From the Cup of the Worthless

by Cynus

Chapter 8

The sound of flesh sliding against flesh echoed through the empty classroom. It had become such a familiar sound to Vladimir that it no longer turned his stomach as it once did, though he found his situation as unpleasant as he first had when it'd begun.

"You're really starting to loosen up back here," Mr. Morrison said between grunts, leaning into Vladimir's naked back for a moment to catch his breath. Vladimir really wished he'd hurry and get on with it. The feel of Mr. Morrison's thick dick inside of his ass was something he'd rather do without. "You've been practicing, I can tell. What have you been shoving up here?"

"I'd really rather not talk about it," Vladimir grunted, turning his head away from the desk underneath him so Mr. Morrison could hear him easily. "Can you just hurry up and fuck me and not talk?"

"I'm just trying to make this more comfortable for you, Vlad," Mr. Morrison replied with a sickening smile. "I thought you'd prefer it to just being silent."

Vladimir snarled back at Mr. Morrison. "If you weren't capable of fixing my grades, trust me, I'd never have agreed to this at all. Get on with it so I can get home and forget about this."

Mr. Morrison bent further over him so he could whisper in his ear. "All right. Don't forget, when we're here, you don't get to command. You're my slave, Vladimir."

Vladimir was about to protest the use of his full name when Mr. Morrison pulled back and then thrust in hard and deep, striking Vladimir's prostate and sending Vladimir into a cruel orgasmic bliss. Mr. Morrison's pace quickened, thrusting in and out and each time it sent a jolt through Vladimir's body, reminding him that as much as he hated getting screwed by the teacher, his body wanted the sex more than food and water.

He didn't know how long Mr. Morrison continued to fuck him, as he lost himself to the cadence of the thrusts, and the grinding of his own cock against the hard wooden desk beneath him. His hands gripped the side of the desk with white knuckles as he moaned and whimpered from the stimulation. He screamed in ecstasy as he came, spreading his seed across the desk, spreading between his stomach and the wood, becoming lubricant for Vladimir's body to slide easily in time with Mr. Morrison's thrusts.

Mr. Morrison withdrew from Vladimir's ass with a loud pop and removed the condom from his cock, taking it in his hand and standing over Vladimir's back. He stroked himself a few times and then groaned as he unloaded his cum all over Vladimir's buttocks and lower back. Vladimir felt every drop hit his skin, and it made his skin crawl to think of where it came from.

When Mr. Morrison was empty, he stepped away and reached for a rag he kept handy for just this situation, wiping the tip of his cock before dropping the rag on Vladimir's naked back. "Clean yourself up and get out of here," he growled. "I need to grade some papers."

Vladimir took a deep breath to collect his senses and then reached back for the rag. He cleaned off his back and butt as well as he could before he got up. Once he was mostly wiped up, he slid off the desk to stand over it, surveying the spread of his own cum. He'd gotten it everywhere, and he knew Mr. Morrison expected it all to be cleaned up before Vladimir even got dressed.

He glanced to the side, where Mr. Morrison was already most of the way dressed, looking the same as he did every day. The biggest douche in the school, and easily Vladimir's least favorite. But he was one of few teachers who helped out with administrative duties, and the only one with whom Vladimir could have made this arrangement. He needed to improve his grades, and extra credit projects weren't going to solve the problem.

With a sigh, he began cleaning the desk, making sure all signs of their intercourse were gone before he started to clean up his stomach. The rag was so crusted with his and Mr. Morrison's cum that he wasn't able to clean his skin entirely, but at least it was his own seed that was left and not Mr. Morrison's.

When he was done wiping himself down, he looked up at Mr. Morrison with a question in his eyes, holding the rag. Mr. Morrison walked back to him with a grunt and took the rag from his hands, dropping it into the bottom drawer of the desk before locking the drawer. He then waved Vladimir away and walked back to a stack of papers he'd cleared off the desk earlier.

Vladimir shook his head and began dressing as Mr. Morrison returned his desk to its original state, bringing over stacks of papers and books. The first stack which was dropped next to Vladimir was topped with a file full of written reports. The papers were falling out slightly, and Vladimir couldn't help but see Viktor's name at the top of the first one in the file with a prominent red 'F' marked next to it.

