This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, business establishments or events is entirely coincidental.

The road was wet. It had rained nearly non stop for three days. The street was dark and gloomy and the air was almost painfully crisp. A man hurriedly made his way through a back alley. He was wearing a dark coat and dark jeans. His black hair was wet and clung to his face just a little above the eyebrows. His face was serious and tired, the bags under his eyes revealed lack of sleep. He tried to avoid stepping into the numerous puddles on his way, which proved to be a hard task at five in the morning with barely any street lights on.

"Fuck" he exclaimed just as he soaked his shoe once again. He heard two men laugh and he didn't have to look up to know who they were.

"Having some trouble navigating, huh Marky?" said one of them in a thick Russian accent. Mark glared and said "Fuck you assholes," and walked past them into the building they were guarding.

The name of the restaurant was Borscht, and it was The hot spot Russian dining place in New York. It was run by Dimitri Ivanow, a feared and respected Russian businessman. Everyone knew that most of his income did not come in from the profits the restaurant made. Dimitri was tied to many deals throughout New York and Russia, most of them illegal. Yet when Mark began working for him many years ago it wasn't because he aspired to be a badass Russian guy with possible ties to the mob, no, it was because he respected and loved Dimitri like a father. Dimitri had done so much for him, from saving his life to giving him and education and restoring his self respect. Mark was an orphan who ran away from the system at the age of fourteen. By the age of sixteen he had made some awful choices and got mixed in with bad people and bad debts. If it wasn't for Dimitrii he probably would have been killed a long time ago. Dimitri took him in like a son and gave him opportunities he never would have had otherwise. He even offered to pay for his college, but Mark was loyal and faithful, he wanted to stay close to the family and look after them. He was Dimitir's right hand man, and did everything from being his personal bodyguard to doing odd jobs for him here and there. Mark wasn't Russian, he was just some kid from the Bronx, but he immediately fell in love with the culture and picked up on the language.

Mark took his coat off, threw it on the coat hanger, and headed for the back of the joint. The restaurant was mostly dark now but he could see a faint glow of light coming in from the kitchen. As he entered the lights turned on and two people screamed "surprise" in union. Mark was taken aback but nonetheless he laughed and shook his head.

"You guys shouldn't have," he said to the two faces in the room. They were very familiar to him. Dimitri Ivanow, the man who was like the father he never had, now holding a delicious looking chocolate cake with the numbers 24 on it. Dimitri was a bit shorter than him, he always wore suits and sported a perfectly trimmed goatee. Next to him was Anja Ivanow, Dimitri's daughter, who looked absolutely nothing like her father. She had supermodel legs that were sky high and earned her lots of admirers in the male community. She was thin, with shoulder length blonde hair. By most beauty standards she was gorgeous. She smiled lovingly at Mark and handed him a small square package.

"Anja...this is too much, you know I don't need gifts from you guys."

"Oh stop being such a grouch and open it. I picked it with dad," she said with excitment in her voice. Mark smiled and started ripping open the package.

"Where is Alexander," asked Dimitri in a hushed tone hoping Mark was too busy with opening his present to hear him.

"I don't know, last time I checked he was boozing it up in the back room with some people." she replied. Mark heard the quick exchange and noted the worry in Anja's voice. He would have to deal with this soon, he thought to himself. But for now he was content opening the shiny box. He grinned as he stared down at the content of the box.

"I should have figured, a Rolex" He gently kissed Anja on the cheeks. He then turned to Dimitri "Thank you, you really shouldn't have."

"Ahh it's nothing. Now let's have some cake"

Dimitri took it upon himself to cut the cake while Anja and Mark sat down at a nearby table. He looked at his stepsister in awe. She really was beautiful. She almost looked glowing. Tonight she was wearing some sort of sparkly black dress, which Mark knew was definitely a great designer brand because that's all Anja ever wore. He didn't know much about fashion but he knew she always looked magazine cover ready. Anja also regarded Mark with awe, but a different kind. She lovingly gazed at how his short wet black hair clung to his forehead. She noticed how his rolled up sleeves revealed a pair of muscular manly arms, the kind girls would swoon upon seeing. The kind that made you feel safe and secure if you were ever lucky enough to be embraced by them. But she noticed with worry that his face looked tired.

