Castle Roland

From the Cup of the Worthless

by Cynus


Chapter 5

Posted: 4 Feb 16

From the Cup of the Worthless

Copyright © 2015, 2016
by Cynus

Detention had been hell, and Viktor wasn't even sure why. He stood in front of the bathroom mirror at his house, staring at his reflection and wondering where the day had gone wrong. It seemed as if everything had been going perfectly well until gym class, and then Nobuyuki had started training him, and then . . .

Everything was a blur after that. He remembered shoving Nobuyuki away from him. He remembered hearing Vladimir's voice, and the fear which suddenly took over. He'd never been afraid of his brother's voice before, even with the differences of opinion they had, but something had triggered a fear response in Viktor so deep it had sent him into a state of shock which had lasted the rest of the day.

Viktor turned on the faucet and splashed some cold water on his face before looking in the mirror again. His eyes were still red from the tears he'd shed earlier. He'd never let Dante get to him before, but for some reason when he saw Dante and Nobuyuki together he hadn't been able to control himself, and the tears had forced their way into his eyes. Somehow, he knew, it was all his fault. He should have never pushed Nobuyuki away, but he had, and now he would pay the price.

He felt the tears returning and stepped away from the mirror, not willing to see the shame in his eyes. It was bad enough to be crying, but to cry at home was going to be even worse if he didn't get it under control. His father would never understand why one of his sons was crying.

'I didn't know I had a daughter!' Is what Mikhail Karimov would say. And then he would tell Viktor to 'man up' and to 'act like a real Russian'. While Viktor loved his father most of the time, whenever it came to personal matters he'd rather talk to anyone else. It would be fine if his father weren't home, but the note which was waiting for Viktor when he arrived said to expect his father home for dinner.

Of course, as soon as Vladimir saw the note he left for the evening, but that just meant Viktor would have no one to distract his father. This was the one time he wished Vladimir could be there to get in an argument, as at least it would give Viktor the opportunity to hide.

He shook his head and turned toward the shower, an idea forming in his mind. Without a second thought he slipped out of his shirt and then undid the clasp on his pants, stepping out of them and then his boxers. It was probably a good idea to shower anyway, considering how quickly he'd showered after gym in order to keep up with Vladimir. He hadn't taken the time to get as clean as he liked to be, and the water running down his face from his wet hair would help him disguise any tears which might sneak up on him during dinner.

He turned the hot water on and stood next to the shower, reaching into the spray with his hand, waiting for the water to heat up. His thoughts returned once again to the end of gym, where he'd followed Vladimir almost in a daze. His brother had insisted there was something important for them to talk about, but Viktor couldn't remember the conversation they'd had. He wasn't even sure they'd talked at all other than Vladimir insisting they leave the gym as quickly as possible. Viktor had dressed quickly, and by the time he'd turned around, Vladimir had already left without him.

And then he'd gone to his last class for the day, where he'd sat quietly and hadn't participated in the lesson. He didn't even remember what it had been about, or if he'd received any homework, which was something he'd have to ask one of his classmates about later. Before he'd even realized what time it was, the class had ended and he'd headed straight to detention.

Where Dante and Nobuyuki were already waiting. Dante looked at him with that smug expression which said that once again he had something Viktor wanted. Only this time, he was actually right. Nobuyuki seemed to instantly take to Dante, and they were laughing on their side of the room the last time Viktor looked at them. Dante had moved in and stolen Nobuyuki from him, just as their friendship was beginning.

The water reached a pleasant temperature and Viktor stepped under the water before pulling the sliding glass door of the shower shut after him. He began to relax as soon as the warm water hit his skin, seeping into his flesh and flowing down his body. The steam which began to fill the small shower stall was exactly what he needed, and he could easily imagine he was at the sauna.

He ran his fingers through his hair, helping the water soak through his golden locks as he continued the fantasy, filling his imaginary sauna with images of people he knew; people he knew he was supposed to find attractive. The American girl from his English class whom everyone said was the most beautiful girl in the school. The Korean senior whom everyone said had the perfect figure. Their towel-wrapped bodies walked toward him from across the sauna, and he leaned back against the wall behind him and waited for them to approach before reaching down to his quickly growing erection. The two girls stopped on either side of him, running their fingers through his hair as he started to moan with pleasure, their sensual massage sending wild sensations through his body.