"You're giving my brother an 'F' on an assignment?" Vladimir asked, pausing with his pants only halfway up his legs. Mr. Morrison turned toward him with an unreadable expression and Vladimir continued. "My brother is the smartest kid I know. You can't fail him."

"Why not?" Mr. Morrison asked, dropping another stack of papers and notes on the desk. "He didn't do the assignment properly, and his perspective on the subject was completely incorrect."

"Oh, so you're going to let personal opinion on history determine his grade?" Vladimir spat. He finished doing up his pants and bent down for his shirt. "You're so fucked up."

"No, you're the one who's fucked up," Mr. Morrison said with a sneer. "Your brother is going to get the grade he deserves, unless he wants to come here and get fucked by the teacher just like his big brother does."

Vladimir's entire body went rigid as he considered reaching for the knife hidden in the sleeve of his blazer and gutting Mr. Morrison. He took several deep breaths to calm his nerves and then started sliding into his shirt. Once his shirt was buttoned up, he turned to Mr. Morrison and said, "One problem with that is, he's a minor. You'd get in a lot of trouble with him if someone were to find out how you treat the students you favor." His eyes flashed with the murderous intent he'd had moments before, and when Mr. Morrison saw it his eyes widened in surprise.

"Are you seriously threatening me, Vladi?" Mr. Morrison asked with a sneer. "What do you think will happen if you reveal you've been letting me fuck you in order to get your grades up? I've never cum inside of you, so you have no evidence I've ever done anything, which will mean it's just my word against yours. You'll be suspended for your false accusation, and that father you're so desperate to win the approval of? He'll know how much of a fuckup his son is." He paused and let the words sink in, and then added with an evil glint in his eye, "How much of a fuckup both of his sons are, actually. Maybe I should tell that brother of yours exactly what you get up to after school on Mondays."

The strength fled from Vladimir as he considered the possibility of Viktor learning the truth, and he shuddered involuntarily. He hung his head, defeated, but a small shred of courage remained in him — the courage to do what was necessary to protect his brother. "You win. Please don't tell him. But please don't fail him, either."

"And why wouldn't I?" Mr. Morrison asked.

"I can stay after school on Wednesdays, too," Vladimir whispered, disgusted as soon as the words left his mouth. "You can . . . you can have your way with me then, too, but for Viktor's grade, not mine."

Mr. Morrison chuckled, and the sound made Viktor want to throw up. "What a good brother you are, Vladimir. All right, get out of here, and I'll see you Wednesday."

Vladimir didn't even have the energy to get angry about the use of his full name anymore. He finished getting dressed and walked out of the room, head hung in defeat. It was time to head home and face his father; he'd need to fight his battles one at a time.

Viktor heard the door open and close again, knowing that Vladimir was home. He closed his book and opened his door quietly, not wanting to announce his presence yet. When he'd come home his father had been waiting, and he'd been more upset than Viktor had seen in some time.

Vladimir took his first step up the stairs but stopped when their father called from the kitchen, "Vladimir Karimov, it's about time you came home."

"Sorry, Father. I was finishing a project at school," Vladimir replied, sounding defeated. It wasn't the usual tone he took with their father, and Viktor began to worry that something else was going on.

"Vladimir, we need to talk," Mikhail said softly, walking from the kitchen to the base of the stairs. "We didn't finish our last conversation, and there's some things I didn't get a chance to explain."

Vladimir stepped off the stairs and joined his father on the bottom floor. "What else could we possibly have to say to each other? You won't even listen to me, same as usual."

"Vladimir, I—"

"Don't you dare call me that!" Vladimir roared, causing Viktor to wince. Even though he couldn't see the conversation, he could see his brother's angry expression in his mind, his scowl of bitterness and rage which he only wore when he'd been pushed to his limit. And he could see his father's scowl in return, a mask of contempt and impatience which he used when he was at his wit's end.