"What's been keeping you up, you look like you're lacking on sleep darling," she asked gently. Darling was a pet name the family used very freely amongst each other. Everyone and anyone inside of the family was called a darling at some point or other.

"I just had to take care of some business in L.A., and I didn't get much sleep on the plane. Nothing big," he answered dismissively. "How are you? How's the new job?"

"Ugh, don't remind me, it's a nightmare. I don't want to talk about that right now. It would spoil the occasion. What do you have planned for your birthday?"

"Sleep and hmmm, that's about it," he laughed looking at the horror on her face.

"I will not let you sleep through your birthday. We must go out. Casino? Club? Lap dance? You just tell me whatever your mind desires and I will make it happen."

"Did I just hear my precious daughter talking about lap dances?" asked Dimitri setting three plates on the the table. Anja and Mark both laughed and Dimitri continued to a more serious subject.

"Mark, you need to talk to Alexander, I don't know what to do with him," he said all of a sudden sounding exhausted. Mark regarded him with worry on his face.

"I know it may sound silly to you, me of all the people you know asking for your help in this situation, a person like me, telling a hundred guys a day what to do and having them listen to me, but I can't make my own son listen. I just don't know what else to do. He simply will not listen," Dimitri threw his hands up in the air and then slouched back into his chair. Anja looked sad and worried for her father.

"What's he been doing?" asked Mark cautiously. It was Anja who answered him.

"Same old expect worse, he's basically a walking bottle of alcochol, cigarettes and..." she trailed off. She didn't have to finish the sentence. Mark understood the implication very well. It didn't have to be stated in front of Dimitri, no need to put him through that. Seeing his only birth son make a mess of his life was very hard for him to bear.

"Hey, don't worry, I'll take care of it. I'll do everything I can to help him. Just give me some time, and give him some space." Mark knew he'd have to deal with this sooner or later, he just didn't know it was going to happen so soon. He did not want to confront Alexander Ivanow right after getting back from L.A. But seeing Dimitri's face he knew he'd have to step in, and it would have to be tonight.

After they were finished with cake he said his goodbyes and made his way upstairs in the dark. He had no problem finding the room in the dark since he knew the place like the inside of his pocket. He walked through the corridor leading to the back lounge. He knew all too well where to find him. As he opened the door a strong odor of alcochol and sweaty bodies hit him. He took in the scene, two guys he knew and three girls he's never seen in his life. One of the guys, Victor, was making out with two girls simultenously. The other Joe was doing shots of vodka while the third girl gave him a lapdance. And in the middle of the couch sat another guy. Wearing a dress shirt and pants that were atrociously wrinkled he leaned down to the coffee table and snorted a line of cocaine through a rolled up hundred dollar bill. He came up and laid back on the couch with his eyes closed. He looked like he hadn't slept in days. His short dark brown hair disheveled, a bruise on his face and his arm in a cast all revelaled to Mark that things indeed were getting much worse than they've ever been. The man sitting on the couch was Alexander Ivanow. As he opened his eyes surprise washed over his face. Then anger, but he masked it very quickly. With a smirk slowly sprawling across his face he said "Well well well, L.A. boy's back." Victor freed himself from the make out session he was involved in and ran over to give Mark a hug.

"Finally man, welcome back."

"You act like it's been a year, it was only two months."

"True, still I'm glad your'e back. Joe here can't handle the vodka." Joe looked like his pride was slightly hurt.


