Character(s)/Pairing(s): Japan/Greece, Turkey, Prussia, brief mentions of Egypt, France and North Italy
Summary: In which a chance meeting brings two people together in a strange world of exotic creatures and death-defying acts. De-anon from the kinkmeme.
Warning: Human-AU, Victorian-era circus freaks, big cats, whips and sticks.
Notes:I've been playing around with this idea for a while, and thought I could somehow work it into this prompt with a bit of plot. The setting for this verse is during the Victorian Era, somewhere in the early 1850s and located somewhere in Holland. Also, I must apologize if it all sounds a bit cluttered and jumbled up, since I was trying out a new style/non-linear story-telling so... yeah. Apologies for that o7
There is a cat;
She moves like circus acrobats.
Her fur a lustrous orange,
Her eyes amber flame,
Sureness and grace in both claw and teeth.
She moved much like the circus acrobats – there was a sureness in her gait, confidence in every step she took as her muscles moved underneath her lustrous orange fur like liquid. And like the acrobats, every step she took was one with calculated grace. She was a magnificent creature; magnificent, ferocious and at the moment, extremely infuriated.
There was a snarl, and a flurry of movements before he felt pain searing down the length of his left arm as claws like knives ripped through his sleeve, cutting into the flesh beneath. Kiku hissed sharply, twirling away to safety just as the tigress took another swipe at him with her massive paw. Keeping his eyes on the huge feline, he slowly backed away, putting as much distance as he could between them.
The tigress growled, her amber eyes blazing as she paced irritably, watching his every move. He could feel the agitation radiating off her in waves of distrust. He sighed, tightening his grip around the whip, but not moving, studying her silently with those dark eyes as he contemplated his next move.
How had he manage to get himself into such a situation? Kiku's mind wandered back to that fateful night – a night of cloudless sky and crisp, chilly winds, laughter and gasps of awe slowly changing into screams of terror and fear... The tigers roaring and slashing, the crowd panicking–
Another menacing growl broke the Japanese man out of his reverie then, and he looked up just in time to see the tigress rushing towards him, fangs bared. Clenching his jaw, he raised his hand to swing the whip at her. A sharp crack lashed through the air, and the tigress paused in mid-step, hesitant. Kiku saw his chance and took it, crossing the last few steps and finally reaching the door. He swung the bars shut with a dull clang, bolting it tight. Inside, the tigress continued her pacing, snarling viciously at him through the bars. With a defeated sigh and his back against the wall, he slowly sunk to sit himself on the ground.
He was in a downright fix, and that was, in his humble opinion, saying quite a lot.
Kiku continued to watch the tigress pace around the pen when he abruptly caught the faint whiff of tobacco and burnt ash and heard the soft crunch of boots against the gravel. He looked up to see a figure approaching him; a tall European with skin like radiant bronze and longish brown hair.
"She can smell the fear in you." The newcomer said, his eyes still trained on the tigress before he turned to rest his gaze upon Kiku. "Like you're a big, juicy steak."
Kiku noted the slight huskiness in the man's voice, much like the soft, gentle purr of a cat, and his eyes were like the colour of the sea and sky – green and blue coalesced together with an luster to them that he couldn't quite put a finger on. He blinked, uncertain of how to respond, only to have the European lean over him.
"Herakles Karpusi." The man introduced himself simply, one hand extended towards Kiku and after a moment's hesitation, Kiku reached for that hand and slowly pulled himself back up to his feet, wincing slightly as his left arm throbbed.
"Thank you." He saw a flicker of concern crossing Herakles' features briefly, and he bowed politely towards the man, offering him a reassuring smile. "My name is Honda Kiku."
Herakles studied the scratches on Kiku's arm silently, before deciding that it wasn't life-threatening and tilted his head slightly.
"You're quite a long way from home, aren't you?"
Kiku thought then of the woodblock paintings hanging in his mother's room, of his father seated at the table, practising calligraphy with his brush late into the night and of the scent of tea, rice and soused mackerel... A tiny part of him ached for home. He shook it away as quickly as he'd felt it.
"Indeed I am. The farthest I've ever been away before, in fact."
