[A/N: Happy Global Sephesis Day everyone! :3 BUT I FORGOT TO UPLOAD THIS HERE OTL

My, my, this took me so long. The research, then the ideas and how to execute it… I really hope that you think my work paid off, because I for one am pretty proud of this! The first historical fiction AU I've ever done, so it has a few holes in the facts possibly, but then again that is mainly because I could not exactly find some details X: According to wordreference, 'notturno' means 'of night' in Italian [but I don't know for sure ^^;].

This is set in July 1537 – the Renaissance period - just after Cosimo de' Medici claimed victory over rebels led by Piero Strozzi. The location is Florence, Italy [which I have never been to so sorry if it sounds a little off xD]. Wikipedia was very helpful in researching this, as well as various groups on youTube. For the dance, I hunted around and found a re-enactment which was very helpful;

w w w . y o u t u b e . c o m / watch ? v = V q v o F H e k E 0 c

(Oh, and; first one to spot Lazard in the Salone will get a cookie 8D)

Thank you and enjoy~! ]

Notturno

The night sky glimmered a dusky blue in the sunset, pinpricked with scintillating stars like diamonds strewn on silk. Shadows slunk through the deserted alleyways of Florence along with the city's cutthroats and pickpockets; their victims would be many tonight and early the next morning as drunken revellers from Cosimo de' Medici's anticipated mask ball spilled into the streets.

But for now, no one accompanied the dark figure slipping through pale buildings towards the Palazzo della Signoria. He walked quickly and purposefully; silver-capped heels rapped on sandy flagstones in a rhythm almost hypnotising in its regularity. The distinct determination in his gait warned off amateur robbers; the unsheathed sword hanging from his waist deterred the rest. His face was half concealed behind a platinum mask, threatening in its simplicity; there was no expression on the revealed features, and one could only guess at the full visage of the man behind it.

Cold green eyes glinted as he left the cloaking gloom of unlit streets to step into a pool of golden torchlight in the cobbled square before the Palazzo. The grand building was constructed of smoothly-hewn sandstone and glowed radiantly with flickering illumination splashed up its sides. Its many windows were ornate with leaden frames and the clearest glass the influential Medicis had been able to procure. A clock tower stretched from the centre of the roof to the stars above, carved architecture at its pinnacle complementing the graceful shape.

A bell pealed nine mournful times as the figure swept up the three wide steps to the door at the right of the Palazzo's imposing façade, giving only a cursory glance to the ethereal marble sculptures flanking the oak portal. They'd been here for thirty-three years, longer than he'd been frequenting the Palazzo, and by now had lost their entrancing gleam. As a man hardened by countless battles, he'd forgotten the ability to appreciate beauty any longer. The Medicis' war against Piero Strozzi and his rebels had tarnished every aspect of his life now; any beauty was there merely to be destroyed. The only true aesthetic was in the sweep of a sword; the most emotive art was the spatter of blood on skin.

Two gaudily-clad jesters in red and yellow stationed on either side of the door bowed and spread their arms to welcome him as he passed them with only a nod in acknowledgement; ebony masks upturned to regard him dispassionately behind his back. Inside the first courtyard lolled various partygoers in slightly dishevelled costumes; from their diverse conditions of repose or debauchery, he concluded that they were all sunken into varying states of inebriation.

Passing a couple who had thought themselves concealed behind a marble pillar, the figure passed through the open-air courtyard with a faint sneer of disgust on his lips under the mask.

You give any noble a draught of wine and he turns into a drunken pig before you can toast. Do they have no shame?

He wondered as his ebony satin cloak rustled up the stairs behind him when he had become so cynical; the bump of the sword blade against a booted calf reminded him of that. He may have been second only to General Alessandro Vitelli in the military, but it had not been easy. The accolades were hard-won, on the edge of a steel blade after hours of brutal training. He'd sacrificed everything for this army – years of his life had been dominated by them; he bore countless scars, both physical and mental from the battles he was now a veteran of; all his original comrades were either dead or alienated from him, repulsed – he supposed – by the seeming joy he took in fighting and killing.