"What? It's the fucking truth"

"Party's over guys. I need you to clean out of here." The guys looked surprised, but this was Mark, nobody ever questioned Mark. He was Dimitri's right hand man. Questioning him would be like questioning Dimitri. And right now his face was so serious and severe they knew any attempted objection would be ignored or possibly even punished. Alex looked like he was ready to vehemently protest but then he stopped himself. He bit his lip and looked angry. As the two guys left Mark took out a wad of cash and paid the girls. He slowly closed the door behind them. Alex picked up a bottle of half finished rum and took a swig. Then, looking away from Marks eyes he slowly said

"What do you want?"

"You know what I want Alexander." Alex flinched at Mark calling him by his full name, it was impersonal it rarely ever happened. Now it has and it confirmed the worst in his mind. Things were really over. There was no hope. In his mind he relived their first and last night together. It was his father's birthday. He had a huge party at the restaurant. Then a smaller group of people went back to continue the party at the Ivanow house. Mark kept a close eye on Dimitri. He wasn't an official bodyguard, but the safety of the family was always his priority. He was a lion protecting them fiercely. And with the kind of deals and business Dimitri was into they certainly needed that protection. Mark never let loose, never let his guard down. He was always watchful, always careful. But that night he decided to let go a little. After all the old man did tell him to have fun, he didn't need him to be so careful, there were plenty of other bodyguards watching out for anything suspicious. The party was dwindling down and there were no signs of trouble so Mark decided to have a few drinks. He was soon joined at the bar by none other than Victor.

"Hey brother, why are you still here?"

"Why, is there somewhere else I should be?"

"Yeah, young Alex is having a much funner get together upstairs. You know he parties pretty hard for a 20 year old kid," mused Victor.

"Ahh I need to keep an eye on him, I don't want Dimitri to start worrying about him."

"I think it's past worry time, the kid dropped out of college, lives on vodka and cigarettes and well, nevermind." Victor stopped himself. This sparked an interest in Mark. He had an idea where this was going. Oh yes, he had a feeling. He didn't really get to know Alex well until he was 19. Up until that point Dimitrii always kept him in boarding school, and Alex never wanted to be home for summers, so even though they grew up in the same family, it took them a while to get to know each other. When they did, there was an instant spark, a connection. At first Mark figured he liked Alex because he was like a younger brother he never had. Even though they seemed completely different, there was an undeniable connection there. They became best friends. People around them didn't quite understad how two people who were so different could get along so well. Mark was quiet, he kept to himself, he was strong and dangerous when needed. He was also responsible, almost to the point of being obsessed with his duty. He grew up poor and so he never wore anything flashy or spend money on unnecessary things. He was simple. He liked to party from time to time, but he got right up for work the next morning, no excuses. Alex on the other hand was a wild card. He was careless, addicted to alcochol, very funny and open with people. He spent his father's fortune like it was a never ending supply, on parties, drugs, alcochol, cashemere sweaters, fancy shirts, suits and jewlery. He acted like a royal playboy. Lazy, fun loving and careless. Yet him and Mark got along great. They were always finishing each other sentences, they understood one another with no words. And Alex was sure if it came down to it Mark would risk his life in order to protect him. Yet lately Mark was worried, Alex noticed it but kept quiet about it. He knew Mark didn't want to talk about his feelings often, so he left it hoping the other would confide in him at some point. And here it was, the reason Mark was worried. Victor brought it up, he hadn't said it explicitly but Mark knew exactly how he was going to finish that sentence.

"And what," asked Mark sharply.

"It's nothing," replied Victor praying the other would drop it. He wouldn't.

"Come out with it, I want you to tell me." Victor slouched down. He knew what he was about to say would not be taken lightly by Mark. And if Dimitri heard of it, well he was in fear for his own life now. He should have kept his mouth shut.

"Well, there's just been rumors going around, you know." Mark took a sip of his drink and lit a cigarette. Without looking at Victor he said.

"No, I don't. Continue."

"Do you really need me to spell it out? Saba's kid has been running his mouth. He says Alex is a faggot. He says he's going to tell everyone."

There it was, that fact, glaring him directly in the face. Outside Mark was the picture of perfect composure. Inside, well that was another story. He felt scared for some reason. Scared about the bond he had with Alex. Scared someone noticed. Scared that maybe, just maybe he felt what he thought Alex felt for him. No, that couldn't be. No way. He had to stop this. He had to return everything to normal. He turned to face Victor. He grabbed him by the color of his shirt.

"You tell Saba's son that if he runs his dirty mouth again I will put a fucking gun in it and shoot him. Then I will feed the rest of him to his dirty fucking father. Do you hear me?"

"Yes, I hear you," said Victor terrified.

"And don't you fucking ever repeat that rumor to anyone you low life. Now get out of my sight."

Victor scattered off as soon as Mark let go of his collar. Mark put out his cigarette and got up. He slowly made his way upstairs where a party, that looked more like an orgy was in full swing. He grabbed another drink and searched for Alex with his eyes. When he finally found him he was not happy. The boy was disheveled, his fancy white shirt was now hanging out of his pants, one sleeve rolled up the other down. His hair was a mess as some girl kept running her fingers thorugh it while sleazily dancing right next to him. On his other side was a guy friend, who Alex seemed more interested in. Mark went up to them.

"Hey, we need to talk."

"Hey," Alex's eyes were pretty glazed over, yet he smiled at the sight of his friend.

"Sure, what's up?"

"We need to talk in private"

"Oh, okay. Hey Tina will you watch my drink?" The girl dancing right next to him with barely any clothes groaned in displeasure.

"C'mon where are you going? I need you here sexy."

"I'll be back," Alex said laughing. Mark followed him to a door on the far right side of the room. They walked into a bedroom. Fuck, Mark thought to himself. This was not an appropriate place for this talk. Alex sat down on the bed and watched Mark shuffle his feet uneasily as he stood in the same spot.

"Are you going to sit?" he asked.

"No, I'd rather stand." He was about to say it but then Alex interrupted him.

"Have you been drinking tonight comrade?" he asked with an amused twinkle in his eye.

"Yeah, a little."

"Wow, I like it, I'm having a bad influence on you."

"Speaking of drinking. Don't you think you've been doing a little too much of it lately?" Alex's face darkened.

"What is this about? Did my father send you here?"

"No," replied Mark "I'm here because I'm concerned about you." Alex relaxed a little.

"There's no need for that, I'm fine, just having a little fun." Mark frowned.

"I'm serious, I barely drank tonight."

"That's not true, you smell like a bar. Don't lie to me," replied Mark getting closer to the bed. Alex was looking into his eyes. He seemed to feel guilty for a second.

"Fine, I'll work on it. No need for speeches," he whined like a little boy. Mark regarded him for a few seconds and then felt a little more assured. He sat next to Alex on the bed. Alex was still watching him, eyes staring, like he expected something to happen. Mark's head spinned a little. He laid back and closed his eyes.

"I feel bad for telling you to stop drinking when I'm the one feeling drunk." Alex laughed.

"Well you probably had way less than me, I just have a far superior tolerance."

"Don't be so proud of that. It probably means your liver is half fried by now." Alex scoffed "I'm only twenty, my liver can handle a lot more than a few drinks now and then."

He laid down on the bed next to Mark but was on his side. He kept looking at him, like he was waiting for a signal.

"Why are you staring at me, it's getting a little creepy," said Mark trying to diffuse the obvious tension that he felt. Alex swollowed hard. He didn't answer.

"I'm really glad you're here Mark. For some reason I thought you'd be with my father for the rest of the night. But I'm glad you came to see me."

"Me too," answered Mark cautiously.

"I love you brother," said Alex and a strange emotion filled his face.