The European seem to understand and smiled softly. It was the way of the Cirque– people came and went, and it was not unusual to have foreigners who travelled from exotic lands. Herakles himself was no exception. He took a slow drag from the cigarette in his hands, before letting it fall to the ground and putting it out with his foot, and proceeded to approach the cage. Kiku watched the man, wondering if he should continue to speak, when Herakles did the unthinkable and–
–reached through the bars towards the big cat. Herakles called out to her and miraculously, the tigress didn't bite off his hand. Instead, she approached him and allowed him to stroke her head while watching him with those fiery eyes.
"Éla edó̱, Ártemis. Don't be difficult." Herakles spoke to her soothingly as if she were nothing more but an oversized house pet.
Kiku could only stare in amazement. He heard Herakles calling the tigress... something, in that unfamilar word, and while he didn't understand its meaning, he thought it sounded beautiful – like a name rolling lazily off a lover's tongue, sweet like honey. It intrigued him, much like how Herakles intrigued him and it was only then Kiku realized, with slight embarrassment, he'd been studying the man's physique. Herakles didn't seem to mind though, or rather, he didn't seem to notice.
Herakles gestured him to come forward. Slowly, Kiku moved to stand beside him by the cage, watching the tigress warily. He glanced at Herakles, who nodded encouragingly, and tentatively reached through the bars to run his fingers gently through that orange fur.
The tigress twitched her ears a little and Kiku had expected her to turn and bite him. But she only sniffed lazily, and rumbling softly at the back of her throat, leaned closer to nuzzle her head against Herakles' and his hands. Kiku laughed in relief then, his heart suddenly feeling lighter.
Perhaps he might be able to do this after all.
There is a song;
Melodies of a distant land.
Of warriors dancing,
Of maidens weaving,
A story painted from silk and steel.
The Grecian was a mystery, Kiku thought to himself. Upon first meeting, one would never think much of him, save perhaps to wonder about that thick, fly-away hair and with the odd little bit that rebellious stuck out at the back of his head; or about how cats mysteriously increased tenfold in numbers whenever he was around, strolling after him like a languid little feline army, as if he were bathed in the sweetest scent of milk; or about how amidst that laid-back, carefree cloak he seem perpetually shrouded in, there was a fierce keenness in those teal eyes. Kiku wondered if the intensity of Herakles' fiery gaze matched the fire he so carefully kept wrapped within the folds of his own heart.
He cringed inwardly, his cheeks colouring when he realized he had been staring – he coughed, no, watching– watching Herakles again as he trained, twirling gracefully in the air, the silk ribbons wrapped all around that sculpted bronze physique that Kiku couldn't seem to tear his gaze away from.
You're being very improper, Honda-san, he chided himself silently.
Even so, he continued to watch, enraptured.
Kiku had never watched aerial silk acrobatics before, so it fascinated him how a person could virtually keep themselves suspended up in the air with only two large and long pieces of silk ribbons wrapped around their body. There was no safety net or safety line, so a miscalculate jump or a slip of a finger or toe, even for a mere mili-second could very well send them plunging down to their deaths. It was dangerous and horrifying... and yet Kiku couldn't help but feel a strange thrill, feel the adrenaline rush through him whenever he watched Herakles spinning through the air – his toned muscles rippling with each swing; his limbs bound with silk as he hung precariously in the air; his movements both fluid and forceful at the same time.
After Herakles was done with his training, the pair would head to the tigers' pen, and with the acrobat's help, Kiku would learn how to train the big cats and to slowly gain their trust. It was during these "private lessons" (as Herakles liked to call them) that Kiku learnt how the Grecian had been the long-time friend of the previous tiger tamer and due to his calm and quiet nature, the big cats never seemed to mind his presence – in fact, they seemed livelier whenever he was around and were openly affectionate with him.
It was during these times that Kiku also found himself slowly opening up to Herakles, sharing with him tales of his home back in Japan: how the wanderlust had woken up in him the day he met a Dutch merchant, how he finally decided to follow the merchant and sail across the ocean to new lands, how one day in Holland, he'd decided to attend the Cirque night show...
"Aahhh, Gustav." Herakles sighed, a tinge of sorrow in his voice.
