Castle Roland

From the Cup of the Worthless

by Cynus


Chapter 17

Posted: 28 Apr 16

From the Cup of the Worthless

Copyright © 2015, 2016
by Cynus

Dante set his lunch down and looked up to see Viktor heading his way, looking over his shoulder as if he were expecting to find someone there, but every time he turned back to the table with disappointment. At least until his eyes fell on Dante and he smiled, walking quickly toward him and setting his own lunch down heavily. He slid into place and opened his mouth to greet Dante but something pulled his attention away and he swiveled around in his seat, searching the crowd behind him.

As he turned back around, Dante noticed the bruising on Viktor's face and winced. "What happened to you?"

"Vladi and I kind of got into it last night," Viktor said. Dante was confused that Viktor didn't seem the least bit bothered by this. Viktor picked up on Dante's bewilderment and added, "It was rough, but probably needed, especially for him. We're closer than we've ever been, now." He smiled as Dante nodded while letting that information sink in. Before Dante could say anything in response, however, Viktor was turning around again and looking at the entrance to the lunch room.

"So, Nobuyuki is lagging behind, huh?" Dante asked, an amused grin on his face as he bit into the apple on his tray, crunching into it as Viktor turned back to face him again with a disappointed sigh.

"Yeah, something about stopping by Headmaster Kozlov's office to thank him for his help the other day," Viktor replied, absentmindedly reaching for his fork to start eating, although he seemed to have little interest in the food.

"Right on," Dante replied, nodding at him. "I'm glad the two of you are starting to get along again."

This got Viktor's attention and he looked up, blushing a deep shade of crimson. "Me too."

Dante pulled the apple away from his face as he stared at Viktor, beginning to understand why Viktor was acting so weird. "No way . . ." he whispered. Viktor cocked his head to the side and gave Dante a bewildered expression. "Viktor, did you and Nobu . . .?" At the mention of Nobuyuki's name, Viktor blushed even deeper and looked away, and Dante dropped the apple in his excitement for his two friends. "Oh my god, you did! Fuck yes!"

"Don't get so excited," Viktor muttered, continuing to avoid Dante's eyes. "We just kissed a little."

"Geez, I don't need details," Dante replied, raising his hands and laughing boisterously. "I'm just excited the two of you finally talked about your feelings." Then he registered what Viktor had said and asked, "You mean you actually kissed, too? Wait a minute, what did you think I meant . . ." He hadn't expected Viktor to be able to blush any deeper, but Dante watched as Viktor's face turned completely red and he turned away from Dante completely. "Okay, I love you both," Dante went on, laughing nervously, "but there's no way I want to think about you two fucking."

"Jesus!' Viktor gasped. "Could you please not say that?"

Dante snorted as his grin widened further. "You were the one thinking it."

Viktor finally turned back toward him, though he still refused to make eye contact as he mumbled, "Yeah, but talking about it in public like that, it's so . . ."

Dante leaned across the table and whispered, "Fun?"

Viktor looked up, his eyes widening with surprise at Dante's candor. "No, it's—"

"Absolutely fantastic?" Dante interrupted, sticking his tongue out at Viktor.


Dante looked up to see Nobuyuki standing behind Viktor, a wry smile on his face. How he'd managed to approach without Dante knowing was a mystery for the ages, but Dante would dwell on that later. For the time being he would focus on the look of absolute joy in Nobuyuki's eyes as his gaze rested on Viktor's face.

"Nobu!" Viktor said with more enthusiasm than he intended, a fact made obvious by his blush fully returning.

"Hey there, boyfriend," Nobuyuki said as he slid into place next to Viktor, sitting close enough to leave no room between them.

"Is that what we are now?" Viktor whispered, completely captivated by Nobuyuki's smile.

"Do you want to be?" Nobuyuki replied with dancing eyes.

Viktor nodded immediately and said, "Yes. I can't believe I'm saying it, but yeah. I really do." He then cleared his throat awkwardly and looked around the cafeteria. "Can we tone it down in here though?"

"Sure," Nobuyuki said as his hand left the table and disappeared on the other side. Dante didn't know what Nobuyuki was doing to Viktor, but the angle of Nobuyuki's arm told him he didn't really want to know anyway. "As long as Dante's okay not knowing what our hands are doing under the table."

Dante shook his head and laughed, "Geez, you're terrible, Nobuyuki."

Nobuyuki shrugged and replied, "Sorry, Dante. I've got to show my affection somehow. My boyfriend's a prude."

"I am not!" Viktor protested, glaring at Nobuyuki and lowering his voice uncertainly as he went on. "Um, I know my English has been getting better, but could you remind me what a prude is?"

"Trust me, you're one, at least as long as there's anyone there who you don't already feel comfortable around," Nobuyuki replied with a chuckle. "But don't worry, we'll change that."

"How can I know I want to change it if I don't know what it is?" Viktor asked sullenly, glancing at Dante for help. Dante shook his head and laughed as he retrieved his apple from his tray and took another bite from it.

"Oh, I have ways of making you want it," Nobuyuki said and with a subtle shift of his arm Viktor gasped in amazed pleasure. Dante chewed slowly, trying to avoid spitting out his apple at the thought of what Nobuyuki might have started to do to Viktor. Not that he had a problem with it, he just didn't want to think about it.

He swallowed his bite of apple and then set the fruit down again, shaking his head as Viktor moaned quietly, squirming in his seat. "Guys, seriously, if you keep that up you're going to draw attention to yourselves."

Nobuyuki glanced at Dante and winked. "I don't think Viktor minds at the moment."

Viktor was practically panting as he put his hand on Nobuyuki's arm and very lightly pressed on it like he was trying to push him away, but it didn't take a lot for Dante to see there wasn't any strength behind it. "Nobu . . . uh . . . I think . . ." Viktor stammered as Nobuyuki's arm shifted up and down slightly with a slow rhythm.

"See, he can't even get the words out," Nobuyuki replied with a wicked grin. But then his arm shifted to the side and he went on, "But don't worry, I think Dante's right. We should probably be more careful, huh? So I guess that's enough for now."

Viktor stopped panting and swallowed hard, looking down at the table as the look of pure bliss faded from his eyes. "Viktor, don't look so disappointed," Dante said with a giggle.

Viktor looked up and blushed again. He was doing it so often Dante was beginning to forget how fair Viktor's true complexion was. "So, uh . . . Dante," Viktor said after clearing his throat, "there's something we need to tell you."

