Warning: AU, Fantasy, PG-13, Ran/Ken.
Disclaimer: Weiss belongs to Takehito Koyasu and Project Weiss.
Author's Note One: Hey! This is for Gillie, who's been bugging me for a one-shot. This is not a one-shot, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
City of Steps
Ran Fujimiya was waking slowly, as was his custom. Rolling to one side, curling, sleeping, then rolling again. But on this particular morning something felt different. Rolling further he was suddenly halted by something warm and unmoving. Startled fully awake he moved away from what he quickly realized was another person, and blinked around at his room.
Everything became clear then.
He wasn't in his small familiar bedroom in the family wing of his parents' house. He was in his new suite of rooms in the recently refurbished tower, still in his parents' house, but on the other side facing the sea. Their new suite of rooms, his and his new husband's, Ken.
Ken Hidaka, younger son of Kemble Hidaka, head of the largest land holding family on the continent. They grew over half of the produce and grain supplied to the nation's population, and a good quarter of what was traded with the lands to the west. A wealthy family and a prominent one, even if they rarely strayed from the country. Or at least they hadn't while Kemble Hidaka had been alive. It remained to be seen if Eden Hidaka, his elder son, would prove to be as capable.
The realization that he was in his rooms in his home with his husband relaxed him, but only marginally. They were, after all, virtually strangers. They'd only met two days ago when Ken had arrived from his mother's family's home, where the two had fled after his father's assassination. During those two days much of their time had been spent with attorneys and the Empress's representatives, hammering out the marriage agreement. The rest had been split between fittings with tailors to improve Ken's wardrobe, and hasty preparations for the wedding itself. Hardly any time left for them alone to talk or get to know each other. Time for that later, he supposed.
And despite the preparations their wedding the afternoon before had been a rushed affair. A hurried exchange of vows and filed paperwork, with none of the loud, boisterous revelry that usually marked a marriage between two prominent families. Ran couldn't really say he minded, since he'd never been one for crowds or parties, but he was a little disappointed that they couldn't make the circuit between the three temples. He wasn't very devout, but for some reason the idea of sharing that walk with a future spouse had always appealed to him. Perhaps it was the well wishes that would accompany them from the city's populous, something he'd rarely been bestowed. Or perhaps because it was the first steps together in a shared life, and in a city of steps the first few were always important.
Aya would say it was his pride that wanted the walk, and Ran couldn't say she'd be wrong.
He thought back to their conversation two days ago. The wind whipping their hair into their faces as they'd leaned over the iron railing on one of the upper balconies that faced the east. From up there with the aide of bird-glasses they could see the landing platform of the cable car. It had been Aya's idea and as usual Ran went along with it, secretly as curious as his sister was about his future husband.
"Are you excited?" she'd asked him.
"Not particularly," he'd replied, without moving his eyes from the large rectangular box of glass and worked metal suspended from heavy cables which was slowing coming into view from below the edge of the platform. "It's coming."
Aya whirled away from him, raising the bird-glasses to her face as she did so.
"How can you not be?" she asked as she peered across the lower rooftops and balconies to the platform. "He will be your mate. Your partner. The Hidakas are such an important family. Father is beside himself with joy. To be able to serve the Empress and your own family, to ensure my future, and to save this man's life...Ran, you should be very proud."
Though that was all true he didn't feel proud. He felt ambivalent, as he always had. In his position it would be foolish to feel anything else.
"This is the answer to everything," his sister continued. "A perfect solution. Maybe this is why you were born a crimson."
And there it was. The crux of his existence. The red hair and purple eyes of the ancient people, the magic users, the hated ones. And although magic had disappeared from the world eons before, if it had ever really existed at all, the law held firm.
"Yes, there must've been a reason, since I can not inherit," he said with a touch of bitterness.
"It is a stupid law," Aya stated, perhaps aware of how she had sounded.
"And yet no one works to change it."
Aya hadn't responded to that and they'd watched silently as the cable car came to a halt along side the platform. Two men in tan uniforms had come forward to secure it from movement by lashing it to the stone structure with heavy ropes. Then they'd slid open the door and stood to assist the passengers. Often one had trouble transitioning from the swinging interior of the car to the solidity of the platform. But it was an infinitely easier way of reaching the city's wealthier district on the upper terraces than climbing the hundreds of thousands of steps up from the gates or the ports in the west, which were even lower.
Ran had held his breath.
Aya had leaned farther forward.
He could make out the shapes of disembarking passengers, assisted by the workers in tan. After a fare number had passed from the car into the stone arch of the office entrance he'd been able to discern the black and gold uniforms of the Empress's guard exiting the office. Several more got off the cable car and then...Aya gasped and leaned forward a bit more.
"Don't fall," he'd said absently, then blinked as the bird-glasses were suddenly blocking his view.
"He's quite attractive," Aya had said with a smirk.
And she'd been right. Ken Hidaka was quite attractive. Through the bird-glasses Ran had seen a trim young man of slender build, dressed simply but elegantly in a brown coat which hung quite properly to just above his knees. A medium brown which complimented his darker hair. His skin was tanned, most likely from the country sun, and served to distinguish him from the city residents. He was as plain in coloring as Ran was exotic. That alone would cause him to stand out.
"He appears somber," Aya had said.
"His father was recently killed," he'd replied while watching his future spouse disappear beneath the archway.
"That was two months ago."
"Not so long, Aya, if he was close to his father," Ran had gently chided her as he'd lowered the bird-glasses.