Viktor turned toward the girl on his right as she started to open her towel, but the sight which awaited him was of the toned chest of a male youth, one with stylized koi fish swimming across his chest. The towel fell to the floor of the sauna as Viktor's eyes followed the herons on Nobuyuki's arm all the way to the hand which was perched on Viktor's naked chest. Viktor tried to forget the image as he looked at Nobuyuki's face, trying to force the image of the Korean senior there instead, but his emotions betrayed him and Nobuyuki's lips were waiting, closing in on his own and making love to his mouth.

The thought of Nobuyuki's lips on his made Viktor's cock spring to life, and he began stroking it furiously as he made out with Nobuyuki. He could feel Nobuyuki's breath on his cheek, could smell his scent as their bodies entwined. He had caught the same scent earlier that day, felt the same breath; he'd been so close to feeling those lips against his. He knew why he'd pushed Nobuyuki away, now, but here in the privacy of his shower he could no longer deny his feelings. He had to have Nobuyuki now, in his fantasies, even if he could never have him in real life.

He stroked his cock furiously as his mind returned to the sauna, drinking in the thought of Nobuyuki as their lips and tongues continued to dance in perfect rhythm. Viktor couldn't help but let his gaze wander lower, remembering the sight of Nobuyuki's perfect penis, guarded by the dragons on his thighs. But now, in Viktor's lust-filled memory it was erect and throbbing, dancing between Nobuyuki's legs as if it were beckoning Viktor toward it.

Viktor knelt down in his shower, imagining he was coming face to face with Nobuyuki's slender serpent. The memory of Nobuyuki's scent overcame Viktor completely, the delicious musk of one Viktor desired most. He leaned in, breathing in deeply as he tentatively reached out with his tongue, touching the tip of Nobuyuki's cock. Overcome by his lust, Viktor engulfed Nobuyuki's dragon between his lips, taking him as deeply as his imagination would allow. He bobbed back and forth on Nobuyuki's cock, sucking him in and out as his hand bounced up and down on his own penis, matching the rhythm he supplied from the depths of his sex-crazed mind.

He felt his balls begin to tighten and he pulled back from Nobuyuki's cock in his mind as he leaned against the shower wall behind him. He came, shooting two long ropes of cum across his chest with a single drop landing on his face, but in his fantasy he imagined the seed was Nobuyuki's rather than his own, splattering him with his boy juice, covering his face and chest. Without taking a moment to think, Viktor stuck his finger in the cum on his chest and then fed it to himself, dreaming he was tasting his lover's cum for the first time. It was salty, but it was perfect, and it tasted like Nobuyuki.

But as the throes of orgasm began to subside, and Viktor slowly regained his senses, he started to spit and gag as if he'd swallowed a live bug. None of it made any sense. Viktor knew he wasn't gay. He couldn't be gay! He had always liked girls, he was sure of it, even though he'd never dated one. Neither had Vladimir, and he was a year older than Viktor, so Viktor knew there was nothing wrong with him. He couldn't be gay, it just wouldn't make any sense.

And then he looked down at the semen which covered his chest and realized he'd never had an orgasm so intense. This wasn't something to be taken lightly, and he couldn't deny the effect Nobuyuki had over him. While he may not be gay, he was definitely attracted to Nobuyuki, and that was going to be a serious problem.

"Viko! Why are you taking a shower so late in the day?" Mikhail Karimov asked as soon as Viktor entered the kitchen. Viktor could smell the spice of the chicken and cabbage stew cooking on the stove and knew he was in for a feast. As his mouth watered he forgot about his troubles for a moment, and nearly forgot to answer the question as well.

"O-oh," he stammered after realizing his father was staring at him expectantly. "I had to hurry after gym and didn't have the time for a proper shower."