"Other than the obvious?" Dante asked. "My brothers are gay and fucking each other?"

Viktor glared at Dante and said, "What did I say earlier?"

"Oh, sorry," Dante said, leaning forward conspiratorially. "What I meant to say was, 'my brothers both like cock and so they share theirs with each other during meal time'." Viktor blushed and looked at Nobuyuki, though as he did he began squirming in his seat again. "Seriously," Dante laughed, "would you stop looking at him like that? You're going to make me want some of that, and I can't even believe I'm thinking about it."

"Hey, Nobu's mine," Viktor snapped, gripping Nobuyuki's arm tightly as he glared at Dante with mock outrage. "Get your own."

Nodding approvingly, Dante glanced at Nobuyuki for a moment before returning to Viktor. "Wow, Viktor, I never knew you could be so feisty." His tone became more serious though his smile widened as he said, "Must be crazy being happy for once, huh?"

"Dante . . ." Viktor said quietly, his face becoming a complicated mask of emotion. Dante maintained eye contact for as long as he could, but something in Viktor's eyes made it difficult for him to continue looking, and Dante blushed, turning away as Viktor whispered, "Thank you, Dante."

Dante cleared his throat as he felt a sudden lump of emotion which made it hard to swallow. "For what?" He asked, turning back and trying to force his trademark impish grin back to his face.

Viktor destroyed all hope of Dante being able to maintain his composure as he said, "Without you, I wouldn't be that happy." He looked at Nobuyuki and smiled bashfully. "This wouldn't have happened."

"It's true, Dante. You . . ." Nobuyuki began, and then he reached across the table and gave Dante's hand a gentle squeeze. When Dante looked his way he saw the same complicated emotions in Nobuyuki's eyes as he'd seen in Viktor's. Nobuyuki shook his head helplessly and said, "Just thanks."

Dante cleared his throat and started to speak, but knowing the emotion would break him, he hesitated and cleared his throat again. "Don't mention it," he said, once he was able to swallow again, but seeing his friends both staring at him he felt he had to say something more, and he allowed his emotions a little more rein. "You know, maybe this is a little awkward to say at a high school lunch table, but I've never had this much fun in my life. You two make life exciting, even if you also make it extremely dangerous."

Nobuyuki seemed to sense the growing emotion and Dante's resistance to it and said lightly, "Says the other criminal at the table."

Dante and Nobuyuki laughed at that, and the emotion broke, allowing them to move on to other topics, for which Dante was beyond grateful. Viktor took the opportunity afforded them and said, "Speaking of your criminal affiliation . . ."

"What?" Dante asked, eagerly latching onto the new topic.

"We need your help," Viktor said, looking at Nobuyuki nervously.

Dante laughed and raised his hands defensively. "If it's a jailbreak or stealing your brother's cum rag, I'm out." As much as he didn't want to, as soon as he said the words he knew it was false. He'd do anything they asked, as long as it was them asking.

"No, it's nothing like that," Viktor said, blushing at the mention of Vladimir.

Dante lowered his hands and leaned forward with interest. "Okay, what is it?"

Nobuyuki sighed and said, "I need you to talk to your uncle about making a concession to the Russians."

Dante paused, feeling a strange mix of emotion welling up inside of him. This was a complicated request, and he needed more information in order to sort out how he felt about it. "Um, Nobu . . . why would my uncle ever go for that? The Russians are our enemy. We've been arguing over turf in this city for a long time."

"I know it's a longshot, but could you ask, please?" Nobuyuki pleaded.

"Give me something to go on," Dante replied, still trying to figure out how he felt. On the one hand, he was willing help them, but this seemed like a fool's errand. "There's no way I'd convince my uncle to do anything like that without a good reason."

"Well," Viktor said, surprising Dante by being the one to present the point, "it's so Vladimir and Dimitry can get the information Nobu needs in order to prove Daisuke was behind the assassination."

"So, it's to help you, but only you," Dante said, looking between Nobuyuki and Viktor. "Masahiro didn't authorize this, did he?" He asked, biting his lip thoughtfully.

Nobuyuki sighed and shook his head. "Not officially, no."

Things started to come together in Dante's mind, and an idea began to form, but the thought scared him. "I'm going to need to think about this," he said, glancing down at his barely eaten food and realizing he had lost his appetite. He looked back up and smiled weakly. "Can you two come over after school?"

Viktor and Nobuyuki shared a nod before Viktor answered, "Of course. Anything you need."

"Good," Dante replied, nodding. "I know this is a bit abrupt, but . . ." He stood and took his tray in his hands, knowing he needed to distance himself from Viktor and Nobuyuki so they didn't influence his thought process any more than they already had. "I have something I need to take care of."

"Sure thing, Dante," Nobuyuki asked, a look of deep concern in his eyes. "Do you need any help?"

Dante shook his head and smiled. "No, I'm good." He stepped away from the table and then turned back toward them and said, "See you after school, okay?" As his friends nodded he turned away from them and let his smile fall away completely. He had a lot to think about.

"I keep thinking back to lunch," Viktor said, staring out the window of the bus they were riding toward Dante's house. "What do you think was bothering Dante?"

"I don't know, but something definitely was," Nobuyuki replied with a deep sigh. He looked down at Viktor's hand which rested in his and thought about how their affection was the direct result of Dante's friendship. "He's done a lot for us. Maybe he's feeling used."

Viktor nodded and said, "I know what that feels like."

Nobuyuki felt a sudden pang of worry and asked, "Are you still angry at me?"

"No, but I know what it's like to be conned by you," Viktor said, smiling to take the sting out of the words as he gently squeezed Nobuyuki's hand. "Do you think Dante might be feeling the same way?"

Nobuyuki thought about it for a moment and then shrugged helplessly. "Maybe. I don't know if that's it, though. He seems to enjoy doing these things, even if they're life and death situations. I always thought he enjoyed the rush they gave him."

"Is that why you're a criminal, Nobu?" Viktor asked quietly. "The rush?"

Nobuyuki gave Viktor a quick sidelong glance, trying to figure out what was on his boyfriend's mind. "No," he replied a moment later. "I'm a criminal because I had to be in order to stay alive. My father abandoned us when I was really young, and my mother died when I was eight. I lived on the streets in Tokyo until I was eleven, but I was told things were better in Kyoto, so I left and went there."

