Notes: This was part of a challenge. It is also AU without explanation. However, there are more pieces and, if you are patient, you will understand all as it goes along. Or, you can ask.

I don't own Shadow Hearts. I also don't own Italy but man I'd love to. hehe

The black paint was annoying at the best of times; putting it on required two people and taking it off required extra minutes in the bath. Fortunately Uru didn't mind the hot water, but sitting in a tub with black paint bobbing in the soap suds made his stomach queasy. Damn Carla and her recitals anyway! Uru thought as he scrubbed the last of the swirling black marks from his body, giving himself a quick dunk for good measure before climbing out of the tub. He stood on the tiles, naked before the mirror, checking for missed spots, before snatching up a thick towel and rubbing himself dry. I wanted dinner an hour ago, damnit! I'm hungry! Dancing, while not a bad way to keep fit, was certainly as strenuous as fighting - which Carla absolutely forbade. 'I will not have my two best dancers cut or bruised!' Yeah, like a broken leg would really stop some people, he thought.

With a snort he pulled on his trousers and was just pulling on his shirt when he felt something poke his skin before falling out onto the floor. Looking down he saw a folded piece of notepaper and, when he opened it, only two words were written and he stared at the letters. Cyrillic.

Damn stupid Nicolas, he thought and tossed the paper into the trashcan before slipping on his shoes and heading out.

The night was warm, the sultry summer air thick with the perfume of fresh flowers, cooked food and other smells Uru didn't want to think about. He sniffed the air, his nose telling his stomach of the roasted meat two buildings down, and the fresh loaf of bread across the street. Mouth watering, he crossed the square and headed for home.

Home was a small flat on the second floor overlooking the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. The stones, a pale peach during the day, were black in the dark night and, except for a few street lamps, not much relieved. A few windows had shimmers within and Uru looked up to his own dark glass. Good, nobody home, he thought and climbed the stair.

But the lock was open when he reached his door, the wooden frame closed but not secured. Frowning, Uru looked within, then screwed up his mouth at the smell of candle wax. Nicholas had beaten him home. Now, what the hell is he doing here anyway, damn it!

He stepped into his apartment, a small place, even smaller in the dim light thrown by the candles. The sparsely-furnished living room was awash with candlelight, sparks of yellow and orange flickering over the the ratty sofa and heavily-used table; Nicholas had placed tall cones and towers along the wainscoting and a fat one in the wall sconce, where once a gaslight had hung. The smell of vanilla and beeswax candles was heavy and Uru coughed.

"Nicholas, damnit," he said and crossed to the table. To his surprise, it was laden with plates, one with cut fruits in season, apples and apricots, and another with wedges of cheese, both hard and soft and one small butter knife lying next to the fresh loaf of bread. Mmmm, well at least he brought dinner. I'm famished, Uru thought and bent to snatch up a wedge of apple and some cheese. He stood munching with relish when a step behind him caught his ear and suddenly two strong arms caught him around the middle, pinning his own arms to his sides.

"Wh—Nick?" But Nicholas did not answer, only holding him tighter and leaning in to whisper into his ear. "Knock it off, you jerk," Uru growled and tried to break free but Nicholas's arms only held him tighter.

Nicholas found himself smiling – his plan had worked. Sneaking in unawares and gripping Uru from behind had given him the lead. Now if he could only press his advantage. He leaned in closer, the strands of Uru's long hair brushing against his face as he whispered into the other man's ear and he was satisfied at Uru's sudden stiffening. He had to hold more tightly as the dark man tried once more to pull free but he wasn't ready to let him go. Instead he pulled him closer, pressing his own body to the other man's back, feeling Uru's belt catching on his own buckle and gratified at the warmth of his hard, muscular body.

Uru craned back, trying to see Nicholas in the dimly lit room and caught sight of the blond hair, glowing slightly in the candlelight as Nicholas moved his head closer, his mouth open, his lips parted to speak. But no words came from those lips, and Uru's amber eyes grew wider as warm, soft air blew across his earlobe, a whisper of sound, a sigh, a breath and Uru felt his own body freeze. What is he doing? the thought crossed his mind but then those same lips moved closer and Uru lost sight of him.

Nicholas now had Uru's attention as he blew softly, letting his warm breath caress the man's ear before letting his lips touch, just the tip of Uru's earlobe. A nip, a nibble and then the very tip of his tongue slid out and touched the warm ear. Electricity shot through his body at the touch, Uru's body, a fighter's lean, muscular strength, tightened in his arms like tensile steel and his own body felt the sudden frisson of excitement. Oh he had Uru's attention all right, and his own as well. Nicholas smiled as he let his tongue slide out a bit farther, stroking up the long curve of Uru's ear.

Uru jerked, suddenly very aware of a warm, wet tongue moving along his earlobe and who was doing it.

"God damnit, Nick!" he growled and was suddenly galvanized, pushing and pulling his arms to free himself from Nicholas's grip. A melee ensued as they thrashed around, legs pushing, feet scuffling, Uru shoving to the left and Nicholas to the right, then crashing into the table sending plates and food scattering across the floor before both of them falling, hitting the floor hard and rolling around, still struggling, Uru to get free and Nicholas to hold tighter. Finally, the struggle stopped as Uru lay on his back on the wooden floor, Nicholas on top, grinning like a schoolboy.

