Kudzu Rampant (Invitation Only)
Ran walked into the impressive entry way at Heolfor, freshly fed and feeling much better after recovering from his flight with a flight. Literally.
There was an echo.
"Guten abend, aloha, hau, !kao, wes hal!"
He really liked the echo.
He turned around and came face to face with the most dour statue he'd seen in ages. Then it moved. "Good evening."
"Oh hell! I mean, hello." Ran smiled brightly at the man, who didn't bat an eyelash at the color of his hair or the fact that he was wearing contact lenses with Hello Kitty on them.
"So I heard," the man said solemnly. "You must be Mr. Iyala."
"Last I checked," Ran said cheerfully. "You're Rupert?"
"Every day, sir," Rupert replied politely without a hint of laughter.
Ran put his hands on his hips and looked around. "So, I don't suppose you know where I'm going to be staying here?"
"Of course. If you'll come with me," Rupert said, with a gesture.
Ran, still looking around with open curiosity, followed Rupert. He declined the tour of the mansion, figuring it would be much more fun to sort it out on his own later, and opted to go right for his room. He also declined blood, having taken care of that necessity already. It was nice of him to offer though. Not his, obviously, but whoever he'd have sent along. Ran filed that away for the future. Free eats, right here at home. Convenient.
After they walked about five miles, up and down at least three hundred stairs, Rupert stopped in front of a room that was located at the end of a hallway in a quiet wing on an upper level of Heolfor. He handed the key to Ran.
"The suite has been furnished to your specifications, or as near to them as we could. Please let me know what else you require, and we will be happy to procure it for you."
Rupert gave a polite bow. Very proper, very nice. Ran watched him leave and then turned to the door of his new home. Fitting the key in the lock he turned it and entered.
His bags had already been brought in; they were out of the way of the door. The room was spacious, high ceilings and a sunken floor to give it a very open feel. There were very few walls and the rooms were separated by archways. Even the bedroom had no door; it was simply a continuation of the rest of the home.
Ran sighed and smiled; it seemed they were serious when they had fit this suite to his needs. Nothing enclosed, that had been his primary objective. No tiny rooms, no closets to be accidentally shut into. Even the shower was open, no curtain, no door, just a frosted glass panel to give it a little privacy from the rest of the bathroom.
The suite was decorated in colorful shades of blue and green and yellow over a white base. He loved it. Grabbing his largest bag he wheeled it into the bedroom, running his hand over the bright blue coverlet on the bed. Then he turned around and did a backflip onto it, sinking into the pillow top mattress.
"Oh that beats an airplane chair any day," he groaned out load.
Then there was a knock at the door. There were very few people it could be, really. He expected Amir.
"Come on in," he called, fairly certain it wasn't going to be anyone he didn't want to see. There was rarely anyone he didn't want to see. Even if it was a stranger he'd be fine with it.
Amir suffered a little bit of curiosity wondering what Ran would think of the way he'd changed. He didn't expect it would go unnoticed, but at the same time he wasn't entirely worried. How Ran might see him with Mara, well, that would be interesting. All in all, he was still Ran's Creator. As troublesome as the man could be at times Amir wasn't expecting him to be a problem. That was partly why he had called Ran here first, of all his remaining vampires.
He opened the door when he heard Ran's voice from inside. The suite was a very nice one, and as open and spacious as Amir's was dark and cozy. A galloping sound was the prelude to Ran's appearance in the living room as he came running out in a whirlwind of spiked and styled bright blue hair, torn jeans, heavy boots, and green sweatshirt.
Amir's eyes widened only minutely as he realized Ran was not going to stop before he reached him. As his second youngest leaped, as if to jump into Amir's arms, Amir deftly side-stepped, grabbed Ran's arm, swung him around, and brought him crashing down to the polished wood floor.
Ran blinked up at him with absurd Hello Kitty eyes. "You missed me! I can tell by the way my head isn't broken."
Amir sighed and tried to hide a smile. "Welcome to Nachton, Kudzu."
Ran beamed at him.
"Oh, Mara," he said, his smile never diminishing. "You look stunning, even upside down."
He took her hand and bounced back to his feet, then swept her into a hug. She didn't mind Ran; he had never been a threat to her. Maybe because he'd been human when they'd first met, or because Amir had always been there. Maybe because despite all his comments he never so much as made a move toward her. She hugged him back, then held him at arm's length to look at him.
"Your contacts," she said, smiling. "I want them."
"What, right now?" Obliging, Ran jammed his finger into his eye and dug out a Hello Kitty contact lens, offering it to her on the tip of his finger, blinking at her innocently from one remaining kitty eye and one rare tawny gold eye that not many people got to see.
Mara pinched the bridge of her nose. "The website would do," she said.
Ran grinned at her and shrugged his shoulders. "I'll look it up," he said. "Come in, come in."
It didn't mean he wasn't going to fuck with them.
They followed him into the suite that had been prepared for him and he swept his arms out. "I haven't really even had a chance to look around much," he said. "Are they all like this?"
"No, you'd hate our place," Amir said mildly.
"Probably," Ran agreed. Amir liked it dark and cool. Ran liked light and warmth. Mara, too, with her sensitive eyes, liked to be in the darkness or at least, in dimmer light.
He turned to look at them, aware that something had changed. "What's different?" he asked suddenly. "Is it your hair? Did you grow an inch?"