"Reasonable," Mr. Karimov replied, a smile creasing the weathered lines of his aging face. Even with the difference between their ages, Viktor was always amazed at how similar his father and brother were in appearance, especially considering how different their personalities were. Although his father's hair was now more grey than brown, Viktor could still remember when it was the same shade of brown as Vladimir's. The smile was the same, and the look in his father's brown eyes whenever he grew passionate appeared just as frequently in Vladimir. "Where is your brother?" Mr. Karimov asked.

"He's out with his friends," Viktor said, avoiding his father's eyes. Mr. Karimov frowned, and Viktor was reminded again of the similarities between his father and brother. "He told me to tell you not to wait up."

"Well, more stew for us, then," Mr. Karimov said with a nod, forcing a weak smile to his face. "I made one of your favorites. I wasn't able to celebrate your standing up for Russia yesterday, and so I chose to do so today."

"Thanks, Papa, but that really isn't necessary," Viktor replied, "Though the stew smells wonderful. If you're going to treat me every time I stand up for Russia, you'll end up spending all your time doing it."

"That's because you're the good son," Mr. Karimov replied, chuckling dryly. "If only your brother would learn from your example. I worry about him. Often."

"I know. You love him though, and he knows that," Viktor said, sliding into a seat at the table in the dining room located beside the small kitchen. "He just thinks differently about the world than we do."

"Sometimes too differently, I think," Mr. Karimov replied, turning away from Viktor as he dipped a wooden spoon into the stew on the stove and stirred the pot. "I'm worried about him, Viko. I think your brother might be . . ."

Viktor tensed up at the tone in his father's voice, and he barely managed to keep the tension out of his voice as he asked, "Might be what?"

"It doesn't matter," Mr. Karimov said, sighing. "At least, not until I know for certain. I'm just glad I have one son I can understand. Thank you for being such a good boy, Viko."

Viktor nodded numbly as he considered his father's words, wondering about his father's suspicions. Whatever his father thought about Vladimir, it would be nothing compared to finding out Viktor was a homosexual. He would no longer be the good son if his father found out, if he were even considered his father's son at all.

Viktor awoke refreshed and ready to face the day. All the drama of the day before had faded with sleep, even after Vladimir had returned late that night and gotten into a lengthy argument with their father. Viktor had been able to sleep through the fighting, as it had become so commonplace as to almost be a lullaby.

His dreams had been pleasant, or at least pleasant enough to keep him from waking, and when his alarm went off in the morning he welcomed the day with a well-deserved stretch. He attacked his morning preparation with energy and enthusiasm, and was out the door to catch his bus with plenty of time to spare. As far as he knew, Vladimir hadn't even gotten out of bed yet.

As soon as he was walking away from his home, however, his thoughts from the night before began to catch up to him. He thought of Nobuyuki, and the attraction he couldn't deny, and how badly he wanted to make his fantasy a reality. He'd already pushed Nobuyuki away, and he hoped it wasn't too late to salvage their friendship, and possibly even more.

Then he shook his head as he realized where his mind was taking him. He and Nobuyuki could never be more than friends. It would ruin everything Viktor had ever wanted. Without his father's support, joining the police force would be an empty pursuit, and one with little chance of upward movement. He would be a disappointment in the eyes of his hero, and that wasn't worth the trade. He certainly would not sacrifice it for lust.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of running footsteps approaching him from behind. The sun hadn't quite risen yet, and between the halos of the streetlamps, shadows obscured everything. This part of town was notorious for being dangerous at night, and Viktor turned around to face the runner, tensing as he prepared to fight or flee. He dropped his guard immediately as he saw Vladimir coming toward him.

Vladimir pulled up short in front of Viktor, breathing heavily. He coughed a few times as he regained control of his breath, smiling at his brother with tired eyes. "Viko," he gasped, "I'm glad I caught up with you."

Viktor smirked in response and said, "I was starting to think you wouldn't make it to school today, Vladi."

"If I didn't come today, I'd be thrown out on the street," Vladimir said, glancing over his shoulder toward the direction of their family home, "at least if our father's mood was any indication last night."

