I had spent my childhood in the cold Siberian wasteland that was Russia. When I was a young teenager, my family moved to Germany. We had hoped for a better life. It wasn't. In a country where we had no connections or knowledge of the secret workings of the society, we were worse off than before.
We ran out of money. At first, we were able to borrow from the prestigious banks and loan offices, but when they realized we could never pay them back, our applications were ignored. My father had to ask shadier and shadier men for loans. Soon we were swimming at the bottom of Lake Baikal in the waters of our debt.
One day, a mafia loan shark came to the door. He said he could give us a deal to end all our debts. All my father had to do was work for him. My father signed his name in blood on the contract and sold his soul to the German Lucifer.
As expected of an inexperienced man, my father fell and broke his ankle during a routine heist. Lucifer returned. He said my father was too injured to fulfill the contract, but as with all contracts, it had to be completed. He suggested that my siblings and I work for him in my father's place. My father grievously agreed. It wasn't like he had any other options. Even if his bones healed properly, he wouldn't be able to move at the speed he used to. We never blamed him for it.
I spent the rest of my early teen years running drugs, guns, or whatever paraphernalia they didn't want the cops to find. I slowly got to know everyone and over time I became a part of their mafia family.
Germany was kind and profitable to them. It made them rich with little effort. It didn't take long for others to catch on. Crime syndicates popped up like wildfires. Soon enough, the wildfires didn't have much left to consume. My gang decided to move on while they still had the money. They offered me a place among them in their new country, America. I declined. I had recently finished working off my father's debt.
They left. My life moved on. I passed the days with my family. We did well for ourselves. We had food, money, even a roof that was all our own over our heads.
I grew bored. I missed the excitement and the adrenaline rush of beating someone up with a pipe. Life in Germany was too mundane.
I wanted back in. I couldn't go back to my old family like a weakling and beg for another job. My pride would never allow it. I couldn't join another mafia here in Germany; that would be betrayal. I had to find a new place.
I left my sisters and parents to find a new niche in China. I heard a successful crime syndicate controlled most of the country and that they were willing to lot jobs based on performance instead of lineage. I had to give it a try; mafias that paid attention to merit were few and far in between.
Now, five years later, I was the head bodyguard for Yao Wang, the syndicate's second-in-command. It was a 24/7 job with my only breaks being for sleeping and bathroom purposes, but I loved it still.
Today had started normally enough; Yao assigned part of the second tier (the major province bosses and their seconds) their jobs for the week as he did daily. Then the first tier (Yao's boss and him) was to hear the business offers of other mafias. The first one to come in was a gang from the Hainan province offering duel jurisdiction there. The deal was denied; there were already plans in the works to take over the whole province. The second one to come in was some southern Italian mafia that I had never heard of. I didn't pay attention to their offer. The third of the day was announced to be a German mafia. Before they came in, I wondered with bland curiosity, Would it be someone I remembered? The party walked in and I recognized them immediately. Roderich Edelstein and Gilbert Beilschmidt!
Gilbert. My former lover. We had dated back in Germany, when I was a member of his father's mafia. It had been a hot, passionate love that burnt out like a dry, rotten log set ablaze by a matchstick. We held no animosity towards each other, but we had only regarded each other with cordial manners since.
I shook myself from my thoughts; I still needed to do my job, even if I did know them.
Roderich looked like the same stately aristocrat I remembered him as. Gilbert looked bored as if it was below him to be present at such meetings. His eyes darted aimlessly in the fashion of those unable to amuse themselves. His rubies fell on me and he smirked his characteristic wolfish grin that was all teeth. I grinned my classic innocent childish smile in return.
I motioned to one of the lower bodyguards to fill in while I relieved myself. I walked out and went down the hallway. I turned the corner to the restroom and stood behind the wall.
He didn't keep me waiting long. He rounded the corner and his face lit up at my sight.
Then he kissed me.
I stiffened and pushed him away. "You don't mean that."
"Only as a greeting."
I glared at him, but to his credit, he shrank back for only a moment and quickly recovered. "How have you been? I've missed you."