From the top of the sweeping staircase he found himself paused near the foot of, he could hear lively music and the restless chatter of hundreds of people gathered in the Salone dei Cinquecento. Reminiscing about the past was a pointless exercise; it only dredged up memories and emotions he would much rather keep hidden.

Alone now, he shook himself to banish the dark thoughts. Tonight was a celebration of the seventeen-year old Duke's first military victory; he was here mainly because Vitelli had specifically asked him, but also – if he admitted it to himself – to relax after the campaign, and try once more to feel some measure of joy in living.

It wouldn't work, he knew. But what harm was there in trying?

Like a statue prompted to life, he ascended the staircase, the music growing louder as he approached the wide-open double doors at the head of the stairs. A few more steps and he entered the huge hall of the Salone dei Cinquecento, filled with men and women dressed in a dazzling assortment of costumes. Jewels of myriad hues adorned heavy jewellery of every precious metal, blinking in candlelight from sparkling crystal chandeliers. Feathers and ribbons floated through the air, attached to every type of mask imaginable; some wore full-face masks caked in glittering gems; some sported gilded half masks, like his; and some held smaller disguises to their eyes, looking out on the world through a haze of lace.

It was like a flock of exotic birds had descended upon the Palazzo; all that could be heard above the vivacious music was their calls. The rumble of speech and laughter assaulted his ears like a wave of meaningless sound, but he steeled himself and blocked it out.

Nobles were so tiresome; they spent their time drinking and talking of empty nonsense, and then had the gall to look down on him as a "mere soldier". He'd like to see how they coped with battle after battle, with seeing so many wounds he barely noticed the scars any more, with killing so many he'd lost count of how many lives he'd taken…

He realised that his left fist had clenched around the hilt of his sword and with an effort relaxed. This was not the time or the place to brood.

Raising his gaze, he searched through the shifting throng and almost immediately spotted Vitelli near the raised dais on which stood the Duke's chair of office; the amber hair and beard were difficult to mistake, even though the upper half of his face was concealed behind a sparsely decorated mask. He made sure to keep his eyes on his goal, lest he lose the army commander in the crowd, and made his way towards him by threading between countless revellers.

By now, the rich red wine had made its presence known, and he was carelessly shoved a few times; the offenders swiftly realised their mistake as they recognised the flat emerald glare and long silver hair, tied back now with a black ribbon. Apologies rippled after him in a wake as he continued without acknowledging them; they would be courteous to his face, in fear of the sword at his side, but as soon as his back was turned…

Finally, he reached Vitelli and bowed as the commander recognised him. The tall bearded man clapped him on the shoulder and roared a greeting; evidently he'd been feeling the effects of the liquor too.

"Sephiroth!" he exclaimed. "I thought you wouldn't bother coming! That is Sephiroth, isn't it?"

With an expressionless nod, the newcomer affirmed his identity. Vitelli smiled widely.

"I'm glad you came, there's someone I want you to meet… where is the Duke?" he asked of the group with him, but no one could give him an answer. Vitelli shrugged. "I guess he's off with some girl or another… youth, hmm?"

He gave a loud laugh and clapped Sephiroth on the shoulder again. The younger smiled thinly; the expression didn't meet his eyes.

"Indeed."

"Well, I daresay you wouldn't mind catching a few of those yourself… go on, soldier. You've deserved this."

Bowing his thanks, Sephiroth swiftly retreated, hooking a crystal goblet of wine from a serving girl as he went. At a slight loss as to where to go now – he did not much wish to stay here, in the stifling noise and blinding colour, yet it would be rude to leave – his eyes caught a high balcony above the dais as he took a sip of wine. He picked out the side door that led to his desired destination through swirls of silk, and made his way as swiftly as possible towards it.

The narrow spiral staircase was a cool haven from the oppressive heat and atmosphere in the hall; for a moment Sephiroth paused in the granite gloom, one gloved hand resting lightly on the curved wall, the other cradling his glass. He sighed. It was apparent that no matter how hard he tried – or did not – he would never be able to fit in here. To them, he'd always be the son of an impoverished minor noble from some backwater duchy; to him, they'd always be puffed up cretins with less behind their vacuous expressions than the dust floating in this stairwell.