Kiku said nothing, nursing the can of beer in his hands, before lifting it to his lips to take a quick sip. He understood Herakles' sadness. That fateful night he'd attended the circus was also the night where Gustav, the former tiger tamer, got into a drunken fight with some thugs, resulting in his death. The thugs then broke the locks on the tiger pens, releasing the angry felines into the ring. Amidst all the chaos, Kiku somehow managed to get the tigers' attention, and using himself as bait, lured the big cats away from the crowd and out into the open when he and the other circus members were able to work together and put them back into their cages. The Ringmaster was grateful for Kiku's quick-thinking, and offered him a job as the new Tamer of Beasts.
"You were very brave back then," Herakles said, a touch of respect in his voice, his lips quirking upwards in a tiny smile.
Kiku only chuckled modestly, accepting the cigarette Herakles offered him and taking a slow drag.
"I did what anyone might have done in that situation."
"But no one else did anything. Except you."
"Well... they are tigers, Herakles-san. One can't really blame them if they didn't want to masquerade as cat food."
This time, it was Herakles' turn to laugh. "Probably. Even so, I'm glad you did. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to meet."
Kiku could only smile at that. They fell into a comfortable silence for a moment, passing the cigarette wordlessly back and forth, sipping their beers as they watched the tigers relaxing in their pens.
"What if we were personifications of our native lands?"
Brows furrowed, Kiku glanced back at Herakles uncertainly.
"Yeah... What if you represented the Empire of Japan in human form? Much like how Eros was the embodiment of Love in the flesh, and his wife Psyche was Soul."
"I don't think I am worthy enough to carry the weight of my nation upon my shoulders, let alone be the face of it."
"I think you would. Your mannerisms speak volumes of the people of your land. Also, you are beautiful enough, just like how Iapo̱nía must be a beautiful land."
Kiku blushed. "Iapo̱nía?"
Herakles smiled. "Yes. It's Greek for 'Japan'. That's what I'd call you, if you were 'Japan'."
Kiku crinkled his nose slightly in amusement. "You have quite the imagination sometimes, Herakles-san. Not surprising I suppose, since your people bore epics such as the Iliad and the Odyssey."
A pause, the acrid and woody smell of tobacco drifting lightly in the breeze, and then–
"I guess I would call you 'Greece', if you were your nation's humanesque form."
"And how do you say that your native tongue?"
"... 'Girisha'. I would call you 'Girisha-san'."
"I like the sound of that."
There were two rivals,
Who never saw eye-to-eye.
A ruler of day and light
A ruler of night and dark
Sun and Moon; to each their own.
"Well, here's an idea: we can just whore the brat out. I'm sure he can earn at least twenty percent of the debt within the first night."
"Just because I enjoy it, doesn't mean I don't have my standards."
"Well yea', 'course ya have standards. They're just very low ones."
"And you don't have any, nor do you even get any."
" Yea', that's why I said we should whore ya out! They'd all rather tap ya arse–"
"- and... huh? Why ya little, I'll teach ya–!"
Several punches and a lot of scuffling later, Kiku found himself, along with Hassan and Feliciano, sandwiched between the two men, trying to prevent them from tearing each other apart. The Ringmaster only shook his head disapprovingly, running a hand through pale hair.
"Now, c'mon you two! Beating each other up isn't gonna help solve our debt problem and no, Sadiq, we're not making Herakles take on a second job as circus prostitute."
If there was one person that could make Herakles lose complete cool, Sadiq Adnan would never fail to deliver in that department. Kiku found it a little amusing at times, if not overwhelmingly exhausting. Like Herakles, Sadiq was a tall and built man, tanned from his days in the sun, and one who never failed to don his bright red fez cap and white face mask proudly, even when he was performing his fire-breathing act in the ring. Kiku thought he was an interesting personality of sorts, and ever so often, enjoyed a quick chat with Sadiq, who seem to pleased enough to treat Kiku with an assortment of Turkish sweets and herbal tea.
"I don't understand why you dislike Sadiq-san so much," Kiku began softly, as he dabbed a wet cloth against a bruise on Herakles' cheek. "He's a nice person."
