The Playground – Chapter 3

A/N: Welcome back to the Playground. if this is your first time here I recommend you go to Chapter One and catch up with us! Dante’s not going anywhere as long as Vincent has him.

Dante lay in bed alone staring at the ceiling. Nicky wouldn’t be back from school until later and he didn’t have to work at the warehouse today. He turned the card over and over in his hand as he sighed listlessly.

Why do you do that?

What?

Sabotage.

Dante scoffed and turned on his side. He should sleep. Sleeping sounded like a good idea. He’d only gotten about five hours when he got home, having blacked out cold once he hit the pillow. The panic from earlier had taken everything out of him and he just wanted to rest. Yet restlessness clawed at his gut as he glanced at the address in his hand. He took a deep breath and sat up. He wasn’t desperate. They were ok. There was no reason to take this. Yet…

His phone went off.

“Yeah?”

“You’re moping in bed so it seemed like a good time to ask you out for coffee.”

“Hello, Dom. How are you? I’m great thanks for asking.”

“Fuck off. Get out of bed scrub, we’re going to Starbucks.”

Dante rolled his eyes as he was hung up on. He got out of bed and put on jeans just as he heard the horn outside. He peeked out the window with a smile as Dom waved from their BMW. Dante scoffed slipping on the first shirt he could find, which was a black shirt with a hard whisky graphic on it, and headed downstairs. He hopped in with Dom envying the plush leather seats that automatically warmed once he was in it.

“I hate this car,” Dante said.

“Because you can’t have it,” Dom replied smirking as they pushed up their shades.

“I can go back upstairs?”

“Why? So, you can lay in the bed and stare at the ceiling wondering when your husband is coming back from the war? Nah, we’re riding. You’re not doing shit anyway and I’m bored.”

“Then go to work if you’re bored,” Dante grumbled as they pulled off.

“I wanna go shopping, so we’re going shopping.”

Dante sighed. “You’re going to drag me to a bunch of places that I’m too poor to shop at, drink all their wine, and then bitch about the selection while the clerk pities me.”

“Glad you read the itinerary, but we’re shopping for you dumbass.”

“Me?”

Dominic glanced at Dante. “What the fuck, your birthday’s next week, did you forget?”

“Nnnnooooo–”

“You fucking forgot your birthday again!”

“You’re the only one who celebrates it, of course I forgot. I haven’t heard from Mom and Dad since high school and the rest of my family don’t give a shit—”

“Yeah, yeah, and I’m your only friend which is why you’re in my car and we’re going to Armani.”

“I can’t fucking afford Armani.”

“Good thing I can huh?”

Dante glared at Dom with disgust. “Why do you even have a job?”

“You know why.”

“…what’s it like being rich shit lord?”

“Spectacular. I’m burning that shirt.”

Dante and Dominic had a peculiar relationship that they rarely talk about. He and Dominic were half-siblings. Dominic’s father cucked Dante’s which was the reason for his mother and father’s divorce though he ended up raised in joint by both of them as his dad was soft-hearted and Dominic’s dad didn’t do anything but give money to his mother for child support. It was a very strained awkward relationship all around and got even stranger when Dante met Dom at the Playground on his first day of work and found out their last name was Milan as well. Dominic Milan was disgustingly rich but chose to work because they wanted their own money separate from the Milan estate and they had a problem with being bored. They wanted to be a fashion designer and used their side job to fund this endeavor because as Dominic often said, “When people give you money for things, they think they run you.” Dante never asked Dominic to help with his situation and Dominic had the respect to never ask though Dante was sure if he did, they would offer every penny they could. Dominic was happy to have a brother and Dante was happy to have a sibling, even if it was a nauseatingly rich one. Dominic made it a point for them to become best friends and they had so far. They kept their relationship to themselves, however. Kept down confusion around the Playground and Milan wasn’t exactly an uncommon name. No one needed to be in their business.

When they got to the… grossly extravagant part of town, Dante sunk down in the seat.

“Hey… Dom?”

“Oh god, what have you done?”