He wandered up the rest of the stairs slowly, lost in thought as he emerged back out into the hall; the noise was ever so slightly muted from this height, but the palette of sight-burning colour was not. As he leaned against the gilt railing morosely, the goblet hanging carelessly from two fingers, he could see every little detail of the masquerade; each sequin, each lacquered hairpiece, every little crease of silk trailing after decadent skirts and sleeves.

Abruptly, the babble died away as the lead musician clapped white-gloved hands and announced a dance. With the discipline of any battalion Sephiroth had ever been in or commanded, the milling nobles formed into opposing lines – there was no clear distinction as to who went where – and faced each other in abnormally silent anticipation. Another clap and the orchestra broke into a stilted rhythm; the two lines bowed formally to one another, and the dance began.

The patterns formed by swirling costumes and drifting ribbons became vaguely hypnotising to Sephiroth; from up on his perch, he could fully appreciate the complex extent of the choreography that was impossible to see from ground level. Spinning, whirling, lavish materials rustled as they slid over one another and the rich hues blended with the speed of movement. The floor trembled under the dancers' footsteps; the chandeliers quivered as the multitude became one with the music.

And then, suddenly, one figure stood out from the others. Though he danced with as much precision and professionalism as the rest of them, his movements had an extra flair, a sensuality and exotic spice that segregated him completely. A natural attractiveness was accentuated and amplified by his attire; layers of sable and crimson silk swirled to mid-thigh, revealing long, lithe legs that stepped and stamped with arresting speed. The high heels of polished scarlet boots contributed to the cracks of sound that burst from the dancefloor and neatly avoided treading on a long train of ruffled silk sweeping the ground behind him.

The dancer's waist was encompassed in a carmine corset, boned and laced with ebony ribbon; rouched cherry silk spilled from the top under a priceless ruby pendant dangling on a gleaming silver chain around his slim neck. Black sleeves ended at his elbows in rouge cascades that flared out as he spun and whirled, each movement fluid as water.

And of course, he wore a mask; it looked as expensive as the huge ruby at his throat. Crafted of polished silver, it covered his upper face completely. Sculpted whorls and intricate patterns crowned and adorned the piece, and around the blank eyeholes were set countless sparkling rubies of graduated size; the smallest gathered closest to his eyes, like crystallised tears of blood, and the largest – still no bigger than a fingernail – glittered at the crest of his cheekbones. Shining auburn hair flicked across the sides of the mask and hovered above his shoulders in careful disarray.

Sephiroth was entranced. For the entirety of the dance, he could do nothing but stare at the one dancer, his wine forgotten at his side. It seemed that the man was the centrepiece of the performance, and all the others merely accessories to his act. When finally the music died away and the hall was flooded with rapturous applause, Sephiroth paused only to watch his target offer his hand to his partner, a dark-haired youth in lavish costume, before he descended back to the hall, leaving the glass behind. Let some servant or the next dignitary to visit the balcony find it; it was of such little importance now.

He emerged onto the dancefloor amid the excited, exhilarated prattle of the nobles, some flushed with wine and their exertions. Ignoring them, he swiftly cast around for the dancer, and found him in the same location conversing with the youth, a polite smile around his lips. Like a hunter after prey, Sephiroth made his way swiftly towards him before the music started again.

At a break in the conversation as the redhead laughed lightly at some jest, Sephiroth rapidly made his move.

"Excuse me," he interjected, little caring how rude he might seem to the spoilt young noble as he made his presence known, "would it be possible for me to have your next dance?"

A hush fell on the attendees within earshot and spread like a wave through the room until there was no sound at all save shocked murmurs and queries from those at the flanks of the crowd. The redhead turned his head and then his body to regard Sephiroth through his mask; the solider could now make out glittering sapphire eyes, edged in deepest black and as bright as the rubies around them, staring at him. From Sephiroth's left, a haughty-looking man stepped to his side.

"You can't ask him to dance! This is the Duke's most prized courtesan… how dare you, soldier?"

