Luca was absorbed in his work. He never heard the loud moaning of his fellow students nor saw Tristano's attentive looks that he followed Luca's work with.

Luca was busy laying the matching semi-precious stones, cut into thin plates, into the black stone-plate. He had conceived a simple flower-pattern he didn't have to cut too much. Luca smoothed the light-green malachite with sandpaper and tried anew. The leaves he made from jade and golden-black pyrite for the shadows.

With awe Tristano followed Luca's hands, securely and purposefully choosing the right, pre-cut stones to sort them out: yellow heliodor for the petals and tiger's eye for folded down petals, corals for the bells and amber for the anthers, light blue achat and translucent opal for a lily.

All students used inferior stones with inclusions and cracks, waste materials for the training, but Luca was able to do something beautiful with them. He worked until everyone except Tristano had left; Luca had missed Coppo standing silently behind him and his prompting to call it a day.

Coppo smiled at Tristano and sat beside him, opposite Luca. "If you could, you would work through the night, Luca, right?" he asked quietly. Luca lifted his head startled and tried to focus his eyes on his teacher. He blinked several times like an owl. "Scusi?"

Coppo reached over and took hold of Luca's hand. He wrenched the pliers from his fingers and put the bowls of stones aside. "Every good artist need a rest", he said. "Have you decided what to do with the rest of the lapis lazuli?"

Luca shrugged: "I haven't decided. Perhaps a lion's head? Or a bunch of owls."

"Owls?" Coppo grinned.

"My favourite bird besides parrots and cockatoos."

"Lovely indeed", Coppo said, winking at Tristano. "Difficult for you though at this time of your education. It would rather be something for your brothers." Coppo eyed Luca's face that had hardened from within. "We don't speak together", Luca said.

"And wouldn't it be time now to start?"

Luca looked at Tristano, seeking his help. "What's there to talk about?" he said sullenly, shoving the bowls back and forth. "We've never talked about last October."

"And it's October again. One year has passed, Luca. Your brothers aren't the same I've heard. I have little to do with them, but my colleagues say, they are monosyllabic and broody. More than they have ever been before, you know."

Luca nodded. "I know", he said with a low voice. "But I'm still afraid. The silence frightens me more than their shouting at me."

Tristano looked nervously at his watch. It was about time he left if he wanted to see Vito before he went to work. Luca noticed. "Give Vito my love, will you", he mumbled.

After Tristano had gone, Luca continued "Once I overheard a talk between them. They had to work at an AIDS-hospital. They saw many things; guys that were dying, guys never getting any visits from friends or parents because they were despised and hated for being gay. I'm not sure whether it influenced my brothers behaviour. Perhaps they just think this is what a faggot deserves."

Coppo took Luca's chin and searched his face. "How' s Alessandro doing? You never talk about him. People think you've broken up, despite what he did for you."

"People don't know that he did it for me", Luca protested. "It wasn't in the newspaper. Just that he got involved in a fatal fight. The reason was never of interest."

"Luca", Coppo said softly, "The law is never interested in reasons or feelings. It can explain the bare facts, but it never influences the sentence. At least not much."

Luca jerked his chin back and stared down on his intarsia work. "Alessandro isn't the same anymore", he whispered. "I do understand him though. But... he's so strange and far away."

Coppo gave a low, heartfelt sigh. "This was to be expected, Luca. One year of being locked up, being separated from life and friends and his love. He would be an unfeeling monster if it didn't affect him."

"I don't know what's going on", Luca suddenly blurted, glad to spill it out to someone older and probably more understanding. "He never writes about it, nor talks when I visit him. There's his person in charge, Mario. I guess he's after him. And I sensed that there's something going on between other prisoners and him and there's this strange Lauro he cares for and tries to draw out his secrets."

"Hold it, hold it, Luca", Coppo outstretched his arm. "Who's after whom?"

"Mario's after Sandro. And I think he's succeeded."

Coppo lifted his brows in surprise. "I doubt that. If they were discovered, Mario would lose his job. And of course Sandro isn't allowed to write about internal matters. What kind of things are going on between Sandro and the prisoners?"

Luca shook his head. "I don't know. I just .. feel it. Bad aura. Some of the guys treat him nastily and Sandro doesn't stop them."

"He doesn't stop them?" Coppo pulled a very disbelieving face. "I can't imagine an Alessandro Gondi who would put up with something nasty, above all personal attacks."

