A/N:This story was written for macteague, who is an awesome person.
Ettore set Leandro in the boat and made certain he would not wake up too sore, then pushed away from the dock and began to row them through the canals toward the harbor where his ship was waiting for them. Gods above willing, they would be sailing away that night hand in hand.
He paused once they were well away from the manor, in a quiet area where no one would be likely to bother them. Reaching up, he untied the ribbons holding his mask in place and stripped off the mask, throwing it into the water, glad to be rid of it. He leaned over and removed Leandro’s mask, casting the jewel-and-feather image of a lion into the water with his own ostentatious owl. Then he fussed over Leandro, shifting and resettling him, making him as comfortable as was possible.
Smiling faintly, Ettore combed his hand gently through Leandro’s curls, gold as a newly minted coin, soft as silk and just as fine. As always, Leandro looked perfect and pious, everything the golden boy heir apparent of the House of Bellini and future High Priest to the Holy Order of the Twelve Gods of the World. Leandro knew every prayer, every hymn, every chapter and verse of the Books of Life. He could recite them sweetly and humbly, exactly as an Acolyte should. Gold hair, gold eyes, gold voice—the perfect priest to the gods, the perfect Bellini son.
Even Ettore had fallen for it at first, had been completely astonished when he had gone to the dark quarters of the city to find a pretty boy to fuck and saw a familiar gold-haired beauty with his pink lips wrapped around the cock of a foreign merchant. Ettore had not been able to tear his eyes away, taken by the way Leandro sucked cock like he had been born in a whorehouse rather than a church.
He became enthralled. Owls usually preferred to devour mice, but after that night all he had wanted was a lion cub. So he had gone home and planned it out, a way for him to have the golden boy tradition dictated he hate.
I saw you tonight, your lips around the cock of that toad. Shall I write to your father and tell him how filthy and unfit your mouth is for prayers? Shall you come to me and see if that pretty mouth can coax me into silence? Meet me at the corner where the woman weeps, tomorrow after final bells.
He had meant it as a game, a way to toy with someone so infuriatingly perfect, a way to break the monotony of his own family-inflicted perfection. Leandro was the son of the Lord High Priest, and there were expectations. Ettore was the son of the Lord High Chancellor, and there expectations there as well. That they would each follow in their father’s footsteps, continue the tradition of mutual loathing between their houses. Ettore had never had any patience for it, even less after that night when Leandro had answered his letter.
They had stood there beneath the flickering light of a street lamp, before the statue of a woman weeping for the loss of her children, a memorial to the plague that wiped the city two hundred years ago. Now, it stood by the entrance to the dark quarters of the city that could provide anything if the coin was right.
Leandro had been furious, but terrified beneath that beautiful, blazing anger. It had all gotten worse when he learned Ettore’s identity. They had come to blows, and Ettore had not known until then that his golden pussycat had claws and knew how to use them. He had been enchanted, and unable to resist pressing Leandro against a wall and licking the blood from his split lip.
By the time dawn forced them to part, they were bruised, sweaty, sticky, and sated. Ettore had never had a better lover; Leandro was more intoxicating than the drug that kept his mother lost in dreams. Finding ways to meet had become their obsession, a need. Learning to trust had been harder, and he did not care to think of all the fights, the many times he had been scared they would never again meet in the dark.
But they always did.
He was tired of having to say goodbye and slink away before dawn, tired of acting like he was ashamed. The problems of his ancestors and his parents did not have to be his problems, and he was tired of accepting them.
So he had planned. The Festival of the Spirits was his chance. It had not been hard, in the end. He knew Leandro’s costume, had found him, plied him with alcohol and the sort of hasty, dirty fuck that Leandro loved. Perhaps it was not nice to drug his lover and kidnap him, but he loved Leandro because they both would enjoy the entire affair.
Leandro groaned, stirring Ettore from his thoughts. Ettore helped him to sit up properly, smirking the moment Leandro realized his wrists were bound behind his back. Later he would laugh that Ettore had stolen the gold cords from the curtains in the cathedral prayer room where they’d fucked.
He tugged Leandro to settle between his legs, and traced his lips with one gloved finger. “Blessing of the Evening, Priest.”
“May you get fucked by a goat,” Leandro replied. “You drugged me!”
