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when the wings of butterflies freeze

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Winter had commenced. Instead of sparing the final autumnal days of cold fronts and sharp frost, she arrived early in the form of blistering wind, deadly patches of black ice and, her favorite method of torture, the common cold that attacked every nervous system in range, no matter wealth or poverty. Nature had turned miserable as fellow sufferers became desperate to fight off illness, hypothermia and every other depressing woe that came with the season. Such weather, however, would not defer most from their nightly routines.

A young male hooker went about his business as usual on this empty Friday night. He avoided alleys and slid past travelers on the sidewalks, evading gazes until he reached his destination; a few of his online customers had mentioned this particular club once or twice, and since no city was out of his jurisdiction, the boy sauntered off through the cold, finding the location with ease. The building was already hopping with reckless students and enabling Millennials, a good sign for the male, as that usually meant less overweight creeps and pimps hanging around. Only one guard stood at the entrance, too busy filtering new dancers inside to notice another young man entering an alley next to the club.

As winter had only an hour before, his work had also commenced. He stood in the alley waiting for potential customers, quietly humming nicer songs inside his head as hardline grinding music blasted through the club’s walls. Tonight, work for him was in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

 

Saint Petersburg, nightlife city of wonders, a touchable dream for even the lowest classes, population over five-million, the “over” portion counting towards part of the newest generation who, much like assistant set designer Lukasha Kaveri, spent their weekends at the busiest, flashiest dancing clubs they could locate in hopes of stumbling upon a lover to waste some lonely winter moments with, or, at the very least, share body heat with. A small portion found success. Others gave up and spared themselves of the blinding blacklight and unavoidable techno music that harassed every being for three blocks, which was indeed the path Lukasha found himself falling towards following two-hours of continued romantic failure.

Club Kseniya, a dimly light association famous for its colorful drinks and neon signs for every direction and title was a popular location for dancers, the unemployed and sex workers alike—glittering messes of alcohol, revealing fashion, black leather and smeared makeup created the chaotic, hazy mess that was Club K. Conversing on the dirty dancefloor didn’t create much of anything aside from innuendos, irritation and tears, yet this was the location Luka chose for his romantic pursuit.

Ever so frustrated Lukasha Kaveri couldn’t seem to find himself a lover suitable for his simple needs—even after buying three different cute club boys drinks, even after dancing with another fairly tolerable male on the dancefloor, he concluded that he wasn’t as much of a catch as someone (his grandmother) once told him, threw back one final shot and exited Club Kseniya less merrily than when he entered.

“Am I really that fucking needy?” Luka mumbled to himself, passing a couple making-out by the club’s entrance. Taunting bass followed his abused eardrums even as he stomped down the sidewalk. “All I wanted was a cute boy to dance with and probably sleep with at his apartment—is that too much for a horny guy to ask for?”

Visible breath escaped Lukasha’s suddenly cold lips as he released an exasperated sigh, hating how his desperate body still managed to maintain its slight arousal mood even when its owner had been shot down by several different individuals. Luka wanted to blame their refusal on winter beginning to fall from the bleak sky above, but wasn’t cold supposed to bring people together? Every poem Lukasha had ever read stated this truth…so why was it that he failed in his search for a gentle lover? Was winter no longer a fitting atmosphere for romantic grounds?

“Whatever.”

Luka leaned back against the club’s cold brick wall; the alley was a perfect place for smoking, and although Lukasha was probably ten of one-hundred and forty-six million in Russia who didn’t smoke, he thought he wouldn’t mind having a cigarette or two right now. Friday night had never felt this hopeless before. Usually Lukasha’s disenchanted spirit could hold on until weeknights when work was hectic and life was lonelier than ever, but the newest season seemed determined to start things off with a wretched bang.

What’s new?

A soft rustling noise broke through Luka’s pounding ears, alerting his senses to a presence in the alleyway: glancing over, he spotted another young man standing alone, hands stuffed in the pockets of his tattered skinny jeans, torn crossbody bag hanging on his shoulder and a dark hood covering much of his face. While at first Lukasha was concerned that the stranger might be a robber or an undercover policeman sent to wrangle up all the homosexuals from Club Kseniya for “evaluation,” after taking a longer peek he concluded that this was someone who, if necessary, Luka could easily take down or escape from.

The boy was so thin. By thin, Lukasha meant skinner than every other starving Russian across the country—this seemed to be someone who could not manage to purchase a meal every four days, much less, every two days like most struggling families around the area. Still, Lukasha had to be thankful for the Denim Revolution, because this young man looked very good in jeans.

I’m not a snob or anything, Luka thought quietly, averting his eyes when he believed the boy had caught him staring. At this point in the night I’m out 2,000 and would probably sleep with anyone as long as they didn’t have a disease or something…

Luka’s heart skipped a few beats when the stranger slowly began drifting towards the alleyway’s exit, sneakers crunching on freshly fallen snow that covered much of Saint Petersburg in a light manner. His hair looked dark under the hood, hiding its true shade and messily shielding his forehead from Russia’s freezing winter air. He seemed to only be wearing a simple hoodie—where was his jacket, Lukasha wondered? It wasn’t uncommon to see teenagers or young children without one, living in the poor condition most commoners did, but…well; Luka was just sensitive to these sights. He worried for the boy’s health.

The young man was closer than ever, hovering on the other side of the alleyway as unsuspecting citizens and party-goers passed by without so much as glancing in their direction. Realizing he was being checked-out as well, Lukasha stood a bit straighter. The painfully frail boy stopped at an angle, left hand sliding out of his pocket to reveal something written on his skin with invisible ink, neon blue hue glowing through the shadows brighter than ever, just like those blinding signs inside Club K as Lukasha decoded the word:

шлюха. Whore.

 

Oh.

Lukasha Kaveri swallowed nervously, an otherworldly chill rushing over his body when he realized the depth of their current situation. Luka had never hired a hooker before…he heard horror stories from school friends who attempted selling themselves for extra income, and it didn’t sound like something Lukasha could perform unless he lost his job and had his hand forced like many other thousands of citizens. Hiring someone to settle his sexual appetite never presented itself as a possibility—but, if he had unintentionally sent signs of interest towards this young male (who couldn’t have been older than twenty), Luka worried that he might have offended or wasted their time by lingering amongst their hunting grounds.

Not earning an immediate reaction, the boy inched closer. He was just within reach, now, alleyway narrowing closer to the entrance and practically forcing Lukasha’s eyes upwards, flickering to the left where motion caught his special attention. For a moment, he almost couldn’t tell if the hooker was staring back at him because their eye color matched the dull darkness surrounding them and all of Saint Petersburg. There they were, a pair of lidded, seductive black eyes staring a hole through Lukasha’s head.

Here, Luka hurried to contemplate the situation: he was still horny following a very unsuccessful night of flirting and dancing. He wasted money buying drinks for guys who showed no interest in him, their reasons unknown. He was still decorated to impress, wearing his best dress shirt, a grey jacket, ironed black pants and the fanciest shoes he had, a pair of maroon knock-off brand Oxfords. He also slicked his bangs aside stylishly like nights at the ballet.

Do I look as desperate as I feel? Lukasha wondered, biting his lip as the boy remained silent across from him. Shockingly, I don’t know anything about prostitution. How does it work? …Honestly, he looks expensive. Anyone, even prostitutka’s[1] with eyes like those has to be expensive.

But…

Luka made up his mind. After taking a deep breath and loosening his shoulders, the artist decided if this young man had to earn money tonight, Luka would rather be a customer than witness him leave with a distempered drunk stumbling out of Club K. The other boy didn’t look away as the latter timidly approached, keeping his hands at his sides to show he meant no harm. This kid was probably just as scared of Luka beating him in the gloom of the alleyway and stealing whatever little possessions he had as Luka was at the idea of getting robbed during the middle of a blowjob.

“Privet,”[2] Lukasha nodded nervously.

“Privet,” The boy greeted. His voice was hushed, alluring in a way. “I’m Nina.”

Nina. Ni-na. That sultry title rolled off Lukasha’s lips pleasantly as he quietly mouthed the name before introducing himself.

“Lukasha Kaveri. Nice to meet you.”

“You as well,” Nina nodded. “Looking for some fun tonight?”

Luka fell back into contemplation. He knew prostitution was illegal in Russia, although it flourished without much of a consequence. He didn’t want to break the law and be another asshole this kid serviced for a few extra rubles, but there was still the problem of slight tightness in his pants, the optimistic, dreamy mood his heart longed for before venturing out in the cold to find a lover. Another night could not be spent with a contempt, increasingly bitter heart—Luka wouldn’t become his father. This boy didn’t seem so bad…he didn’t have any unkept facial hair (could he even grow facial hair at his age?), was young and narrow, had a pretty cute butt hidden beneath those unintentionally baggy jeans and long hoodie…Luka had only experienced sex on three occasions, but he liked to think this boy was his type.

The male hooker named Nina patiently awaited a reply.

“Mm…maybe,” Lukasha hummed, glancing at his sneakers awkwardly. The kid was just too seductive looking. How had he become a whore and not an underwear model? “How, um…how much would a night be?”

“About 12,700₽ an hour.”[3]

Just as I thought: expensive, Luka thought, heart dropping. Really expensive. Rightfully so, probably. Guess I’m just another Russian schmuck who can’t afford anything decent—not even a good lay.

“Ah. I see,” Lukasha nodded politely. He turned and gave a slight bow in Nina’s direction. “Have a good night, then.”

“How much do you have?”

Luka paused his step, daring to glance up into Nina’s eyes. Did he speak honestly and risk being gutted in the alleyway, or did he lie and lose an opportunity to get laid? It wasn’t getting any warmer outside, and the designer’s dominant hand was tired from work…

“Only about 9,500₽,” Lukasha said lowly so no passersby would overhear. Nina considered this price for only a moment before nodding and closing the distance between them, standing right in his potential customer’s personal space. An alarming rush of heat danced between them like matching magnetic ends.

“Okay. How about 5,200₽[4] and a place to stay for the night?”

Lukasha blinked in shock. He wasn’t used to winning. Or having enough money for something he wanted.

“Wha—seriously?” Luka stuttered, trying to make sure he heard right.

“It’ll do.”

“Eh? Are you sure? …Isn’t that kind of a rip-off for you?”

Nina’s expression changed, then, taking on a slightly ominous look as he locked eyes with Lukasha, black staring into green.

“I guess we’re both pretty desperate.”

Being this close to Nina, Luka could really see how pretty he was. He looked like a fucking poem or something…dark eyes, thin eyebrows, hollow cheeks, a skinny neck with sharp collarbones peeking out from under an old t-shirt, cute flushes of a rosy tint from the cold Russian weather staining his cheeks, topped off with luscious, kissable doll lips tinted a dark red color from past cuts and other activities Lukasha would rather not think about. He was haggard and sickly looking, like every other living creature within a million mile radius, but Luka thought he pulled poverty and suffering off better than most.

Yeah. Definitely my type.

Lukasha swallowed again as a surge of arousal rushed over his senses upon seeing Nina looking at him so intently. While Luka had lovers before, he was usually the one doing the admiring, but due to his previous mental state of wanting an emotional connection with someone, helped along by a few alcoholic shots, Luka created an illusion that Nina was admiring him as well. It felt nice for a change.

“Can…Can we go to my place?” Luka whispered, hardly feeling the prickling sleet falling onto their bare faces from above. “Is that allowed?”

Nina almost let a smile slip out at Lukasha’s innocence and nodded shortly. This one seemed safe.

“Half now, half after—if you don’t mind.”

“Yeah, yeah, of course!” Lukasha agreed, suddenly shaking fingers fumbling out half his remaining money, which Nina accepted sneakily in case some greedy vulture was watching them. “Here you go.”

“You don’t have some gangbang party waiting to ambush me at your apartment or anything, right?”

No no no no no,” The taller boy insisted severely. “I promise I’m not that kind of sick bastard. I swear.”

“I figured,” Nina relaxed as they began walking out of the alley together, the club and its obnoxious occupants all but forgotten. “Just making sure. I don’t do tie-ups, asphyxiation, threesomes or water sports. If I tell you to stop, stop. Okay?”

Luka could only nod dumbly, trying not to wonder about the list of things Nina would do with customers. Also, did these other lowlifes obey his rules?

“Thank you. Lead the way, Lukasha.”

The way Nina slurred his name was basically a mini-orgasm to Luka; he couldn’t help but grin like a moron as they carefully snuck through Saint Petersburg streets, excitement growing the closer they got to Lukasha’s apartment. He was hardly worried about what Nina would think of his place or what the neighbors would do if they caught him bringing a boy back this late. Luka had been ready for anything since he arrived at Club Kseniya, and now, as the pair hurried through the snow towards a small apartment complex ten-blocks away, Lukasha would finally be able to express his emotions.

 

Winter’s strike may as well not have existed after Luka pulled Nina inside his building, holding the hooker’s hand tightly while glancing back at him every few stairs, making sure the boy he snagged (hired) wouldn’t run away. Nina was content to be tugged forward, as Lukasha’s strength made things easier on his creaking knees. The anticipation built higher with each passing staircase, Luka finally turning them into a hallway after at least five flights; it was a short hall with only three possible exits, the door straight ahead leading to another hallway, left door leading to another apartment along with the right door, which was where Lukasha led them.

Instead of taking his key out, however, Luka’s attention reached for a different object. Nina’s skin tingled when a hand slid their way across his hip and up his side, where Lukasha seemed to realize how handsy he was being and gave a poor excuse.

“…You’re really cute.”

Nina spared him a tiny chuckle, alert mode triggered when they stepped inside—thankfully, it wasn’t very big, per Saint Petersburg’s thick population density, making things easier for Nina as he quickly scanned over a dimly lit layout while Lukasha shed his layers, hanging Nina’s bag on a nearby coat hook. A small, ugly velvet love seat took up a good space amount, paper covered coffee table in front of it, sitting maybe only seven-feet away from a plain bed pushed up against the wall furthest away. An ancient furnace that didn’t seem to be running was there as well, along with a bedside table and lamp keeping the mattress away from its cold interior. A dated kitchen stood to their right, and Nina was glad to see the bathroom lacking a door or even a curtain, revealing its simple contents: a small tub, silver toilet and sink. In other words, there was no ideal location for Lukasha’s friends to hide and trap Nina.

He must be kinda well off, the hooker thought, turning his attention back to his customer, who now stood in front of him with a nervous expression, looking cute under the low light. He seems like a dork. This was a good deal to make.

“Can I kiss you, Nina?” Lukasha requested quietly. Nina silently wished all his customers were tall, attractive young men from Generation Z.

“You may.”

Luka didn’t waste anymore time hesitating. His hands rushed to cup the back of Nina’s neck (his easily breakable neck, if Luka was observing honestly), pulling him in for a smoldering, passionate kiss that was heated from the start. It had been so long since Lukasha kissed anyone, but he hoped Nina couldn’t tell, letting their euphoric first touch push him to slide his tongue over Nina’s bottom lip. Luka only had strawberries once in his entire life and compared that sweet, succulent memory to the current taste of Nina’s lips.

With little to no furniture it was easy maneuvering their way around, Lukasha nudging their stance closer and closer towards his bed while breaking away from the hooker’s lips, trailing his own across the expanse of Nina’s throat, getting a feel for its soft skin before giving experimental sucks. Not many of Nina’s customers paid him for kissing, and while he wasn’t unexperienced, he didn’t particularly think he had any special talent for it. Luka must not have minded.

“What would you like me to do, sir?” Nina breathed. Speaking became difficult when Luka began shedding a majority of his clothing while still latched onto the boy’s neck.

Lukasha didn’t really have an answer for him.

“You smell nice,” He mumbled instead, growing more and more intoxicated; suddenly, Nina could feel that he was slowly and gently being lowered onto the mattress as Lukasha’s hands found their way to the hooker’s clothing. Nina didn’t understand this method of intimacy Lukasha Kaveri was using but let him have his way and sat back patiently, layers being tugged off one by one, starting with his hoodie. The apartment had been cold before, and Nina didn’t know how Luka wasn’t shivering, only in his sexy black briefs at this point—when he himself was left in his less-sexy navy blue briefs, the prostitutka returned to reality and noticed Lukasha’s green eyes staring down at him.

Luka still didn’t say anything, couldn’t say anything, too caught up in admiring Nina’s body to focus on words. Just as he thought, the hooker was much too thin, frame a few inches away from belonging to that of a child’s, hipbones so pointed Lukasha could have glanced downwards and seen inside Nina’s briefs for a show if he wanted. The teenager’s skin had a few raw spots, many pink scars littering insides of his thighs, but was otherwise clean and pale; his breaths were shallow, relatively calm, even as Lukasha’s large hands smoothed over skinny ribs, a skeleton-like chest and back down to narrow hips.

The silence and longing gazes finally forced Nina into speech once more.

“Want me to suck you off?” He purred, sitting up on his elbows while Lukasha continued staring.

“Uhh—we…no. It’s fine. Need I remind you that you’re not getting paid that much?” Luka laughed dryly. Truthfully, he didn’t think he had enough stamina to last through a blowjob and sex, especially not with how hard he already was… “Thanks, though.”

Could I be more awkward? Don’t be so weird! Be natural, like a poet. Be cool.

Not for the first time, Nina didn’t obey his customer and went up to his knees, daringly letting his eyes wander over Luka’s body—as far as male models were concerned, Lukasha probably wasn’t toned, but for a lonely lower-class Russian boy who just happened to hire Nina for the night? Yeah. Lukasha Kaveri was toned. And his voice sounded sexy when it lowered an octave, for example, when Nina started preparing him for the first time, lips wet and swollen as he worked.

Shhhhhit…”

Dreadful pleasure ached through Lukasha’s groin while inhumanly heated lips clasped around his member, sly hands pulling useless briefs down, providing more room for their owner’s performance. At an embarrassingly quick rate, Luka’s tender slit began leaking clear droplets into Nina’s awaiting mouth, practiced tongue worsening its situation by giving rhythmic kitten licks between tight sucks. With every passing moment Nina let himself drift further and further away from reality, entering a more troubling than blissful state of mind, using well-versed movements like a siren used her enticing song.

As much as Luka was enjoying himself, he really just wanted Nina’s face to be close again. He wanted them to be closer all together, and so tugged the hooker up after a few minutes of filthy slurping, gently positioning Nina onto his lap. Lukasha needed a moment for recollection, already feeling overstimulated before they’d barely begun. He held Nina against him snugly, foreheads laying together before Luka moved, having missed the taste and sensation of his lips against the boy’s skin. Nina’s own heart started pounding harder, fluttering when Lukasha’s lips kissed a particularly sensitive spot on his chest.

Startling the serene atmosphere, Nina nearly flinched out of Luka’s grip when he felt long fingers wrap around his own limp shaft.

“I wouldn’t be able to…perform well if I didn’t think you were into it,” Lukasha explained against his ear. That hoarse, serious tone was enough to convince Nina, who nodded and rested his head against the taller boy’s shoulder, still waiting for a command. Customers weren’t in it for his arousal. Nina knew this well and confirmed a silent theory that Lukasha must have been stuck in the mood of looking for a lover, not a hooker. His mind was locked on that particular ideal, the romantic grazes, inexpressible desires and unfiltered reactions…

If Lukasha wanted a lover, he would get one. Maybe if the world broke his unlucky streak of nineteen-years, Nina could get this nice guy as a regular. Unlikely, but hookers could dream too, right?

The odd sensation called sexual awakening battered Nina’s nerves, taking him by surprise—he didn’t know how to handle being turned on. It had only happened a handful of times over the years, mostly on accident, not enough deliberate occasions where Nina knew how his body and mind would react towards such intimate gestures. The boy couldn’t even distinctly remember either of the two times he reached orgasm, catching-up to the current breathless circumstances when Lukasha’s hand tightened around him, squeezing and working until he was satisfied with Nina’s level of physical interest. Nina didn’t realize he had been clutching onto Luka’s shoulders and biting his tongue until the other shifted, rustling around with something at the side table.

“I already prepared myself,” Nina forced out when he felt oiled fingers reach under his thighs. “You can start.”

Luka figured that, but he wasn’t about to just shove himself in and start barreling away because Luka Jr. was ready; instead, he carefully slid two fingertips inside Nina’s entrance, stretching him a bit more than necessary. Luka had been on the receiving end once before, and since he didn’t quite enjoy feeling like his insides would tear at any given thrust, he figured this boy wouldn’t either and took his time prepping, fingers working solidly against tense muscles for a few minutes before gently tugging out.

Nina underestimated what acting as a lover for Lukasha meant—every reaction, every move demanded raw emotion, and any kind of emotion wasn’t something Nina usually brought to work. It didn’t take much for other customers: a (semi) willing hole or mouth usually did the trick. Nina couldn’t determine how well he was doing, nor what Lukasha’s thoughts were because they still weren’t really communicating verbally. Luka wasn’t barking orders or adjusting their bodies as he pleased.

His fingers, moving slowly like fresh satin falling off the weave and across a wielder’s hand, treated Nina, both emotionally and physically, like a lover made of China’s finest glass, never forcing, never demanding or wanting anything but to be close. So close it almost felt like their melting skin was being welding together at every touch. Too much. Nina thought it too heavy for him, a little too sensitive and pleasant, but how could he really judge Lukasha for his intimacy methods when this was what lovers dreamed about?

Lukasha’s bright eyes latched onto Nina again, but the latter avoided his gaze and hid in the boy’s shoulder; Luka released his grip on Nina’s waist, fumbling with the little bottle again, and following a short pause, Nina felt himself be lined-up. Luka eased the tip in, agonizingly tender and patient as an explosive shot of ecstasy coursed through his groin. The prostitutka sucked in a deep breath, anticipation making him increasingly nervous, still expecting violent jerks and unbearable ripping at any second—Nina’s entrance offered no resistance, but somehow maintained a tight sphere that fully encased Luka, keeping its grip even when he met the end.

I forgot how good it feels to be inside someone, Lukasha thought hazily, arms rigidly wrapped around the other’s trembling torso. Damnit…this is too much already…

Lukasha Kaveri held on for his sanity, desperately controlling his quivering hips so Nina’s body could adjust. The air had changed from cold to hot at a rapid pace, heat bursting at the surface on each patch of skin it could get its hands on; Nina (bafflingly) felt similar, and what with the stimulation Lukasha had started on him earlier, it was unavoidable that he clasped onto his customer’s shoulders just as tightly. Groans of relief and satisfaction fell from Luka’s agape mouth, heart racing and muscles twitching at each move, jolting and shaking from a pleasure they were both unfamiliar with.

During their adjusting moment, trying as he did, a soft noise full of mystified interest still escaped Nina’s fixed lips, triggering Lukasha’s attention back to the earlier question he had not yet answered. Forcing his eyes open, Luka daringly moved so he could whisper in Nina’s ear.

 

Be honest.”

 

Nina didn’t fully wrap his duty around that request, but as they finally began moving together he found himself totally unprepared and overwhelmed by everything Lukasha did. His senses could focus on nothing but sounds and feelings, the subtle mattress creak a white noise compared to those delicious, scratchy gasps sputtering from Luka’s lips. Nina lacked skillful honesty, as prostitution was his incredibly illegal occupation and demanded mental steel if he wanted any piece of his sanity remaining, along with his very life—despite this truth, however…feeling Lukasha’s passion and sincerity in each thrust, caress and moan was starting to rub off on Nina.

Ah,” The hooker cried softly at a particularly deep plunge, rough nails digging into Luka’s shoulder muscles. A second later Nina found himself being lowered down (still clutching Lukasha’s upper torso) until he was laying on his customer’s left arm, the right detaching its hold to keep Luka’s tensed body up. At this new angle they discovered different fueling sensations, Nina somehow feeling even more exposed in this position than the other; Lukasha’s lips had found his again, pressing sloppily and mouthing at the burning heat of Nina’s own while continuously moving his hips, pace not abusively fast, but not slow enough for Nina to be able to think clearly nor study his own responses as he was scrupulously luxuriated.

“Nina,” Luka groaned loudly, muscles aching pleasantly from erotic strain.

Just focus on your work, just focus on your work, Nina tried reminding himself, eyes pinching shut when Lukasha’s lower torso glided over his reddening tip, clear liquid pulled out and staining its owner’s abdomen. Quick and painless, quick and painless…I shouldn’t really be complaining when he hasn’t slapped or been rough with me, though…

The dark-eyed boy clenched down around Lukasha, earning a sharp gasp and stuttering of Luka’s drives from surprise. Through a silent agreement they worked each other thoroughly, moving together, hands grasping and stroking with secret cause, a powerful electric surge building inside at each passing minute. Luka canted forward time and time again, letting himself be fully absorbed and forcefully kept inside by the hooker’s clasping entrance; he wanted Nina, wanted more of him, huffing pleasurably as his hips sent their rocking figures deeper into the mattress.

Nina wasn’t cold any longer, kept comfortably heated by Lukasha’s steaming skin and low pants ghosting over pronounced collarbones; the prostitutka did his best to keep his eyes closed tightly, though he wasn’t sure whether that was from habit or confused desire.

Maybe both.

What exactly was Lukasha attempting, here? Nina didn’t understand why his thrusts were so deep, yet so unlike the usual violence he became accustomed to over dreary years. Luka hired him for satisfaction, but he wasn’t simply using whatever laid in front of him. He was creating, making something from Nina—they were, perhaps, in Luka’s mind, lovers, combining as one being, pushing into Nina’s spread thighs with purpose, driving both closer and closer. Splurges of moisture continuously hinted at what came next, soaking Nina’s gripping insides as Lukasha found a particularly good spot, high-pitched whimper escaping on cue.

“Nina,” Luka said again, breathing into the boy’s neck, body dense with a light layer of sweat. The coil wound in his abdomen was so tight he could barely stand it, yet he longed for more dizzying sensations. “I’m…haa…m—close…”

Instead of immediately emptying and throwing Nina aside like the thinner boy anticipated, he found himself being wrapped-up again, tugged by Lukasha’s shaking arms. Sinking even deeper onto Luka caused Nina to peel open his eyes in apprehension—this proved to be a mistake.

Nina learned the hard way that eye contact during work was how his inner conscious saved memories for fate’s darkest, merciless nightmares later on. He had trained himself to only ever look a customer in the eyes when he was studying their character and if they forcibly requested so during sex; even then, Nina taught himself the useful skill of looking right through eyes and into the barren abyss. Such was not the case tonight, when Nina found himself face to face with Luka’s pale green eyes, intense, brilliant and staring right back at him.

The teenager wondered how Lukasha Kaveri failed in locating a lover at Club Kseniya earlier in the night.

In this position, Luka’s thighs were throbbing from overuse, but he didn’t stop bouncing Nina up and down, back and forth over his cock, and eventually, as he reset their pace from before, the burning faded away in favor of fiery bliss. Nina adjusted his hips, accidentally pulling Luka closer to orgasm with the additional help—another groan fell out, Lukasha’s gulp heard even through skin loudly clashing together. Of course, the prostitutka knew how much tighter he was at this angle, but Nina didn’t expect his own stomach to flutter excitably when their smooth rhythm showcased just how full he felt.

Focus. Focus, the dazed boy thought, eyes rolling back without his permission. Luka kept releasing little moans at every thrust, steadily increasing in volume. Don’t focus on feeling…just focus on what you’re doing. Hurry.

After getting comfortable Nina took over their session completely, getting into his usual tempo after Lukasha’s earlier bout of stamina fell victim and surrendered to the teen’s skillful bouncing. He still gave weak attempts at thrusting, but knew his hips were no match for this indecent nymph’s.

“Haa—ah!” Luka wailed, pulling Nina’s front flush against his and triggering a noise from the other boy, whose dripping flushed tip was now constantly stimulated by Lukasha’s abs.

“Ahh…”

“Nina, Nina—”

The hooker had accidentally closed his eyes again, accidentally opening them once more, heart hammering when they connected with those green orbs, hypnotizing and stunning him to the point of a having a momentary mental fog. Nina knew beauty from yearning daydreams, poetry books he borrowed from the public library and Adele songs he happened caught on subway speakers—when Lukasha was beneath him, panting and whimpering with his thick, slightly curly brown hair tousled, his expression unguarded and exquisitely fervent with craving, quickly losing its concentration as his lower torso began turning inwards in preparation for something unknown…he matched the definition Nina had set years before.

When one of those large hands slyly reached between their bodies, wrapped around Nina’s member firmly and jerked not once, not twice, not three but four times in succession, the teenager shocked himself by releasing a loud wail and succumbing to pleasure, moisture pooling at the corners of his clenched eyes as liquid splattered from a pulsing head over Lukasha’s hand and stomach. In a daze, Luka worked Nina for several more unbearable seconds before his grip went limp.

Another gasp escaped Nina when Lukasha leaned forward and kissed him, lips breaking apart as he moaned lowly, broken sounding when his composure finally snapped—the sight and feel of Nina finishing around him was too much to bear. Luka’s body felt stuck, caught between flinching upwards and sensitively twitching away from Nina, orgasm abruptly sending his stomach into a mess of explosive nerves. Seed spilled inside unbearable heat, worsening, bettering the artist’s powerful finish, navel shaking alongside every other flinching muscle within. His cries outdid Nina’s whimpering, barely muffled by the hooker’s neck, Lukasha grabbing onto whatever he could find in hopes it would ground him to earth.

Nina found himself moving only a few inches, trapping Lukasha in even as the latter’s legs shuddered and flailed from ecstasy, spasms racking his figure relentlessly following each captivating surge. Still recovering above him, the dark-haired boy weakly tried adding more to Luka’s pleasure, sluggishly rolling his trembling hips back and forth like a starving incubus milking its victim for all he had. Part of Nina expected the customer—no, the lover—to groan out a dirty praise and maybe slap his ass in approval, but instead, all Lukasha did was whine pathetically, fingernails digging into Nina’s hips while more waves of fulfillment extended his finish. The last few spurts prompted another overwhelmed wail from Luka, unintentionally making Nina shiver.

Lukasha and his lover remained hanging onto each other for ten solid minutes, lost in their own emotional world and refusing any outside assistance. They held one another without fear, without embarrassment, without a shred of self-consciousness, clasped in one pretty object, exhausted limbs and thumping hearts. The mess between their sweaty bodies, the scorching muscle pain, the risky level of abstract connection was all set aside for this unknown world where the only sense in existence was feel.

When the feel of Lukasha’s thighs finally overpowered the feel of the best orgasm he ever had, Luka let out a pained groan and slid his knees out from under Nina, laying the hooker on his chest as they tiredly plopped down together. Their light panting was still the only audible noise Nina could detect until Lukasha finally spoke out-loud, voice fatigued but none less appealing.

 

“That…you…are worth way more than 5,200₽ and a room.”

 

Nina hated himself for nearly allowing a smile appearance at that statement. Luka huffed when the other boy leaned upwards into a sitting position, little sparks of satisfaction running up his spine whenever Lukasha’s oversensitive member throbbed inside him. The sticky mess between them didn’t seem as disgusting as usual to Nina, who swallowed before speaking, hoping his hoarse voice wouldn’t embarrass him with squeaking cracks between syllables.

“Sorry I…came all over you,” Nina apologized guiltily. At the image of Lukasha’s stained stomach and the realization of why his insides were still hungrily quivering, the hooker paused tensely, followed by a blunt curse. “Shit.”

“What’s wrong?” Lukasha questioned, eyes widening as reality came drifting back, unwelcomed. Terrible possibilities ran through his mind, thinking back and searching for ways he might have caused the lover pain; did he thrust too hard? Did Nina’s skin chafe from being pushed into the sheets so often? What ached most? “Did I…Did I hurt you?”

“No. It’s just…”

Nina shifted, face scrunching uncomfortably at the squishy feeling he met.

“We forgot to use a condom.”

Luka’s face dropped with worry and shock, the realization hitting him a long second after while Nina wondered how he could have forgotten to make Lukasha wear a condom when that was usually the first thing he made customers do. Luka hurriedly sat up with Nina still attached as he went to pull himself off.

“Oh—Oh, shit, I’m so sorry!” The oversensitive lover apologized profusely, helping Nina disconnect them, revealing a sticky mess of bodily fluids. Luka quickly reached over and grabbed tissues from his bedside table. “Here! I’ll clean it all out!”

Lukasha more or less threw Nina’s body face-down onto the mattress, waiting until his small frame stopped bouncing before abruptly shoving two fingers inside, knuckles curving and digging out whatever milky liquids he found. Of all things, this act of clumsy kindness made the thin teenager blush darkly.

“Um…it’s okay,” Nina murmured quietly, twitching at Luka’s frantic movements below. “I can do it…”

Although Lukasha hesitated and insisted on helping, Nina won in the end and quickly cleaned himself (and Luka) with some tissues as his customer sat quietly, feeling terrible per his considerate spirit and sympathetic heart.

“Nina, I’m really sorry, I totally didn’t mean to—I swear I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“Don’t worry…you’re the first person to sneak in.” Lies. Why am I lying? “We’re both clean, right?”

“Of course! Yes! Absolutely!” Luka nodded rapidly.

“There. So…it’s cool.”

“Still. No pun intended, but I feel like an asshole.”

Nina paused at that comment. He wasn’t sure why he was going to say this, but he did anyway, ignoring his better judgement and replying in a soft voice.

“Don’t feel that way,” The hooker whispered. “…It felt good.”

Lukasha hid an idiotic (but harmless) grin behind his hand, staying quiet as Nina finished cleaning himself; a sense of stillness fell over the apartment, forcing neither boy to fill the air with mindless remarks nor awkward comments on what just took place. Luka observed how slyly his lover peeked around, taking notes on little details making up the room, silently relieved at the bathroom’s lacking privacy, as that meant he could watch Lukasha even from inside. Vice versa was true, but the prostitutka had long since stopped caring about modesty.

“Is it okay if I use the bathroom?”

He wasn’t afraid to ask like other times because facts had confirmed that no one else was hiding in the small apartment. Like other times…

“Yeah, yeah—just right there.”

Nina nodded, legs trembling like a newborn fawn as he pulled himself up, first slipping dirty underwear back over those tiny hips before grabbing his bag and entering the bathroom. Inside, Nina sighed deeply without knowing why, proceeding to give himself a more thorough clean, desperately wanting a bath but resisting temptation in favor of spraying himself with perfume again. Thankfully, there were no bites or scratches that needed immediate disinfection and Nina could spend his metaphorical alone time pondering over what just happened as he splashed cold water over his weary face.

With the hooker’s heat gone from Luka’s side, he finally realized just how cold the apartment probably felt to outsiders who didn’t sleep here every night and hurriedly dressed himself. Luckily, Nina wasn’t there to see him lose his balance while putting his briefs back on, nor did he witness Lukasha leaning against the kitchen counter from lack of breath upon running over the last hour’s memories again.

Shivers ran over Luka’s spine when he thought back, Nina’s mysterious black eyes locking with his own, intentions clear cut and hovering in smoky night air. Soft mewls hounded Lukasha’s attention, demanding approval again as he replayed each noise pulled from the prostitutka whenever Luka smashed their hips together. Mercilessly, he remembered how perfect Nina’s flushed skin looked against his own dry flesh, how heavenly that porcelain glass shined when pleasure rushed over them in a furious wave…

Ugh, the designer sighed in frustration, feeling his shaft twitch with interest again. I really should build-up my stamina.

Eventually, Lukasha Kaveri recovered enough to make two mugs of hot chocolate (a delicacy he unfortunately couldn’t live without), stirring the thick liquid when Nina remerged. He was still shivering in ragged briefs but now had on an oversized sweater that probably wasn’t meant to be so severely baggy; rough midnight blue fabric reached just above the ends of his underwear, blending nicely with ghostly pale skin stained with scars.

Damn, Lukasha thought, shaking out of a hard stare. Even in a dorky sweater this guy still manages to be cute…why can’t I be like him? Then again…look at his career. I guess I shouldn’t really want to be like him, but how can I help it when he’s so good looking?

“Is it okay if I wear this?” Nina asked quietly, palming at his navy pullover. “Just until the next round.”

Nina’s customer had taken an untimely drink, nearly choking from both the temperature that met his lips and the innuendo of next round—Nina was used to people choking around him, but he was glad Luka chose hot coco instead of alcohol. Coco smelled a lot better coming back up.

“Um,” Lukasha chuckled, rubbing the back of his head. “I don’t really…have much funds built up for another round…”

“I agreed to stay the whole night,” Nina shrugged. “It’s fine if you want to go again.”

The prostitutka didn’t catch Luka’s conflicted expression, moving to sit underneath a layer of covers while waiting against the headboard for further instruction. After what he just experienced, Luka wasn’t opposed to having sex with Nina again, but…like his very Russian father always said, Lukasha Kaveri was “too much like a bitch.” He didn’t think Nina really wanted more sex. He probably just wanted a good night’s rest, even if it meant lying in a stranger’s arms as the first of many, many more winter storms raged outside. While his neighbors could care less about other’s opinions, Luka had to be liked by everyone.

“Let’s end it on a good note,” Lukasha replied simply. He carefully grabbed both mugs and held out the fuller cup to his illusioned lover. “Here you go.”

Nina thanked him softly, looking a little surprised as he eagerly accepted the steaming mug of hot chocolate, holding it close while Lukasha fiddled with a small radio sitting on the bedside table; Nina sniffed the liquid, however, just to make sure it didn’t reek of roofies or any other date-rape drug substance. He was relieved when only dark chocolate’s rich, delightful scent flooded his senses.

The hooker named Nina took a better look around while waiting for Luka to find a better station and for their drinks to cool off. As far as Russian cleaning standards went, this place was nearly on the level of associated royalty, a frightening rarity—there were no glass shards or stains anywhere, no empty food containers or beer cans, no soiled wood, no cracked walls or rotting smells. The floor was the dirtiest part, and even that only had a few crumbs and dust bunnies floating around; Nina found himself amazed at Luka’s neatness, like that small bookshelf organized on the opposite light blue wall, dresser with a drawer open to reveal expertly folded laundry and a few framed pictures straightly aligned above it. Most of all, Nina was amazed at how this four-hundred square foot apartment seemed princely to people like him who bounced from one couch to the next every other night.

Lukasha Kaveri’s world might have been an entirely different dimension.

Luka crawled in bed after finally finding a suitable radio station, sliding under the dark blue quilt and comforter while slyly pulling Nina’s side further up, too. The hooker tried not to reveal how the gentle, welcoming fabric could have easily made him burst into tears, tugging it up a bit more so his stomach was covered as well. Both boys casually leaned against the headboard, patiently waiting for their hot beverages to cool off.

A few minutes passed in total silence, cheesy American commercials playing through radio speakers.

“So—on a scale of one to Putin, how awkward am I making this?” Luka hummed curiously.

“Hmm…somewhere between the building and the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

“That bad, huh?”

A light laugh escaped Nina’s lips. It was nice to be able to joke with younger customers about their sad little mess of a country. Nina felt Lukasha’s green eyes on him as he sipped at the coco, a beautiful burning sensation radiating through his chest when that succulent drink entered his mouth—if there was a heaven, which Nina liked to believe (if only as a comfort for a cold death), hot coco had to be a gift from the angels. If only other people understood that chocolate is a better cure for depression and Communism than alcohol, the hooker thought bitterly.

“Is it okay?”

Nina gave a positive nod, hurriedly guzzling more of the hot liquid for proof. Luka was pleased that he contributed to a few much-needed calories working their way into Nina’s body and drank his own coco with a happy heart. Those cringe worthy commercials finally stopped, radio DJ announcing upcoming song titles, quiet tunes beginning to create a strange atmosphere: even though Nina wasn’t familiar with any of the tracks so far, he couldn’t help but feel like their little world was changing. Everything became hazy, not in an unpleasant way that alcohol triggered, but more like a dreamy, peaceful fog. Nina already knew there were no poisons or drugs in the hot coco, and after a few moments of this quiet he found himself forgetting all about previous paranoias.

The boys became overly-aware that time paused around them. Luka felt life passing in slow motion, every pretty detail about Nina even more pronounced than before, but no longer existing in a sad, unfortunate state. All weather patterns ceased to increase or decrease, and even misery washed away, frantically crawling underneath the bed, respecting whatever spring-like glow had momentarily veiled over two lonely butterflies.

Hypnotized, Nina zoned-out on little details in Lukasha’s apartment, first admiring the scattered clutters of drawings depicting rooms and other interior design patterns. The baby blue wall shade seemed so bright compared to every gray patch hovering over Russia in a dark cloak. Nina’s eyes slowly fluttered across the room, appreciating framed pictures from Luka’s childhood and that unknown quiet echoing throughout what seemed like the entire apartment complex…Nina felt himself entering a trance, the type usually only available to his abused mind when he felt more isolated and lost than usual.

Both boys were comfortably warm after finishing their coco, Luka setting the mugs aside and burying himself further underneath warm covers, Nina following suit. They faced each other soundlessly, misty eyes caught-up in this strange alteration of time. Lukasha daringly touched the other boy, sliding his warm leg across Nina’s below blankets and crept a hand over the prostitutka’s withered back. Nina didn’t seem to mind, welcoming any warmth he could find, granting Luka’s fingers permission to dive under his sweater and gently trace over damaged, dry skin.

A soft breath escaped Lukasha’s lips as he felt each individual ridge, simultaneously horrified and deeply intrigued by their sharpness. He was only so brave as to act romantically because of whatever mist had engulfed Russia for a single moment, bringing every dark alleyway forward and ending violent shivers from suffering souls mirroring Nina. Luka didn’t wonder what those ridges would feel like if the hooker was healthy. He admired them now, in their human form, fingers wandering up and down, left and right…

Nina didn’t know the second song, either, more focused on listening to each word drifting from his lover’s lips.

“Sorry it’s so cold in here,” Lukasha whispered, feeling goosebumps arise underneath his fingertips. “The furnace is from the 60’s and there’s no fireplace…”

“It’s fine,” Nina breathed back. He was almost feeling ticklish with how lightly Lukasha’s touch grazed across his body. As music provided a background noise for their silent conversation, Lukasha brazenly began admiring Nina. He stared at that broken, innocent face, each remnant of a lost childhood, barely any cheek roundness remaining, over towards the moisture on his lips from hot coco and erotic activities, and finally landing on those eyes: Luka wanted their focus, longed for their sparkle and glow crammed with exhilaration and joy, wanted to see Nina animated over something just so those obsidian stones would reflect the image of their galaxy’s brightest star.

Lying there, touching Nina, able to be in his presence…Lukasha felt more blessed and fortunate than ever.

“You’re seriously getting ripped off, Nina.”

The dark-haired boy chuckled, toes finally feeling some heated relief as his limbs became more tangled with Luka’s, minutes slowly filtering on. Somewhere outside, a clock moved and ran forward, ticktickticktick, dooming noise triggering bitter fate all but inexistent against ballad lyrics echoing through a no longer lonely apartment. Nina’s chocolatey breath clashed with Lukasha’s, their heated faces only inches apart despite the presence of two pillows—when Luka spoke next, his voice took a deep dive, hushed in hopes of keeping this divine air alive.

“How old are you?” He mused.

“Nineteen,” Nina answered just as tenderly. This kid reminded Luka of a malnourished kitten, abandoned beside a village to live in its own filth. “How old are you?”

“Twenty-one.”

“Mm…”

Lukasha wanted to ask more. He wanted to ask how long Nina had been selling his body, what specific circumstances pushed him this far off a hopeful path, wanted to know the exact methods Nina used in maintaining his sanity. Wasn’t he too young for this demeaning lifestyle? Didn’t he have any family to take care of him? Did he run away as a child? Who did he want to be? Where did he live, what did he eat? Of course the story-lover Lukasha Kaveri wanted to know, but couldn’t find enough impolite genes in his system that would cause their soft moment to be shattered. And so, Luka remained quiet.

“I know this song,” Nina realized, a familiar tune drifting towards his ears. Luka listened carefully, giving a lazy smile when he recognized “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay playing through his small radio.

I used to rule the world

Seas would rise when I gave the word

Now in the morning, I sleep alone…

Sweep the streets I used to own

Lukasha remembered secretly reading books about the French Revolution with his grandfather when he was a child; they were captured by the same scenes, the unification of scholarly, unbearably handsome young men willing to die for futuristic ideals of equality and evenly distributed opportunity…the dirty, blood-stained blue, white and red flags hanging on every building, their ultimate symbol portraying a new country yet to be created. Luka always told his grandfather he would grow-up and become a revolution disciple just like those men. He even dressed-up like a French Revolutionist one winter, to the amusement of his grandfather and fury of his father.

Nina opened himself wider, soul exposing and welcoming pounding drums, dancing violins as they raged over a forgotten kingdom; this was one of those rare, treasured nights where living far below an endless gray palette wasn’t so unbearable.

I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing

Roman cavalry choirs are singing

Be my mirror, my sword and shield

Missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can’t explain

Once you’d gone there was never

Never an honest word…

And that was when I ruled the world

“I love France,” Luka whispered distantly, unsure if he was awake or asleep. “I speak French, you know.”

“Mm…”

A yawn interrupted Nina’s lazy response; though his heart was greatly interested in any land that wasn’t here, his unusually vulnerable mind was exhausted from having actual intercourse for the first time. Lukasha kept whispering, throwing his knowledge of France out for their harsh world to hear, ignoring that sharp winter storm blowing outside, denying time’s constant measuring.

It was a wicked and wild wind

Blew down the doors to let me in

Shattered windows and the sound of drums

People couldn’t believe what I’d become

Revolutionaries wait

For my head on a silver plate

Just a puppet on a lonely string

Oh who would ever want to be king?

“They have their issues, too, but…they make good food. Tourists say they’re assholes, but at least they had a humanity revolution.” It was Luka’s turn to yawn, eyelids clamping shut, ready for a deep slumber. “…France is the place to be.”

Nina nodded in agreement, bangs tickling Lukasha’s forehead. The hooker wiggled closer, an unwelcomed chill sneaking against his exposed neck, settling right up against Luka’s body as the song came to a roaring finish, connection clearer than verses before.

 

Hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing

Roman cavalry choirs are singing

By my mirror, my sword and shield

My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can’t explain

I know St. Peter won’t call my name

Never an honest word…

But that was when I ruled the world

 

Nina really did try staying awake. He didn’t want to be the first to fall asleep in case Luka had a change of heart and secretly asked his gangbang buddies to hop on over for some midnight fun—he forced his eyelids open time after time again, met only by the enchanting sigh of a resting Lukasha Kaveri, an image that only spurred on his own fatigue. Luka snuggled underneath fluffed covers, right hand still limply dangling over the prostitutka’s back and messy hair smooshed against a flat pillow, but he had never looked so tranquil. Nina was used to fighting, but he couldn’t fight serenity. Minute by minute, he slowly felt himself losing the battle, defeated through a maze of light blue, graceful shadows over dark light, perfume infused air and locks of a Revolutionist’s wavy brown hair.

This was not an atmosphere Nina stood a chance against, and so, hoping he would never wake to see another gray day and black night, the prostitutka lost himself in the tangled mess of Luka’s limbs and fell asleep.

 

***

 

It was ten a.m. before Lukasha stirred. The light had been left on, but winter’s unforgiving white sunlight was what forced him awake, window and non-existent curtain not strong enough to block this power out. Overnight a wild storm left behind deep snow piles, dangerously pointed icicles and an increasingly hostile attitude affecting all but Nina and Luka. The air felt colder than ever, rushing over Luka’s face when he groggily sat-up, confused at why his feet were burning with warmth—when his muddled gaze fell on Nina, who continued sleeping soundly, everything stood alarmingly still. That greasy pool of black hair, that stained, chipped porcelain skin, those skeletal fingers creeping out from underneath a cheap blue sweater…Luka suddenly remembered what happened after he failed in finding a lover at the club.

He remembered (quite fondly) accidentally setting his sights on an attractive male prostitute while sulking in Club K’s alleyway.

“Looking for some fun tonight?”

He remembered getting handsy when they reached his apartment, he remembered feeling every inch of Nina’s famished teenage body, remembered the tightness of his insides as they moved together, kissing and touching and holding each other even after it was all over.

“…It felt good.”

Lukasha had never been happier for the concept of long-term memory, eagerly slumping back down into bed so he could admire Nina’s sleeping form once more.