"That's the mysterious thing. It's as if he has given up."

Coppo sighed again. "I'm so sorry about this, Luca. Can you speak with this Mario? Next time when you visit him?

Luca shrugged. Coppo patted his hand for comfort and felt helpless.

* * *

Vito was having a quick lunch when Tristano hurried through the door to Vito's flat to find him in the kitchen, eating while standing. He always seemed to be in a hurry. "I thought I'd missed you", Tris said breathless.

"Wow. I didn't know I was so desperately wanted", Vito said, his handsome face bright with a smile. He offered Tris the rest of his tramezzino, but Tris wrapped his arms around Vito's waist instead, feeling comforted and safe, so close to Vito's strong body. He leaned his head against Vito's cheek, felt his lover's heartbeat and the heat his body was radiating. Vito stroked his back and held him. He was always gentle with his young lover and did the best he could to make him forget the terrible abuse he'd suffered. "Be careful", Tristano whispered, afraid of Vito's nightshifts.

"I am", Vito whispered and kissed Tristano's ear. "Any news from Alessandro?"

"Luca doesn't say much. Do you think I can visit him?"

"Sure, why not?" Vito gently pushed Tristano away to look into his face.

Vittorio's feelings concerning Alessandro Gondi were biased. The carabiniero within him told him that Alessandro had gone over the top, first in not informing the police but starting a private retaliation campaign, second in being engaged in the fatal fight that got out of control. He had thought Alessandro was more intelligent than that. The human in Vito told him that Alessandro was an angry young man, wild and unpredictable and that he did it for Luca Montori - perhaps the biggest favour of love a man could give to another man. Personally Vito doubted that either of the boys ever realized what this meant - and what consequences it had for their future life. "He will be pleased", he said aloud. "Go and cheer him up." He leaned in and kissed Tristano. "I'm happy with you", he murmured.

And thirdly: The rapist of Tris and Alfredo was dead, he thought, while he smiled at his lover. A small part of Vittorio del Chiaro was relieved.

* * *

Cinzano, the white Maltese, tugged at Alessandro's trouser leg, but he didn't notice it. Probably Cinzano took this as a game and then gnawed at Mario's belt that lay on the carpet together with Mario's trousers, wrapped around his spread legs. He was bent over the back of his armchair and tried to find a rhythm with Alessandro who stood behind him, fucking him mercilessly.

Mario moaned and gritted his teeth but that was the way he liked it. No commitment, no touching. Just plain and simple sex. Deliberately, Alessandro was sliding in and out, finally increasing speed, he emptied himself. He stood rigid for a moment, enjoying the bodily relief and the brief space of blankness filling his mind. Then he held the condom's rim and pulled out.

Mario, his teeth still clenched, turned to him and rubbed his still stiff penis on Alessandro's abdomen. "Suck me", he said, locking eyes, until Alessandro went down on his knees. It was all he could do. And Mario's cock was better than nothing. On purpose he blanked-out Luca. Everything that reminded him of his lover at home was banished from his mind. If Alessandro wanted to survive the years he had to find release. He absorbed himself into the mechanical task of licking and rubbing the parts he wasn't licking, finally sucking vigorously at the crown until Mario gave a loud moan and flowed into Alessandro's mouth. A brief urge to gag was suppressed, then he was lifted to his feet and received a kiss and a probing tongue as reward.

Mario could be tender if he wanted to be , but most of the time he didn't want to. He wanted Alessandro's meat but he didn't bother with his body. As always Alessandro was fully dressed and had just opened his fly, so he was more than surprised when he felt Mario's hands drawing the trousers from Alessandro's hips, along with the old fashioned boxer shorts and caressed his testicles. "What would you say to staying overnight?"

"Huh?" Alessandro freed himself from Mario's tongue and mouth. "Impossible. What kind of guard are you? Blinded by a cock?"

Mario looked hurt. Then reason won upper hand. Of course Sandro was right. It was embarrassing that a prisoner had to remind him who was the good and who was the bad guy. Nonetheless he would had enjoyed the young man at his side for tonight. And of course his useful tool that was too good to be hidden behind those pale, old boxers. He bet that in real life the noble Alessandro di Gondi-Lucertola wore silky underwear or some other sexy stuff. Perhaps... if he when he left the prison, they could continue. At the same time Mario scolded himself as a sentimental fool. Although Sandro never talked about his boyfriend, Mario sensed that he was devoted and committed - despite what they did here in Mario's house.