Ettore clucked his tongue, fighting a smile. “Tradition, Priest. We must remember that tradition is important. Everyone knows the spirits descend to wreak havoc this night. We wear masks to disguise ourselves, and hope the spirits pass us by.”
Leandro snorted softly, but gamely said, “And if the spirits see you, and see that you are good at heart, they will shower you with gifts and good tidings, and carry you away to live a life of bliss with them. But if you are wicked at heart, they will carry you off into the night and do unspeakable things.” He licked his lips, titling his head in that way that always made Ettore’s breath quicken. “So am I being rewarded or punished, spirit?”
Chuckling, Ettore leaned down and crushed their mouths together, bit hard at Leandro’s lip, licked it as he drew back and said, “All of the one for you, lovely pussycat.”
Licking his lips again, Leandro said, “How charmingly sweet you sing, Owl. You most definitely are a spirit, to know so well what to say. So why have you really spirited me away this night?”
“Because as much as I love our games, I do want to play this way our entire lives. There are other, better games to be played,” Ettore replied. In his arms, Leandro stiffened, but Ettore plunged on, suddenly anxious. “I was thinking…” So hard to say the words, now that the moment had come to say them. “I was thinking we could play a game of defiance—defy family, convention, duty, all of it.”
Leandro let out a long, loud sigh, head bowing in clear relief. “You’re not ending our affair?”
“What—” Ettore looked at him, horrified, and shook him slightly. “No, you idiot! Why would you think that?”
“You said you were tired of our games, that there were other games to play! What was I supposed to think?” Leandro demanded hotly.
“With you, idiot! I want to play new games with you. Stop ruining my attempt to propose!”
“I’m ruining it?” Leandro retorted.
Ettore withdrew, crossing his arms over his chest and hunching slightly, feeling stupid.
Leandro made a soft noise, and shifted, rubbing against his like a cat. “I’m sorry, Owl. I panicked at your first words. Do not say it that way.”
Sighing, Ettore unfolded his arms and wrapped them around Leandro, kissing his brow. “That is not how I meant it, I am sorry. I meant this—I am tired of keeping us a secret, of living according to the dictates of our family, when they cannot even remember why we are supposed to hate one another. Would you consent to joining me in causing the scandal of the century, by way of marriage?”
“Such a politician,” Leandro teased fondly, nibbling and licking his lips. “Four words would suffice, but you must use forty.”
“How about seven?” Ettore retorted. “Marry me or I will beat you.” He smirked. “Though, with you, perhaps that should be rephrased to say ‘Marry me and I will beat you.”
Leandro laughed, open and happy and genuine. “Of course I’ll marry you. I was going to ask you, soon. But I like this better.”
Relief and joy flooded Ettore, and he kissed Leandro again, until they both needed desperately to breathe. “So do I get a ring?” Leandro demanded the moment he had his breath back.
Ettore chuckled, traced Leandro’s lips, making soft, pleased noises at the way Leandro sucked his finger into his mouth, tongue doing obscene things, and he had kept the leather gloves on just because he knew Leandro liked them. “It is a good thing I am claiming you. No one else could keep up with you or afford your decidedly non-pious tastes.”
Releasing his finger, Leandro kissed him. “I’m extremely pious. I worship you.”
Pleasure warmed Ettore straight through. He wondered if anyone who knew him by day, the smooth, cool, and razor-sharp heir to the Lord High Chancellor, would recognize him by night, flustered and smitten and soft. “Your worship is adored and returned, my sweet.” He reached into a hidden pocket of his jacket and pulled out the ring, rich gold redolent with diamonds that shone in the moonlight. “My ship is waiting, my Captain will marry us, my crew will stand witness, and then we shall sail away to distant shores and dance by the light of the moon.”
Leandro grinned, boyish and open, as changed by night as Ettore, changes they only brought out in each other. Then he mock-pouted and fluttered his lashes. “So does that mean I am not tied up so we can play pirate and hostage?”
“Do not be ridiculous,” Ettore said, and pushed him down to lay in the bottom of the bought, beautiful and tempting and entirely at his mercy—though Ettore was just as helpless, really. “We are going to play noble royal captain and captured pirate captain.”
“Oh, that is better,” Leandro replied with a laugh, the sound of it carrying out over the water as Ettore resumed rowing them to the harbor.