“Nothing yet, damn! I had a question.”

“Sure, I’m ready to hear something I don’t want to,” Dom replied as they glanced around, trying to decide where they wanted to go.

“That guy from the other night, Vincent De Pazzi… I served him again last night.”

Dom stomped on the break making the seatbelt jerk Dante’s throat.

“Fuck!”

“You what?”

“What’s wrong with you?!”

“What happened to I’m never seeing him again?!”

“What the hell did you want me to do? He came to the club again for more business and just happened to end up in my VIP room.”

“Bullshit. KT did it and I know she did. She likes her money and he probably paid well for you,” Dom growled.

“He didn’t! I swear. KT didn’t even know he’d been there; she’d been too busy. She didn’t even know who he was until I reminded her that I served him the night before.”

Dom scoffed and sat back in their seat.

“Calm.”

“I am calm. I just… I’m worried cause you acted a little strange that night. I know I teased you about liking the guy, but I didn’t expect you to see him again.”

“Yeah, about that—”

“He didn’t proposition you, did he?!”

“Shut up and I’ll tell you what happened,” Dante snapped. “God. No, he didn’t. We kinda talked. It was weird, we went back and forth really naturally and he offered me that job again. Wanting me to tend his party tonight. He said it wasn’t a big deal that if I showed up, I showed up. If I didn’t, I didn’t. But…”

“You’re thinking about showing up.”

“It might’ve crossed my mind.”

Dom sighed and rubbed their temple.

“Why?”

“I don’t know I…” Dante sighed and leaned back in the seat. “I really don’t know. I’m… I’m curious.”

“Curious? You want to risk going to some wealthy bozo’s house because you’re curious? You want to put yourself in danger because you’re curious?”

“Dom… it’s not like that. I… I want to make that money, but also, I feel like I should. I mean, I don’t feel obligated, but he said if I came, we could get to know each other and I think I… I think I wanna get to know him.”

There, he said it out loud. It sounded even stupider with audio.

“Dante? Do you like this guy?”

“No! Abso-fuckin’-lutely not. I have a man, remember?”

“Then,” Dom shook their head, trying to understand. “Then what is it?”

“I don’t know. I feel like if I don’t go, he wouldn’t even be pissed off. He seems like that kinda guy. But there’s something else about him. Something I don’t know how to put a finger on and I guess I kinda want to. Plus… well, this is the first time I’ve wanted to do something on my own so… Dominic I can’t remember the last time I ever wanted to do anything. It’s really weird that this is it.”

Dom’s grip on the wheel tightened, taking a long deep breath through their nose. “Okay. Okay, so say you go, you know you aren’t going alone, right?”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

“And I’m not letting you out of my sight.”

“You haven’t since I was nineteen.”

“And you’re not drinking.”

“I don’t like drinking on the job.”

“KT can’t know you did this. And she can’t know I helped you. We’d both lose our job and while that means very little to me, it means too much for you.”

Dante nodded. “I’m off the whole weekend. I won’t tell and I’ll spend tomorrow recovering from it.”

“You really made up your mind, you were just waiting to tell someone so they can see how stupid you sounded.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Tsk. Alright. Alright, I guess I’m helping you do this, but I don’t care if I’m invited or not, I’m going. No one turns a Milan away from a party.”

“Must be nice.”

“It isn’t, but it’s useful.”

Of course, because he was going, Dominic made sure they got hair pressed and fingernails manicured for the occasion. He ended up with two new outfits that were way more expensive than he cared to talk about, but Dominic brushed it off as giving a good impression. Dante supposed he could wear this stuff to KT’s place as well. It brought him to about 5pm where he tucked in a black Armani shirt and buttoned up dark burgundy vest patterned with gold floral crests all over the front. He slipped a dangling earring in his ear and put on his watch – the most expensive thing he owned that’d paid for himself when he started at the Playground. He place cufflinks on his sleeves after making sure everything was straight. He hated cufflinks. With a hum, he took a moment to put on eyeliner before going out into the living room with his bag ready.