But Mikhail's next words didn't match the expression Viktor saw in his mind. He spoke calmly and softly after several calming breaths. "Vladi, I'm sorry. Please, come into the kitchen and sit with me for a moment." The pleading quality of Mikhail's voice was completely foreign to Viktor, and he was frozen in place as he tried to process what had just happened. His father had never apologized for calling Vladimir by his full name before, nor was he the type to speak softly after he was yelled at. Vladimir received his temper from his father, and they were always yelling at each other.

Vladimir sounded as stunned as Viktor was as he replied, "O-okay, yeah, for a moment. We can talk."

They moved into the kitchen, and Viktor took the opportunity to open his door quietly and shuffle down the hallway to the top of the stairs. He perched there, waiting for them to settle in the kitchen as he listened with bated breath. The scraping of chairs being pulled back announced that Vladimir and Mikhail were sitting down, and Viktor leaned forward to make it easier to hear.

"I'm sorry about what I said, Vladi," Mikhail began slowly. "I want you to know that I won't kick you out on the streets. You're my son, and I care about you, I just want to know where I went wrong. Could you help me figure that out?"

"Where you went wrong?" Vladimir echoed. "You're going to have to be more specific. Where you went wrong with what?"

Mikhail cleared his throat and replied, "What did I do to make you act this way? Did I not love you enough? Did I not show you enough affection? Is this because of your mother dying?"

Viktor was confused, though he continued to remain silent as he processed what his father was saying. It seemed like such a weird question to be asking, especially since Vladimir had been rebellious long before their mother had died. Why their father would think her death had anything to do with Vladimir's attitude was beyond Viktor's comprehension.

"You're serious, aren't you?" Vladimir asked, sounding shocked. "I can't believe you. You think that I'm the way I am because of her? What, because I didn't have the nurturing influence of a woman in my life? Either way I answer, you'd think that it was whatever you want to think."

"So you do admit it," Mikhail said, now a bit testy. "Last time you refused to confirm how you were, but now you say you're 'the way you are'. So, you're willing to tell me the truth now, huh?"

"Was that what being nice was all about?" Vladimir asked, his voice rising. "You wanted to lure me into a false sense of security so you could interrogate me further? What the hell is your problem? Is this any way to treat your son?"

"Is yelling any way to treat your father!?" Mikhail roared. Viktor jumped as someone slammed the table hard enough to send vibrations through the whole house. This was how he'd expected the conversation to go from the beginning, and he scolded himself for not being prepared for things to turn this way. "Vladimir, you are impossible to deal with!"

"Fuck you, and your rules, and your religion, and your god damn patron saint Vladimir Putin. I'm so sick of this!" Vladimir replied, and Viktor heard the sound of a chair scraping backward again before it clattered loudly against the floor. "I bet you lied about not kicking me out, too, didn't you? Well fuck that too. I'll make it easy on you and leave right now."

"Don't you dare!" Mikhail shouted. "I've provided for you. I've done everything for you, Vladimir, and this is how you treat me?"

"If I believed you loved me at all, I'd stay and argue with you, but I gave up on that hope a long time ago," Vladimir said, his voice surprisingly quiet but filled with a deathly chill. "I've only stayed here for Viktor's sake, but I can't do it anymore. I'm done, Father."

"You're going to see him, aren't you?" Mikhail asked, his voice full of what Viktor could only describe as desperate rage. "Please don't do this, Vladimir. You're going to lose yourself to sin, and then you'll never be able to come back. You're throwing your life away, Vladi!"

"And you're throwing your son away," Vladimir replied. As he continued, his volume rose with each successive word, ending with a roar to rival any lion. "You've left me no other choice. Goodbye, Mikhail Karimov. I'm no longer your son, and you are no longer my father. Problem solved!"

Viktor retreated down the hallway as he heard a rush of footsteps heading toward the door, not wanting to be caught listening in. Vladimir reached the door and threw it open before slamming it behind him. Mikhail cried out in pain and Viktor forgot about remaining out of sight for a moment as he came back into visual range and saw that his father had caught his fingers in the door.