"Ssh, Cinzano", he hissed. He threw a toy into the farthest corner. The white ball of fur jumped after it. Then he devoted himself again to Alessandro's half hard penis, standing with a leftward curve and caressed it to full erection. Alessandro grimaced, but put up with the administering.

"When will you let me enter you?" Mario mumbled close to his ear.

"Never and you know why", Alessandro said, annoyed, but nonetheless helpless under Mario's fingers, rubbing and circling, kneading and scraping until Alessandro bucked and Mario grinned shamelessly. "You bugger", he said. "But I like you for your devotion." One final, harsh stroke and Alessandro squirted until his legs began to get weak and he stumbled over his trouser legs, slumped together on the ground. Briefly he saw Mario's erection, but ignored it. Instead of he pulled up his jeans and was ready to go.

Cinzano accompanied him out. He left the door open for the dog to return and crossed the lawn on a path that would lead him to the yellow washed house of the youth's detention centre. Although late October, there wasn't the slightest whiff of Autumn in the air, but it was mild and balmy. Alessandro was hanging onto the warm, satisfactory feeling in his guts, when something cracked behind him and he felt a hard push in his back. He turned surprised and thought he could make out movement behind some bushes. He bent down and found the stone that had hit his back. His brows pulled together and all of a sudden the feeling of hate and anger was there again. "Come out, cowards", he shouted. Then everything went too fast for him. He felt himself overpowered by two figures, a flabby one, lithe and wiry the other, pressing him down to the ground until he was nearly eating grass.

"What are you doing with Giacomelli, you fag?" a high pitched voice murmured into his ear. "You faggots enjoy kinky stuff, right?" Alessandro felt his jeans being torn down and cool air streaming over his bare ass. "Stabbing for shit for instance."

An unbelievable anger rose within Alessandro. He didn't register Cinzano's excited barking and didn't notice the door to Mario's house open widely. He just wanted to fight. He groped for the body suffocating him and literally threw it from his own and there was just a tiny gap of humanity remaining that rescued him from jumping upon his foe, lying on the ground while the other was watching him, astonished.

"Sandro?" Mario's shouting suddenly slipped into Alessandro's mind and he snapped out of his brutal, inward fight. Cinzano darted over the lawn, encircling the group, barking. Pietro and Ivano vanished like a flash of lightning.

Alessandro groped at his backside to find his jeans ripped open, revealing his naked arse. "What for Christ sake was that?" Mario said bewildered. "Were you attacked?"

"Sure I was!" Alessandro shouted. "And guess who it was. We are out, Mario. If they know, everybody will soon know."

"Calm down, man." Mario took hold of Alessandro's shoulders. "I'm the one who should be in fear then. What are you afraid of, fearless, haughty boy? It's their word against ours."

Alessandro shook his head and strutted on, leaving Mario standing. Cinzano still barked.

Alessandro passed the guard who shouted after him because of his bare butt but Alessandro didn't care. They all could get lost. He of course drew the attention of everyone he passed, but never gave any answer, and went straight to the common room and searched for Pietro and Ivano. They weren't there, the cowards. But others of their league. "Look at the arse-fucker", one of them said lazily. "He comes in here to offer us his shit hole. Should we accept?"

Alessandro, furious, sized him up: Leo with a scar that ran from the corner of his eye to the left corner of his mouth. A broken face, cut into two halves, like his grin. Everybody was calling him Zorro. Alessandro raised his fist, hit Leo's face and left him sitting dumbfounded with nothing to say, blood seeping from the corner of his mouth, until a fight started that alerted the guard.

"What the hell..." The guard took hold of Alessandro, who stood with raised fists, ready to fight his still sitting opponent. "Gondi, stop it. Goddammit." Without warning he twisted Alessandro's arm behind his back and shoved him into the hall, leading to the cells. He pushed him inside and locked the door twice.