Dominic sat waiting for him as Nicky walked through the door laughing and talking with friends. A couple of women and men Dante didn’t recognize stepped in behind him holding takeout and sodas. Nicky paused when he saw Dante and smiled curiously as he went up to him.

“Holy shit, you look good babe. I thought you didn’t have work tonight?”

“I don’t. I, uh, got a gig elsewhere as a bartender…”

“One of my friends is throwing a big party,” Dominic interjected. “I suggested Dante be there. Some easy money.”

“Some brother you are, could’ve been getting him more jobs like that,” Nicky huffed. “Well, if you’re going, you’re going. But you should make sure you take it easy tomorrow. You still gotta work during the day Monday.”

Dante nodded and leaned into the kiss on his cheek. “You don’t have to worry about me. Um so…uh friends?”

“Oh yeah, Dante this is my study group. Lily, Sarah, Mike and Ethan. They were the ones I been going through the exams with. I’ve never caught you home so I never had a chance to introduce them. Guys this is my boyfriend, Dante.”

“God he’s so pretty, look at those eyes,” Lily said with a smile.

“He’s alright,” Sarah said with a shrug.

“Chill out,” Ethan said.

“Ignore them,” Nicky said nuzzling Dante. “You smell expensive too.”

Dante smacked Nicky’s chest. “Calm down. It’s nice to meet all of you. Sorry I have to head out. You guys have fun.”

Dominic huffed, having the countenance of a cat who just had its home invaded. Dante chuckled and leaned up to kiss Nicky.

“I’ll see you later. Hopefully with another big jar.”

“Fuck yeah,” Nicky replied. “Just be careful. Call me when you’re on your way home.”

Dante smiled. “I will. It was nice meeting all of you. Come on Dom.”

Dominic stood up, impressing Lily with their height and the fact that they were wearing heels while Sarah scoffed at her. Dominic gave her a smirk and winked at her on the way out. As Dante closed the door, they both heard Lily’s comment.

“God what a back that guy probably has.”

“Gross Lily.”

Dante locked the door and breathed out shakily. Dominic glanced back him, concerned.

“You alright?”

“Y-yeah, not used to that many people uh… in my space. Didn’t know they’d been in my apartment before.”

Dominic hummed. “Yeah… Nicky really should try to appreciate he isn’t the only one who lives there.”

“No.” Dante shook his head. “No, it’s my problem to deal with, ya know. He’s allowed to have a social life.”

“Dante, you’re allowed to be comfortable in your own home.”

“And I am. Majority of the time it’s just the two of us.” Dante’s hand fell away from the door. “He deserves to have some fun.”

Dominic frowned. “You deserve some peace.”

Dante sighed and shouldered his bag. “Let’s just go, okay?”

“…alright.”

Dante was glad that Dominic let it go.

Driving out was an odd adventure. It almost felt a bit cliché when they left the city and entered a somewhat forested area where grand mansions were built on the outskirts. Dante was pretty sure the Milan Manor was somewhere around here with how easily Dominic navigated the roads. Dante remained quiet for the ride, getting cold feet about this. It still didn’t feel like a bad idea despite logic saying it was. But he was nervous. He tried to remind himself that it was just work, it was only work. He would go there, serve his drinks, and then leave. It wasn’t a party he was attending – at least not really. He was just the help.

“You’re in your head.”

“I got a right to be. This is a lot, Dom,” Dante sighed. “How much further?”

“GPS says we should be coming up on it.”

The road curved into another set of dense trees before opening up to a well-kept field and cobblestone road. Dante’s lips parted in awe as it led to a grand manor that didn’t seem particularly from this era. In contrast with most fancy houses he’d seen, this one was made with beautiful hues of gray stonework. It seemed so out of time as Dante couldn’t tell if it were old or new with the way it gleamed in the setting sun. It was lit up well with numerous cars moving in front of it to be parked. Dominic whistled.

“Old money but not old house,” Dominic said. “That mason work is new. Can’t be more than twenty years old. Shit my house is older than that and we’re newbies to the area.”