"And what happened there?" Viktor asked, looking down at their clasped hands and gently massaging the back of Nobuyuki's hand with his thumb.

"I ended up getting a job at Masahiro's brothel," Nobuyuki replied.

"A brothel?" Viktor asked, looking up at Nobuyuki with alarm as he stopped what he was doing with his thumb. "Did you, uh . . ." he trailed off nervously, unsure how to finish his question.

But Nobuyuki knew what he was asking and answered the unspoken question. "No. I was never a prostitute. I have had sex before, though. I hope that doesn't bother you."

"Not really," Viktor replied, and his thumb began moving again, the small gesture filling Nobuyuki's body with the warmth of affection. "I know I'm a bit naïve about things, but I didn't really expect you to be a virgin."

"Oh?" Nobuyuki asked with a grin. "You think I have sex with anything that moves, huh?"

Viktor shook his head as he took the question seriously and replied, "No, but you're handsome, confident, and have the best body I've ever seen, so . . ." he trailed off with an embarrassed chuckle.

Nobuyuki's grin faded as he heard the sincerity in his boyfriend's voice. "You really think so?"

Viktor glanced up and then looked back down just as quickly as he said, "Nobuyuki, I want to . . ." he stopped with a nervous giggle. "No, I can't say it."

"Come on," Nobuyuki urged.

"No, I want the timing to be right," Viktor said, meeting his eyes with a bashful grin. "Can you just, um . . ." he hesitated. "Can you wait until I'm ready?"

"Of course," Nobuyuki replied, giving Viktor's hand a reassuring squeeze. "I may be a teenager, but one thing I know is restraint. Masahiro beat that into me almost every day. We'll wait until you're ready."

"I meant wait until I'm ready to say what I was going to say," Viktor replied with a giggle. "I'm pretty much ready already for that other thing . . ."

"Really?" Nobuyuki asked, trying to avoid sounding surprised.

"Yeah, um . . ." Viktor mumbled, swallowing uncomfortably. "I've been fantasizing about you ever since we first spoke. That night when you called me, I uh . . ." he squirmed on the bus seat, which drew Nobuyuki's attention down to Viktor's very noticeable erection as Viktor continued, "I came in my pants from the sound of your voice."

"Wow . . ." Nobuyuki whispered as his own erection sprang to attention at Viktor's revelation. "Um, I might need to find somewhere to stop and uh, find a restroom."

Viktor leaned in close and whispered suggestively, "There's one at Dante's . . ."

It was Nobuyuki's turn to shift uncomfortably in his seat, and knowing if they continued talking he might just lose his cool entirely, he changed the subject. "Speaking of Dante, we've gotten sidetracked, haven't we?"

"Yeah. Let's talk about him now that you're getting cold feet," Viktor replied, giggling as he continued stroking the back of Nobuyuki's hand, but he allowed the conversation to go where Nobuyuki was directing it. "We need to show him we appreciate him. How do we do that?"

Nobuyuki's eyes lit up as a thought came to him. "I might just know how to do it."

"Oh?" Viktor asked. "What's your plan?"

"Well, assuming I can convince Lady Katsumi to participate, I'll give him the night of his life!" Nobuyuki said wickedly.

"You're going to set him up with a prostitute?" Viktor asked skeptically.

"Lady Katsumi is no prostitute, she's a geisha," Nobuyuki replied with a firm shake of his head. "Her skills are far more extensive."

"You think he'll like it?" Viktor asked.

"If you'd seen the way Dante looked at her, you'd know," Nobuyuki replied with a wide grin as he nodded emphatically. "He's going to love it."

"Perfect," Viktor said, "that's one problem solved."

Nobuyuki nodded and said, "That reminds me, I had a question about another problem of yours."

"Oh?" Viktor asked with obvious interest.

"How'd you end up explaining the hole in the wall to your father?" Nobuyuki asked, grinning as he remembered Vladimir standing in front of the wall to hide the hole the night before.

"You see these bruises on my face?" Viktor said, gesturing to his black eye with his free hand.

"Yeah?" Nobuyuki asked, knowing full well they came from Vladimir's fist.

"I tripped and slammed my face into the wall hard enough to break through," Viktor said with a sly smile.

Nobuyuki laughed loudly at Viktor's explanation and said, "Two birds with one stone, huh? Did he buy it?"

"Not completely sure," Viktor replied, shrugging. "He just laughed at me and told me the wall was coming out of my allowance. Probably didn't believe me, but thought the lie was creative enough that he'd let it slide, especially since I didn't act particularly hurt."

"That's awfully kind of him," Nobuyuki replied.

"It's a small price to pay to keep him from knowing the truth," Viktor said with another shrug. The bus came to a stop and the boys looked up to see they'd arrived at the stop closest to Dante's house. "Looks like it's time to see just how good our luck is today," Viktor said as he rose to his feet and extended his hand to Nobuyuki to help him up. "Let's go."

Dante was waiting by the door, wanting to ensure none of the staff answered it for him. He'd been pacing the entry hall of his family's home for nearly an hour, and was sure he'd made his decision, but there was still one more thing to take care of which required everything to be in place.

When Viktor and Nobuyuki arrived, Dante rushed to the door and opened it wide, smiling in his usual way as he looked them over. "Hey, I'm glad you two could make it. Come in, come in!"

"Dante, thanks for letting us come over," Viktor said, stepping inside and wrapping Dante in a hug which nearly threw him off balance. Dante was so caught off guard by the gesture that it took him several seconds before he returned the embrace, patting Viktor on the back before they parted.

"Viktor! I'd never expected you to give me a hug," Dante said as he gave Viktor a weird but appreciative smile.

"Well, times are changing," Viktor said, grinning. "Maybe it's just because I'm so happy today, but I just wanted you to know I appreciate you. Thank you for everything."

"Aw, you're too cute sometimes," Dante said, playfully sticking his tongue out at Viktor. "Almost makes me wish I was gay."

"You keep denying you are," Nobuyuki pointed out as he stepped inside to join them.

"Eh, maybe I am a little bit, but only for you two," Dante said with a shrug. "I'm ninety-nine percent straight, though."

"I know, Dante," Nobuyuki replied, grinning wide as he added, "I remember what you thought when you saw Katsumi."

Dante nearly swooned at the memory of the beautiful naked woman in the baths. "Oh yes, that woman is a goddess!" He exclaimed, sighing contentedly.