"Finally," he said with a chuckle and, straddling the dark man, he leaned closer, his arms now holding Uru down by his chest.

"Nick, what the fuck do you think you're doing?" Uru asked, rudeness in his words and an angry curl to his lips. But the lighter man, his blond bangs falling across his face, did not answer, merely leaning closer, inch by inch, his smile one of triumph as his open mouth, lips expectantly waiting, slowly descended to touch the grim mouth beneath him.

Uru - dance partner, rival, nemesis, and angry, bone-headed, stubborn son-of-a bitch, and for a moment, Nicholas felt all of these emotions and one more that, rivaled his own flirtations with Fate, reminding him how much he really liked the guy. This dark man beneath him, strong, yet right now, submitting to Nicholas. The blond man felt the mouth of that stubborn fighter... even his lips were hard, like his body... like his stubborn streak, firm, forceful and determined not to give in. Nicholas's mouth captured Uru's breath, his mouth covered and forcing them to share and a little tongue slid out to taste the darkness that Uru kept hidden within. A bit of apple and cheese, a touch of spice and warm. Nicholas felt his own body responding to the kiss, wanting to taste more of what Uru had to offer.

He's kissing me. The damned priest is kissing me! Shock and amazement rushed through him as Uru submitted to Nicholas's kiss. He just figured Nicholas would goose him, or slap him around or maybe, maybe, grind his knee into his balls. But kiss? A welter of emotions fought for supremacy beneath the surface and Uru catalogued each one, for once in his life, clear headed. Angry – this fucking priest is kissing me! Confused – he's kissing me? And, just below that, determination. He's not going to get away with this.

A little flicker of fire lit within his eyes, amber smoldering to orange as he pulled his arms free, reaching up and capturing Nicholas's head in his hands, running battle-roughened fingers through soft blond locks and gripping, holding tightly. He lifted up into the kiss, seeing Nicholas's green eyes blink in surprise and suddenly it was Uru doing the kissing as strong hands pulled Nicholas down, legs pushing free to pin the lighter man on top, one leg crooked over the other. A firm jaw jerked away from the priest's mouth before his own mouth opened and took Nicholas's instead, forcing them to share breath again, but this time it was Uru who tasted the hot breath, the tang of lemon Nicholas used in his tea, the slight scent of after-shave and the warm, wet mouth whose tongue, that soft, pink thing that usually darted out to wet Nicholas's lips, now wrestling with Uru's stronger, more forceful entry.

Nicholas, his mind a running dialogue of surprise, felt himself losing the battle of wills with Uru. This man, this fighter who annoyed him every day, was giving him back what he'd given and more. How far dared he take it, he wondered? How far would Uru take it? The thought, less than a hope, certainly less than an idea, was dashed against the light of his oaths and promises as Uru, that black-hearted harmonixer, shifted beneath him and suddenly Nicholas found himself on his back, looking up at deeply crimson eyes and a smirking mouth.

"You wanted it Nicholas," Uru said and his voice was deeper, more muffled by emotions than Nicholas had heard before. A flutter of anxiety wormed its way into Nicholas's heart but too late he felt a rough hand jerk at his belt and trousers, sliding in.

Clear, translucent green eyes darkened to jade; the priest's body, supine beneath him, could hide nothing from the forceful hand holding it down, or the equally hard one thrust within the clothing. Nicholas could certainly not hide either. From first blush, to stolen kiss and now, to a calloused hand stroking the flesh within, Nicholas could not deny what he wanted, what he needed and, ignoring that damnable smirk playing on Uru's lips, he let himself go, riding the wave of desire.

Clothing tore, the sound of ripping cloth and jangled metal, a grunt of discomfort, and the gasp of surprise were the only sounds, followed by a hiss of anticipation and a growl of command. Nothing else mattered for now; not Carla, not dancing, not fighting, not revenge. Only this, only now mattered. The stroke of hard flesh, the feel of hot muscle beneath fingers, palms. Mouths tasted, teasing flesh with hot breath of tongue trails of molten fire. And when the final moment came, and cascades of want, desire and need melted away, two men lay together, sharing breath, sharing warmth, and, though neither would admit it, sharing satisfaction.

"You're a bastard."

Later, the candles guttering, backs to sofa, the two sat replete, having rescued the fruit and cheese from the floor. One last apple sat on a plate and both men reached for it.

"You can have it," Nicholas said.

"Nah, you have it. You need it more," the darker man said, hiding his smirk by turning his face to the shadows. "You need the staying power."

Nicholas, his hand on the fruit, paused. "I reiterate. You're a bastard."

"An' you're a priest."

Nicholas looked up at the fighter, fruit forgotten. "And that means?" he said, at once feeling angry at the accusation and defensive.

"You know. That whole priesty thing of chastity," Uru said, sticking his thumbs through his belt. "You blew it."

Nicholas felt his face growing warm. "I did not."

Uru looked into the dark of the room, the lone window overlooking the Ponte Vecchio lost in the guttering flicker of the candles.

"Yes you did."

"I did not," Nicholas said testily, but then he heard the near silent hiss of laughter from the man sitting next to him. "What?"

"Nothing," Uru said, his laughter now surfacing. "I ain't gonna say it. But damn Nick, you got a mouth on you."

Nicholas frowned. "Shut up, bastard."