This Eastern Promises story is slash fan fiction and not for minors. It contains adult concepts and sensuality between men.
If you're underage or offended by such things, you have been warned not to read the fiction.

This was written for the Yuletide Treasure fic exchange in 2008.

Tests of Power

Cousin Shelley


 

Kirill, we don't kill babies.

Kirill sat in the chair and stared straight ahead. Nikolai wiped Kirill's face with a cool, damp cloth.

"Kirill," he whispered, "you are all right. The baby, she is all right." He held the cloth against Kirill's broad forehead for a moment. "We are all right. Da?"

Kirill looked up at him. "I would not have." He shook his head. "If you had not come, I would not have." He swallowed too hard. "You believe me." It was not a question—a question could be answered in dangerous ways.

Nikolai tilted his head to the side in the way he often did with Kirill, a way that was as much a communication between them as anything he could say. He was aware that neither of them knew whether Kirill lied. "Da, da Kirill. I believe you."

Kirill closed his eyes. "You know me," he said. "You know I would not have."

Nikolai gently daubed Kirill's eyelids with the cool rag, not surprised at the way the man leaned into his touch. He knew that Kirill would not have killed the baby for a small reason, perhaps not even for Nikolai. But it had been for his father, Semyon. Nikolai didn't believe Kirill would kill an infant only to save his father. To gain his approval, though, Kirill would do almost anything.

"The baby?" Kirill said, opening his eyes. "She will be all right." Another not-question.

"Da, Kirill. She will have good life." He pushed hair away from Kirill's face, his fingers combing it back. Like you have not, he thought.

That Kirill had been going to throw the baby in water both convinced Nikolai he could have done it, and then convinced him that he could not. The first time Kirill had voluntarily shown weakness had been in telling Nikolai how his father taught him to swim when he was afraid of the water. How he hated the water still. To drown a baby when he'd had such fear . . . . Nikolai decided Kirill would not have done it, because that's the belief that would be necessary in the months to come.

How much of what he saw in Kirill's eyes was his own imagination? He couldn't help but imagine a small boy born into a different family, with a mother like Anna. That boy would not grow up to kidnap a baby and plan its death to earn his father's respect.

Nikolai found himself wondering, not for the first time, if men like Kirill could be born with a mark inside them that would lead them to become hard and cruel. At one time, before he was the man he now saw in the mirror each morning, he might have believed that. But he could not believe that cruelty and violence were predestined like sex or hair color when he looked into Kirill's eyes. There, he only saw Semyon's influence. Kirill's heart was marked just like his body; dark spots marred his soul like bruises on the flesh of fruit.

"What do we do?" Finally, a question to answer.

"We be Kirill; we be Nikolai. What more is there?" Oh, so much more, he thought. With Semyon soon to be removed from power, Nikolai would step into his place. "We be who we are." Who that was, Nikolai wasn't sure.

**

Kirill watched his father fuck the girl. He knew it was called fucking. He'd heard the word spoken by his father and the men that were frequently in their house, and the boys in school. Kirill was twelve, and most of the other boys puffed out their chests and talking about fucking like it was a sport, one that required competition.

The moment Kirill saw his father's back moving in the bed, his stomach lurched. Like most things for which he was punished, he hadn't meant it to happen. But he'd heard shouts, crying, and was curious. Now he watched his father rutting against a crying girl, a girl young enough that she might even go to his school. He might know her. By the time Kirill realized his father was finished and was turning to look at him, he was too terrified of discovery to move quickly. Semyon rose from the girl, the girl who curled in on herself the moment she was free of him, and closed the door. Kirill ran.

When Semyon came into his room later, Kirill felt the familiar burn in his throat that came before he vomited.

"Come, Kirill." Semyon sat on the edge of the bed and motioned his son to stand in front of him. To Kirill's surprise, Semyon pulled him to sit on his lap. He could not remember the last time he'd been invited to do so.

"Men like us, Kirill, we are different. Powerful men, we ask no questions, no permission. We do what we want to do, da? We be what we want, you and me. Do you understand, Kirill? Do you understand what it means to have power?"

Kirill nodded and said yes. He swallowed acid.

"Perhaps," Semyon said. "But if you do not, you will, because you are a son of Semyon. You will understand."

**

Nikolai was Kirill's protector. He was Kirill's father figure, even more so now that Semyon would soon be gone and he would step into that power. What else he was to Kirill, and Kirill to him, he didn't know.

When he looked in the mirror, he saw only who he was now: Driver, undertaker, protector, confidant, and soon enough, prince among these men. Did it matter that he could no longer imagine a life before coming here? That he could no longer remember what he thought and felt before? He imagined, most days, there was no before.

He would soon go from protecting Kirill to having power over him. The transfer had begun long before Semyon's mistake with the girl. When Kirill threatened him with a gun, forced him to fuck to prove he was a man, Nikolai understood then just how much power he had. He did not believe Kirill would have killed him. If Nikolai had refused or been unable to fuck the girl, Kirill would have hit him, would have beat him in front of the whores. And Nikolai would have let him. He believed that's what Kirill had wanted.