Viktor wasn't overly surprised at the news. Their father had said as much several times before, and Viktor didn't really believe there was any truth behind the threat. Despite that, there was always a chance there was more to it this time, and so he said with as much sincerity as he could muster, "Oh? That sounds serious."

"He's said the same many times," Vladimir said, waving away Viktor's remark, confirming to Viktor that it was more of the same rhetoric they were used to. "I have to come home straight after school, too. Seems he's rather upset with me." He smiled weakly and rolled his eyes, his usual response to their father's threats, but before Viktor could write it off as nothing, Vladimir's eyes changed. There was more than tiredness in them, and the usual defiance was absent. Vladimir's brown orbs were filled with apprehension and worry, two things Viktor wasn't used to seeing in his brother.

"You seem more bothered than usual by this," Viktor said with concern, putting his hand on Vladimir's shoulder. "Is there something going on?"

"Nothing you need to worry about, Viko," Vladimir said, shrugging Viktor's hand off before starting down the sidewalk again. Viktor fell into step beside him just as Vladimir changed the subject. "Hey, is your friend going to join us for lunch today?"

Viktor was surprised at Vladimir's mention of Nobuyuki, but he didn't let it show. He shrugged and replied, "I don't know. I'll try to talk to him in Chemistry, but Ms. Denikin doesn't usually let us talk much. She hasn't been very happy with the class, lately."

"Is she ever?" Vladimir said, snorting. "She's a witch, I tell you."

"Some of the Russian students have been calling her Baba Yaga," Viktor said, grinning at the nickname for the elderly Russian woman. "Is that what you mean?"

Vladimir nodded and suppressed a laugh, "Yeah, you have to admit she's got the look."

Viktor shrugged, even though he did find the nickname fitting to Ms. Denikin's personality. "I don't know, I try to avoid judging people by their appearance."

"Yeah," Vladimir replied, rolling his eyes, "because you're the good son."

"Hey," Viktor snapped, "I don't think that way, Vladi."

"No, but Mikhail Karimov does," Vladimir replied. It was always a bad sign when Vladimir called their father by his full name rather than simply calling him 'Papa' or 'Father'. "I don't know why he bothers calling you the good son. He might as well admit he only considers one of us his son." All happiness had drained from his voice and expression as he glared at the sidewalk ahead of him.

Viktor frowned, hesitating as he thought about how to proceed. His brother was obviously in pain, and he wanted to help but didn't know how. "Are you sure you don't want to talk about it, Vladi?" Viktor asked after a moment, earning him a smirk from his brother.

"Yes, I'm sure," Vladimir said firmly.

Viktor reached for Vladimir's arm, unwilling to drop the subject so quickly, and he got his brother's attention the quickest way possible by saying, "Vladimir . . ."

Vladimir snarled at the use of his full name and batted Viktor's hand away before leaning into him menacingly, his hands clenched in fists at his side. "Viktor," he growled, "don't. Maybe someday I'll tell you what's going on, but today is not that day. Let's just get to school, all right?"

Viktor nodded dumbly and Vladimir turned away, apparently satisfied. They walked in silence as they approached the bus stop, but Viktor continued to glance at his brother out of the corner of his eye. Vladimir had relaxed his fists, but he still appeared to be trembling. "Do you need a cigarette?" Viktor asked quietly. "Your hand is twitching."

"I want one," Vladimir replied, but shook his head firmly, "but I'm not going to smoke one. I'm trying to quit."

A wide smile broke out across Viktor's face, despite his concern about his brother's state. "That's good to hear. This isn't something dad forced you into, is it?"

"No. He doesn't know about that, thankfully." Vladimir sighed. "I think I'd already be on the streets if he did."

"I'm happy to help you quit if you'd like."

Vladimir turned back to Viktor at last and a small smile began to return to his face. "Thanks, Viko. I knew I could count on you."

Viktor was quiet for a moment as they reached the bus stop and leaned against the inside of the booth. A middle-aged woman sat on the bench inside, but she was occupied with the book she was holding in her gloved hands and didn't even seem to notice they were there. Viktor spoke quietly anyway, not wanting to be overheard as he said, "Vladi, you know, for all our disagreements, you're always going to be my brother."