Mikhail threw the door back open and then clutched at his injured hand as he called outside, "Vladi! Please, come back! I'm sorry! He stumbled outside and looked both ways, and Viktor started down the stairs to get a better view. Vladimir was already a small figure in the distance, running at full speed, and their father was starting out after him, but he was blinking away tears as he continued to cradle his right hand with his left.

Viktor rushed forward and caught up to his father, who collapsed in his arms on the walk in front of the house. "Vladimir, I'm sorry," Mikhail cried. "Vladi! Please, come back! Vladi!"

"Come on, Dad," Viktor said, crouching down and holding his father gingerly. They'd never shown a great deal of physical affection between them, but his father was obviously in pain, both emotionally and physically, and he buried his face in Viktor's shoulder. Viktor hugged his father close for a moment, not sure what to do as he whispered, "Come on, it will be all right. Let's get back inside. He'll be back, don't worry."

After a minute, Mikhail pulled away from his son and allowed Viktor to pull him to his feet with his good hand and leading him inside. "Let's go get some ice on your hand," Viktor said with a weak smile. "Did you break anything?"

Mikhail answered numbly, his face contorted in a mixture of pain and embarrassment. "I don't know. I can't think straight right now. Once you're done getting the ice, get me some of my good vodka. I . . . please?"

Viktor nodded, patting his father's shoulder consolingly. "Whatever you need, Father. I'll take care of it, just sit down and I'll be right back, okay?"

Mikhail nodded as he took a seat at the kitchen table, and Viktor turned into the kitchen, opening the door to the freezer where he allowed his emotions to get the better of him. The first tears fell as he gathered some ice together and slipped it into a small plastic bag for his father. He'd known his family had been falling apart for a long time, but he'd honestly thought they'd pull through their current problems as they always had. Now, the only thing which was certain was the ice was cold. At least that was one thing he could count on in his life.

"Vladi, what are you doing here?" Dimitry asked as he opened the door. Vladimir was soaked from head to toe in his school clothes, though his face was wet from more than just the rain which had started to fall as he'd run through the streets. He'd come straight to Dimitry's house, but the rain had become a downpour almost as soon as it'd started.

"I need a place to stay," Vladimir said, coughing. "I just got kicked out."

Dimitry nodded Vladimir forward and said, "Well, you know I offered to let you stay here a long time ago. My mother won't mind."

"I know," Vladimir said, coughing again. "She's a saint, Dimitry."

Dimitry smiled, though Vladimir noted the worry in his eyes as he replied, "That she is. Come on, let me get you out of these wet clothes."

"Is your mother home? I don't want to be running around naked in her apartment," Vladimir asked, glancing around nervously.

"Why? It wouldn't be the first time," Dimitry said, chuckling. Vladimir gave him the first sincere smile he'd given anyone that day and Dimitry continued, "No, she's at work. She'll probably be late tonight, but she brought home dinner about a half hour ago. It should still be warm."

Vladimir's eyes lit up at that as he asked, "From the restaurant?" Dimitry nodded and Vladimir smiled, but then his thoughts traveled back to the day he'd had and he shook his head. "As good as that sounds, I don't think I have much of an appetite right now. Maybe I can reheat some later?"

"Sure," Dimitry replied. Vladimir coughed again and Dimitry frowned. "That cough is starting to worry me. What are you doing still standing in your wet clothes?"

Vladimir's coughing became a fit which cut off his reply, and as soon as it subsided he simply started taking off his blazer instead. Dimitry took it from him and laid it gently on the small patch of linoleum by the front door. Vladimir started to undo the buttons on his shirt but found his fingers were having trouble, and Dimitry came to his rescue again, undoing the buttons for him and then helping him peel back the shirt. The sleeves turned inside out as they stuck to Vladimir's arms, but as soon as the shirt was off, Dimitry took the time to make sure the sleeves were facing the right way again before putting the shirt aside.

Vladimir started to shiver as he undid his belt, and he had almost as much trouble with the clasp of his pants as he'd had with his buttons. Dimitry came back just in time to help Vladimir undo his pants and zipper, but before Vladimir could start sliding his pants down, Dimitry stopped him.