Thank God last night wasn’t just a wet dream…

If Nina looked young while awake, then he may as well have been a primary student while asleep. His expression read relaxed, careless at what the next day would bring—dark eyelashes laid messily against white skin, accenting a few long lost freckles on the boy’s cheekbones. During that untouchable peace, Nina did not look abused by poverty or defiled by immoral acts of seduction. He looked like a normal teenage boy sleeping in on a lazy Saturday morning.

Lukasha released a hushed sigh, refusing much-needed blinks and never tearing his gaze away for a few more minutes before regretfully climbing off, being overly cautious with each movement, hoping he wouldn’t wake the sleeping beauty in his bed. Nina heard nothing, never flinching even when Luka pulled a pair of pants on and slid into a new shirt. He had to stop by the ballet this afternoon to work on a few set pieces, but there was no rush, no established time, so he decided coffee was in order.

As winter sunshine burst through the window, Lukasha silently maneuvered his way around the kitchen, eyes somehow always finding their attention drawn back towards Nina; he slept softly for another twenty-minutes or so, never adjusting or rolling around. His posture couldn’t possibly be comfortable, all rolled up in a tight ball underneath disarrayed covers, but Luka considered this sweet scene a victory. After all, this was what the designer desperately wanted: letting his lover recover for as long as he liked while Lukasha made coffee for when they woke, lost in Nina’s youth, the teen’s unusually calm demeanor in the hushed apartment, Coldplay lyrics echoing off every wall, comparing those colors to Nina…

Looks like I found a lover after all, Luka thought proudly. At the same time, a startling flash of sunlight whipped over the mattress, breaking across Nina’s face like a slap. The disturbance alarmed Lukasha’s lover, causing his eyes to peel open and his upper body to force itself upwards, fully prepared for a fight. Luka remained silent in the kitchen as to not frighten Nina further, waiting until he scrambled up against the headboard before those smoky, distressed eyes found him.

“Morning,” Lukasha smiled gently. The other boy didn’t react until Luka came over, holding a mug of coffee in his direction. “Coffee?”

Nina blinked in drowsy confusion before slowly nodding in gratitude, accepting the warm cup graciously. Luka sat on the bed’s edge, not too close, not too far away while sipping at his own drink, letting Nina’s memories slowly drift back. The blue wall, Viva la Vida, France, forgetting a condom…for once, Nina didn’t wake-up hoping the night before had been a nightmare. He spared a few glances at a still-smiling Lukasha, just making sure this was reality, confirming that fact when a pair of kind green eyes looked back at him evenly. How did he pull off mildly-crooked teeth so well?

“What time is it?” Nina murmured, voice scratchy from sleep. He noticed Lukasha’s new outfit and wondered where he was going. Had the customer already left once without Nina noticing?

“About ten-thirty.”

“Oh…sorry. You could’ve woken me up if you have somewhere to be.”

“No rush.”

Despite Luka’s comment, Nina forced himself up and grabbed his jeans from last night off the floor, taking sips of coffee in-between costume change. He really didn’t want to leave the reassuring warmth that was Lukasha’s bed, but procrastinating always made things worse for Nina, and so, he hurriedly grabbed his bag and clothing off the floor, running to the bathroom before Luka could ask what he wanted for breakfast.

“Got everything?” Lukasha forced out when Nina exited, redressed in his ratty t-shirt, hooded sweatshirt, along with a pair of torn, but thick wool mittens and a blue scarf tied tightly around his brittle neck. “Socks, underwear, bag?”

“Yeah,” Nina nodded. He handed the empty coffee cup to Luka, but didn’t leave his spot; his expression was questioning, serious, like he was expecting Lukasha to say or do something. It took a long moment, black eyes imploringly bearing into green before Luka realized Nina wanted the rest of his pay.

 

Because Nina isn’t my lover…he’s a prostitute.

 

“Oh—right. Your money,” Lukasha remembered, strolling over to find the jeans he threw off last night. A strange shot of pain coursed through his chest as he turned back to face Nina, earlier realization stinging more than anticipated. “Here you go.”

The prostitutka nodded subtly, peering back up in confusion after counting the amount with his fumbling mittens.

“I only charged 5,200₽ and a room, remember?”

“And I said you were worth way more than that,” Lukasha gave a tiny grin. “Remember?”

Nina apparently couldn’t come up with a suitable expression for that compliment, staring blankly ahead while the customer finished his coffee and headed towards the door. Luka had a sense Nina wanted to leave, and while he really wanted the boy to stay longer for some breakfast, Luka also didn’t want him feeling uncomfortable. Intimacy rules were over now that Nina had his pay…

“I’ll walk you out. Curtesy rule for my lovers,” Luka winked at him while sliding into his warmest winter jacket. The walk to the ballet wasn’t that far, but obviously she was here to stay. Lukasha silently wondered if, instead of more money, he should have given Nina his one spare jacket. “Ready?”

Nina nodded, following Luka into the hallway, which was somehow even colder than the room before. Lukasha had never hated himself more for not thinking of the jacket idea earlier when the prostitutka gave a shudder as they descended another long staircase—he should have been used to Russian winters by now, but the season’s beginning always seemed more miserable to Nina than the middle. And so would begin his constant shivering, ruthless viruses, runny noses and raw skin.

Both boys were quiet until they reached the small lobby, Lukasha turning to face his lover after getting a terrible glance at the frozen hell yard outside. Nina was prepared, but paused all movement when he noticed Luka staring at him; it felt strange how this, out of all the hooker’s dreadful experiences was the first real memory from his teen years. Being seen off by an attractive, well-mannered young man who had good taste in music and wasn’t too bad at the whole sex thing…strange. It was very strange that these memories still remained inside Nina’s brain following their brief morning-after.

A moment of awkward silence passed, and they ended-up speaking at the exact same time.

“Sorry.”

“Thank you.”

Luka ducked his head and chuckled at himself, Nina taking his turn to stare at the scenic image before him. Why had Lukasha apologized? He gave Nina more money than he asked for, gave him delicious hot coco, a warm place to sleep, didn’t fuck him to death, provided access to beautiful music and even an orgasm opportunity. What was there to apologize for?

He really is too sensitive a Russian, the hooker thought fondly, not looking away when Luka glanced back up. How does one snag a regular customer when they know they’re too good for them? Do I drag him down to my depth, get him addicted to pleasure so I have a steady income?

Unfortunately, I’m too much like him.

“I think I’ll stop by Club Kseniya every two weeks or so,” Nina commented thoughtfully, capturing Luka’s attention. “Do you go there often?”

I will now!

“Yeah,” Lukasha played off coolly. “Once in a while, if I’m not working.”

“Cool,” The teenager said in adorable English, accent making Luka’s heart thump. Putting a mitten on the door handle, Nina spared his lover a quick smile (he thought he did it right), getting a surprised one in return. “I hope I’ll see you soon, Lukasha Kaveri.”

After another lingering moment, Luka could only watch as Nina exited the apartment complex, a rush of blistering cold air rushing inside, and most likely right through the prostitute’s hoodie. Lukasha pressed his face up to the glass, watching for several minutes until Nina’s thin form disappeared between rushing bodies, extravagantly snowy buildings and blowing sleet.

 

“Me too,” Luka whispered a minute too late.

Chapter Text

Nina didn’t like winter. He already knew he lived in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Russia’s seemingly always early winters were just another painful reminder that his life goals were very small and insignificant. They usually didn’t last more than a single day, tiny sparks resurrecting again another cold morning when Nina was once more presented with the difficult task of finding food, work and shelter. For one week following his strange appointment with sensitive lover and France enthusiast Lukasha Kaveri, Nina went through his usual routine, aimlessly wandering across frozen terrain to keep warm.

Saint Petersburg had many museums, but since it was the third Thursday of November, admission was free for those who visited the State Hermitage Museum. Continuing to treat himself (thinking it had been enough time since his last stay, he slept the last two nights in a Moscow motel), Nina caught another train back to Saint Petersburg, which would supply him with heat from bustling strangers for all seven-hours; he would then hop off and slip inside the museum for hopefully another seven-hours of warmth. At the very least, he wished for two-hours (even unconscious ones) away from Russia’s raging seasons.

The Hermitage Museum, equipped with six buildings containing century old art and millions of visitors from all over the world flourished as a source of income for Saint Petersburg, its colorful content mixed between contemporary and ancient colliding to form one beautiful assortment. Nina had been there once before while on the run from one particular Moscow pimp, but today he would finally be able to stop and smell the roses.

Despite admission being free, Nina felt the need to sneak in beside a group of students in case any guards saw him and thought him a robber. He easily maneuvered his way through the busiest halls, finding himself happily lost in the New Hermitage building’s jewelry and decorative art; from there he moved into the Italian Renaissance section, Italian Skylight Room capturing Nina’s special interest—he spent the first of many hours staring only at the skylight above, transfixed by white light shining, glimmering off articulate gold and light blue designs surrounding its glass.

Some would argue that the paint had been worn down through many passing years, but to Nina, the perfectly cut octagon shapes, the polished golden accents, the pieces designed in a sword shape beside the sculpture of sorts with a blue background depicting a winged angel man had never looked so newsworthy. Combined with the sudden elaborate red wall shade beneath, Nina thought, if he should ever have a house of his own one day, he might like to style its living room in this fashion.

“Why can’t I be Italian?” Nina wondered out-loud while admiring a handsome portrait depicting an Italian male with long, flowing mocha hair. So far every muse he had seen was a lot better looking than him—it was no wonder people said painting was a dying art. Nina wouldn’t want to paint ugly souls, either. Who in this century could be described as chaotically celestial, grand enough for matching portraits?

While making his way towards the European Fine Art collection, the hooker finally recalled a model who matched his likeliness: only, he couldn’t find the display. During Nina’s long, lonely winter days, after arranging meetings with customers online, he would often look through pages and pages of artworks the Hermitage had recorded. During a mindless search, Nina came across an image that struck him to his very core—by an unknown Italian artist from the 18th century, a wretched, tragically lifeless painting had stared back at Nina, it’s title loyally written as “Beggar Boy.” It nearly reminded him of France’s deprived beggars from the French Revolution period, the time Coldplay sang about—at least, Nina figured, other countries learned from past mistakes and wickedness.

On this crackling canvas, an undeveloped disheveled male maybe in his pre-teens was peering downward, droopy gaze matching Nina’s almost exactly. Half the boy’s raggedy shirt was torn off, ripped and tattered at the slouched right shoulder, kept on only by his languid posture; most of his bare chest was exposed by beggar’s poor quality clothing, revealing patchy skin and the bare illusion of his skeletal chest bone hollowed from extreme starvation. His hair was greasy and cropped short, a few messy strands covering the invisible sweat of illness on the boy’s forehead. What appeared to be a shawl covered a spot of his elbow and lower body, picture topped off with a poor man’s hat held up for strangers to drop change in. What pained Nina most was the beggar boy’s expression.

Oh, did that expression match Nina’s so…indifferent, silently despairing, abused by restless nights spent beneath cold stars, a red-tipped nose confirming whatever unknown virus attacked his weakened immune system…those sickly, parted lips, maybe caught between a cough or a bleak smile, dreariness ready for a complete takeover…this was Nina. From the narrow chin to the wearisome appearance, it was Nina.

Wanting to see himself in such a famous setting, the teenager searched and searched the Italian hall, glancing through every painting he could see, even going so far as to ask a worker about the image, only for her to inform him that painting was not currently on display. Maybe that’s best, Nina tried telling himself, quietly strolling towards the Italian statue displays. Last time I saw that painting I bawled my eyes out at the public library…

Next, Nina compared the sculptures of Isis (Carlo Albacini, 1735-1813) and Dancer (Antonio Canova, 1757-1822), telling the dancer she looked more elegant and lovely than Isis, though he refrained from telling Isis the bad news. As the prostitutka went through each room, comparing curves and smooth surfaces from every sculpture, Nina suddenly wished his talents included carving from stone or granite. It seemed like everyone in the 18th century was capable of creating something—so why couldn’t he?

“Wow…”

The word escaped Nina’s lips before he knew what he was saying. Having stumbled into another room full of several visitors looking at different art pieces, Nina locked his eyes on a breathtaking statue—he knew that face. He couldn’t name the place or the time, but Nina knew the handsome young man portrayed in a portrait style, marble material doing wonders for his flawless skin. The Portrait of Antinous as Dionysius, god of wine in Greek and Roman mythology. Antinous, young male lover of Roman Emperor Hadrian who, when accompanying his emperor to their settlement in Egypt, tragically drowned in the Nile river. Nina read myths that said the drowning was no accident while others said Antinous sacrificed himself to those above for Hadrian’s sake—whatever the truth, Nina found Antinous just as gorgeous as legends told.

I would’ve made him a deity, too.

Nina didn’t move any closer. He didn’t dare, not knowing how deeply Hadrian adored and cherished Antinous; the emperor probably didn’t want anyone going near his lover, and Nina respected his wishes by admiring from afar, locking his special attention onto Antinous’ lips. They still appeared young and fresh, as when he was alive centuries ago, untensed, loose enough where Nina wanted to just barely brush his own over their cold surface, if only for a second. How would that kiss feel, he wondered? Which participant would feel more unexperienced? The lonely whore who never knew affection, or the innocent lover who only knew one man’s lips?

Maybe I resemble someone handsome after all, Nina realized, noting the slight furrow of Antinous’ eyebrows, the narrowness of his eyes. Sadness makes everyone equal. Maybe that’s why death is so sought after…

Movement behind Antinous alerted Nina back to reality. For a moment, he thought maybe Hadrian had revived from his grave to come after this punk for hitting on his boyfriend, but instead, the appearance of someone else startled the hooker just as much.

 

It was not the young Antinous or Emperor Hadrian, but Lukasha Kaveri, who did, Nina admitted silently, look just as flawless as the kissable statue.

 

Before Nina could bolt in the other direction like he usually did after accidentally running into a customer, Luka gave a tiny wave in his direction, forcing the teenager into an awkward returning gesture. How had he recognized him so quickly, Nina wondered? Was Lukasha stalking him, or did the artist think he was being stalked by a desperate homeless kid?

“…Hey, Nina.” Lukasha greeted, a small, uplifting smile on his lips as he timidly approached. Those lips, Nina recalled, did not feel like lifeless marble. “Fancy seeing you here.”

Why can’t I say anything? Nina wondered frantically, mouth failing him. Say something, идиот![1]

“Is it just me, or was Antinous smoking hot?”

Luka was happy to hear an honest laugh fall from his lover’s lips, the bluntness of Lukasha’s statement pulling an amused reaction out.

“He really was,” Nina agreed, glancing back at Antinous. Once again, he didn’t realize Lukasha was marveling at his appearance, finding those wool mittens cuter than last time, adoring his messy hair that was finally unveiled in daylight, no longer covered by a hood; dark bangs brushed over Nina’s eyebrows nicely, matching those just as marvelous black eyes Luka had missed over the last week or so. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to be any thinner.

“You look nice,” Lukasha blurted like a real идиот. “But a little tired, too.”

“I’m starting to think you only like me for my body, Lukasha,” Nina teased back. He didn’t know he was teasing until the taller boy laughed loudly, accidentally drawing the attention of a few sightseers nearby. Why was talking to Luka so easy? Why did Nina follow him without a single doubt, without feeling pressure to babble senselessly?

I’m definitely a идиот today…I blame the motel bathroom. The lighting gave me a headache.

“Just taking a stroll through Saint Petersburg today?” Lukasha asked without sounding intrusive, walking beside the prostitutka as they passed other visitors.

“Yup. I was trying to find a painting I saw online, but I guess these schmucks don’t have it on display,” Nina replied, unknowingly revealing his disappointment. “I’m not sure what I’ll look at next, though.”

If Luka learned one thing from his close-minded, serious parents, it was how to spot opportunity. They probably wouldn’t approve of him using that skill to hang out with a cute hooker, but Lukasha couldn’t find enough love in his heart for them to care.

“I came to see the Pavilion Hall again,” The designer informed quickly. “Wanna tag along?”

“…Okay,” Nina agreed. He even surprised himself.

“Cool!” Damnit. My pronunciation wasn’t as cute as Nina’s was. “This way!”

Excitement bled from Luka’s aura as he and Nina walked side by side through the museum, corner boy following blindly, focus only able to latch onto the charming man leading him. Those lively halls full of paintings, sculptures and ancient art alike collided with Lukasha’s flying colors, creating a blurry, breathtaking canvas Nina struggled keeping up with. He tried his best in looking casual, keeping all facial expressions clear while tagging alongside Luka, but in such a creative atmosphere with the young man who accepted Nina’s emotional virginity, failure was imminent. They didn’t speak a word, per usual, content to slide through the crowd until their secret location was found amongst spinning galleries at every turn, merging into one never-ending circle of timeless beauty and hidden stories ready for discovering.

Nina wondered for the millionth time in his nineteen-years why life in Russia was so beautiful on the outside, a perfectly good Antonovka[2] apple with a few mild discolorations, only for the first bite to be so rotten and repugnant on the inside?

“Right over here,” Lukasha motioned, walking quicker the closer they became. There seemed to be a huge crowd already hovering, but the moment Luka and Nina stepped inside, those oppressive, judgmental gray eyes following the prostitutka wherever he went withdrew.

“Wow…”

Wow was an understatement. Nina knew his mouth dropped open with awe, and he briefly noticed Lukasha grinning at him like a bright-eyed child, but who could care about expressions when the most important one was right in front of their very eyes? The Pavilion Hall was indescribable. White and gold. Everything was made from white and gold, two combinations Nina wasn’t used to seeing; every white stone was clean, polished, mistakes and blemishes free, providing an even base for a thousand gold-colored accents. Each arch had a flawless brush of glimmering royalty on it, not a stroke out of place, perfectly combining with every turn and slant—it was impossible to admire a million details at once, but Nina let himself be overwhelmed by every intricate design, swirls and hidden textures on the balconies above, the perfection of marble columns to each archway standing proud above them.

How can something this expensive and monumental exist, yet I’m running away from pimps and selling my body to alcoholics for a living? The teen wondered silently. His negative attitude was quickly pushed aside in favor of grand architecture. The hall wasn’t something anyone could ignore even if they wished to.

“It was designed by Andrei Stackenschneider in 1858,” Lukasha spoke from the top of his memory, eyes lost in the golden maze before them. “The floor is a 19th century imitation of Roman mosaics, and the Peacock Clock was created by James Cox in the 18th century. Aren’t the chandeliers gorgeous?”

“I wouldn’t mind if one of those babies crushed me,” Nina agreed, albeit a bit morbidly. “Look at all those crystals…”

“There’s over twenty-eight of them in the entire hall. It was designed with Renaissance, Oriental and Gothic themes in mind; every piece and column is made from white marble. It’s every designer’s wet dream, know what I mean?”

Somehow, despite understanding nothing about creation (unless it was creation of misery, in which case Nina was the renowned expert), the boy appreciated what Lukasha was getting at. Before Nina could resist, Luka tugged him over to look at the fountains, pointing out details he admired while giving a complete history of each pattern’s origins. Nina was genuinely interested in these stories, having never attended school even after he left home (or whatever you called it), eagerly soaking in whatever information Luka threw at him.

“See all the individual shells?” Lukasha pointed, amazing Nina further with his keen eye. “Imagine how long that took to craft. I don’t know if I would have the patience to measure each distance between to make sure they were even—and did you see the fireplace? It’s incredible. I’ve never wanted to be rich more than when I first laid eyes on it. Let’s go see!”

Up and down the Pavilion Hall, Lukasha and his lover spent a quick two-hours burning the gold and white images into their brains, consumed by ideas of aesthetics and wonder. The Hermitage was swamped with other tourists and students, but neither boy noticed. While it might have been traditional to think so in terms of rights, who could ponder over humanity when such a magnificent structure stood reverently for all to admire? Nina wondered if that principle was what put humanity back a thousand years (at least his people), hating himself for ruining valuable moments with dark thoughts. He glanced over at Luka for the first time in a while, finding his companion still brightly staring up at the Pavilion’s ceiling.

“Why did you need to come to this specific spot today?” Nina asked curiously.

“Hmm…I was lacking inspiration at work the other day. I thought seeing this might help get the creative juices flowing—not that they’ll use my ideas anyway, but…”

Nina nodded a few times, a bit nervous to ask the next question, though he didn’t know why. Maybe an inferiority complex. Maybe because he already knew Lukasha was better than him, and his inner Russian feared anyone who stood higher on “the scale,” which, looking at Nina’s profession, was essentially thirty-percent of the population. The rest were like him. Below average. But Luka was far from average, and so, Nina felt nervous. Did he really deserve answers? Did he have any right to ask about Lukasha’s life?

“Um…what—what do you do, again?”

“I’m assistant set designer at the ballet,” Luka answered excitedly. “That means I help the main designer make all the sets and stuff. It’s super fun!”

“Ah.”

“Wanna go to the French art section now? I want you to see some of the paintings there; I guarantee you will love them.”

Was Nina particularly interested in French art? Not really. Did he really want people thinking they were on a date so they could be jumped after exiting the building? No. He wasn’t in the mood for another ass-beating (literally). Luka seemed excited about the prospect of having company, though, and since it was still warm in the Hermitage compared to intense gusts outside…

“Lead the way, Lukasha.”

Despite his hesitance, Nina ended-up enjoying French art, equally enjoying Lukasha Kaveri’s comments and little facts about France. He sounded sexy when he spoke in French, translating the titles and putting little slurs on artist names. Nina could have listened to Luka forever, but all this socializing and optimism tired him out. After looking at the French art section he and Lukasha found their way to an empty marble bench and plopped down, though not as closely as they had been that night.

Crowds passed in spurts, mumbled conversations creating another recognizable atmosphere, though Nina wasn’t sure why it felt so familiar. A thoughtful mood took over, illusioned peace granting these strangers strength for intimate conversation.

“So you’re a designer, hm?” Nina repeated while Lukasha stretched his arms. “That’s pretty cool. Do you like it?”

“Very much,” Luka smiled, eyes wistful as he remembered the ballet. “It’s amazing to create something that sets the mood for the entire plot; it may not be the main attraction, obviously, but I like my role. Plus, I think ballet is bitchin’, so I consider myself lucky that I get to watch them practice and perform all those crazy dance moves all the time.”

“I wanted to be a ballerino when I was younger,” The hooker distantly recalled, a deep memory he thought he forcibly pushed out years ago. “I guess I still could, but I don’t have the muscles for it anymore. Well, not anymore—I never really had muscles like those guys…”

“I don’t think anyone has enough muscles to match theirs, honestly. Don’t feel so bad.”

A content silence fell between them. Nina was almost caught staring at Luka, but played it off by redirecting his attention to a row of paintings behind the other’s head. Lukasha took his turn and investigated those dark circles marring Nina’s delicate features, so dark they nearly looked like bruises underneath his dusky, narrow eyes. Even though the prostitute had slept at a motel the past few nights, he looked worse than ever on account of Russia’s infamous viruses making their home in his immune system. And this dreadful season had only begun.

“Well, we all know what I do for a living,” Nina attempted joking, unintentionally injuring Lukasha. “It’s nice to come to a place like this and pretend I’m a prince.”

“May I help you boys find anything?” A museum worker interrupted. Nina immediately went silent, per his usual social paranoia, but Luka gave her a warm smile.

“We’re okay, thanks; you guys are always so helpful whenever I come here.”

“Oh, well, I’m glad to hear that!” The woman beamed. “If there’s anything we can do to make your visit better, let me know.”

“I think the experience is already incredible, but I was wondering if there was a reason certain artworks aren’t on display—is it a lack of space, or just lack of interest?”

Nina suddenly found himself stuck in some kind of romcom episode where Lukasha Kaveri was sucking-up to an attractive museum worker who, in response, smiled and spoke pleasantly with him for seven long minutes. Luka sounded genuinely interested in her responses, but if Nina didn’t know any better he would say Luka was only trying to be liked, not get in her pants. Furthermore the hooker cancelled out his theory of Lukasha being bisexual, staring at the boy in amazement when the worker finally strolled away.

“Can I ask you something?” Nina prompted.

“Sure!”

“Why do you have to be liked by everyone? Isn’t it exhausting, being so nice all the time?”

“Being liked is awesome!” Luka cheered, optimism startling the other. “It feels really great when you know someone likes you; boosts your confidence and self-esteem. It works on you, doesn’t it?”

“Depends on how much you pay me that night.”

“Hey!” Lukasha wailed, though his eyes were laughing radiantly. “I’m a very likable person, thank you very much.”

Nina silently agreed, glancing at the clock and bitterly finding that the museum would be closing soon. How much time had they spent in each other’s company? Nina felt as if he spent days upon days inside the Hermitage; come to think of it, hadn’t fate only paused its torturous ploy when Lukasha arrived? Why was that?

“Guess we better go,” Luka sighed, pulling himself up. “Though I wouldn’t mind being stuck in here for a night—maybe then I could get some inspiration.”

“Maybe.”

Nina followed Lukasha in silence, weaving through the crowd until they filtered their way outside; while every other visitor rushed into nearby vehicles, wanting an escape from the brisk winter wind, Nina stayed standing where he was, right next to Luka, who seemed to be watching him carefully. Did those green eyes ever cease their faraway stare? Maybe that’s why he makes such a talented designer, the teen thought, despite never seeing any of Lukasha’s works before. He belongs in a place like this.

The crowd dispersed for the evening until only Luka and Nina remained, basking in each other’s company, unsure what to say next. If Nina wanted a head start on customers he figured he’d better get going right away, though his lonely soul was reluctant to leave such pretty sights.

“Will you be at the club this weekend?” Nina daringly asked, hiding protectively beneath that thick blue scarf in the case of refusal.

“Ah…not this weekend,” Luka shook his head gently. He didn’t hear Nina’s heart fall in dread. “We have two shows, so I’ll be busy both nights. Um…will you—will you be there?”

“Yeah. I’ll be working.”

Lukasha wished he couldn’t hear those daunting words. Being surrounded by beauty all day gave the impression that nothing could go wrong—the minute they stepped outside, however, Lukasha felt magic die, dainty butterfly wings freeze in mid-air. He didn’t want Nina to go. Couldn’t he stake claim on this boy so no other cheap bastard could have him? He wasn’t that wealthy, though…Nina deserved a lot more than he earned. Lukasha thought he deserved the entire Hermitage and all its content.

“Alright, well…I better get lost,” Nina said, flipping his hood up with a mitten covered hand. “Lots of rich Russian men to swindle, you know.”

“Yeah,” Luka laughed, a painful, noticeably forced laugh. “Be careful. Hopefully catch you next time.”

The prostitutka walked backwards a few steps, somehow avoiding the ice patches while keeping his eyes locked on his casual lover. A powerful rush of air assaulted their positions, but Nina’s posture didn’t so much as flinch.

“Proshchal'nyy privet, Lukasha.”[3]

There it was. Walking through the entire Hermitage didn’t strike Luka with sudden inspiration—as it turns out, his inspiration had been by his side since Antinous’ statue. The miserable weather, sorrow at seeing the museum shut down for the night were feeble muses compared to that breathtaking image jogging away from Lukasha: a gust of sharp snowflakes splattered across Nina’s exposed skin as he glanced over his shoulder and gave Luka an honest, small smile, divulging those charmingly flawed teeth and cracked China glass lips. Like their moment with Antinous, time froze, allowing both boys to drill this memory down, to be kept in hopeful daydreams forever.

That was Lukasha’s inspiration. Not Hadrian’s deity, not the Pavilion Hall, not the French paintings. Nina, his one-time lover and whore on every Russian street. Nina, with his obsidian eyes, ghostly skin and skeletal body hidden by baggy sweaters and torn jeans. Nina, who had easily given Lukasha one of the best nights of his life through soft, pleasurable noises and adorably obscene hip movements.

Lukasha stood on the sidewalk until he finally realized Nina was gone, memory stealing his place—quicker than ever before, Luka sprinted home and whipped open a sketchpad, scribbling with his dull charcoal piece and begging that striking model to stay as they were. The angle of Nina’s turn, the fluttering of his blue scarf against that terrible winter breeze, the sleepiness in his unusually chirpy eyes, every tensed muscle in his posture all came together for a lively recollection in Lukasha’s drawing. He had never been more proud of his art skills, holding the picture out for all envious gods above to seethe over: now, the memory of that cold winter day Lukasha Kaveri spent inside the Hermitage with Nina, a priceless painting himself would never be forgotten.

“It needs a name…”

Luka nibbled on his lip, charcoal hovering over the sketch’s corner as he contemplated. After pondering a minute, he decided to simply name the drawing by what it looked like from an outsider’s, a lonely god’s perspective.

 

“The Frozen Butterfly,” by Kaveri Lukasha Dobrashinovich.

Chapter Text

Today’s temperature sat comfortably at thirty-two below zero, thick, frosty snow layers now taking permanent residence on each street, sidewalk, roof and lot. In the cusp of November, Nina probably hadn’t been this miserable since last winter, though he didn’t like to compare and contrast his suffering. For the past few weeks business had been hopping in Vladivostok, Krasnoyarsk and Bryansk, and while Nina gained much, including a new jacket, a few nights in a warm motel room and even some fancy perfume as a gift, the communities of those cities were much too close to the pimps Nina accidentally stole customers from.

A lot of the “hidden” organizations for prostitution were run by manipulative gangsters who lured young men and women into their rings by hanging out at subway stations. Whenever addicts or homeless teenagers came by, they found their desperate selves tricked into pyramid schemes of whoring for this person and that person, resulting in never-ending promises and fantasized expectations. Waiting, commands, selling. Waiting, commands, more selling. The beautifully numb finish line never arrived, and suddenly, three (arguably) precious years dragged by without a single decision made within individual jurisdiction.

That being known, Nina wasn’t about to sell his soul out to another controlling demon. While working alone was equally dangerous, the prostitutka considered pimping a trap one could never escape from. And who would help you? The police? The Bratva?[1] Fellow pleasure slaves? No. Nina knew he was contributing to the very serious problem of prostitution within Russia, but at least he did so at his own vocation. If they pushed him down this beaten path through poverty and ceaseless misfortune, Nina wanted to have one hand reined, even if the horses went the opposite direction he intended.

On this freezing afternoon, Nina was wasting time riding the subway, per usual, scanning over a crumpled newspaper while crowds shuffled in and out around him. As promised, the teen would make his return at Club K this weekend, entertaining himself by reading on the terribly long ride to Saint Petersburg. There were some mildly interesting articles about foreign trade, increasing tensions with the U.S. and gender slaughter, but Nina didn’t read those too thoroughly—he carried enough grief about his own situation, so additional depressing narratives weighing-in were unnecessary. At least for today.

Most unfortunately, tomorrow did exist, keeping possibility vulnerable and unguarded.

Nina thought reading obituaries would further solidify his relationship with Death, and so, went through each paragraph one by one, envying those who met their maker this early. A young woman was struck and killed by a crazy driver, instant death. Lucky. A stillborn was buried early yesterday morning. Luckier. Death from death from a heart attack, death from hypothermia…Nina wondered if his family would be so kind as to put his death in the paper when the time came. Just a sentence would suffice. Would they even claim his body? Was his mother long gone by now?

My thoughts are getting too dark—and it’s only noon, the hooker shook his head, scanning the paper. Be positive or something, Nina.

Next obituary. The subway doors opened, citizens shuffling off and more hurrying on, though why they rushed, the teenager didn’t know. An older man passed away at his home. Nina’s interest was caught, doing a double-take at the deceased’s surname and continuing out of curiosity. The obituary stated that Kaveri Alexei Vladovich, aged seventy-eight, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday night. Nina was impressed by his age and lack of political involvement, further intrigued at the mention of Alexei’s love for traveling and French cuisine. It was nicely written, almost a frightening amount of loving words included—what interested Nina most, however, was a certain name included in the man’s family list.

Alexei was preceded in death by his wife of fifty-years, Tatiana, his elder brother Alfred, his father Vlad and mother Nadia (Smirnov). He is survived by his daughter Tonya, son-in-law Evgeni (Mikhailov), their children Olena and Borya; his son Dobrashi, daughter-in-law Lenya (Volkov), their children Zoia, Lukasha and Grisha.

No. That couldn’t be the Lukasha he knew. There were probably a million other Lukasha Kaveri’s in Russia…still, Nina couldn’t help but stare and wonder. While November’s long day drug on and on, the prostitute’s mind kept creeping back to that specific obituary, silently popping questions about what Lukasha’s thoughts would be if it was his grandfather who died. Did he cry? Did he even care? Was he close with his grandfather, or did his family see relatives as burdens like Nina’s did? For some reason this theory wouldn’t let go.

When night finally fell and Nina arrived in Saint Petersburg, he was still thinking about Alexei Kaveri. His thoughts were only silenced by the sudden appearance of Lukasha himself, bundled-up designer hovering in Club Kseniya’s alleyway where they first met. Nina stood on the other side of the street, confused at why he was so surprised by Luka’s presence; maybe because he had romanticized the idea of Alexei Kaveri being Lukasha’s beloved grandfather all day. It felt like someone invaded his thoughts and brought those images alive. Either way, Nina hesitated a long minute before jogging over, slowing his pace so he didn’t startle the taller boy—Luka didn’t notice him until crunching snow broke through the barrier of his ears. This was one clue telling that something wasn’t quite right.

“Privet, Nina,” Lukasha greeted. His smile lacked its usual honesty, circles underneath his eyes matching the hooker’s. Nina still thought him handsome. “You’ll be pleased to know I have more money for you this time.”

“Ah…right.”

“I was a little worried you weren’t going to show this weekend, what with the weather and all.”

“I can’t afford to adjust my working hours around Russian winters,” Nina replied, hardly hearing what he was saying, keeping his focus on Luka’s exhausted expression. Maybe it really had been his grandfather who passed away… “I’d be broke if I did.”

“I guess that’s true,” Luka nodded. “Well…no use standing out in the cold—would you like to go home with me?”

Home. French dreams, soothing music, hot coco and canoodling under a warm quilt. Yes, please. Nina realized he couldn’t say that out-loud and gave a tiny nod into his scarf. Lukasha didn’t even notice the prostitute had a new jacket on over that same tattered hoodie, slowly stepping past Nina while a harsh blow of wind pierced their bare skin with sharp ice particles. Nina couldn’t move with him. He wasn’t sure if this was the real Lukasha Kaveri, now treating Nina like the whore he was instead of a cherished lover, or if this was how depressed and grief-stricken Lukasha Kaveri acted, seeking a stranger’s touch to ignore that hopeless sensation injuring his heart.

Since Nina himself had forgotten what little he knew about reality, its ups and downs, highs and lows, as he only experienced whatever remained on the grimy underside of an abandoned soul, he knew there was no solid way of figuring out if this Lukasha was the one who lost his grandfather. But…even when the teen lacked core evidence, he wanted whatever shadow had cast itself over Luka’s dejected spirit gone. Nina was used to taking risky chances, but with this one, he could actually feel a human emotion (called social anxiety) peek out from his rusted heart, terrified, paralyzed at this unknown action—

Nina inhaled and hurried forward, taking his mitten-covered hands out of their pockets so he could throw his arms around Lukasha’s shoulders.

Luka froze in his spot, reality drifting back as a strange warmth unrelated to physical contact overwhelmed his back.

“Sorry about your grandfather,” The prostitutka whispered. His heart pounded in anticipation while the person he hugged remained quiet for a moment, hushing Nina’s sudden feelings of humiliation with a single word.

“Thanks,” Lukasha answered lowly. This was how close he wanted to be that day in the Hermitage.

Thinking he made Luka uncomfortable, Nina brought his arms back, hurriedly tucking them away and going to exit the alleyway; Lukasha froze only a moment before taking the hooker’s hand right back out of its pocket like he did their first night, sneaking through snowy streets side by side. There was more urgency in Luka’s steps this time, pulling Nina this way and that way until they finally stumbled into Lukasha’s apartment.

Once again, there was very little talking.

Nina became very on edge with this new atmosphere, not knowing how Luka would act sexually when his mind seemed to be in such a state of disarray emotions. The teenager told himself (like always) that he could handle anything as long as nobody else jumped out and started having their way with him, too. Nina attempted this while shedding his many layers and carefully watching Lukasha’s expressions, but found his spirit still feeling a bit too vulnerable after their little act of regard outside Club K. He didn’t want Luka treating him like every other drunken customer did. He wanted to be treated like a familiar lover, because that was what Lukasha Kaveri wanted last time…as much as Nina didn’t want to admit it, he was afraid.

 

But was Nina more afraid of his stirring human emotions, or of Luka changing his touch?

 

The apartment was colder than ever. Nina felt several shivers rush over his sensitive skin as Lukasha tugged him over to the mattress, giving the other boy hope when he laid them down just as gently as last time. With only their undergarments left, Luka eagerly pressed a sloppy kiss onto Nina’s lips, moving quickly and tangling his fingers in those greasy black locks. He gave a low groan when the hooker raised his hips, brushing himself over the tent forming in Lukasha’s underwear. Every part of Nina kept insisting he help his customer in any way possible; if enraged, burning hate sex was what he needed to feel better, Nina would accomplish it.

Be honest. He wants you to be honest.

A sharp cry flew off Nina’s lips when Luka’s mouth roughly attached to one of his nipples, teeth grazing across the sensitive surface and sending the teenager into an unknown euphoric fit. He knew this was trouble. Obeying customers was always trouble, but Nina might have inadvertently doomed himself by choosing Lukasha Kaveri as his master for a second time. Wasn’t the first time hard enough recovering from? Hadn’t Nina messed-up once with the customer he had after Luka?

No. Now wasn’t the time to think about it. Lukasha was sucking downward, leaving small pink patches in his wake while trailing closer and closer to Nina’s abdomen, long, sculptor-like fingers feeling each inch of the hooker’s flesh, as if memorizing its mold for later inspiration. Nina felt his heart racing uncontrollably, unable to reel the stubborn object back in; Luka’s lips finally released the boy’s skin with a pop, lips red and messy when he looked up.

“Can you turn around?” Luka whispered hotly. Nina needed a moment to swallow and regain what little control he had left of his voice before replying.

“Of course, sir.”

The dark-haired boy heard Lukasha make a noise of contempt as the former shakily turned and leaned on his raw hands and knees.

“Ugh. Don’t call me that—makes me sound old.”

Nina noticed, not for the first time, that Luka’s speech method tonight was rather strange. Like the designer’s expressions, his voice didn’t seem to be…there. In the hooker’s quick evaluation, he confirmed that Lukasha sounded a lot like him: mindless comments, careless choice of words, disinterested tone despite what intrigue the phrases implied…Luka’s world was in an entirely different dimension from Nina’s.

In the midst of his troubled thoughts, Nina heard Lukasha rip something open behind him—it must have been a condom packet, judging on the hushed sigh of relief escaping from Luka’s mouth. Nina knew he needed to regain his focus immediately, but Lukasha was making it rather impossible, what with how excited the prostitutka became upon hearing his customer grab the little bottle from his nightstand, how Luka slowly began working him open with those damn artist fingers, how a flash of steaming heat laid flush over Nina’s lower back—how was he supposed to focus when Lukasha continued working himself using the prostitute’s hips like that, rocking them both back and forth over and over again…

Luka’s right arm suddenly wrapped around Nina’s torso, weaving underneath until that disgustingly talented hand latched itself onto the teenager’s growing arousal. Even though they had been closely attached since arriving at the apartment, Nina didn’t feel reality’s weight until this very touch—Luka must have similar, a hum of approval echoing beside Nina’s ear, where the designer’s expression was tucked away in the prostitutka’s shoulder.

“Mm…”

Nina felt himself getting turned on at an alarming rate, body not used to fighting pleasure from two sides simultaneously; if anything, it was used to feeling nothing at all, and as a result, knew no defense against erotic, satisfying explosions. Bits and pieces of Lukasha Kaveri returned in this moment while he listened to Nina’s stuttering whimpers bouncing off the headboard, those broken sounds interrupting their passion to showcase a prettier kind of seduction only Nina could produce. Luka’s aura seemed more conflicted than ever, but he pushed through regretful emotions and finally released the teen, sliding his other fingers out a moment later.

While Nina caught his breath, Lukasha fiddled around with the bottle, readjusting their position and taking the sheathed warmth off Nina’s back. He waited not with patience, but from a sudden sheet of black momentarily overcoming his vision: when Luka returned mentally, he found Nina panting softly underneath him, face-down in the pillows with one hand holding himself open for his customer.

What else could Lukasha do but obey, not knowing the feminine boy beneath him had a parallel idea?

Nina’s ugly, battered hands grabbed at anything they could reach, the bedsheets, Luka’s pillow, anything they could grasp as Lukasha began, movements tense from the moment he slid inside, covered member nudging past willing barriers. Unfiltered growls and moans escaped his lips, speed dangerously close to what Nina usually experienced; still, with Luka having half-returned, the smaller boy didn’t feel any need for acting and let himself be jostled around, biting his lip harshly, tense himself from avoiding his own pleasure.

Nina’s body finally received some relief from the cold apartment air when Lukasha leaned over his gaunt back, encasing the hooker in his embrace as he pushed deeper, hips resisting a tempting thrust, getting even by burying a hand in those dark strands once more, tightening their hold.

“Ah—”

A vexing shot of pure hatred for the world suffocating them struck Lukasha like a slap, sending a slow burn through his veins and pushing him to tug Nina upward by his hair; though this wasn’t done violently like other customers did at their disposal, Nina was still taken aback, strangled moan falling off his lips at the new angle he was held at. Still in an angry daze, Lukasha put more fierceness into his first strokes, grip on Nina’s hair loosening slightly, though he couldn’t find it in him to release the soft hairs completely. This was nothing at all like last time. Both boys felt a drastic difference in atmosphere, in emotion and agenda, but chose to do nothing about it.

At the very least, Nina was glad Lukasha Kaveri’s bouts of anger didn’t include choking or hitting.

Hips fueled by sorrow and regret smashed against Nina’s backside, long shaft rooting itself inside trembling muscle over and over. Each thrust sent them jolting forward, chests heaving from cutting winter air sneaking its way through the window; lost minutes passed, escaping groans and smacking skin filling silence lewdly.

Just let him use you. Be limp, be whatever he wants you to be, Nina reminded himself, pants now falling freely, throat exposed to the thin air. It cooled his lingering sweat immediately, though he was kept warm by Luka’s tightened abs over his back, as well as harsh breaths leaving the customer’s lips. That’s what you’re for. That’s what you’re for…focus on him. Ignore yourself. Focus on Lukasha.

Nina wasn’t the only person who disobeyed orders in Russia.

After a few minutes of holding onto the prostitutka’s hair, Luka reluctantly let go and instead focused on a new sight—while he had hardly blinked over the last hour, Lukasha felt as if he could see for the first time. It reminded him of that first night, when he admired and traced over every portion of Nina’s abused body. From this angle he could see old scars painted on that pale torso, could see weakened spine ridges his fingers had felt and pitied, could see how Nina clutched the sheets so tightly the dull blue shade of his veins had become bright.

Have I been missing this the entire time? Luka thought abruptly, feeling as if a fog had been lifted from his eyes, watching Nina’s body bounce, heartbeat moving quickly. What did I forget to watch? Why haven’t I seen his eyes yet?

With a new vigor, Lukasha vowed to make Nina feel just as good as the hooker was making him feel, wondering how he could have abused his lover thus far. To make-up, the designer stopped gripping Nina’s fragile waist so tightly, though kept their pace consistently powerful—each drive now became stretched, deliberately grinding and catching on delicious spots. Nina choked on another gasp when Luka draped himself over the teenager’s body, groin flinching constantly when pleasurable shocks mercilessly attacked.

“You feel so good, Nina…”

Nina’s eyes were previously clamped shut, but burst open upon being addressed. That startling sensation of bashfulness assaulted his senses as Luka continued feeding him shameless compliments.

“You’re like a god,” Lukasha huffed, mouthing at the dark-haired boy’s shoulder as he spoke in an almost drunken haze. Another long thrust, holding its deep position sinfully. How was he even speaking? “Like Antinous…you’re my deity. I always want more.”

Oh no. Nina didn’t understand what was happening down there, a wet splurge leaking onto his abdomen while his chest went crazy, sweltering at the foreign pattern of poetry Lukasha was saying to him, about him.

“I want…haa—want you…as my religion. Want you…Nina, need you—my deity—need youuu…”

That did it. Lukasha groaned loudly over the last syllable, sending Nina into a frenzy he didn’t expect: his body thrashed about underneath Luka’s, insides spasming and breath turning into one sharp wail, hardly muffled by the pillow he was buried in. His frantic movements helped the customer along as well, those gravelly moans doing nothing but egging on Nina’s compilation, pushing him further down a path of whimpering and wild twitching, feeling as if he were closer to death than utopia. Just because Lukasha was a considerate lover didn’t mean Nina became accustomed to passion so quickly. It took another minute of trembling, gripping insides and shuddering tip making a mess before he even realized what had accidentally just taken place.

Nina was inside reality far enough to feel Lukasha’s lips give a sly grin, still pressed against the soft skin of his shoulder. He finished a short moment later, bruising movements swelling to an erratic conclusion, aching abs stuttering, then anchoring forward—all the while, Luka continued whimpering nonsense about deities and the beautiful boy shaking under him.

Ahhh…so pretty…you’re a perfect statue…perfect—haaa…Antinous…you’ll be my deity. Let me…Let me carve you, every part of you, deity…”

Deity…what is he talking about? The prostitute wondered hazily, thighs trembling as he struggled to keep Lukasha’s softening member inside. If anyone’s a deity here, it’s him. Jeez, what am I thinking?

Luka gave a weak groan when he slowly pulled out, keeping a solid hold on Nina’s waist as he lowered the teen down on his right side, proceeding to throw the used condom away. Nina allowed himself a short rest, eyelids falling shut sleepily even though he contributed little during their interaction; thankfully, Lukasha’s tougher methods of using the boy’s body were nowhere near as rough as Nina was used to. He might have one or two bruises along with some hickeys from tonight, which was a miracle, considering Nina usually stumbled out of motel rooms with a separated hip, aching sides, open bite wounds and various other injuries that posed serious health risks if not treated correctly…

Quiet panting was all that could be heard for a few minutes. It wasn’t a positive quiet, however, a certain intensity hovering between their souls despite everything being said and done. Nina hoped (like every night now days) he could fall asleep to “Viva la Vida” in a warm bed beside a handsome young man and never wake again.

An alarmingly familiar sound killed that dream and pulled Nina’s eyes back open—someone was crying. He knew that noise all too well, finding the culprit to be none other than Lukasha Kaveri himself, sitting on the edge of his own bed, face buried in his hands as wet sobs fell from those gentle lips. Nina was only able to lean up on his elbow, stuck in that position and watching in horror while the customer began profusely apologizing to him. Sensitive Lukasha had returned full-force after four empty days of unintentionally using Russia’s inhumane survival method: numbness.

“S-Sorry, Nina, I…used you. Emotionally,” Luka cried, unable to look up. Every trace of his bitter and rough tendencies was gone, replaced with shame and every sorrowful emotion in between. “I wasn’t e-ven horny, but…I didn’t…I didn’t know who else…I don’t have anyone else…”

Nina daringly scooted closer, forgetting everything that just took place between them in favor of focusing on the now, one of his more admirable traits. He even went so far as to lay a comforting hand on Lukasha’s bare arm, warm fingers wrapping around the quivering muscles there. He listened carefully as Luka confessed everything, how he wasn’t planning on hiring Nina tonight because he was too depressed, too distraught over the death of his beloved grandfather, about how he became so unbearably lonely after the funeral and wake he took a walk down to Club K just to see if Nina would show.

Comforting customers emotionally wasn’t written in Nina’s job description: he had no experience in it what-so-ever, but for Luka, who was overly kind and enjoyed being liked, he would give his best attempt.

“Tell me more,” The hooker interrupted gently, smoothly breaking through Lukasha’s wall. “About your grandfather.”

Nina breathlessly watched the scene unfold: he watched those light green eyes widen with surprise, those plump lips hover with an equal emotion, splitting into a startled laugh before Luka dove right in, forgoing all memories where attempts at sensual conversation were thrown aside so he could spill his broken heart to Nina the prostitutka.

