A nightingale lamented muffled into the silent night, while Luca's eyes started to flutter sleepily only to be awakened again by Alessandro's demanding tongue.

The nightingale had been over taken by a lark, announcing the early morning hour when Luca awoke alone in the bed. His searching hand found nothing more than cold bed sheets and the imprint where Sandro's head had been. Luca though cuddled with his pillow, turned on his side, sleepily thinking that Sandro was just peeing and fell asleep again.

Sunday morning in Florence was a silent hour. The tourists were still sleeping in their hotel beds, and the inhabitants did the same, before they prepared to attend church service and afterwards having an extended meal with Mamma's home cooking. The Italian Sunday belongs solely to family, but when Alessandro was crossing the street from his palazzo to reach his aim, he saw some pulled up shutters where the shop inhabitants had already prepared the displays for tourists, preferably shoes, bags and souvenirs.

He breathed in the balmy air. Although the town was made from stone and not from trees and flowers, there was a spicy scent coming from the river, mingling with the dry smell of sunburnt stone and incense streaming from open churches.

It was a beautiful morning and yet Alessandro's heart was heavy. This afternoon he would have to leave his home town and he debated with himself if it was the right decision, now that he had met Luca. He hated to leave him. But he loved to gain the education he was longing for. Perhaps it had been wrong to chose the university at Pisa when he could have studied here at one of the Florentine institutes. But they weren't universities and he wouldn't be able to get the right degree to work in one of the scientific institutes of the museums or as certificated guide for art-historical interested tourists. He would only remain a second class guide, showing the usual spots, giving as little information as he could, giving out tips for an evening's entertainment, for brothels and discotheque's and that would be all.

He stuffed his hands into his trouser pockets. Despite all his gloomy thoughts his face radiated. He had spent a wonderful night with Luca and why should this be the end? They could see each other each weekend, and in August started the long break that they could spend together wherever Luca wanted; money wasn't a problem. Although.... Alessandro wasn't as rich as Luca seemed to think. He had the monthly income from his father's inheritance. The rest of it was under the management of his uncle Arrigo until.... until he would marry and father a son.

Sure he could spend it right now, but he would have to give a report on what and why he would spend it, in case he didn't marry and have a son because then everything would fall into the hands of the monks. What an obnoxious thought. Not that he wasn't willing to give money for charity, completely the opposite. But he felt very queasy at the thought of seeing the hard-earned family money, gathered over centuries, in the possession of foreign people who would do God knows what with it.

He stopped in his walking and held his face into the sun. A slight sting in his back entrance reminded him of the pleasures of last night. How would he manage to abstain from all of that? Could he trust Luca? Could he trust himself? He squinted against the sun and continued his walk, until he reached his goal. Palazzo Pucci, a similar monster of Pietra Serena like the one his family owned. Iron rings as fixtures for horses reins and torches, stony benches besides the bronze entrance door, rejecting and intimidating.

Alessandro didn't hesitate, entered, crossed the square yard straight to the opposite door and stepped into a hall, not bothering with ringing or knocking. He knew that Emilio was always up in the early morning hours. The hall was decorated with huge modern paintings - an odd contrast to the Renaissance palace. A staircase led on the right hand side up to the other floors, but Alessandro turned left where a small plate of noble understatement announced Emilio Pucci - Fashion Designer.

He found Emilio and his young lover at the breakfast table near the large windows, that were covered with plants of all sorts. A large date palm needed the whole space of the corner and under it stood wicker chairs and tables where on them Emilio had put the coffee pot and plates with marmalade and honey.

"Ah, there you are. You're early", Emilio said in his deep, somewhat dragging voice. His lover turned and beamed. "We saw you yesterday at 'Tosca' in the box with your little friend", he said. "But you didn't see us."

"Surely I've seen you both", Alessandro answered. "Amidst the plebs in the stalls, why was that? Have you rented your box out?" He pulled a chair to the table and sat down.

"Sometimes it's helpful to breathe the smell of plebs", Emilio said winking.


The young man - black hair and black eyes, a little goatee leading down from under the lip to his chin - pushed him a plate and toast. "Coffee or tea?" he asked.

The connections of the Gondi's with the Pucci's have been legendary. Both families were one of the oldest in Florence, both had been silk merchants, and while the Gondi's could save their money over the years, the Pucci's name was only held by the recent wealth of their latest offspring, Emilio, world-wide acclaimed fashion designer with ateliers in Paris and London. But here, at his old family palace, he had his very own, private studio where he designed clothes and invented new patterns, shown on the catwalks in Roma, Milano, New York and Tokyo.