“It’s fucking huge too. What does one guy do with all that space?”

“Brag about it by throwing stupid huge parties.”

Dominic pulled up to the front and valet offered to take their keys. Dominic held his hand up for the valet to give them a moment.

“You sure you wanna go in. We can turn around, head back to my place and binge watch something instead. You don’t have to go if you got cold feet.”

Dante shook his head. “Nah. I’m okay. I’m here, I might as well take a look.”

Dominic chuckled and got out of the car with him, giving the valet their keys. A hostess met them at the door with a clipboard.

“Dante Milan? You’re early. Mr. De Pazzi expected you to be a bit later. Something about being a bit more indecisive.”

“I bet,” Dante squint. “I’m here though. This is Dominic Milan, they’re—”

“I’m his chaperone. I’m sure I don’t need to be on that list?”

The hostess shook her head.

“Of course. A plus one was expected. Most of the staff brought one since this is their first time working with Mr. De Pazzi. I assure you that things will go smoothly. Please follow me.”

She led them to a backroom and Dante was ready to see something suspicious but instead, there were other staff there, already dressed and fussing over last-minute things. Vincent was among them giving orders and hearing reports about what wasn’t ready and what was. Dante felt his heart skip. This was the most normal setting he’d seen the man in and it somehow made him more nervous. The hostess went up to Vincent with them in tow but the man barely paid her any mind as a cordial smile came to his face.

“I thought you’d make me wait.”

“What made you think that?”

“A hunch that I’m satisfied I was wrong about.” He turned to Dominic and held out his hand. “Dominic Milan, heir to Milan Fashion Conglomerate. I understood there was no relation between you. Wrong again?”

“Dante is my little brother and my best friend by circumstances that aren’t for polite conversation,” Dominic said shaking Vincent’s hand. “Most don’t make the connection until they see us together.”

“That is true as I didn’t. You’re more than welcome here. In fact, I’m honored.”

Dante arched his brow. Wow, no one really did turn away a Milan.

“I’m not really here to have fun, I’m just making sure my brother is taken care of which I hope there won’t be any issues.”

“None. He’s just here to work and that is all I asked of him. Please, feel free to enjoy the party while he does.”

Dominic hummed and leaned over to Dante. “You good?”

“Yeah. We’re here now and I don’t feel like I’m going to get chopped up at fed to guests.”

“Give me time,” Vincent joked.

“Don’t be weird. I’m fine Dom. If anything gets weird. I’ll call or get you.”

Dominic was still reluctant to leave but nodded. The hostess took Dominic away leaving Dante with Vincent. The room felt much smaller, stifling even. Much more than the VIP rooms, despite the room being wide and filled with other staff.

“So… thought I’d hesitate huh?”

“Color me surprised. You seem like the hesitant sort.”

“I don’t tend to hesitate once I’ve made up my mind. What about you? You almost seem happy to see me.”

“Almost? I must try harder. I’m ecstatic!”

Dante snorted. “I’m just your bartender.”

“A good bartender. Come along. I’ll personally show you where you’ll be.”

This house was stupid big and Dante wanted to leave by the time they reached an elaborate glass bar. It was lined with alcohol worth more than Dante’s life and he was a bit skeptical about being allowed to touch it. He frowned and looked at Vincent with brow furrowed.

“Um, is this some kind of celebration? This is a lot of alcohol nobody can afford.”

“Luckily for them, I’m paying for it. The bar is open and free. Give the guests whatever they want. Your jar is here,” he gestures to not a jar but a crystal vase waiting to be filled. “My friends are very generous when they drink well so I imagine it won’t even take you all night.”

“Wait, wait. So, I’m essentially being paid to stand here and look pretty.”

Vincent seemed to give it some thought then shrugged. “If that is how you wish to perceive it. I hired you for your mixing skills, customer service, and your charisma. Everything you need to support those talents of yours is here. If you end up having a bit of fun doing it, I certainly won’t be put out.” He leaned in so that only Dante would hear. “Besides, no matter what, I’m simply satisfied you’re here. This makes us friends now.”