"It's good to have some family who cares," Vladimir said, meeting Viktor's eyes and nodding his appreciation.

"That's what family is for, isn't it?" Viktor replied, but then Vladimir's smirk returned and his eyes fell. While the sentiment may have held true between them, they both knew it was foolhardy to believe the same was true of their father.

Vladimir Karimov was sick of school, but he also wasn't sure what else he was supposed to do with his life. Nothing seemed to be working out for him anymore, and his home life had just taken a turn for the worse. His brother seemed to be the only person at the school who made an effort to understand him, and even that seemed to be fading. Especially since Viktor had seemed so distracted lately there was almost no chance of decent conversation.

Viktor looked around the cafeteria anxiously, and Vladimir knew exactly who he was looking for. That damn Japanese student, the Yakuza who'd come to Vladivostok with the intention of gaining a foothold in the city. Nobuyuki was with the Inagawa-kai, Vladimir had been told, and there was no doubt now that he was trying to get in good with Viktor. The question which remained was what Nobuyuki's intentions with Viktor were.

Yesterday had been interesting to say the least. Vladimir had followed after Viktor and Nobuyuki and spied on them during their training. After Nobuyuki leaned in for a kiss, Vladimir knew he had to act and called out to his brother, breaking the moment before things became more complicated than they needed to be. The last thing Vladimir wanted for Viktor was for his emotions to be manipulated, especially for some political agenda he wasn't even aware of.

But Vladimir had to admit he didn't know if Nobuyuki was honestly trying to manipulate Viktor at all. It was just as plausible that Nobuyuki's feelings for Viktor had been legitimate, and if so, Vladimir was intruding on their privacy and ruining what could potentially be a good thing for his brother. He felt like an ass, but for the time being he'd do whatever it took to protect his brother. Viktor was naïve in a lot of ways, and it was Vladimir's job to make sure nothing happened to him.

"I wonder where Nobu is," Viktor muttered sullenly before turning back to the food on his tray. He'd hardly touched his meal even though lunchtime was almost halfway over. Whether Nobuyuki's feelings for Viktor were legitimate or not, it didn't take much for Vladimir to see that Viktor's interest in Nobuyuki was real, and it seemed to be affecting everything Viktor did.

Vladimir decided to search the cafeteria himself, and he nearly cursed when he saw where Nobuyuki was sitting. He was at the American table, sitting with Dante Salvatici and his friends. If there was one person in the school whom Vladimir wanted to pound into the ground, it was Dante Salvitici. The American of Italian descent was a thorn in Vladimir's side for more than one reason. What was worse was the implication of Nobuyuki sitting with him. Two gangsters from different families working together was never good news. "Viko," Vladimir whispered, "don't look now, but your friend is eating with Dante."

"What?" Viktor cried in alarm, head swiveling toward the table where Dante usually sat. His expression was crestfallen as he turned back around. If his appetite had been small before, it had completely disappeared now as Viktor let his fork drop, clattering noisily on the tray in front of him.

"I thought I said you shouldn't look," Vladimir chastised, "They'll see you."

"Dammit!" Viktor said, pounding his fist on the table. "I knew Dante was up to no good. I can't believe he stole my friend from me."

Vladimir saw an opportunity to find out more about Viktor's feelings for Nobuyuki, and hopefully discern some of Nobuyuki's intentions at the same time. He considered his words carefully and then said, "Come on, you've only known Nobuyuki Sato for a day, it's not like you two were best friends or anything."

"Yeah, well maybe I wanted to be," Viktor muttered.

"What do you see in that boy, anyway?" Vladimir asked, easily slipping into his usual bravado. "He's not exactly the good guy type."

Viktor's eyes snapped upward and Vladimir was surprised at the anger he saw in them. "Neither are you," Viktor said bitterly, "but I still hang out with you, don't I?"

"I suppose you have a point," Vladimir said carefully, nodding.