Herakles tightened his jaw, but said nothing. Kiku continued cleaning the rest of his minor cuts, waiting patiently. Herakles let out a tiny sigh then, his shoulders relaxing and gave his friend an apologetic look.
"I guess it's just my own prejudice," he admitted, his eyes downcast. "Grecians and Turks have always been at war, and I was in the Hellenic army once before. So in a way, I have been conditioned to react badly towards any Turks I come across, or rather, I've let myself be conditioned that way..."
"I never knew you were in the army. I'm sorry to hear that, it must have been difficult."
"No more difficult than you serving as the Emperor's samurai before your left Japan. A soldier does his duty as best as he can."
At the other man's last words, Kiku managed a wan smile. Just as he finished bandaging an ugly cut on Herakle's right palm, he felt the other man shifting in his seat and he looked up to meet his gaze, eyebrows quirked questioningly.
"Let's spar together." Herakles said, teal eyes suddenly gleaming with new interest.
By now, Kiku was somewhat used to Herakles' ever-shifting train of thought, and how their conversations always had the tendency to flow easily from one topic to another, like water trickling through grains of sand. Even so, there were still times when he gets thrown off by the abruptness of Herakles' new ideas.
Herakles was now standing and he held a short stick in his hand. He smiled at Kiku, nodding encouragingly at him.
"I've seen you train with your sword in the mornings, and I've always wondered what it'd be like to spar with you."
Kiku hesitated at first, about to voice his protest, but when he met Herakles' gaze again, he found himself unable to disagree. Soon enough, the two were standing opposite each other, sparring sticks held up high before them.
Well, maybe I'll just go easy on him, Kiku thought just as Herakles lunged forward. Unprepared for the strike, Kiku moved hastily aside, swinging his stick in the nick of time to parry the blow.
... Or perhaps not then.
Kiku chuckled softly and sweeping his fringe away from his eyes, steadily met Herakles' mischievous smirk with a wry smile of his own and rushed forward. They twirled around; lunging, striking at each other, dancing about in a whirlwind of circles, kicking up trails of dust in their wake. Kiku dodged just as Herakles swung his stick in a wide arch, ducking under the other man's arm and twisting nimbly, knocked the stick out of Herakles' hold. Panting, he was about to speak again when he felt something soft and velvety wrap tightly around his wrists, causing him to drop the stick. Before he could catch a glance of what it was, he felt a sharp tug at his arms, jerking him off-balance and he landed on the ground with a thud.
He gasped, trying to catch his breath, and then felt the hold around his wrists tightening and saw Herakles before him, pinning both his arms to the ground. A long, blue silk ribbon ran from one of Herakles' hands, the other end wrapped firmly around Kiku's wrists.
"How did you–?"
Herakles laughed then, mirth in his eyes. "I'm a silk acrobat, remember? I've learnt to use them even in combat."
Kiku scowled then, slightly vexed at being caught off-guard so easily by this strange trick. But then, Herakles himself seem to have forgotten something important as well.
Herakles' eyes widen in surprise when he felt the leather cord wrap around his neck, and was pulled forward, his face nearly crashing into Kiku's before he realized that the Japanese man had, by some means, managed to reach for his whip before being pinned against the ground. Having his wrists bound and held down firmly also didn't stop him from pulling a last trick with his whip, and ultimately bringing the two of them to a stalemate, both having being restrained by the other. Herakles was impressed.
They were both breathing sharply, eyes locked on each other. Kiku could feel the blood rushing in his ears, feel the loud thumping of both their hearts, and almost, almost taste the sweat off Herakles' lips...
He wanted to kiss him there and then.
"Hey, I've got the awesomest idea ever! We won't just give them a show, we'll give them a complete musical act!"
Herakles and Kiku jumped, startled out of their stare-down by the Ringmaster's outburst and hastily tried to pull away from each other, which further resulted in them bumping their noses together, their lips brushing so achingly close...
"I... I'm s-sorry... I didn't mean..." Kiku breathed, his heart pounding so hard within his chest, he was sure it would burst. He blushed deeply as he broke free of his silk restrains, and before Herakles could utter a single word, fled away into the night.