"She is, isn't she?" Nobuyki said, nodding in agreement. "Say, what would you think if I could get you a night with her? I'd like you to have some sort of reward for all your trouble."

Dante shook his head and replied, "Your friendship is enough reward, Nobuyuki." He grinned impishly and rolled his eyes as he said, "But hey, let's talk about it in an hour or so. I actually have to have dinner with the family."

"What?" Viktor asked, eyes widening. "It's so early."

"My uncle's wife has family over," Dante replied with a forceful sigh. He'd rehearsed this conversation several times while waiting for his friends, and was sure he could sell it appropriately. "They're used to an early dinner. I didn't know about it until just before you arrived."

"Wouldn't you call her your aunt?" Viktor asked.

"You wouldn't if she were married to your uncle," Dante said, chuckling. He genuinely found the thought funny, and so he didn't have to force the laughter at all, even if it was a lie. "Trust me. This woman is the reason I hate my cousins. Just hang out in my room and I'll be up when I can break away, okay?"

Nobuyuki shared a look with Viktor and replied, "Of course, Dante. We'll be there. See you in a bit?"

Dante nodded and gestured up the stairs. "I'm sure you can find your own way, right? You've been here before. Feel free to entertain yourselves however you want, just try to keep it in the room, all right?" They nodded and he watched them ascend until they disappeared from sight. His smile faltered as soon as they disappeared from sight, and he sensed a presence behind him.

"Those are your friends?" Nicola Salvatici said as he stepped into the room, studying his nephew carefully. They were similar physically, sharing the same tall and angular features, with the same dark hair and dark Mediterranean complexion. Whenever they were in the same room it was like Nicola was standing with his younger self. It made sense, considering Dante was the son of Nicola's deceased but still beloved twin brother, but to many it seemed odd.

"Yes," Dante said as he turned to face his uncle, forgetting to smile with the turmoil in his heart. "That was Viktor Karimov and Nobuyuki Sato."

"I had assumed as much," Nicola replied, nodding as he sensed Dante's distress. "Why did you lie to them about the dinner?"

"I still need time to think," Dante said quietly.

"What about?" Nicola asked.

Dante sighed and glanced up the stairs where his friends had disappeared before looking back at his uncle. "Do you have a minute?"

Nicola smiled warmly, though his eyes were filled with concern. "I always have a minute for you, Dante. Come on, let's go to the study so we're not talking in the open."

Dante walked forward and past his uncle, who dropped his hand on Dante's shoulder and squeezed it affectionately. Even though he was Nicola's nephew, Dante had always been treated like a son of the family, except where it pertained to inheritance. While Nicola doted on Dante all the time, he had promised his entire fortune to his sons, though there was still one thing which only he and Dante knew about.

As they stepped into Nicola's study, his thoughts were occupied with that secret, knowing it was the answer to his current dilemma. He only had to hope his uncle would understand.

Nicola sat down in one heavy armchair and gestured for Dante to take the other. As soon as Dante was seated, he got right to the point, not wanting to chicken out and give in to his doubts. "I need something from you," he said, meeting his uncle's eyes with a look of determination.

"What is it?" Nicola asked warmly.

Dante grimaced and said, "My father's villa."

"The Villa di Rosa?" Nicola asked. It wasn't for confirmation, as there was no other place Dante could be talking about, but rather out of confusion that this question was asked. "You know I planned to give it to you when you graduated. Why do you need it now? Graduation is only half a year away for you."

Dante shook his head and replied, "I don't need the villa itself, I just want you to do with it what I planned to do once it was mine."

"And that is?" Nicola asked, clearly intrigued to see where this was going.

Dante knew this was the moment he might lose his uncle, but with grim determination he forged ahead and said, "Shut down the brothel."

Nicola's eyes widened in shock. "What?"

"Shut down the brothel," Dante repeated. "It's our only one in Northern Vladivostok."

Nicola couldn't seem to decide whether he should nod or shake his head, and the confusion made his head seem to spin instead. "Yes, that's sort of the reason why it's there."

"Well, there is another brothel in Northern Vladivostok," Dante said carefully.

Nicola settled on nodding, though his tone was every bit as cautious as Dante's. "Yes, the Russians have one there. Why wouldn't I want to compete? We don't want to let them get an edge on us."

"It's my villa, isn't it?" Dante asked.

"Yes, of course," Nicola said, smiling gently. "Your father owned it, and it transferred to me when he died, but I've never thought of keeping it from you."

"Then please," Dante insisted, feeling his resolve strengthen, "shut it down."

Nicola gave him an exasperated expression and asked, "Can't you tell me why?"

Dante sighed, hoping his motives would make sense to his uncle. "In order for Nobuyuki to get the information he needs from the Russian Mafia, he needs a bargaining chip. Masahiro doesn't have enough assets to make that happen, even if he were willing to use them. They asked me to ask you if there was any way we could give them that bargaining chip."

Nicola exhaled slowly as he processed the information. But then he turned back to Dante and suggested, "Well, let's talk about it. Give me some time to see what we can scrape together for Masahiro and—"

"There's no time left," Dante said, interrupting his uncle for the first time in his life. "It's now or never, and I already have the answer."

If Nicola was offended by Dante interrupting him, he didn't show it. Instead his face was filled with nothing but concern as he said, "Dante, the brothel at the Villa di Rosa is worth a fortune. It's a good business which will make you a lot of money someday, and you won't even have to lift a finger to get it started. Think about this."

"I already have, Uncle," Dante replied, smiling sadly. "I've been planning this for a long time, this just moved my timetable up a bit."

"I see," Nicola said, meeting Dante's eyes. A moment of silence passed between them as Nicola processed what Dante had said, but eventually he asked, "You plan on doing something else with it? What kind of operation are you planning? Are you going to run some sort of con there?"

"No cons," Dante replied, knowing this would surprise his uncle most of all. "Once the villa is mine, I'm retiring."

"Retiring?" Nicola echoed, his eyes bulging as he practically choked on the word. "You have the skills to be the best Mafia Don this city has ever seen! Even without my inheritance backing you up, you'll overtake my kids within a decade! None of them have your knack."

Dante smiled at his uncle's praise, but knowing it was meaningless to what was going on in his heart. "Do you remember what you told me about the first time you met Aunt Sarah?" he asked, waiting for his uncle to nod to indicate Dante had his attention. "You said, 'sometimes, you encounter someone or something which makes you question everything you ever knew, and when that happens, latch onto it and never let it go. It will take you on the adventure of a lifetime'."