Twenty minutes later the door was unlocked again and Mario entered his cell. "What happened?" he asked, standing in front of the sitting Alessandro who held the blue lizard tightly in his palm. Then he jumped up. "What happened? You know what happened at your house. Zorro provoked me. I'm the shit-stabber to everyone. I'm sure you didn't miss that fact." He snorted vehemently through his nose. "I thought being gay wouldn't be a big problem here, after all we aren't in a jail for adults. But of course we're gathered here because we aren't adult, are we, Mario? We behave like babies and immature kiddies and therefore we are watched over, no matter how much we torment each other."

Mario took Alessandro's upper arms "Be quiet, damn it", he hissed. "You didn't understand anything I told you at all, did you. I can't help you here without causing suspicion. Your next visitor is cancelled. Sorry." Mario let go of him and stepped back.

Alessandro glared at him. "That suits you all right, Mario, doesn't it."

"What do you mean?" Mario's eyes lurked behind his glasses.

"You understand me well." He stepped forward and whispered "I was just referring to your offer to stay the night with you. Luca's in the way for your all too romantic envisions of a happy ever after life with me as soon as I'm out of here." Alessandro's nose almost touched Mario's and his glasses steamed up from Alessandro's breath.

"You're sick, Alessandro Gondi" Mario whispered back slowly and harshly. "Who do you think you are? Irresistible like a Chippendale's boy? I've certainly had better guys in bed than you. We participate, that's all. I give you what you want and you give me what I want. Basta." He turned, went out and banged the door from outside. A second later it was locked twice.

* * * * *

It was the 3rd of December, Alessandro's twentieth birthday. Luca had been sad that he wasn't allowed to visit him, then he was pissed at him. Luca never learnt the reasons but assumed that Alessandro had been carried away by his bad temper. Once again. Luca could hardly understand how life was in a youth custody unit, but he supposed that Sandro was having problems because he was gay and some guys didn't accept it. Although Sandro had made certain he knew he was the team captain of their handball team and that he had some buddies he called friends. Well, what you call friends in jail. Why had he been so careless as to pin Luca's portrait to his wall. Alessandro believed everybody had to dance to his whistle, the world was turning around him and he was invulnerable- and invincible. Obviously he went through the painful process of learning this wasn't the truth at all.

Luca was drinking his third Cinzano-Mix. He had paid alone for himself the entrance fee to Villa Kazar and had sat now for two hours in a corner and watched the jumble surrounding him. Mostly girls were snogging with boys - like Rosso with Caro for instance - or boys with boys and nobody cared. Why couldn't it be always so and everywhere? Why had anyone to bother with whom Luca shared the bed?

In front of his nose another glass of Cinzano landed upon the table. Luca looked up into a pair of black eyes - at least in this flickering blue-green-red light they were the blackest eyes he had ever seen. "You dance with me?"

Luca jerked at the blunt question since how could the other one know if Luca was gay or not. A cheeky grin spread over the face and Luca wondered whether his homosexuality was marked on his forehead or whether he was behaving too camp. While Luca was staring indignantly into his face, the smile died. "Sorry... I thought..." he was about to leave, but then Luca got a grip on himself and held him. "No, I was just surprised. What made you think that I'm gay."

"You're the best looking guy here." And the cheeky grin spread once more over his face. A face with a too big nose and a short upper lip, pouting lips that made Luca drool inwardly and a softly cleft chin. The hair was a tangle of darkness and in his earlobes twinkled white stones like diamonds. Luca groped for the glass, lifted it and drank half of it. Slightly swaying he rose then and took the arm of his "admirer". Giggling he followed him to the dance floor and both vanished in between the mass of a hazy heat, smoke and a cacophony of scents and smells.

"What's your name?" Luca shouted into his ear. He liked his scent, something dark and arousing like Patchouli and chocolate. He had wrapped his arms around the narrow waist and deliberately his hands buried in the butt-pockets of his dancer.

"Raffaele", he said proudly well knowing that the name suited his image except he couldn't paint at all. But "Raffaele" promised nights of velvet and unbridled lust. "Sleep with me?"

Luca was drunk enough to nod and knead the arse cheeks through the fabric of Raffaele's jeans. He felt his own member rising and being rubbed and pressed against another stiff one.

Raffaele backed away when he saw where Luca was leading him. "Palazzo Gondi?" he asked, suddenly standing on the street like a stubborn donkey. "You're Gondi's boyfriend! I thought I knew you from somewhere."

Luca turned to him. "Does that mean you doesn't want to sleep with me anymore?"