All too late, Sephiroth realised his mistake; the furious dark youth was none other than Cosimo de' Medici, who controlled his fate entirely and who he had just shunned and attempted to steal the dance partner of. How could he have missed the signs that the redheaded beauty was a courtesan of high standing? The rubies, the silks… though cortigianas were well catered-for from their fees, an ordinary specimen would never have been able to afford such luxury. How could he have made such a grave breach of courtesy and protocol, here, in front of all these fools who wanted nothing more than something to use against him?

Shamed, he looked back at the silent cortigiana and suddenly realised why; it was because he'd forgotten how to appreciate beauty, and this unique treasure had helped him remember.

"This is a masque ball, is it not?" he asked coldly of the interfering cautioner at his side; the man nodded. "And as such, it means that all identity, status and authority have no place here, no? After all, under a disguise we could all be anyone…"

The man's face paled slightly as he realised Sephiroth's point. "Yes, but—"

"Then I have every right to ask such a rare beauty to dance." The silver-haired soldier smiled at the redhead and offered a hand. "My question still stands."

The courtesan's plush lips curved upwards as he accepted the proposal. "You have persuaded me… I can do nothing but my duty. Another dance!" he announced, gesturing to the orchestra's conductor. With a terrified glance at the almost apoplectic Duke, the musician nodded and rapped on his music stand. The redhead smiled brightly at Sephiroth and backed away to take his place opposite him, shining amongst the suddenly drab-looking courtiers. They bowed, never once taking their eyes off one another; everything paled into insignificance now.

A fast beat began, and soon complex melodies from lutes and harps weaved in amongst the rhythm. Sephiroth gave silent thanks that he knew the dance and did not have to struggle to remember delicate footwork as the song unfolded; of course, his partner knew exactly what he was doing, each gesture perfectly in time and still exuding that mesmerising passion.

For the first section, each line stayed separate and each dancer frequently swapped places with others in the line. Finally, a sweet soprano voice arced above the instruments as the signal for the next part of the sequence, and the partners moved to the centre of the floor; it took all of Sephiroth's concentration to continue with the correct steps rather than run as the glittering redhead approached, lips curved upwards under the enigmatic mask.

"What is your name?" Sephiroth asked as they drew close and parted as the two dancing lines threaded through one another. A graceful turn, and they closed again; the smile on those inviting lips was wider.

"I recall you saying that identity has no place here."

A thunderous clap and twist, and the partners once more returned to the middle.

"Surely you would not begrudge me a name," Sephiroth reasoned as the choreography bade them step around one another, not touching. The courtesan laughed.

"My name is Rhapsodos," he relented, and then as he swirled behind Sephiroth's back, "but you may call me Genesis."

A thrill, unfelt for so long, ran through Sephiroth when he met azure eyes as they pulled away to return to the line. He could not conceal a smile at the sheer splendour of his partner; it was elating, intoxicating, to be in Genesis' presence, and the energy of the dance flooded his veins with adrenaline as well as the primal emotions wakened in him by the cortigiana. The grin was returned in dazzling fashion with a hint of cunning intention; an invitation, and one that Sephiroth was in no mood to refuse.

The dance continued with two further passes between lines until the soloist's voice burst forth again, reverberating up to the lavishly painted ceiling high above. This time, the partners were connected by mere fingertips as they turned around a central point, and even the fleeting contact was burning to Sephiroth. He couldn't take his eyes off Genesis; now, so close, he could see each tiny detail of the restricting mask and those eyes glinting behind it, studying him as intensely as he scrutinised their owner.

The singer wove a tale of passion and lust around the Salone in tones as clear as the bell that rang ten times just then. The music enfolded them in a dense cocoon of sound; everything ceased to exist but the song and the steps and each other, inseparably entwined by the scarce touch of fingertips. It seemed all too soon when the instruments rose to a crescendo and died away as the last note shivered into the night. Frozen, neither Sephiroth nor Genesis moved their hands to applaud as the former ever so carefully, as if handling an object of inexpressible value, brought Genesis' hand down to his lips and brushed a single kiss onto fragrant skin, eyes never leaving the redhead's.

"It was indeed an honour," he said softly, not rising from his half-bow. Genesis seemed to hesitate for a second and then, having reached a barely conscious decision, closed his fingers around Sephiroth's and began to pull him away through the crowds towards the Salone's grand door.