"You remember all that?" Nicola asked in awe.

"I've repeated that to myself a lot over the years," Dante said, looking away from his uncle's face for the first time in the conversation as he thought through the experiences which had led him to the decision. "I had a taste of something, Uncle, and I know now this life isn't the life for me. I first found it in a boy who was so good he made me want to be just as good. I then experienced it in a friend who understood me, and made me his brother. Then I found it in the exhilaration of helping those I cared about when they were in need. And of all places, I found it in the taste of freshly brewed coffee served to me by an old friend," he hesitated as the emotions became too much, and his mouth ran dry, but he forced himself to continue. "And a minute ago I found it in the embrace of a friend I'd helped find happiness, and the eyes of a brother who for whatever reason seems to love me, despite my many faults." His voice broke as he met his uncle's eyes again, an overwhelming wave of emotion stopping him from continuing for a moment until he swallowed hard and persevered. "I'm not supposed to be a criminal, Uncle, I feel like there's something more out there for me, and I'm going to ride that feeling until it takes me where I need to go."

Dante wasn't the only one with misty eyes as Nicola replied with a nod of acceptance, "What are you going to do, then?"

Dante laughed, feeling a sudden release as he knew he'd passed the point of no return, and his uncle was going to agree. "I'm thinking of opening up a coffee shop," he said, shaking his head in helpless wonder.

"A coffee shop?" Nicola echoed in bewilderment.

"Café at the Villa di Rosa," Dante said rhythmically, wearing his impish grin proudly. "Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"

"I may never understand you, Dante, but you know who you are better than I ever will," Nicola replied, nodding as he pursed his lips thoughtfully. "If you want to do this, I won't stop you. You have your bargaining chip."

Dante sighed in relief and nearly collapsed in his chair, all of his emotion spent. "Thank you, Uncle," he breathed when he finally regained control of his speech. His uncle stood and gestured for Dante to do the same, and they embraced long and hard, with Nicola holding onto him as if he would never have the opportunity to hold him like that again.

Dante hugged back just as hard, knowing that to be the truth. He'd just left his childhood behind, and would never return to it again. They held the embrace for as long as they could, but eventually the time felt right, the emotion dissipated, and they parted, each wiping away tears from their eyes.

Looking at the old wooden clock on his uncle's wall, Dante laughed and said, "Now I have to disappear for the rest of my hour I said I'd be gone."

"Why?" Nicola asked, sensing Dante's amusement.

"You should have seen those two at lunch today, Uncle," Dante replied, shaking his head and laughing. "Trust me, they need the time."

Nobuyuki was sitting on the bed, and Viktor was pacing nervously. It had been like this for several long minutes as they both tried to figure out what to do with the time Dante had told them they'd be waiting. Viktor continued to glance at Nobuyuki out of the corner of his eye every time he passed him in his pacing, and caught Nobuyuki giving him a similar look more often than not.

"What are we going to do for an hour?" Nobuyuki asked after a while, his question breaking the tension just enough to make Viktor no longer wish to pace, and so instead he sat down next to Nobuyuki and stared into space in front of him.

"I don't know," he replied exhaling slowly. He started to glance toward Nobuyuki, but then noticed Nobuyuki's hand twitch on his thigh and had his attention diverted lower. He stared at Nobuyuki's hand until it twitched again, and Viktor felt a jolt of electricity travel through him. His pulse started to quicken as he focused on Nobuyuki's hand, dissecting every detail of Nobuyuki's slim and dexterous fingers, following them up the back of his hand to his wrist and the cuff of his sleeve. In the shadow created by the cuff he could just make out the edge of Nobuyuki's tattoo, and this only made Viktor's heart pound harder. He felt his own hand twitch as it ached to reach out and touch Nobuyuki's. "Um . . ." he said nervously, not sure where the words were coming from, "do you think Dante would mind if, uh . . ."

"Yeah?" Nobuyuki breathed, turning toward him. Viktor could feel Nobuyuki's warm breath on his cheek, and his body immediately responded. He slid his hand slowly to Nobuyuki's thigh, sliding it down until his hand brushed against Nobuyuki's tentatively. Nobuyuki responded by sliding his hand over Viktor's and entwining their fingers together gently.

Viktor started to turn toward Nobuyuki, but felt Nobuyuki lean in closer and paused as his lips brushed against his ear. "I . . ." Viktor whispered, his thoughts eroding to dust due to Nobuyuki's sweet-scented breath.

"Do I think Dante would mind?" Nobuyuki whispered, closing the gap between them just enough to brush the sensitive spot behind Viktor's ear with the tip of his nose. "Or do I think he told us to spend an hour in his room on purpose?"

"You think it was a signal?" Viktor breathed, his heart racing faster and faster with each passing moment. But he could feel Nobuyuki's pulse through their touching wrists, and knew Nobuyuki's heart was beating just as fast.

"We have those in the criminal world," Nobuyuki whispered, nuzzling Viktor's neck gently before he placed a quick peck just underneath his jaw and cooed, "A lot of them."

Viktor moaned and finished turning toward Nobuyuki, rubbing his cheek against his boyfriend's as he asked, "Do you want to teach me some?"

Nobuyuki chuckled lightly and melodically, the sound sending a shiver of pleasure through Viktor's entire body. "What do you want to learn?" He asked before nipping gently at Viktor's ear.

"Teach me everything you know," Viktor whispered.

Nobuyuki sighed contentedly. "That will take time."

"We've got an hour," Viktor said huskily and felt Nobuyuki's body respond with a shudder of pleasure.

Nobuyuki paused right next to Viktor's ear and whispered, "That should be enough time for a first lesson."

"Is there going to be a second?" Viktor asked.

"That depends on how long you want to take my course," Nobuyuki replied.

Viktor's laughter was light and sweet. He'd been waiting for this moment, and he leaned in just as close and whispered with seductive glee, "Can you teach me to ride a dragon?"

Nobuyuki pulled back, the emotion between them broken momentarily as he collapsed backward on the bed, roaring with laughter. When Viktor looked down at him, Nobuyuki propped himself up on his elbow and said, "You've been saving that, haven't you? From the bus."