Raffaele looked him up and down, then he grinned. He took Luca's arm and dragged him through the wooden entrance gate Luca had unlocked. "I've never been in an old palazzo", he said, 'Well, I've been to the museo of Palazzo Davanzati, but that's only stuff made for the tourists. Do you live here alone now?"

Luca dragged him upstairs since the lift was out of order again, and opened the door to Alessandro's room. His mind was in a state of drunken dizziness and right now he didn't care what Alessandro did or did not do. What he would think or think not. Perhaps he was with his warden - Mario - and.. and... Raffaele stood behind him and started to kiss Luca's neck, while roaming his hands over his body. "I do want to fuck you. I never understood what you were doing with Gondi when he can't decide if he's gay or not. I, on the other hand, are keen on boys only. What about you?"

Raffaele's hot breath tickled Luca's ear. "Only boys", he whispered coarsely and gave in. He followed in awe the speed Raffaele shed his clothes and let himself fall naked upon the bed Luca had made before he went out to celebrate Alessandro's birthday alone. He followed the luring eyes and the gleaming of Raffaele's naked, hairless skin. His natural tanned darkness gave a nice contrast to the pastel stripes of the bed clothes. Seductively Raffaele opened his legs and almost innocently touched his upright standing dick and his dark testicles. One finger traced the trail leading to his even darker hole.

Luca's body was inflamed. He literally ripped off his clothes and jumped to Raffaele's feet. One year of self-restraint exploded into a pretty harsh devouring of the offered cock and a grunting licking and tongue-penetrating of the offered entrance. Raffaele lay spread eagled and saw stars. He had never been so feverishly sucked; Luca came over him like a thunderstorm, leaving a wet creek on his chest, a puddle in his navel and a sea of saliva around his butt hole. Raffaele was ready to being fucked, he spread his legs wide open and pulled Luca onto his body where their lips found and met, exchanging musky taste and seductive moistness.


Alessandro shoved his member deep between Mario's risen legs. His calves rested upon Alessandro's shoulders, making his tunnel tight as soon Alessandro entered him. A minute of restless fucking, noiseless and silent. Just the sounds of softly slapping flesh, a low rustling of pubic hair and the wet slurping of a well lubricated condom being pressed into a tight canal. This was Alessandro's birthday gift. A stolen hour in the late evening, shortly before sleeping time. Alessandro could still hold in check the gang around Zorro and Elmo, Pietro and Ivano, but he wasn't sure for how long. And he didn't know what excuses Mario conceived, to be alone with Alessandro. He didn't want to know anyway, after all it was Mario's job at stake. If it would become a pitched battle, Alessandro could always claim to having been seduced by the older one, coming down to fornicate with his charges and that would Mario cost his job. Well... if Mario was so horny for Alessandro that he didn't care at all.. so be it.

He rose, kneeled between Mario's legs, groped his calves and bucked fervently in and out - just the way Mario liked it, raw and raunchy. Ruthlessly Alessandro could let himself go and directly find his satisfaction. From a distance he listened to himself - his flat, laboured breathing, proceeding into panting the more he was closer to climax. Mario arched his back and tugged at his cock as if he wanted to rip it off. A puddle of sweat had gathered in the little trough in the middle of his collarbones. He moaned and squirted while Alessandro slammed into him, closing his eyes and thinking about Luca. He was almost losing his erection, now so close to the climax. It was painful to miss the closeness he shared with his boyfriend.

While he emptied himself into the condom he realized - that though the movements were always the same - it wasn't the same at all. Rigid for a moment, he pulled out mercilessly and didn't pay any care for Mario at all. He shook him off like a weary mosquito when Mario slid closer and wanted to snuggle. "I need to go back", Alessandro mumbled.

Alessandro almost expected those gloating glances again that he was receiving from the gang of Zorro. They never stopped, but the disdainful words had. Nobody dared to call him an arse-fucker. Alessandro had climbed the peak of the hierarchy. Everybody sensed Alessandro di Gondi- Lucertola wasn't a soft-boiled effeminate, tumbling around arse-wobbling and with limp wrists, nor was he born with a permanent nasal voice. Alessandro was a man a hetero couldn't hope to be described better, and he had already killed another man. That he didn't do it purposefully only increased the myth. Alessandro knew that Pietro and Ivano knew what he and Mario Giacomelli were doing when they were alone. But they held their mouths for what ever reason.