“He was the best,” Lukasha croaked, mind pulling forward each gentle memory involving Alexei Kaveri. “Even when his son and the rest of Russia were bitter and miserable, he always had a smile on his face. He never made anyone feel small…he was the first person to tell me that, while it was true some people have it worse, my suffering still counted.”

Lukasha slouched against the headboard and told Nina all about his grandfather’s life, how he trained to be a figure skater but had a serious injury that ended his career and put him into serious debt he spent fifteen-years paying off. Luka told Nina about how gentle and sweet Alexei was to his grandchildren as they grew up, how he would defend their tears when Luka’s father would tell them to toughen up. Lukasha said he inherited his sensitivity from Alexei, and Nina was glad for that fact. They laid in bed talking for what seemed like hours upon hours, Nina content to listen as Lukasha told him his favorite stories, the best memories they shared together over the years…

“I wouldn’t be here right now if my grandfather hadn’t been visiting the day I broke the stove.”

“Oh nooo…were your parents literally about to kill you?”

“Literally,” Lukasha laughed, eyes still wet from lingering tears. “It really was an accident, but my dad had a chair and a belt ready to end my life with—luckily my grandpa hid me behind him for most of the afternoon until they calmed down. They were still pissed, but not enough to strangle me anymore, though I’m sure they dreamt about it.”

“Are you as close with them as you were your grandfather?”

Nina hadn’t meant to ask that out-loud.

“No,” Lukasha answered distantly. His eyes were trained on the blue wall across from them, the same shade of his grandfather’s eyes. “My feelings towards my immediate family members lean more towards anagapesis[2] these days…”

Luka wiped the lingering tears on his tender, red cheeks, sniffling as a hushed silence fell. Both boys were reflecting, wondering, Nina’s fingers having found their way into Lukasha’s somewhere between stories about Alexei. Luka was starting to feel selfish for taking up all their time talking about himself and, like the midnight talker he was, turned his gaze downward so he could address Nina.

“Do you…do you have any family, Nina?”

“I do,” The hooker answered with less of an agitated expression than Luka expected. “I have a father, a younger sister, and I think my mother is around somewhere. They still live near Tolyatti, unfortunately…I visit sometimes, send money when I can…but since my presence is more of a burden than anything, I tend to keep my distance.”

That was more information given willingly than Lukasha expected. He nodded understandably, filling in the empty space of Nina’s current situation at Tolyatti’s horrid mention—a village by Tolyatti, none of the less. Although the outer rim looked poor enough to be considered a smaller town, it was a rather large city holding over seven-hundred and twenty thousand citizens; Tolyatti’s income previously came from a car manufacturer, but it felt like years since they really had what you could call profit. Yes, there was also the Transfiguration Cathedral, the Tatishchev Monument…but despite a handful of grandeur buildings, Tolyatti wasn’t exactly on any vacation destination lists.

And a village outside Tolyatti? Well…there were more than plenty of unmentionable villages in Russia, but Tolyatti’s outer slums were probably on top of the “do not visit” list for tourists. Luka sometimes thought that city had potential to be tragically beautiful…but no. It couldn’t be considered attractive from any angle, could it? Was it possible to only look at the cathedral and ignore whatever scattered gray tumors laid beneath its foundation?

Unless Nina still resided near there (especially in child form—that would have been a precious sight to see, if Tolyatti didn’t create such unfortunate messes of revolting poverty), it had no chance of being a World Wonder—Lukasha was sure anyone who found themselves residing in Tolyatti had to have some awful karma leftover from several lives ago. For Nina’s family, who couldn’t even make it inside this poverty stricken city…he didn’t want to give that bad luck a title.

As far as litterboxes went, this village must have been the bottom, similar to Tartarus if it were covered in litter, the crusted, rotted remains of feces, hair, alcohol and dirt.

“Tolyatti, huh?” Lukasha commented quietly. “…That’s…pretty rough.” A stupid thing to say, really, but Luka hated being silent after someone offered him such vulnerable information. Nina gave a short laugh, peering upwards so his head was perfectly positioned on the designer’s chest.

“Everyone knows it’s a hellhole, Lukasha,” The hooker chuckled. “I may not deserve much, but my dreamy standards tell me I deserve a bit better than that.”

Luka tried laughing along with Nina. It didn’t work. He thought of Alexei Kaveri, how he might have stepped in and gently disagreed with Nina, telling him hopeful things like how he would one day earn something better, how his blurry dreams could come to life no matter what heavy circumstances fell upon him. Lukasha wanted his grandfather’s power of speech—instead, he had his touch, and so, remained quiet while daringly running a finger along Nina’s hand.

Nina sighed.

Their memories of that first night came rushing back, one of the first winter storms trapping them together, though neither saw it as so; the warmth of Luka’s favorite quilt, even better, the heat from his skin smothered against Nina’s, the soft glow from Luka’s kitchen light…ugh. Why did Nina have to feel so much? Hadn’t nineteen years-worth of prostitution in Russia anaesthetized his heart by now? Did he even have energy for pondering how Lukasha Kaveri managed to continuously force these emotions upon him?

 

Not tonight. Tonight, Nina had a mission: to satisfy his customer.

 

Lukasha listened with rapt attention (making up for lost time) when the teenager sat up so their shoulder level was equal, black eyes darting around the cute little room before slowly landing on the main attraction.

“If you want, Lukasha…” Nina started slowly, but not hesitantly. “We can make this a regular occurrence.”

As if Luka hadn’t imagined that before. He really liked spending time with Nina the hooker—but there was the problem all Russia faced, that curse word beginning with M, five letters long. Sure, Lukasha might be better off than some, but that didn’t mean he could afford to buy love whenever his heart felt lonely. Nina must have read his mind, for he spoke again hardly a moment later.

“I don’t always get paid in cash,” The younger boy added. “Sometimes I take gifts or food…in this case, a place to stay for the night. Add about 6,000₽ and we can call it a good business deal. What do you think, lover boy?”

A lousy hundred dollars a night to let Lukasha use his body like a dishrag. Nina didn’t deserve that shit. He was deity worthy, religion worthy, Hermitage worthy. He wasn’t a beggar boy, so why did he act like it now, giving honest attempts at an arrangement as twisted and cruel as it was? Luka felt bitter for this abandoned Tolyatti son, resisting an urge to wrap Nina up and give him a warm hug—that first memory of their chance interaction in Club K’s alleyway drifted back, Nina’s words echoing in a haunting tone:

“I guess we’re both pretty desperate.”

Yeah. Luka wanted to hug him. Better yet, he wanted another chance at having sex with the new Antinous.

“No offense, but I think we could both use some human interaction like this once in a while,” Nina continued, losing half his hope at Luka’s silence. “Agreed?”

That got Lukasha to stifle a laugh. He gave a nod, too, feeling the same desperation flickering like a broken lightbulb in his chest.

“Very true.” A deep exhale, and the next mistake Lukasha made was glancing sideways, growing much too fond of those dark, fragmented features. He didn’t stand a chance, did he? “Alright. It’s a deal, Nina.”

The prostitutka managed to hide his excitement by squeezing Luka’s hand as hard as he possibly could, which, with his height-to-weight ratio, wasn’t that hard. Not everything was solved in Nina’s life with this new business transaction, but both young men couldn’t help but feel a little lighter, a tad brighter than a thousand yesterdays. Winter was once again forgotten, a lost season as Lukasha cheerfully popped off the bed, accidentally sending Nina into a foot the air.

“Want some hot coco? I just bought some more, fresh from the market.”

At that mention, Nina couldn’t contain more excitement, black eyes gleaming, shimmering, sending sparks through Lukasha’s chest, a happiness he hadn’t felt since before Tuesday. Innocent joy seemed so far away until this moment.

Yes,” Nina pleaded. “Please.”

Alexei Kaveri, Lukasha’s grandfather and only confidant was dead. This was true. He wouldn’t be coming back in this lifetime, wouldn’t be there to defend his grandson and take his side whenever the chips were down. Still, Luka got laid tonight, cried after achieving orgasm, held hands with a deity and would now have delicious hot chocolate with that same deity. If Nina slipped his adorable blue sweater on and if the radio station played Coldplay again, it would almost be the perfect night.

 

Tonight, Lukasha felt happy about disobeying his parents and befriending a whore.

Chapter Text

The fourth season had been equally as rough as its last cycle, wrecking several Christmas themed activities and postponing many more; work went on for Nina, unfortunately, though lengthy weeks of performing lewd, far past immoral acts with his mouth and body were broken-up by visits to Lukasha Kaveri’s cozy apartment. They began a wonderfully relieving routine full of passionate, shockingly intimate sex always followed by hot beverages, hushed songs through a small radio and not-so-decent cuddling underneath a thick layer of covers. Questions longed for asking, but never found enough selfishness in their heart to interrupt simplicity’s beauty, allowing the boys nights of emotional indulging that made long winter days more bearable.

And oh, were those nights astonishingly heartening…there wasn’t one occasion where Nina didn’t receive the same amount of pleasure as his customer, Lukasha continuing to treat Nina like a lover, not a whore. The sickeningly sweet way Luka’s slender fingers gripped the prostitutka’s skinny waist, running along every bare bone and tender patch of skin he could find while simultaneously ruining Nina with alternating kisses, sloppy and smooth. It was becoming hard for the teenager to focus around Lukasha, especially when he inched closer towards the height of pleasure and let unfiltered cries fall from those dangerous lips:

“Ahh—Nina…Nina…”

Yes, Nina could admit he enjoyed feeling carnal indulgence every now and again, but the part he adored most about Saint Petersburg nights? Aftercare. Well, Lukasha probably didn’t know offerings of snacks, hot coco and a warm bed were included on the hooker’s list of aftercare specialties, but he continued supplying Nina with these pretty favors every time they met. The music became an inspirational source, tangled web of Luka’s toned legs rubbing against Nina’s own simply because it was allowed in their tiny universe. Not having to sleep with his bag, not having to curl in a tight ball for warmth, not forced to lay on a hairy chest and protruding stomach of some alcoholic bum…

Yeah. Nina felt more from nights with Lukasha Kaveri than he had in all his years of being a prostitutka.

Sometimes they met at Club K, other times at Lukasha’s block, and on Christmas Eve they joined together at New Holland to watch families ice skate at the beautifully decorated ice rink, brightened by a thousand twinkling lights and illuminating decor—Luka said he loved watching ice skaters because it reminded him of his grandfather. Lukasha told Nina about how much he dreaded attending his family’s Christmas Day celebration, although the following day was made more bearable after a night of sultry love making, fattening fudge and various alcoholic drinks mixed with hot coco. It might have been Lukasha’s favorite Christmas, making the night by far Nina’s favorite.

No other soul existed in the hooker’s life except a green-eyed sculptor named Lukasha, and no other interest popped-out at Lukasha except for his new deity, whose religion was certainly solidified through open mouthed kisses, muffled compliments and gentle, well-meaning touches. Life went on, holidays passed, winter continued, the new year arrived without being acknowledged by either boy. Such was the effect of hidden affection and all its mysteries.

Sunday, January 3rd, 6:38 a.m. The millionth morning-after following a rotten, frustrating weekend that was worse than usual for many reasons. The foremost reason stood tall and obnoxiously reminded Nina of itself every waking moment: this weekend was not Lukasha Kaveri’s weekend. Secondly? Well, every detail came close in second, considering his line of work…if Nina had to choose, it probably would have been the fact that his first customer on Friday night attempted a hit-and-run.

Hit-and-run had a different meaning to Nina than the usual definition. Being a prostitutka, there were additional risks in being alive and searching for work; being a male prostitutka, those risks doubled in a country where same-sex relationships (whether for love or purely for relief of sexual energy) were severely frowned upon, violent occurrences regarding anything LBGT becoming more commonly reported. Aside from a thousand unmentionable, filthy physical and emotional health risks, the hit-and-run was always a common fear for workers in the sex industry. Nina considered himself a good judge of character for being an impersonal teenager, but customers could be just as bitter and deceitful.

Simply put, after Nina rejected a disagreeable customer Friday night, the man attempted a “fuck-and-go.” When it became clear that Nina wasn’t about to go home with him, the customer ranted for fifteen-minutes in an attempt to push the hooker’s guard down. Nina turned away. Patience reaching a breaking point, the larger monster struck. While the foul-smelling man wanted a fast appointment, hoping to subject Nina to an abusive pace of ferocious intercourse and follow-up by throwing him out in the street without a dollar for payment, his mistake was made early on, when he chose a whore that smelled good rather than one of many young prostitutkas whose scent familiarized more with his own.

Sensitivity meant analyzation, and analyzation pushed fragile hearts towards fighting. Fighting for what, these hearts never questioned.

Nina managed to elbow the brute’s nose hard enough where he became momentarily disorientated, giving the teen enough escape time. With his jeans still pulled halfway down Nina ran, slipping while sprinting out of the alleyway and injuring his right knee—Nina only snatched one more picky customer that night and left the motel at six a.m., in pain and in need of medical assistance.

Most customers were content with a hole or mouth for their personal use, but there were always a few who had specific fantasies conceived when hiring Nina, forgoing comfortability and willingness in hopes of getting exactly what they wanted. The second customer required Nina to be on every second, body tiredly complying and frequently disobeying, ears open and listening tediously while the customer hissed at him, angry that Nina wouldn’t obey his every word.

“I hired you, you have to do as I say. I tell you to do something, you do it, got it, bitch? You better do as I say.”

Similar to Nina’s millions of brothers and sisters scattered across the country, he wondered why people who had scraps of paper with numbers printed on each corner thought the world bended to their every will.

Nina knew he should have stopped somewhere and disinfected his cuts, investigated his damaged knee and cleaned his lower area, but he was a bit too exhausted and a bit too angry for stopping. Stopping meant sitting in a pile of frozen ice and freezing his ass off. Stopping meant watching blood drip down his withered inner thighs. Stopping meant thinking. Nina hated thinking. So, using what money he earned over the weekend, the hooker decided to stop by a coffee shop and drown his sorrows in caffeine, hoping that would give him enough energy to stand back up after he fell.

Working in Saint Petersburg sucks, Nina resentfully ranted, limping into the coffee shop, where, of course, there was a line. It’s always cold as hell, it’s almost always snowing, the streets are slippery, the men are fat, cheap, smell like booze and probably haven’t worked in ten years. Sorry museums, but I hate this place. Fuck the city.

The line moved slowly. Nina kept fidgeting and rocking, knowing if he stopped the aches and pains would harass his body until it collapsed into ashes. No one gave him weird looks because they were doing the same, but to keep warm instead of warding away sex-related injuries. Nina felt no pressure until someone walked up behind him right when he was set to order.

Great. Now I better order quickly before this punk gets all pissy, then they’ll probably give him his order and forget about mine because he’ll be rude and pushy, then I’ll be out more cash…honestly, could this weekend get any worse?

Nina mumbled for a simple coffee, 79₽ in total.

“Add a white mocha, too.”

A voice coming from behind the teenager triggered another wave of annoyance from him, turning, ready for a fight just as Lukasha Kaveri (predictably) casually threw an arm around Nina’s shoulder with a sly, sleepy grin. Luka’s lover relaxed immediately and lowered his raised right elbow, which he planned on using as a weapon again.

“Vodka so early in the morning?” Nina wondered out-loud, watching without really seeing Luka pay for both drinks. “You better be careful—you might turn into a real Russian at this rate.”

“Figured I’d get a jumpstart on my day,” Lukasha grinned back at him. “Plus, the chocolate syrup makes it taste like hot coco. Maybe you should’ve ordered one, too.”

A wink was callously added after the fact.

Nina knew what flirting was. He watched people try their best at tricking attractive somebodies into going out with them with dorky jokes and flattering one-liners during his nights at Moscow clubs. He always wondered why people were such idiots to fall for them…not to say Luka was flirting with him. Then again, part of club-hopper’s methods included buying their chosen courter a round or two…

Lukasha ushered Nina to a nearby table so they could wait for their coffee in peace, noticing the teenager’s limp immediately despite how well Nina hid his pain. Or so he thought. Living in such a constant state of otherworldly emotions, Nina was so far past acting he didn’t know who he was acting differently from anymore. Luka noticed because the prostitutka’s attitude was free and indifferent on this early Sunday morning, very unlike Nina’s usual guard who never let anyone trespass into the boundaries of his isolated mind.

As Nina noticed (but chose not to address), Lukasha easily snuck past the borders whenever they ran into each other like this.

“Why are you up so early today?” Nina asked in a murmur, not looking at the boy sitting across from him. He was still fidgeting, hating that they were sitting because now the soreness would set in. “Did you even go to bed? Or did you stay up all weekend at an after-party?”

“Nah. Just couldn’t sleep,” Lukasha shrugged innocently into a yellow knitted scarf. It would’ve looked ugly on anyone else, and Nina hated that fact. He knew his expressions were too honest, despite being frozen from winter wind and ducked into his own scarf to hide. Luka wasn’t a rich prude, but that stupid inferiority strike rushed over Nina in a flash, reminding him of every difference between them, every detail that made Nina a diseased rat from Russian sewers, while Lukasha remained a rat, but an above-ground rat. How he hated himself so, letting someone else pay for his coffee…didn’t he used to be able to accept miracle charity acts without feeling anything?

The bustling coffee shop was their only source of conversation for a few minutes. Nina couldn’t stand it, bare fingers twittering against each other, uninjured leg shaking beneath the table—he meant to grab their drinks when they were called, but Lukasha beat him, standing in a hurry before the frail teen could force his creaking bones upwards. Luka gently set Nina’s simple black coffee down and slid it over, but not before scooping a lump of delicious cream off his white mocha and plopping it onto Nina’s drink (he obviously needed the calories more than Lukasha did). The prostitutka didn’t mind because he knew Luka’s skin wasn’t polluted like his own.

“That should warm your hands up,” Lukasha commented quietly, weary at Nina’s current aura. “…I know this is obvious, but it’s freezing out. Why aren’t you wearing your mittens?”

“Oh…I…forgot to put them on,” Nina replied distantly, staring at the fluffy cream floating on top of his coffee. “They’re in my bag.”

Lukasha fell silent again, sipping and humming as the warm, rich vodka ran down his throat. Yes, something kept egging him on, wanting Nina to spill his guts about everything that was obviously wrong in his wretched life, but Luka couldn’t bring himself to further the boy’s dejected expression. Nina didn’t touch his drink for a solid four-minutes, seemingly forgetting the concept of heat as he stared out the shop’s window blankly, yet expressively—Luka had never seen such an open appearance on Nina before, except from their…intimate run-in’s, of course. It was as troubling as it was humbling.

A distraction, Luka concluded, thoughtfully stirring his coco around. With me, being honest and straight-forward is the key to relieving my pain, but for Nina, I think he’s in need of an entertaining distraction…

“Wanna hear some of my kinks?”

Nina’s interest was caught, eyebrow raising high with slightly unnerved curiosity.

“You want me to lose what little appetite I have left?”

“They’re not that sick,” Lukasha huffed, crossing his arms and sitting back. “Do you want to hear or not?”

“Yes,” The prostitutka answered quickly.

Luka glanced around the coffee shop, making sure everyone was in their own little world before leaning forward on his elbows, steam from the vodka-infused drink heating his chin. Nina listened eagerly, focus entirely on the low words creeping from Lukasha’s thin, flushed lips; despite his hatred for customer preferences, he desperately wanted to know every last one of Luka’s secrets, and so, opened his ears honestly.

“Okay—first and foremost…I love hickeys. Any kind of bruise or bite mark I know I made really turns me on.”

“Common. What else?”

“I think that maybe…having my partner wear a collar could be hot.”

“Ooo. What else?”

“Whining is the best,” Lukasha sighed dreamily. “I think I’m starting to like the whole ‘baby boy’ title, too. But you want to know what I’m really into? The thing that’s guaranteed to give me a raging boner no matter where or when?”

“I’m too scared to ask,” Nina squealed, covering his face with anxious anticipation before creeping back out. Was he seriously blushing right now? “…Tell me.”

Lukasha motioned him closer. Nina leaned over the table, heartbeat quickening when that familiar set of lips placed themselves right up against his ear, other café goers paying them no mind. Not that they existed, anyway.

Skirts,” Luka whispered.

Skirts. Nina didn’t know what he expected, but it was certainly not that. He didn’t stop his amazed half-smile, eyes widening and unable to look away from Lukasha. Who would have thought some lower-middle class Russian kid could feel so creatively when it came to sexual desires? The hooker found that amazing, considering most customers got off on the mere idea of having missionary sex with some slut…he liked Lukasha Kaveri even more than before.

“Boys in skirts,” Nina repeated, trying it out for a feel as Luka sheepishly leaned back. “Can’t say I disagree with you. Why haven’t you ever told me that during our…sessions?”

“Well, I feel bad enough using you like every other horny bastard in Russia does,” Luka shrugged, reaching for his mug. “I don’t think I could go that far after all we’ve been through. I did bawl in your arms for two-hours, remember?”

Nina nodded. He remembered that night fondly, however painful it had been for his customer. With more time (and frequent hot sex with a cute hooker), Luka would heal and learn to accept his grandfather’s death. While Nina thought their first time together was a fluke, that night had solidified the idea in his mind that something about this customer differed from the others. He didn’t know or want to know what, but since his terrible weekend at all but been forgotten during this embarrassing, but incredible conversation about sexual fetishes, Nina thought in the near future, he might like to find out.

“What about you?” Lukasha asked suddenly, green eyes glowing with mischievous intentions.

“What about me?”

“Do you have any…preferences?”

“Ah. I haven’t given it much thought, honestly.” I try not to think at all. “But I suppose, if I could think of one…”

Luka leaned forward, expression curious and eager as his fingers tightly wrapped around the cup.

“I, um…like…I like when you groan my name. All low, you know,” Nina coughed. “It’s nice. And…I think I may have a sweatpants kink.”

“Nina, you dirty boy!”

A dark blush crept to the hooker’s cheeks when Luka laughed loudly, an adorable, cackling laugh Nina loved hearing. Usually he only had the honor of listening to Lukasha’s low, equally enchanting chuckle in the darkness of his apartment, but this noise was just as breathtaking. Nina wished they could be in public more often—if he wasn’t what he was (a whore, a boy), maybe they could be normal lovers in Saint Petersburg.

It was easy to fall into silence, as they did so before falling asleep together every few weeks, and Nina sipped his coffee thoughtfully while Luka threw back a mild amount of vodka across the table. Why can’t we stay like this? The pained prostitute wondered, throbbing fingers tightening around his empty mug. Why do we have to leave? Why can’t we go back to Luka’s place and take a nap? It wouldn’t hurt if we listened to just one song, right?

I’m thinking. Stop thinking. Stop, before it really hurts.

“All done?”

Nina nodded reluctantly. Time to leave again…for as quickly as the prostitutka sprinted away from every customer he had, leaving Lukasha Kaveri was becoming a full-on dramatic movie scene. A busy coffee house, whipping winter gusts, nostalgia burning in Nina’s chest, along with other painful burns radiating through various parts of his abused teenage body—was this as “fine” as life got?

“You know…it’s supposed to be colder than usual out today,” Lukasha commented, scratching at his messy hair covered by a beanie. “If you want, you can hang at my place. I have work tomorrow morning, but it should be bearable outside by then.”

An opportunity. While Lukasha had been taught to seize these moments, Nina knew not how to recognize the situation because he couldn’t remember a day in his life when positive opportunity arose. He blinked with despairing black eyes, misunderstanding Luka simply because his self-worth laid below the decomposing animal corpses laying on the sides of roads. Despite their regular graceful touches and bonding over English pop songs, Nina wasn’t well acquainted with established societies to realize someone was being kind to him purely for the sake of being kind. And because Lukasha thought him beautiful.

“Ah…sorry, but I don’t think…” Nina struggled over his words, not used to turning down easy money. Maybe if Luka could go more slow than usual…no. He would still tear again, ripping open other wounds in the process. An unknown voice pushed Nina’s considerations aside. “I—I had a really rough weekend, physically, I mean, so I don’t think I’m in any shape to really give you what you want.”

Lukasha could do nothing but stare, expression more serious than the hooker had ever seen before. Then again, who was serious when they were banging some slut in an alleyway? Nina normally would have felt intimidated by a look so stern, but kept his wits and waited for Luka’s words, clear and honest as daylight, though Nina still didn’t know if he heard correctly.

 

“What I want is for you to be alive and well.”

 

There it was again. Those strange, unknown feelings, that odd fluttering making his chest tingle. Nina was sure his heart had never been touched before today, or maybe the night he first stumbled upon Lukasha. What I want is for you to be alive and well—Lukasha Kaveri wanted him, some lowlife streetwalker who had sucked every other dick in Saint Petersburg to continue living. Nina knew not what purpose he would survive and fight for, if it were harboring cruel secrets underneath, but at the very least, he would get to weave himself between Luka’s legs again—even if it meant putting out.

Through innocent accident, Nina had grown attached through sensitive lyrics, cold winter nights and splashes of his new favorite color, pale green.

“Come home with me, Nina,” Luka begged. “Please—let me give you this.”

The dark-haired boy inhaled severely, lungs caught in a battle between whispering his agreement or shouting his disapproval. Habit told him to shout. Relief told him to whisper.

“Yes,” Nina breathed.

This was his answer.

 

***

 

Lukasha’s apartment was a bit lighter in the early morning; despite Nina thinking he would hate darkness’ pretty veil that made everything less daunting on late Friday nights, he appreciated this physical form of optimism. The hooker followed after Luka silently, letting himself be guided towards the bed by his wrist, sitting when Luka told him to sit, even undressing when he was told without feeling insecure.

In his eager escape from the picky client, Nina had forwent cleaning himself, leaving behind a crusted mess of sweat and scratches hidden under that same thin hoodie. His jacket had been left behind when the hit-and-run customer aggressively ripped it off and thrown Nina’s precious shield in a snow pile somewhere. Aside from internal wounds Lukasha couldn’t fix, upon first sight there was obviously some work to be done on the top layer of Nina’s skin.

What am I preserving myself for, anyway? The teenager wondered silently, now clad in his ripping briefs as Lukasha brought out a homemade first-aid kit. I’m not a deity like Luka said. If anything, I’m clattered remains of a broken, unfinished statue no one bothered completing. Why clean up a mess when I’m already living in one?

Lukasha leaned down in front of the bed, absentmindedly readying alcohol swabs while his eyes glanced over the decayed artwork not an inch away. He liked to think he knew Nina’s body well, but there were marks on the hooker’s skin Luka knew he hadn’t created. Blurred splashes of pink, a Dendrobium orchid color splattered across his hands and elbows, a rubbed rash from being jostled around on a certain type of fabric—those same petals could be found near Nina’s thin collarbone, a darker Amaryllis shade caused by poisonous Russian fly trap lips. Lukasha was pained by bright red streaks ruining the deity’s pale waist, marring their porcelain with terrible scratches that seemed to have bled considerably, color smeared from when Nina began fighting back during the fierce confrontation.

Those pink hues weren’t nearly as heartbreaking as the purple eclipses polluting Nina’s lower body.

Light Delphimium petals patterned in fingerprints on Nina’s hips couldn’t compare to the Lathyrus odratus ruining the white skin of his legs; it looked as if a shelf of priceless teacups had been torn down and stepped on, painful bruising covering the tops of his slender thighs all the way down to his shins. The prostitutka’s knees were by far the worst, entirely cloaked by deep purple flowers, some healing, some blooming in the dead of winter. Nina’s bleeding right knee needed heavy attention, swollen and red from what looked like a sprain, sensitive to the touch when Lukasha began wiping an alcohol swab over its open wound.

As a loyal art admirer, Luka reviewed this piece and decided tonight, Nina was the type of lost, forgotten artwork that gave you a sad feeling when you stared for too long.

“Does this hurt the most?” Lukasha asked lowly, nimble fingertips gently disinfecting.

“Not…the most,” Nina murmured.

That wasn’t what Luka wanted to hear, but since Nina was being honest, the designer rewarded him by keeping silent, dabbing with soft motions until the broken skin was clean. The shivering prostitute never took his black eyes off Lukasha, watching as his glass body was patched together again with band aids, cleaned with cotton swabs, healed with ice packs and the warm, comforting touch of Lukasha’s artist hands drifting over his sensitive skin. Once the unwelcomed flowers finally froze under winter’s pressure, covered from view and leaving the canvas as it existed before disaster, Lukasha cleaned his station up, but not before laying a breezy, barely-there kiss atop Nina’s bandaged right knee.

If butterflies could kiss, the hooker figured Lukasha Kaveri was what their lips felt like.

Luka stood, then, looking over Nina’s body to see if he missed any injury or scratch; he didn’t notice the intense, somewhat suspicious gaze held in those obsidian orbs, pulled back to reality when crimson doll lips spoke.

“Many people like me…suffer, too. But you pick me to be kind to…”

Nina sucked in a deep inhale, question whispering out in prayer form.

“Are you really from the same place as us?”[1]

A long pause. Luka’s apartment had never been so quiet before. One moment later, Nina felt that oh so familiar right hand graze, then fondly rest against his jaw as Luka brushed his calloused thumb back and forth over the hooker’s cold ceramic surface. How was it, in nineteen long years of scampering across Russia in search of meaning, Nina, once a child like everyone else, had never experienced such bottomless, wholesome kindness from anyone?

 

This was Luka’s answer, and the answer Nina hoped for.

 

“Rest,” Lukasha lightly commanded, taking his hand away and leaving the other lonely. “You’re safe here.”

When Nina found himself unable to move, Luka nudged the prostitutka into bed, carefully elevating his right knee and covering him in warm blankets. With the radio now playing on a fuzzy classical music station, his bag and clothes lying by the bedside, gray daylight peeking through the curtain and one of a kind Lukasha Kaveri sitting at his coffee table doodling, Nina allowed himself to continue this delusion and fell asleep. Certain he had caught some curable disease (that wouldn’t be cured unless he slept with a doctor or something…) and was given a final gift of a comfortable nap, Nina slept the entire day away, waking once in a rare while just so he could blissfully fall back asleep with the impression of death being close by.

What little sun had risen fell in late afternoon; Lukasha was still working, inspired to draw more set designs that would probably never be used. When he finally broke out of his focus and checked on Nina, he found the teenager sitting up in bed, black hair more knotted than ever, eyes pinched shut from amusing fatigue and confusion. Luka snickered, stretching his stiff arms while strolling over.

“Have a nice nap, sleeping beauty?”

Dark eyes blinked dumbly, peering up without a reply.

“Jeez, you’re so out of it…are you even awake right now?” Luka teased, slowly moving Nina’s head around to test his consciousness. “Just as I thought—dead.”

“M’not…that lucky,” The boy mumbled, rubbing at his face like a child. All Nina’s previous hopes for death were forgotten when he realized where he was waking-up again. Lukasha chuckled bitterly in response, guiding Nina when he went to throw his legs off the mattress; his right knee felt more sore than ever, but at least some swelling had gone down. “What…What did you do when I was sleeping?”

“Drew some sets, daydreamed a bit,” Luka shrugged. “Want to see some of my drawings? They’re not all great, but I think some of them are.”

Nina, still a bit hazy from sleep, nodded simply, letting Lukasha tug him towards the velvet love seat, where they sat together and filtered through Luka’s work for the day. There were plenty of impressive set designs, style patterns and even a few imagined with ballerinas scribbled in front—Nina thought them beautiful and didn’t understand why Luka said they would never be used. Lukasha explained his title as a mere assistant, explained how he didn’t have any real power. He only received the job through chance, his father happening to meet the main designer on a train one afternoon, where he probably begged at the man’s feet like the desperate drunk he was…

Still, even though Lukasha fell into his current career the same way everyone else in Russia did, Nina found him impressive, because Luka was one of few who was actually qualified. He found himself more enraptured by drawings of ballerinas and random Saint Petersburg civilians, amazed as he always was by the skill and elegance artists possessed. While Lukasha filed his designs away for later, a particular sketch at the coffee table’s edge caught Nina’s special attention.

Thinking the boy’s familiar expression might be a copy of his favorite painting “Beggar Boy,” Nina pointed at the paper.

“What’s that?”

“Hm?”

Nina (still very bare in his underwear, though he had wrapped his upper body in Lukasha’s quilt) gently tugged the drawing out from underneath a few others, taking a painfully long moment to remember that wintery Thursday at the Hermitage Museum, the Pavilion Hall, Isis, Antinous…Nina’s lover, Lukasha, appearing out of nowhere to pull him towards the French art section…the hooker was utterly shocked at what light Luka drew him in.

“Is…Is this…me?”

“Oh. Um…yeah?” Lukasha answered sheepishly, suddenly feeling like a stalker. “It…I drew it that day, when we were at the Hermitage together. I have to draw whatever memory is stuck in my head so I don’t forget, you know…and, um…I—I liked that memory. A lot.”

Nina hardly heard Luka’s rambles. His mouth was hung open with absolute disbelief, mind reeling over the idea of him, a common Russian whore being the main inspiration of a divine art piece. Lukasha had actually taken time out of his daily life to focus on him. Some people said sex was when individuals felt most on display, but staring at the charcoal image of himself, cuddled in a hoodie, his blue scarf, wearing a smile only reserved for Lukasha while a rush of prickling wind assaulted his exposed skin, the main Hermitage building a mere blurry image behind him…

Well—Nina had never felt so displayed and celebrated before.

Luka didn’t know how or when, but the next moment he came to, brittle fingers were undoing his zipper and tugging his jeans down.

“Um—uhh…Nina?”

No reply except for a brief glance, eyes looking similar to a polished stone due to a glossy surface encasing their black hue; this sight, along with the fact that Nina had succeeded in pulling Lukasha’s jeans down made him stand in alarm, though his movement didn’t defer the prostitute’s work. Luka’s pants were now a mess at his ankles, briefs quick to join.

“Jeez—what—”

A cold breeze made Lukasha give a long shiver before Nina latched on, battered fingers keeping his customer’s hips steady. Luka desperately tried retaining what little composure he had left, hoping to sort out his confusion before things really took off, but pride failed him miserably.

“N—Nina,” Lukasha exhaled shakily. He meant to push the prostitutka’s head away, but ended-up intertwining his fingers through those dark locks of hair instead. “I-I…”

A few voices told Luka to stop Nina’s lewd actions right away—since they could offer him no good reasons, however, the designer ignored their suggestions and gave in, swallowing thickly and loosening his tense grip on Nina’s bangs. The radio station lost connection, becoming nothing more than a static background sound ignored by both boys along with the bubbling of a steaming teapot on Luka’s stove.

Lukasha was sure he had never felt such a fiery heat forming in his lower abdomen before, all lingering cold fronts vanishing at Nina’s wandering hands and soft mouth—Luka hadn’t felt this warm even during their Friday night sessions, when every inch of their tensed, sweaty bodies fused into one moving figure. Eager, filthy wet slurping sounds echoed through the one-room apartment, Luka fighting for a small piece of his remaining sanity while Nina drew him closer, untrimmed fingernails lightly digging into his lover’s hips. Inch by inch, Nina devoured course number one, swallowing until everything fit snugly, real work beginning without hesitation.

The prostitutka was content below him for the next few minutes, soothed and spurred-on by Lukasha’s ramblings under shaky breaths.

“Nina,” Luka panted flatteringly, hands trembling as they fought between loosening and increasing their grip on Nina’s hair. His tone still sounded surprised. “Shit, Nina…too mu—ahhh…i-it’s too much…Nina…p-lease…”

Nina knew he was very good at what he did, despite customers usually never being patient enough to let him fully perform, but hearing it from Lukasha Kaveri, his favorite person inspired him to execute more. Once Luka was fully aroused, Nina adjusted his kneeling position, head raising higher and working Lukasha through deep gulps and not-so-secretive glances with his watery, fluttering eyelashes. The teenager actually smiled when Luka groaned at this obscene sight. A torturous rhythm began, throat ring relentlessly teasing, pairing up perfectly with each sloppy movement, warm trap keeping every skin patch in reach happily flushed and swollen. Nina’s customer felt exhilarated, if his string of curses and shuddering thighs were anything to go by.

“Fuck,” Lukasha hissed bluntly, waist bending over Nina as he struggled composing himself. “Ah, ah…” The hooker’s slobbery tongue creeped out of his mouth, smashed between his lower lip and Luka’s intimate object. “Shit shit shit—Nina—y-you…fuck, I’m…I’m close…”

Luka lost the power of speech, making another grave mistake by forcing his aching abs to lean back so he could glance down at Nina, accidentally pushing him deeper inside: the dark-haired boy looked more indecent than ever before, eyelashes clumped with moisture, tears pooling down his pale cheeks as he locked gazes with Lukasha, eyes narrowing, struggling to stay open, clamping shut a second after—trying as he did, Luka fell victim as well, crying out when he came, the final shred of his kindness using stored energy to keep himself from thrusting forward. Nina held on tightly, raw throat working at dispelling Lukasha’s pulsing member, but the prostitutka was not an amateur and therefore ignored his aching jaw, waiting until Luka was empty before slowly sliding off.

A new sound mix broke the living room’s intensity, Nina gulping once very loudly, eyelids shooting open after while his lungs desperately reached for air, harboring deep breaths as he anchored himself using Lukasha’s hips. The designer, meanwhile, still conflicted at what set this hunger off, let out low moans through his open lips, tiredly covering them with his numb right hand. The left stayed buried in Nina’s messy hair, grip looser with affection as they recovered together—a million thoughts ran through Luka’s head, but per usual, he couldn’t find it in him to speak, instead shielding his embarrassing whimpers while praying for his legs to stop shaking so he didn’t collapse on Nina.

A string of spit mixed with Lukasha’s release kept Nina attached to his shaking tip; Luka wondered when he became so stupid, letting himself look down again, a witness to Nina’s next lewd act, kitten licking his lover clean. A louder wail muffled itself out, causing his cheeks severe heat when Nina popped off with a smile, moist lips smacking together and just barely hiding a giggle. Lukasha still couldn’t move, regaining control of his quivering muscles after four long minutes.

“What…the hell was that about?” The taller boy huffed, daringly peeking downwards. Nina was slurping at his messy lip area, which would have turned Luka on if he hadn’t just finished moments before. “Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but…you know I don’t have all my money, yet…”

“Consider this your one free blowjob a month,” Nina hummed, secretly admiring Luka’s size like he often did in his daydreams. “If you’re good, you’ll get another coupon next month.”

“Really?” Lukasha squeaked hopefully. “I mean…cool.”

Nina chuckled quietly, finally taking his hands off Lukasha’s hips and sliding the sculptor’s underwear back up, unintentionally making Luka hiss when the fabric brushed over his sensitive shaft. Fully clothed again, Lukasha suddenly recalled the fragile conditions of Nina’s injured body and hurriedly helped him up, throwing the blue quilt back around Nina’s shoulders.

“Oh—you shouldn’t be on the floor. Let’s go back to bed; your knee is probably agitated, now—damnit…I knew I should have stopped you. You’re weak, Lukasha, weak!”

“No one can resist me, Luka. It’s okay to be self-indulgent.” Because you deserve it after what you did for me. “Don’t worry about it.”

That response made Luka scowl for some reason as he carefully helped Nina into bed, covering him with covers even though he was already trapped in the luxurious quilt; thankfully, none of his bandages had fallen off during their spontaneous oral session, Nina feeling cleaner and cozier than ever. He even let Lukasha tuck him in like a child, feeling abandoned when no one joined. The teen’s attention was pulled elsewhere at the sound of his lover answering the comment Nina made earlier.

“I don’t want to be like everyone else,” Lukasha mumbled.

“…You’re not.”

Green met black, colliding and separating like magnetic ends, Luka staring at Nina with a penetrative gaze while the latter stared with a dreamy expression. Blue walls, violin ballads, smears of bright color on a canvas, the taste of Lukasha, the sound of Lukasha, everything about this assistant set designer sent Nina’s mind abroad, past the stretch of this universe and into another untouched dimension.

You’re not like the others. You’re kind. You’re creative. You’re a daydreamer. You belong in a better place. You’re gentle. You’re a lover. Somehow, you aren’t brainwashed like everyone else. You think about things others should think more of. You make me think, too. You aren’t anyone else. You’re Lukasha.

Of course, Nina lacked courage to say those things, however true they may be. Lukasha saved him a fair amount of guilt by interrupting his dream with a deep sigh, breaking their tender stare-down.

“You need more rest. Go back to sleep.”

“Come lay with me,” Nina retaliated quietly, patting the pillow beside him. He wasn’t used to giving orders and half-expected a slap for it, but the other half had a good feeling Lukasha would obey, though they couldn’t explain why. “…Take a break from doodling.”

After a short moment of contemplating without really contemplating, Luka relented, running a hand through his unruly hair before throwing himself over Nina’s form and huddling underneath the covers. Nina couldn’t intertwine their legs because of his injury, but Lukasha (as always) made-up for it by wrapping his thigh over the hooker’s, pushing them so close together there was no other adjective to describe their intimacy aside from cuddling. It was warm, comfortable and lazy. Nina loved Sunday a bit more than he normally did, given his awful weekend of work. His knee did hurt a bit, as did the enflamed scratches on his sides, not to mention the burning of each disinfected cut, scrape and unwanted bite mark…but…

“Did you name it?” Nina wondered softly. Part of him didn’t want to know, didn’t want the pretty picture destroyed in memory by a negative title. “The drawing of me, I mean.”

“Yeah,” Luka nodded into his collarbone. “I named it as it was: The Frozen Butterfly.”

 

Nina didn’t comment on his relief. He repeated the name over and over, wondering what Luka meant by that, if he really saw him as a dull, gray-winged butterfly. With how sated and confused Lukasha felt, it was nearly effortless for sleep to claim him, though he forced himself awake, worrying about his lover’s knee, if their current position triggered its agony—Nina never commented on that topic, either, but just as Luka was about to give in and dream against the prostitutka’s soft skin, he heard soft, genuine words drift past his ear.

“I don’t understand you,” Nina could be heard whispering, talking to the pillow behind Lukasha’s head. “But…I want to. Even if it’s another cruel trick, I want to…”

How did he think Luka was tricking him, the designer wondered hazily. Did he think Lukasha would turn him over to the hate groups for sleeping with men? Did he think his act as a lover was just a trap so he could keep Nina as a sex slave forever? Luka wasn’t conscious enough to further analyze these theories, but he did feel the teenager cuddle closer, burying his face into Lukasha’s hair and diving face-first into another beautiful memory.

 

“I want to be with Lukasha.”

Chapter Text

Lukasha Kaveri could admit that he thought of Nina as a friend—after spending frequent nights messing around in his bed with the young hooker, Luka no longer referred to Nina as a hooker (though he rarely did to begin with). Instead, he silently spoke of the deity as a butterfly, a lover, a lost angel wandering Russian icy grounds while looking for a permanent home. Each touch brought them life, and each sleepover strengthened their quiet bond, since what they did hidden in Lukasha’s apartment under a stormy Saint Petersburg cloud couldn’t simply be qualified as “messing around.”

Their routine continued through awful winter storms and beating winds, never missing a single chance at coming together, prolonged nights of passionate lust and searching eyes. What they were looking for, both found, never revealing their findings to anyone aside from each other. Every other week, Nina would meet Lukasha Kaveri at Club K or his apartment; they undressed as they kissed, fell into bed and released whatever emotions captured them in moments apart.

“Nina,” Luka would pant below him, chest bouncing with the stamina it took to rock upwards. “Feels good…ah!”

Nina’s body adjusted like all teenagers’ do, relieved beyond measure when it found the same pleasure as Lukasha. Sex itself was exhausting to a sickly, poor boy like Nina, and sex with an equal was even more draining; but he loved it. This kind of intimacy Nina could understand—he understood why Western ideals were obsessed with the idea of love, of hunger and need…euphoria stood on a higher level than lust quality-wise, which made Nina wonder why there were over a million people[1] in Russia whose job included selling their bodies for lust alone.

But who could think of these bleak ideals when Lukasha was involved?

He was so talented at what he did. Nina almost felt like an amateur whenever Luka took control and pounded away at his body, somehow managing grace, softness and enthusiasm in one bundle. What fools had been stupid enough to turn Lukasha Kaveri down as a lover? Nina didn’t feel sorry for them simply because he wanted this power all to himself. He wanted the powerful thrusts, the delightful smell of Luka’s body, those large palms encasing his arousal with welcomed heat, everything that made Lukasha who he was. Nina had never appreciated human touch this much in his entire life, not even in daydreams.

And Luka’s words. Did Nina ever so love those verses…

“I love it...like this,” Lukasha panted as he hovered over the dark-haired boy’s body, stomach pressed against Nina’s, forcing his thin legs to wrap around Luka’s thrusting hips. “Deity…my deity…”

Nina was sure Lukasha wasn’t consciously using that term, guessing he imagined some other goddess below him whenever the title fluttered off his moist lips, but the more often he used it, the more Nina watched Luka and realized something startling—Lukasha knew exactly what he was doing. Those green eyes deceived him on many occasions, but peering up as the word “deity” escaped, Nina understood and relished in much needed attention. Using slander as a compliment, Nina was turning into a bit of a slut for Lukasha Kaveri. Any position, any place, any time, the prostitutka was willing and silently eager.

Every other weekend they came together (figuratively, literally), and every night, Luka would help Nina clean their bodies with a washcloth, taking his time simply so he could have another opportunity to feel the hooker’s body. Whenever a patch of Nina’s flesh became raw and dry (both from the season and from his career), Lukasha would pour lotion onto his own hands, rubbing and working the smooth substance until it was practically infused in Nina’s skin. When they were clean and clothed once more, Luka made hot coco, turned the radio on, climbed under the covers and immediately cuddled Nina against his chest.

However lazy and impure their actions seemed, Nina considered their cuddling exceedingly productive. He learned more about humanity through Lukasha’s secrets, his steaming figure and steady gaze than any other event, whether mild or severe that happened before they stumbled upon each other.

“I saw a sunset for the first time when I was ten-years-old,” Luka said softly, staring at the swirl of reflective color in Nina’s glossy eyes as they rubbed their legs together under dirty bed sheets. “The sky is always gray, you know, and I was usually indoors by dinnertime because my mom wanted us to be safe; when I looked out the kitchen window and saw all the colors in the sky…I was shocked. You would’ve thought I saw a fucking UFO for how excited I was about it.”

Nina giggled, and it wasn’t an accident this time. He became serious again when the story continued.

“I didn’t know the sky could have so many colors, you know? I didn’t know pinks and oranges existed…that there could be something so beautiful over our shitty little town. I don’t know—for some reason that memory always sticks with me.” A tired smile crept to Lukasha’s lips, eyes still locked on the teenager’s. “Maybe because you have just as many colors as that sunset, hm, Nina?”

The prostitute didn’t know how to handle sincerity. He tried returning his muddled emotions by cuddling closer and pushing back in their shared kisses.

 

The songs they heard through Luka’s radio during late night commercial-free hours provided Nina with more lyrical entertainment for long days spent train riding across Russia. This scheduled warmth allowed his previously spent immune system a night to fight back against Russia’s ruthless illness season; Nina fended off a bout of the flu by getting stuck at Luka’s for an entire weekend (unexpectedly, they were thankful for a winter storm), rejected a work-related sickness by sharing body heat with Lukasha’s long limbs and also soothed his throbbing, scratchy throat with mugfulls of hot coco.

For the first time in forever, Nina was nearly content.

“Nina,” Lukasha mumbled one night, hand limp against the prostitutka’s cheek. “Sleep well…you need strength.”

What for? I don’t need strength for what I do. Why would I need strength when I have you?

“Okay,” Nina nodded, if only to make that smooth palm rub against his blushing cheek. “Sleep better than I, Lukasha.”

Nothing aside from the addition of a new customer had changed. Work was work. A public blowjob here, a spank there, gagging elsewhere. But because Lukasha Kaveri was that new customer, everything in Nina’s world changed. To the teenager, his job as a whore was all about adapting, altering his methods of pleasure in hopes it pleased the drunk asshole who found him keeping warm on lonely sidewalks. When he wasn’t working during grey daylight hours, Nina’s job was to avoid pimps as much as possible. He couldn’t stay in an apartment (even though it was easily affordable) because they would find him too easily, subjecting the poor boy to unspeakable deals that, while Nina thought he had seen it all, would always outdo even his darkest nightmares.

