio grinned pleased since he was succeeding in teasing him. “So, in summary, you searched for me for weeks, found Sandra, crashed a night dance once you learnt I would attend, and told Messalina to help me without batting an eye. You helped me take Marcotti’s life and didn’t question my morality. You’re either as fucked up as me, or you made a deal with Aspasia and she’s testing me. You’re fucked up either way, but that’s not the point. I’m fascinated, but that’s not the point as well.”

He moved his hand away from Leandro’s face, but the latter stayed adamant and stared straight at Fulvio’s eyes. “Do you have any idea of how many people I see dying in this palace every day?” Leandro asked after some seconds of silence and a deep sigh. His voice sounded sorrowful, a pain Fulvio felt as his own while he spoke.

“I’ve attended the most confidential trials and interrogations since I was fifteen, Cosimo and I grew up this way. It’s part of our duty, as my father says. It doesn’t mean I like it, but I’m used to it by now. Too used to it, actually, and awfully tired.”

“Then you should stay away from this reality when you can,” Fulvio affirmed shrugging. He shared Leandro’s glance, and in his light blue eyes, now perfectly visible, Fulvio perceived a poignant wonder. “You risk becoming like me, and I don’t mean incredibly hot. You already are, especially right now.”

Leandro shut his eyes and looked down to laugh. Fulvio smiled, though in that case his outspokenness was dictated by an intimate apprehension. Very few people understood the profound sensitivity hiding behind that cheerful façade, but Leandro seemed to get it, judging from the adoring and saddened way he looked at him afterwards.

“When I spoke to Sandra, she told me she isn’t sure you wanted to become Umbra in the first place,” Leandro said, “Are you happy with this life? Is this what you really wanted?”

“Not everyone is born a prince, my dear Leandro,” Fulvio asserted, “Some people are born in misery, and one of the best ways to escape misery is finding a purpose. I was nothing before Aspasia adopted me and look at me now. She gave me a reason to exist.”

“I believe there’s more than that,” Leandro asserted, “More than the shadow, I mean. I’ve never met someone like you before, you’re…odd, yet astounding. You could leave a trail of corpses at your passage and I’d find you stunning regardless because I’d know you did it for a reason. The right one, precisely.”

“Don’t do this,” Fulvio said after a chuckle, “Don’t worship me.”

“Why not?”

Fulvio’s stare became serious, fixed on Leandro’s eyes. Those striking, lively eyes. “Worship is what pitiless monsters seek to feel useful in this world, but it should be only reserved to Mater Terra. My reason to live is not to be revered. I hide in the shadows to serve justice, and I become one with the darkness to restore balance through death.”

“I’m perfectly aware I’m doing and saying crazy things to impress an assassin.”

“And I wasn’t lying when I said you have weird taste, you really do, and at this rate, you’re going to drive me insane,” he remarked in a lighter tone, replicating the fascinated smile Leandro was giving him. “You’re not going to give up, are you?”

“Never,” Leandro whispered, his gaze so intense Fulvio quivered with desire and found himself staring at his lips.

We’re all willing to die for a kiss, and a kiss has the power to kill us.

He would die for a kiss, and he would kiss him fiercely and passionately even if tasting his lips would lead him to certain death. He craved the touch of his skin against his own, their hearts beating fast and in unison as they lost themselves in each other. He needed him. He needed that kiss.

“I should go, my dear prince. Dawn is coming,” Fulvio said, blinking like he just woke up from a feverish dream. “Don’t get into trouble to find me, we’ll certainly meet again. You’ll have to tell me how it went with Messalina, after all.”

He moved away from him to walk towards the window, a fast escape that Leandro stopped by jumping off the bed and catching his shoulder. Fulvio turned surprised, a grin on his lips as Leandro grabbed his jacket’s lapels. The urge to kiss him became almost unbearable when they gazed at each other closely.

“You promised me you would tell me everything about you if I found you, and I did,” Leandro said, his fists trembling, clearly tormented by the same impulse.

Fulvio tried to fight that temptation off, for he knew that kiss would be a mistake. A wonderful mistake, but a mistake, nonetheless. “I didn’t specify when and how,” Fulvio explained, “but you’re right. You’ll agree, however, this is not the best moment to have this conversation. I really must go.”

Leandro softened his grip, and nearly in pain observed Fulvio silently while the latter moved towards the window he would cross to reach the balcony. After an unexpected giggle, however, Fulvio halted and turned around with a finger raised. “Wait, I’m not done,” he affirmed, gesturing theatrically.

Leandro furrowed his brow and blinked confused until, with astounding rapidity, Fulvio clamped a hand around his chin and captured his mouth in a kiss. A deep, intense, passionate kiss that made them both crave for more, a demanding kiss that made them forget who they were and where they were, a kiss that made their blood race, that made them burn. A kiss as powerful as death, as liberating as rebirth. A kiss that left them breathless and speechless when it ended, that made them look at each other in shock, their eyes half-open, their breath laboured.

“My lipstick doesn’t stain,” Fulvio whispered, and Leandro let out a chuckle that preceded the briefer and softer kiss he gave him once he took his face in his hands. “Thank you for helping me tonight. Until we meet again, I have a promise to fulfil.”

The sky was turning gold as the sunrise was imminent, hence Fulvio flew away in a hurry, intimately concerned about what he had just done, yet overjoyed and pleasantly excited. He didn’t know that Leandro, still gobsmacked, burst into a nervous, intense laugh and rubbed his face with his hands, his heart exploding in his chest, profanities whispered in a blend of pain and joy.

They would meet again, and that time the wait would be shorter. They would meet again because Leandro was willing to achieve the impossible to find him again, and Fulvio would do anything to make it happen, especially when he realised it was the second time he’d forgotten something in Palazzo Aulicus and Leandro was the only one who could cover his tracks.

“Fuck,” he murmured, in fact, in a moment of awareness while flying in the direction of a rooftop. “I forgot my glove.”

©2022 FREDDIE A. CLARK. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Freddie A. Clark with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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