"Vittorio, gioia, would you be so lovely as to bring it by? You know where it is", Emilio asked the young man who rose and left the room.

Emilio turned to Alessandro, leaning over the table, his anthracite eyes under the bushy eyebrows searching. "It's for the young man you were with yesterday, right?"

Alessandro nodded.

"He'll look so pretty in those clothes." His fingers combed his ice-grey, thick hair. "I've never seen him, though. What's his name? He can't belong to the society."

"Pah, society. I told you, you're a snob, Emilio. What's with him?" He made a movement towards the door where Vittorio had vanished. "Where did you pick him up?"

Emilio laughed roaring. "He's one of my models from Milano."


Vittorio returned, walking graceful like a dancer, shirt open to reveal his six-pack and the brown, hairless chest, that was decorated with a low hung chain with an artistic pendant. He carried a pack of clothes that was enveloped by a plastic bag and gave it Emilio who unpacked it carefully.

"You said you were of the same figure and height, so I hope it fits", he said, lifting out a soft suede jacket of a light brown colour, with light- red and blue applications of a typical Pucci-pattern.

Alessandro unwrapped the matching trousers. "Marvellous", he said, admiring the work. It snuggled perfectly to the hand.

"Your farewell-gift?"

"Sort of", Alessandro mumbled. Suddenly he thought it stupid. When would Luca be able to wear it? He shook his head. Of course he would have dozens of opportunities to wear it. When they would go out for instance.

"You outdid yourself, Emilio, it's terrific. And now to the business side of things. Quanta costa?"

Emilio grinned and winked at Vittorio. "Friendship price as agreed. One hundred Euros for the sake of old times. It's just the price of the leather."

Alessandro knew that Emilio was understating, but he didn't want to hurt the older man. He beamed and nodded. "Great. For old times' sake."

Luca was still sleeping when Alessandro returned on tiptoes, then kneeling beside the bed and kissing Luca on his cheek. "Hey, sleepy head, time to wake up."

Luca stirred, turned on his back and sighed. "Where have you been?" he muttered, eyes still closed. Alessandro looked down and his heart hurt. He left the gifts where they were - upon the table - hurried to undress and crawled under the blankets. It was still early morning and they had plenty of time. Luca embraced him, cuddled with him for a while until both felt the familiar feeling of arousal again that needed to be satisfied.

"I have something for you", Alessandro whispered, jumped out of the bed and went to his cupboard where he kept Masolino's diary, and opened it. He pulled out a package and a little, longish box and returned. While Luca was watching him, he remembered that this was their last day together, or worse, what was left of it. His stomach tightened painfully when he saw Sandro's naked body, the long, straight legs walking and his equipment , that brought so much pleasure, hanging between. Then he laughed at himself. Was it just THAT which brought him pleasure? Or rather the whole young man?

"What are you laughing about?" Alessandro looked down on himself. "Alright, it's still drooling", he chuckled then. "Probably because it's still not satisfied, eh?"

Luca's cheeks reddened. "You're a slut. What do you have there?" He recognized Masolino's diary.

"It's for you. Please take good care of it while I'm away, promise?"

Luca swallowed with excitement. Finally he would be able to read all of it.

"And here's something else." Alessandro pushed Luca aside and let himself fall between the sheets. Then he opened the long box and tickled Luca's nose with the pendant hanging on a long, golden chain. "That's the Gondi-cross. Everyone of our family has one."

Luca grabbed it and sat upright. He stared wide-eyed at it. It was made of heavy, red shimmering gold and enamel in white and red. "You can't give me that", he stammered finally. "That's too precious. And it's yours. You..."

"Shhh. It's mine, I can do what I like with it. And it's a promise to return." He bent down and kissed Luca's lips, still open in astonishment. Luca's fingers enclosed the cool cross as he sunk back between the pillows, embracing Alessandro's body while his heart beat loud and painfully. "You act as if you were going to America", he said indistinctly between kisses. "I know you'll return. Otherwise I'll come to Pisa and tell you off."

"Sure you'll come to Pisa. What about next weekend?" Alessandro's fingers crawled upon Luca's body from chest to his abdomen, wiping away white stains. Luca's stomach jerked and he wriggled. Alessandro's forefinger stroked gently along Luca's soft penis, then to the surface of his smooth balls. Luca jerked again and chuckled. "Do you have a single room at the student's hostel?" he asked.

"Don't know. I guess so."

"You think I can stay overnight then?"