And so they sing, they sing,
They sing a song, a tale,
Of maidens weaving with silks
Of soldiers dancing with steel
And so they flick, they strum,
They play and they hum
Of twins, brother and sister
Of friends, rivals and lovers
And so they jump, they twirl
They fly like songbirds through the air
Bodies twisting, limbs a-flailing
And the tigers will roar
Stripes a-blazing, eyes a-burning
To a single warrior they heed
Together to war they lead
Now sing, oh the melody being born
To the sky of tomorrow
To the neverending lands
There are two hearts,
Fluttering on butterfly wings.
There is heat,
There is desire,
And all over, a red string weaves.
Their show was, to put it mildly, a huge success. Cirque de Nouvelle Vague had always been known for its astounding and breath-taking acts, but the Ringmaster's idea of combining all the circus acts into a grand musical production paid off – the audience adored all of it. After cheering and applauding for nearly half an hour, they were still tethering about on their toes in excitement and showed no hint of ceasing.
To top all of that, a certain Monsieur Bonnefoy was heartily impressed by the performances and was highly interested in signing a partnership with the Ringmaster. If everything went according to plan, the Cirque would finally be rid of its debt woes and the members could rest easy, knowing that when they arise the next day, they would still have a job and a home to go back to.
All in all, it was cause for a night of hearty celebration.
Kiku covered his lips with his sleeve, trying to stifle his laughter when he saw the look of utmost disappointment on Herakles' face, like a child who'd just lost a game of marbles, only this time, he'd lost to Sadiq in arm-wrestling for the third time in a row.
"He was cheating, I swear," Herakles muttered, pouting stubbornly. "I would never have lost otherwise."
"I believe that's what Sadiq-san said too when he continually lost to you playing Snap-dragon."
"I wasn't cheating. It's his own fault if he can't stomach the taste of flaming raisins."
Kiku sighed, but shook his head good-naturedly. Some things never change, though he suppose it wasn't necessarily always a bad thing. Besides, the bar was still engulfed in celebratory atmosphere and everyone else was having too much drunken fun. Kiku himself was feeling exhilarated, and was quite relieved that Herakles was still happy to be around him, even after his brusque exit from their sparring exercise; that he still wanted to be around Kiku, and continued to treat him no differently even though Kiku felt terrible guilt gnawing inside his heart for having snubbed his friend so unkindly. He studied the back of Herakles' hands silently, uncertain, but slowly lifted his gaze.
Herakles met his gaze, his eyes curious and warmth with affection, with... with something more, Kiku wasn't sure anymore. He swallowed thickly, steeling himself for what he was about to say next.
He never got to finish because Herakles moved then, gently cupping Kiku's cheeks with both hands, pulling him closer until their lips met in a searing kiss. It was nothing like Kiku had ever felt before and his mind was whirling as he felt the layers of his heart slowly peel away, the folds unraveling to reveal the fluttering desire within that he'd so carefully kept at bay.
When they finally pulled apart, gasping for air, Herakles only watched him tentatively, waiting, seeking for approval and–
–and Kiku responded by crashing their lips together again.
It was a strange sensation really, to give in to the surge of emotions, to the heat of lust he'd been holding back all this while. Kiku knew he hadn't been entirely honest with himself since the day he met Herakles, knew he'd been ignoring that invisible tug and pull between them, as if they were linked together by a single red string. He knew Herakles had cared for him more than as a friend, and knew that he'd intentionally kept himself from reciprocating, even though deep inside, he had craved to be known by Herakles, craved to take him and to be taken by him.
As he slipped his fingers past layers of clothing and unto toned muscles, and felt the feathery brush of Herakles' hair against his skin when he trailed gentle kisses down his navel, Kiku didn't think about what he knew anymore. He wanted Herakles, and with that final acceptance of what he truly wanted, Kiku allowed himself to be swept away by the sensations burning through every inch of his skin and pushed Herakles unto the bed.
Herakles was happy to comply and made no protest when Kiku proceeded to straddle him, planting fierce, hungry kisses on his lips, his neck, and all over his chest. It was as if he'd always known of the fire Kiku kept hidden within him. While Herakles had always found Kiku's quiet nature to be endearing, there was something in the fierceness, in the intensity of Kiku's gaze now that allured him and he found that he couldn't help but want more of this assertiveness that Kiku so rarely displayed in public.