Yes. Nina was a male prostitute, homeless, wandering city to city for work, whoring towards no dreams, no goals, no desires but one single silver lining: get through each appointment as quickly as possible in hopes of time moving fast enough where Lukasha’s appearance would rush up on Nina like a warm spring air. An adjective close to living, but not yet brushing the surface. This was what Lukasha Kaveri had become for Nina.

If Luka was newfound energy for the prostitutka, then the prostitutka was a touchable deity for Lukasha.

He daydreamed about Nina so often it almost became a case of maladaptive daydreaming. Everything Lukasha saw at work, the skirts, the tulle, starry sets, the makeup of the dancers, every splash of color known to mankind triggered his mind into a dazed state, forcing unexpected moments filled with exhilarating strikes of affection for life, and of course, for Nina. Luka imagined he saw the sculpture near, so accustomed to feeling his deity’s presence it came as a shock when Lukasha looked and saw not the boy with black eyes, messy hair, pale skin, hidden freckles, kissable doll lips and a malnourished, but ever so lovely body that always found itself trapped in Luka’s hold. Undoubtedly, not to mention, accidentally, Lukasha was attached.

Oh, the attachment, the sweet, breathtakingly fragile feelings of attachment and esteem that flooded Lukasha’s soul every time he met Nina after what seemed like a cruel eternity…Luka no longer ran into the hooker at coffee shops, since Nina was attempting an experiment testing how much greater he could make nights at Lukasha’s seem that involved staying as far away from Saint Petersburg as possible until the moment was right. His test must have worked, given how last occasion Luka threw himself at Nina and began kissing him the minute he opened the apartment door.

Kissing. How Nina adored kissing.

Sometimes the teenager wondered how Lukasha’s lips became so talented, thought about the subject until he became strangely furious over the idea of some other schmuck teaching his lover how to kiss. Did he learn from a woman? A schoolgirl, perhaps, in order for his real preference to remain secret? Nina never let his envy get the better of him, instead using his own lips as a weapon. He was proud of his improvement in the kissing category, though Luka still reigned as king.

It was a miracle Nina could function once Lukasha’s lips pressed against his, whether sloppily or neatly; when they were caught in a tight embrace, Luka carved inside as deeply as he could, the hooker was subjected to hundreds of scattered kisses, alternating from his throat, his chest, his jaw, his cheeks, all exposed skin in between. They hypnotized him from the very start, as Lukasha was the only customer who ever dared lay his own lips against Nina’s—but the prostitutka’s favorite kisses came afterwards, when amatory sparks had subsided, fading until they became nothing more than hums of interest.

In those moments following unparalleled pleasure (Nina always receiving an equal half), Lukasha would throw his legs and arms over Nina, per usual, covers shielding them from any remaining cold, and with their insides nice and toasty thanks to the hot coco (and…other things), Luka had lately taken-up kissing Nina deliberately and tenderly. These kisses differed drastically from their messy make-outs during sex. These lingering touches were totally unrushed, lazy, soft, and, if Nina judged correctly, full of hidden meaning. With his arm trapping the dark-haired boy up against his chest, Lukasha would slowly move his lips against Nina’s, connection lasting a solid five-seconds before he even thought about adjusting. When he did move, warm lips pressed deeper, though not harder, gradually becoming more passionate until Nina could classify their kisses as a total make-out session, however lethargic it was.

Limbs locked together, foreheads brushing over the other while hands slowly grasped, bodies messy, smelling like fading perfume, they would kiss and kiss and kiss until fatigue overwhelmed them. Under a heavy quilt, the impression of love and no longer hidden adoration, Nina allowed himself the indulgence of Lukasha Kaveri’s kisses, and felt satisfied.

While his customers were hooked on sexual pleasure their whore’s ill, emaciated body provided, Nina was hooked on Luka’s kisses. Every night he fell asleep against that long, welcoming body, drifting away with the image of Lukasha’s wavy hair and drowsy green eyes, the feel of those swollen, heated lips against his own, Nina wished he would never wake-up.

Against his lover’s chest, he wished for death.

Hot coco. Warm quilts. Coffee table covered in drawings of him. Coldplay. Sky blue walls, the most beautiful color next to Luka’s ripe green. Aesthetically pleasing scenery lying beside him. That was the last set of sensations Nina wanted to experience. Not being fucked so hard he could barely move afterwards, not the scent of alcohol and urine, not feeling like the ugliest creation from Lyutsifer[2] himself after stumbling out onto the street, being passed-off as another poverty-struck failure who was going nowhere because he lacked connections and support. He prayed for death every night spent with Luka, and when it didn’t come true, he prayed harder the next occasion.

Death was inevitable. For Nina, it was far past that stage. He had been waiting for that merciful, familiar hand since the day he was born, since the first time he was introduced to suffering through attitude and conditions. He valued death. Reapers were most welcomed, and if Nina saw them, he sprinted across a busy street to initiate their embrace, only to be rejected time and time again.

To Nina, Lukasha Kaveri was his angel of death. Still, when the hooker found himself alive the following morning, comfortably stuck underneath Luka’s body, held together by those long, openhearted arms, Nina didn’t feel bitter. He would try again next time. Until then, he would let himself be kissed, caressed and made love to.

 

Today was a better winter sunrise for both boys. The sky stood a dark gray cloud above Saint Petersburg, but for once, that shade was inspiring to Lukasha, who considered his day a success when he designed another ballet set that might not ever be seen by eyes other than his own (and Nina’s, for he had taken a liking to looking over Luka’s drawings after their sensual activities), adoring his own content until it was time to attend real work. Lukasha knew he was extremely fortunate and reminded himself every day—something felt different in these manners today, however. Already fizzing from excitement over his next meeting with Nina later in the night, Luka’s appreciation leaned more towards the teen than his job.

It’s strange how one’s perception on life can change so severely by meeting someone new, Lukasha thought while he painted a set, admiring the ballet dancers from afar. Nina and I bring our scars and secrets with. We don’t judge (as if people like us were capable of judging) or ridicule each other for past choices. We take the present, who we are right now and create something bright and new.

Luka was suddenly reminded of a poem he read Nina a few weeks before while lying in bed, when they weren’t tired enough to fall asleep just yet:

Meeting someone in life is

Something that’s actually astonishing.

That’s because he brings himself

With his past, present and his future.

That’s because someone’s

Whole life comes along.

The heart is fragile.

Therefore, it might have been broken.

That heart is coming, too… [3]

 

Had Nina ever had his heart broken, Lukasha wondered? Not romantically, he supposed, what with the boy’s line of work and all…Nina didn’t seem the type to have emotion when dealing with grimy, foul-smelling drunkards looking for a quick piece of ass. But Lukasha guessed, like other youngsters of their generation, that Nina had his heart broken by his situation, where he lived, what he performed for little money, the depths he fell to for small payouts…everyone in Russia played by that unspoken rule, if not reminded of it every waking moment they lived. Could I even go that far? Luka asked himself with a frown, trying to shake off his negative thoughts. Is this really what one could call living? Surely, this lifestyle can’t be any more than a cruel twist titled survival of the selfish. Those who argue and take survive a bit higher than us.

At least Nina isn’t selfish.

Another sunshiny smile worked its way up Lukasha’s lips. He wasn’t aware that his co-workers thought him a fool for smiling so often, but the assistant designer didn’t mind. Lately, Luka wasn’t using his energy to care about futuristic events and plans. Tonight was Nina night. A chance at sleeping and cherishing his lover like a priceless painting, a handful of sweet moments stored away for later inspiration.

Across town in a free Wi-Fi café, Nina sat at a computer feeling equally content, having just arrived from Kazan; it was colder than ever outside, but Nina, in a consistent state of indulgence thanks to the confidence Lukasha provided him with, had recently purchased a thick winter jacket and a stocking cap, and so, was not in the least bit cold when he slipped his mittens off to type. He checked on a few regular customers, confirming their dates and up-loading his profile onto a new website—the real research began once the girl beside him left.

may leave welts and bruising that will stay on skin for days or even weeks. Submissive participant’s backside will likely feel sensitive and sore, requiring ointment treatment to soothe damaged/enflamed skin. If activity should produce welts that bleed, proper disinfectant should be applied during aftercare, usually as a method of praising the individual for participating.

“Sounds right up my alley,” Nina commented, scrolling down until he had a thorough knowledge on his chosen subject. Like the dedicated hooker he was, Nina juggled a few new sexual play ideas around for the past two days, using his knowledge of Lukasha’s body as motivation. After narrowing down Luka’s favorite kinks (skirts and marks, he reminded himself daily), the prostitutka decided to try a play type that would surely entice Lukasha so much he would be forced into agreement. If further convincing was needed, Nina had a plan. He was talented in many forms of flattery, after all, and since Lukasha Kaveri had effortlessly become his favorite customer…

Well—Nina was going the extra mile on this attempt.

“I hope you’re ready, Luka,” The hooker grinned at the screen, sitting back confidently. “Prepare to have your deepest desires satisfied.”

Nina hung out at various spots around Saint Petersburg’s community until gray clouds became black, throwing a curtain of darkness over as the teenager finally made his way across town towards Lukasha’s apartment. He had every necessary article inside his cross bag, including a belt he never used (Nina’s hipbones did a well enough job holding his jeans up), some ointment, lotion, bandages and hot/cold patches, just in case. And a packet of condoms. Just in case. Nina wasn’t entirely sure what this night would bring, and though nerves should have rattled his spirit, he kept a giddy attitude up while lightly knocking on Luka’s door. It opened hardly a second later.

“Privet, Nina,” Lukasha grinned, sneaking a quick kiss on the visitor’s cheek as an added greeting.

“Privet.”

The air felt warmer than usual to Nina since he was wearing a jacket, a situation quickly remedied by Luka easing it off his bony shoulders. He usually hung Nina’s bag on a coat hanger, but tonight, the hooker kept the object close at his side. Lukasha wasn’t concerned, silently hovering behind Nina as he plopped onto the mattress, bare hand running over quilted fabric for a quiet moment.

“So…listen,” Nina began thoughtfully.

“Hm?”

Luka had seen a rare Nina smile before, but this sly, blatantly naughty smile was entirely new. It made the taller boy’s heartbeat skip.

“Would you be willing to try something new tonight?”

Think, Lukasha, think, the designer worried, biting his lip as a sense of nerves rushed over him. What could he mean by ‘new’? It feels new every single time we get together…are we talking kinks or positions?

“You mean, like…cosplay sex?” Luka guessed hesitantly.

“No,” Nina laughed breathily. “But maybe another time. For tonight, I was thinking more along the lines of masochism.”

“You mean…”

The green-eyed boy swallowed, like the letters were difficult to say out-loud.

BDSM?”

Nina’s dark grin was not at all comforting. Neither was the motion of his arm reaching into the bag and pulling out a sharp brown leather belt.

“You’re going to kill me, Nina.”

“Actually, it might be the other way around.”

“D-Don’t say that!” Luka sputtered worriedly, taking a step back like any Russian did when they saw someone pull a leather belt. The prostitutka began peeling off his clothing, apparently not worried about the room’s temperature. “I’m not going to choke you with your own belt—I refuse.”

Nina continued shedding his clothing like he hadn’t heard a word Luka said. The designer stood aside anxiously, words of denial caught in his throat, mind functioning with great difficulty as Nina slid those black briefs down his shallow thighs. He wasn’t standing naked before Lukasha for long, though—once the rest of his clothing was folded, Nina reached into that cursed bag and pulled out something wicked that really made Luka know he was being toyed with.

Speaking felt hard enough, and now breathing joined along, Lukasha’s increasingly dark eyes watching every inch of Nina’s white skin be covered by a deep blue mini-skirt. A skirt. A flowy rayon skirt, one layered with a rather thin fabric perfectly winding around Nina’s waist, design invisible due to the short circuiting of Lukasha’s brain and the rich color. Arousal and concern fought against each other in a raging battle of brothers, Luka forcing himself into speech when Nina tossed his bag down and prepared to find a seductive position on the bed.

“Nina…I’m really not…I don’t want to hurt you. Please don’t force me. I know the whole idea of pain turns people on or whatever, but I don’t trust my strength. People tell me I’m stronger than I look, you know.”

Theory: true. Nina flashed a deceptively unbothered glance over his shoulder while adjusting the skirt over his thighs, pulling the fabric down a bit as if trying to shield Lukasha from seeing anything he hadn’t already seen, kissed and licked. Much like his sweater, this dark blue shade clashed wonderfully against Nina’s skin, driving Luka further up a wall when the skirt’s edge “accidentally” caught on the boy’s fingers, exposing a familiar sight of Nina’s soft underside.

This little punk is using my weaknesses against me. How inhumanly cruel!

Luka tried making Nina understand his concern before he completely lost his senses, given he had any more to lose. Instead of a polite refusal, Lukasha only whined one word out.

 “Nina…”

“I get it,” The other boy smiled mildly. While speaking, he moved into a new position. “If you don’t know your own strength, then you probably wouldn’t be able to handle what I actually have in mind.”

“Do I even want to ask?”

“Sure you do. You like bruises and marks, right?” Nina reached behind him and grabbed the leather belt. “I was thinking you might want to give me some—ever heard of whipping?”

Lukasha lost all power, shoulders visibly showcasing how his heart finally gave-in when Nina splayed his upper body across the mattress, backside high in the air, blue skirt either pointing to or acting as the main attraction. That stupid belt was resting in Nina’s right hand, a silent invitation hiding underneath the sinful image constructing Luka’s vision. Not that he wanted to see anything else.

“Come on, Lukasha—live a little,” Nina teased. “Tie my hands with this belt and use yours for the whipping.”

Lukasha didn’t move a muscle, though his eyes were locked on the hooker and all he was. When another tense moment passed with no response, Nina swayed his hips a little, skirt ghosting over the backs of his thighs. Luka swallowed, a low breath creeping out. Nina hid a grin in the nearest pillow. Sometimes his vulnerability was more a strength than a weakness.

The prostitutka waited patiently while Lukasha Kaveri began stripping, tossing his clothes wherever because he no longer cared about cleanliness.

“Fine. If this is what you want, I’ll do it,” Luka monologued, stepping out of his jeans and leaving his briefs on for the time being. “But I’m not tying your hands; that’s way too controlling for me.”

“Whatever.”

“How can you say ‘whatever’ when I’m about to hit your bare ass with a fucking belt?!”

“Because you’re being such a virgin about it,” Nina laughed heartily. The sincerity of Luka’s concern amused him as much as it sent butterflies through his tummy. “The worst you could do is make it hard for me to sit down tomorrow morning. Or go into a psychotic sexual episode and beat me to death.”

Lukasha pressed his lips together tightly, hating the idea of any harm coming to Nina, especially by his own hand. But…they had spoken about these matters before. During one of their many midnight decisions, Luka sleepily promised to never let his inner desires get the best of him—imagine that. A young man hiring a hooker promising to show restraint. This was the exact opposite reaction Nina expected, and yet, the teen arrived today with a sound mind and even sounder body. He wanted this, trusted Lukasha enough, provided tools that were capable of transforming great evil, forcing hurtful wounds onto Nina’s heart and skin…

But Nina trusted him, heart and skin. He wore a skirt for goodness sake, so Luka had to trust him with equal spirit.

After several deep breaths, Lukasha kneeled forward, mattress creaking as he settled in to the left side of Nina. This painting was more than enough for his arousal, explicit page torn from an erotica novella depicting a beautiful deity presenting their voluptuous body to another—they were his, entirely his for the taking, picture book written by a sexual entity pulling a gray shade over the designer’s usually gentle appreciation for intimacy.

That being realized, Lukasha scrambled to protect Nina.

“Okay,” Luka swallowed thickly. His throat had gone dry from being this close. “We need a safe word. If it gets to be too much, say ‘kitten,’ okay?”

“Why ‘kitten’?”

“Well, I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I would never hurt a kitten. If you say that it’ll remind me how fragile you are, just like a baby kitten,” Lukasha shrugged, like his choice was obvious. Nina ducked his face in the sheets below, apparently flustered by this choice. “What? Did you want to go with something more plain, like red or something?”

Instead of answering, Nina proudly hid his emotions by shaking his head, still buried in the quilt.

“…Alright, then.”

Nina raised the belt up. Lukasha waited until he became accustomed to his heart’s sharp rhythm before breaking the tension, shaking fingers tightly accepting the gift. A wave of terrifying power alarmed Lukasha to where he almost dropped the leather upon impact—it was too much. It wasn’t enough. Did Nina honestly trust his customer this much, to not let himself be overwhelmed by dominance? Luka became desperate as Nina initiated contact, settling himself over the designer’s lap, thighs and stomach resting on Lukasha’s bare legs, skirt closer than ever, dangling itself under those sharp green eyes.

A touchable dream, but uncertain morals.

Luka leaned his face down, lips pressed against the shell of Nina’s ear, hot words turning the teenager into a flushed mess.

“Are you sure, Nina?”

Was he sure he wanted Lukasha to smack a leather belt over his ass? Mostly. Was he sure he wanted more, wanted to trust Luka even more, if only as an experimental test against his own humanity? Absolutely. Nina needed this. He needed pain in order for his body to understand pleasure. This was his current deal with the country of Russia.

“Yes.”

Lukasha made a soft noise of finalization—then, Nina felt a shiver of pleasure run up his body when Luka’s left hand laid over his backside, still covered by the blue skirt. As Nina predicted, that article had been the plan’s selling point. Lukasha slowly worked his touch over, grasping and fondling muscles hidden underneath a gentle blue material. He investigated every inch of this fantasy, the prostitutka’s breaths increasing in volume as Luka’s strokes began riling him up; when the designer was finally finished admiring how well the skirt accented Nina’s backside, he slid his hand underneath and flipped the flowing material upward, fabric cascading over Nina’s thin back.

By now, Lukasha had a raging hard-on and a sudden urge to mark the skin offering.

Not emotionally prepared quite yet, Luka took his time examining the boy’s complexion, running a finger or two along discovered bruises, unseen stains and changes of surface along Nina’s rear. How could he ruin such perfect, glass-like flesh? Could he really mar a piece of museum-worthy art? How could he do damage to a cherished doll without destroying it completely? Such a tantalizing position the artist found himself trapped within…but he wanted this challenge. For once, Luka wanted to be the prophecy’s hero, the deity’s chosen one; but still lied a problem.

Hurting Nina wasn’t a goal of his. Lukasha continuously reminded himself that the dusty lover had initiated this, had been the one to prep and plan their current stance—if pleasurable pain was what Nina honestly wanted, then Lukasha felt obligated to deliver. For once, Nina would be getting what he wanted. This thought helped Luka in relaxing as he folded and raised the belt into the air, not a complete stroke, but a decent half-bend. Every muscle in his arm trembled, forcing themselves to remain under control, no softer, no harder.

Anxious energy sparked uncontrollably through the apartment, a tight intensity making Nina’s heart beat louder and louder; then, following a deep breath on the hooker’s part, he heard a rush of air move out from Luka’s way as his arm came down.

 

Crack!

 

The first lash struck Nina’s bare skin hard, pulling a sharp flinch from both boys; a relieved gasp escaped Nina’s lips, water bursting to his eyes with shock, though he could tell through the powerful strike that Lukasha wasn’t being malicious or out of control. Luka watched with wide eyes, momentarily horrified at the pink welt bursting to the surface of Nina’s previously pale skin, but his attention was quickly captured by his lover’s noise not terrified or agonized, but of spritely interest. Nina’s body squirmed when Lukasha took the belt away, unsure whether it wanted to run or stay—the prostitute forced himself still, figure trembling with excitement, eagerly awaiting more.

“Again,” Nina panted, turning his head left, expression half hidden amongst the covers. “Harder…Lukasha—”

Crack!

Crack!

Luka loathed himself, but he loved Nina, who, while his wails and sobs were alarming, never even began to cry out any syllables of their safe word. He forgot what word they picked the second Lukasha brought that belt down on his bare ass. Nina’s posture slumped so he was weakly twitching on the bed instead of Luka’s legs—the latter moved behind his goddess for a better angle, bringing both boys even more pleasure.

With every lash, the skirt would threaten to cover Nina back up, fabric failing when Luka’s left hand readjusted its grip, ensuring Nina stayed put below him. Just as Lukasha predicted, these sensations were way too much—after the tenth smack, a bit harder than the others and forcing Nina’s cries up a level, the dark-haired boy’s left hand reached backwards and desperately grabbed at the sheets below. Nina had done a good job of keeping his hands away so far, and Lukasha rewarded him by taking his own left hand off its spot holding the skirt to firmly intertwine their fingers.

Faintly, as Luka panted between lashes, he wondered if the neighbors could hear what was going on inside his apartment.

The darker part of Lukasha Kaveri (triggered by yours truly, Nina) longed for that idea. He hoped everyone could hear the agonized, seductive whimpers flying from Nina’s messy mouth drooling hopelessly on the pillow. He hoped they heard desperate wails escaping Nina’s hoarse throat, could hear those sharp cracking noises and knew someone behind blue walls was allowing themselves to be utterly ruined, torn apart and morphed into nothing more than a weeping statue. Luka hoped they could hear and know, but not see.

Nina flaunted a blue skirt for his eyes, and his green eyes alone.

Through the hurricane of Lukasha’s own emotions, he hadn’t really noticed how active Nina’s hips were until the whipping came to a temporary pause. By now, Nina was sure his backside was flush red, blood rushing and silently threatening exposure if another sharp smack struck at a precise angle. Luka’s idea of running his extremely tented arousal against Nina in his skirt was prevented, only because Nina himself was occupied, rubbing down into the bed below because he was hard as well. Luka watched in amazement, hungry eyes raking over Nina’s form, the trembling of his thighs, begging their owner for mercy, leaking member peeking out from underneath the skirt’s hidden shade. Luka almost had the audacity to laugh, torn between approval and jealousy for his own bedsheets.

“Unbelievable,” Lukasha murmured, tugging on Nina’s left hand to bring him back towards reality. All the while, his lover’s backside stung and burned, gifted momentary relief from the belt lashes, though cool air did nothing to aid that fiery sensation overwhelming his entire lower body.

“What if…I’m not a deity?”

Nina’s winded statement was directed at his follower, who needed a slow minute for rebuttal, staring incredulously at the boy panting below him, a purely wicked smile on his lips despite the fact that his ass was taking a serious beating. The whip was still gripped in Lukasha’s hand, knuckles white around the clipped end.

“What?” Luka breathed, terrified that Nina would repeat his words. He had been rightfully concerned.

“What if I’m not a deity like you say?” The teenager gasped darkly, eyes matching his enigmatic words. “What if I’m…an incubus?”

At first, Lukasha was shocked. After a moment of contemplation, green eyes staring mindlessly at Nina’s shadowed expression, Lukasha was pissed. This punk was still toying with him, even after Luka had deliberately whipped his backside with a fucking belt for ten-minutes? Fury quickly transformed into moderate shock, designer now realizing the words were meant to piss him off—more. This was Nina’s way of saying he wanted more. More of what, though? The belt, or Lukasha Kaveri?

“You’re no incubus,” Luka huffed with a ghost of a smile, raising his arm. “You don’t belong to the devil. You’re a deity—you’re my deity.”

Crack!

Lukasha’s next strike was even harder, right on the most sensitive and abused portion of Nina’s backside, getting a startled whimper from his lover’s open lips. The image of Nina throwing his head back, a debauched, totally shameless expression splattered on his blushing face triggered something in Luka, who quickly released Nina’s left hand and reached inside his own briefs for frantic relief. All the while, that unholy belt rained blows upon Nina, fallen skirt doing nothing to protect his rosy rear.

Crack! Crack!

Lukasha felt close. The combination of heat from his own hand, Nina involuntarily rocking his body downward, skirt bouncing along, belt breaking through its protective layer…this, merged with Nina’s seductive siren calls, whimpers and moans pulling Luka in further and further was more than enough to bring him close. The submissive lover felt perfectly conquered, flinching at each snap across his backside, eyes tearful and heavy as Lukasha’s hand furiously worked himself behind Nina.

“Just a few more,” Luka growled, an off-angle lash inadvertently flipping the skirt back up. “Few more, Nina...”

Crack!

Crack!

The welts…the welts were bright red, now, threatening to turn white from Lukasha’s half-hearted thrashes, some spots dangerously close to leaking specks of blood. It was that colorful image, shades of deep blue, porcelain white and murky pink that brought Luka home, spilling over the rosy hues with a loud moan; his burning body fell across Nina, right hand dropping the belt, mercifully reaching under and giving his lover’s twitching arousal a few hard jerks. Nina shouted, flailing, trembling beneath Lukasha as he came violently, figure collapsing on the mattress below (inadvertently overstimulating himself) when those wild jolts finally subsided after a long minute.

Nina couldn’t move. No longer caught in the adrenaline-filled moment, he finally felt the extreme aching of his poor backside, stinging and screaming for him to relieve its harsh heat. He weepily heaved on damp sheets, breath a mess and head even more of a disaster while his body gave-up, muscles denying action, even if it meant helping their situation. The skirt felt wet underneath his upper thighs, stained by his own release and drenched in a sweat type Nina couldn’t contribute to stress like usual. Three-minutes passed with little words, and then, the hooker felt Lukasha embrace him from the right side, lover apparently having already recovered—or at least regained his vision back.

“Settle, settle,” Luka hushed lowly, capturing Nina’s shuddering form between his arms as if his goddess were a royal Russian vase. “It’s okay…I’ll take care of you now, alright? Settle down…”

Nina obeyed solely out of spite, panting heavily and twinging in pain as Lukasha lifted the skirt up, releasing a quiet huff that nearly sounded regretful. Nearly. Nina almost let all his tears fall when the cold backside of Luka’s hand pressed over tender flesh, soothing its burn like an ice cube. For a few minutes, the model simply rested, regaining his breath and whining when Lukasha slid off the bed.

“You have stuff in your bag, right?” The sculptor said at a low angle, presumably digging through Nina’s belongings while the teenager recovered. “Ah—here they are.”

Nina peeked his eyes open, curious at whether or not Lukasha would start aftercare or tug his “deity” upwards and make him do it himself. Predictably, Luka allowed him more time for recuperating, setting a mound of first-aid supplies onto his bed; he sorted through for a minute, settling first on ointment Nina purchased earlier. After warning the prostitutka, Lukasha tenderly began applying cream across Nina’s bruised rear, fingertips smoothing the substance out, being careful not to further enflame the welts. Once that had fully dried, Luka retrieved a few ice cubes from his freezer and traced their frozen surface over Nina’s flesh, making him flinch a foot off the bed.

“Settle down,” Lukasha actually laughed, free hand resting on his lover’s lower back to keep him still.

“It’s a little cold,” Nina complained quietly, squirming as heat collided with fire. “…I like when you say that.”

“Settle down?”

Nina nodded shyly, burying himself in the sheets below to avoid seeing Lukasha’s thoughtful expression. Thankfully he didn’t comment, focusing on erasing Nina’s discomfort by gently sliding the ice across his backside, back and forth, up and down until both cubes had melted away. Luka felt stupid when he realized he probably just washed the ointment off, but since Nina didn’t notice he figured he was off the hook. Slyly, Lukasha applied another layer of ointment, keeping that immoral skirt flipped up so it didn’t brush against Nina’s sensitive skin. All the while, the boys were silent, not with discomfort or embarrassment, but with their usual casual attitude towards loving and sex.

“…Just like that one day,” Nina murmured into the pillow below. It smelled of Lukasha, his cheap shampoo and succulent body scent. “Remember? When my knee was sprained?”

“I remember,” Luka replied. He must have been smiling. “You looked so cute all cuddled up to me…not to mention, you had just dropped to your knees and sucked my dick even though I told you to rest…”

“Civil disobedience.”

“Pf. Sure.”

Lukasha went so far as to massage the aching sides of Nina’s rear, only stopping when he noticed goosebumps on his deity’s arms—cautiously, Luka helped Nina sit up and slide that same old blue sweater on, tucking the skirt’s back underneath, preventing it from scratching any raw skin. Lukasha seemed a bit distracted once Nina’s sweater was on, eyes flickering up and down, trapped between two pretty sights.

“Can you—”

Luka’s jaw snapped shut abruptly. Nina looked curiously as he balanced on his knees, not daring to sit back just yet.

“What were you going to say, Lukasha?” Nina encouraged.

Easily drawn back, Luka’s green eyes darted up and met the hooker’s, a sheepish hue in their color; after an unhurried moment, those same eyes glanced back down, slowly making their way over the blue sweater and stopping on the second blue article clinging to Nina’s skinny figure.

“If it doesn’t hurt…can you keep the skirt on?” Lukasha squeaked.

Another shy smile attacked Nina as he gave a few nods, warm fingers grazing over the blue skirt’s front. In all honesty, he had chosen randomly but accidentally selected one that showcased his likeliness well. Lucky for Lukasha, Nina felt a bit luckier these days.

“I like it, too…” The prostitute confessed.

When Nina glanced up at Luka again (a mistake), he found the moron grinning ear-to-ear, triggering another rush of embarrassed blush finishing the rainbow of colors on Nina’s body. He shoved Lukasha’s arm in defiance, but that only made him laugh louder.

“Hey—what was all that incubus talk?” Lukasha wondered, helping Nina lay on his stomach, bare ass cooling off from the frozen apartment air. “You’re not even close to being a monster like they are.”

“Just like riling you up, Lukasha.”

“Obviously. Did you have to get a blue skirt? You know I love this blue sweater. Is this part of your Greek-themed plot to seduce and murder me in my sleep, Nina?”

It was Nina’s turn to giggle, and instead of sounding honest the muffled laugh sounded extremely suspicious.

“Hey!” Luka whined, grabbing the lover’s arm in a pleading form. “Why’d you laugh?! Are you seriously trying to kill me?!”

Nina could only laugh harder at his customer’s words, letting Lukasha jostle him around until he accidentally irritated Nina’s welts again. Energy still crackling around them, Lukasha settled on the teenager’s left side, like always, taking a solid five-minutes to decide which part of Nina to touch first. Still fascinated by that damn skirt, Luka let his fingers drift over the fabric not hidden under Nina’s sweater. Their hearts were still beating quickly, undeterred by the pause in activity, as proven a few minutes later when Nina felt something hard pressing against his left side.

“Already?” The deity teased, turning his head to smirk at Lukasha, who wore a bright smile of his own.

“If it’s any consolation, this is entirely the skirt’s fault,” Luka defended, tugging on the evil blue fabric. “But after what you just went through, I think I can handle this one myself…that stupid skirt is probably more than enou…”

Lukasha didn’t finish his sentence. He could barely get another word out, phrases turning into choked gasps when Nina turned his back, pulling the remainder of the skirt out while placing Luka’s hands on his hips. It was a free-for-all from that point, stuttering dry humps, aching thighs, tight grasps and sloppy neck bites. Both boys ended up finishing twice more without any form of penetration, blue skirt quite enough as Lukasha predicted; Nina followed Luka each time, getting off at the feeling and sound of his lover being so turned on by the feminine material pooled around his slim waist. By this time Nina had gone limp on the mattress, mini-skirt stained with bodily fluids and a few moist spots from Luka’s salvia where he had a quick biting session.

Nina’s poor backside suffered greatly, though it graciously went a bit numb during their final round, at which point he couldn’t move a single muscle, no matter how much he wanted to go again.

I should wear skirts every time I come over…

The world was blank around Nina as his panting faded into soft breaths, consciousness beginning to elude him. Warm covers engulfed his form, and in a panic towards his stinging backside the hooker nearly yelped, but Lukasha had thought ahead, hand protecting the rosy skin from any harsh fabric. The skirt had to be tossed aside as to prevent Luka from being aroused (again), so now Nina was left in only his sweater, cuddling deeper into the mattress while a gentle hand stroked his sore skin underneath the blankets. There were additional scrapes and lesions from their secondary activities, but they could be dealt with later.

“Want me to do anything else before I fall asleep?” Nina mumbled tiredly. Luka chuckled beside him somewhere, fingers diving into his tangled hair and losing themselves completely.

“You’re already asleep, Nina.”

“No…”

“Yup. Maybe I’ll wake you up to a blowjob tomorrow. Sleep for now, sinful incubus.”

Nina’s lips twitched faintly. He fell asleep not five-seconds later, happy at his pain’s change in location.

 

***

 

Despite the battered state Nina’s ass was in the following morning, he managed to sleep-in quite late, applying another layer of ointment before letting Lukasha help him get dressed. After a casual exchange of final payment, they headed towards the door, where Luka scribbled something on a piece of paper while Nina patiently waited to say goodbye, dressed warmly in his mittens, hat and scarf.

“I know I was a total slut for you in a skirt yesterday, but today I’m only concerned about how in the hell you’re going to walk the streets without rubbing your ass every two steps,” The thoughtful designer worried, finishing his writing. “Here’s my phone number. It’s only a landline, but it has voicemail, so leave a message with updates on your ass. That—came out totally wrong…anyway, call me sometime.”

Nina reached for the paper, barely grazing its corner before Lukasha teasingly yanked it backwards. That stupid shit-eating grin was plastered to his kissable lips, aggravating Nina so much he stepped right up in Luka’s space and tried snatching the paper, only for it to be tugged away again. Now things were getting serious. Lukasha’s expression changed, one of sudden hunger—following a tense wait, his famine was over, hands pressing Nina up against the door and lips messily capturing the model’s.

Kissing was so underrated. Nina had thought this many times in the past weeks, but today it was especially true. Luka’s power and eagerness seeped through their lips, his hold on the lover’s hips as they mashed together, tongues making an appearance that only stole more of Nina’s breath away. Despite the urgency, Lukasha’s kisses were still slow and intentionally passionate, moving this way and that way, keeping the deity trapped for another amazing five-minutes. When they finally broke apart, their breaths were heavy, bouncing between open lips. How the artist wanted to bring his lover back to bed and ravish him and that infuriating outfit…

Luka finally tucked the small paper in Nina’s jacket pocket, forcing himself to back a few inches away, voice low and scratchy.

“Thanks for coming, Nina.”

“See you,” Nina whispered, managing to maintain a flirty tone that only made Lukasha want more of those red lips.

“Bye…”

The dark-haired boy didn’t hide his smile for once, painfully reminding Luka of the day at the Hermitage as he watched Nina walk away once more, disappearing down the staircase. Only then did Lukasha shut his door, leaning against it and giving a huge sigh, night’s memories tormenting him relentlessly.

“Fucking skirts.”

For a few minutes, Luka did nothing but lay in bed, wallowing and forcing his arousal back down, praying when he went to work on Monday he wouldn’t immediately start popping a boner when the ballerinas tried their costumes on. He figured he was safe since they couldn’t look nearly as sexy and delicious as Nina had, no matter how hard they tried.

Lukasha’s daydreams were interrupted by a knock on his door.

An unexpected visitor was never good. Fear found a place in Luka’s chest as he slowly stood from the mattress, keeping his steps silent when approaching. Was it his father? Was it the police? Was it a neighbor who had been spying on Lukasha? He knew in the height of pleasure he imagined the neighbors hearing Nina’s moans, but that was all speculation deriving from demonic possession! Luka had no clue who could be visiting him, and since his peep-hole was broken, there was no way of knowing until he opened the door.

Relief and confusion were Lukasha’s new emotions when he recognized Nina standing in the hall. Maybe he forgot something?

“My next appointment isn’t until late tonight,” Nina said as-a-matter-of-factly.

“Oh?”

“Yeah.”

It took Lukasha a moment to recover from distress and realize what Nina was getting at. He didn’t bother hiding his illuminating smile, not knowing how severely it affected the prostitutka and opened the door completely.

 

“Come right in, deity.”

Chapter Text

It was nearly eleven on a Saturday night when Nina found himself waiting in an alleyway behind a grand theater, loud classical music escaping through even the thickest of walls. Dense snow hid dusty roads beneath, Nina lighting a cigarette in hopes his body temperature would warm from tobacco polluting his lungs. The latest customer instructed him to wait out back until the show was over, at which point, after everyone had retired, he would sneakily exit and meet up with Nina.

Lukasha Kaveri was busy working this weekend. Nina didn’t mind only because his rear still felt incredibly sore even after a few weeks rest (from whipping, at least). He did miss Luka’s hot coco and enchanting storytelling, however, as well as hundreds of other details about the designer, but now wasn’t a time for thinking. Tonight was work night, and Nina had to focus—that focus failed in noticing which particular ballet their business would be conducted near.

“For a guy who said he’d be out quick, he’s sure taking his sweet time,” The prostitutka mumbled to himself, arms wrapping around his shivering torso. Not even a warm jacket could keep Russia’s cold out. “I better be getting paid well…it’s fucking freezing out here.”

Following ten-minutes of pacing and smoking, a man dressed in a fine suit and black coat finally came bustling into the alley just as Nina put out his third cigarette. Even in dim lighting, the hooker already noticed a bulging hard-on creeping through dark dress pants. He didn’t comment on punctuality or tease about the customer’s current state, simply pushing himself off the wall and waiting for someone to speak first.

“Let’s hurry,” The man said lowly. “My wife is talking.”

Nina disregarded the latter portion of his client’s sentence, nodding simply and leading them away, sliding onto the sidewalk without being noticed, successfully finding a darker alleyway half a block over. Shallow enough where Nina could cause a dramatic scene if things got messy, but deep enough where shadows would cover their indecent act of perversion, although it wasn’t as dark as Nina preferred. The streets cleared, show over and fatigued audience gone home for tonight. Once the man checked out their spot, he nodded and gave Tamryn a hard stare.

“For 5,000₽[1] you better be damn good at sucking cock,” He huffed, shelling out half the bills and shoving them at Tamryn. Still, the dark-haired teen said nothing, tucking his money away before reluctantly kneeling into a pile of frozen snow below, hands grabbing at the customer’s expensive belt. Such publicly crude behavior was nothing unusual for Nina. He held back a snicker when a cold burst of winter air startled the man so badly he visibly shivered, dress shirt now pulled out from his black, carefully ironed pants.

Footsteps. Nina heard them, and although he wasn’t terribly alarmed, he guessed the type of crowd this guy ran with wouldn’t appreciate him debasing someone—at least, debasing him so close to the theater. Snow crunched rhythmically under their steps, rich man going still as they waited in a compromising position, Nina’s fingertips wrapped around the inside band of his customer’s underwear. It wasn’t a problem if they were seen—so long as that peeper didn’t join.

Nina waited.

Crunch crunch crunch

The owner of the quick footsteps came into view. He wasn’t dressed in nearly as expensive clothing as the patron and dispersed audience had been but still looked ready for a night out; sleek black pants accenting long, powerful legs, an army green knock-off cashmere jacket with three buttons, finished off by a pair of brown boots crunching over snow piles. Nina could see all these details because his chosen shadows weren’t very thick tonight. They didn’t seem to notice anything at first step past the alleyway, but an eerie presence forced their watchful eyes left.

Their look wasn’t longer than a second. It couldn’t be longer unless they wanted to risk being jumped or followed. A mere moment of many, a split lock of gazes under a starless black sky in Saint Petersburg. In that moment, Nina recognized the green eyes of his lover, Lukasha Kaveri, green eyes breaking through every dark corner and gray cloud above. Luka noticed, saw, recognized, understood simply.

The artist didn’t stop, nor did he slow his pace.

As if Nina’s customer had struck him across the cheek, an invisible force compelled emotion into the hooker’s rusted heart like a can of oil, tearing open all his feelings and thoughts, ones he usually kept separate from work or forgot about all together. Nina felt again, felt his mouth hover open, wanting to call out, to explain—what? Explain what to who? Nina felt himself thinking, felt his thoughts be overwhelmed by shame, shame, shame and every reaction related to it. His anxiety flared at a high rushing point, anxiety over hurting someone, hurting the only kind person involved in his bleak little life. Nina felt as if he were the one cheating on his wife with a pretty male hooker in an alleyway while she thought he was in the bathroom.

Nina felt so strongly he couldn’t move. This was the opposite result of his usual reaction towards Lukasha Kaveri. Instead of being liberated, energized into moving his frail, heavy limbs, Nina’s clogged veins transformed, blood becoming immovable lead. And there was pain. Yes, there was great pain. It shocked his nerves relentlessly as footsteps faded into the night, reminding him just how many tragedies humans were capable of making, of experiencing. Nina’s life was a tragic play, and he the failing protagonist.

“Hey—would ya get to it? It’s not getting any warmer, shlyukha.[2]

Who was speaking? Nina broke his stare and glanced up with wide, terrified eyes, not recognizing the creature standing above, waiting for him to take his manhood out. Snow melted against Nina’s jeans, freezing his flesh to the point of numbness—horror found a home in the hooker’s heart, unquestionably mortified at the current situation. What was Nina doing here? Why was he with this perverted man in a public alleyway performing such sinful, repulsive acts? He needed to go home. He needed to escape, to follow Luka. Why was he here? He couldn’t do this. It was too twisted, too wrong…

“Come on!” The man above hissed irritably. “I have to get back before she comes looking for me!”

Lukasha hates me. He must hate me, Nina thought hurriedly, hands frozen in place. I hate me, too. Who am I? Who am I kidding, pretending to be Luka’s lover? What kind of sick monster am I, playing games of pretend like that? Will I really go through with this for money? Will I really throw away my innocence, my purity to this foul beast?

“That’s it. Give me m—”

Instinct alone pushed Nina forward, using the absence of his wrong mind as a weapon; when emptiness, a hole in Nina’s heart replaced emotion, skill took over as host. The teenager’s eyes watered while he worked the moaning brute above him, but that moisture didn’t come from sharp winter air nor his triggered gag reflex. Honest, pitiful tears of shame dripped down Nina’s cheeks, freezing where they streaked at his jaw. He felt so cold. He hated himself, what his mouth was doing, what he was good at doing. Every time the man groaned out in ecstasy, Nina cried more, silent sobs disguising themselves as talent. The poor pretty boy didn’t know how he made it through, being distracted like he was, but somehow his mouth finished the job, pulling away and yanking Nina back to reality as a foul-tasting substance leaked onto his tongue.

Nina immediately turned, spitting on ice below; he sat back on his knees as hiccupping breaths echoed through the alleyway, customer recovering against the brick wall. Soft tears continued falling, sleet attaching itself out of likeliness, causing a bloom of pink stain unrelated to flattery streak across Nina’s distressed face.

“This your first time or something?”

The hooker wiped at his mouth weakly, hand shaking. The answer was unbearable, but Nina spoke anyway.

“No,” He croaked.

Feet shuffled around, man pulling his pants back up to a suitable level and tucking his shirt inside. Nina didn’t care, couldn’t care, heart a ripped web made entirely of nothingness—made of Nina himself. More bills were thrown by his knees, gliding across snow piles and fluttering to what pavement remained uncovered.

“Thanks. I’ll be calling you again soon, prostitutka.”

Nina was left alone in an alleyway, debased, filthy, cold, loathing his entire being, though he had no energy remaining for too much hatred. When he did manage to stand, knees shaky and unstable, Nina picked up his pay and entered the streets once more. His original plan had been to walk over to a club and find someone who would bargain sex for shelter—Nina’s subconscious started this idea, but his feelings turned the table and forced his legs left, towards a darker, shabbier side of Saint Petersburg.

 

Lukasha Kaveri was exhausted from a night at the ballet. It had been a full house, per usual, and one of the set pieces fell apart minutes before open curtain, forcing Luka and his boss to scramble in utter panic. They fixed everything a mere thirty-seconds before the black curtain rose, and that was much too close for Luka’s stressed heart. He needed chocolate mixed with alcohol, but most cafés in the area were closed, and Lukasha had used his own vodka stash for cooking.

Of course, the real liquor Luka wanted involved a pale deity with red lips who went by the name Nina. As the designer witnessed, church was already full for tonight. He didn’t mind waiting, but worried about whether or not the other cult members were qualified to serve his deity.

Knock knock

Nina softly tapped on a familiar door, fist still trembling too much, too obviously. He shoved it back into a pocket when Lukasha, ever so cheerful Lukasha Kaveri slowly opened the door. He smiled when he recognized Nina. Why? Why did he smile, and how could his spirit be so optimistic after what his green eyes just witnessed? Was he not disgusted, repulsed not by the casual performance, but by seeing his lover as the starring actor in a porn movie?

“Hey, Nina—what’s up?” Lukasha asked curiously. “Did we have something scheduled tonight?”

“Will you hold me in your arms?”

Luka took his turn to be shocked, mind clicking pause, startled by the passionate, hopeful tone. Nina looked out of breath, quivering lips moist, almost fearing speech, though he continued on, reciting the first thing that came to his mind upon seeing Lukasha: a poem.

“When the wings of butterflies freeze,

And every flower wilts to a breeze,

When rainstorms of tears have dried,

And the oceans kill their final tide,

Will you throw me stinging charms…”

Nina swallowed his hatred. He would always rid hatred towards himself if it meant more room for love, love for Lukasha.

“Or will you hold me in your arms?”

Luka was silent. He didn’t move, didn’t blink for a long time. Nina half expected the door to slam in his face, but that never happened, never passed through Lukasha’s stunned mind—instead, the quiet continued peacefully, relieving all Nina’s aggravation as Luka gently pulled him inside by the sleeve of his jacket.

Feeling. Nina felt again, felt strange warmth overwhelming Lukasha’s usually frigid apartment, the burning touch of his lover, like they had never been intertwined before tonight. Luka slid his guest’s outer layers off, took him to bed and turned on the radio, just like usual. He laid them down, Nina resting across his lap, Lukasha’s hand drifting, grazing the goddess’ face before landing in inky black waves; his fingers stroked softly, protectively, admiring each strand as piano notes echoed. Each musical fall from Adele’s “All I Ask” soothed Nina’s aching chest.

Look, don't get me wrong

I know there is no tomorrow

All I ask is

If this is my last night with you

Hold me like I'm more than just a friend

Give me a memory I can use

Take me by the hand while we do what lovers do

It matters how this ends

'Cause what if I never love again?

Nina didn’t understand. Himself, that is…he understood Luka’s actions, his tender touch, his brief kisses against Nina’s head. Lukasha was kind. He was a dreamer. Him, Nina understood perfectly, understood like a novel he read a thousand times, a song he listened to a million lonely nights. What he didn’t understand was himself—forgoing the obvious, his career, his isolation, Nina didn’t understand why his heart was still racing even after Luka took him in his arms. That lost, abandoned heart pounded beat after beat, aiming for Lukasha’s own as Nina dived further into his hold.

I don't need your honesty

It's already in your eyes

And I'm sure my eyes, they speak for me

No one knows me like you do

And since you're the only one that matters

Tell me who do I run to?

 

Look, don't get me wrong

I know there is no tomorrow

All I ask is

If this is my last night with you

Hold me like I'm more than just a friend

Give me a memory I can use

Take me by the hand while we do what lovers do

It matters how this ends

'Cause what if I never love again?

The sadder boy angled his head upwards, peering into pale halos looking down fondly, though Nina doubted they were as fond as his own. When Lukasha kissed his poisoned lips, touched his gaunt, soiled body, spoke kindly into his numb ears, telling stories in that low tone Nina loved so attentively…gray wasn’t such a dooming shade. This was the focal point in the prostitute’s argument as to why he leaned up and laid a soft kiss against Lukasha’s lips.

It should have been an awkward angle, but it wasn’t. Nina felt more comfortable than ever, tears threatening to spring up again, though he stubbornly forced them away. Lips as fragile, as silky and as dusty as a butterfly’s wings fluttered over Nina’s own. There was no hesitance or disgust. Wings flew, brushing against another’s for some time, dancing through thin air without a care in the world. It was, simultaneously, the first and last time Nina had ever been touched by man.

Let this be our lesson in love

Let this be the way we remember us

I don't wanna be cruel or vicious

And I ain't asking for forgiveness

 

All I ask is

If this is my last night with you

Hold me like I'm more than just a friend

Give me a memory I can use

Take me by the hand while we do what lovers do

It matters how this ends

'Cause what if I never love again?

 

One ballad ended as another begun. Revived by the saintly kiss of a butterfly, Nina used what little confidence he had left, crippled and broken, to advance on Lukasha; legs thrown on both sides of Luka’s hips, Nina passionately deepened their kiss, cold hands cupping the butterfly’s face like their lives depended on it. A groan accidentally escaped Luka’s lips—he almost stopped, scared he had frightened an obviously fragile Nina away. The teen only moaned in response, hips lowering and slowly beginning to roll over his lover’s clothed groin.