Dante didn’t know why that statement set him a bit on edge nor why the feeling wasn’t altogether unpleasant. Vincent pulled back giving him smirk.

“We’re starting soon. I’ll be back to check on you, Mr. Milan. Don’t worry, I’ll watch over your sibling.”

“They can watch over themselves!” Dante called weakly unsure what else to say as the man walked away. He sighed and he went behind the bar and rolled up his sleeves partly. May as well get comfortable.

People began to pour in much more heavily. Dante expected a crowd of overly pompous rich people, but Dante found that they seem to range from rich to middle class which was… interesting to say the least. He’d guessed with Vincent’s perceived profession; he’d never even spoken to anyone below the 1% line. Yet here some were in untailored suits and discount dresses mingled with Yves Saint Laurent. Dante wasn’t used to it honestly. Wasn’t prepared for such a variety of people, much less that they all were comfortable with each other. As if this was expected. Only a few seemed at a loss and they stuck with each other so as not to be alone. Dorian was among them, drinking heavily as he always did as long as there was an open bar. Dominic stood amongst them, looking rich and powerful in the most effortless way possible. Dante didn’t know how to describe it but, it was obvious Dominic was the odd one out. They didn’t belong. Dominic saw him and made their way over, cutting away from a few people hitting on them. They leaned against the bar and Dante gave them a glass of wine.

“Honestly, I’ve never seen so many rich weirdos mixed with normal people, which is saying something because I am a rich weirdo.”

Dante chucked. “Yeah, this isn’t exactly what I thought it would be.”

“What did you say he did for a living?”

“Eh, some kind of financial advisement or some shit. I dunno, I just serve him drinks.”

“Mm. Well, he is handsome. Been watching him since he came in. How’d a guy like that become interested in a bartender? Sounds a little suspicious don’t you think?”

“Dom, you’re suspicious.”

“Only cause I’m wearing red bottoms.”

Once everyone that would arrive had come in, Dante found that it was dozens in the expanse of this room. Vincent moved among them to the center of the room, a glass of wine in hand.

“Welcome, old and new friends,” Vincent’s voice practically boomed off the walls. “I wanted to thank you all for coming. This party, this indulgence is the least I can do for the wonderful gifts each and every one of you has given me. Though you have all been goodly enough to hire me, I would like our relationship to be more than business. After all, it’s healthy to foster good relationships when you are at your lowest and find others who understand. So please. Take this opportunity to mingle, to walk in shoes you never considered stepping into. Most importantly, remind yourselves how much it was worth to get here. We must always appreciate the sacrifices made in our rise.”

Dante frowned, eyes on Vincent as he lifted his glass. The crowd mimicked, some nodding as though he’d spoken some great gospel only they could understand. Maybe he did. Dante didn’t know but he felt a flutter of something in his stomach at the words and did his best to shake it off. Maybe he should’ve been more curious about what sort of work Vincent did like Dominic implied.

No. It wasn’t his business.

“Dante?”

Oh god.

“Hi Dorian,” Dante replied in his most complaintive voice possible as he focused on making drinks.

“Didn’t expect you to be here,” he said, smiling as if it was some how wonderful news. “Vincent, uh, invited you to work?”

“Yeah. Which I’m trying to do a good job of since he’s paying. Mind not making a big fuss of it.”

“Oh no. No. It’s just… really satisfying to see you here.”

Dante frowned. “Why?”

“No reason. Just… good to see you taking on some better opportunities. You’re better than K.T. gives you credit for. Or even pays you for, for that matter.”

Shifty fucker. Dante didn’t like the way he stuttered and hesitated. He didn’t know if he was tipsy or on drugs again, but something was up and it was sinking a stone in Dante’s stomach.

“Dorian, why is it your business if I’m here or not?”

“It’s not. Just, I introduced you to Vincent to maybe get you a leg up ya know,” Dorian smiled. “Didn’t know if it would work or not when I talked you up. I’m a nice guy sometimes and I like you. Wrong of me to wanna see you do better than the Playground?”