"Well, he should be pleased. The Empress has answered his mother's plea and guaranteed his safety. Once he's married to you and sworn to our family his brother will have nothing to fear from him."
"Aya, that's a rumor," Ran had stated with a frown and turned to cross back into the house.
"True. But the facts are Eden Hidaka has inherited, and he's approved of your union, and the assassin's bullets that found his father haven't yet found him," she'd said with the air of someone in the know as she'd followed him in. "Once he's sworn to us he's harmless to his brother."
"One might also say, once he's sworn to us he's safe from whatever his brother might yet face," Ran had countered as they'd entered the hall and started for the stairs.
"If his brother isn't guilty then why did Ken's mother take him and flee? Surely..."
"Aya," he'd said and turned to face his sister's large, deep blue eyes. "Please do not broach this subject again. Whatever the circumstances of his past I...we are his future. I would like his welcome here to be a pleasant one."
She'd smiled and agreed, and they'd gone down together to welcome his new spouse. And he had seen for the first time those amazing, intriguing large brown eyes up close. Those eyes that, despite Ken's most desperate efforts he was sure, revealed everything the young man was thinking and feeling.
Ran settled more comfortably into the new goose down mattress and pillows and looked around their bedroom. The room he and Ken would share for the rest of their lives. It was quite nice. Larger than his other room and quite well appointed. His parents had spared no expense, and it was only one of four rooms that were theirs'. Across from the foot of the bed was the large ornate door that led to the dressing room and beyond that the bath. To the right, across the expanse of the bed room, was the sitting room and its two doors that led to the hall. All in all a luxurious suite.
Though he could not inherit the household, the position of head of the family, or the extensive trade business, he was by no means maltreated. Both his parents doted on he and Aya. Both had hoped he'd be able to make a worthy match despite his...disabilities.
And now he had. A much better alliance than either one had ever dreamed possible. And it fit into their plans for Aya perfectly. Just as she had said. He had to admit that he did feel a twinge of pride that he could bring so much joy to his family.
The bed shifted and Ran glanced to his right, to the lump under the covers that signified his new husband. Ken's shoulders moved and a deep sigh was heard, then the room stilled once more. Apparently he hadn't woken the younger man when he'd rolled into him. Ran was glad. Their first night together had been nice, but not at all what Ran had expected.
After the feast, which had involved family and the Empress's representatives only rather than members of every prominent household in the city, they had been escorted upstairs by servants. They'd been undressed and assisted into robes. They'd been escorted to bed and their robes removed and laid out for them within easy reach. All of which Ran was used to, but judging by his face Ken was not.
Then one of the representatives of the Empress had been allowed to enter and taken his seat behind the screen in the corner, as he was supposed to. And that was when Ken had turned to him and asked that he "just get it over with", which had been equal parts startling and disturbing. This was the man he would spend his life with and he had no intention of starting that life by hurting him. He'd told him so. He could, he'd said, make it quite pleasurable and he intended to do just that.
Ken had merely shrugged in response, but he hadn't fought Ran's touches. Consummation was as important to the legality of their union as the papers they'd signed and the ceremony they'd gone through in his parents' great hall. He had seen to it that they'd both enjoyed it, at least physically. But once the deed was done Ken had refused further intimacy. He'd curled himself into a ball and tucked himself as far away from Ran as he could. And Ran had to admit that he had been disappointed. No one married out of affection or love, but he had hoped that they would at least like each other. He'd hoped Ken would like him.
At least they'd been able to sleep peacefully, undisturbed even by the departure of the Empress's man. Or at least he had. He hoped Ken had as well.
Those amazing eyes had shown him a myriad of emotions in the last two days. Worry, frustration, anger, sorrow. And once, when they'd first met, curiosity and surprise. Not the disappointment, fear, or disgust that Ran had expected and prepared himself for. That had taught him to hope, even just a little. Well, he wouldn't give up, by no means. It was only the start of their third day, the first day of their married life. He resolved to be patient and give Ken a chance to adjust.
The city with its steep hills, structure covered terraces, cable cars, and endless steps was vastly different than the open air and plains of the country. No doubt Ken was suffering from the enormous changes he'd experienced in the last two months, and he was part of those changes. Only Ken knew how he had expected his life to go, and so far he hadn't had a chance to share that information.
Ran glanced to his right at the shaggy locks of dark chocolate colored hair that splayed across the goose down pillow. At the moment that was all he could see of his husband. He didn't want to admit to himself the anticipation he felt at seeing those interesting eyes again. And possibly inspiring something sweet in them.
Aya, he knew, would laugh at him. But not with cruelty.
The bed shook suddenly as Ken shivered and a small whine escaped him. Ran frowned. Uncertain what he should do. As he debated Ken shivered again and whined louder, muttering something that sounded vaguely like a denial. His husband was having a nightmare.
He'd never seen anyone have a nightmare before and he decided he didn't like it. Ran bit his lip and reached over to grasp Ken's shoulder. His father's speech from the feast echoed in his ears.
"Even though you're young, even though you've barely met, you are now responsible for one another. For the life you'll share and the work you'll do, and the pride you'll bring to the Empress, and your families."
Ran laid his hand on Ken's shoulder and gave it a little shake.
Author's Note Two: So, that was that then. This is the first chapter in a story I started in August 2006, and it isn't finished yet. So for once I'll be posting like everyone else, whenever I get another chapter either written or typed. As I'm still working mainly on my other stories I beg you not to hold your breath!
Well, I hope you liked it. Leave a review if it suits you! Thanks for reading!