Defenseless and kind, Lukasha gasped, grabbing onto Nina’s waist for stability before he was caught in another kissing mess. Tonight, however, Nina didn’t allow himself to be swept away by kissing—he controlled their movements, turning languid and gradual touches into rushed strokes. Lukasha understood his intentions as the prostitutka grinded against him fiercely, slender thighs trapping their victim close even through denim layers separating them.

Nina worked himself for a few minutes, but still felt nothing.

Frustrated ever-so-easily, the teenager tightened his grip on Luka’s shoulders and moved himself harder, grinding every part of their lower bodies together. Nina’s mind kept tormenting him, hinting that it wasn’t working, continuously pointing out that he was not yet turned on despite being pressed up against Lukasha Kaveri, the latter who was watching Nina very carefully from below. Previously soft pants of exertion dove into several short huffs of annoyance, and before Nina knew it he had his head buried in Luka’s shoulder in an attempt to hide on-coming tears.

Several minutes had passed since Nina started his quest, and he was no closer to feeling the slightest bit aroused.

“Nina—”

“I can do it,” The deity announced, fooling himself more than anyone else. “I can—I can do it…”

Lukasha’s eyes squeezed shut when Nina latched onto his exposed throat, sucking sloppily and breaking off while still attempting to ride Luka’s lap until they were both hard. More seconds passed. Nina felt no tightness in his pants. The promises whispered off his lips became weak stutters, chest jolting once, causing irregularities in his breathing. Those black eyes welled with gloss once more, only Lukasha couldn’t see because Nina was still hidden in his shoulder—it was no use. Nina realized this when he also realized Lukasha wasn’t hard beneath him, either.

Because of what Nina was, a moth to a flame, he couldn’t accomplish what he thought he desired.

The butterfly froze suddenly, hips falling against Luka’s limply, pathetically. His body still moved, though, each muscle shaking with grief and disappointment; still tucked closely against Lukasha, the designer waited, cradling the trembling glass vase between his fingertips, breath held shut with anticipation.

 

Nina wept.

 

Sobs entirely unrelated to sensual pleasure flew from Nina’s lips like a young child lost in a large city, wail after wail ripping throat seams apart stitch by stitch. Although not surprised, Lukasha was alarmed at the brutality and agony of the cries, wrapping Nina up in his arms snugly, allowing him a comfortable setting to release every emotion that had eluded and rejected him for all these miserable years.

Nina had forgotten the last occasion on which he really cried, and he still didn’t remember now—Luka stroked his back helplessly as the smaller boy bawled, gaining strength of word back only after several minutes spent whimpering and crying. Lukasha had never witnessed such honesty. Not in sound, not in actions, not in expression. When Nina finally leaned back, his face was covered with hot moisture, tears smeared across every inch of flushed skin, black eyes constantly shielded by huge, never-ending water droplets and a colorful gleam far past being described as heartbreaking.

It was in this position Nina the fading, dying deity told Lukasha about his first customer.

Nina was starving. The family was starving, everyone was starving, his little sister almost too weak to stand. It was winter, of course, and eleven-year-old Nina couldn’t watch his worthless father beg on street corners anymore. Mother always came back with food when she went away for a while, though she complained about how many mouths they had to feed, and so Nina made the rash but well-meaning solution to weaken their burdens by running away. He went where his mother said she once found food, at a somewhat organized tochka[3] in Moscow—Nina said he had a faint clue of what workers did there, but didn’t understand the depth, how emotionally stripping it was to live for the pleasure of another. He would soon learn.

The tochka is what Nina thought he found.

Instead, at a local Moscow pleshka[4], Nina performed orally on a man for the first time, who in return bought him a cup of broth worth 54₽[5].

“I-It was already cold by the time I got it,” Nina recalled through sobs, eyelids so swollen they were painful to shut. “But I had to force it down b-because he bought it for me…then later—later, I cried so hard I threw it up anyway!”

He found himself unable to speak for a while. Lukasha was no better, choking on his own tears, hiding nothing since Nina was hiding nothing. Nineteen-years-worth of sorrow poured out like floodwater, breaking through a dam’s concrete miles without effort, human nature taking full form. In Luka’s arms, Nina found himself again—he found a cheated, abandoned, messy corpse once belonging to a pretty young boy. He found it stuffed in a closet that accidentally fell into a different dimension somewhere between teenage birthdays, kindly cast aside by a merciful hand from above. Nina knew the day would arrive when his mind broke, reminded him of what once existed, dreamed, but he always assumed Death, sweet, compassionate Death would have showed him this ghost after taking his hand.

Instead, Lukasha held on like he always did, long limbs keeping Nina alive, upright, enough where the crying boy’s voice found another wavelength to spend.

“I wanted you tonight…I’m s-orry, Lukasha…I just wanted y-you, I didn’t want that other man…”

“I know,” Luka gasped, tucking Nina’s head under his chin snugly. “I understand, Nina…”

Cries fell out from both parties for quite some time after their confessions. Lukasha offered his body as a much-needed pillow, caressing Nina’s hair and rubbing the teen’s back until those gut-wrenching sobs finally faded into soft whimpers, silencing completely into occasional sniffles. Much like the piano ballad, this song concluded sadly, ending undetermined, note dangling for all to hear and wonder over. But it was there.

At midnight, when work was usually at a chaotic high for the callous human Nina, he finally stilled in Luka’s arms as Nina, injured moth unknowingly in the middle of a transformation, free of all guilt and self-hatred, comfortably asleep against his butterfly lover’s body.

 

Lukasha kissed the moth. Their colors were still vibrant even when the gray sun rose.

 

***

 

It was late Sunday morning. Nina had already woken by the time Lukasha’s dreary meadow eyes peeled open, immediately losing themselves in a contrasting color scheme of dark and pale turned towards him; thank God Nina hadn’t left sometime during the night to wander who knows where and be beaten by some drunken monster in an alleyway. Luka slept dreamlessly, grateful for the fact, given how disheartening Nina’s first memories had been as he clearly described them. It took Lukasha a few minutes to gain full consciousness, during which Nina’s gloomy eyes implied nothing, staring quietly, unblinking. Even when Luka awoke entirely, Nina said nothing. While the apartment was eerily silent, the atmosphere wasn’t daunting.

They had every moment available for growth on this wintery morning.

Lukasha always loved seeing Nina at this time of day. Similar to their first night together, the hooker’s posture was tight, tense not from mindset, just from habit. Underneath the covers, Luka could feel Nina’s knees curled up to his chest, ghostly skin oozing warmth, taking on Lukasha’s job for today. Those dusky eyelashes were messily clumped together, doing their best in covering the bright pink eyelids still swollen from violent tears. One of Lukasha’s favorite (as if he could pick) body parts on Nina, his cheeks, looked a bit looser today, more child-like and innocent versus their usual hollow stature that screamed malnourishment.

The boys stared at each other without judgement, still feeling as if they were caught in a sad, but kindly noiseless dream. Nina admired Lukasha’s non-threatening spirit, and Luka admired Nina’s everything. Slowly, to match the current aesthetic, Lukasha snuck his right hand out from underneath heavy covers, lazily trailing heated fingertips across Nina’s face. That touch felt so familiar. And wasn’t it familiar by now? Hadn’t they fallen into this routine for months, come to terms with hidden affections and buried secrets only revealed in the safe confines of Lukasha Kaveri’s apartment?

Luka sighed. It would have been a happy sigh if his memory of the previous night hadn’t been as vivid as they were.

Poor Nina. Poor, poor Nina.

Everyone around them suffered equally, or, at least, it seemed equal from their inhumane outlooks, but Lukasha felt especially guilty for what someone as innocent and gentle as Nina suffered through. It was odd, what unlucky individuals did for food and money yet they still couldn’t enjoy their rewards once they achieved a small amount of “success”—this was due entirely to added stress and emotional turmoil, bleak scars that were not easily healed or forgotten. Luka wondered if Nina felt better after finally letting his sorrow escape after nineteen difficult years. His shadowed, soft expression gave nothing away, but since he was letting Lukasha comfort him with grazing touches, the designer figured the wounds were still split open.

Another long half-hour passed with only harmless strokes as a pure exchange of warmth. Lukasha reveled in the feel of Nina, breathless when sound broke through their barrier.

“Pnina Alexandrovich Pavlov,” The thin teenager whispered. His left arm adjusted under the covers, creeping closer to Lukasha. “That’s my full name.”

Pnina Alexandrovich Pavlov. Pnina: that was even lovelier than Nina alone. A pretty name for a pretty face.

“That’s a nice name,” Luka said lowly. What he really meant was will you marry me? “Do you tell your customers your real name all the time?”

“No. With you, that first night…it just slipped out,” Nina explained, ghosting a finger over Luka’s forearm. “Usually I go by Tamryn.”

Not awake enough to filter facial reactions, Lukasha’s features scrunched in displeasure as he repeated that name silently. Nina actually laughed blithely at the endearing sight, expression lighting-up for a mere second.

“What? Don’t like that one?”

“Pnina and Nina are prettier,” The sculptor shamelessly admitted. “They suit you better.”

Once again, Nina was not prepared for such blunt kindness thrown his way, though he should have been used to it by now, given Luka’s “deity” mentions every time they engaged in sensual pleasures. Lukasha felt more alive than ever as he witnessed the teenage boy bury his head in a pillow, thinking that would hide his dark blush. Nina struck out twice, first since Luka already knew he would feel embarrassed by compliments and second since Lukasha laughed and thus, caused him more risk-free embarrassment.

“Pnina, don’t be shy!” Luka cooed in that terribly attractive sleepy voice, hand transferring its touch to tangle in Nina’s hair. The prostitute whined upon hearing his first name said out-loud for the first time in years. “Come on, don’t be like that…I’ll only call you Pnina on special occasions. Okay, Pnina?”

Lukasha teased his house guest for another few minutes, poking Nina’s sides and loving the squirmy reaction he received. Note to self: Pnina Alexandrovich Pavlov loves to be spanked and tickled, Luka mentally jotted down, grinning when Nina pushed his hand away. That’s quite a contradiction. Then again, aren’t we both walking crimes? The hooker and the customer?

“No,” Luka answered out-loud, tone fierce. Nina somehow knew what he was talking about, artist’s long fingers trailing back down to lightly cup the teenager’s ailing face. “…We’re not a title anymore.”

Titles. Nina was also familiar with that concept. He remembered the title of shame, what he felt after last night’s alleyway incident, after forcing himself onto Lukasha, aiming for something people like him couldn’t reach without help, which they wouldn’t find anytime soon. He remembered sorrow, hopelessness, forced into his heart oh so long ago, as a child without dreams, without goals. For a long time, now, Nina’s title had been whore, prostitutka, slut, fag, twink, every obscene term in the book—but…more than anything, Nina remembered what Lukasha chose as titles for him.

First, there was Nina. The name Luka moaned, cried out in euphoria, broke over during pleasurable heights. Second, there was deity. Goddess, angel, an immortal creature of lust and reverence who sprinkled their merciful (and merciless) touch, feel, heat over Lukasha, blinding him with porcelain skin and eyes as black as Russia’s starless night sky. How cruel Nina could be, intentionally, unintentionally, cursing Luka with powerful images an illustrator such as himself never wanted to overlook.

Thirdly, the newest addition that was already a close favorite, Pnina. It was a name Nina never liked until he heard those syllables in a different tongue, one full of optimism and awe. Many details Nina chose to remember about Lukasha Kaveri. Many details about himself he chose to forget only for them to worm back into the forefront of his mind.

Damnit, Nina cursed, feeling abrupt tears work their way into his eyes again. Why can’t I stop crying when I’m with Luka?

Lukasha Kaveri stood at attention, arms hovering over Nina’s figure in case he needed an enclosed, secure place; the prostitute sniffled, holding back most tears as another overwhelming wave of anguish confronted his sensitive soul. Why did Nina have feeling at this time? Had it all really been triggered by yesterday’s “betrayal”? Luka must have been thinking the same thing.

“It’s alright, Nina,” The young man offered soothingly. “Don’t feel bad about what happened yesterday…I’m not judging you. I understand.”

“I don’t want you to have to understand,” Nina replied achingly, sniffling aggressively, hating himself for making Lukasha feel that way. The taller boy kept quiet, sensing Nina had a speech prepared, ready for exposing—the prostitutka had never hated being human more. He liked having humanity pulled out of him when they were engaged, lost in each other’s limbs and wrapped around their bodies like reunited princes after a lengthy period of war. He didn’t like emotion now, though he desperately wanted to. Despite turning off his own reactions for many years, Nina knew this was the key to life, the gateway to flowing conversations, breathtaking bonds and unbreakable connections. To feel femininity was to feel life.

Lukasha had never listened so carefully, not in school, not at work, never as much as in this moment when his lover spoke.

“I have feelings,” Nina sniffled, forcing back tears. “I do have feelings, I just…I’ve been living without memories because I know what lies behind me. I don’t want to see it in the future, so I ignore everything…I ignore it so I can make enough money to eat once in a while without wanting to kill myself every night. It’s the only way I can get by, but…sometimes I miss being human.”

Luka inched closer, arm wrapping around Nina’s waist for added strength.

“When we’re together like this, you—you bring out my emotional side, and I guess I’ve become attached to you, because I felt just…awful when you caught me with that man…usually I put-off feeling to avoid facing the reality of my situation. I do that so often I’ve become just like everyone else…”

A tear still fell despite Nina’s best attempts. He brushed it away with gray sleeves that were too long for him, but Lukasha didn’t think he looked as small as usual.

“I miss having standards. I miss wanting something more. I just really want to live again, but…I don’t know how.”

The apartment was quiet for a minute. Lukasha let Nina slide even closer to him, now pressed against his front, though the teen seemed a bit hesitant given how badly things turned out last night when they were this close. Luka ended those doubts by smiling against Nina’s forehead, tugging him up so lidded, narrow black eyes could read just how honest crinkled, confident green orbs could be.

“Well…first of all, you’ll have to get some serious emotional therapy, probably from some Dutch foreign guy, or anyone who isn’t Russian…then you might spend some time in a ward, but I’ll come visit you every week—after that it’s hard to say. Your therapist might want you to admit that you want to be my friend. He might even make you hug me once a day. Maybe more.”

No longer against his wishes, a giggle spilled from Nina’s lips, relieved eyes fluttering shut.

“Buuuuuut I think we can get ahead of that plan by having some coco,” Luka laughed along. “What do you say?”

An admirable, wet little smile illuminated Nina’s sweet features, brightening his skinny figure instead of accusing it, accenting his dry skin instead of worsening its condition. Lukasha’s desire to make Nina beautiful, whether on the bed or under the covers doubled at this humbling sight. They were very attached, fates merging without their knowledge.

“Sounds like the best idea you’ve ever had,” Nina smiled.

“Good. Then how ‘bout we start a new deal?”

Luka hurriedly sat up, eagerly peering down at his lover as Nina listened intently, open to anything, anything Lukasha would offer—luckily for the teenager, this youthful, starving artist rarely ever experienced malevolent thoughts. Especially not towards Nina himself. Who would dare risk insulting or injuring their divine goddess?

“Let’s not be customer and…”

“Whore.”

No,” Lukasha corrected with a childish scowl. He realized Nina was deliberately trying to piss him off again (while also fishing for an admittance of fondness through defensive words) and sighed happily, continuing on. “Let’s not be customer and worker anymore. We’ve cried in each other’s arms enough where I think we classify as something more than friends. Personally, I like the term lover, but if that’s too weird for you I totally understand.”

“I like that word…” Nina admitted hesitantly. He wasn’t sure where Luka was going with this.

“Okay. So…instead of treating this like a business transaction, let’s not think of it at all. I’ll still pay you the 5,400₽ and let you sleep here and everything, but…would you be comfortable adding a few more…casual activities into the routine?”

“Like an escort, you mean.”

“No. I mean like a lover. That’s what lovers do.”

“How would you know?” Nina grinned upwards, a devilish look if Luka had ever seen one. “Need I remind you of your little tantrum outside Club K? What was that for, again? …Oh yeah. You couldn’t find someone who wanted to bang you so you bargained with a hooker instead.”

The teenager let out a loud laugh when Lukasha feigned anger and pinned Nina to the bed by tiny wrists, straddling his waist as if he would never let go. Luka’s grip was by no means harsh, though his sloppy kiss against Nina’s lips felt a bit intense. Lukasha smirked when Nina groaned into their kiss, eyes shut and mouth hovering open for air as the artist leaned back, still only inches away.

“I like that side of you, Nina,” Lukasha breathed quietly, only for them to hear. “I want to see more. That’s what I’m trying to get at.”

The deity’s heartbeat stuttered, pounding so loudly Nina thought Luka could hear its beat for sure—then again, maybe Lukasha’s was just as high in volume. Officially becoming a lover for the theater’s finest Lukasha Kaveri…it was a dream Nina didn’t know existed as a possibility until today, this late morning on a cold Sunday in Russia, laying under a handsome Generation X worker with slightly curly hair, long legs and an authentic heart. Could it be true?

After a deep swallow for reassurance, the homeless teenager took a chance, a bit frightened, but mostly moved.

“Okay,” Nina whispered. “We’re lovers, then.”

“…Yeah,” Lukasha finally smiled. “The lovers of Saint Petersburg.”

 

Luka and Nina drank hot coco and laid in bed, content at not having solved all their life problems, content to intertwine their hearts and limbs for today’s remaining hours, looking forward to tomorrow for the first time in many years.

Chapter Text

The lovers of Saint Petersburg grew quickly, like seeds buried under miles of soil and snow, peeking out when the time was right, two flowers blooming side by side in a miserable garden. Radiant petals grew from sturdy stems, leaning whichever way Russia’s gray sun pointed until their leaves became intertwined as one. Nina continued his work as a prostitute, but now visited Lukasha daily, breaking long days up with small meals and mindless conversations in Luka’s cozy living room.

When Nina knew Lukasha was on lunch break, he would call the home phone and talk about his day so far, describing tiny, insignificant details to the largest. In return, Luka would listen, offering a few dramatic gossip chains via the ballerinas. Other times, Nina would drop by in the morning after leaving his latest customer’s hotel room—Lukasha would make them both breakfast, kiss Nina for a few bruising minutes, then their paths broke apart at the street corner after an exchange of bright smiles.

The boys were no longer afraid to reveal how often they thought of each other, what specific shades and scenes triggered a memory, a sensation they experienced together—incidentally, Nina didn’t have any more issues at work, aside from occasional longing for Lukasha’s encouraging words. One positive thing about daydreaming was that Nina could now drop by Luka’s apartment and receive what he so desired. Unexpected visits always pulled amazing smiles from Lukasha Kaveri, which only influenced Nina’s impulsive decision making skills.

“How was your day?” The assistant designer asked, planting a kiss on his lover’s cheek as Nina walked in. “I hope your cold is getting better…your throat sounded sore yesterday.”

Nina answered the same way every time because it was the truth.

“I feel a lot better today.”

“Good,” Luka sighed in relief. “I worry about you getting sick when it’s cold like this…make sure your appointments are inside, okay?”

Nina would nod, allow Lukasha to take his coat off and join him at the couch, where they went through Luka’s latest set designs. As weeks went by, multiple sketches of Nina joined the group, both nude and clothed, most often wearing either his blue skirt or a longer, peach-colored one he bargained for from a customer whose divorced wife had left behind her entire wardrobe. Nina never modeled for Lukasha as often as he woke to find the artist smoothly drawing beside him, memorizing every miniscule aspect about the teen’s figure. They were all beautifully realistic, capturing likeliness and atmosphere perfectly, though none could match The Frozen Butterfly.

“You should consider being an underwear model,” Lukasha teased during a drawing session, though his tone was sincere. Nina raised an eyebrow, not sure whether to laugh or scoff. “Once you gain a few pounds, you’ll be perfect model material.”

“You say it like I’m working towards that goal,” His lover hummed thoughtfully.

“It’s difficult having goals where we’re from,” Luka continued, running a hand along Nina’s frail forearm. “But…I think all those sleepless nights and lonely days are worth it once you get where you’re going.”

“And where would that be, Lukasha Kaveri?”

Knowing Luka was finished with his sketch, Nina moved from his position on the artist’s lap, movements slow and seductive as he landed both palms on either side of Lukasha’s hips, leaning towards that face he knew so well at this point. Luka swallowed deeply, managing to stay totally still even when the pretty model was tilted only half an inch away, scorching doll lips nearly grazing his own.

Anywhere,” Lukasha breathed. His attempt at speaking distinctly in hopes of brushing his lips over Nina’s failed. “Anywhere we want.”

We.

“Hmm…can’t say I hate the idea…”

Lukasha closed the gap between them, keeping both hands to himself as Nina hovered above him, unknowingly controlling their current state. Spontaneous kissing often happened at random, one minute spent giggling and laughing about a dumb joke, the next Lukasha finding himself overcome with an urge to kiss that smirk off Nina’s pouting lips. Like lovers do, they spent many moments bathing in the apartment’s comfortable silence, looking without having to speak, humming songs without questioning lyrical meaning. Such was the drifting hooker’s new routine.

Unintentionally (although well-aware), Nina began basing his entire day around Lukasha Kaveri—he changed his favorite color to lavender, because that was Luka’s favorite.

“I think lavender is my favorite color because it has a nice name and it’s a softer shade of purple, which is the color of my favorite flower, Hortênsia.”

He yearned for ice cream in the dead of winter because Lukasha told him a story about how he wanted ice cream during a winter storm as a child.

“I once made my grandfather buy me ice cream on the coldest day of the year. It fell out of my hands two-seconds after he handed me the cup.”

Nina spent train rides coming up with puns in hopes of irritating Luka because the head set designer couldn’t go a day without using one, which exasperated his assistant gravely.

“Today a ballerina told my boss ‘without ballet, life would be pointeless!’ He laughed for ten-minutes. Ten-minutes for that.”

Naturally, the bitterly independent side of Nina triggered an alarm, telling him such dependency on Lukasha for day-to-day happiness was unhealthy. The teen would worry himself into a hole, terrified that Luka would turn the tables and keep him as a pleasure slave, or maybe sell him to a high bidding pimp. Anxiety ate away every speck of confidence Nina built-up, and when the time came to knock on Lukasha’s door for their appointment, the prostitutka was a nervous wreck.

When Luka emerged and stepped aside, welcoming Nina in, steaming hot coco mug ready on the table, Nina’s fears dissipated immediately, saved for another dark night of bittersweet self-preservation.

Nina and Lukasha became friends, learning more about each other through slow afternoons when snowflakes wouldn’t stop falling, when traffic never ceased outside their building; they became at-ease with the other’s company even when sex wasn’t a factor. Sharing little facts became an educational hour for Nina, who wasn’t used to talking so often, nor was he accustomed to relying on Luka’s kindness for learning experiences. Obvious lessons through coffee dates along with underlying habits noticed through attentive eyes came together and helped the lovers crawl closer and closer to something more, a connection yet to be noticed by anyone else.

Lukasha learned that Nina had never attended school. Nina learned that Lukasha was twenty-one, his birthday taking place a few weeks before they met at Club K. Nina’s tongue would always dart out and lick the remnants of hot coco off his lips, even when those chocolatey stains had already been consumed. Lukasha had a habit of tapping a pen against the coffee table when he didn’t know how to finish his latest set design. He also put his jeans on by sliding his right food in first, which Nina thought was odd. Luka noticed that Nina almost always reorganized his bag when he left in the morning, sometimes just for reassurance that nothing had been stolen, sometimes just because his inner cleanliness wanted everything to be arranged just so.

“Your hair’s getting pretty long, Nina,” Lukasha observed one evening, tugging on a dark strand. “Want me to trim it for you? I don’t want the ends splitting—how will you ever get customers that way?”

Yes, they did occasionally speak about Nina’s clients. Since he no longer placed Lukasha Kaveri in that category, the teen found it safe to speak of without being judged, or, worse, sounding like he was judging Luka. While the designer trimmed his hair, Nina quietly talked about his usual filtering process for finding customers, the precautions he took since he worked alone, how never accepting drunk men was a good strategy, though it did make finding work harder most nights. Aside from these rare occasions, the boys didn’t mention “other people” unless Nina had a previous injury that needed taking care of. And so, their routine fluttered on.

These casual appearances only increased the passion fused through their embrace.

Luka often hated himself for previous ideals he once held, like club hopping only with the intent to find a temporary lover versus a real relationship. His subconscious argued that such an open bond wasn’t possible in their country, given he felt for men and men alone, but that very valid excuse never convinced him. No amount of hot stranger sex could ever make Lukasha feel the way sex with Nina felt. It didn’t matter the position, the person, the time, the circumstances—when Nina crawled over him with those sultry hips, narrowed eyes and vibrant red lips, nothing else in the entire world mattered. Not their obvious poverty, not the quality of life around them, not even fine chances like the possibility of a raise at work could compare to that trembling surge jolting through Luka’s nerves when Nina touched his skin.

One night, when Lukasha requested the same position they used their first night together, Nina began crying. He couldn’t say why, didn’t feel sorrowful or regretful emotions—he was just crying quietly, warm tears dripping onto Luka’s shoulder as the latter held him tightly, keeping them connected underneath.

“Nina?” Lukasha worried, voice scratchy from bliss but none the less caring. “What’s wrong? Does it hurt?”

Nina shook his head, squirming when Luka stopped because he didn’t want to stop, but the boy also didn’t understand why tears fell when nothing was wrong. Well—nothing more than usual, at least. Lukasha’s long fingers moved up, nudging Nina’s face back so they could look each other in the eyes, grass against shadow; the sculptor studied Nina’s expression, seeing no obvious signs of distress or pain. Still, moisture spilled out, catching on pink eyelids before gliding down glass cheeks.

Sometimes, when Nina felt an electric rush of human emotion, he couldn’t help but become overwhelmed and cry childishly. That’s who he felt like most days.

“Don’t look away,” Luka whispered. “Okay?”

His lover swallowed, then nodded surely, leaning his forehead against Lukasha’s as their movements continued. Nina let himself be more vocal lately, knowing how deeply it affected Luka, and tonight was no different—once the tears subsided, giving Nina back control of his voice, whimpers and breathless moans bounced against Lukasha’s panting mouth, abs sore from all the work he was doing, but letting fatigue stop them never crossed his mind. In the designer’s mind, Nina deserved pleasure more than he did. That was why, still keeping his gaze locked on Nina’s Luka pushed him through two orgasms that night, giving an eclipsed smile when different tears pooled out of the corner of Nina’s eyes.

Yes. This was much better than stranger sex.

“We’re getting good at reading each other,” Lukasha commented while cleaning Nina up. The hooker now allowed his lover to help, if only because he liked feeling those hands rake over his body. “Is it just me, or is has everything felt different lately? In a good way. Never mind. I’m just rambling. Oh man, I hope I didn’t miss when I threw the condom in the garbage…that’d be a real mess…”

Nina had been wondering over a similar theory. Lukasha didn’t move any differently when they were intimate, but Nina definitely noticed an attitude change. He couldn’t quite find a suitable description for it yet. Luka still moaned his name in worship, still held him as closely as possible, still made sure they both achieved orgasm every other Friday night…but…

“Let’s stay like this,” Lukasha whispered against his collarbone, lazily laying on top of Nina. “Stay with me, deity.”

Luka often didn’t let Nina leave until he had breakfast and coffee—even then, it took another fifteen-minutes or so of kissing before the prostitutka emerged back to the cold streets, cheeks pink from Lukasha’s intense make-out session. Every goodbye felt like a hello, and each touch felt like a butterfly kiss.

If Nina didn’t know any better, he would say they were more like boyfriends than lovers. His natural fear of having happiness stolen from him caused Nina to never bring this subject up, content to happily ponder the idea through cheeky daydreams and restless wanderings.

Despite hope from local weathermen, winter was nowhere near ending—Nina could definitely tell by sharp sleet falling from the sky tonight, possibly signaling a new temperature low. Lukasha gave him an address for their next appointment, across from a fairly extravagant motel on a nicer side of Saint Petersburg; Nina hardly waited ten-minutes outside before Luka came running down the sidewalk, grin on his lips as he waved wildly, hurriedly sliding his gloved hands back into their safety pockets while stopping in front of Nina.

“Privet!”

“Privet,” The hooker nodded, missing the usual cheek kiss greeting. “How was your day?”

Instead of answering, Lukasha grinned brighter, standing by Nina’s side with a suspiciously enlightened expression. Crowds were bustling past their figures, but like usual, neither boy could feel those forgetful presences.

“Guess what.”

“Hm…judging on your happy expression, I’m guessing it’s something we consider good but not what first-world civilizations consider good?”

Lukasha giggled and gave a short shrug. Nina considered, recalling how his father thought finding half a bagel on the side of the road was good news…Luka had better taste than that, though. It probably has something to do with work, the teenager theorized. I would hope he wouldn’t brag about getting a date with a ballerina in front of me…it must be…

“You…got promoted?” Nina guessed.

“Close!” Luka cheered. “I got a raise! An entire ruble higher!”

Nina let out a breathy laugh, thinking Lukasha was joking as a preparation for the real news—but he sounded so sincere and pleased…that wasn’t possible. It had to be a joke.

“Wha—are you pulling my leg? You are, aren’t you, Luka?”

“No! Why do you think I told you to meet me at this fancy-ass motel?!”

Luka motioned across towards the large building, the same one Nina admired and envied before his lover’s arrival. Nina looked slowly, putting puzzle pieces together as he connected what Lukasha was saying compared to what day it was. Did he really mean…they were…tonight?

No way.

“…We…We’re staying here?” Nina tried, pushing his hopes down in case it was all a cruel scam. The magnificent smile enhancing Lukasha’s features welcomed Nina’s hope with open arms, prostitute’s dark eyes widening in amazement and pure joy. Such grandeur only brushed their souls in dreams, during visits to the Pavilion Hall—or so they thought.

“Do you like it?” Luka had the audacity to ask, watching Nina’s expressions carefully. “I know it’s not as nice as the ones we stay in when the ballet travels, but I liked the color scheme, and it had okay reviews online…”

Nina stared at the motel for another half-minute before turning his excited gaze towards Lukasha. He wasn’t smiling, yet, but the sinister, eager expression on his face told Luka he should prepare. As casually as possible, Nina stepped into Lukasha’s space, talking lowly so no bystander could overhear.

“Lukasha,” He addressed slowly. “You better get me inside before I pull your pants down right here and do something very illegal in front of all these people.”

Another beautiful grin illuminated Luka’s face, short laugh breaking their conversation as both boys immediately sprinted across the street, dodging cars and letting themselves be narrowly avoided until they found their way inside, minds overwhelmed by extravagant traits that could have been shinier, but for Lukasha and Nina, it was heaven, only half a step down from the Hermitage and all its wonders. The blue and gold carpet below their shoes was horrid, although those colors better served their purpose in accents on walls and trinkets at the front desk, where Lukasha hurriedly checked them in. Nina thought he recognized the employee from another motel where one of his customers frequented and as a result, hid behind a grandfather clock in the lobby.

Nice motels didn’t usually allow whores to conduct their business affairs on-location. Despite the popularity of prostitution, most sanitary establishments didn’t want that reputation on their shoulders. Luckily, Lukasha had just come from work and was wearing nicer clothing than Nina. Luka accepted their room cards, motioning for his lover to follow him into the elevator.

“I’ve stayed in nice motels before, but this one takes the cake,” Nina commented, running his finger along a gold painted rim around the elevator room. “Usually the ones I stay in during wintertime don’t have anything more than a mattress and a bathroom. Definitely no elevator. Well, I guess the Moscow motels I’ve stayed in are pretty nice.”

“You stay there often?” Lukasha asked, not feigning his interest level. Any story that helped him better understand Nina’s situation was important.

“Sometimes. I mean, it’s not like I’m low on cash with 12,700₽ a night,” Nina actually laughed. “I try to spend half of what I earn and keep the rest in the bank…I don’t want to lose everything if the economy goes under—again. During winter I usually dish out more for rooms than food. Guess I need to sort out my priorities, huh?”

Luka didn’t comment, but gave a stiff nod and tried keeping his excitement at a high; he returned to normal when they emerged into their motel room, running around like little kids and admiring all the shiny decal surrounding them. That same awful carpet was also in their room, but the double beds were enormous, covered by thick golden duvets with darker blue sheets underneath. Looking closer, nothing was as expensive as originally assumed, lots of “Made in Vietnam” stickers hanging out, but Nina loved it. There was a circular dining table by the mini-kitchen, another coffee table by the couch, a TV with a wide selection of movies, several useless tables with décor accessories on top and a tiny fridge in the corner next to an open closet.

“How much did this cost you, Lukasha?” Nina asked in sudden concern, now realizing the layout of their room was a bit more advanced than necessary.

“Not that much,” Luka shrugged, running his hand along the shimmering gold curtains. “I just paid my rent a few days ago, and I was unknowingly getting paid with my raise for the past week, so it was perfect timing! Although…” His hand changed positions, grabbing the back of his neck sheepishly. “I don’t think I have enough left over to, um…pay you your 5,200₽ tonight.”

“I think I’ll let it slide this one time,” Nina chuckled. He threw himself on top of the nearest mattress, bouncing a few times before sinking down comfortably. “This place is heaven. Add blue walls and a radio, we’d be golden.”

Lukasha spared a quick smile at that comparison, joining his lover on the bed with a large bounce; almost immediately, Nina found himself in a wrestling match, Luka grabbing at the hooker and insisting they switch spots, since he was always on the right side during their sessions back at his apartment. Nina refused, resulting in Lukasha grabbing hold of those thin arms and attempting to forcibly remove him. He found Nina’s weak efforts at fighting back cute, pair rolling around until Luka finally pinned the teen down.

“Gotcha.”

“Ugh…I feel like I’m always on the losing side of wrestling matches.”

“In this case, I think we’re both winners, Nina.”

Without further ado, Lukasha dove his face into the butterfly’s neck, planting tickling kisses along Nina’s soft, sensitive skin, heart jumping for joy whenever Nina squirmed and laughed beneath his touch. The dark-haired boy couldn’t contain squeals that escaped, hands grasping at Luka in hopes of pushing him off, though his tries were half-hearted; the more Lukasha messed up the covers beneath them, grabbing and trapping, the hotter the burning became in both their stomachs. Nina melted and melted into Luka’s grip, feeling at peace despite the submissive position he was in—

Didn’t this lover always feel safe when Lukasha was involved?

“Stooop,” Nina begged breathlessly when a particularly gentle nibble made his heart flutter. “You’re going to mess up the bed before we even get to sleep in it at this rate…”

“So?” Lukasha smirked against his skin. “There’s another bed—but we’ll mess that one up just as much.”

Luka was still smirking as he leaned up, watching Nina huff with momentary disorientation below; the teenager tried glaring at Lukasha, but it didn’t have the effect he was looking for.

“You’re disgusting,” Nina teased.

“Pf. Baby, you have no idea.”

Nina tried hiding his laughter but failed again, grateful he felt too good a mood to even have PTSD at the word “baby” being directed at him. After remaking the bed to avoid suspicion, Lukasha ordered room service for them, insisting they live this night full without caring about price—Nina didn’t know that was possible and quite enjoyed eating a delicious two-course meal without worrying about what it cost. The prostitutka had never eaten so much before, barely able to move from his spot on the love seat when they finished. Lukasha wasn’t feeling much better, and the pair spent the next few hours watching old sitcoms on TV waiting for their protruding stomachs to go down. Luka forgot what it was like having a TV, and Nina spent most of this time admiring how the screen lights bounced off Lukasha’s beaming face.

“I can finally move again,” Luka announced, getting up and stretching his arms. “What do you say we check out the bathtub? I hear it’s big enough to fit two people—if you know what I mean.”

“I thought you’d never ask, Lukasha.”

The bathroom didn’t skimp on anything, standing out as the most luxurious portion of the entire motel room with white everything, a tiled shower cleaner than anything Nina had ever seen, a double sink with chipped gold faucets, and, of course, a large white bathtub fit for two people. Nina had never stripped so fast in his entire life when Lukasha filled the tub with steaming water and an entire bottle of rosemary scented bubble bath. With some careful planning and adjustment, they sank into the warm bathtub together, Luka leaning against white porcelain and Nina slouched between Lukasha’s legs, back pressed against the designer’s abs.

Like this, they remained quietly for the next forty-minutes.

“To be kings in a dying country, to be princes in an awakening world,” Nina spoke softly, enchanted by their current scene. “…This is life through every forgotten century, lost to all, with an exception of lingering stars in Elysia, still held together by burning hands only eyes like ours can admire. For their eternity, and especially for our future memories.”

Fate allowed a short pause, boys reflecting on well-spoken words still hovering above.

“You must be good at poetry, hm?” Lukasha murmured in awe, running a soapy hand along the teenager’s arm. “You recited that butterfly one at my apartment, too…is that something you’re interested in?”

Was poetry a topic Nina enjoyed? He enjoyed thinking about Lukasha. That, he knew he was interested in. Nina didn’t have dreams or hopes outside of Luka. Maybe there was enough hidden immaturity and innocence concealed by the last scrap of his childhood somewhere deep inside, protected until a perfect awakening moment arrived. Maybe, someday, Lukasha could unlock it for him.

“Yeah,” Nina admitted, both to himself and to Luka. “Poems are nice…”

Hushed silence reigned once more, creating a gentle atmosphere no obnoxious or disruptive noise could break through. Lukasha’s fingers continued their run-down of Nina’s skin, smearing bubbles here and there, leading Luka to a mark collection on the back of the hooker’s neck. He was sure he hadn’t left bite indents nor hickies on such an exposed location. Still, Lukasha investigated, arm moving so his fingers could graze over the marred flesh eroding Nina’s marble statue. Each little change in direction, each color alteration triggered thoughtfulness from Luka as he traced carefully, unknowingly letting his aura be known by the lover beneath his touch.

“What are you thinking about?” Nina whispered. Part of him was afraid for the answer, especially when Lukasha’s reply took a long minute.

“Nothing,” The artist mumbled. “Just…”

Luka couldn’t finish. He didn’t know where to start or begin and so, let the conversation die, though his hands continued their examination for quite some time. When the water lost most of its heat, Lukasha suggested they clean up, starting with a deep shampoo of Nina’s hair, which was admittedly a self-indulgent favor. While Nina thought the apartment and motel were paradise, Luka was sure, if hair counted as a possible location of nirvana, that Nina’s dusty locks were certainly it. He lathered shampoo into the prostitutka’s hair until Nina nearly fell asleep, rinsing each bubble out until nothing remained but a coat of thick, smooth black strands. Despite his lover’s reluctance, Lukasha also washed Nina’s body, sweet time filtering by while he ran his large hands up and down those thin legs, articulated collarbones and that slim waist. By the time Luka finished, Nina was starting to feel a little overwhelmed from sensation.

Little did he know those stirring physical responses would only grow.

“The water’s getting cold,” Nina observed, a shiver running over his calves as he went to face Lukasha. “We sh—”

Lips suddenly smashed against Nina’s in a fierce movement, Luka’s arms wrapping around his lover’s waist and torso to pull him flush against his own soapy body. Taken by surprise, Nina couldn’t kiss back until he found himself being lowered back into the bath water, kept from drowning by Lukasha holding him above surface. Nina parted his lips, welcoming Luka in while wrapping his legs around the sculptor for more stability, kissing back with relief and euphoria. Water splashed over, wetting everything in sight as Lukasha continuously pushed his passion onto Nina.

Their unprompted make-out session went well until Luka’s knee slipped underneath the water, causing his head to nearly smash into white porcelain and Nina to nearly drown, momentarily submerged without having any breath remaining from their kisses. Laughter came after Lukasha was sure Nina hadn’t consumed enough bubbly water that might cause him stomach pains later on.

“Maybe we should take this to the bed before we kill ourselves, huh?”

“That might be a good idea.”

“I don’t know…” Lukasha hesitated as they leaned up in the tub. Nina felt those penetrating green eyes burn holes over his dripping figure. “I’m kind of loving the view in here.”

“That so?” His goddess teased.

“Mhm…”

Nina may or may not have further antagonized Lukasha by throwing in a few seductive poses when exiting the bathtub. To Luka’s credit, he managed composure, focusing on drying Nina’s body off enough where he could walk them back into the main room without tripping over his own feet or accidentally groping various body parts belonging to the hooker. They moved onto the clean bed almost immediately, Nina peeling his towel off first, if only because he knew his curves were driving Luka up a wall.

“Eager, are we?” Nina asked curiously, noticing the other’s hard-on, not doing a very thorough job at hiding under Lukasha’s white towel.

“You’ll regret ever teasing me tonight, Nina,” The artist threatened in a low, dangerous tone.

Atmosphere fully changing, Nina let himself be pounced on, a light gasp leaving his lips when Lukasha began nibbling on his chest, grabbing hands keeping the prostitutka happily trapped. By the time Luka was through making a mess of Nina’s bare body he had successfully rendered the dark-eyed boy just as excited as he was—and so, their magical night living as kings and princes commenced.

“Let me show you, deity…” Lukasha whispered fervently against Nina’s stomach.

“Sh—Show me what?”

Just when Nina thought they couldn’t be any closer, Luka tugged the teenager’s body downward so they were face to face, noses brushing together as an intense, positively sinful expression covered Lukasha’s face. If Nina didn’t know any better, he would say they were preparing for their second meal of the night.

“How much I worship you.”

Luka started the journey by roughly attaching his hand onto Nina’s arousal, working him despite the breathy protests he received; instead of forming full sentences voicing his reluctance, Nina could only twitch and writhe, head spinning with pleasure while Lukasha brought him closer and closer to a flawless ecstasy. A different dampness washed over their rosy skin, sticking them together through each stroke, each heartbeat until Nina erupted, a high-pitched whine falling off his lips and echoing lavishly in Luka’s ears. He watched in admiration as the boy below him squirmed, hips jolting wildly, goosebumps nowhere to be found while a different hot liquid streaked onto Nina’s stomach.

Overwhelmed by this set pace, Nina stuttered over his breaths and laid limply for a long minute, nerves still shivering from pleasure every few seconds; Luka was quiet over him, sticky hand only stopping when he was sure Nina rode each wave, though its grip remained snug in a suspicious fashion. The hooker’s chest hiccupped when that long, powerful body caged him in, keeping his shaking form imprisoned on the bed.

 

“I hope you’re not tired already,” Lukasha murmured, ghost of a smile on his cruel lips. “You’ve got two more to go, Nina.”

 

The teenager couldn’t stop the gasp that escaped his lips. An entirely new bundle of emotions assaulted him when Luka suddenly readjusted their position, effortlessly lifting Nina up onto his lap as he leaned back against the headboard. That look Lukasha gave him…that hungry, appreciative look was energy, it was fear, it bled excitement and anticipation, heart equaling with a solid wall of eagerness. Nina didn’t know what to think because he couldn’t think, could only feel, felt the heat in Luka’s grip, felt the strings of his imagination run wild, breaking and pulling as tight as they could without snapping—

But Nina craved it. He longed for whatever that string was made of, patience, anxiety, terror, devastating emotion to snap, to tear in half, never to be forged as a limit again. Nina wanted Lukasha to be the one who cut that string tying them, keeping them hopelessly buried inside this twisted, warped reality. He wanted to be rid of the string keeping their world knotted.

More,” Nina begged, begged, begged mindlessly, without shame, dark eyes entrancing Lukasha. “Give me more.”

A short pause returned Nina’s anxiety. Lukasha hushed their malevolent suggestions and softly mouthed a kiss the boy’s neck as another promise, a reassurance of his own adoration. As if that needed more encouragement, already having blossomed long ago, hidden underneath porosha[1] bundles and crystalized ice.

“I’ll give you everything, deity.”

Lukasha Kaveri delivered, relentlessly preparing Nina for him by working his fingers in and out, magically finding infinitely sensitive spots Nina didn’t know existed. By the time Luka was ready, his partner was beyond ready, so flustered and speechless by attentions he received the boy hardly noticed he had somehow become hard again. A relieved cry blasting through Lukasha’s ears almost pushed his patience aside; he managed to hold on, however, continuing with the act of burying himself inside Nina.

That being done, Luka’s trembling hand tightened its grip around the boy’s leaking member once more.

“Too much,” Nina whimpered, eyes starting to well with confused tears, body reacting even though his mind was still recuperating. “N-No…ahh—ah—Luka, no mo-re…”

“Relax,” Lukasha hummed soothingly, keeping Nina’s body upright above him. “I’ll take care of you.”

Luka did just that and much, much more. He never felt a shred of fatigue or aching pains that would distract from the way Nina whimpered and pleaded, chipped fingernails digging into Lukasha’s shoulders as a silent plea for mercy. Between feeling each inch of his lover’s thrusts from below, Luka’s long, sculptor fingers warm around his shaft and the intoxicating scents of bath soaps and succulent orange shampoo, Nina really was in paradise, finally locating the Elysium fields in the winding maze of their littered, gray Underworld. It had been close all along, one turn further than Nina normally would have taken—luckily, Lukasha Kaveri was just as lost as he, and on Nina’s wrong turn, he stumbled upon another who would aid his weary travels. Finally.

They were kings in a palace, though not dying kings—they were fresh-faced princes in a new era, the spirit of Alexander the Great welding their bones, the rage of Achilles raging their souls. Their religion was Nina, goddess Pnina, celestial, gentle conqueror and inspiration of the kingdom, displayed on every canvas portrait, colorful mural and blank page in need. Lukasha gave the goddess everything. A prime example of emotional fortune, he gave back whatever was once stolen from the deity, remained absolutely focused in his envious bond with their cherished divinity, generous with each touch, sincere in each song purred Nina’s direction.

They were kings on their way to becoming gods.

Through each surge, each rising intimacy level, Nina found himself being prayed to, verses, devotions uttered and mumbled following every superior rush of stimulation. The worshiper praised him relentlessly, envying his beauty and respecting his lack of vanity, gifting Nina everything by religious devotion, the grief-stricken Hadrian to the tragic Antinous.

“Deity,” Lukasha panted, pulling Nina further down onto him and reveling in the cry that exited his flushed doll lips. “I’ll give you my all, deity…I give you my everything…ah—hear me, Nina—”

Yes.”

“Nina…you feel—perfect. Haa…you’re—you’re perfect…”

Those were the exact praises that triggered Nina’s second orgasm, a significantly less amount staining Lukasha’s fingers as he paused their movements below, focusing entirely on his goddess’ expression of lust, thin eyebrows scrunching together, lips trembling, loose enough where more wails and sobs flew off without a shred of decency or compassion for Luka’s ailing lungs. Nina’s muscles shook frantically, succumbing to the welcoming pleasure, however new and terrifying that sensation was—Nina couldn’t consider this matter, however, mind and body too exhausted from whatever game Luka was most definitely winning at.

“There you go,” The designer sighed, encouragingly working his hand even when Nina tried pushing him away. “Settle down…settle…”

How dare he use that against me.

The deity trembled like a cracking leaf in cold autumnal wind when he came crashing down, limply leaning against Lukasha’s upper torso, hardly noticing Luka had pulled out. Nina didn’t know how much more he could handle. His spirits were already jumbled together in a mess of yarn, and Lukasha promised him three opportunities to achieve the heights of sexual pleasure. Nina’s groin could probably handle more, but his heart could not. Then again, Luka proved him wrong time and time again…it was a talent of his to make everyone enjoy his company.

Nina longed to possess him. He longed to possess Lukasha Kaveri very deeply.

“Mm,” Luka hummed in approval against Nina’s throat, feeling the jumping pulse there. “One more to go, goddess…”

No,” Nina protested pathetically, hating how his heart immediately disagreed at what his mouth stated. “No more, Lukasha…”

Like the gentlemen he was, Lukasha leaned his lover back so they were face-to-face, reading Nina’s expression and searching for any true sign of refusal or pain. Those perfect eyebrows were still creased, weepy eyes still moist with tears, but the prostitutka’s body language lacked the usual submissive, apprehensive posture Lukasha had seen a few times before, during their first few sessions together—Nina made those expressions in general, not necessarily caused by physical angst, just from a common situation that brought out bitter emotions from his stale soul. Security being confirmed, Luka hid an affectionate smile and spoke once more.