“Wrong of you to interfere in my life, yes,” Dante replied evenly, before he sighed, relaxing a bit. “You’re minding my business.”

“I don’t mean to. You know that. I just… Look it, what you doin’ after this is over? Maybe we could talk?”

“We could not and I could keep doing my job.”

“Come on, Dante. I’m not that bad.”

“You’re not that good either.”

“I just…think we should tal—”

“Dorian? Bothering my workers?”

Vincent approached them with a cordial smile on his face, a near-empty glass of wine in his hand. Dante quickly made another glass for him as he confronted Dorian.

“Just this one. You know I’m weak for Dante. He looks good today.”

“I should hope so. He is serving for me.”

Dante placed the glass of wine on the counter. He was uncomfortable and wanted to shrink away from this conversation happening around him. Dorian already agitated him and he was slowly getting irritated at Vincent as well.

“You know, I’m legit right here.”

“That you are,” Vincent said. “Dorian, why don’t you mingle. I didn’t invite you here to be a wallflower and I’m certain you’ll find more distractions.”

Dorian glanced at Dante before turning away from him. “Right.” He leaned close to Vincent. “I’m just worried.”

Dante squinted at Dorian as he moved away from Vincent who came closer to the bar. He picked up the wine glass and sipped as though nothing happened.

“What was that?” Dante asked softly.

“Dorian is having issues and he’s taking them out on everyone around. He’s doubting my abilities as per our business deal. That is all.”

“Mm.”

Vincent chuckled. “I love how skeptical you are of everything. It’s endearing.”

“You like that I’m suspicious?”

“I like that you don’t just trust everything I say,” he corrected as he leaned against the counter. “Everyone here falls all over my feet to get even a piece of my time. They bow, beg, and barter for me and will do damn near anything I say. But then there’s you who had the audacity to accuse me of drugging someone and even be resistant to all this charisma I’ve worked so hard to refine.”

“Yeah well, I don’t think you meet enough average people.”

“On the contrary, I’ve helped people from nearly every walk of life, but I think they’re all something you aren’t – or rather, haven’t been yet.”

Dante began cleaning a glass, trying to find something to do with his hands in Vincent’s presence. Anything to keep from meeting what he knew was a captivating gaze and a clever smile.

“Oh yeah? And what’s that?”

Vincent leaned closer. “You’re not hungry for anything.”

“I’m not desperate enough for you?”

“Not what I said. There’s just nothing you want. Or…” Vincent tilted his head with a slight hum. “you’re just really good at hiding it.”

“I don’t want anything, Vincent.”

“Oh, first names now.”

Dante paused, making the mistake of looking up at him and seeing that warm smile. His heart fluttered and he cleared his throat, going back to cleaning glasses. Vincent watched him pretend to be busy for a bit, even let a woman put money in his jar and down a glass of 2004 Leroy Domaine d’Auvenay as if it were cheap chardonnay. Dante was a little aghast and it showed on his face.

“Mr. Milan?”

Dante sighed and looked up at Vincent. “Yes, Mr. De Pazzi?”

“Take a break,” he said putting down his glass. “Come with me.”

“Rather not.”

“Rather you not be suspicious of me.”

“Rather we kept it professional.”

“Mr. Milan,” Vincent put a strange emphasis on his name that tingled his ears. “Please?”

Dante hesitated, looking for Dom only to see them chatting up with a few other weirdos. Would they be alright? Maybe so. It wasn’t as if Dom couldn’t watch themselves. He wiped his hands and came from behind the counter. Vincent smirked and offered him his arm, which he took with a sour look.

“Oh, come now. At least look curious about where I’m taking you.”

“I’m actually curious if I’m about to be chopped up and left under a floorboard.”

“Do you want to be?”

“The temptation exists.”

“I wonder about your home life.”

“Try not to.”