"Oh, I've been saving a lot more for you," Viktor said, meeting Nobuyuki's eyes and losing himself in them completely. Their hands were still locked together, and he could feel that their pulses were now in sync. They had one heart, and one desire, and that was for each other.

Nobuyuki sensed it too, and he raised their interlocked hands between them and said, "Show me."

Viktor got up from the bed and let go of Nobuyuki's hand for a moment, slowly toeing off his shoes and kicking them to the side. Nobuyuki lightly removed his shoes as well with his toes, while their eyes remained locked together. The last thing Viktor removed was his blazer, which he tossed to the side before sliding back onto the bed.

Nobuyuki slid backward on the bed, anticipating Viktor's need for more room as he knelt on the edge of the covers, straddling Nobuyuki's legs just below his crotch. He pivoted forward, hands leading until they gripped either side of Nobuyuki's face. Their faces moved together as one, foreheads meeting as eyes locked, sharing one more moment of perfect clarity before passion demanded to take over.

But Viktor refused to let this moment be lost to mindless lust, and he kept his passion at arm's length and continued with the ultimate adoration he felt for the boy beneath him. He moved slowly, pushing his lips onto Nobuyuki's gently at first, then let his control fade away piece by piece until it hung by a trembling thread as he extended the kiss, breathing in the taste of Nobuyuki's soul.

And then he allowed himself to pull away, knowing those lips would wait for him to return, but wanting to savor the taste for as long as they could. With the essence of his lover still on his lips, Viktor fed it into every word which left them as he said, "I love you, Nobuyuki."

Nobuyuki reached up and gently stroked Viktor's face, tracing his hand along his jawline as complicated passions danced within his eyes. Above them all was a presiding devotion, which filled his voice as he replied, "I love you too, Viktor."

Passion was pounding at the door of Viktor's mind, demanding an opportunity to act, and he could no longer deny it access. The tension broke, and with it went every remaining doubt and inhibition Viktor had held onto. This was the moment he'd dreamed about, and it was time to let go of everything he'd been, and become everything he wanted to be.

With hands no longer burdened by nervousness or fear, Viktor began undoing the buttons of Nobuyuki's shirt, starting at the bottom and working his way up. As the shirt opened, the tapestry of Nobuyuki's body art was slowly revealed, and this only spurred Viktor on faster, inflaming his passion and driving him after what he wanted most.

Nobuyuki allowed Viktor complete control, watching him with patience as he reveled in the feeling of Viktor's hands against his flesh. This was Viktor's first time, and he had to go at his pace. As far as Nobuyuki was concerned, any pace with Viktor was the right one, and he eagerly responded to everything Viktor wanted, lifting his upper body as Viktor parted his shirt and began pushing it back.

Viktor paused and placed his hand on the symbol in the center of Nobuyuki's chest, tracing it with his fingers. He had a contemplative look on his face as he studied it, and Nobuyuki used the moment to slide the rest of the way out of his shirt and toss it to the side.

"What does this mean?" Viktor asked quietly, pulling his hand away.

"It's the symbol of my family," Nobuyuki replied, curious at the change which had come over Viktor. "The different parts correspond to the different parts of my family's name."

"I love it," Viktor said, smiling wide. "I want to know everything about you."

Nobuyuki reached for Viktor's hand, and then took it in his own. He brought it to his lips and kissed it gently. "We have plenty of time for that. Right now, I just want to know who you are in this moment."

Viktor slid off Nobuyuki's waist and laid down next to him, reaching out to stroke his face gently. "At this moment, I am happy, and I don't want you to hold back anymore."

"I want this to be your experience, for you to own it," Nobuyuki replied tentatively. "I want you to have control. I don't want to hurt you."

"Shush," Viktor replied, chuckling lightly. "I want this to be our experience. Lead me. Let me know why you're a dragon."

Nobuyuki didn't hesitate any longer, he pulled Viktor into a kiss both hungry and demanding. Their lips parted once before Nobuyuki pressed in again, his tongue darting between Viktor's lips to dance with his lover's tongue as his hands began their long-awaited exploration of Viktor's body.

Viktor rolled onto his back with a light but urgent push from Nobuyuki, who climbed on top of him and began to undo his buttons one by one, throwing Viktor's shirt open wide as he undid the last one and exposing his smooth flesh beneath. Nobuyuki pulled back then, sliding into a kneeling position momentarily as he pulled Viktor up with him, and keeping their lips locked together as he slid his hands along Viktor's shoulders and started to push his shirt away, revealing the white skin hidden behind the white cloth. Viktor let his shirt fall away from his arms behind him, and Nobuyuki spared one hand to pull it out of the way and toss it off the bed.

He then pushed Viktor back down to the bedspread and climbed on top of him, straddling his waist as he bent down over him and naked torso met naked torso. They'd both begun to sweat from the exertion of the moment, and the moisture only helped them slide against each other at first as Nobuyuki ground his crotch against Viktor's, their erections dueling each other through the layers of cloth which separated them.

The sensation drove Viktor wild, and though he was in perfect bliss with Nobuyuki on top of him, he knew what he wanted, and he gripped Nobuyuki around the waist and rolled with him, landing on top of him and uttering a primal growl of lust. Nobuyuki gave control back to Viktor as he moved down Nobuyuki's chest, hungrily lapping at the sweat which trailed between his muscled torso, drinking in his essence and his masculine scent with every inch until he reached Nobuyuki's belt.

Viktor rose up on his knees for balance as his hands gripped Nobuyuki's belt and began to undo the buckle. Eagerness got in the way for just a moment, and Viktor growled in frustration which immediately became determination as he tore the buckle open and undid the clasp on the pants beneath it. Gently but quickly he undid Nobuyuki's zipper next, sliding it down with eager anticipation.

Nobuyuki's pants had already been straining to open, and his tented red briefs pushed through the gap of the zipper and opened it wide. Viktor paused, taking in the sight of Nobuyuki's erection through the cloth, hungrily tracing the contours with his eyes. His whole body quivered with desire as he reached up and took hold on the waistband of Nobuyuki's pants and pulled them down, stepping back off the edge of the bed so he could remove them entirely. As each inch of skin was revealed Viktor's desire grew, and his need to taste every part of Nobuyuki was overwhelming as he pulled the pants from around his ankles and tossed them to the side.

Viktor had never noticed the scars before, but now he could see them in perfect detail. Hidden in the ink which decorated Nobuyuki's body were thin lines of old wounds, a cut here and a scrape there, which at the hands of a master artist had become integrated into the intricate mural on Nobuyuki's skin. Viktor wanted to know them all.