"You're going to need to take off your shoes first," he said, smiling gently. Vladimir smiled back weakly and struggled to slide out of his shoes, but as soon as he shifted his balance to one leg he lost it entirely and fell into Dimitry who caught him and held him upright. "Okay, never mind, lean into me and I'll get the shoes." Vladimir nodded as Dimitry knelt in front of him and helped him remove one shoe and then the next, repeating the process with Vladimir's socks. Then before Vladimir realized what was happening, Dimitry was pulling down on Vladimir's pants and underwear and helping him step out of them.

The cold linoleum underneath Vladimir's feet sent a wave of shivers through him, and when Dimitry stood again he guided Vladimir's arm around his shoulders and supported him entirely. He led Vladimir to the couch and then wrapped in him a wool blanket. Vladimir continued to shiver, though he was glad to be out of the wet clothes. He felt his body start to come under control, his shivering abating, as Dimitry left the room, Vladimir's wet clothes in hand.

"Where a-are y-you going?" Vladimir called through chattering teeth.

"Just going to put your clothes in the laundry," Dimitry called back. "Then I'll get you something warm to drink. Would you prefer chocolate, coffee, or tea?"

"T-tea," Vladimir answered. "You're being so nice to me."

"Why wouldn't I be?" Dimitry asked as he entered the room. "You're kind of important to me. It's my duty, isn't it?"

Vladimir nodded his acceptance of that and focused on getting warm instead of protesting Dimitry's taking care of him. He heard Dimitry humming in the kitchen and couldn't help but smile. When people thought of Dimitry they often saw the surface qualities, his rough appearance and roguish attitude, but Vladimir had always known Dimitry's gentle heart. He wouldn't hurt a fly unless that fly was threatening someone Dimitry cared about. How Dimitry had ended up in the Russian mafia was something Vladimir had never completely understood.

Except that Alexi had recruited both of them, and there was no doubt as to Alexi's willingness to fight. He too had a good heart, but it was always getting him into trouble instead of out of it. Alexi was the oldest of the three best friends, and the one who had always defended Dimitry and Vladimir, his younger brothers of the street. He was Dimitry's true paternal cousin, and had always looked out for him since Dimitry's father had passed away when they were young. Once Vladimir and Dimitry became friends, it was natural for Alexi to extend that protection to Vladimir as well.

Vladimir loved them both as much as he loved Viktor, and he was glad he had them to turn to in his time of need. Of course, Dimitry was more than just a friend, but that had never changed how devoted Alexi was to both of them. Each of the three would always be willing to sacrifice almost anything for the other two.

"Here's your tea," Dimitry said, breaking Vladimir away from his thoughts. He let the blanket drop slightly and reached out for the mug which Dimitry handed to him. He took a sip in shaky hands, glad to feel the warm liquid slide down his throat, but then he was barely able to maintain a grip on it as he handed the mug back to Dimitry. "I'll just set this over here and you can take it again when you're feeling up to it," Dimitry said, putting the tea on the end table beside the couch. "Do you want me to rub your feet?"

"You don't have to do that," Vladimir replied, shaking his head. "I just need to get warm."

"I think you should probably take a shower as soon as you feel you can stand," Dimitry replied, nodding emphatically. "That should warm you right up."

Vladimir nodded. "You're right. That sounds really good. Will you help me up?"

"You want to take one right now?" Dimitry asked. Vladimir confirmed it with a nod and Dimitry said, "Let me go turn the water on now so it'll be warm when you get there."

Laughing weakly, Vladimir replied, "You're so thoughtful." Dimitry smiled in response and left the room, walking down the short hallway and into the bathroom. Vladimir heard the water start and then Dimitry returned, helping him to his feet and supporting him again. They walked into the bathroom and Dimitry made sure Vladimir had something to lean against before pulling the blanket away from him.

As soon as the blanket was gone, Vladimir started to shiver again, but Dimitry helped him climb over the lip of the shower and into the stall. The water was hot and felt nice against his skin, but the slickness of the floor made it hard for him to keep his balance and he slid into the wall. Dimitry immediately caught him, stepping into the water in the process and soaking his shirt.