"Come with me," he cast behind him as they went, ignoring the stares of curious nobles; Sephiroth laughed as he considered how much choice he had in the matter – but even if he hadn't been forced, there was no way on earth he would have refused.

Looking behind for a second, he saw Cosimo de' Medici in heated discussion with Vitelli, gesturing furiously after the rapidly retreating couple. There would be hell to pay for this later, but as Genesis exited the Salone and descended the steps – he certainly didn't need to pull Sephiroth any longer – the soldier didn't give a damn.

They reached the first courtyard, now unoccupied except for unconscious drunkards and other couples interested in only each other and inked with flickering shadows from dying torches. Without further ado, Genesis headed to the depths of concealing darkness, turned, and pressed his eager mouth to Sephiroth's. The soldier's fleeting surprise blew away as smoke as he returned the kiss immediately, instinctively pressing the courtesan back against the cool wall in order to fully feel the whole of Genesis' lithe body push against him, asking, needing.

Exotic-tasting spice edged into Sephiroth's mouth and mixed with the aftertaste of wine as his tongue edged into Genesis', exploring the freely-given space with fervour. The other did not waste his time; as his tongue caressed Sephiroth's, his hands swiftly began venturing beneath the soldier's clothes with an expert touch and in return, Sephiroth's fingertips traced every contour of his skin, dancing over exposed shoulders and collarbone as gracefully as Genesis had moved on the dancefloor.

With a muffled moan, Genesis hooked his arms around Sephiroth's neck, supporting himself there as he laced his legs around the other's waist. Sephiroth instinctively dropped his hands to hold the courtesan up and held in his own sigh when Genesis rolled his hips forwards brazenly, clearly letting Sephiroth feel his already full arousal. Disappointed, judging by the shadow that crossed his gaze, by failing to produce a reaction, the courtesan broke apart their kiss and left Sephiroth gasping before rocking his groin against the other again. This time he couldn't conceal the groan that sighed from him and bent his head to place his mouth near Genesis' ear.

"Would you like to go somewhere more…" He punctuated the words with tiny kisses to alabaster-smooth skin under ruby earrings. "… private?"

Genesis' eyes were bright in excitement as he let his feet drop back to the stone flags with a clack of heels and followed obediently when Sephiroth took his hand and went back into the hall from which led the stairs to the Salone dei Cinquecento. Instead of taking them, however, he continued on past the luring bright lights and music echoing from beyond the open doors, and entered a second, unlit courtyard. There was no one here; they were alone with the graceful marble columns and the inky dark night. Unable to wait any longer, Genesis breathed Sephiroth's name before he kissed him again; Sephiroth's breath came shorter as those experienced hands continued their exploring.

Even now, with his tongue down the redhead's throat and his hands resting on gracefully angled hips, pressing them to him as if they could become one flesh, he couldn't quite believe this was happening. It was like a very, very pleasant dream; how a reputed courtesan, decked in gems and finery and a favourite of the Duke himself had rejected the nobility and chosen him as a consort for the night was a quandary. Of course, he knew that it was Genesis' duty – and one he was very good at, Sephiroth had to admit – but he had not been forced to accept the offer of a dance from a mere soldier, no matter how well he'd argued.

He must have slowed the pace, lost in thought, because Genesis pulled away for a second inquiringly, lips parted as breath heaved through them.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Sephiroth replied quickly, feeling bereft as Genesis' hands paused. "I was merely marvelling at the fortune of my being here."

A smirk broke out on Genesis' face and his eyes glittered in starlight through the mask. "Have you seen yourself in the mirror recently?" His fingers began efficiently undoing the tiny pearl buttons on Sephiroth's shirt. "I tell you, luck…" He leant up and captured Sephiroth's mouth with his, sucking on the other's lower lip as he pulled away. "… had nothing to do with it."

At the confession of mutual attraction, all of Sephiroth's barriers dropped away and he eagerly rejoined the kiss with fervour, his own hands moving to comb through Genesis' hair, across his neck, down his back. Cool night air heated by their bodies washed over his chest as Genesis pushed off his shirt and the long ornamental cape, then busied his hands caressing, teasing each of Sephiroth's nipples until they stood out dark against his skin. The soldier moaned into Genesis' mouth, and the courtesan smirked at Sephiroth's obvious appreciation of his skill.