Alessandro's head had went down, pushing the covers completely aside and tugged slightly at Luca's foreskin with his teeth. Luca's member rose within the blink of an eye to full length. "If that is still working that way when we're fifty..." Alessandro mumbled, taking it into his mouth.

It was noon when both weren't able to do anything more. Both complained about pain and soreness, but took it easy. It was between coffee and the remains of the dinner from last evening when Luca pointed to the parcel. He had hung the Gondi-cross around his neck, left his shirt open, so that he felt the cool gold between his pecs. He looked almost like Vittorio, Alessandro thought, just with blond hair. Without a word he took the parcel. "Unwrap."

Luca did and gasped. The suede felt extraordinarily soft. It would fit like a glove. But then he let the clothes sink into his lap and stared at Alessandro. "Why do you give me all this? You embarrass me. I've got nothing for you."

"I thought you would like it." Alessandro sounded somehow disappointed, so Luca dashed around the table and knelt down beside his boyfriend. "I love it, Sandro, really. It's just, expensive gifts are given so seldom in my family. We don't have much, so those gifts are welcomed the more. And they embarrass me, you understand?"

Alessandro looked at him. "Because you feel obligated now?"

Luca nodded.

Alessandro stroked his cheek. "That's the difference of our two worlds. For us, gifts are meaningless. You know, money can't be responsible for making an asshole of you. It's rather that money reveals your true being. With money you can act as you are. Treat people bad if you feel like it." He grinned. "But if you're good guy you please people."

Luca grinned too. "So you wanted to tell me that you're the good guy, right?"

"Right. No, I'm selfish." Alessandro smirked now and ruffled Luca's already dishevelled hair. "I want to see you in that outfit. Now."

Luca rose and dropped his shirt and jeans. A minute later a young heart-breaker stood in front of Alessandro. "Where would I wear this?" Luca asked, turning in front of the mirror in the wardrobe.

"When you go out with me, next time."

Luca detected the label of Pucci inside the jacket and almost shrieked. "What's that? You're friends with Pucci, are you? I didn't know!"

Alessandro laughed. "One of my secrets. If I don't watch out , Emilio will substitute Vittorio with you and I can admire you on the catwalks of Milano."


"Vittorio is Emilio's young lover. A model from Milano. I met him this morning."

Luca rolled his eyes. "And had a three-some, eh?"


Luca sighed deeply. "My parents are upset because I wasn't there for lunch. Giano told them I'm probably with you, not saying that I was out the whole night. They know you're departing today."

"Good old Giano", Alessandro said. "When is he going to Pisa?"

"Next week. Actually he wanted to go later, but then he changed his mind. Probably happy too to start a single life. Perhaps you'll meet."

"Yeah, perhaps." Again Alessandro imagined Giano's features that looked so similar to Luca, just less boyish.

"You have to pack I guess", Luca said, suddenly sad. Reluctantly he took off the jacket and the trousers, folded them carefully and put them back into the plastic bag.

"I don't have much to pack. Just some clothes and books."

Luca followed Alessandro downstairs, laden with the plates, into the kitchen. "I'm up for a last walk up to San Miniato, what do you think?" Alessandro said. "Say good-bye to the God with the torch."


"Right. Cautopates. The finisher of days. And meanwhile you'll read the diary and tell me what you think about the story."

"You said, you've plans with that. What plans?"

"Going to Rome to find out what happened."

Luca's face was a question mark. "Where will you go to find things out when none of the scientists found out?"

"They never read Masolino's diary."

* * *

Florence was swimming in the afternoon-heat. A sfumato hung over Brunelleschi's red brickstone cupola of the cathedral, blurring the pointed bell's tower of Santa Croce into those surrounding Luca's home, and the battlements of the tower of Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall. The slopes of Fiesole behind were of a dusty grey-green. Silver-grey where olive trees covered the slopes, black-green where pines and cypresses pierced the sky, planted in long rows, indicating the road that led up. Now and then red roofs and white washed walls were to be seen, where rich people of Florence had their summer's domicile.

Alessandro and Luca stood tightly embraced and breathed in spicy air. The noise of the town was behind them and no passers by disturbed the peace.

"Don't follow me home", Alessandro said. "I hate long farewells." He gave Luca a key. "Here you have it. Whenever you feel like you can then go to my room. And there's still your gifts to pick up. Promise me to look after the Palazzo? Fran will come every week too."


"Francesco, our gardener and housekeeper. He's with Anastasia at Fiesole." He lifted Luca's chin. "Next weekend, I'm back." He kissed Luca, then he turned and went quickly away. He didn't look back.

Part 16