"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," Vladimir said, laughing bitterly.

"That's silly. Can you stand on your own for just a minute?" Dimitry asked. Vladimir nodded and then watched in surprise as Dimitry stripped down completely, discarding his clothes to the side before stepping into the shower with him. Dimitry's naked body pressed up against Vladimir from behind in the small space, but he wrapped an arm around Vladimir's waist and held him steady under the running water.

"This is the first time we've ever showered together," Vladimir observed with a soft smile. "I'd thought it would be more romantic than this, honestly."

"You don't consider this romantic?" Dimitry asked with a gentle chuckle. "I thought it was."

"No, domestic maybe, and with you that's just as good," Vladimir said, feeling a different kind of warmth inside of him. Over the course of the day he'd almost forgotten what love was, and in a matter of minutes with Dimitry he knew it again. "Help me turn around, I want to see you."

Dimitry helped him turn and they were face to face, Vladimir looking down into his boyfriend's eyes with absolute adoration. Dimitry inclined his head upward and their lips met as they had hundreds of times before, though this kiss reflected all the tenderness, passion, and emotion they held for each other. When their lips parted Vladimir said, "You probably shouldn't keep kissing me. You don't want to get sick too, do you?"

"If I do, at least I'll have good company," Dimitry said with a wide smile. "I love you, Vladimir Karimov. I'm glad you're here."

"I love you too, Dimitry," Vladimir replied, hugging Dimitry's naked body close to him and smiling warmly. His smile faded a moment later as he thought through the circumstances which had brought him there, and Dimitry sensed the change, pulling back from him. Before Dimitry could ask what was wrong, Vladimir said, "I had to let him fuck me again today."

"Oh Vladi," Dimitry said, eyes filling with tears of empathy. "I'm so sorry. How long is he going to make you keep doing that? I thought . . . I thought it was going to be a one-time thing."

"That's what we agreed on at first," Vladimir said with dismay. "But what can I do? He has the ability to switch my grades back at any moment, and then I'll flunk out of high school. Then where would I be? Besides, someone has to protect Viktor, and—"

"Shush, it's okay," Dimitry said, pulling Vladimir close to him again. "At most it will only be for half a year, right? It's not like he can keep asking you to do it after you graduate."

"How are you able to deal with this so easily?" Vladimir asked, shaking his head in wonder. "Your boyfriend is letting one of his teachers fuck him. Doesn't that bother you?"

"Yes," Dimitry answered without hesitation, and Vladimir pulled back again to look in his lover's eyes. Dimitry's eyes were hard but they also held a level of compassion beyond anything Vladimir had ever witnessed before. "It bothers me, Vladimir, but you've been honest with me about it from the beginning. You said you were afraid your father would never forgive you if you didn't graduate."

"I guess I don't have to worry about that anymore then, do I?" Vladimir said bitterly. "My father already hates me."

"I'm sorry, Vladi. What happened tonight?" Dimitry asked, stroking Vladimir's cheek.

Vladimir hesitated for only a moment before saying, "He knows about us, Dimitry. I don't know how he figured it out, but somehow he knows. He'd never accept a gay son, and I always knew it, but now that it's come out . . ."

Dimitry hugged Vladimir tight and didn't say anything for a moment as they let the water run over them. He stroked Vladimir's back and rubbed his shoulders, helping the tension in them fade away. When the moment seemed just right, Dimitry pulled away and asked, "Does Viktor know?"

"I don't think so," Vladimir said, sighing. "And I'm not going to tell him. He doesn't think like my father in every way, but I know he does on this issue. I can't let him hate me yet. I'm not strong enough."

"I understand," Dimitry said softly. "You'll always have me and Alexi, at least."

"I know," Vladimir replied.

"On the bright side, if you don't need to worry about what your father thinks, you could stop seeing Mr. Morrison," Dimitry said with a tinge of hope.

"But then I won't graduate," Vladimir protested. "How can I make a life for us if I don't go on to university and get a degree?"