Wishing to give something back in payment, Sephiroth moved his mouth down from Genesis' reddened lips to his perfectly smooth neck, trailing little kisses and nips as he went. Genesis' wandering hands trembled a little on Sephiroth's waist as the silver-haired man sucked on the curve of his neck and shoulder just under the chain of his pendant, hard enough to leave a lasting blemish. Satisfied at making his mark, Sephiroth continued on down Genesis' shoulder, only stopping when he was foiled by the red silk flowing over the top of black sleeves. Genesis laughed breathlessly at Sephiroth's noise of irritation.

"I'm afraid that will take a while to get off," he apologised. "You'd have to unlace the whole thing… fashion nowadays…"

Sephiroth grinned into white skin and lifted his head. "I have time."

Before Genesis could react, the soldier turned him around and pushed him against the nearest pillar, not hard but firmly enough to keep him there. The courtesan protested in surprise before he was silenced with Sephiroth's lips on his from behind; the other moulded to the shape of Genesis' body against him, lacing his fingers in with Genesis' to wrap the courtesan's arms around the pillar. Eyes locked with Genesis', Sephiroth pulled away a tiny bit to speak.

"Stay right there," he commanded in a murmur, and then slowly drew his hands back up Genesis' arms. The cortigiana shuddered, fine hairs raised on his forearms, and though it was evident he did not like being ordered he obeyed.

Sephiroth rewarded him with a kiss and then diverted his attention to the long ribbon laces that tied the crimson corset together. Stripping off his gloves, he found the two ends of the ribbon and picked the knot apart with intense concentration, letting his hands brush Genesis' back as he worked. The courtesan shivered a little and leant the side of his head against the pillar, looking around with vision impeded by his mask to where Sephiroth was drawing out the rest of the ribbon teasingly slowly.

In frustration, Genesis wriggled in an effort to speed the other up; distracted, Sephiroth flicked the ends of the ribbon, now half-unlaced, down and pressed back against Genesis as he had before.

"Yes?" he asked in a dangerously low voice, a wicked smirk gracing his lips. Genesis moaned helplessly as those lips moved along his jaw and down his neck again, barely brushing his skin.

"Hurry up," he begged breathlessly then stopped, evidently frustrated at his own desperation; Sephiroth grinned and lifted his head.

"I would have thought you of all people would know that the anticipation is as valuable as the fulfilment," he observed. "And you'd know that it can't be rushed."

The courtesan blinked slowly behind his mask and a twitch of irritation crossed what features he had revealed. "I'm willing to make an exception," he replied, and undulated backwards against Sephiroth's hard body. "Are you?"

It seemed that Sephiroth, finally goaded beyond endurance, certainly was. He let out something like a growl – perhaps in frustration in defeat, perhaps to refute the fact that he was defeated – and sank his teeth into Genesis' shoulder, not hard enough to break the skin. Genesis arched and gasped in surprise and pain, but did not resist as Sephiroth busied himself with gathering up the courtesan's train and removing the barriers between their skins, all the while never ceasing his assault on Genesis' shoulder.

When that was finally managed, Sephiroth used one arm to hold the long layers of material against Genesis' back, the sable train contrasting wonderfully with the ivory of his skin in the darkness. He placed three fingers of his other hand in his mouth, efficiently slicking them up before he leant close to Genesis' ear and nipped the pierced lobe gently.

The courtesan's breathing shortened in anticipation and hissed out with a tremble as the first of Sephiroth's fingers entered him. He twisted his head around to meet Sephiroth's lips, harshly, desperately, as his hips began moving subconsciously to the rhythm. Sephiroth smiled against those cherry lips and swallowed Genesis' gasp as he slipped the second finger in, moving them to stretch the courtesan.