“I’m going to lay you down, okay?”

Nina released a whiney sound, clutching Lukasha’s arms as he was gently turned and laid back on the bed, head thumping on a pillow while his ears detected a similarly aroused groan fall from his lover’s lips when their red-tipped cocks brushed against each other. A few moments were spent in admiration, Nina at Lukasha Kaveri’s intense, fond expression, Lukasha at Nina’s trust in him, the looseness of his limbs and open pose on the duvet below, fabric pulling, sheathing his milky-hued limbs with gold. Luka waited a fair amount of time before causing another arrythmia wave in Nina’s heart by encasing the deity’s swollen top with his puckered lips.

No!” Nina wailed frantically, abdomen clenching in fear. His shaking hands went to grab at Lukasha’s head, finding themselves not resisting but becoming trapped in those wavy brunette locks. It hurt, tensed and pulsated in denial, fighting a losing battle against want, giving Nina a reward for what he never received before accepting Luka as his customer. “No…Lukasha, it’s too—it’s too…m-uch…no…”

Luka didn’t so much ignore Nina’s words as he did listen to the way Nina’s body reacted instead, thrusting upwards in a silent request for more while simultaneously jerking away. Lukasha knew he was nowhere near as talented with his mouth as his lover, but Nina reacted well enough, enjoying the rhythm of sucking and kissing, especially when those swollen lips broke off with a sickeningly obscene pop! However harsh the ache was inside Nina’s stomach, however much it throbbed, he couldn’t deny such sensual experience.

Now, Lukasha was no prostitute or even highly experienced at blowjobs, but his pride rose greatly each time Nina whimpered and moaned, squirming body making Luka’s mouth messy (or messier). Recalling Nina’s own talents, the artist hollowed his cheeks tightly and twisted his tongue around, searching and searching for anything that would pull more fluid from the burning staff. However much he struggled, Luka made up for it in effort, alternating sucks and licks often enough to drive Nina crazy.

Somewhere along the final way, Lukasha’s free hand began pumping his own arousal, surged and helped along by the increasing sobs coming from Nina’s throat, each thrash of his figure as he was relentlessly pushed towards another edge. Luka let the deity overcome his entire existence, heart hammering as he felt himself inch closer to completion; Nina’s volume increased with agony, tears freely escaping, now, body jumping and twitching at each suck. In a whirlwind of a moment, everything came barreling to an abrupt stop—Lukasha heard Nina cry out, totally overstimulated as a final, weak orgasm was willingly ripped from his loins. Luka flinched in surprise and moved away, lips and mouth becoming a wet mess, though that mess was easier to clean than the marble beams collapsing inside his chest from hearing Nina’s pleasure-filled cries.

The teenager momentarily saw black before returning, no pride remaining, not even enough to demand he stop sobbing as final waves of startling pleasure continuously assaulted and robbed his frail body’s last ounce of strength. If Lukasha’s choking gasps were anything to go by, Nina must have performed an incredibly seductive ahegao expression during his finish.

“Close!” Luka cried in warning, achingly crawling up the bed while furiously jerking himself. “Ahh—Nina—close…”

Nina barely managed to keep his quivering lips open long enough for Lukasha, hot liquid splattering across the lover’s mouth while long groans of exertion provided noise porn for Nina’s ears. After cleaning his mess (not bothering to heighten Luka’s orgasm due to his own emotional instability), Nina fell victim to tears, quietly letting his overwhelmed cries become light sobs into the nearest pillow while curling into a recovery fetal position.

The exhausted artist collapsed beside Nina, chest heaving and skin flushed as he relaxed physically, though his inner-conscious remained on edge. Did I accidentally hurt him? Lukasha worried, peeling open an eye. Is he okay? Is he dead? I killed him, didn’t I? Crap. Who would’ve thought I’d be convicted of manslaughter…

“Settle,” Lukasha huffed gently, brushing a hand over the wincing deity’s hair in comfort. “Sorry…I’m sorry…”

After confirming he wouldn’t pass-out, Nina replied in an airy, satisfied voice, peeking from his armadillo ball to lessen Lukasha’s burden.

“D-Don’t be.”

“No, I…did I actually hurt you? I went too far, right?”

“No,” Nina sighed tiredly, the laziest of smiles brightening his glossy features. “You never hurt me, Lukasha.”

Luka had the nerve to blush cutely, still experiencing some guilt, but he pushed it aside for tonight; Nina remained compliant and soft when Lukasha moved them to the clean bed, tucking his goddess under dark silk sheets that, if possible, only made the teenager look more ravishing. For the moment, they recovered quietly, sliding against each other while waiting for their thumping heartbeats to subside. Nina doubted they ever would.

“Lukasha Dobrashinovich Kaveri. That’s my full name.”

Nina nodded thoughtfully. Luka turned on his side so they were facing each other, rushing his greeting before the aesthetic image of Nina sinking into dark blue sheets ruined whatever he had planned. Lukasha’s attempt was nearly derailed even though he practiced self-control over the last hour or so.

“Pnina—”

The dark-haired boy peered up, eyes moist and stained mouth still releasing little pants every now and then—what else could Luka do but pull him in for a gentle, feathery kiss upon those red-stained lips? Nina sighed deeply, letting Lukasha control their movements until they separated, at which point Luka remained close, finishing his speech in a sincere whisper.

“I’m so happy we met,” He confessed, air brushing over Nina’s lips. “And…not just for this reason.”

Lukasha felt bad when more tears fell from his lover’s eyes, but he knew they weren’t unhappy tears. Nina nodded again, fully agreeing and cuddling his head into the nearest pillow below Luka’s figure, allowing the latter to stroke his hair in understanding. They laid together for quite some time, Nina silently crying, no longer hating his emotions but welcoming them as long as Lukasha Kaveri was involved—Luka himself greatly adored Nina in vulnerable form, since this allowed the gap between them to close completely, gifting them more warmth than they ever thought possible, given the motel’s comfortable temperature and their own body heat helped along by several extracurricular activities.

“Will you say it again?” Lukasha requested against Nina’s hair. “The poem?”

“The one about the kings?”

“No. The butterfly one.”

Nina’s lips curved into a smile. He cuddled so close his mouth pressed against Lukasha’s bare flesh, tickling the sensitive skin there and causing an upheaval inside. Nina began whispering poem verses on Luka’s chest bone after feeling a deep breath inhale from his latest victim.

“When the wings of butterflies freeze,

And every flower wilts to a breeze,

When rainstorms of tears have dried,

And the oceans kill their final tide,

Will you throw me stinging charms…”

“Or will you hold me in your arms.” Lukasha finished.

 

In his version, the concluding verse wasn’t a question.

 

The lovers of Saint Petersburg let those words reflect on themselves. With the motel as quiet as it was, tumbling into a sleepy state should have been easy, but despite Nina’s previous position, he didn’t feel overly tired. His lidded eyes quickly glanced at Lukasha’s expression, getting a sense that he wasn’t tired, either, which gave him courage in suggesting a familiar idea.

“So…you want to move back to the other bed now?” The prostitute asked temptingly.

Lukasha grinned, a handsome grin if Nina ever saw one.

“I thought you’d never ask, Nina.”

In the comfort of a mildly grand hotel, Lukasha and Nina lost themselves in each other several more times until their bodies were utterly and regrettably spent. Another bath was needed, but Luka put it off until the next morning, moving them into the cleaner bed once more, where Nina peacefully fell asleep seconds after being tucked underneath blue silk sheets, Lukasha’s fiery body sliding in behind him. Once their damp figures were embraced in gold and navy blue, everything became still—Nina imagined them as worn-out princes, exhausted after a long day at war, at meetings and business affairs, finding comfort in each other’s embrace.

 

Even through deep waves of slumber, Nina felt the other prince lay a kiss atop his forehead before wrapping his long arms around Nina’s torso and falling asleep against him.

Chapter Text

Sadly enough, the night Nina and Lukasha prospered as reigning kings came to an end, reality returning in a blast of cold air that made shivers permanent on Nina’s bony limbs. But that was okay. Or so the prostitutka told himself. In reality, he was feeling highly stressed this week, though an exact cause couldn’t be found by untrained eyes. Sleeping beside famished middle aged men and eating shitty porridge was okay. Working for a few dollars less than normal was okay, as long as Nina found a place to lay his head during winter storms. Daydreaming about Lukasha while riding the train and missing his stop was okay.

It was fine, because Luka told Nina he would make them dinner tonight.

While the designer went out for a few last-minute groceries, Nina remained inside, craving a smoke so badly he finally cracked open Lukasha’s window and used the stovetop to light his cigarette. Gray smoke merged with Saint Petersburg’s gray background, hardly altering the air at all with its whispering shadows, waves lost and merging into nothingness. Today, Nina wished he were that smoke—Lukasha noticed how dull the teen’s aura felt, and even though his budget was tight, he knew they both needed a nice, hot meal tonight.

Also, Luka noticed how tiny and frail Nina was looking lately and even borrowed him a teal sweatshirt with a stripe of rainbow across the chest. Nina wanted to wear a skirt, but Lukasha said it was too cold, giving him some loose black sweatpants as an apology for the weather restricting skirt use. Luka hated winter for many reasons, but this topped it all off.

The prostitutka sucked in another drag, hating how accustomed his lungs had become towards that sickening breath, welcoming dark color eating away what remained of his insides. Before this entire friendship with Lukasha Kaveri started, Nina didn’t feel how rotted his internal organs were—then again, did Nina feel anything before Lukasha?

Hardly, the teenager reflected, puffing more smoke out as the apartment door opened and closed behind him. I should really stop smoking…I don’t do it as often as most people, but it’s not good for someone my age.

Am I honestly trying to preserve what’s left of myself?

“There you are.”

Lukasha was staring at Nina with relief, fingers loosening their tight hold on the brown paper grocery bag.

“When I didn’t see you right away I thought you left…”

“Never,” Nina replied quietly. The cigarette was nearly burnt out; two more drags and it would be gone. “Just needed a smoke.”

“Oh. Right.”

Luka slid his shoes off and set the bag down, surprising Nina by advancing towards where his guest was perched on the window sill; he held out his fingers in an accepting position, waiting for Nina to hand over the cigarette. All Lukasha received in return was a blank stare, black eyes staring mindlessly at the sculptor’s beautiful hands.

“You don’t smoke…” Nina murmured.

“I can spare one or two now and again.”

Luka remained still, watching the dark-haired boy carefully glance upwards, waiting for Lukasha to laugh and say he was kidding. When Nina realized his serious intent, he reacted honestly.

“…No.”

“No?”

“I won’t let you poison your precious lungs like me,” Nina teased. “You shouldn’t smoke at your age.”

“Hey—your lungs are way more precious than mine, pretty boy. Hand it over.”

Lukasha lunged for the cigarette, but Nina moved his arm away from Luka’s grasp; all it took was one side tickle and the designer successfully snatched his present, grinning at Nina before nudging him out of the way so he could exhale a smoke ring through the opening.

“That wasn’t fair,” Nina protested, staying where Lukasha had pinned him. He enjoyed being trapped under this gangly figure. “You cheated.”

“Aren’t you cheating yourself by being so adorably ticklish?” Luka retaliated, handing Nina what remained of the cancer stick. Pollen infused shampoo united with thick, clogging scents of smoke, creating an entirely new sensation, drawing Nina in without effort. Lukasha seemed to be testing him, remaining as close as he was, watching and waiting for movement by Nina’s lips. Adorable? Me? That can’t be right.

Nina pressed the final bud to his crimson lips, intentionally dragging out each action, from the way he never released their heated gaze to the way he let a single smoke cloud drift through his teeth. It veiled over Lukasha’s window, lightly clashing with the dirty glass, crawling its way outside and erasing all existence in a quick moment. Nina immediately noticed Luka’s throat gulping down a handful of urges.

Well…maybe a little.

“You’re such a—you’re so—” Lukasha made a noise of frustration. “Only you could make something as unhealthy as smoking look sexy, Nina!”

“I win.”

When the shivering teen went to put out his cigarette, commotion below captured his attention for a slight second: two obviously drunken men stumbled by the alleyway, growling profanities at each other until one finally grabbed hold of the second man, throwing him into a nearby snow pile. From there on out it was a free-for-all, fists jabbing, legs kicking, tinted spit flying from their lips…Nina could practically smell the alcohol from five stories up. Even though it was late at night, gray sky transferring a shade darker, Nina still noticed a ruby colored liquid staining white snow underneath the smaller man after a particularly hard punch landed on his face. That was when he remembered he had seen this fight end thousands of times and went to turn around.

Lukasha, apparently, was watching the fight as well, but from an entirely different theater than Nina. His body froze, eyes locked and glowing with…concern, perhaps? Yes. It was definitely concern. Not the same concern Luka had towards his hooker lover, but similar. Honestly, was this guy really Russian? Either way, Nina envied his principles. Anyone who lived in the scum of Russia’s darker roads for this long and still recognized suffering deserved envy.

Once Lukasha realized the movie ending was spoiled by similar films before, he briskly turned around and re-entered the kitchen, readying ingredients while also getting the scent of cigarette off his lips through gulps of hot tea. Nina remained still for quite some time, letting silence stay if only because his aura was still deciding whether he felt more cuddly than bitter today.

An hour, maybe longer passed before either boy spoke again.

“Dinner’s ready,” Luka called quietly.

Nina strolled over to the small table, feeling his stomach growl and admiration grow at the delicious sight before him, a large pan packed full with what looked like round vegetables roasted just enough around the edges. Nina now noticed how succulent the apartment smelled, heating his cold skin like one of Lukasha’s touches; the chef himself looked delighted, nodding while setting two bowls down and scooting the chair Nina would sit in closer to his own.

“What…What is it?” The teen asked. Not that he was picky in the slightest. Nina had eaten maggot-filled bread before without batting an eye. He asked because he was simply curious as to what angelic name owned such a heavenly meal.

“Ratatouille; it’s a French peasant dish, but don’t let the peasant fool you. It’s one of my favorites. Sit, sit!”

In a daze, Nina sat down, forgetting all about what happened at the window while watching Lukasha skillfully fill their bowls to the brim. After pouring two glasses of cheap rosé wine (Luka said the combination was “to die for”), Nina was given a fairly large spoon, which Lukasha said was so he could scoop the leftover sauce up with every bite.

As it turns out, this advice was spot-on.

The prostitutka didn’t hesitate, sliding a spoonful into his watering mouth while Lukasha chewed beside him, groaning in delight. Nina couldn’t explain the taste, but once he realized he wasn’t a critic and didn’t need to give a detailed review, half his bowl was gobbled down within two-minutes.

“What’s in this?” Nina mumbled over his current bite, hurriedly scooping up another mouthful.

“You really like it, huh?” Lukasha laughed beside him, eyes glowing with pride (an emotion he wasn’t quite used to). “It’s got roasted tomatoes, zucchini, squash and a few peppers; in France this stuff is all easy to get, but I had to improvise a bit since, you know…we’re not in France. I bought regular tomatoes when I should have gotten Roma tomatoes, I bought some random type of squash when I should have gotten yellow…it took me ten-minutes to find a good pepper for the sauce, and don’t even get me started on parmesan cheese…I mean, you can find that stuff somewhere in Saint Petersburg, but I can’t afford that expensive shit, you know?”

Nina was listening, but not intently. Lukasha kept laughing at how puffy his cheeks were, having to stop the lover several times and remind him to swallow and drink—all in all, the evening became very pleasant, and once their stomachs were pleasantly full, pan entirely empty, Luka and Nina cleaned the dishes, arms brushing together frequently and sending a different euphoric rush through their veins.

“I’m going to help next time you make that, okay?”

“Haha—you’re really excited about ratatouille, aren’t you?”

Nina nodded violently, eyes still wide with delight from their satisfying meal even when they finished putting dishes away and found themselves in bed. Tonight’s sleepover excluded erotic activities, but that didn’t stop Lukasha from turning on his small radio and pulling Nina close, thick quilt tugged over their lazy forms while dinner settled. Both boys had been tenderly replaying their night as kings over and over again, feeling a sense of minor accomplishment that carried on even after everything was said and done. Luka’s memory was direct, and at the moment his concentration stopped on a different Nina-orientated image.

“Remember the first night we met?” Lukasha asked fondly, recalling every detail about Nina’s sultry aura, the first time he spotted that thin, skeletal frame and those narrowed but ever so stunning dark eyes. The boy laying on his side in front of Luka had a much different attitude than the one in Club K’s alleyway many cold winter nights ago…

“I remember. Why are you thinking about that now?”

“You said your real name slipped out on accident—why do you think that was?”

Nina became thoughtful, still eternally confused at his own previous actions, especially from that night; Luka developed a theory of his own and grinned down at the teen.

“It’s because I’m so handsome, right? You were so entranced you let your guard down.”

“Pft. Sure,” Nina huffed. “Your hair looked like a bunny’s.”

“Yeah right!” Lukasha cried, sitting up wildly. He laid down a short second later after realizing how chilly it was above the quilt. “You couldn’t keep your hands out of his bunny hair the other day. What do you mean by bunny, anyhow?”

A childish laugh escaped Nina’s lips as he wiggled closer, nimble fingers touching Luka’s chest lightly—the artist had learned over their midnight talks and intimate endeavors that Nina rarely initiated physical contact. When the prostitutka did sneak a touch or two in, Lukasha always made sure he paid special attention, memorizing the tone set beforehand in hopes he could replicate it another day.

“I’m going to call you that.”

“Call me what?”

Zaichik,” Nina purred.

“Nooooo,” Luka whined dramatically, though he was secretly pleased. “Not pet names! Why can’t it be something manly? Why bunny?”

Zaichik’s cute. You really don’t like it?”

Lukasha pretended to think, sighing deeply before throwing an arm around Nina and pulling him closer, so close those black locks were snugly pressed underneath Luka’s chin.

“Course’ I do,” He answered lowly. “But I have one condition.”

“Which is?”

Nina felt his body shiver with anxiety when Lukasha grinned again.

“I get to call you kotyonok.”

Rosy, burning blush rushed over Nina’s features, distracting him enough where he forgot to hide his giggle, a heavenly sound if Lukasha Kaveri ever heard. Luka’s lover burrowed further into the comforting quilt (and the sculptor’s chest), much like the timid kitten he was being compared to.

“What? No good?” Lukasha teased. He received a high-pitched mumble in response.

Too good…”

“Ah.”

Longing. A noun, a feeling meaning “a yearning desire.” Luka was getting used to this emotion, and also surprised his country by relieving his pining through Nina, caused by Pnina Pavlov himself. Long, slender but strong fingers filtered through Nina’s coal colored hair, finding that it seemed much softer these days compared to their first meeting. Lukasha stroked the velvety strands back and forth, delicate layers of Stygian[1] silk falling through his fingers with each movement.

“Nice kotyonok, good kotyonok…”

“Stoooop…”

“I have to tease you sometimes, Pnina,” Luka chuckled. “It’s hard to find moments where I can get back at you for being cooler than me.”

Nina scoffed loudly, leaning back so he could give those honest green eyes a disbelieving scowl. Him, cool? Did Lukasha know the meaning of that word? Last time Nina checked, being partially homeless while working as a whore for drunken Russian men wasn’t considered cool. Luka was cool, though. He made delicious ratatouille and had great taste in music. Plus, he called the prostitute Pnina on rare, peaceful occasions such as this one. Knowing where and when to speak—that was as cool as it got.

“I’m not cool,” Nina replied slowly. His tone was low, but not bitter. Just truthful. Wasn’t Luka constantly proving that honesty is the best policy? “Cool people aren’t born on sidewalks. Cool people are like you…cool people can draw and create things purely from their own imagination. To be cool, you have to be human.”

And I haven’t been human in a long, long time.

“You’re more human than I’ll ever be, Luka,” The teenager sighed.

Lukasha stayed very quiet. A moment after Nina’s self-deprecating speech, Luka moved his hands downward until they found the boy’s own. The male hooker couldn’t move, didn’t want to move, stuck watching with large eyes as Lukasha’s lips touched the cracked surface of Nina’s knuckles. Normally, Nina would have pulled back, chastising the designer for touching his dirty, sinful flesh, but…

While Luka had yet to speak, it sounded like he was already in the middle of a sermon.

“Remember the morning after?” Lukasha encouraged. He didn’t have to specify to make Nina understand—the morning after that dark, dark night when Nina bawled in his arms after they listened to an Adele song, after he betrayed his lover by entering the arms of another man, after he kissed Luka and failed to get aroused no matter how hard he tried…yes. Nina remembered well, and he had poor memory. “You said you wanted to be human again but didn’t know how, right?”

The dark-eyed lover nodded.

“Do you also remember the things I’ve told you since then?”

“T…Told me when?”

“Every time we’re together. I don’t just mean together—I mean every day in between, when we meet up for coffee or when we’re trapped inside during a storm,” The artist continued powerfully, his grip on Nina’s hands tightening. “Do you remember how beautiful I say you are? Do you remember my other nickname for you?”

Deity. My deity. My perfect deity…

“Do you remember how I love holding you in my arms? Do you remember how I hate seeing you hurt, even when you’re the masochistic one who initiated it? Do you remember how crazy I get when I see you in a skirt, Nina?”

Yes. I remember.

“I’m not blaming you or anything…I know it’s difficult seeing the bright side of things, being where we are in life,” Lukasha added kindly. Green eyes had yet to blink during this speech. “If I have to point out my own desperation and dorky tendencies for you to understand how cool I think you are, so be it. I’ll take that any day over another night of your tears, Pnina Pavlov.”

 

Nina was speechless. He did remember. He remembered everything.

 

Every touch, every verse, every prayer Lukasha whispered against his hot skin, bodies sliding against the other in a passionate embrace—Nina remembered everything. He just became caught up in social classes again, so used to having his own non-existent level shoved down his throat that the lost boy forgot their titles as lovers. He, Pnina, was a lover to Lukasha Kaveri. They were a pair, a god and a goddess, an archer and an arrow. Was Nina honestly feeling sorry for himself? Life felt better now from all standpoints than it ever had before Lukasha. A common Russian saying Nina’s customers hissed under their breath whenever Nina commented on hygiene rushed back to the front of his mind:

Are you the one who cares most?

Do you care about suffering more than we do? Do you suffer more than us? You think we don’t suffer, too?

“Luka,” Nina stuttered, unsure what words were appropriate. “I…I’m…”

“I know, I know, you love your precious zaichik,” Lukasha rolled his eyes, getting a choked laugh from the other. “By the way, did I tell you how fucking cute you look in my clothes? Caus’ you look adorable in them. It actually makes me a little sick, knowing they’re not nearly as flattering on me…”

Nina laughed another breathtaking laugh, composing himself by ducking into Luka’s chest again, letting the artist’s hearty chuckles soothe on-coming tears. This was the first time Nina was able to prevent violent sobs from taking over their night in a long while.

Lukasha must have been proud, given how snugly he held Nina against him.

“Why am I always crying or laughing lately?” The prostitutka wondered out-loud. It was midnight by now, but neither boy felt tired.

“I don’t know,” Lukasha huffed over a smile, breath sending a pleasant shiver down Nina’s back. “But I’m glad. When kotyonoks hold their emotions in for too long, they have to be pinned down and tickled—to death.”

“No!”

Nina made a feeble attempt at flying off the mattress, caught in the air by Lukasha’s freakishly long limbs.

“No!” The teenager squeaked frantically, flailing about. “Let go!!!”

“Naughty kotyonok, naughty!”

“Luka, n—”

Nina’s half-hearted cries were in vain. Lukasha easily trapped him, relentlessly attacking defenseless, bony sides with his wiggling digits, pale skin far too sensitive with no fat to act as a defensive wall. Luka would probably get a noise complaint for how loud Nina’s laughter was, but he couldn’t have a care in the world. His lover squirmed and thrashed below him, giggling and laughing like a child, eyes scrunched tightly, bare muscles clenching protectively, sweatshirt getting bunched up at his stomach—Lukasha couldn’t help but laugh along with him, fingers losing their malicious intent.

Once Nina came close to wetting the bed, Luka finally fell back, laying over the heaving teen cheerfully, laughter low and so deep in admiration no song existed but the lovable rhythm of Nina’s overwhelmed giggles. They fell asleep in this exact position, using each other for warmth, forgetting that such a position could very well endanger their lives, forgetting all evil and simply living, not surviving, through another cold winter.

 

As Nina fell asleep, he didn’t remember a time he ever felt so happy, nor did the hooker remember why he smoked a cigarette upon arriving at his lover’s apartment early in the night.

Chapter Text

February, patient and lingering February was always the month in which Nina found himself suffering from inescapable sickness bouts, starting with an achy, irritating head cold that made him miserable for two straight weeks. Around the same time he began feeling a familiar black hole forming inside his weak lungs, and before soon Nina came down with a dreadful case of pneumonia.

Truth be told, Nina had contracted pneumonia several times throughout his weary life, each course having their own special versions of torture, but this round seemed especially insistent on beating down his lungs, esophagus and chest to an irreversible effect. Even strangers in Moscow clubs heard and were slightly unnerved by the powerful, crackling coughs spewing from Nina’s mouth every five-minutes. Due in part to the hooker’s worsening illness, Nina forced more long work hours upon himself only so he could barter for a night indoors; despite his best efforts, Nina’s battered lungs became worse, aided by Russia’s coldest winter nights yet.

Lukasha, of course, would have gladly taken his lover to a doctor no matter the cost, only he did not know Nina was so severely ill because sly, well-meaning Pnina Alexandrovich Pavlov did not want Luka bearing any burdens, much less, someone else’s burdens. His phenomenal acting skills included silently hacking up phlegm layers in the sink while Lukasha accidentally boiled over whatever he attempted cooking, cursing under his breath without hearing Nina’s suffering.

Someone called out, saying Tamryn’s regular was waiting in VIP room four.

Although Nina hated working in Saint Petersburg, that was where he found himself tonight, since one of his regular customers just moved into town and celebrated with a night of pricey sex, obnoxiously loud music and head-spinning lights flashing everywhere. Nina already had a headache, felt like his chest had been stuffed with cotton and couldn’t stop coughing no matter how many shots mixed with water he threw back—but a customer was waiting, and the man would not be patient in waiting for his Tamryn to show. Nina knew this because he was Russian, too.

My throat’s more swollen than it was, Nina thought worriedly, weaving through a crowd of party-goers, blacklight making his head pound viciously. Ugh…how am I supposed to suck dick if my lungs are already clogged? This is going to be a long, long night. Maybe if I deepthroat far enough it’ll clean out my lungs. Is that possible?

It wasn’t that customers cared whether he was sick or not. As long as Nina didn’t have a sexually transmitted disease, they could care less (though some wouldn’t care even if this were the case). That wasn’t an issue. The problem was Nina didn’t know if he could keep his mouth open for very long without popping coughs spewing out all over his customer’s private parts. He would find out soon—the client greeted him sluggishly, not yet drunk enough to be violent or out of control, but enough where he needed a moment to recognize Tamryn. Once the hooker’s identity was confirmed, the man said he wanted to start with a “congratulations on moving” blowjob.

Nina didn’t expect luck, so this announcement came as no surprise. Skipping his usual dry humored remarks, the prostitutka ignored shivers running over his body and kneeled down, going straight to work. Everything went okay until Nina really tried getting into it, at which point he covered up a cough by making it seem like he choked instead, which, of course, the customer enjoyed. Nina couldn’t do his best in this state, but managed well enough for the first man, moving onto the second, another regular in Nina’s routine.

Here, the male prostitute began having some trouble.

This particular employer loved throwing Tamryn around like a rag doll, and normally Nina was content to be roughly jostled about, but tonight, every time the customer aggressively thrust himself inside, a terrible cough emitted from Nina’s mouth. The unpleasant sound was more nauseating than anything, causing even harsher movements from the annoyed beast, in turn triggering a series of aches inside and outside Nina’s abused body. Naturally, the night’s attitude didn’t improve.

Customer after customer complained and hissed at their costly Tamryn, hating how many times the session was interrupted by Nina’s hacking and heaving; Nina, meanwhile, couldn’t care so much about his customer’s opinions (even though under normal circumstances that was all he cared about, since they were the ones who had pay for him) when he couldn’t even focus on who was standing right in front of him. Nina hadn’t expected his illness to act out so abruptly, thinking at least another two days would pass before every bottled-up cough erupted a few internal organs. Club lights became warped abstract paintings, bare skin became globs of pink his for the taking, and after Nina’s fourth customer left without having finished, his ears could no longer detect those bass-filled party songs blasting through walls on all sides.

Nina felt each little joint in his body crying, begging him for mercy. He felt dark clouds hovering over his lungs, trapping their efforts for deep breathing. He could feel how quickly his heart was beating, a slow decrescendo, though the rhythm itself was wistfully largo, much less than forte. There were stabbing sensations shooting through each nerve under his chest bone, and while it by far wasn’t the most painful feeling Nina had experienced, something told him he should be very concerned at what his body was screaming. Nina recalled death rates dragging behind the word pneumonia. As he coughed, coughed, and coughed some more, the prostitutka wondered if he should maybe face the statistics instead of ignoring them.

Near midnight, when it became clear Nina wasn’t going to accomplish what he set out to do, the teenager stumbled his way across snowy sidewalks, finally locating Lukasha’s ballet after fifteen-minutes.

Nina leaned his ailing body against a large staircase in the front lawn leading towards the theatre, nearly stumbling when his foot caught on an icy pile of snow, but he managed to catch himself before disaster happened. I want a bath, the boy daydreamed, letting his sore eyelids drift closed. It had started snowing, now, freezing snowflakes falling down, melting on Nina’s flushed cheeks, though he couldn’t feel. I want a nice, hot bath like at the motel. Baths are nice…you can lie in there for as long as you want. Boiling water, a wave of bubbles, Lukasha, delicious smelling body wash…

The ballet show finished. Expensively dressed crowd members filtered out, talking amongst themselves without sparing a glance at another homeless teen leaned against the staircase. Giselle was the piece performed tonight. The first soloist ballerina did well. She was very beautiful. The set pieces were grand and sparkling. Violins were an incredible instrument. These were the mindless conversations Nina caught in his dazed state, world sounding like a national spelling bee competition with long, complicated words attempting to pound into his brain, only a few sneaking in here and there. The crowd left. A while later, the ballerinas and their male counterparts left. The musicians, then the maestro, then a group of miscellaneous workers.

Finally, a lone assistant set designer exited.

“Nina?”

The hooker heard Lukasha’s rushed steps, forcing his heavy eyes open a long moment later, thrilled at the sight he was met with. Cheaply fashionable Lukasha Kaveri stood before him, marvelous, familiar green eyes staring at him with great concern, grey jacket zipped tightly all the way up to his throat. Nina had a sudden urge about that delicate throat that went ignored (for now) because Lukasha was speaking again.

“What are you doing here? Did you watch the show?”

Nina shook his head, accidentally triggering a coughing fit during which he tried explaining the situation.

“I—crackle, cough—ha-ve…weeeeze…pneumonia.”

“Pneumonia?! What!? For how long?!”

That, Nina couldn’t answer, heaving over in a desperate attempt for air, pain radiating through each portion of his throbbing chest. Luka paused his shock to hold onto the lover’s torso, keeping him upright as Nina coughed, hoping he could puke both lungs up and still survive somehow.

“Jesus…you sound fucking awful. I know you were coughing a few days ago, but did it really hit you that fast?”

The prostitute wasn’t sure what kind of stupid expression he made, leaning against Lukasha’s body for support after the fit finished (for now), but his eyebrows must have turned guilty, because Luka gave a gasp, follow by a deep, exasperated sigh.

Nina…” Lukasha chided severely, though his tone was full of sympathy. “You’ve had pneumonia this entire time, haven’t you?”

Nina couldn’t answer verbally, but he wanted Luka to know he felt terrible about hiding it. Not at the time, but right now, he felt bad about lying. That wasn’t what lovers did. Nina shamefully nodded his head, using that same action to hide in Lukasha’s jacket. The taller boy wasn’t surprised by Nina’s deception, not because he thought lowly of him, but because he knew Nina never had someone care about his wellbeing. He ran away from home. He hadn’t seen his family in months, maybe years. Even then, they probably didn’t ask if he was feeling okay, if he was happy—Lukasha understood this. While serious illness wasn’t close to being uncommon during Russia’s long winter months, they were treated as the heaviest of burdens for lower income individuals such as themselves, simply because they were heavy burdens.

Nina wasn’t the only sick person in Russia. But he was the only person Lukasha Kaveri cared about enough to get him help.

“Come on, then,” Luka said quietly. “Let’s get you home.”

The prostitutka was allowed to lean on Lukasha the entire way back, mitten-covered hands clutching Luka’s jacket for dear life. Snow fell over their walking figures, finding them whichever way they turned, following until Lukasha slipped inside his apartment building; with some minor difficulty, the pair walked upstairs and made it inside safely. Nina could hear better, now, silence welcoming him as Luka quickly shed their layers and reattached himself to the hooker.

Nina became confused when he realized they were heading towards the bathroom, not the bed.

“What…where…”

“You’re shivering to death,” Lukasha explained like it was obvious. “You need a hot bath and some soup. I’ll get you started here.”

Shivering? I’m shivering? Nina wondered, looking down at his skinny frame to check. Sure enough, tensed muscles were trembling fiercely and he felt it, suddenly, felt a strange coldness rush over him, body shaking with every weak step he took. Have I been shivering all night?

“You have a fever, too,” Luka frowned, lips falling further when Nina flinched at his touch. “And your heartbeat is too inconsistent. We should hurry. Can you lift your arms up?”

The artist wasn’t sure why Nina paused and looked up at him before slowly complying, reaching for his hoodie only to find it was already gone; he grabbed the long sleeves of his shirt next, letting Lukasha help peel them off, leaving him bare on the tub’s edge. Too disorientated, Nina didn’t help with the jeans but immediately brought his knees up so his front torso wouldn’t be seen.

“What are you being so shy about?” Lukasha chuckled good naturedly, quickly folding the prostitute’s clothing. “I don’t know if you remember, Nina, but I’ve seen you naked quite a few times.”

“S’ different,” Nina mumbled, balancing on the tub like a perched bird. “…We…do stuff, then…n’ I don’t look—good tonight…”

“Pf. Whatever you say.”

Nina startled when Luka turned the bathtub on, keeping himself wrapped in a ball as his lover maneuvered around him, grabbing a washrag and readying a towel. The teen coughed several more times, nearly sending himself flying off the tub, but Lukasha was ready to catch him, steadying Nina’s shaking form. Although the warmth seemed a little extreme even to Lukasha, Nina didn’t seem to notice at all, turning away and sliding his underwear off before carefully slipping into the heated current.

A soft gasp escaped Nina’s quivering lips, but his reaction wasn’t caused by temperature change—even when submerged in boiling water, Nina kept shaking. And he still felt cold. Lukasha could tell he was still cold. The dark-haired boy pushed himself lower until water covered everything but his face, knees scrunched together in the tiny bath, a position that should have kept him somewhat warm—only, it didn’t. Luka waited for a few moments, waited for Nina to sigh in relief, for his personality to return completely, but it never came.

“…Your entire body is trembling,” Lukasha noted, expression furrowing. He reached out daringly, running a hand along Nina’s rosy cheeks, hating how cold their surface was despite the fever underneath. “Stay in here until I come back. Understand, Nina?”

“Y-Yes…”

“Good boy. I’ll go start making you some soup, alright? Stay.”

Nina nodded again, nearly losing control of his movements as he watched Lukasha exit, observing the lover bustling around, throwing a can of soup in a pot and immediately turning the stovetop on high. What else did his grandmother do when Luka was sick?

The oven, Lukasha recalled, quickly opening the oven below, turning that on as well. Warm soup, a hot bath, oven heat…he’ll need skin-to-skin contact, too. I might have another blanket somewhere—

That awful crackling cough became much too familiar, echoing through the apartment as a constant reminder, like Echo’s eternally lonely cries. Lukasha hadn’t felt this agitated in a long time, not since he found Nina limping and sickly at the café that day, and even those feelings barely grazed what he faced now. Tonight felt different in a way Luka couldn’t explain. He knew his concern for Nina’s health was involved…maybe it was just how far his concern stretched, bleeding into care and affection that made him so anxious over Nina’s condition. Didn’t the poor kid suffer enough as it was? Why did he have to be physically sick, too?

Bitterness. Lukasha felt very bitter.

Gnawing on his lip harshly, the artist angrily stirred above the stovetop, glancing over his shoulder every few seconds and every time Nina gave a debilitating cough. Luka hated seeing him like this…Nina was vulnerable as it was, working in such a submissive, emotionally stripping job, and when he caught potentially fatal illnesses like pneumonia—well…Lukasha really felt like cursing. He wanted to curse the world, to use the powers Nina gifted him for malicious purposes, terminating each deadly terrain and every evil drunken breath that pushed their filthy germs into Nina’s weak immune system. No one would ever make Pnina Pavlov miserable like this ever again. Never.

But first, Lukasha sighed, exhaling to calm himself down. But first…focus on making Nina better.

Luka dumped the chicken soup into a bowl, nearly overfilling it before grabbing a spoon, hurrying back and plopping himself down on the tub’s rim. Nina tried opening his eyes, finding it too much work, and so kept them closed even when he felt Lukasha nudge his mouth open with a warm steel object.

“Open up, please.”

Nina obeyed, swallowing painfully, though the sensation of heat against his raw throat was soothing. Any remaining energy he had left distributed itself between racking his body with shivers and sipping warm broth. Lukasha grew greatly concerned by the comatose state, frequently speaking in a loud voice and rubbing his heated hands over Nina’s damp head comfortingly; the teen had developed a full fever, now, exposed skin damp from something other than the water’s heat below. As troubling as that fact was, Lukasha focused on helping Nina finish his meal, setting aside the bowl and spoon so he could ready a towel.

“Nina,” Luka addressed quietly, finally activating a response from his lover. “Can you sit up?”

“Mmm…”

Dark eyes pulled themselves from hibernation, peeking open to see what their owner should hold on to—Lukasha’s offering was chosen, wet, shaking hand merging with the artist’s own. Nina returned slowly, vision seemingly coming back once Luka helped him stand, lukewarm water droplets cascading off his malnourished body. Had he fallen asleep? No…he ate something. What had he eaten? It wasn’t broth again, was it? Memories Nina purposely erased only came rushing back when his mind couldn’t decide between life and death—luckily, a merciful soul interrupted Nina’s inner battle.

“Careful,” An easy, transfixing voice warned. Something thin and torn but very welcomed encased Nina’s body. “Step over the edge…there you go.”

Lukasha, Nina remembered gratefully, ignoring his trembling for the time being while Luka’s hands worked the towel over him. He’s so nice. He always helps when I need it. Lukasha…

“I’ll get you some warm clothes after I finish drying your hair. Okay, Nina?”

“O-Okay.”

Nina stood nicely and waited, distracting from those awful shivers by focusing on the soft way Lukasha rubbed his hair, back and forth, towel dipping in to thoroughly soak up water on his scalp, ensuring none remained as a method of worsening that cold front harassing Nina’s nerves. Once Luka was satisfied, he guided his lover out, sitting him down on the mattress edge, towel wrapped around his shoulders while Lukasha headed towards the dresser. After finding a suitable sweatshirt and thick sweatpants, he helped Nina slide into the clothing, forgoing underwear and socks, which the hooker noticed despite his confusion.

“W-Where are m-my underwear?” Nina clattered.

“You’re worried about underwear at a time like this?” Lukasha laughed lowly. “Just lay down. I’ll slide in behind you and help you get warm.”

Nina obeyed once more, plopping down under the covers and quickly curling into a fetal position, swiftly grabbing at his freezing toes. Luka silently slipped everything but his underwear off before climbing in behind Nina; thankfully, the prostitutka wasn’t startled by sudden skin-to-skin contact, sighing in relief at the heated muscle flush behind him.

“L-Luka,” Nina huffed, unable to stop shaking. “M’ still…cold.”

“I know, kotyonok.” Lukasha slid Nina’s sweatshirt up, pressing his front to the teenager’s bare back. “Just stay close to me, okay?”

Nina trembled in silent agreement, letting himself be engulfed by Luka’s hold, sculptor bending around the model’s tiny form and laying every inch of skin he could against Nina’s. They cuddled as one, squirming and capturing each other until Lukasha had entirely covered the smaller boy, praying for his deity’s illness to subside. Nina trembled and trembled, but Russia’s cruel assault was outmatched by Lukasha Kaveri’s soft kisses and slow strokes. Hands that created, sketched and held warmly slid over Nina’s fragile figure, heating first his sides, then his ribs, chest, waist and arms.

The prostitutka swore that heat had come from a famous painting, perhaps a Greek watercolor depicting Apollo, god of the bright, burning sun—tonight, Lukasha was the deity, generously sharing his heat with Nina, asking nothing in return but his lover’s recovery. Little by little, the advancing virus fell back, arrows broken and spears snapped, no match for whatever magic Luka used in his war against their talons. Shudders subsided, heartbeat returning to an even cadence beat, and Nina’s consciousness crawled back, nails digging into the hand helping him up; finally, the battle was won, the ambrosia, the boiling water and sinless merger of Lukasha’s body with his goddess’ all came together, momentarily pushing their enemy backwards.

The celebration cheer would come later. For now, Lukasha sighed simply, pulse smoothing out when he realized Nina’s limbs stopped convulsing not because the hooker had expired, but because he had regained control for tonight.

“That sucked,” Nina croaked bluntly, voice no more than a whisper. They remained clutched together, Luka still fearful for a retaliation attack. “I feel dead…”

“Is it better now?” Lukasha asked, keeping his palms against the teen’s chest and clammy waist. “You’re not shaking as much, but you still feel a little cold…are you okay?”

Nina nodded, somewhat sure of his response. Laying under warm covers with no underwear on, pressed against Luka’s body with those talented artist hands brushing over each portion of his body—what could be better? Nina would have smiled a shit-eating-grin if he was capable. Instead, he risked triggering another quivering wave by inching backwards as far as possible, desperately giving into his wishes and merging himself with Lukasha. Apollo himself welcomed the embrace, sighing again and readjusting so Nina was held snugly against his own chest.

Now that his goddess survived, an interrogation took place.

“When did you know you were sick?” Luka wondered against Nina’s ear, sounding a lot more gentle than the former expected. He only ever became angry when something or someone caused his lover pain, and since the culprit was Nina himself, Lukasha was (mildly) upset with him.

“Mm…maybe…two weeks ago?” Nina figured. “I had a cold…then it got worse, and I recognized the signs…”

“I wish you would’ve told me. I could’ve helped.”

“You did help. You always do, Lukasha.”

“Yeah, but I could have gotten you medicine or som—”

“No,” The other boy interrupted softly. “…That’s not what I meant.”

Crap, Nina silently cursed, feeling Luka move away behind him. I shouldn’t have said anything…I have no filter when I’m sick.

Lukasha leaned up on his left elbow, keeping his other hand on Nina’s bare side enough where he wouldn’t panic from loss of sensation. Those untrimmed eyebrows were scrunched in confusion, silence hovering for a long moment before Luka spoke again.

“What do you mean?”

What did Nina mean?

Able to feel again, the teenager tightened his hold on his nippy toes, mind pulling honesty forward past Nina’s unarmed borders. A voice told him no thinking. Speak, it said. Speak not what your head thinks, but whatever you feel, what you’ve felt with Lukasha Kaveri. Didn’t he mean exactly what he said, that Luka didn’t just help physically? Did he not help Nina express emotions he thought only existed in poems, in lyrics and novels?

No thinking. Speak. Speak.

“You know what I mean,” Nina mumbled, a tiny smile on his dazed lips. He felt Lukasha looking at him, but felt no hurry or shame. “You always help, even when you think you aren’t. Your presence…helps me. Emotionally. Every—cough, cough—…Everything you are, everything you say and do…it helps me in ways you can never imagine, Lukasha. So don’t be blaming yourself for my own deception. I only did it because I know I don’t help you the way you do for me; but…I’m still thankful for your kindness.”

A loud pause. Lukasha’s hold tightened on Nina’s waist, followed by the sculptor leaning over his lover so their foreheads were inches away. Passion and a flickering flame crept into Luka’s expression, focus latching onto Nina, earning his own effortlessly, for how could Nina ever lose an opportunity to stare at Lukasha Kaveri?

“You don’t think I’m in the least bit affected by you emotionally,” Luka repeated thoughtfully. Something powerful was surging, swirling in his forest-filled eyes when he looked at Nina, captivating him and pulling the deity into an even deeper trance, one more enchanting than Russia’s chain of illness. Still, Nina’s brutal honesty tore its way through to his lips.

“Yes,” The dark-eyed boy agreed. “There’s no way you can be when I have nothing to give…”

“Nothing to give,” Lukasha repeated again. It sounded as if he was having difficulty believing Nina’s words.

“Yes. You…Luka, you—you create things, you know?” The prostitutka rasped, voice losing power when a louder volume was attempted. “I let people take from me, but I take from you, too. The difference is you give better things, like ideas and pictures and art…I can only give my body. Well…what’s left of it, at least. You give me a sea, and in return I offer only a shallow pond.”

Nina half expected his rant to be interrupted, if not by his subconscious screaming then by Luka kissing him. When he finished his speech, Nina was a bit shocked—Lukasha, on the other hand, still didn’t speak. His lips were pressed together not tightly, but leaving no room for any escaping syllables. His eyes stared without blinking. That unreadable look caused a surge of panic inside the teen’s chest, stirring his terrible illness.

“I—I’m not saying I regret this!” Nina cried, coughs threatening once more. “I don’t want to stop this, I’m—I’m just saying what I’m feeling, you know…cough, cough…and I just—I want you to know I feel bad about lying to you, and that’s why. Because I already know I don’t give you enough, but you’re still nice to me, and I wanted you to know I’m taking advantage of you because you’re so nice, Lukasha, and you deserve better than that.”

Luka didn’t reply immediately, but this time, Nina could see his mind thinking, grasping onto a specific idea, one that could possibly mean the end of their status as lovers. Was everything ruined? Would Nina’s selfishness, brought on by sickness trigger an irreversible battle, be the characteristic bringing an end to this unspoken war? Why had Nina admitted to guilt? Because Luka deserved the truth, yes, but what made Nina so honest at this age? Why now? Why with Lukasha?

“Nina.”

Somewhere along the never-ending silence road, the prostitute had closed his tender eyelids. Daring to peer up at Lukasha, for perhaps the final time, Nina inhaled deeply, preparing, readying his already bleeding heart. Tragedy, whether created or recorded was a genre Nina did not write but performed. Tragedy, whether ancient or present was familiar to him, no matter what number of years passed. The story hadn’t changed in his nineteen-years on earth, or wherever they were.

 

Perhaps the loyalty of Hadrian towards his lover-turned-deity Antinous ended here, in a Saint Petersburg apartment some thousand lifetimes later.

 

Lukasha repeated himself. This time, Nina heard, blinking and focusing all his being on whatever beloved angel leaned above his weak form. If this was the final painting, his memory needed absolutely flawless recollection. The three random curls in those brown locks, the slender curve of his neck, each flush of pink at his elbows and knuckles, those eyes, those perfect green eyes, so rich and crinkled, always kind and creative at the same time—

“It’s not your fault that you’re wrong.”

Nina’s attention faltered, quizzically searching for words Luka had not yet spoken.

“I mean this without intentional hurt, Nina. You’ve been at the bottom for so long I wonder if you can even see the top anymore,” Luka continued smoothly, tone oh so well meaning and sweet. He made Nina’s heart speed back up by brushing his nose against the prostitutka’s and swallowing thickly. “Well…I can. I can see it, Nina, and I want you to see it, too. So please…move in with me. Let me help you see the top.”

Thump thump…thump thump…

Nina took his turn repeating phrases: first, he decoded “I want you to see it, too,” followed by the more shocking and blatantly adoring “move in with me.” Move in where? Here? With Lukasha Kaveri? This had to be a joke. Nina figured he died and that this was his final gift, but no—his skin was warm. He still felt Luka’s warmth against him, that precious nose against his own, that sexy hand wrapped around his waist. He also felt pain in his chest, rust on his lungs desperately needing relief. But it was good. Feeling pain was good. Lukasha made reality feel like a dream just by existing, by surviving, and by asking what he did, he gave the unmistakable impression that Pnina—Pnina Pavlov, a Russian whore made him feel the same way.