Dimitry showed his anger for the first time as he frowned and replied, "I don't care what kind of future we have as long as you're in it, Vladimir. We can spend the rest of our lives in a one room hut with no running water and as long as I am with you, and I wouldn't give two fucks about how poor we are. If that's your only worry, then I expect you to put an end to things with that creep right away, got it?"

Vladimir smiled and pulled Dimitry in tight. "You're right, my love. He'll never touch me again. The only person who will ever have my body again will be you, and you alone."

"You know all the right things to say, Vladi," Dimitry said, burying his face in Vladimir's neck and giving it a gentle kiss. "Now, how about we get out of here and you let me feed you some delicious food."

"That sounds wonderful," Vladimir replied, "But let's just stay here for a few minutes at least. It's been forever since I've held you, and I'm not ready to let go yet."

"Dimitry, are you there?"

Alexi's voice brought Dimitry out of his sleep and he groggily opened his eyes and glanced over at his alarm clock. It was only nine in the evening, but he'd fallen asleep with Vladimir an hour before. Vladimir had been so exhausted after his ordeal that he'd wanted to turn in early, and Dimitry had had no objections.

Their naked bodies were entwined under several layers of blankets to keep Vladimir warm. Dimitry didn't want to move and wake Vladimir, so he spoke softly while gently stroking his lover's hair. "I'm awake. What's going on?"

"We received some orders tonight," Alexi continued, his digitized voice echoing in Dimitry's ear from the stud earring held there. "The boss has a hit planned at the Horizons Casino and wants us to be there for support. How close are you?"

Dimitry looked down at Vladimir, breathing gently against his chest and realized there was no way he'd be able to leave him alone. Vladimir was in no condition to come, either, and that made things particularly difficult. "I'm afraid I won't be able to make it. Vladimir came to my house and is really sick, and I'm watching over him. I can't abandon him, and he wouldn't be of any assistance either; he's too weak."

"Shit," Alexi replied. "Is he all right? Should I come over?"

"No, it's fine. Take care of your assignment. What's this hit going to be like, anyway? The Horizons Casino is Yakuza territory. Don't tell me you're going after Masahiro."

"I don't know," Alexi replied. "I haven't received all the information yet, but yeah, it's definitely against the Yakuza. Someone is paying us an awful lot of money to make this happen."

"So this isn't internal? We've been hired?" Dimitry asked.

"Yeah, that's how it looks anyway. There's no way we'd risk it otherwise," Alexi said quietly. "We're stretched thin in dealing with the Americans as it is, and we don't need to fight another battle without getting anything out of it."

"Right," Dimitry said, feeling a sudden sense of worry wash over him. "Hey, be careful tonight, all right?"

"You know me, cousin," Alexi replied with a chuckle. "I'm always careful. You just take care of your boyfriend, all right? I'm still waiting for him to officially join the family, and he can't do that while he's sick."

"Will do," Dimitry said, stroking Vladimir's face again. "I love you, cousin. Please promise me you'll be careful."

"I promise," Alexi replied. "I love you too, cousin."

"Is that Alexi?" Vladimir asked groggily, stirring momentarily.

"Yeah," Dimitry replied, "It's him."

"Hey, tell him I love him, too," Vladimir said with a smile. "And whatever he's doing, he better come back."

"Did you hear that, Alexi? Vladi says he loves you, too," Dimitry said.

"Tell that boyfriend of yours the feeling's mutual," Alexi said with a laugh. "Now stop worrying about me and get back to having sex or whatever you were doing."

Dimitry smiled and shifted so he could kiss Vladimir on the forehead. "Sleeping. Sleeping is what we're doing, and now I think we'll just enjoy each other's company and wait for you to call back. You better call once you're done, okay?"

"You got it, cousin," Alexi replied. "Goodnight. Sweet dreams to you and Vladi."

And then he was gone, leaving Dimitry wide awake and staring up at the ceiling, stroking his lover's hair. Vladimir moaned softly and snuggled up tighter against Dimitry's body. "It'll be okay, Dimitry. He always comes back. We're all meant to be together, all three of us. He'll be back."

"I hope you're right, Vladi," Dimitry whispered, smiling weakly. "I hope you're right."

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[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead