Summary: He is not dissatisfied
Type: One shot.
Disclaimer: You all know the jazz.
Suggested Listening: none.
Notes: Written as a stocking stuffer for Rekall for the while we tell of yuletide treasure 2007 secret santa fic exchange! Never posted here because...I forgot? Was too lazy? Didn't feel like? Go ahead and pick from any of the above.
Thanks to Tyries for the hasty and fantastic beta. :) Overall this was composed in roughly...uh, four hours, I think. Three for the writing, one for the editing. Hopefully this explains some of the unforgivable SAP. (Does bitch A make up for it? I think he does. But maybe he doesn't. I don't know. Enjoy the fic, damnit.)
All the lights were off, Ran stretched out beneath the topmost sheet of his bed, clear cheeks lit palely by the stark swaths of light which poured in through the iron-segmented window, church-round at the top and flat at the bottom. The lights were yellow and blue, reminders of the city beyond the brick house, and of the world Ran played audience to each day, disaffected and largely incurious now.
He was not dissatisfied. Ran shifted his legs beneath the sheets, listening to the dry linen rustle and watching the fingers of his right hand curl slightly, palm facing the ceiling. A moment later he allowed his gaze to drift past the digits again, back to the bedside mirror projecting his own pale face and arm and body back with immeasurable skill. There was a book resting on the chest at the foot of the bed that he could have been reading (and in fact had been reading, perhaps an hour ago), but Ran did not feel like retrieving it, happier now to simply dissect his features, take note of what had changed and, more importantly, what had stayed the same.
Then, oddly, he found himself no longer staring at his face as he knew it now; rather the face reflected back at him was the face he had worn before, young and round-cheeked. It wasn't until this reflection blinked out of time and slowly, slowly sat up, expression pointed and more aggressive than his own had ever been, that Ran understood what he was seeing.
"Hello, A," he said softly, pulling his hand from over his head and casually rearranging the sheets at waist level.
"Hello," A said, and proceeded to sweep his eyes up and down Ran's frame twice, watching as the clover pulled himself gracefully upright to match his brother's sitting posture. "Where is the man?"
"Working," Ran answered honestly. A was wearing the very same qipao he'd worn for years, looking somehow thinner than usual, slim arms lost in the sleeves of the white garment. He didn't look as healthy as Ran would have liked, though he couldn't really justify this feeling with true visual cues. "Shouldn't you be asleep?"
A's expression did not change; it didn't have to for Ran to know how widely he was smirking. "Not tonight. Is it snowing yet, where he's got you?"
Stifling the urge to protest--again--that Gingetsu did not have him anywhere, that he'd stayed in this house of his own volition, Ran glanced out the window and was surprised to see that it had just begun, a thin, drifting curtain of white scattering down to strike the window and black pavement below. The clouds above were smutty with pollution, charcoal grey, reflecting the lights of the city back eerily, illuminating the buildings to an unnatural extent.
It was snowing inside now too, a cloud of shadows falling silently across the white bed sheets and Ran's white body, disappearing briefly in his hair before reappearing over his eyes and cheeks and mouth.
"Yes," he murmured, and looked back at the mirror to find A frowning at him, eyebrows crooked in dissatisfaction.
"You look so old," A complained abruptly, small mouth set in a childish pout.
Ran had to fight to keep from smiling. He did not look old, only like the young man he had grown into outside the cage, but A would never appreciate this. He'd come to terms with the fact years ago. "I suppose," he replied, the most diplomatic response he could produce.
"And I don't like your hair so short," A continued, eyes narrowing. Ran should have known better than to think he could hide his amusement. "You should have left it alone."
Ran could only shrug.
They spent a moment staring at once another without speaking then, A beginning after a moment to twist his hands together, Ran boneless and unconcerned, still amused by his brother's pettiness. After another moment, however, he glanced at the clock on the far wall and was disturbed to see that midnight had already gone. Gingetsu still had not come home.
"What do you want, A?" Ran asked, suddenly very tired. He didn't like to see his guardian working so late.
A's mouth twisted ambiguously, his hands stilling as his posture stiffened. "To look at you," he said shortly. "Can't I still do that?"
Ran sighed, throwing the covers away from his legs and folding them neatly, resting his hands in the cradle of his lap. "Of course you can," he murmured. "But you don't look very well. I wish you'd sleep instead."
"That's your opinion," A replied, a bit sharply, and was silent for several seconds after. Then he frowned, abruptly miserable and disconsolate. "Are you really happy there?"
Of course, he ought to have known better. A never came just to look. "I'm not unhappy," Ran replied gently, the same reply he always gave to the same question, and glanced down at the floor, feeling it vibrate slightly as the front door opened and closed below him. A looked too, expression falling blank in an instant, even as his eyes continued to burn.
"You know," he murmured, not looking back up at Ran, "I think I hate him more than I ever loved you."