"Life's been good. I've been too busy to miss you." Besides, I've found another interest. I thought of my charge.
"Oh well. It was worth the try." He's always trying to get laid, I thought grudgingly.
"Been lonely lately?"
"Nah, just bored."
"No business in America?"
"There is, but it's boring," he sighed. An idea hit him and his face lit up again. "You say you've been too busy to miss me. Too busy being occupied with someone else?" he said sensually.
"No," I said flatly.
"It's funny. We were only a fling, but I can still tell when you're lying."
"So you say." Gilbert gave me a mock salute and continued on his way. I didn't know what to make of him. On the other hand, I didn't think anyone did.
I rounded the corner to return to my job. Yao was there, scurrying in the same direction, not five yards ahead. How much did he hear?
My longer legs diminished the distance in seconds. "Sir," I said to alert him to my presence.
He jumped. "Aru!" he drew the word out. "Don't sneak up on me like that!" Yao was smart, but he was also skittish and had trouble masking his expressions when emotional. He was the mastermind behind the curtain that a select few were allow to lift. He was openly present at today's meeting as a sign of goodwill; usually he watched from a surveillance room.
I kept my face in its calm façade. "I'm sorry, sir. May I ask why you're out here?"
I, uh, I-I came out here for
some fresh air, yeah, fresh air. It was rather stuffy in there, you know. Besides, the Germans asked for a break so they could demonstrate to us some firearms they wish to distribute," he blurted nervously. Yao was a terrible lair.
"I meant without a bodyguard."
"It seemed safe."
I put my hand on his shoulder. "Does anyone know where you're at?" He bit his lip and refused to meet my eyes. I sighed inwardly. "We should hurry."
He hadn't been gone for too long, so there wasn't that much of fuss. Plus, the syndicate must always appear as if in control in front of guests, even if the world as we know it is following apart.
The day was mundane except for when Gilbert demonstrated a grenade launcher. Who on Earth thought it was a good idea to allow him to even touch a grenade launcher!? The rest of the day flew by with the speed of iceberg in a landlocked Canadian lake heading towards the ocean. Eventually, the sun set and Yao retired for the night.
As Yao's bodyguard 24/7, I even watched him sleep. That was for professional reasons, though. Yao had a habit of talking in his sleep. Mostly what he said was idle dream-murmurs, but sometimes he would talk about business. So as a precaution against eavesdroppers, I kept watch every night.
It wasn't always like that. When I first joined the upper level of bodyguards, I only got to guard Yao a few nights a week. I started to push for more and more nights when I heard him mutter "Ivan" once. Since then I had heard him say it many times.
I did one last sweep for bugs while Yao took his nightly shower. I finished just as he walked out in his pajamas. He was wearing my favorites again. They were sky blue with large sunflowers printed on them. I smiled to Yao as he climbed into bed. He casually nodded back. For lack of a better word, Yao was cute. In fact, everything about him was cute, from his girlish physique to his soft gestures and mannerisms to his tastes. He decorated his room with dozens of stuffed panda bears and the walls were covered with traditional Chinese paintings of red raccoons and pandas.
I shook my head of thoughts and turned out the light for him. I stood uncomfortably in the corner to keep myself awake. The technique had worked for years. Hours passed.
Yao turned to me in his sleep. His face was so beautiful and doll like, I thought if I breathed that he might break. "Ivan
" Was he calling me or did I imagine it?
" So I didn't imagine it, but "don't" what?
" Ah, so he heard everything.
"Why not?" He made a painful sound in response. "Did it hurt when he kissed me, Yao?"
"Did you want to be in his place?"
"He was right. I was wishing they were your lips as well."
"Hmma?" He made a sound of pleasant agreement.
"I know you're awake."
"Eh?" He snuggled under the covers, to pretend he wasn't.
"I love you too, Yao."
His head popped out immediately. "Really?" He looked at me with large puppy eyes.
I walked up to his bedside and took his hand. I kissed it. "Yes."
He blushed. "Aru. I-I feel the same- I love you."