The sounds of their harsh breathing and the little moans that escaped from Genesis merged with the faint music from the Salone dei Cinquecento in the cool air. If anyone had deigned to listen or been sober enough to hear, they would have discovered the two; as it was, the drunkards remained blissfully deaf, the partygoers danced on and the cry that soared from Genesis' throat as Sephiroth's third finger brushed his prostate remained unheard by any except his lover.

Tearing his mouth away from Genesis', Sephiroth rested his head down on one of the courtesan's shoulders and held him still as he withdrew his fingers. The other's sigh of loss was cut off by a gasp, beautifully eloquent to Sephiroth, as the soldier buried himself in Genesis and, after leaving him a second to adjust, began dictating the pace.

Through a mix of experience and instinct, Genesis matched Sephiroth's thrusts perfectly each time, failing only in the ability to quiet the heavy breathing that matched his lover's or the scraping sound his silver mask made as he leant against the pillar.

Sephiroth was lost in the beauty of the courtesan and the overwhelming sensation tearing through him; Genesis' fragile scent filled his air passages; the courtesan's breathing dominated his hearing and the touch of his skin seared Sephiroth with insatiable desire.

When he sensed through the sudden increase in Genesis' movement and respiration that the redhead was close to completion, Sephiroth used his free hand which had been resting on Genesis' clenched grip on the pillar to attend to the courtesan's neglected member, feeling the shiver that ran through Genesis at his touch through all of his own body.

He moved his hand with the time of his and Genesis' hips; and finally, Genesis arched backwards luxuriantly and let out a wild vocalisation of ecstasy as he climaxed. Sephiroth lasted only a few seconds before he let go, burying his face in Genesis' neck as he spilled over into the courtesan's deliciously tight body, bringing them closer than one being in that single brilliant moment.

A few seconds passed as they tried to regain their breath and composure, strength drained from the release which had taken everything from them both. Eventually, Sephiroth chuckled softly to himself, still resting on Genesis' shoulder, and the courtesan looked around at him, too exhausted to be stung or angry.

"What's so amusing?" he asked in a breathless voice, and Sephiroth smiled.

"No wonder you're a favourite of the Duke," he mused, watching Genesis' reaction with amusement. Irritation and then smug pride blinked across those flushed, angelic features, and Genesis' eyes flashed.

"Well, I don't come cheap, you know."

Sephiroth's slowing heart faltered momentarily, dreading the thought of how many months' wages, even as one of the highest-ranked officers in the army, this night would cost him. Cortigiana oneste – "honest courtesans", the higher class of courtesan often requested by aristocracy or royalty – were infamously demanding when it came to payment for their services. The wealth literally dripping off Genesis was testament to his fame and skill; but of course, that led to his price soaring ridiculously high. It was no wonder indeed that he was a favourite of the Duke; like horses or paintings, courtesans were worn as a sign of wealth and power in the highest circles of nobility.

Hadn't he just shown how he deserved the nobles' insults and inferiority with his recklessness?

As always, he did not let any facet of his thoughts show on his face, but they must have shone through in his voice when he asked "How much?"

For Genesis' amused, hard gaze relented and he moved to kiss Sephiroth a lot more gently than before, as his swollen lips attested to.

"My price is seeing you again," he murmured, and inwardly Sephiroth relaxed immeasurably.

"But of course," he replied, all the cold dominance returning in a wave as he nibbled on Genesis' lip. "That's hardly taxing, and indeed more a reward than a price. Name something else."

Genesis pretended to think as he let Sephiroth's tongue lazily enter his mouth again. Pulling away, he smirked in triumph.

"Then my only request is one more dance," he said, and Sephiroth looked at him in slight surprise.

"I would be honoured," he replied, and with a kiss withdrew completely from the redhead.

-

The night sky glimmered a silky black above the Palazzo, the moon hanging like a distant silver lira in the vault of the heavens. Its reflected light washed the second courtyard with clean-cut illumination and shadow, blinking away colour in its intensity.

In the centre of the courtyard, two figures slowly turned together, embracing so close that their shadow could have been mistaken for one – albeit oddly shaped – person. Genesis' train swished on the ground in a counterpoint to the slow music echoing from the main hall where the ball was beginning to draw to a close. Eyes closed, they finished one languorous revolution as the music shivered away into silence, and then they were still.