"And what do you mean Nobu isn't a good guy?" Viktor pressed. Vladimir wasn't sure if the emotion was coming from his attack on Nobuyuki's character, or from Viktor's hurt over Dante and Nobuyuki eating together. "He helped me out when he didn't have to," Viktor said quietly and then lowered his gaze as the anger began to fade and despair rushed in to take its place.

"Yeah, but . . ." Vladimir began testily, but seeing that Viktor was letting go of the argument for the time being, he decided to take a different route and asked calmly, "You don't listen to any rumors, do you?"

Viktor shook his head and replied, "People don't tend to tell me rumors. I'm not the most popular kid in the school, you know. I hardly have any friends. I mean, look around you, do you see anyone else eating lunch with us?"

"Well, your reputation for being a Russian patriot scares the international students away, and my reputation for being the opposite scares the Russian students away," Vladimir replied with a chuckle, unable to contain his amusement at the irony. "It's a wonder we even sit together."

"I don't see you often enough as is," Viktor said, looking up at Vladimir again with moist eyes. Vladimir was surprised Viktor was willing to show him such vulnerability, but his own eyes started to tear as Viktor said, "I wouldn't change anything about our relationship, Vladi."

"Me neither, Viko," Vladimir said, swallowing hard. "We've got to stick together."

"Agreed," Viktor said, and then he blushed and looked away again, breaking the tender moment. "But you didn't answer my question. What's wrong with Nobu?"

Vladimir hesitated, no longer sure how he was supposed to proceed. He decided on the truth for now, and would let Viktor determine what to do with it. "His family owns the Horizons Casino," Vladimir explained slowly. "The place has a reputation, even though it's only been there for a few months. Dimitry was telling me about it the other day."

"Oh?" Viktor asked, though his face clouded over at the mention of Dimitry, which almost made Vladimir wince. "What kind of a reputation is that?"

"They're gangsters, Viko," Vladimir replied flatly. "Yakuza."

Viktor's eyes widened at that, and he shook his head in disbelief. "No . . ." he whispered, but then the head shake became a nod and he looked up in sudden understanding. "Could that be what the tattoos are about?"

"Maybe," Vladimir replied, shrugging. "I didn't know Nobuyuki had tattoos."

"Yeah, and they're intense," Viktor said distantly, as if he were lost in a memory. "They cover his whole body."

"You saw his whole body?" Vladimir asked.

The instant blush wasn't lost on Vladimir as Viktor looked away and said, "Yeah, in gym."

"Oh," Vladimir replied quietly. It made sense that they'd have dressed together in gym, though for some reason the thought hadn't occurred to Vladimir. He'd been so fixated on the thought of Viktor's interest in Nobuyuki that it had colored everything he was thinking.

Vladimir ate in silence as Viktor picked at his food, taking only one bite in the time it took Vladimir to clear his tray. Things couldn't go on this way, and it was time to do something more about it. Sighing, Vladimir said, "Viko, let me ask you something."

"Okay, Vladi," Viktor said numbly, meeting his eyes. "What's up?"

"Viko," Vladimir began nervously, but then he took a deep breath and went all in. "I don't really know how to ask this, but do you want more than friendship with Nobuyuki?"

Viktor's eyes widened and the blood drained from his face, but he somehow managed to keep his voice neutral as he asked, "What are you talking about, Vladi?"

Vladimir didn't know what Viktor's reaction meant, but he was already committed to his course, and so he continued a bit more cautiously, "Oh, I just thought, the way you're looking at him, it's like you'd look after a crush."

"Vladi, I'm not gay," Viktor protested, and then his face contorted in anger as he added, "I can't believe you'd ask me that."

Vladimir backpedaled as quickly as his words could carry him. "That's good, Viko. I was starting to worry about you." He couldn't believe he'd screwed up so badly, or that he'd misread Viktor's demeanor so thoroughly.

"After all this time . . ." Viktor growled, his eyes narrowing. "I've spoken to you about girls before. Take Sunhee for example. You know I think she's hot. How could you think . . .?" He took several deep breaths and his fists clenched and unclenched as he muttered, "God, Vladi, I thought you knew me."