Hearts pounded in time with each other, both anxiously anticipating what came next.

“Wha…What?” The teenager squeaked fearfully. Why was he afraid? Was Luka really Death as Nina dreamed before? No. Luka was life, giving him a first chance.

“Move in with me, Pnina,” Lukasha said, this time with a charming, hopeful smile that reached his eyes. “Be my boyfriend and…and stay with me. Forever.”

A bucket of watercolors splashed over Nina’s vision, staining the entire scene with pinks, purples, oranges and blues, greens of different hues, but mostly pale drops. Those colors were this home Luka spoke of, invited Nina to join. Home was baby blue walls, navy blue sweaters, faded black briefs, deep mocha brown accented by bubbly white marshmallows, deep sea in a textured, thick fashion, white speckled and scribbled with charcoal, smeared over chipped russet brown belonging to a coffee table. Home was Lukasha Kaveri and all his creations, ones he did build, and ones he didn’t but co-created by showcasing their beauty to Nina, the Beggar Boy. Home was flower petal yellow, the color Nina saw whenever Luka smiled. Home was deep crimson, the color Nina saw when Luka healed his wounds. Home was undoubtedly blue, midnight blue, violet blue, every shade of blue artists could create, the color Nina saw whenever Lukasha’s hands raked over his waist with sinful intentions, the color he saw when Luka buried himself deep inside Nina, moving against him with passion, calling out for his deity, moaning lowly on Nina’s chipped complexion, whenever Lukasha kissed him, blue was all he could see, could feel.

Even when his wings were frozen from Russia’s harsh winter, Nina could see blue speckles through the frost, calling out his name like a prayer, a plea from his worshiper below. Tonight, he listened with all his heart and gave into Lukasha’s craving.

The brittle lover let his head fall, now leaning against Luka’s collarbone, where a tear unrelated to pneumonia and misery slipped from Nina’s closed eye. They were closed in liberation, echoing a single sentence over and over before actual words were formed.

I will spend an eternity repaying your devotion.

“T-Thank you,” Nina sniffled. More tears welled up, uncertain if they were ecstatic or heavenly. “Thank you…”

“Is that a yes?” Lukasha clarified, chest tight with anticipation. “Is that a yes, Nina?!”

The teen nodded again. Luka’s loud cheer might have hurt Nina’s ear, but since it was plugged from infection and from pure joy he couldn’t care less. He let Lukasha lift his limp body up, let the childish young man roll them around and tangle their figures up in bedsheets forever, weeping with an illuminated smile through each cough and gasp for air. This type of happiness could not be obtained or recorded by image. Lukasha Kaveri knew this long ago, which was how he was able to enjoy the moment while still maintaining hope for future creations.

Once the boys commenced their war-ending celebration, Nina suffered another wet coughing fit, though it wasn’t as hopeless knowing Luka would be there to help. Lukasha began ranting off ideas and future preparations while simultaneously patting his boyfriend on the back, thumping out cough after cough.

“I can’t fucking wait!!! First thing’s first, we have to get you moved in. Your stuff should fit beside mine in the dresser, I don’t take up that much room; besides, now that we’re dating we can share clothes! Oh—and when we’re walking around the block we’ve gotta tone down the gay a bit. Don’t want people getting suspicious, you know.”

“Right,” Nina choked out. “N-No homo.”

“Until we get inside,” Luka hummed with a devilish smirk, burying his face against Nina’s inch of spine creeping out and peppering kisses down the skin there. “Then we can do anything we want.”

“What did you have in mind?” His lover huffed over a clogged giggle, fingers grabbing onto Lukasha’s arms for support as the latter lightly flipped him over.

“Mm…why don’t I just show you?”

Too overcome for words anymore, Luka began kissing every inch of Nina, motions too playful to be serious, though their effect riled Nina up just as easily. Since the teenager was heavily exhausted, both emotionally and physically, he reluctantly pulled Lukasha’s face upwards after a few minutes of honeymoon kisses down his stomach.

“Lukasha,” Nina gasped. “I don’t know if I mean this, because I don’t know what it means, exactly, b-but…”

Lukasha’s glossy lips released light pants while his boyfriend held his breath tightly. Any longer and he would have ruined the moment by irritating those dusty lungs again.

“I…I love you.”

A slow smile enlightened Luka’s already shining features; serenity-filled calmness that usually only sparked inside his green eyes when he was drawing or staring at Nina appeared again, making both boys unable to look away or hide from the scene.

“I love you, too, Nina.”

Lukasha found himself being kissed, lush red lips laying against his own and capturing him in a painting-worthy moment. He couldn’t help but smile through their gentle movements, knowing this was their first connection after finally, finally confessing their pure sins as being something more. Luka understood every time of suffering, every inadequate meal, every satisfying ending, every humbling drawing, every love song he ever heard, understood his gloomiest feelings exposed through dark, daunting nights. Cradling Nina, kissing Nina, holding him when he was ill…caring. Lukasha could say he cared about someone again. Since Alexei Kaveri’s death, caring for others had been difficult for Luka, especially since no one outside from Nina even attempted this oh so difficult feat—

But since his feeling towards the Saint Petersburg hooker never faltered, did that mean Lukasha had loved Nina long before this epiphany revealed itself?

The mere idea of openly being with the person he deeply adored caused an urgency in Luka, making him break their sweet kiss to lay licks and light sucks over the pale expanse of Nina’s throat, relief thawing out piece by piece for each boy. Nina couldn’t believe this would be his new home: Lukasha, the blue quilt, the radio, the tiny kitchen, the bathtub, the coffee table covered in sketches…these special paints and objects that weaved their way into his fragile heart, providing him with endless daydreams for snowy subway rides now half belonged to him.

Nina owned something. He shared a home with somebody. That was attractive as hell, and while the dark-haired boy enjoyed these overwhelmingly sexy sensations immensely (Lukasha’s handsome tendencies partially derived from the fact that he had a clean apartment—talk about appealing), there still lied troublesome pneumonia and the fact that Nina’s toes were nearly freezing off.

“I can’t—I can’t have sex with you, idiot,” Nina croaked, playfully pushing Lukasha off his collarbone. “I have pneumonia, remember?”

“Pneumonia can’t stop love, idiot.”

“It can when I try sucking your dick and end up choking on it instead, idiot.”

Nina tried laughing along, coughs catching in his throat until Lukasha fell back to spouse mode and rubbed the boyfriend’s back until he was stable again. Luka couldn’t keep a dorky grin off his lips as they cuddled together underneath the covers, hiding more love-struck giggles and refraining from arousing themselves with sly, creeping touches over the other’s exposed skin, no matter how badly both boys wanted to. Lukasha wrapped his legs around Nina’s small form, fronts together, artist’s long arms able to reach his lover’s toes, immediately engulfing them in joyful warmth. Having a boyfriend was great for this reason. And a few others.

He loves me, Nina thought bashfully, shocked at what he was thinking, reflecting on. Lukasha loves me. Someone like him LOVES me. Me! I can’t believe this. How can I go from a homeless whore to a cherished boyfriend? How does that happen?

This train of thought led Nina (and, unknowingly, Lukasha Kaveri) to think back on their journey thus far, from the first night in Club K’s alleyway to that sacred night at the Saint Petersburg motel. Looking back now, the boys should have been dating months ago—Nina wondered how they lived in such denial when Luka kept calling his lover deity and goddess, how Nina’s trust went so far as to allow Lukasha’s belt such access against his bare bottom. Young men who were “just lovers” didn’t help each other in times of need. Hookers who were “just in it for the money” didn’t comfort customers after their grandfather passed away. Assistant set designers didn’t buy hookers coffee and offer them a place to stay whenever they needed.

In retrospect, Nina was happy only a few months had passed during these whirlwind events. His memory of these nights and days remained clear, allowing more room for better days in the near future, now that the teen had fallen into an optimistic habit of looking forward to every tomorrow.

Zaichik,” Nina murmured against Lukasha’s skin. “Did you always…like me? From the very beginning?” Anxious for the reply he would receive, Nina answered his own question. “I did. Now that I think about it…I let my name slip when I first talked to you. I didn’t understand why at first, but now I do. And it’s…r-really nice.”

“I’m glad,” Luka smiled wider, ducking down to look into his boyfriend’s dark eyes. “And to answer your question, yes. I fell like an idiot the first time I saw you. I couldn’t believe someone so pretty existed, much less that they would agree to come home with me when they were obviously priceless. I considered myself lucky to have snagged you for a night…but…as predicted, I caught feelings for a skinny, breathtaking deity. And even though I saw it coming, I didn’t want to stop myself. I let myself fall in love even though the odds were against me.”

A dark blush peeked like rising sunshine over Nina’s cheeks; Lukasha grinned idiotically, nudging his boyfriend’s face upwards so he could memorize that adorable expression.

“What?” Luka giggled. “Isn’t that what you wanted to hear? Why are you blushing?”

“S’just the pneumonia…”

“Pfft! Yeah right, lover boy!”

Nina laughed softly through his coughing, Lukasha giving him some relief by embracing him even closer, still caught in the exciting moment but realizing his boyfriend needed a good night’s rest more than he needed a coming-out party. Luka refused to break their hold, rubbing Nina’s aching chest through the sweatshirt as safe fatigue sunk into their drooping eyelids. Snow raged outside, whipping against the window and creating a soothing background noise that lulled the couple closer and closer to sleep, even though their triumphant hearts longed for extended daytime.

“Maybe I should have waited until I felt better to accept,” Nina sniffled, weak cough slipping out. “That way we could celebrate properly instead of laying in bed like this…”

Lukasha’s already beaming smile grew, and he opened his eyes to stare at Nina, totally entranced by how beautiful the dark-haired boy looked (in general, but mostly when he was tired). Luka’s adoring expression made Nina nervous, negative side of his brain quietly reminding him that betrayal was an absolute possibility. The bleak, forgotten shadow named past didn’t know Lukasha Kaveri very well, but still pushed that terrible idea into the forefront of Nina’s mind.

“…What?” The teen prompted, getting squirmy under Luka’s stare.

“This,” Lukasha stated. “This is about as rewarding as it gets, Pnina Pavlov.”

Nina’s weary eyes first widened, then overflowed with tears again, begging themselves to stay inside as Nina ducked his head into Lukasha’s chest once more, holding him tighter and tighter. He hoped they would never let go, that this wasn’t a final gift from Death. This needed to be real. Lukasha asking him to move in was real. Nina agreeing was real. Life was real. Life no longer included sleeping in subways, no longer included eating from garbage tins, didn’t contain two mental breakdowns a year, several bouts of paralyzing illness, homelessness, agonizing cold, humiliation as a career, weight loss instead of weight gain, emotional turmoil instead of emotional success.

Life was Lukasha Kaveri. Nineteen-years seemed like a painfully long time to wait, but in a surprising twist, Nina wouldn’t change a single thing, not any of the bad things, worse things, if altering time meant Lukasha’s arrival came sooner. While they envied ancient souls for their greatness, their passion, Nina thought that maybe—just maybe—this time, the gods would envy their worshipers.

Thank you,” Luka’s lover whispered again. “Thank you, Lukasha…”

“Thank you,” The sculptor countered lowly, losing his words in Nina’s messy hair. “Thank you for falling this far, Nina…I promise I won’t let it happen ever again. Not as long as we’re together.”

Pnina Pavlov only cried for a few minutes before a relieved euphoria took over his entire being, allowing every bad thing that ever happened to the hooker to fade, stripped and tossed away by Lukasha’s embrace. Nina sunk into Luka’s heart openly, breathing in his lover’s scent and listening intently to each breath, each gleeful inhale. Peaceful, domestic moments had eluded and cheated both boys for so long, but the waiting payout felt grand indeed.

It was February, and Nina was sicker than a dog: his nose started running along with pneumonia pumping through each struggling lung, several additional aches and pains breaking down his declining immune system further, not to mention the unspeakable agony of roughly pleasuring manly strangers on nearby subways and behind club doors. It snowed constantly, ice and sleet freezing sidewalks, rushing through Nina’s hoodie with malicious intent, Death and his scythe only blocks away, waiting and waiting and waiting like a hovering, starving vulture, disguised with miserable human faces—Nina, a homeless male whore should have been the most miserable being in all of Saint Petersburg. But he wasn’t. Nina wasn’t miserable at all, because someone was there for him. Finally, someone named Lukasha Kaveri cared about him. And one day, Nina would pay him back. He would pay him in love, in deeds, in actions, whatever it took.

 

The deity would repay the artist through modeling, because only art could take a piece of their untouchable, selfless love and capture what Lukasha meant to Nina with a single stroke.

Chapter Text

What pleasing word could ever accurately describe the first touches in a new relationship better than orphic? Lost poets and love-struck writers have tried many a years, creeping closer through several differing generations, but orphic has been a missing word in their vocabulary when describing agape, the highest and holiest love form in Greek mythology. If Nina knew this word, he would agree whole-heartedly: orphic, meaning relating to Orpheus[1] or stretching past ordinary understanding—mystic. Through millions and millions of poems, ballads, tragedies, screams, scripts and paintings, no one had come remotely close to describing the blueprints of love and all its twists.

But for Nina and Lukasha, orphic seemed right. Only this time, Luka wouldn’t look back until they were safe and sound.

The first responsibility Lukasha Kaveri took upon himself included buying a small quantity of medicine for Nina’s terrible pneumonia case. It wasn’t much, and it definitely wouldn’t kill the virus even after many dosages, but Luka hoped Nina at least wouldn’t feel deathly. Through their first week as one being, Nina’s condition improved, though the teenager attributed this improvement to the fact that he now had a roof over his head and a warm, clingy boyfriend by his side.

What came after? It seemed impossible for Luka’s mind to throw out a detailed inscription of the monumental events following, however absolute and memorable they were. Nina moved in the day following their exclamation of love with his miniscule belongings, a bag, four different outfits, those adorable gray mittens and two pocket-sized poetry books Nina forgot he owned. Luka rushed around like a madman, frantically making space in his one-room apartment as if Nina needed an entire half for his emaciated forty-five kilogram[2] frame.

“I made room in the bathroom, if you have anything for there—um…I don’t have an extra towel yet, but we can go buy one tomorrow, maybe. Is it okay if we share until then? I have a few extra mugs, so you don’t have to worry about that. I have other dishes, too…you can use the coffee table for whatever, just move my sketches out of the way—you can use my paper, too, whatever you want! I usually use charcoal for drawings, but we can get you some fancy pens for writing, if you want!”

If Nina were a cruel lover, he would have instantly jumped on an opportunity to take the upper dominant hand in their relationship. Thankfully (screamed Lukasha’s bank account), Nina didn’t have a cruel bone in his body, smiling softly at Luka’s over-generous offers and politely commenting that everything was already perfect. Lukasha didn’t need to change anything just because he had a roommate, now; that detail Nina remained stern on, no matter how enticing being a spoiled boyfriend sounded, especially following years of unintentional self-abuse.

“We don’t need anything else,” The dark-haired boy assured Luka, laying his tattered clothing in their shared dresser. “I’m just grateful to have a roof over my head. You don’t have to change your lifestyle based on me.”

“Of course I do!” Lukasha argued back, helping Nina fold his three shirts. “That’s the kind of fighting material couples need—you don’t need to act like a minimalist anymore.”

“Luka.”

“What?”

“We live in Russia. Aren’t we all unintended minimalists?”

Physical changes were nice, like the switch in location from alleyways and stranger’s couches to a cozy apartment—Nina cherished these alterations greatly, although having a place where he was needed every night felt strange at first, since Nina was normally only needed for immoral purposes. He also enjoyed having a bed, cotton sheets, protective walls, a kitchen, a furnace (even though it was broken 65% of the time), warm socks and especially appreciated taking baths and showers regularly. This abrupt switch from homelessness threw Nina for a loop, but in all honesty, that wasn’t the detail he noticed most.

Lukasha Kaveri’s pacifying presence beside him made the biggest difference.

Having run away from home at a very young age, Pnina Pavlov was no longer accustomed to answering and speaking regularly with another person, unless he counted whoring work as social accomplishment…Nina loved talking but frequently found himself startled by conversation, unfamiliar with human voices plus voices bouncing around inside his messy mind. Luka’s constant, warming company comforted Nina, pulled him back into a reality realm, vulnerable teen unable to prevent himself from being tugged back down to earth. From nineteen-years-worth of emotional and mental isolation Nina struggled adapting towards the concept of noise, flinching at any dropped object or unexpected touch from Lukasha, though his fears dissipated after remembering who he was with.

Yes, having a place of residence felt amazing following so many brutal, undying years and seasons wasting away in nature, callous, tantalizing Russian nature. Being responsible for cleaning and keeping up with chores felt nice, too, but Lukasha Kaveri—he was the main selling point.

Nina didn’t stop smiling (and crying) for the entire first week, overwhelmed by abrasively passionate emotions continuously striking his body after eternities of dormant feelings. The boyfriend loved having someone to pick up after. He loved helping Luka fold laundry, loved bumping into him, loved sharing the bathroom with him, loved watching Luka accidentally hit his knee on their coffee table…Nina loved this new domestic lifestyle they had fallen into. As promised, he vowed to pay back Lukasha’s adoration by any means possible, though this oath wouldn’t be starting until after the first week (at least in Nina’s mind; Luka had never been so happy in his entire life, simply because he got to wake-up with his precious coughing boyfriend every morning).

Still trapped inside an inescapable vortex of unbearably wretched pneumonia, Nina spent the first seven days living with Lukasha sleeping, hacking over his own lungs, sweating and swallowing medicine in a hurry to fight off an infection. The antibiotics did a well enough job where Nina could function on his own, though Luka forbade him from getting up unless he needed a bathroom break. For the first weekend in over five years, Tamryn did not rent his body out, allowing him time to successfully subdue pneumonia’s worst violence. Lukasha was there through it all, rushing home after work every day, cooking Nina soup can after soup can, insisting on feeding him like a baby until he deemed his lover strong enough.

As fabulous as being babied was, Nina began feeling guilty, per his low self-esteem, and so tugged up a bucket of vigor from his muddy well one evening, standing long enough where he successfully made Lukasha a warm bowl of bland oatmeal for when he returned home.

When Luka opened the door (arriving much later than usual per a disastrous set accident) he was greeted by a thick, comforting scent steaming throughout their apartment. Without looking, Lukasha slid his boots off and dazingly stepped inside, peering over Nina’s shoulder down at the heated stovetop.

“Is that food?”

Luka must have been starving, because he didn’t specify any meal title even though there was an option right below his nose.

“Yeah,” Nina confirmed over a sniffle. “Oatmeal’s the only thing I know how to make, so…I thought it would be nice on a cold night like this.”

Wordlessly, Lukasha grabbed a bowl and held it out, silently pleading for a spoonful or two. His boyfriend hesitantly dished out a large scoop, expectations lower than ever; after all, Nina hadn’t cooked in his entire life, though he remembered watching a customer make oatmeal a few years back. Despite his concerns, Luka obviously wasn’t very picky, devouring the sticky substance like the Last Supper. Maybe this was all an act, but Nina appreciated it immensely. How did Lukasha always make him feel so confident, even when he didn’t deserve such mercy?

 “This is great!” The artist cheered over his final bite. “You’re just like a housewife, Nina!”

“What?”

Nina’s sharp glare was more adorable than frightening, prompting Lukasha’s grin to widen.

“I said you’re just like a housewife, Nina.”

One of those thin eyebrows twitched in displeasure, exposing their irritation for only a second.

“…Take it back.”

“Nope. May I have some more, please?”

“Not until you take it back.”

“I won’t take it back,” Luka shook his head, standing and walking over to refill the bowl himself. “You made me dinner like a good little housewife, so that’s what I’m going to call you, housewife.”

Nina stepped in front of his boyfriend, blocking him from the hot stove.

“You’re not getting any more until you take it back, daddy.”

So we’re playing that dirty, huh? Lukasha thought, hiding a gulp and setting his bowl aside so he could trap the smaller male, both palms on either side of the stove, body framing around Nina. The atmosphere became thick with anticipation, increasingly fiery stomachs only centimeters away from each other as Lukasha leaned closer, whispering against Nina’s ear warningly.

“Is that a threat, wifey?”

That teasing triggered their first sexual episode as an official couple, oatmeal and lingering illness forgotten when Nina and Lukasha stumbled into bed, hurriedly pulling off each other’s clothing and shivering when they were separated, cold apartment air momentarily pausing the mood. Something else took Nina by surprise as well, starting when Lukasha peeled off his sweater, the second-to-last clothing article that kept Nina protected. When the teen realized he was now laying under Luka with only his briefs on, his arms abruptly went to cover himself.

Nina stared up in confusion and fear, startled by what embarrassing emotions he felt—they had done this a million times before, so why shield himself now? Why did everything feel more intense, and why did his heartbeat accelerate like it did? Each shameful mark felt as if it became neon and glowing, directing everyone’s attention towards the boy’s napkin of a body. Painful embarrassment wounded Nina’s heart, not knowing Lukasha was watching his expression carefully while kneeling above the boyfriend compliantly, not wanting to scare him off.

“What’s wrong?” Luka asked gently, grasping Nina’s puny wrists. “Is it too cold?”

“No,” Nina shook his head immediately, becoming flustered both by his own troubling emotions and Lukasha’s gaze. He shouldn’t look at me. He shouldn’t be looking. “I-I just…I…”

Something kept screaming for Nina to hide, to burrow underneath the quilt, anything as a means of concealing his pathetically scrawny, nauseatingly scarred figure from Lukasha. It wasn’t so much a protective instinct as it was a timid, insecure urge—Nina didn’t care what customers thought of his body because they were just paying for a way to get off. Looks didn’t matter so much as his skills did. Nina couldn’t wrap his head around why he suddenly felt flustered over nudity now, underneath the only person he was capable of loving. They should have been enjoying this new experience together, but Nina was ruining it by having a petrifying self-conscious episode.

I’m not pretty like Lukasha. I don’t have blush skin and raspberry-colored cheeks like him, Nina worried silently, overthinking before he understood how deeply he was sabotaging his poor soul. I don’t have bright skin like him. My skin is dead, decayed, like a corpse. I don’t have nice, mocha colored hair like him. I don’t have any of that. I don’t have anything…

“It’ll be different,” Luka thought out-loud, retrieving his boyfriend’s attention once more. The sight of Nina’s blushing cheeks, those gut-wrenching strawberry red lips, that flawless porcelain skin drove Lukasha to an unplanned moment of silence between thoughts. “Now that we’re…together…it’ll feel different.”

This was true. Didn’t Nina already know? He had to have, given the hours available for daydreaming in the midst of his illness. Everything was different, so this shouldn’t have shocked the teen as much as it did.

“I know,” Nina answered quietly. His wrists had stopped squirming in Lukasha’s grip, but his body language still read meek. “I’m—I’m okay. With that, I mean. I think…I think it’ll be okay.”

Despite Nina’s words, Lukasha could tell he wasn’t so certain. A smile drifted to his lips through it all, and Luka surprised his lover by brushing those dusty black locks aside and planting a kiss onto the boy’s warm forehead. Nina froze below him, feeling, listening as Luka took a deep breath, exhaling against his boyfriend’s brow. The sculptor could feel Nina’s heartbeat thumping wildly and longed to change its panicky rhythm.

“As long as it’s you, deity.”

Oops. That only made Lukasha’s lover gasp in surprise, triggered further by the combination of Luka’s soothing touch and heated title. Nina couldn’t handle this if everything was mixed. He couldn’t handle making love with Lukasha Kaveri while being called a deity at the same time—it was a contradiction. Even so, Nina allowed Luka to pull his arms up, intertwining their fingers against the sheets above while kissing Nina’s velvety throat adoringly; his final words brushed an increasingly familiar sense of comfort over the teen, one he became accustomed to after only one serene week.

“I love you, Pnina,” Lukasha whispered. “I’ll take care of you.”

Nina lost all troubling thoughts when Luka began nibbling on his chest, simultaneously suckling on a nipple and moving a hand downwards to feel every dip and curve of Nina’s bony frame. Luka was right: everything felt different. They were no longer customer and hooker. Lukasha Kaveri was his boyfriend. They weren’t just having sex like every other time—true, Nina stated he didn’t know what love was, remained indefinite about his true feelings, but…

Nina,” Luka panted, continuing with foreplay even when his kotyonok was far past being prepared. “Nina…”

Lukasha kept calling for him, calling his name endlessly, moaning over each syllable and losing himself over the pale flesh pressed against his own. Every move, every graze revealed how deeply Luka’s adoration penetrated, rocking sweetly against Nina when they were both ready. They both felt like crying when Luka first pushed in, slipping past a tight ring of protesting muscle and snugly fitting into his boyfriend’s entrance.

Nina, Nina, Nina was the only word escaping those lips at each thrust and sweet kiss, moving Pnina so deeply he finally found courage to reach up and wrap his arms around Lukasha’s shoulders as a means of bringing them closer.

“Ni-na—ah—Nina.”

“Mm…haa…”

With their fronts now pressed together, Nina could no longer control his whimpers, grasping onto Luka for his life, sore lungs aching from overuse. The couple continued on through each jab of pain and throbbing muscles, pushing deeper, pace steady at a slow, languid movement that gently roused an electrically intimate sensation in Nina’s entire body. Luka’s thrusts went deeper and deeper, their power bringing down more clenching from Nina, who wasn’t sure how much longer he could handle these overwhelming sensations, the erotic noises, the lewd movements, everything about their new life together. Lukasha had not yet taken his hazy green eyes off Nina, eyelids only fluttering closed like a butterfly’s wings whenever the heat became too crushing.

Inch by inch, frozen icicles melted off fragile silk, colorful murals flapping through harsh winter winds naturally, breaking free from Russia’s turbulent aura. Nina exposed all his shades as Lukasha displayed all his hues, splashing together in a cacophony of beating wings.

“Luka!” Nina cried uncontrollably, throat scratchy and wanting. His nails dug into Lukasha’s back, clutching at where his wings began and begging for their mercy. “Ahh—Luka…Luka…”

“Nina,” The artist gasped reverently against Nina’s jaw. Their heartbeats were moving too quickly, in cadence once again, pounding and pounding until a mistimed drive alerted them to an up-coming affair. “Nina!”

“L…Lukasha—”

There wasn’t a single tendon in Luka’s body that wasn’t tensed, jolting and twitching when a heated surge of arousal slowly consumed their bodies, beginning as a rain cloud and ending in a thunderstorm. A Styx River wave emptied itself into Nina, driving his own completion when Lukasha’s stuttering humps continuously rubbed against the other’s quivering shaft; blinding happiness assaulting the dark-haired boy’s heart and mind pulled out unfiltered emotions Nina didn’t know he possessed, releasing their cries as he thrashed wildly underneath his lover.

“I love you,” Nina keened mindlessly, lean, shuddering thighs tightening their hold around Lukasha’s hips, keeping him trapped inside. “I love you, I love you, I love you—”

The designer moaned helplessly into Nina’s ear, dying under his boyfriend’s attention while attempting to focus on their final motions. When Nina’s words finally faded into mumbled breaths, Lukasha stopped above him, trembling biceps lowering himself down flush against the boy’s own quivering form. They gasped and panted together, fragile moans escaping whenever an accidental shift caused them more pleasure; the couple laid against each other in a messy form, ignoring this detail because neither had ever felt so close to a metamorphosis before.

Gray was no longer on Nina’s color spectrum, nor Lukasha’s. Blush pink, raspberry magenta, mocha brown and, of course, pale green were the only shades Nina recognized, still holding Luka close to his heart. Gray skies, gray streets, gray buildings and gray faces were no longer relevant. Strawberry red, porcelain white, Styx black and deep blue—Lukasha vowed to never use any color outside this palette ever again. The butterflies of Saint Petersburg had blossomed and bloomed on the same peak, the same mountain top where Columbine flowers grew freely, a never-ending mural contained in a shabby one-room apartment, revealing itself for the lover’s eyes alone, because only they would understand that even the Styx River had life inside its unforgiving tides.

Nina had never felt so satisfied before. Not sexually, not emotionally. Everything felt fine for the first time. Russia was not a land of acceptance towards their kind, but here they were, connected by cautious souls and damp bodies in their shared apartment, proving true, definite love through sensual dance, exposed bodily fluids showcased for all to see and believe. Nina refused to release Lukasha, letting go only when the silent promise was made: that they would be like this forever, never separated by Death, poverty or class.

 

“That was my first time,” Nina admitted later while they were squished in the tub together. He knew he wouldn’t need an explanation for his words. “…It was perfect.”

Lukasha smiled brightly, masking his dorky tendencies by leaning forward and softly kissing Nina’s doll-like lips, wet hand drifting out from underneath the water to gently graze his boyfriend’s cheek. Nina let him control their unhurried movements, humming happily when they finally separated, the smaller boy reaching up to keep Luka’s hand where it lied. Warmth was so underrated.

“It’ll be like that from now on, Nina,” Lukasha promised lowly. “I swear to you.”

“We can still use the belt once in a while, right?”

Nina giggled deviously at his lover’s blush, scooting forward eagerly even when Luka desperately tried avoiding conversation.

“Seriously, though—how is sex going to work now that we’re…dating and stuff?” The teen wondered. He pulled Luka’s interest back by running a bony finger along the designer’s thigh. “I won’t guarantee less tears, but I think things will be better from now on.”

“Better?” That got Lukasha’s attention. “Was it bad before?!”

“Of course not, zaichik,” Nina assured him. “ I meant in an emotional sense; I won’t be so blocked off now that we’re boyfriend-boyfriend.”

“Oh. Right. Well…I don’t think we’ll really change at all. I mean, we already did it tonight and felt incredible—do you think we’ll change after having relationship sex for a while?”

Nina thought for a minute. Doubts must have sprinted through his head, because that unusually calm expression became scrunched in worry. Luka knew this was only natural, previous incidents revealing improvement as too good to be true, but this wasn’t just a job or school: this was real life. The life poets and playwriters envy. Luka didn’t think they need fear change.

I think we’ll only get better,” Lukasha added honestly, ducking his head lower so he could lock eyes with Nina. “There’s nothing in this world that could ever make me turn away from you, from us. I can’t wait to show you all the ways I adore you, deity.”

Nina took his blushing turn, whimpering in protest when Luka laughed and lifted the boy’s face up so he could see; it felt nice not being the only embarrassing person in their relationship.

“I can call you deity once in a while, can’t I?” The sculptor laughed teasingly.

“Well…more than once in a while…”

“I thought you said it was weird?”

“It’s not,” Nina murmured, leaning into the touch. “It’s just…strange.”

“Because you don’t think of yourself in that light, right?” Luka confirmed, a bit disenchanted when Nina nodded. The dark-haired boy slid his moist palm over Lukasha’s hand, turning so his lips brushed the artist’s colorful, gifted fingers. “…I get that. It’ll take some time to get used to it, but I think you’ll understand my infatuation with you one day.”

“I try not to think about it, honestly.”

“You should. You’re heartbreakingly beautiful, Pnina.”

Lukasha Kaveri really enjoyed making Nina blush with shyness, but he loved painting a picture for all the reasons he loved his kotyonok more. The best thing about dating Nina (besides obvious reasons) was that Luka could now attack him with compliments followed by affectionate kisses whenever he wanted, as long as they were inside. Instead of stalking club scenes and buying easy boys drinks every Friday night, Lukasha could go home, be greeted by his cuddly boyfriend, pull Nina in by his slim waist and kiss him until their lips were swollen.

Yes. Change was Lukasha’s new favorite word.

Nina had never witnessed winter’s season in such brightness before, never noticed the beauty of snowflakes, each individual ridge and every fluttering pattern they fell in. Maybe now that he wasn’t freezing his ass off in alleyways outside these special moments were more appreciated, or maybe it was just Luka’s positive presence triggering everything creative and stirring to be finally noticed by Nina’s disillusioned eyes. Whatever cause, the cheerful couple were on their way—to where, neither knew, but destination no longer mattered when the journey was all they desired.

How deeply the prostitute loved waking-up inside, in a warm bed, trapped beneath Lukasha’s flailing legs and arms, more heated than their broken furnace had ever been. Whenever his boyfriend left for work, Nina would weep into that familiar pillow for many minutes—he never understood how movie stars could cry tears of joy until Luka invited him to stay. Happiness was a feeble, fragile thing, easily tipped and tripped, caught in webs and nets until only an idea remained. Nina knew this better than anyone, and that was why, every day when Lukasha left, he would weep until a smile crept to his face, senses soaking up what aromas and feels of Luka lingered on the spot beside Nina.

If Lukasha noticed, he said nothing, kissing his boyfriend in greeting every evening and every available opportunity after. Nina knew some writers argued whether or not this lover stage would dissipate after a few months, maybe even weeks, after the original euphoria wore off, but since Lukasha called Nina a writer, too, the teen could argue right back, stating each set of lovers have their own possibilities—what mattered most was not that they remained stuck in a stage, but that their ever-changing lives continuously intertwined with the same pervious purposes.

“How are you feeling today?” Lukasha hummed against Nina’s jaw, holding him close after a long, long day at work.

“Good…I haven’t smoked since a few nights ago.”

“That’s my boy.”

Nina was starting to recognize when Luka’s mood wasn’t as chirpy as usual, and he was also beginning to form specific reactions accordingly.

“Was work okay?” Nina wondered quietly, leaning back and quickly reading his boyfriend’s drained expression.

“Mm…just emotionally tiring. I try not to say this because I’m thankful for every day with Pnina, but today was way too long of a day.”

“Come sit down—I can make dinner if you want to tell me how.”

Lukasha Kaveri let himself be gently pulled, plopping down limply while Nina hurried around the kitchen, grabbing a few ingredients he knew the names of and waiting for Luka’s instructions. When their apartment remained silent, Nina quickly peeked over his shoulder, worried that maybe Lukasha was more bothered about something than he let on; instead, the lover found crinkled green eyes wide and watching him carefully.

“…What are you staring at? If you call me wifey one more time, I’m never cooking for your sorry ass ever again.”

“I’m proud of you,” Lukasha responded immediately, as if he hadn’t heard Nina’s friendly threat. Those foreign, peculiar words still struck a chord in the dark-eyed boy’s lonely heart. “You’ve really gotten used to being with me quicker than I expected. I guess I shouldn’t have underestimated a goddess like you…sorry. Anyway—I’m just staring because I’m happy for you, kotyonok.”

Just when Nina Pavlov thought he had adapted to encouragement, Luka pulled something simple like this, totally throwing him off guard. What about Lukasha’s exact words affected Nina so intently? Or perhaps it was the fact that Luka was the one speaking…Nina didn’t worry about this so much as he did towards—well, towards whether or not what Lukasha said about him was actually true. His boyfriend never lied, though. He loved that fact about Lukasha Kaveri. If Luka never lied, why did Nina have such a difficult time accepting the truth?

“Let’s make some stew tonight, okay?” Lukasha said with a soft smile, walking over and nudging a frozen Nina’s arm kindly. “I’ll help you cut the meat.”

Through another form of self-improvement, Nina nodded in response instead of going into an emotional rant about how he didn’t deserve Luka’s compliments. They cooked dinner side by side, frequently bumping into each other until Nina began giggling, prompting a quick tickling session before they settled at the table, feet flirtingly squirming underneath.

Lukasha never appreciated routine before, but since every night with Pnina Pavlov made him feel like he was hearing a brand new ballad on the radio, the artist slowly changed his opinion.

 

Regarding Nina’s career path, a sense of predatory came over Lukasha whenever his boyfriend left Friday and Saturday nights, but since both boys had lived in Russia long enough, they knew it was “better” to have an awful, but well-paying job than to not have one at all. And so, Nina made the choice to continue selling his body out, but with an added catch: since Nina was no longer homeless, he wasn’t forced to seek customers out during the week in hopes of finding a warm bed for the night. Instead, he decided whoring only on weekends was the best alternative.

Did the fact that Nina performed dirty, sexual acts with perverted Russian men bother Lukasha? On certain levels. But oddly enough, Luka was never jealous over the attention those strangers received—due in part to their position before officially becoming a couple, Lukasha understood without needing explanations. Of course he knew Nina needed income. Of course he knew this wasn’t Nina’s preferred job. Of course he knew prostitution was illegal and could get Nina into trouble, of course Lukasha knew how damning, how stripping and dangerous Nina’s job was—

Lukasha also knew the unfortunate circumstances of their situation. Unless they wanted to be cast out, beaten for sexual preference and exiled from their home country (which probably wouldn’t be so terrible), the boys needed to work discreetly. Sex meant nothing. It was an exercise form, a way of relieving tension, nothing more unless individuals were bonded like Nina and his lover. Luka knew this, since he had been in a customer position before. Now, in their altered circumstances, the artist would be there, shouldering whatever emotional baggage Nina carried. It wasn’t difficult letting his lover leave, simply and purely because Lukasha knew, could feel and see how much his lover cared about their bond. The possibility of Nina becoming attracted to someone else wasn’t an issue for either. Nina hated thinking, trained himself over many painful, cold years to avoid thinking until now, and as a result his mind had become simple, straight-forward and literal; he didn’t like other men because they were not Lukasha Kaveri.

That was that.

Although Lukasha protested many times (still a complete and utterly admirable sucker for his precious deity), Nina insisted they split the rent for their apartment. He also bought groceries, did laundry and helped Luka make dinner every night—all this, they did without letting anyone know the extent of their relationship. If a neighbor figured it out, they had yet to spill the beans or start an anti-LGBT riot outside Lukasha’s apartment door. The walls weren’t incredibly thick, but Nina figured since his voice sounded feminine (especially when he moaned Lukasha’s name), anyone in earshot would assume their young neighbor just had a really over-acted porno being shot in his living room.

Into this silky, delicate routine the couple fell.

 

March began less daunting, much less ferocious than every other winter month this year. To be fair, Russia’s temperatures remained the same as they were, but for Nina and Lukasha, who were caught up in the climax of revealing fondness and as a result, saw every negative ideal through a hazy pastel paper sheet, cold no longer remained a threat. If Nina felt goosebumps arise on his puny arms, he was allowed to wear whatever winter clothing supply Luka had, scarves, sweaters, sweatpants, wool socks, etc. etc., not to mention Lukasha himself. Frequently the designer would come home and see Nina all curled-up on their love seat wearing those shabby, but relentless mittens, that ugly yellow scarf Luka’s grandmother knitted him, two pairs of itchy socks and, of course, his blue sweater.

(If Nina wanted to seduce Lukasha by wearing a skirt and risking goosebumps on the entirety of his bare legs, that was his problem. And, eventually, Luka’s problem.)

“Want to go to the ballet tomorrow night?” Lukasha asked one night, running a hand along Nina’s naked skin, partially hidden by that memorable dark blue skirt. “Your seat won’t be very good, but I figured you’d want to get out of the house for a bit…you can go right to work afterwards, if you want.”

“Seriously?” Nina asked, unknowingly making Luka’s heart thump when his narrowed eyes widened with excitement. “I would get to sit and watch the entire thing?”

Lukasha nodded, voice lost somewhere between his mouth and throat. A dainty, easily faltering smile stuck to Nina’s lips, remaining as long as the worshiper allowed before he could no longer resist kissing it away. Nina was content beneath his groping hands, refusing him exclusive access (temporarily) until they had their share of kissing, because Nina loved kissing Luka, and vice versa. Long fingers lightly dug into the dark-haired lover’s covered waist, tightening when they happily felt a thicker skin layer developing underneath. Lips and daring tongues teased each other persistently, making up for lost time that could never be found again in a small Saint Petersburg apartment.

“You’re a total sucker, you know?” Nina smirked through their altering kisses. His mitten-covered hands made tugging Luka’s wavy hair difficult. “If I…ha…if I were evil, I would totally take advantage of it and empty your bank account.”

“Lucky for me, you aren’t evil,” Lukasha smiled back, pleased eyes peeking open. “My deity would never do such a thing.”

Nina’s smile grew until falling victim, succumbing completely to his boyfriend’s lips for another stunning ten-minutes before their breath ran out. Nina wrapped his arms around Lukasha’s torso, pulling himself onto the other’s lap until they were snugly fit together like puzzle pieces, Nina nestled against his boyfriend’s front with no chance of releasing him soon. Luka always needed more time for recovery, simply because he was, as his goddess mentioned, a pathetically vulnerable lover who gave the star of his adoration more than everything.

While laying as one, dinner in the oven and scarf wrapped around Lukasha’s neck, Nina’s mind began wandering freely, taking no note of their secret relationship and struggling careers.

“Lukasha,” The hooker prompted, angling his head so they could see each other’s reactions. “What’s your biggest dream? I mean…what’s the one thing you want to do in your life more than anything else?”

“Hmm…that’s a tough one. There are a lot of paintings and ideas I’ve dreamt about over the years,” Luka hummed thoughtfully. His hand began running along Nina’s naked thigh again, though this time for nothing but admiring intent. “I suppose my main goal is to live in France one day. Maybe in Paris, where the Revolution was. I want to live in Paris and be the head set designer for the best ballet studio in Europe—all while advancing my art skills to become a world-class painter and sculptor. I want to become so skilled I can successfully capture the art of my beloved boyfriend Pnina Pavlov. How’s that dream for ya?”

Nina must have liked the idea incredibly, given how deep his blush ran, from the tip of his nose to his curling toes.

“That’s a really nice dream,” Lukasha’s lover said in awe, ducking his head back into the taller boy’s scarf. “…I hope more than anything it comes true for you.”

I really mean it, Lukasha Kaveri, Nina continued silently, mitten-covered hands doing their best at pulling Luka closer. I hope your dreams come true soon. You deserve it, after all you do for other people so undeserving of mercy…you deserve it, for what you do for me.

“What about you, kotyonok?” Luka rebounded, cocking his head as a means of reading Nina’s current expression. “Now that you have time to think about it…what’s your biggest dream?”

Dark eyes blinked stupidly, needing a moment longer to comprehend the question, although Nina understood well enough when he asked it. Dreams—what did the prostitutka know about dreams? He had nightmares, lived night terrors before, but dreams? Dreams…dreams included that first night such a short time ago, when winter just began, when Nina first laid eyes on Lukasha Kaveri. That memory seemed like a dream, the soft touches, the slow urgency, each groan of admiration, each subtle kindness act afterword, “Viva la Vida” echoing in the dim lighting. That was a dream, but not the kind Lukasha requested.

In his panic, Nina’s heart skipped a beat or two, fumbling lips anxiously hurrying with a weak, but painfully honest reply.

“I…I…don’t know any details about my dream, but…” The teen swallowed tightly, daring eyes staring up at his boyfriend. “I want you to be in it.”

Luka suddenly felt too shocked for facial expressions, unblinking as his deity went on, voice thick with a type of reverence only Lukasha thought he possessed towards divinity Pnina. Hearing such authentic, selfless regard directed at his character was overwhelming, though he had only experienced a brief impression of whatever ecstasy disheartened Nina felt when this method possessed his very soul each time Lukasha came home to him.

“I don’t know if I can have dreams just yet, but…I already know that…I want Lukasha to be in my dreams.”

Nina worsened the blow by staring up at his lover, chin resting on Luka’s chest much like a sleepy kitten.

“Is—Is that okay?”

Words cannot always express feeling accurately, as Lukasha had learned through weak attempts at poetry in his adolescence; since this fact also stood true for pictures and painting, Luka acted instead, impulsively clutching Nina closer than ever before, losing his lover inside the yellow scarf while nearly suffocating him.

“It’s more than okay!” Lukasha croaked, failing at hiding on-coming tears. “It’s perfect. I’ll gladly be in your dreams, Nina!”

Mmf—Lka—

“Don’t struggle, Nina—I understand your pain. I feel it too, sometimes, when I can’t draw or write or do anything…I get sad about where I am, too, so don’t worry about being alone. I’ll always understand you even when you can’t describe how you feel, okay?”

Nina gasped for air when Luka pushed him back, petting his boyfriend’s hair comfortingly.

“It’ll all be okay, kotyonok. You’ll see!”

“Jeez…you’re even more of a wreck than I am.”

“…Nuh uh.”

“Maybe not,” The boy sighed, carefully laying back against Lukasha, making sure he wouldn’t be smothered this time. “But you’re definitely a bigger dork than I am.”

“Haha! I’ll agree with you on that.”

Returning to their natural state, Nina relaxed in Luka’s hold, peppering kisses over the artist’s rough hands every now and again as the oven timer counted down remaining minutes for their meal. Like always, Lukasha had drilled a new possibility inside Nina’s being, gifted him something to think about, a hopeful idea for future changes. All these bright, new adjustments made Nina’s head spin, but in a different direction than before. Luka often described his boyfriend as belonging to another world, owning vulnerable hearts using casual snarkiness and through sexuality bleeding deep blue, but wasn’t it the other way around?

Unable to bear anymore masochistic emotional blows for tonight, Nina hid his nerdy smile and addressed his zaichik once more.

“Hey…Luka.”

“Hm?”

“Thanks.”

“For what?” Lukasha raised an eyebrow. “For being your French cooking teacher free of charge or for giving you endless pleasure night after night?”

“Hm…both.”

Ah. That booming, radiating laughter was becoming a familiar sound in Nina’s life. He watched with upmost attention as Luka’s mouth separated, releasing jubilant waves, echoing a decent length before being overcome by another sharp ha! Nina never knew noise could be so beautiful. Street clatter, honking horns, footsteps tapping through snow piles…the hooker found beauty in those sounds before, when his version of aesthetics had a low, desperate reach, but now? Now, he never knew someone belonging to the humanity category could be the most beautiful of all paintings.

Not the Mikhailovsky Theatre’s music, not the Neva River waves, but Lukasha Kaveri’s laughter.

“I was kidding, Nina,” Luka chuckled. “We haven’t even had sex this week—I think I’m getting better at not jumping you every time my emotions overwhelm me.”

“Oh?”

A shadow broke over Lukasha’s body, making him look insignificant compared to the treacherous incubus hovering over his suddenly trembling body; Nina sinfully leaned down, baggy sweater allowing an inside view of what lied underneath, adding to the already intoxicating and alluring skirt trap below. How many men fell captive at this siren’s song, Luka wondered?

Warm porcelain pressed against the artist’s neck, right below his seeking ear. Then, the demon spoke.

“You really shouldn’t have said that, Lukasha Kaveri.”

Nina seduced, trapped, consumed Lukasha for the hundredth time. They became painted with different splatters, marked by various cloth patterns as Nina controlled their movements, licking and rolling their bodies around until Luka forgot his directions. A disruptive beeping noise interrupted their dance, but Nina, talented in many forms of flattery, went on, unflinching and leaving pink marks on his boyfriend’s now exposed throat.

“B-But, Nina…haaa…what about…the food?”

If irritating beeping noises hadn’t ruined the moment, then Nina’s barking giggles certainly finished the job. Lukasha couldn’t feel his embarrassment, not when Nina enjoyed himself so much, forgetting all about seduction and making love in favor of laughing, laughing endlessly at Lukasha’s priorities. It was comforting to know he cared about food as equally as he cared about getting laid.

The boys ate their dinner through hidden chuckles, footsie games underneath the table and a lingering idea for what would come after course number one. Lukasha focused this time around, forgetting about washing dishes and watching himself be eaten alive by Nina to the point where breathing became difficult. Hot air blew between their rocking figures, hands grasping desperately, needed a steady anchor for whatever euphoric sensations followed. Luka lost himself in blatant staring, heartbeat pounding erratically, giving-up every shred of control to this deity above, ruining him for every other man.

Nina didn’t hesitate, sinking down on Lukasha inch by inch until their bodies were flush against each other, connected as deeply as possible. Through the sculptor’s hazy vision he could see a midnight blue mass hovering behind Nina, merging against glass for an even more haunting sight. The deceitful incubus had no underlying intentions, pulling curses from its victim while bouncing on Luka’s cock in an abrupt, hungry pace, getting exactly what it wanted and more, a glimmer of affection peeking from Nina’s glossy eyes.

Yes. Boyfriends were much better than hook-ups.

“Write me a poem,” Lukasha gasped below, green eyes fluttering open through pleasurable currents. “Write me a poem about this.”