He started at Nobuyuki's right foot, tracing the beginning of a scar which just barely escaped the edge of the ink, and traced it with his finger, allowing it to lead him into the tapestry of vibrant color. The scar ended and Viktor found another on Nobuyuki's right leg, just below his knee. This he touched with his fingers first, but felt Nobuyuki gasp as he traced the thin line. Feeling as if he'd just touched something sacred, Viktor kissed the scar in apology and then moved upward, finding the next scar on Nobuyuki's left thigh, crossing the body of the gold-scaled dragon which disappeared beneath the leg of Nobuyuki's briefs.

Viktor looked up at Nobuyuki as if asking permission, and Nobuyuki granted it with a subtle nod. Not needing a second invitation, Viktor followed the line upward with his fingertips until it reached the hem of the red cloth. He paused there only for a second before following it in, surprised by how long the scar was.

Nobuyuki's cock twitched as Viktor's fingertips reached the soft pubes which guarded the grand prize. Viktor looked down to see that Nobuyuki's briefs were already wet at the tip, and he slid forward to capture the scent of his musk, drinking it in and then shuddering as the scent alone almost sent his own throbbing cock over the edge.

Viktor could wait no longer, and with eager hands he reached up and began to slide Nobuyuki's briefs down. He held his breath as the heads of the twin dragons came into view, staring back at him as he continued to reveal the last bit of Nobuyuki's flesh. Once the dragons had appeared to be guarding Nobuyuki's cock, but now they seemed inviting, calling Viktor toward them and telling him he had earned what he'd come for.

As the briefs began to reveal Nobuyuki's dark pubes, it caught on his erection and began to pull it down, and Viktor reached up to pull the waistband out and around it. Even though he'd seen Nobuyuki naked once before, nothing prepared him for the sight of the beautiful piece of flesh which bounced back from the tension of the waistband and stood at attention before him. Viktor stared at it for a moment, hungrily studying every line and vein on its surface. He moved toward it reverently, breathing Nobuyuki's scent in as he reached out tentatively with his tongue toward the tip.

His tongue hit the tip and the sweet and salty taste of Nobuyuki's precum tantalized his mouth like nothing ever had. He had to have more. With renewed passion he ripped Nobuyuki's briefs down his legs and pulled them from his ankles, freeing him to spread Nobuyuki's legs wide and allowing him to slip fully between them, kneeling on the floor as his mouth descended on Nobuyuki's cock.

He'd never done anything like this before, and he allowed instinct to take over as he took Nobuyuki as deeply as he could before he began to gag. He pulled up and off with a succulent plop and then stared at it again, deciding how to approach it. He led with his tongue, licking from base to tip, slowly gliding up Nobuyuki's shaft until he was poised at the top again. He took Nobuyuki in slowly, first an inch as he let his tongue adjust to the curve of the head, then slowly slid down, learning how far he could go before he could go no further, and then pulled back again and repeated the process. After a few attempts he had learned his limits and his pace quickened, becoming faster and faster as he bobbed up and down on Nobuyuki's shaft.

Nobuyuki began to moan as he reached down to entwine his fingers in Viktor's hair. Viktor was good, better than Nobuyuki would have expected for a first time blowjob, but he couldn't let it end this way. He hadn't tasted Viktor yet, and he desperately needed it. The next time Viktor lifted off for breath, Nobuyuki stopped him from going down again and lifted his chin gently.

"Stand," he ordered, and when Viktor complied, Nobuyuki was filled with lust. He slid to the edge of the bed as Viktor stood in front of him, and with practiced hands he undid Viktor's belt and pants and pushed them down. He allowed Viktor a moment to step out of his pants and kick them aside before he reached forward and touched Viktor's erection through his tented blue boxers. One of the three buttons along the front had already come undone from the pressure, and Nobuyuki could see the shadowed flesh inside through the crack. He restrained himself for a moment though, reaching out to tenderly trace the outline of Viktor's cock from the other side with his fingers.

Viktor gasped as Nobuyuki leaned forward and touched the tip of his cock with his tongue, tracing it through the fabric with deft precision. As Nobuyuki put his lips around the tip and flicked Viktor's cock with his tongue, Viktor's knees began to buckle and he placed his hand on Nobuyuki's shoulder to steady himself. The touch of Viktor's fingers urged Nobuyuki onward as he stuck his head to the side and began undoing the buttons of Viktor's boxers with his teeth and tongue. He held Viktor steady with his hands on Viktor's waist until the last button came undone, and then flicked the cloth away from Viktor's cock with his tongue, allowing it to spring through the opening.

He then descended on Viktor's cock, sucking him in deep and quickly, taking him all the way until his nose was buried in Viktor's blonde pubes. He pulled back again, breathing through his nose and then sucked him all the way in again. He easily built up a rhythm, tongue working its own magic as he deep throated Viktor again and again. Viktor moaned and kept one hand on Nobuyuki's shoulder for balance and moved the other to the back of his head, giving him leverage to match Nobuyuki's rhythm with his hips.

"Nobu . . . I'm . . ." Viktor grunted, knowing he wasn't going to last much longer. Nobuyuki pulled off of him and stood, kissing Viktor quickly before throwing him onto the bed. He then climbed up after him and spun around, taking Viktor's cock back into his mouth upside down as his own dangled in front of a surprised Viktor's face.

Viktor quickly got the message as Nobuyuki began bobbing up and down on his cock again, and though the sensation of pure physical bliss distracted him, the tip of Nobuyuki's cock was dangling just in front of his lips. He arched upward and took Nobuyuki's cock in his mouth, instinctively matching Nobuyuki's rhythm and losing himself in the moment. He and Nobuyuki were completely connected, flesh devouring flesh while being devoured. It was too beautiful to be believed and too wonderful to be sustained.

With his mouth full of Nobuyuki's cock, he couldn't give any warning as his balls tightened and released their load into Nobuyuki's mouth, but Nobuyuki only drank hungrily, savoring every drop until Viktor's sensitive cock deflated and slid out of his mouth. Viktor paused only for a moment, overcome by the most powerful orgasm he'd ever had until he realized Nobuyuki's cock was still pointed at his face. He was about to reach up to take it in his mouth again when Nobuyuki shifted, rolling away and then returning, straddling Viktor's chest with his knees with his cock perfectly aligned with Viktor's mouth.