He sauntered through the common room and sat at a table in the corner to pick up his books. They lay untouched as he had left them. Sighing he opened them and turned the pages that described the difference between Duccio di Buoninsegna, Cimabue and Giotto, their large Madonna-paintings and their conception from a plain view to an almost three-dimensional sight.

Something wanted to be free inside of him. The thought of Luca for instance. He felt that Luca was thinking of him - today on Alessandro's twentieth birthday. He still had so many months without him ahead.


"Where are you going?" Raffaele complained when Luca suddenly froze and looked at him as if he was a stranger - which he certainly was. Luca rose, still dazed and drunken from the alcohol and Raffaele he tumbled into the bathroom and grabbed a handful of condoms.

"What's this crap for?" Raffaele moaned when Luca returned. "I hate those rubbers, really." He tried to pushed them away, but Luca closed his fingers over them. "It's either with or not at all", he said decidedly. Raffaele rolled his eyes. "I didn't think I could get pregnant", he said, laying back, opening his legs, pulling Luca over him. "Let's try to make a baby", he cooed, stroking gently over Luca's still erect and now covered penis. But Luca didn't want to be gentle and soft at all. He was so horny that he just wanted to find release. But he didn't want to hurt Raffaele either. So he restrained his flaming desire and thought instead of Alessandro and what he had done on occasions like that.

Alessandro accompanied him finally, guided him and made him think it was his boyfriend he was slipping into, making Raffaele moan and buck and squirt in the end as he was himself finding release. He didn't resist when the young man at his side wanted to flip positions as long as he used the rubbers. And it wasn't that bad to wake up with a strange guy at his side. It wasn't bad though unfamiliar despite the fact that Raffaele looked as good in the morning as he had looked in the night.

With a jolt he realized the time and that he had overslept. He should have been at the Opificio an hour ago. Harshly he shook Raffaele's shoulder and caused a sleep-drunken smile on his face. "Raffaele! We have to go up. I need to go to work."

"You're working?" Raffaele yawned and wiped his eyes. Beautiful, chocolate brown eyes and a firm, extraordinarily smooth skin Luca couldn't stop thinking.

"Yes!" He almost rolled Raffaele out of bed and jumped over him into the bathroom where he splashed water into his face. He probably reeked of sex but he couldn't help it for the moment. "Raffaele!" he shouted through the rooms as he dashed back to gather his clothes only to find Raffaele blissfully slumbering. Luca sighed. Hastily he searched for a sheet of paper and scribbled something. He dropped it upon Raffaele's jeans where he would find it, gathered his rucksack and left the room, stomping down the stairs.

When he returned in the early evening, Raffaele was still there - or he he had returned. Luca found him, sitting in an armchair, leafing through Alessandro's books. He was wearing one of Luca's pullovers since it was cold in the room. "Why haven't you started the fire", Luca asked, put down his rucksack and the box with the pieces of a pizza.

Raffaele looked up. "I don't know how to."

Luca pulled out the wrapped tools he had been given by his father for his 17th birthday. Niccolò had recently agreed that Luca should use them, now that he had a sort of knowledge of what he was doing with them. Coppo had looked at them with awe but still found them useful and nice to handle. Raffaele looked over his shoulder. "What's this? Are you craftsman?"

"Sort of." Luca turned. Raffaele appeared fresh and clean as if he had spent the whole day here, trying out the bathtub and the shower and all the pleasures this palazzo had to offer, except that he couldn't start a fire. It started to get really cold outside. "I'm working at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure."

"Wow", Raffaele said respectfully. "You're an artist."

Luca laughed. "Far from it. Apprentice." He wrapped the neatly sorted tools into the bundle of cloth and then opened the cardboard box with the pizza. "What are you doing here? Haven't you got a home?"

"Sure, a room at a house in Bellosguardo. My parents run several trattorie and some years ago sold the Paszkowsky Bar", Raffaele said, somewhat apathetic.

"Oh no, not a another rich boy", Luca sighed while he bit heartily into his piece of pizza. "Help yourself", he said and Raffaele took another piece. "Anchovies and artichokes? That's my favourite." He chewed and swallowed. "Do you have a problem with rich guys?"

"I have the feeling that nobody's working just living off all the money they possess."

"I guess you rather draw the rich guys", Raffaele chuckled. "What about Gondi for instance?" He sat back into the armchair near the still cold fire side. "And can you please stir the embers?"