It was Nina’s turn. Lungs sucked inward, taken aback by an unintentional disruption sending his soul haywire. Still, he longed for an agreement, nodding frantically and hoping it pleased Luka, making a silent promise to his lover as Lukasha often made painting promises. A poem—Nina would write a poem about them, about what their love caused, about this, that and this, this, this, this

“Ahh! Ah! Nina!

When Lukasha twitched and thrusted beneath him, Nina swore he would write. He had a dream, and it involved this: Lukasha Kaveri wearing a thick mustard scarf, Lukasha biting his lip while sketching an indecent drawing, Lukasha wearing a dirty, stained apron, Lukasha speaking to Nina in French, Lukasha washing their hair like a professional stylist, Lukasha moaning, begging for mercy from his god, his prince, his lover—

Nina would write it in a poem. He would write it whenever, wherever, without paper or pens. He would write it in his mind, kiss it onto Luka’s pink-hued skin, whisper those patterned verses against the most intimate parts of his lover. Nina’s dream was to write for Lukasha, about Lukasha, the way he pulled songs and beauty from places Nina never thought to look.

“This is my dream,” The goddess panted, sultry hips moving up and down, clammy palms anchored against Lukasha’s jolting chest. “This is my dream, Luka…my dream…is to be this way forever. Forever…”

 

Deep within, in a vessel Nina didn’t enjoy confronting, he knew forever existed but was subject to dramatic change. For now, Lukasha’s divinity could only hope their love improved each other enough to face the powerful uncertainty of future time.

Chapter Text

Planned but accidentally triggered rebellion started when Lukasha Kaveri came home one night to find his lover making scrambled eggs. Work had been hectic, Nina’s weekend had been beyond awful…despite this, neither mood was sour. The evening’s frost had been wiped from their only window, bright white glares from streets below aiding dim lightbulbs inside; the radio had been left on, hushed tunes creating a reflecting atmosphere Nina must have been deeply trapped inside, given his airy, distant greeting. Luka forgot all about the ballet, favoring an idea that would bring him so close to paradise every wicked deed would be forgotten.

This was a “perk,” you could say, of dating, if Nina wasn’t already considered a perk himself. Luka took the scene in smoothly, going over every dreamy detail until green eyes landed on his boyfriend.

Simply put, Nina was adorable. Dark sleeves hanging over his skeletal frame, torn jeans tight in all the right places, socked feet rubbing together while he leaned against the counter, as close to the stove as could be without getting burned. Eggs sizzled, combining with whatever song played through their radio. Nina’s lips barely moved in his greeting, black eyes not zoned out, but tiredly focused on each stirring motion, heated hand gradually moving the pan’s contents back and forth. This was yet another simple scene that Luka would burn into his memory for later inspiration.

Lately, life had been unhurried and lovely. Someone to come home to, friends to laugh with at work, sets to see, design and build…Lukasha longed for his grandfather’s company so he could make Alexei proud at their accomplishments. Despite the many troubling decades Alexei Kaveri grew-up in, he welcomed all existing types of sexuality and identity, being the only family member who knew about Luka’s preferences before his passing. It would have been nice, talking about how far Lukasha had come over the years—but alas, Alexei was gone, and Nina Pavlov never met him. It wasn’t so much a regret as it was a sad little thought bouncing around inside Lukasha’s head.

Life was lovely, but winter continued brutally, making everyone more miserable and desperate, which in turn resulted in a few rough incidents for Nina over the weekend. He was accustomed to this behavior, naturally, but Lukasha felt a bit more bitter about these occasions lately, since it was his boyfriend being abused. Tonight wasn’t a bitter night, however—tonight, Lukasha longed for nearness, attached himself the moment Nina’s precious form was spotted. Capture, obtain, love. Lukasha wanted that tonight and set out to accomplish these three steps, beginning with a short, leisurely hunt.

“Making dinner?” The artist asked lowly, shedding his winter layers.

“Yeah,” Nina nodded, triggering Luka further when those glossy black bangs bounced over pale skin. “They probably aren’t very good…um…sorry if I wasted them, but I just thought you might be hungry since you didn’t get breakfast.”

“That’s thoughtful of you,” Lukasha hummed. He loved Nina’s voice, especially when its tone sounded hushed and musical, like he didn’t want to disturb the heavens. “Thanks, kotyonok.”

Nina slowly turned when Luka walked forward, fingers immediately worming around the cook’s waist and pressing himself snugly against Nina’s back. He made no further attempts, snuggling contentedly by the stove’s heat, hazy eyes refusing to close so they could admire Nina more. Those dipping collarbones hiding underneath a black long-sleeved shirt that was too big for him, fresh scent of shampoo rustled in his inky hair, clumsy and precious wrist movements moving the eggs around—all sights continuously pulled Lukasha’s affections to an all-time high. Putting an end to Luka’s inner pining, his hands gradually slid over Nina’s stomach, appreciatively feeling up and down, left and right, infecting welcomed venom into his lover.

Music echoed in the background as Lukasha Kaveri became further acquainted with every physical detail about Nina, from sharp hipbones to the narrow angle of his slim waist. Everything felt just as perfect as usual, tugging more honesty from Luka and his overwhelmed heart.

“I just can’t stop,” The designer mumbled into a flustered Nina’s ear. “I don’t stop thinking about you. I always want you to be close…no matter where, when, how. And I don’t want to stop. I’ll be obsessed with my deity as long as you let me, Pnina.”

A short gasp fell from Nina’s lips before his head was turned, lips meeting Lukasha’s in a powerful motion; the spatula tumbled from his limp hand, regaining strength when their main goal was redirected to grabbing Luka. At times like this Nina wondered if these impulsive attentions were what honeymoon couples dreamed about. This must have been the devouring, illuminating love poets wrote. The idea gave Nina a shot of surging confidence. His arms wrapped around Lukasha’s shoulders, thin legs moving them back—they would have landed on the bed, but since Luka abruptly turned their position, they changed course and ended-up colliding with the cool window instead as their mouths messily clashed against each other.

Two frozen butterflies slowly continued fluttering their way through forbidding wintertime.

“Aren’t you too tired?” Luka huffed in concern, breaking away for only a moment. “I know you had a long weekend…we don’t have to…I just want to be close to you.”

“I need to,” Nina begged surprisingly, hanging on Lukasha’s shoulders desperately. Whenever those devilish eyes shimmered, Luka knew he was doomed. “I need to feel you, zaichik…please?”

The hooker received a reply in kiss form, groaning when Lukasha’s heated lips latched onto his jaw, green eyes snapping shut when that familiar rush of adoration overcame him once more. Nina pulled his guard down entirely, letting Luka go for his clothing, more honest prayers tumbling out simply because they needed to be said, heard by worthy ears over and over and over again.

“God I love you,” The sculptor confessed, sliding Nina’s shirt up while feeling over every rib and goosebump. “I love you, Pnina Pavlov. I love you so much…”

“I love you, too, but—” Nina choked on his words, bare back pressing against the freezing glass window, body heat creating a not-so-subtle patch of condensation. “Why do you always do this when we’re about to eat?”

Lukasha gave a breathy laugh right beside his boyfriend’s ear, unknowingly sending a shiver unrelated to winter down Nina’s spine.

“Want me to stop?”

“…No. But…food costs money.”

“We can always make more money,” The taller boy shrugged simply. “But we won’t always have such cooperative bodies, Nina dearest.”

“True,” Luka’s lover panted, letting himself be turned around while his jeans were tugged off. “We better…do what we can, now…”

“Mhm…”

By the time Lukasha retrieved a condom their window was fogged-up entirely, though this was quickly changed upon Luka entering Nina; in a desperate attempt to hold on, Nina wildly clutched and grasped at glass until his front was fully pressed against the window, body fighting between accepting Lukasha’s thrusts or running away. Each moan bounced off the chosen wall, bettering their arousal when echoes relentlessly reminded them of each push, every moan and passionate touch recorded through shapes on the foggy window. Nina was trapped between intoxicating heat from his lover and the cold crystal surface on his front side, whimpering when Luka’s movement endlessly forced pale skin against frosty glass.

Admittedly, Lukasha admired the sight through heavy eyes, watching and wanting to growl at how infuriatingly seductive his boyfriend looked, all whiny and teary-eyed, obsidian hair sticking against the window, shaking hands grabbing for anything, messily ruining fog they created, not to mention the feminine yelps spilling from those cool, absolutely enthralling rosy lips. Luka confessed his hunger, but that also made him a sick man, because food was not what he craved.

“It’s…cold,” Nina pleaded, hot breath creating more moisture where his wintry lips mouthed against. “Luka…cold…”

Caught in the deity’s own inadvertent trap, worshiper Lukasha adjusted immediately, though with much effort, huffing when he pulled out only to push back inside the tight ring after Nina had been turned around and lifted up, now balanced on the window sill and contained by Luka’s steady arms. It wasn’t so chilly in this position, though Nina could hardly think when he now had that beautiful sight to admire, the same one who deemed him goddess. Lukasha looked like a starving tiger with intense eyes, claws teasingly holding Nina in place and gruff words fooling their prey with a kind, caring inquiry.

“Better?” Lukasha groaned, burying his head into Nina’s fragile neck, where marks from other famished mammals stained the divinity’s purity. “Is this…okay?”

“Mm…Luka—”

Nina wailed loudly as the worshiper proved himself faithful, kissing the model’s flesh while pounding into him passionately, reveling in their bodies thumping against the window noisily. Ice clashed with burning heat, Luka’s panting coating more fog onto messy glass behind them before he reattached his lips to Nina’s. That explosive sensation of familiarity thrilled Nina, turning every movement and insistent lick into something new. Lukasha even paused their carnal activities below so he could focus wholly on kissing his sweet boyfriend for a minute, letting him know this was all he really desired.

“Ha…ha—Nina.”

You. You’re all I want. I don’t need anything else but you, the idea of you. Are you the same, goddess?

“L—Luka—” Nina responded audibly, following with a pitiful shout.

“Ahh…Ninaaa…”

The artist could feel himself getting close, prompting him to adjust his bruising grip and use one hand for steadying their swinging figures, thrusting Nina against the window faster and faster. Grateful sobs spewed out from both parties, increasingly loud divinity startling Luka when he suddenly tightened down, back clashing against glass as a swelling finish crashed over him. Nina’s entire being shook from the force, mind a mess and insides convulsing, begging their partner for more, even after his shaft had already pushed every rope of cum out—simultaneously, Nina’s weakening figure slumped downwards, tucking themselves protectively under Luka’s jaw while he sought his own release.

“C-Close,” Lukasha forced out, gasping for air against the condensation. His left hand twitched violently, open palm slapping resonating glass and adding another erotic harmony. “Ah! Ah!

“So good,” Nina whined, eyes squeezing shut with pleasure when he felt Luka’s thrusts get frantic, almost animalistic in their last drives. Each movement forced more tremors and groans from both boys. “Feels s-o good, Lukasha…ah…”

The finish rushed up on Luka, hips slamming and stuttering against Nina’s in shock, continuing their assault even though every muscle and tendon screamed for relief. No one else could devote their time, energy and love to Pnina like he did. No one could make Nina feel so appreciated, so powerful and ever-improving.

What god in any religion could defeat Nina when his knight was this devout?

Finally, their rocking slowly fading into nothingness, warm bodies glued to each other through tender embraces and heavy panting. Lukasha’s ruined window created a breathtaking (not to mention lewd) art piece through smeared moisture and skin casts, though the painter doubted he could ever capture such a moment onto paper. Nina’s back began aching from their tight position, but given the soft mewls still leaving his lips, Luka figured it was okay to stay for a minute longer. At least long enough for some much needed kissing.

“You…you’re so perfect, Nina,” Lukasha mumbled, planting another peck onto Nina’s lips. “You’re like a perfect dream—a perfect dream in the pits of Tartarus…but…I really hope this isn’t a dream.”

“It’s not,” His lover confirmed quickly, panting delicately. “It’s not a dream, Luka. I…I really do…love you. And I think…I think I’m starting to—to finally understand what that means.”

Despite Nina’s worry about being embarrassed, Lukasha smiled perceptively, keeping his pride for later. Both boys groaned when he slid out, leaving Nina’s cavity empty for the time being; Luka suddenly gave a sharp cackle, making the hooker wonder if his boyfriend was laughing at how Nina’s thighs hadn’t stopped trembling from satisfaction. Instead, the dark-haired boy understood Lukasha’s amusement when a robust burning scent previously overlooked flooded his heightened senses.

“It’s a good thing I don’t have a smoke detector, huh?”

 

Luka did end-up making them more eggs for dinner (for an added show he refused to wear clothing while doing so), after which they laid in bed against each other like always, cuddled warmly while another winter storm brewed outside. Nina had been staring at their blue wall for quite some time, imagining several different scenes inspired by that gentle hue; first, he pictured a warm, tropical beach on an undiscovered island, white clouds keeping its location hidden. Second, Nina saw a bright blue sky peeking through canopies of forest trees above, sunlight shimmering down in illuminating beams breaking over every rock and tree stump. Winter never snuck its way into Nina’s daydreams: it had no place in his sanctuary, nor in Luka’s.

“Nina—if you could live anywhere else, where would it be?” Lukasha wondered, fingers trailing over his boyfriend’s bare side.

“Well, let’s see,” The teenager said, feigning difficulty, eyes scrunched with concentration. “Probably…anywhere else.”

Luka snorted over a laugh, nudging Nina playfully before letting him continue.

“I like France from your eyes,” He resumed thoughtfully. “Norway would be nice, too. Maybe Sweden. There’s always America, too; I like that name. America.”

“As for me, I’d go anywhere, too. As long as my little kotyonok is with me.”

Dark blush painted Nina’s cheeks right away, prompting him to stubbornly push Lukasha away as the latter cackled joyfully. Luka let his lover think himself strong enough to force the taller boy off their bed completely before hiding underneath a layer of blankets in hopes it would conceal his pleased smile.

“Since I’m up, I may as well grab our clothes. Want your sweater?”

“Yes, please,” Nina murmured through the sheets.

“Damnit…it’s so cold in here!” Luka complained, hurriedly snatching their clothes off the ground while tugging his long-sleeved shirt back on. “Why do I ever even get out of bed? We should stay there forev—”

Lukasha found Nina’s briefs right in front of the window. As he reached down, the artist finally remembered what a window’s purpose was: to let fresh air in during summer months, to decorate at holidays, and…most importantly…to see in and out of a home.

Previously fond memories broke open Luka’s heart, exposing the horrifying realization that he and his boyfriend had just performed public sex against this window. The fog, the indecent and obvious body prints staining condensation, Nina’s moaning face pressed against the glass—had someone seen them? Worse yet, had someone recognized them as two males engaging in sexual intercourse?

Oh no. No no no no no.

“Lukaaaa,” Nina lightly whined behind him, watching Lukasha slowly straighten up. “I’m cold, too…can you get my sweater, please?”

When Luka turned, eyes wide and fearful, instead of seeing a lazy and delicate Nina Pavlov playfully hiding underneath a warm quilt, all he could see was the scarring image of his darling partner hanging by his neck, grizzly rope wrapped under that thin, fragile jaw, holding Nina up as his lifeless body thrashed frantically, already in an extreme amount of pain from having heavy stones thrown at his frail figure. Black bruises, dented bones, hopeless black eyes bulging out and a shattered, defeated heart was all Lukasha could see.

There were stories similar to this illusioned nightmare. Lukasha’s father read such articles with triumph, proudly running off the detailed inscriptions of outed Russian individuals who payed heavy consequences for their sexuality. Luka felt hatred burning in his chest when that cruel voice replayed inside his head, telling about a gang group who seek out homosexuals with the intent to “get rid of,” adding a story about family members who performed “mercy kills” on a closeted relative as a means of protecting them from worse treatment—

“Any day now, zaichik. Or…did you maybe want to warm up a different way again?”

Lukasha’s brain worked in overtime. After combusting, jumping to negative conclusions based on every other experience in Luka’s life, his mind desperately reached for an idea, an offer, anything, anything to erase that terrifying picture from his mind concerning a broken-necked Nina. How can I defend him? The devotee wondered in a panic, heart pounding harder than ever before, eyes burning, hands shaking. If someone already saw us, lying isn’t an option—if they tell someone and name us on a hunting list, there’s no escaping. What can I do?! We can’t fight them. We have no weapons, no back-up, no family in high places…what can I do? What can I do to protect Nina, to protect US?!

Nothing. Lukasha had no ideas prepared, due to his inherited submission and dismissal of nonconformity, inescapable panic and fear taking over entirely until his darting eyes locked onto a certain blue, white and red brochure laying on their coffee table. One of the ballerinas who knew Luka loved France had given him it—on that paper was information about one of many well-known ballet studios organized in France. In that moment, blue, white and red were the only colors Lukasha recognized, flag throwing itself over their apartment like a shield. Paris, Versailles, Amiens, Reims…France. A European country so unlike its neighbors Luka sometimes questioned its existence.

Blue, white and red gifted him a rather simple idea from above.

The first way to defeat persecution…is to escape persecution.

“…Nina,” Lukasha addressed distantly.

“Hm?”

Nina’s dark eyes stood at attention when his boyfriend hurried to the other side of the bed and threw himself at the hooker’s side, kneeling below as his trembling hands tightly gripped dark blue bedsheets.

“I love you,” He said first, followed by “Do you like it here?”

The teen stared down seriously, thoughts pausing for a moment before turning back into place, though they still felt confusion at the sudden topic.

“Do I like it where? Saint Petersburg?” Nina tried clarifying.

“Saint Petersburg, Tolyatti…Russia. Do you like it here?”

No, the whore answered silently, using his title as a reference for that honesty. I don’t like living in a litterbox. It’s cold in more ways than just weather…I don’t like corrupt governments…I don’t like drunk people…I don’t like seeing mutilated animals…I don’t like living in shacks…I don’t like living below the poverty line…I don’t like eating verminous bread and selling my body for income. There are nice ballets and museums here, but…is that handful of beauty really enough to make you adore an entire culture?

“With you, I can bear it. But…if you let me go now, I don’t think I could go back to being numb. Not when I know how many emotions I’m capable of,” Nina whispered, throat tight at the mere idea of Lukasha dumping him. “I would probably let myself get fucked to death if you left me, because…because now I know what quality of love really is. And being some homeless kid selling my body for shelter and money like a slut isn’t it.”

Lukasha nodded eagerly, fully comprehending Nina’s agony. In the midst of revelation, of epiphany, all ideas became clear, and all suffering becomes excruciatingly understood—such is self-revolution’s power, resulting in mankind’s revolution. Luka stared at Nina with a godlike expression, green eyes shining golden beams like an untouchable immortal; worldly ideas, endless possibilities and accessible dreams glimmered in Lukasha’s soul, revealing him to be the very student of Revolution his grandfather longed to know.

Now, Nina longed for this picture as well.

“What are you getting at, Lukasha?”

“I want to move,” He blurted out, having been waiting for that question his entire life. “I want to move away with you, Nina.”

Hope. Nina never wished for this sensation, only knowing it once during his infancy, only for disappointment and neglect to continuously beat him down until a submissive teenage corpse remained. Hope was bad. Hope killed Nina, turned him into a messy, unstable individual whom adults pitied for his failing ideals. Hope led to action, action led to retribution, and retribution led to miserable defeat.

Hope endangered Nina’s life, the lives of millions, yet he allowed Lukasha’s consumption of his heart to endlessly feed him pretty rebellion paintings.

“We…you…what?” The black-haired boy faltered. “You think we should leave Russia?”

“Yes! I’m sick of living in a place where littering and submission are normalized!” Luka ranted, jumping up and wildly pacing back and forth. The Revolutionist inside him was on a roll. “I’m sick of sneaking around outside with my boyfriend because I’m terrified someone will hang us by our intestines for our genders!”

“Know what I’m sick of?” Nina added blankly, sitting up so he could peer seriously into Lukasha’s fiery gaze. “I’m sick of having to get on my knees and use my sexuality for income. Because there’s nobody to help me out…there’s nobody who wants to help some kid like me out unless I prove useful in some way…”

Yes. I’m sick of seeing beautiful people like my boyfriend abuse and degrade themselves for food and shelter. I’m sick of rich capitalists thinking they can use your body for whatever disgusting thing they want without any consequences because they ‘know a guy’. That’s bullshit!”

“I’m sick of the smell. I hate the smell of smoke and vodka and urine…I hate stepping in garbage and walking through destroyed wildlife.”

“I’m sick of living paycheck to paycheck and bribing people above me because that’s ‘just how things are’ here!”

“And the color—I hate gray,” Nina nearly sobbed, eyes pooling with tears and stomach churning when he thought of that disagreeable shade. “I hate gray so much, Lukasha…”

“Then let’s do it—let’s get out of here.”

Luka dove back towards his boyfriend, grabbing Nina’s hands and yanking his naked body off the bed as he spoke more deliberately than ever before, waving red flags reflecting in his eyes:

“Let’s get the hell out of here, Nina. I mean it from the bottom of my heart. Let’s move.”

“Really?”

“Yes!!!”

Okay!” Nina accidentally screamed, losing total control of his emotions. “But…move where?!”

“France.”

The prostitutka’s heart stopped beating, pulling every image connected to France from a thousand new opened tabs, including ratatouille, Victor Hugo, fashion, the Eiffel Tower, bells, cobble streets, freedom of speech, most importantly, freedom of sexuality and gender, one of the first countries to have such heavy support for LGBT—

“Really?” Nina asked once more, voice gaining excitement. “We can really move to France?”

“Why the hell not?! The best part about Russia is that we can leave! Viva la Vida!!!” Lukasha shouted.

Viva la Vida!!!”

Nina let his nude self be pulled around in an obnoxiously free dance, twirling and jumping and singing as loud as they possibly could without caring about their sleeping neighbors. Possibility tugged at Lukasha’s heart so powerfully he could do nothing but grin and sing, entering a euphoric universe packed with results and Nina, precious Pnina, who felt as equally overwhelmed to the point of tears. That first winter night had produced so much for both fledgling alchemists…if only Nina could see into the future, if only his younger self could have seen what grand chances awaited his poor, suffering soul.

Nina never believed in anything prior to meeting Lukasha Kaveri, the daydreaming assistant set designer and loyal French fanatic. He didn’t believe in luck or fate or chance, but seeing possibility through green eyes, Coldplay lyrics and a dark blue quilt…Nina now happily admitted to believing in life.

Finally.

“Viva la Vida, Viva la Vida!”

“Yes, Nina, yes!”

“I wanna go to France!”

“We’re coming for you, bitch!”

“Haha!”

“I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing, Roman Calvary choirs are singing—”

“Be my mirror, my sword and shield, my missionaries in a foreign field—”

“For some reason I can’t explain, I know Saint Peter won’t call my name—”

“Never an honest word…but that was when I ruled the world.”

The couple sang and sang and sang until their verses faded into sleepy sing-song mumbles against each other’s shoulders, lounging in bed without fearing someone would come barging in to slit their throats. Lukasha should have been concerned about performing public sex against a window, but since Nina made him feel so incredible finding a thought for caring was difficult. Finding care for those who thought he and Nina ill for their preferences was nonexistent. Nina denied Luka’s seducing advances several more times, though they did kiss sloppily every few minutes, so caught up in emotion and anticipation with no other energy outlet available, via their exhausted limbs from earlier activities.

There was no end in sight for this chapter, as there never is a solid end for revolution, whispered vows carrying on through the night and into the rise of the white winter sun.

Chapter Text

In continuation of Lukasha and Nina’s rebellious idea to move away, Luka began making arrangements almost immediately. Between work, love and extensive research, March and April passed unbelievably quickly, May pushing forward an early spring and practically vaulting Nina and his boyfriend into a bittersweet summer season. Normally, Saint Petersburg citizens were overjoyed for summer, dancing blissfully as icicles and snowflakes evaporated, hiding for only a few sacred months, but Lukasha Kaveri didn’t exactly enjoy watching snow melt away—it only revealed filthy, garbage-covered sidewalks and littered streets which he walked over every morning to go to work. Center Saint Petersburg appeared clean and well kept, at least, but seeing such filth encompass their slum surroundings only fueled Luka’s revolutionary spirit.

At the very least, they no longer had to worry about Nina being cold whenever he blessed Lukasha by wearing a skirt.

Summer was a perfect time for sketching, painting and living alike; when Nina wasn’t working or doing laundry, he was modeling for his boyfriend on the bed, loveseat or anywhere inside their apartment Luka deemed inspirational. Two sketchbooks were dedicated entirely to Nina, dozens of skirt drawings and erotic ahegao expressions Lukasha burned in his memory simply for the joy of knowing this beauty form existed. With Luka’s insistence, Nina decided that when they moved, he would cease all prostitution prospects and try his luck at modeling. Life wasn’t this simple, he knew, but if Lukasha Kaveri, a boy who never told lies said Nina would thrive as a male model, there was a large chance that possibility would be proven true.

On the other hand, Nina didn’t worry himself with future failures quite yet. For this summer, he was quite content modeling for Lukasha, whose architecture drawings were becoming fan favorites at work (he never brought Nina artworks along, though they were the artist’s most beloved pieces). If Luka could pester Nina about career endeavors, the prostitutka daydreamed about advances for his boyfriend as well, encouraging Lukasha’s art sharing with people who have inner-city connections. They agreed that the easiest way to achieve their France dream was by a work visa, and so, for now, Luka focused on set designing, but becoming an artist in cultural, stirring France became more achievable with each pretty fantasy Nina could conjure.

Lukasha’s twenty-first summer started grandly and gradually became something more than recorded time the more nights he came home finding Nina lounging on their bed humming ballads under his breath.

Certainly, neither boy had ever experienced such a season before, not in their childhood nor pre-adulthood. Nina looked forward to every morning, every sunrise, every moment, save for weekends spent at hopping dance clubs or secluded alleyways. Putting those dark thoughts aside, Nina greatly enjoyed not wearing layers upon layers of clothing—more so, he enjoyed Lukasha not having to wear layers upon layers of clothing, if only because the teenager was allowed a more open view of his boyfriend’s lush skin tone, those lengthy arms and athletically angled waist. Weather above fifty-degrees meant cheap lemonade (mixed with vodka, of course), a less gray sun and sleeping naked without thick covers on.

The latter fact was Lukasha’s favorite thing about summertime.

Nina wore skirts more often, now, relentlessly teasing, further intoxicating Luka with a new perfume he purchased, though he didn’t mention that it was a customer request. Nina worried about Lukasha poisoning himself with how often he sucked and licked his throat, but the sculptor assured him death in such a fashion would be a merciful way to go, as long as he didn’t end-up in hell and be forced to see Nina donned in a dark blue skirt, only looking, never touching, for the rest of torturous eternity.

“So you’re saying I belong in hell for teasing you with skirts?” Nina giggled, wiggling his backside around as they lounged at the bed’s end together, naked apart from Nina’s skirt. “That’s not very nice, Lukasha.”

“So change my mind, deity,” Luka hummed against his lover’s ear. “Make it feel like heaven instead.”

Lukasha thought he had learned not to taunt Nina the goddess, but practice makes perfect; only after his deity had tormented him for what seemed like forever, purposely moving in slow bounces so each slap downward jostled the skirt against Luka’s thighs did the needy artist comply, confessing mindlessly that Nina belonged not in a circle of hell, but a high celestial sphere in heaven. And wasn’t he right? Didn’t Nina feel something like paradise, like euphoria every time their skin clashed together, whenever those whiney, honest sobs flew off slobbery, red-hued lips?

Such related thriller stories resulting in a passionate, nude embrace accompanied by symphonies made from blithe whimpers and worshiping cries were an accurate conclusion of the couple’s first summer together.

 

June began slowly, time filtering on with longer days, brighter nights and occasional rain pittering against their window; while most of Luka’s ballet company traveled during the summer tour, Lukasha decided he was more needed in Saint Petersburg—he had only just now started planning every little detail of their move, and there was still much work to be done. As for technical aspects, Nina understood less than a majority, simply sitting beside his lover and signing whatever paperwork he needed. Nina didn’t understand talks about the EEA, work visas, permanent residency, why the mention of a K-1 visa was hilarious or anything, really, though his comforting presence was greatly appreciated.

There were many tiny details and great specifics Luka needed sorted out, and while he and Nina could have combined their saved funds in hiring someone to explain what the hell they should do first, Lukasha thought they should save money and figure everything out on their own, per usual. The starving artist studied harder than ever before, pestering his boss about their knowledge on travel, spending days off at the library and airport gathering information, even translating French travel websites and learning how not to piss French citizens off.

Nina tagged along, naturally, inspiring Lukasha with his hazy daydreaming and adorable nodding-off whenever Luka read information page after information page concerning the complexity and lengthy history of visas.

Even though the couple was kept incredibly busy by their worldly ideas and plans for a brighter tomorrow, they always unearthed enough daylight time to adore each other in the safe confines of Lukasha’s apartment, now equipped with black curtains that efficiently hid their erotic activities (and every innocent affection act in between) from nosy city dwellers. Nina’s fears of being discovered dissipated with summer’s arrival, loyally distracting his insecurities by showcasing a warm orange glow over gray Russia each evening, a beautiful painting if Nina ever saw one. The rich green trees hovering outside every city center and village, too, were grand in their own way—Lukasha spent many a hours capturing this scene from the window, letting Nina rest against his legs below, where no one could see and understand why this combination gave Luka such a peaceful expression.

Nina himself experienced his very first youthful summer alongside Luka, earning chances to enjoy the hustling and bustling of Saint Petersburg’s main center, food stations on Moscow sidewalks and every breathtaking, lush emerald landscape sprinting past the subway train. Nineteen summers before could not compare, never brushed the surface of how happy Nina was during these warm months, heated cheeks unable to stop beaming as Pnina Pavlov made his way back home. Soon enough, home would be in France, with Lukasha.

Before that, however, there was an up-coming appointment Nina and Lukasha would be forced to face before they were allowed sanctuary.

Nina had been calm before this point, letting Luka soothe his worries by placating him with gentle, reassuring kisses and lingering touches; unfortunately, Nina’s aided courage ran out on June 15th, the day he and Lukasha visited a nearby doctor for a much needed check-up.

“Aside from saving up, we’ll have to see a doctor and make sure we don’t have the plague or some shit,” Luka had mentioned weeks before. “As long as we’re clean, we shouldn’t have any problems entering France.”

“Right…”

“It’ll be fine, Nina. You’ll see! I probably don’t have rabies. Probably.”

Nina had laughed then, but he wasn’t laughing now as the boys sat in a small makeshift waiting room together, scooting their chairs away so no one suspected anything more. Lukasha found this clinic by word of ear, suggested from a friend with the perk that it was cheap and subtle. Nina wondered if shady French clinics looked as discounted as this one: stained gray carpet, tattered flower wallpaper, chairs with holes and unstable legs, no magazines for entertainment, dim lights that hadn’t been cleaned…well, ever. Still, the prostitutka held a tiny appreciation amount in his chest, since clearing their records of spreadable illness and “dick-rotting plague,” as Lukasha joked, would allow them future entrance to France.

Still…Nina wasn’t exactly what one considered calm.

When was the last time I visited the doctor? Nina speculated, hands wringing together on his lap. The room wasn’t as clean as he expected it to be, which made him feel a little better about himself, and also a little worse, since he now belonged with someone and knew what standards were. He probably didn’t deserve real medical attention…was dying on the inside considered a prescription-worthy illness? Maybe when I was born? …Mom didn’t bring me in when I had the flu that one year…have I ever gotten a check-up before? Well, I guess it doesn’t matter, now. What matters is…

No. Nina wasn’t worried about Lukasha’s results. Luka would be fine. He was as healthy as a wild stallion, aside from being a bit underweight for his height, but that was true with every struggling young man in their generation. No…Nina wasn’t worried about his boyfriend’s results.

He was worried about his own.

A shrill, unhealthy-looking nurse announced Lukasha’s name tiredly, peering out into the waiting room. Nina wondered if she worked here in exchange for drugs. He knew many young women who hooked their bodies out at subways and train stations in return for drugs. Did self-abuse remain just as dark half a level of wealth above?

“Guess that’s me,” Luka exhaled, slowly pushing himself up. A special box of finely arranged tea bags was clutched tightly to his chest, an additional gift aside from their customer fee that would ensure proper care concerning health. Nina wondered if tea bags would be enough of a bribe for the doctor to “toss aside” a damaging diagnosis on Nina’s part. “I’ll see you in a bit, okay?”

Nina nodded, wishing Lukasha could brush against or squeeze his hand without it being suspicious, but knew they had no such luck. Luka did spare him a small smile before turning and disappearing behind a door, leaving his boyfriend in the waiting room with an older woman, a young boy and his mother. Despite having company, Nina felt like the first wilted black rose to die in a bleak, failing garden that had yet to be watered this summer.

So many things could go wrong on Nina’s part. He worried endlessly as the clock ticked and ticked, Lukasha’s check-up taking longer than Nina expected; would the prostitute’s appointment be purposely sabotaged? Would the cops be called when Nina was suspected of sleeping with men? Would Nina be outed when the blood tests came back positive for some type of sexually transmitted disease? These were not so much fears as they were actual concerns, terrible possibilities ruining Nina’s hope for any future plans with Lukasha, lovable Lukasha, who inspired and revived Nina’s very existence…

Calm down, the teen begged himself, sucking in a deep breath and straightening his posture. It’s not like this guy’s an accomplished doctor or anything…he’s just the cheapest one we could find. I’m sure he doesn’t care whether or not his customers have different intimate preferences…he’s just trying to get through another day, like the rest of us. Yeah. That’s it. He should enjoy the tea Lukasha gave him.

Calm down. You’ll both be fine.

All Nina’s worrying made time fly by, and before he knew it, Lukasha exited the backroom, gauze band wrapped around his arm where blood had been taken out for testing. He looked so cool and collected in athletic shorts and that light green t-shirt, the one just a shade off his pale eyes…Nina shook his head briefly, erasing all adoring thoughts in fear that someone in this room could read his mind. Luka didn’t seem agitated at all, having more confidence in their test results than Nina did.

“See? Not so hard,” Lukasha whispered when he approached, noticing his boyfriend’s terrified expression. For being such a skilled actor, Nina had a hard time faking in front of Luka. “We can go in, now; I asked if I could go with you and the nurse said it was fine…are you ready?”

No. Let’s go home.

Nina forced a nod versus confessing vocally, legs trembling like a fawn’s as he followed Lukasha through the entrance down a narrow hallway and into one of three doors.

This room was painted an ever-so-daunting gray shade, poorly accented by a dying plant (most likely a gift from another customer), scattered medical tools and a steel table with no protective covering over it. Luckily, Nina didn’t own any shorts (he politely declined Luka’s earlier offering of red booty shorts originally meant for sleeping and seducing) so his black jeans protected him from the thick germ layer making their home on every surface. Sitting down on an examining table really did Nina in—almost immediately, every muscle in his body tensed violently, shoulders tightening, hands trembling…Lukasha swore he even saw the boy’s pulse skip a beat or two. Even though winter had ended months prior, Nina shivered like he was lying naked in a snow pile.

“You don’t have to be afraid, Pnina,” Lukasha cooed gently, worried for his lover’s laboring aura. “He’s not a perv or anything. He could care less about our reasons for getting blood work done.”

“I’m not afraid of the doctor,” Nina admitted, so quiet Lukasha could barely hear. “I don’t fear him…”

A nervous gulp echoed through empty space.

“I’m afraid of my results.”

“...Oh.”

Although this wasn’t the first time Luka remembered the inhumane, grimy type of work his boyfriend performed on weekends, this was the first time he realized how extensive  illness could reach. The wheels spun in Nina’s mind as Lukasha watched carefully, at a loss at how he could prevent such negative assumptions. Nina obviously had more concerns than what he admitted out-loud: his hands were tensed together tightly, usually narrow black eyes remaining strained in a wide-open position, staring at nothing until turning their attention to Lukasha Kaveri. Then, Nina revealed what his real biggest burden was, hanging and pulling him down bone by bone until confessing remained the only possible method of forgiveness.

“I probably have every disgusting sexual disease there is. HIV, herpes, hepatitis…what if I test positive and they turn me in? What if I can’t go with? What if—”

Nina swallowed shakily, utterly petrified at the most chilling possibility haunting his brittle heart.

“What if I gave you something, Luka?”

Distraught and ashamed, the teen covered his face fearfully, mercifully pleading for himself to get a grip. A breakdown wasn’t helpful right now, not when they were already questionable for planning their appointments together. Nina couldn’t face the unknown. Not anymore. Not when he had something, someone (including himself) at risk for being lost forever. The pressure of having a loved one depend on you was too heavy, especially for an individual like Pnina Pavlov, who only became human in recent months through cold attitudes and punishing nights pushing him into Lukasha’s openhearted arms.

Nina couldn’t lose Pnina Pavlov again. He couldn’t lose everything, couldn’t lose Luka. He just couldn’t.

“Nina,” Lukasha began seriously, having stepped so close his thighs pressed against the hooker’s dangling knees. “Everything will be fine. You’re not disgusting or diseased like some common rat. You’re going to pass all the tests and we’re going to get to France together. Okay?”

Easily captured by Luka’s confident, stern reply, Nina nodded rapidly in agreement.

“Say it out-loud.”

“I’m…I’m going to pass all the tests and live in France,” Nina confirmed.

“Good boy.”

Lukasha gave his boyfriend’s knee a light squeeze just as someone knocked on the door, doctor entering a second later. Like Luka described, he was an older man wearing a dull, disinterested expression, bearing similar features to the nurse who called Lukasha’s name. Nina sat rigid in his spot, hoping he would have enough confidence for speaking after Luka’s pep-talk.

“Pnina, is it?” The doctor (who didn’t introduce himself) clarified. “How are you feeling today?”

“O-Okay.”

“Good. Any previous medical diagnosis I should know about?”

“Uhh…” Nina shared a brief glance with Lukasha, who nodded encouragingly. “I had…pneumonia a few months back. During winter.”

“But it’s cleared up, now?”

“Yes.”

The examination room stayed silent while the doctor readied a few tools, testing Nina’s reflexes, checking his spinal curve, his heartbeat, etc. etc. Nina maintained a neutral expression even through the mouth and throat portion, feeling more at ease when each test passed without complication. Shockingly, the doctor found no serious problems concerning Nina’s physicality aside from the usual, being underweight and lacking proper nutrients for bone growth. Pnina Pavlov was finally glad to share a characteristic with his fellow countrymen, since this verified that nothing about him stood out, and thus, cleared him of many serious conclusions.

Nina’s familiar dooming feelings heightened when the doctor announced it was time to take blood.

“You’ll feel slight discomfort when we make the insertion…then I will inject the tube and draw blood out.”

“Yes…”

While Lukasha stood near anxiously, hating seeing his lover in pain, Nina didn’t seem bothered. By physical pain, at least. When the doctor began, Nina’s stare locked onto his own blood, watching fretfully as it moved through the tube, slowly exiting its host—the prostitutka judged his blood harshly, looking intently as if he could spot disease in each cell, each drop. He dared the white cells to reveal themselves, threatening the crimson pool with all malicious thoughts Nina could gather. No way would a blood test be the fault that kept he and Lukasha from moving. No way in hell would they find anything, whether it be drug paraphernalia or illness that would prevent Nina from starting his miserable life over.

“There. All done.”

“Really?” Nina perked up. Lukasha smiled under his breath.

“Yup,” Was all the doctor murmured.

Luka followed a hurrying Nina into the waiting room again, where the nurse told them their results would be sent to a different facility for testing, available for pick-up in roughly two weeks. Lukasha paid their bill, reorganized their paperwork and exited side-by-side with Nina, whose enthusiasm at finally leaving triggered a wave of positivity in his spirit.

“That wasn’t as rough as I thought it would be,” The teenager ranted breathlessly, though his steps were fast-paced, as if he would break out in a run if it meant escaping their results. “I think my reflexes were a little slow, but that’s okay, right? They won’t keep us out of France because I have slow reflexes—that’s ridiculous! Plus, you said there’s a lot of LGBT support in France, right? So that’s cool. They’ll welcome us with open arms if we wear rainbow shirts…that would be cool. Anyway, I think the blood tests will come back clean, don’t you? Sure, I’ve sucked on a few too many dicks over the years, but it’ll be fine. I’m not dead yet, right, Luka?”

“Right.”

“And another thing,” Nina continued, following his boyfriend inside their apartment complex. “You can’t discriminate against someone if they have a disease—isn’t that, like…some kind of prejudice or something? I mean, I don’t know shit about stuff like that, but I’m right, right? It should be illegal in advanced countries for the government to ban citizens from entering unless their disease is sprea—”

Doors closed behind them, and Nina found himself attacked by Lukasha’s lips pressing eagerly against his own, which remained open and shocked. Paying no mind to their location, Luka’s gangly arms wrapped around Nina’s waist and trapped him against the nearest wall, smaller boy easily joining whatever impulsive charade of PDA this was. Nina found himself melting at the embrace, forgoing fear of being discovered in favor of hands tangling in Lukasha’s wavy hair, lips finally adjusting and smoothly moving themselves against his lover’s. A soft groan escaped their connection, half from Nina, half from Lukasha, prompting the designer to break away with a pop.

“Have I ever told you how proud I am of having you in my life?” Lukasha said hotly, words bouncing off his boyfriend’s quivering mouth.

“Umm…you…you have. Once, I think…”

Nina wanted to blush at how his stuttering response made Luka grin, but since he adored that grin just as equally, his amazed expression remained. Closing what small gap kept them apart, Lukasha’s arms tightened their hold, pulling Nina in for a relieved, grateful hug. Embracing with sweaters and scarves on felt incredible, but admittedly, Nina enjoyed skin-to-skin contact much more severely, even if it did stir inappropriate reactions from their bodies.

“I can’t wait until we can do this for real,” Lukasha confessed, face tucking into Nina’s exposed neck.

“Do what for real?” The teen questioned softly.

Luka answered first by standing back, keeping Nina leaned against the wall while peeling his boyfriend’s right hand downward so it was cupped between his own; once he knew Nina’s attention had been captured completely, Lukasha answered with a single phrase.

Be with each other.”

 

Although the nurse said their blood test results would be complete in two weeks, it was another two after that before Lukasha got his hands on them. Yellow envelope in hand he rushed home, running through traffic jams and taking several shortcuts before finding himself in front of an anxious Nina—his agitated boyfriend hadn’t moved from his spot on their bed, bare feet squirming together and eyes wider than ever.

“Are those it?” Nina asked in an unintentional whisper, tone betraying the attempt at courage.

“This is it,” Lukasha confirmed heavily. Yellow had never been such a daunting hue before today; usually it echoed sunshine, new beginnings, happiness, but right now, staring at the golden paper tightly clutched between his hands, Lukasha Kaveri never felt so uncertain. “Should we look at mine first?”

“No,” The hooker croaked, posture straightening stiffly. “We…we should look at mine first. We know yours will be fine, so we…” Another trembling, terrified breath escaped. “Let’s look at mine first.”

“It’ll be fine, Nina—don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Nina didn’t respond, remaining frozen beside Luka as he sat beside him, sliding the envelope open without preamble. It was strange to think these simple words and confirmations could be damning one way or another; if Nina had the plague or syphilis or HIV, would that stop Lukasha from wanting to be with him? Would he abandon the prostitutka and run away by himself? Would Nina even be allowed entrance elsewhere if he had an illness? There were too many possibilities hovering in the thick summer air. Nina waited and waited, eyes pinched shut as Luka scanned over several sheets of paper.

Following a minute of unbearable silence, broken only by infrequent paper shuffling, Lukasha spoke.

“Clean.”

Nina’s eyelids slowly, cautiously peeled open, hoping this wasn’t a cruel, cruel trick on his lover’s part. Luka was smiling at him, though, expression glowing happily while Nina struggled in catching up.

“Really?” The dark-haired boy breathed. “All of them?”

“Yeah,” Luka beamed proudly. “See? You were worried for nothing.”

Instead of taking the papers for further confirmation, Nina fell back onto the bed with relief, limbs untensing and heart finally soothing its rapid pace after anxiety-filled weeks. Luka giggled, setting his boyfriend’s papers aside and taking out his own—all the while, Nina breathlessly reflected, chest feeling empty and overwhelmingly full at the same time.

“lt’s really clean? Woah…that’s…that’s great. I can’t believe they’re all clean…sigh…what a relief, haha. I didn’t really think they would all be clean, you know, since…sigh. I guess I have you to thank for that—you’re the one who bought me medicine and gave me a place to stay.”

“Oh no.”

Nina’s head shot up, followed by the rest of his body, eyes alert with panic while Lukasha apprehensively read on.

“What?” Nina asked hurriedly. “What is it?”

Luka stared at the paper for another few seconds before looking over at his boyfriend, lips and eyebrows strained in a tight position, showcasing just how terrified he was.

“I’m clean, too.”

Nina snatched one of their pillows and began lightly beating Lukasha’s shoulder with it as the latter laughed gleefully, half-heartedly shielding his head while being scolded with yells and hits.

“Мудак!”

“Come on, kotyonok, that was funny!”

“That was so not funny!”

Luka cackled again and tossed their papers onto the floor, tugging Nina’s weapon away before wrestling his lover, fighting for dominance while still arguing about whether or not Lukasha’s joke was made too soon. Crawling around on their knees, Nina searched for a weak spot in the prince’s battle plan, lunging at Luka’s waist and weakly attempting to push him backwards.

“You should’ve seen how worried you were,” Lukasha bragged, grabbing at Nina’s thrashing limbs, accomplished by the sculptor’s sinful fingers tickling here and there. “It was like taking a puppy to get shots for the first time—”

“Shut it!”

Nina’s attempt at pulling Luka forward backfired, designer gaining more power when Nina’s momentum sent him flying back onto the mattress; with Lukasha at an advantage, he quickly straddled his boyfriend’s slim hips and held those skeletal wrists against the quilt below. Huffing and puffing, Nina still struggled, helplessly worming around in Luka’s hold.

“You may be a power bottom, but you can never defeat a top’s dominance kink.”

“Shut up.”

Make me.”

Nina couldn’t help but giggle at Lukasha’s sass attempt, though giggles turned into panicked yelps when his bony ribs were suddenly attacked with tickling efforts. Any hope at winning the match fell away, Nina rendered pathetic and vulnerable from his lover’s terrible method at getting him to surrender. It worked every time, and today was no different.

“That’s not fair!” Nina screeched like a child, tears escaping his closed eyes as he whimpered and desperately tried fleeing from Luka’s cruel fingers. “Not—fair, Luka!”

Feeling merciful, Lukasha stopped the torture session early, pausing hands resting against Nina’s slim waist so he could hold his squirming boyfriend still. Nina had just stopped whining when Luka ducked down for a kiss, hardly able to stop smiling long enough to press their lips together. The teenager sighed in relief once again, calming entirely despite his lover being the one who inflicted such pleasurable pain on him seconds before; their lips moved slowly, leisurely, no longer fearing suspicion or insult, as they were hidden in their safe haven, arguably either the apartment or each other’s arms. Despite Lukasha initiating an act of softness, Nina controlled their gentle movements, hoping his appreciation and gratitude could be felt through the kiss.

Soon enough, they would be able to kiss each other with the window open, fluttering sunlight embracing the scene fully, creating yet another picture-worthy moment for Lukasha to capture.

When the boys separated momentarily, inhaling deep breaths against each other’s heated mouths, Nina let himself be overwhelmed by emotion that previously would have sent him running for the hills.

“I can’t wait to run away with you,” The prostitute muttered honestly. “I love you, Lukasha.”

An exhale more comforting than Nina had ever heard before brushed over his lips, Luka pressing their foreheads together snugly, grip on Nina’s sides tightening while he confessed just as tenderly.

“And I, you, Pnina.”

While Lukasha possessed and devoured Nina’s body and soul, passionately sliding their bodies together as one being, the teen dreamt they were making love in a French field somewhere, in a different world on a navy blue quilt protecting them from the roughness of free soil and slicing golden crops. Nina dreamt of Lukasha leaning above him, pale yellow sun glowing behind as a heavenly background, wavy brown strands of hair clashing against light hues until falling towards Nina, colliding with his own midnight shades.

 

Nina daydreamed until he realized it wasn’t a fantasy, but the reality they created through butterfly kisses and touches from cold, lingering fingertips.