Vincent chuckled and led him away from the party. Dante looked back only once as he was taken deeper into the house. It wasn’t a long trip and Vincent unexpectedly brought him through a door that led them outside. Vincent closed the door behind them and let him go to move deeper into a fairly beautiful garden. Dante took slower steps, wondering what this was about. He wasn’t really into flowers and —

“Oh.” Dante’s lips parted as an abundance of butterflies began fluttering about. They came in mass, their gold and crimson hues floated about him and all over the greenery. “I’ve…never seen butterflies like these.”

“And you won’t. They’re exceedingly rare species. I’ve raised them since I was a child. Collected and cultivated them.”

“They’re beautiful,” Dante whispered as one landed on him, its wings flexing. “Heh, I didn’t think they came in gold…or like red for that matter.”

“They don’t often. As I said, these are special.”

Vincent held out his hand and the butterflies flocked about, some landing while others fluttered near.

“See…they know me. They know their caregiver. The Irish had a belief that butterflies were the souls of the dead passing on. It’s why they’re so fleeting. You’ll never see the same butterfly twice.”

“Heh, at what? You’ve trapped them all here. They can’t go anywhere.”

“Precisely. I can enjoy their beauty more this way than in their natural transient state. And I can show them to you.”

Dante smiled as another landed on his cheek briefly before flying away.

“Seems cruel to keep them.”

“Then perhaps I’ll tell you another myth.”

Vincent came closer to Dante, holding up his finger where a couple of butterflies landed, one crimson with stained gold at the end of its wings.

“Where I come from, a butterfly represents a covenant – a contract if you will. Somehow somewhere, a promise was made between two people, giving wings to these creatures and as long as the covenant is kept, they will fly. When a butterfly dies before its time, the covenant was broken in some way.”

Dante lifted his hand, meeting Vincent’s finger with his own and watching as the butterflies crawled over to him.

“Oh yeah? And what kinda covenant produces a butterfly?”

“Depends. Sometimes a marriage,” Vincent moved around Dante. “Sometimes an oath.”

Dante glanced at Vincent as he moved closer, pressing behind Dante slowly. Gave him ample time to pull away, and Dante thought about it. Oh, he definitely thought about it, but he didn’t. Vincent lined his arm with Dante’s, cupping his hand in his as the butterflies moved over their skin.

“Sometimes…” Vincent placed his chin on Dante’s shoulder. Dante couldn’t help but lean back against him, even as Vincent’s arm came around his waist. “It is a friendship… a mutual agreement. Silently made yet honored.”

“Heh, you want a friendship with me?”

“Oh yes. I can’t help but want one. But if it is not wanted, then the desire can easily die with it.”

Dante hummed, his body relaxing more and more from its hyperaware tension. Vincent wasn’t going to hurt him. He… knew he wouldn’t. He didn’t have to fight right now. He didn’t even feel nervous. No, his focus was heavily on the warmth against his back, permeating his clothes from the sheer heat of Vincent’s body. It was on the fact that this close, he was more aware of just how tall Vincent was, how he leaned over to press against his shoulder. The gentle way Vincent’s arm rested against his waist and the callous of his hands cupped against his own. It sparked a heat in his stomach that spread flow like magma seeking cracks to spill through in the earth.

“I don’t…need any friends,” Dante said carefully. “But I think I’d like one.”

Vincent chuckled against his ear and put red in Dante’s cheeks.

“What starts here… can stop at any time,” Vincent’s voice was even. It managed to sound distant and too close all at the same time. “You can choose not to want a friend like me ever. But I hope you’ll stay. You’re intriguing to me, Dante. You don’t want anything from me and that in itself is very valuable to me.”

Dante licked his lips; his mouth dry suddenly as he leaned a bit to look back at Vincent.

“If… we’re going to be friends, then we shouldn’t be this close.”

“Uncomfortable?” Vincent asked, his hold already loosening.

“Surprisingly, no. But that’s kind of a bad thing considering I’m in a relationship.”

Vincent let go easily and stepped back holding up his hands. “Forgive me. It slipped my mind.”

“It didn’t,” Dante accused.

“It did. It did the moment you smiled when you came in here.”

Smooth piece of shit.