Kirill had not watched him in a way that spoke of the satisfaction of controlling Nikolai and making him do something he demanded. His gaze said much more than that. And Nikolai waited every day for him to say it with more than just his eyes. He tried to tell himself that waiting was not the same as anticipating.

The Nikolai he was now told him it did not matter, they could be the same. Whatever he thought now, whatever he wanted, that was all that mattered, and it became all that ever was. He would do what was necessary, and he would be what he needed to be. If he wanted something, it was because the Nikolai he was now wanted it, and being that Nikolai was necessary. It was simple.

**

Semyon had been too busy, but had arranged the swimming lesson for Kirill who was 14 and nervous around water. Kirill liked guns, he understood violence, but he feared the cold, dark beneath the water. He feared what he couldn't see. Blood, he could see.

He didn't like being touched by Andrei. It wasn't intimate, the way he held Kirill to him as they swam out into the deep part of the pool, and perhaps that's why he didn't like it. It was a cold touch, a stranger holding him too close, too awkwardly. But Kirill's fear lead him to hang on tighter than he would have liked.

His father explained that Andrei would teach him to swim, and Kirill would be glad to learn and overcome his fear. Because he knew it embarrassed Semyon.

Andrei dunked him beneath the water and pushed him away. Kirill popped up and gasped, drew a burning breath. "What—I can't—" was all he said, and then his shouts were wordless. He swallowed water, he coughed, he choked on it. He flailed his arms and legs and still kept dipping down. Kirill screamed underwater and sucked in a great gasp of pool water that burned worse as it was coughed out once he bobbed above the surface. He cried and shouted, facing the sun, watching it stretch and shimmer as he sank.

And somehow he pushed himself up again, and found he was closer to the edge and the impassive face of Andrei. Twice more he was sure he would drown, but twice more he bounced up to draw air and moved closer to the safety of the side of the pool.

When he finally reached Andrei, the man didn't apologize, didn't comfort him. He lifted Kirill up to the edge of the pool, got out and put a hand on the boy's shoulder to lead him away, though Kirill coughed and gagged and swayed on unsteady legs. Kirill eventually began walking, ashamed at the tears he couldn't stop.

"When it's sink or swim, you find out what you are, Kirill. You learned to swim. Your father will be happy." He patted Kirill's shoulder and walked ahead, as if the boy's tears shamed him, as well. He said nothing else.

Kirill knew his father would be pleased. And that his father had sent Andrei instead of coming himself, because he was not sure Kirill would swim.

**

"You know I'm loyal." Kirill didn't look at Nikolai.

"You are loyal."

"You know what I am."

Nikolai put his fingers under Kirill's chin and lifted his face. "Is that question, or confession?"

**

"Do it," Semyon said, gesturing toward the girl.

Kirill looked at his father and laughed. He raked his fingers through his hair. "Here? Now? " He looked at the whore, who rose up to her hands and knees, spreading her legs apart for Kirill.

"Kirill," he said, patting his son on the back. "Your birthday present . . . enjoy it. Go." He nodded in the direction of the bed.

Kirill wanted to scream while you watch? but it was unnecessary. Semyon was going to watch, and Kirill knew why. "But . . . not in front of . . . anyone."

"I am not anyone; I am your father. Remained clothed if you are modest, but fuck her."

"Father," Kirill said. He shook his head, smiled helplessly. "I—I can't, not like this."

"Be a man, Kirill." He took Kirill's upper arm and pushed him toward the girl. "Do it now." Semyon's voice never changed pitch or intensity.

Kirill's chest burned. Sink or swim. "I—not like . . . ." He turned back to his father. "Please . . . ." Please, he thought, hit me, fucking hit me right now. Beat me fucking bloody, just don't stand there and look at me that way. Don't stand there and watch me sink, please . . . .

But Semyon beat him, destroyed him, without lifting his hand. His hooded eyes grew smaller; silent, he turned and walked away.

**

"Who we are," Kirill repeated. Then he laughed, a low, harsh bark that echoed in the room. "I can be who I am."

Nikolai pretended it had been a question. "You have power, Kirill. Be what you are without fear, because of that power." His fingers moved in Kirill's hair, pulling him forward.

"Power," Kirill whispered. Nikolai saw the boy Kirill had been, then Kirill's lips pressed clumsily against his, and he wondered when it had happened, when had he realized that he and Kirill were the same? Both became what they needed to be.

Kirill's kiss was rough and desperate; Nikolai felt his lip pinched, and tasted blood. He used fingers in Kirill's hair to urge him to kneel.

Kirill looked up at him before brushing his cheek against Nikolai's hardness. "We do what we want." Not a question, but a pact offered. Begged for. If I kill the baby, if I fuck, if I swim . . . .

He raked his fingers through Kirill's thick hair, the pleading look in the man's eyes wounding something in him, something that came long before this Nikolai. Something still there now.

"Da, da Kirill." We do what we must.