"And I love you," Mark slowly replied. He got up, Alex looked down disappointed. Mark's mind was doing spins now, but it wasn't from the alcohol. This wasn't what he planned. This was exactly what he didn't want to happen. This strange tension that's been going on between them lately. It just wasn't right. All of a sudden he blurted something out. The second it left his lips he regretted it immensely.

"Maybe you should be more careful about what you do around Saba's son. He's been spreading rumors you know." Alex looked shocked for a second. Mark was sure that he was going to ask him what the hell he was talking about, but after a minute he calmly replied.

"I don't care, let him talk." Mark was outraged now.

"Maybe you should care! This is your father's reputation we're talking about. If you don't have the self respect at least show some restrain for your father sake." Now Alex's face showed rage.

"It's my life! Not yours! Not my mothers! And certainly not my fathers! I will do whatever the hell I want to," he shouted.

"You're such a spoiled little brat. If it wasn't for your father you couldn't live this careless playboy life style you know. You've got things to be greatful for. Stop acting like a snob and show some pride in your name. Besides why would you think it's okay for these rumors to be going around, we need to put an end to this not fuel it more."

"Well maybe they're not rumors," whispered Alex as he got up and walked to Mark so they stood face to face. Mark froze.

"What did you just say?" he asked in a dangerous tone. Alex shook with emotion but he would not back down. "I said maybe they're not rumors," he replied louder.

"This isn't funny, you know what this would do to your father if word got around."

"Here we go again," Alex exclaimed as he threw up his hands. "My father this my father that. It's not about him! This is my life and these are my choices. I don't care what others think. I don't care what my father thinks." In the heat of the argument the two men didn't realize how close they were. Their faces were inches apart.

"You're sick," Mark whispered. "You don't know what you're saying. You're not feeling well."

"I feel fine comrade. Please..." He said with longing in his voice. As if Mark held something he wanted badly.

"Please," he repeated "you know what I want." Mark was startled. This was too out there too in his face. But before he had time to start yelling or throwing things Alex pressed his lips on Mark's with a force he never knew existed. Everything Mark was thinking suddenly went onto the back burner. His mind was blank, the only emotion he felt was an amazing high. And suddenly he kissed back with even more force. Alex moaned as a tongue stole its way into his mouth. Mark grabbed Alex by the neck and Alex held on to his shirt in exctasy. The kiss was so strong and so rough that when they broke it off for a second Alex's lips looked bright red and almost bruised. They looked at each other and then the lust took over again. They started to fiercely kiss and Mark grabbed the other man by his hips. Alex moaned again. It felt so good, so right and so sexy. He felt his shirt going up and over his head. And then the wanting hands began wondering over his half naked body. It was about to happen, the moment he'd been dreaming of almost ever since meeting Mark. He felt along the other man's strong biceps, feeling himself get even more excited at their hard steel feel. He felt a bulge on his leg, apparently someone else was just as excited as him. Mark was in a trance, in a rage. It wasn't the first time he was sexually aroused with another person, he'd been with women before. He had sex with women before, and it was decent sex. He was enticed by their beauty, and performed the act without a hitch. But he had never experienced something like this. This was more than excitement and arousal. This was maddening. He wanted Alex more than he wanted anything in the whole world. Mark's head was swirling with the dirtiest thoughts and nastiest words and it was getting him even more excited. And he was astounded by this. He had never talked dirty to a lover before. This seemed like a disgusting idea to him. But now in the middle of this passionate heat all he wanted to do was pull Alex's hair and call him every name in the book and tell him in detail just what he was going to do to him. He wanted to devour Alex, to demolish him. And then with one whisper it broke and he went rigid.

"What's wrong," a disheveled looking Alex asked.

"What did you just say?"

"I said I want you," replied a confused Alex and reached for Mark's zipper with his hands. He tried to pull it down but a pair of strong hands stopped him.

"This is wrong"

"What are you talking about?"