Kiku leaned in further to brush a soft kiss against Herakles' forehead, before proceeding to bind the Grecian's wrists with silk ribbons, tightening them just enough so that Herakles was unable to move his arms, but loose enough that he wasn't too uncomfortable. He trailed a wet, soft tongue from Herakles' neck down to his collarbone, and then further south to swirl around his right nipple in painfully slow circles. Herakles shuddered, a soft gasp escaping from his lips as he strained against his bonds. As Kiku lingered a while longer, licking at the firm nub, Herakles felt the frustration in him growing.
When Kiku finally dipped his head further and began kissing his inner thighs, Herakles arched his back, a thrill of pleasure coursing through him. He moaned just as he felt Kiku's lips sucking at his shaft then, and bit back a curse when he felt a finger slipping into him. Bringing his legs up to wrap around Kiku's waist, he pulled his partner closer.
"More," Herakles whispered, breathing into the other man's ear, and that simple request was enough to shatter the remnants of Kiku's composure. His back now slick with sweat, he gently held the Grecian's thighs and very slowly eased himself in. Kiku gritted his teeth, the tightness threatening to overwhelm him but he continued on, pushing himself further until he was fully sheathed within Herakles, who was now breathing nearly as hard as he was. And then, slowly, he began to thrust, grinding his hips against Herakles', building up the pace until they were moving steadily, rocking and shifting in matching rhythms.
Kiku was so lost in the sensations, it didn't strike him as odd initially when he felt Herakles' brushing his fingers against his cheek. It was only when he felt the silk ribbons lacing around his arms and felt Herakles shifting and rolling over that he realized they had abruptly switched positions and that hewas the one with bound wrists now.
"How did you–?" he began, only to let out a strangled gasp, his body shuddering as he felt Herakles gently pushing into him.
"I'm a silk acrobat, remember?" Herakles purred, flicking a wet tongue teasingly in Kiku's ear. "I've learnt use them even in the bedroom."
Kiku didn't think it was possible for him to be any louder in his entire life after that.
"When I'm done catching my breath, I promise I will not hesitate to butt-fuck the living daylights out of you... after I'm done with the whipping."
Herakles blinked, momentary stunned in disbelief. He was pretty certain he had never heard his friend utter such a blunt declaration before, let alone an openly obscene one. He stared and then laughed, pulling the other man closer to bring their lips together once more.
He could get used to this, especially if it meant seeing Kiku's nastier, wilder side in bed.
There is a man
And beside him, his companion.
Call them friends,
Call them lovers,
To either one, they smile with quiet knowing.
- Éla edó̱, Ártemis - Come here, Artemis.
- The ideas used in this fill were inspired by an RP I had with a friend several months back, so Greece as an aerial silk acrobat was all thanks to her, as is that line about "smelling like steak" XD This fill is a tribute to you, KarpusiKat.
- This is also for Rose-Fortress because I recall how in one of our discussions and her comments ("YOU HAVE TO FINISH THIS FIC, NO QUESTION ABOUT IT!") she encouraged me to not drop this idea.
- I made Japan a tiger-tamer because... well, I love Tiger&Bunny tigers and there's a lot of fanarts of Japan with tigerson Pixiv. Plus, he gets to use that whip in bed hurrhurr.
- Snap-dragon was a popular parlour game played from the 16th-19th centuries. Brandy was heated and placed in a wide, shallow bowl and raisins (which are then set alight) are placed in the brandy. The aim of the game is to snatch the raisins out of the burning brandy and to eat them, extinguishing the flames by closing the mouth and eating them, all at the risk of getting burnt.
- I imagine a Circus-verse (and Gilbert's idea of a circus musical) to be somewhat like this:
- The last stanza of 4was taken from this song: http:(doubleslash)www(dot)youtube(dot)com(slash)watch?v=JqnLAhlW1c8
- All other poems in this fill were written by me.
- I apologize for the strangeness in this story (my mind works in bizarre ways at times) and for abrupt ending. Either way, I hope you'll enjoy it still.
- Critique about characterizations is always welcomed.