Luca finished his pizza first and then he stoked up the embers, putting some crumpled paper upon it until they caught fire. He added pieces of coal and soon warmth was spreading into the room. Yeah, he thought, what about Alessandro? He threw a suspicious look at Raffaele, lounging in the armchair. Was he sneaking around and had found Sandro's letters? Or the drawings? Had he put on the leather suit?

Luca rose. "He's in prison as you certainly know ", he said coolly.

"And you live here alone? How old are you?"

"Eighteen and a half."

"I'm eighteen too", Raffaele said and snatched another piece of pizza. "Can I stay here for a while?"

"Why do you want to do that? You have a house you said and don't know about stirring the embers?"

"Well, Mamma doesn't like an open fire. We just have a fake."

"And you don't work? Or do an apprenticeship?"

"What for?" Raffaele quipped.

Yes, what for... Alessandro had been thinking the same thoughts. But living off his family's money wasn't exactly satisfying.

"What exactly happened that got your boyfriend sent to jail?" Raffaele asked after there wasn't an answer from Luca to his question. "And why did he marry? I mean, come on, the community knows he's keen on boys. Why this marriage then? Because he made her pregnant by accident?"

"That's nothing that concerns you", Luca said unfriendly. He sat in the other armchair and stretched out his legs. He felt tired. Actually he wanted to write a letter to Sandro. But he couldn't get rid of the boy with the colourful hair he noticed in the soft light of the lamp and the flicker of the fire. There were strands of violet and blond dyed into his dark hair. Funny.

"Sorry", Raffaele said hurt. "I don't want to appear nosy. But you must admit that it IS odd. Are you waiting for him until his release?"

"Actually I am." Luca's stare made it obvious that Raffaele wasn't a substitute. Just a momentarily distraction.

"Well, then why did you take me home last night? You were horny, right?" Raffaele's chocolate brown eyes caught the fire light and gleamed. He rose from his chair and knelt in front of Luca, putting his hands upon Luca's thighs, stroking them. "I could make it easier for you. I like you."

Luca briefly closed his eyes. Then he succumbed to the tender touch.

"I was caught by my brothers that night", he started with a low voice an hour later as they lay snuggled together in Alessandro's bed. His limbs felt heavy like his mind. The words dropped out of his mouth before he could stop them. "They wanted to teach me a lesson. Making me feel a woman which would be the right thing to do, instead of giving into Alessandro's filthy desires. You know." His voice trailed off.

Raffaele nudged him and wiped strands of blond hair from Luca's eyes. "Tell me more", he demanded.

Luca opened his eyes again. Raffaele's hair tickled his nose. "I didn't want to. It was nasty. Then I was able to send Sandro a SMS and he came to my rescue."

"On a white horse?"

Luca stirred, but Raffaele had meant the question seriously. "Not on a white horse. But with our friends. They fought. Sandro hit one of them with a stone. It was sort of self-defence."

"Oh." Raffaele let the information sink in. "Then he shouldn't be in jail."

"It's a youth detention unit. But it's like a jail nonetheless. Three years and eight months. Well, two years still. The judge thought it was wilful manslaughter. Alessandro was the aggressor and without his interfering and lust for fighting Raniero would be alive."

He sensed that Raffaele didn't agree. "He came to your rescue", he insisted.

"I know that. But the judge didn't think so. There wasn't an appeal since it was a sentence to the youth custody. Alessandro had to be thankful for that", he finished harshly and freed himself from Raffaele's embrace. The skin on his belly was sticky and glued slightly together with Raffaele's skin. Luca felt dirty. He rose, scrambled out of the bed and vanished into the bathroom where he turned on the shower. He wondered what he was doing here at all. Raffaele's presence in the next room was starting to piss him off. A hot stream of water gushed over his head as he washed off all the smell and remains of a night with a strange boy. He almost expected Raffaele to join him, but when he returned to Alessandro's room, Raffaele had fallen asleep.

Luca sat on the edge of the bed for a while, watching him. The slowly dying fire painted peace upon his face. The lips, swollen from too many kisses, were slightly parted. Blurred, white stands of semen were on his flat belly. Luca felt pain. Instead of crawling under the bed sheets he put on his jeans and sat at the desk under the windows and started to write a letter.

Inverno 7