"We're through here. I can't believe I let this happen. I'm not a fag. And you're not either." said Mark. Alex looked offended and upset.

"Please," he said begging but before he could say anything else he heard and saw the door close. Mark left. Later Alex found out that his father sent Mark on some business to L.A. He was shattered. He made himself feel better the only way he knew how, by drinking and using. He felt a hole in his soul, in his heart, in his whole being. He was severely depressed and the only thing that slightly numbed it was the using. And now after two months Mark was back, and this is what he had to say.

"I want you to stop with the drinking and the partying. Your father's worried. Your whole family's worried."

"I don't care."

"I'm worried." Alex looked surprised for a second. He quickly composed himself again.

"And why would that be different? Do you think I care if you care, comrade?" Alex asked with venom in his voice.

"You need to straighten up Ivanow. This isn't becoming of you. It's not a game anymore. You're out of control. And I promised your father I would take care of it, and I will keep that promise, even if it means I have to babysit you." Alex looked furious now.

"I don't need to do anything!"

"God, don't you ever get tired of playing the spoiled poor rich boy role?" To Alex hearing those words was wort than getting slapped in the face.

"Don't follow me," he tried to say with force as he started walking toward the exit, but it sounded more like a little boy's broken whisper. He opened the door and ran down the stairs and left the building through the back. Mark was right behind him, he grabbed him by the shoulder and Alex turned around swinging his other arm as if he was throwing a punch. He miserably missed and Mark grabbed both of his wrists. The two man stood glaring at each other in the rain.

"Let go of me"

"Not until you listen"

"I don't have to listen to you! You aren't even my real family." Mark looked shocked for a second. And Alex knew he hit below the belt and felt regret, but he didn't show it.

"Regardless, your father asked me to help you and that's what I'm going to do. Party time is over. You're going to start acting like a real man from now on."

"Fuck you," Alex said desperately with a high pitch to his voice. He was past being angry, he only felt humiliated now and wanted to cry. Mark's fingers dug hard into his wrists. Mark was about to shout something in response but what happened in the next few seconds completely shocked him. A car came to a screetching halt inches away from them. And then he heard the shots. All of it took maybe a few seconds but it felt like years to him. He was taken aback but it only took him seconds to recover, after all he was trained for this.

"Duck!!!" he yelled at Alex who looked positively terrified. Mark took out his gun and started shooting at the two men who got out. Both of them had guns and Mark noticed with horror that they were aiming for Alex. He quickly shot one of the guys in the chest and then felt a paralyzing pain in his shoulder. He was hit. He pointed the gun at the second man and quickly fired off four shots, each one brought the man further down until he collapsed in a pool of his own blood. Mark didn't realize there was a third man driving the car until he heard it back out of the alley with a screetch. He ran shooting after it but to no avail. He did catch a glimpse of the man driving it, and noticed a big scar on his right cheek. Once the danger was gone he turned back and ran to Alex who was crouching down holding on to his stomach. That's when Mark noticed it, Alex's shirt was soaked in blood. Fear paralized his body. Alex looked at him with surprise on his face, like he wasn't sure what was going on. Mark quickly kneeled by him and brought him into his arms.

"Oh my God, oh my God" he whispered terrified. Alex never heard him sound so scared in his life.

"Am I going to die?" he slowly asked.

"No darling, you're going to be fine. Don't worry. I won't let anything else happen to you." Mark replied with a trembling voice.

"I'm scared," Alex said crying.

"Don't be, I'm right here. Help! Somebody call an ambulance!!" he yelled in panic.

"Mark..." said Alex trying hard to keep his eyes open.

"Yes darling?"

"I'm sorry"

"Don't be sorry, you've got nothing to be sorry about silly" whispered Mark. He noticed that Alex was losing conciousness.

"Alex! Alexander..." he repeated but the man would not wake up. Mark hugged him close and let out a cry. He remained motionless, hugging the unconcious body until he heard the ambulance sirens.