Viktor didn't need to be invited twice, and he hungrily darted forward to take Nobuyuki in his mouth again, using the technique Nobuyuki had used on him seconds ago. Nobuyuki moaned with pleasure, and it only served to fuel Viktor's need to taste the serpent writing in his mouth. The dragon squirmed and writhed as Viktor devoured it, demanding its treasure with every ounce of passion he possessed.

Nobuyuki grunted. "Viktor, I'm about to cum . . ." he said and then started to pull away. Viktor reached up and gripped Nobuyuki's ass hard, holding him in place and shoving him forward. He felt the first shot of Nobuyuki's cum slam against the back of his throat and pulled back, letting the sweet saltiness of the dragon's fire fill his mouth.

It was the most heavenly taste Viktor had ever experienced, ambrosia to his lust-filled devotion for the boy whose body he worshipped. He savored the taste until he had to take a breath and then swallowed it all, sighing contentedly as Nobuyuki's seed slid down his throat. He closed his eyes and settled back, feeling a content exhaustion begin to settle over him. He took several deep breaths as he came down from his high, reveling in the thought that Nobuyuki's essence was now inside him; that Nobuyuki was now part of him.

He opened his eyes to see Nobuyuki was still kneeling over him, eyes closed reverently as he, too, processed the exchange they'd just made. His softened and sensitive penis hung between his legs, guarded once again by the dragons watching over it. Viktor smiled as he thought of how Nobuyuki's serpent was resting now, content and relaxing. He leaned his head forward and very tenderly kissed the head, and was rewarded with a final drop of Nobuyuki's essence to be devoured. He held the taste on his tongue, not wanting to swallow.

Nobuyuki opened his eyes and looked down at Viktor, smiling softly. His eyes were filled with absolute love and adoration, and set Viktor's soul alight with a supernatural warmth. The bed shifted as Nobuyuki swung his leg over Viktor so he was on one side of him rather than above, and then stretched out his body as he lowered himself to the bed, lying next to Viktor as their eyes remained locked on each other's.

They held the moment for what seemed like an eternity to Viktor until he was awakened by the sound of a knock on the door. He looked at Nobuyuki's whose eyes also flashed open and realized they'd somehow managed to fall asleep. They both started gathering their clothes as the knock sounded again.

"Are you two done?" Dante called through the closed door. Viktor reached for his underwear and found Nobuyuki's red briefs first. He was about to hand them to Nobuyuki when he found his blue boxers sliding up Nobuyuki's thighs. Nobuyuki shrugged and winked and Viktor grinned before stepping into Nobuyuki's briefs.

"Are you at least in underwear?" Dante asked.

Viktor giggled as the briefs settled around his crotch, feeling completely wicked at the idea of wearing Nobuyuki's briefs. Nobuyuki was already adjusted to the idea and answered Dante. "Yes! You can come in now!"

Dante opened the door and did a double take as he saw Nobuyuki and Viktor standing in their underwear. Viktor's eyes widened a bit as Dante looked between them, biting his lips uncertainly. Although he wasn't sure he believed it, there was a noticeable bulge in Dante's pants. Nobuyuki seemed to notice it as well and he shared a look with Viktor which carried an unspoken agreement that neither of them would mention it.

"Good. I'll tell the maid to change the sheets tonight before I go to bed," Dante said as he closed the door behind him. Viktor couldn't help but blush at the comment, though it was more from the way Dante's bulge seemed to grow just a little. "Oh come on, Viktor. Don't be embarrassed. I wanted to give you two time alone," Dante continued. If he was aware of his own problem, he had chosen to pretend it wasn't there. "I know you can't visit Nobuyuki's home, and as long as your dad's home you can't visit yours so . . ." he shrugged and grinned. "I wanted to give you two a gift."

"Thank you, Dante," Nobuyuki replied, bowing his head. "I don't know how to repay you." Viktor noticed that Nobuyuki was no longer in any hurry to get dressed, and so he stopped as well, taking a seat next to his boyfriend on the edge of the bed and wrapping his arm around Nobuyuki's waist.

"Well, I can tell you that it doesn't have to be with Lady Katsumi," Dante replied, stepping further into the room so he could lean against the edge of his desk. "I'm over her."

"Really?" Nobuyuki asked, wrapping his arm around Viktor's shoulders before turning toward him and kissing him gently. He then turned back to Dante to see the same look on his face as the one he'd worn when he'd entered the room.

"I think I'm headed in another direction," Dante said slowly. "She's beautiful, but not the kind of beauty I'd want to spend my life with. I'd always be scared of the dagger hiding in her teeth."

"I see," Nobuyuki said, nodding slowly.

Dante smiled and replied, "But I appreciate the thought, really."

The mixed signals from Dante were starting to get to Viktor, and he decided to be blunt about it and ask the question he and Nobuyuki had wondered about earlier. "Dante, do you feel like we've been taking advantage of you?"

"No. Not at all!" Dante protested, completely caught off guard by the idea. "Why would I think that?"

"You've done so much for us, and we've done so little for you," Viktor replied, shrugging.

"Don't sell yourselves short," Dante said seriously. "Believe it or not, you've already done more for me than I could ever repay."

Nobuyuki and Viktor shared a look but it was Viktor who asked, "How?"

Dante chuckled helplessly and shook his head. "I'll tell you someday, but I'm not sure I can put it into words yet. The one thing I can tell you is I feel I've been waiting my whole life to meet the two of you, and now that I have, everything makes sense."

Viktor nodded. Then nodded again more firmly. He stood and crossed the room before leaning into Dante and kissing him on the cheek. "Thank you," he said, resting his hand on Dante's shoulder. "For everything."

Dante was completely flabbergasted. "Um, er . . ." he blushed and shook his head. "I forgot what I was going to say."

Nobuyuki stood and approached Dante from the other side, and leaned in from the opposite angle, kissing Dante's other cheek. When he pulled back to look Dante in the eye he said, "I second what Viktor said."

Dante laughed nervously, then reached up and touched his cheeks, a dazed look in his eye for a moment. "Thanks," He said, looking from Viktor to Nobuyuki. "So, I remember now . . ." he continued, clearing his throat as he settled his gaze on Nobuyuki. "I have your bargaining chip. I've already told Vladimir we have something to exchange for the information, and his Russian buddies are ecstatic. You're going to get your proof."

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