Dante rolled his eyes and urged the butterflies to fly away. He crossed his arms as he looked around.

“So… friends huh.”

“Only that.”

“Then… what does that entail?”

Vincent pulled a card from his pocket. “My personal number. Maybe don’t trash it this time.”

Dante jumped awake, sitting up immediately. He looked around realizing he was in a comfortably minimal bedroom with a far too lavish comforter and fuck knew how many thread-count sheets. He sighed and flopped back on his back and looked over at Dominic who was still sleeping next to him in a nightshirt. He rubbed his face and stared at the ceiling. Vincent’s party went on really fucking late and he ended up tending for half the night. The rich bastard hadn’t lied. There was currently almost 12k sitting in Dominic’s kitchen like he’d robbed a fucking bank. The drunker they got, the looser they got. He’d had men and women hitting on him like he was the last oasis to a dying man. It wasn’t much different from the Playground but fuck him he was happy when Vincent had said last-call on those nut jobs. He ended up having a drink with Dominic before Vincent let them go home.

“Why are you up?”

Dante snorted and looked at Dominic, his voice rough. “I forgot where I was again.”

“Mm. Therapist would help that.”

“Don’t talk to me.”

Dominic hummed and turned over. They passed Dante their phone.

“Order us some breakfast.”

“I can by my own—”

“I’m fucking hungry. Order something!”

Right. Dominic had low blood sugar in the mornings. Made them an asshole.

“Your head okay, Dom?”

“It’s fine,” Dominic groaned, curling tighter. “I’m just hungry.”

“Thank you for staying sober,” Dante said gently as he petted Dominic’s hair and began scrolling through a delivery app. “Uh, so what’d you think?”

“Bout what?”

“Vincent?”

“Mm, he’s absolutely gorgeous. Absolutely rich. Nothing unusual other than his interest in you. Where’d you disappear to last night? You were away from the bar. Couldn’t find you. Made me worry.”

“Sorry. I went with him to a garden.”

“Garden?”

“Yeah,” Dante picked a few things and paid with Dominic’s card.

“You never been a flower person.”

“No… it wasn’t just flowers. It was… butterflies. The room was filled with butterflies.”

“Butterflies?”

“Yeah, these red and gold things. They kinda shimmered when their wings beat.” Dante rested his head back against the pillows, picturing them… picturing him. “They surrounded him like they knew him. Sweet but kinda creepy. But… they were beautiful.”

Dominic turned over to face Dante. “Don’t tell me you were sprung over butterflies.”

“No,” Dante shook his head. “It… I don’t know. It felt good to be there. He’s different somehow. He doesn’t bother me and – I don’t know – he doesn’t scare me. I’m really comfortable around him. Or, I was in the garden. He held me a little, trying to flirt or some shit, I guess. But when I reminded him I had a boyfriend he backed off.”

“Sounds like a perfect gentleman,” Dominic said blandly.

“I know right?” Dante scoffed. “I don’t know, Dom. He said he just wants to be friends. Wants to know me. I don’t know what to do with that. I don’t know what to do with the fact that I kinda want to.”

Dominic hummed and sat up rubbing their head before slipping out of bed.

“Well, decide what you’re gonna do. There’s a lot that comes with knowing somebody like Vincent. I don’t know anything about him specifically, but I run with rich weirdos like him. They get interested in something new. They play around with it for a little while. Then they find something else.”

Dante frowned and went back to staring at the ceiling. “You think he’s being a playboy.”

“I think you should be careful and understand what type of guy you’re getting involved with. He’s no Dorian. Dorian’s a fucking playboy. But, he might be something bigger and badder.” Dominic looked back at him. “Spoken from experience. Be careful? Don’t get caught up and don’t make it so I can’t watch over you.”

Dante knew better than to argue. Dominic was protective of their siblings.

“I’ll be careful. I’ve got a man, remember?”

“Just make sure you remember. I don’t think much of Nicky, but don’t be that guy.”


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One thought on “The Playground – Chapter 3

  1. Pingback: The Playground – Chapter 2 | Spilled Ink

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