And then he disappeared, leaving Ran alone to stare at his own reflection once more, pale and naked and spotted inconsistently with the shadows of the snowflakes, his expression somewhat sadder than he had thought it was.
He didn't move again until the door opened behind him, quietly, flooding rich light from the hallway beyond in a rectangle across the floor. Heart warming against the unpleasant visit, Ran turned at the waist to smile a greeting for Gingetsu, who, standing in full uniform just inside the doorframe, was currently blocking a great deal of the light, backlit and a bit difficult to see.
"I'm sorry," the man said, hand wavering by the door handle. "Did I wake you?"
"No," Ran replied pleasantly, and without another word got up and went to the door, sliding past Gingetsu easily to make his way down the hall, heading for the master bedroom at the end. Gingetsu followed after him silently, turning off lights as he went. Ran helped by dousing the electric lamps in the rooms below with his mind, quenching in an instant the light that had been flooding up the staircase from the lower hall.
They moved through the dark then, until Ran pushed open the half-closed door of the bedroom and went in, going to sit on the edge of the bed without comment. Gingetsu shut the door upon entering, the soft click practically echoing in the quiet, his heavy jacket rustling on its heels as he walked to the closet and began to strip his way out of it.
Ran listened detachedly as he undressed, doing his very best not to think of A's typically barbed parting remark. He was always like that when he visited, always dissolving into that sullen, unhappy persona at the end of every conversation. Ran tried not to think much of it, knowing full well how much of the act was machinated, designed specifically to nettle him--but it hurt coming from family. He would never understand how A had become so cruel.
Gingetsu had finished undressing. The other side of the bed dipped, rocking Ran slightly from side to side as the Lieutenant situated himself between the sheets, reaching out once he had settled to rest one hand against Ran's lower back.
"You're freezing," he murmured, the low pitch of his voice seeming to press all around him, right up against Ran's bones. It wasn't an unpleasant sensation.
Ran turned, pulling his legs onto the bed as he moved; Gingetsu's hand slid with him as he continued to turn, from the base of his spine to his hip to the top of his right thigh, before finally shifting to go around his waist as Ran stretched his body out beside the older clover's, propping himself up with an elbow dug into the mattress on either side of his chest. Gingetsu's other hand rose to join his first, long arms forming a cage around his own slight torso; but this cage he could live in, silent, at ease, comfortable. He was never afraid with Gingetsu.
Ran never actually responded to his remark, dipping his head after a moment to kiss the Lieutenant's neck instead, a light and unmotivated gesture. Gingetsu was very warm beneath him, arms heavy across his back. One began to stroke slowly up and down after a moment, until Ran at last realized that he was indeed very cold; shivering, even. He hadn't noticed.
Gingetsu sighed abruptly, tilting his face down to nudge at Ran's forehead. "What's wrong?"
"I'm too cold," Ran whispered against his skin, thinking of the weather and of A at the same time. He thought if he could only be warmer, A wouldn't be so miserable, but he had never learned the trick of it. The only thing he had ever known was reservation, frigidity. It was how he'd survived, and now, strangely enough, it was killing what standing he had left in his only family's eyes. "I don't mean to be."
"Then don't sit around naked when it's snowing," Gingetsu snorted, and nudged his way lower to kiss Ran firmly, at once a reassurance and an invitation. One of his hands traced slowly back to Ran's thigh then, drawing out warmth as it went and bringing a sudden involuntary flush to his skin, rising against the chill. Ran closed his eyes and opened his mouth, trying to draw in his warmth in every way possible, feeling the same startling thrill as always when their tongues brushed, almost accidental, and all the more startling because of how rarely things thrilled him.
Later, lying on his side beneath the sheets and watching the snow continue to fall without sound through the windows beside the bed, Gingetsu holding him firmly from behind in his sleep, Ran lifted a hand to scrub ineffectually at his eyes, swallowing against the burning in his throat; torn because of A, warmed through at last, happy because Gingetsu still seemed to know exactly what to do, always. He was at once uplifted and miserable, doing everything he could to keep from crying--because really, A didn't need another excuse to kill Gingetsu--even as the windows and snow began to blur slightly in the distance.
The feeling passed soon enough, Ran mastering himself a moment later as Gingetsu shifted and moved closer and jerked slightly when Ran's hair tickled at his eyelids, puffing out a warm, disconcerted breath without waking. This was something Ran had grown to treasure more than nearly everything else, this privilege of seeing the Lieutenant at his least guarded, his carefully polished control temporarily set aside with his uniform and glasses.
He was privileged in many ways, Ran thought hazily as his mind began to slip away into sleep, slowing; privileged to have a home and two beds and a city to watch, if not visit, and to live with someone who truly valued him, even if this was not expressed in words: someone able to freeze out the clinging insouciance of the cage, and all his years with A, and every memory of the life he had once barely lived.
Strange, then, that the only thing in Ran's mind by the time he had fallen from true wakefulness was a distant and vague wonder, unable to even begin to imagine how A had known it was going to snow.