"Look, Viko, you've been acting weird lately. I didn't want to believe it, but I'm glad it's not true," Vladimir replied, sensing his brother's growing hostility. Without even realizing what he was doing, Vladimir slipped into the rhetoric he'd heard from his father time and time again, and which was reinforced by the sermons he received at church. "I really didn't want to have to beat your ass." He let out a derisive snort, and sneered with mock superiority. "You know I'd have to do that if you were a faggot, right? I'd have to beat it out of you. No member of our family is gay."

"No, no member of our family is gay, nor ever will be," Viktor said, looking up at Vladimir with eyes filled with righteous indignation. "It's a sin, Vladi, and I promise I've never thought of a boy that way and never will. Don't worry about me, Vladi. I'm gonna stay pure forever."

Vladimir felt a chill travel down his spine as he heard the fervor in Viktor's voice. He'd thought their father was close-minded, but Viktor had just shown a side of himself which surpassed any amount of dogmatic fanaticism he'd ever seen from their father. "Good thing, Viko," Vladimir said, nodding resolutely. Unable to bear the turn in the conversation any longer, he stood up and lifted his tray to take it to the nearest trash can. "Hey, I've got to get something from my locker before next class, so I'm going to take off. I'll see you after school, okay?"

"No you won't; I still have detention, remember?" Viktor said sullenly. The anger from before was almost completely gone, and Vladimir wondered for a moment if he'd imagined the whole thing.

"Oh yeah . . ." Vladimir said, chuckling nervously. "See you at home then?"

"Yeah," Viktor replied, "Sounds good."

Vladimir nodded and turned away, but then he glanced back once and found Viktor staring across the room to where Dante and Nobuyuki were cleaning up their own trays. Whatever Viktor said he believed, his actions betrayed him, for Viktor's eyes were filled with the most painful heartbreak Vladimir had ever seen.

Viktor waited until Vladimir was gone before he stood to bus his own tray. He didn't bother trying to eat anything else. His appetite had died as soon as he'd laid eyes on Nobuyuki and Dante together, and when it might have returned, Vladimir had crushed it by questioning his sexuality.

He'd never been afraid of his brother before, not really. Vladimir had always been there for him, whenever he needed help. There'd been no reason to believe that would ever change, but when Vladimir had asked about his feelings for Nobuyuki, he had felt a fear stronger than anything he'd ever felt before. He had chosen to deny it, and was glad he had, for his brother's homophobic remarks afterward had frightened him even further.

The only way to cover up that fear had been to turn it into anger, and he was now seething. He was angry at Dante for stealing Nobuyuki, and angry at Nobuyuki for allowing it. He was angry at his father, and the Russia he loved which had made it impossible for him to be true to his heart. He was angry at Vladimir for following their father on the one thing Viktor wished he hadn't.

But mostly, he was angry with himself. He was a coward, he realized. He should have stood up for himself, the way he did to Mr. Morrison, but when it was Vladimir accusing him he couldn't do anything but lie. The one person he couldn't stand rejecting him was his brother.

"Hey, Viktor, wait up!"

Nobuyuki's voice made Viktor tense up even further. He decided to ignore Nobuyuki and started for the door, but before he'd taken more than a couple steps he heard a plea in Nobuyuki's tone.


Viktor took a deep breath and tried to make his face expressionless. "What is it, Nobu?"

Nobuyuki bit his lip nervously as he met Viktor's eyes. "I think we need to talk about what—"

Viktor couldn't deal with this. He'd already been through too much today, and with a rush of rage he snapped, "There's nothing to talk about, Nobu. Go back to Dante. I'm done with you."

"What?" Nobuyuki asked, cocking his head to the side in confusion. "No, you don't get it, Dante and I were just—"

"Stay away from me, Nobu," Viktor growled. "I mean it. We're done."

And then he turned around again, quickening his pace to get out of the cafeteria as quickly as possible, before he lost his resolve. By the time he reached the doors he could no longer contain his tears, and they streamed down his face in torrents, washing away all hope of ever being with Nobuyuki again.

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