He addressed the first to Mara, the second to Amir, who raised an eyebrow at him. Then Ran noticed how close they were standing. Amir's arm was around Mara's waist and she had hers around his as well. They had always been close but this, this was intimate.
Ran rocked back on his heels. "Well it's about fucking time," he said cheerfully. "When the hell did this happen?"
The two shared a glance. No, it was more significant. It was a Glance. Then Amir shrugged and said, "A while ago."
Mara nodded, her cheeks an attractive shade of rose, and Ran sighed. "Does this mean I have to stop worshiping you?"
"Not at all," Mara said, "but you're definitely going to have to be more devout than demonstrative."
Ran wrinkled his nose. "That's no fun," he said. "Organized religion makes my ass twitch."
"Please," Amir groaned. "Spare us the visual."
"Oh fine. I'll just pine away from afar."
Mara laughed softly. "Amidst a pile of devoted admirers," she pointed out.
Ran placed his hand over his heart. "I can't believe you'd say that," he lamented. "You know no one can compare to you."
Amir snorted. "And you should know. You've tested them all."
"Not quite all," Ran grinned. "Just a significant cross-section of the population. I'm still working on it. The research could take centuries."
He couldn't help it. He knew Mara didn't mind his teasing, and he figured by now she and Amir must realize there was nothing to it. When he'd first met them, it had been a crush in the truest sense. But anyone who spent time with them could tell Mara only had eyes for Amir. It was good to see them together.
Now was no exception. Ran invited them in and he and Mara went. They explored Ran's new place together, although there wasn't much in the way of hidden nooks and crannies. There wouldn't be; that wasn't Ran's style.
"Do you like it?" Amir asked, more for the sake of courtesy than anything else.
Ran turned to him in surprise. "Oh yeah," he said. That was the answer Amir had expected. The only way they could have gotten a 'no' from him was to stuff him in a closet somewhere and close the door.
"Do you want some help unpacking?" That was Mara's offer. Ran considered it for a second and then said, "Okay. Sure."
Amir didn't doubt that Ran noted the difference. Since when did Amir play welcome wagon or help people unpack? But here he was, heading back out to the living room to retrieve a couple of Ran's bags and bring them into the bedroom.
"Do you want to see the Manor as well, or the city first?"
Yes. Amir was offering to play tour guide. And spend leisure time with Ran... god help him. One or both of them might not survive the experience.
Ran's things were stuffed haphazardly into the suitcase without any regard even for what type of clothing they were. She automatically began to pull things out and organize them, wondering if Ran had even brought an even number of socks, much less matching ones.
"I change all the time," Ran said cheerfully. "After every shower, before bed, when I'm going someplace nice... oh, and every time I want to be a bird."
Mara chuckled and threw a pair of boxers at him. Ran caught them and tossed them aside; Amir retrieved them and folded them.
"You'll have to come say hello to Shades too," Mara said. "He'll be happy to see you."
He did his best to put his clothing away in a neat manner; they all knew it was just going to get messy again but he had to at least respect that they were trying. Ran had never been a neat keeper. That was what housekeeping was for. Maybe once every two weeks wasn't often enough. He wondered if the Manor staff would be willing to come more often. Like, every few hours.
Amir asked what he wanted to explore and Ran considered. "I don't know what first," he said. "Maybe here, since we're already here. Unless there are some places in Nachton I should know about."
When Mara mentioned Shades he perked up. "That's right! He's here!"
Ran loved Shades. He was a seriously cool, badass, happening vampire long past the time when he should be cool and happening. If Ran lived to be a bajillion years old or whatever number Shades was up to, he wanted to be that guy.
"Maybe we should go there first," Ran said.
Then he paused. "No, wait," he checked himself. "I have to be a good Nightsman. I should greet the Night Elder first. Then see Shades. There's a new guy, right? Jin Han. Acting Elder. What's he like?"
Ran's orders really hadn't changed much in the past several decades, and he had worked directly under whichever Nightsman was in charge in his territory. Now, though, he would actually be here in the vicinity of the Elder. That was new ground for him.
When Ran's mind eventually wandered back to business and rules and procedures, things he was habitually bad at, Amir saw the opportunity and ran with it.
"Elder Jin is a well-respected Nightsman, and he is Elder Mai's son. You have got to make sure you greet him very formally."
Amir put emphasis on his words, making it clear to Ran that there was to be no funny business in the meeting of his Elder. Ran could be horribly unreliable but when it came to things like this he really was a loyal Anantya and would do what was expected.
"It is customary to greet him with a kiss," Amir said, totally straight-faced. "That is what he will expect and you should make sure you comply."
Apparently she was right... except, that was not where she'd thought their Creator would go with it. But there he went, and there was Ran, nodding solemnly because Amir would never pull a prank like this in a million years.
The Amir that Ran knew, anyway.
Ran looked to Mara and she nodded as well. "He's very strict," she added. "But he's fair, and he knows his business. He's made a wonderful Elder so far."
She knew how Jin worked and so did Amir. Jin ran the Order of the Night with a firm, confident hand in spite of the doubts he might express to them privately. He was humble, always, and ever dutiful. His greatest wish was to do his best, and even though she knew she was biased Mara thought he was a perfect Elder of the Night.
"He might have time to see you tonight," Mara added, "although he's very busy. It would be best to introduce yourself as soon as possible though. I'm sure he'll be interested in meeting you."
They had, after all, told Jin he was coming. And explained a little bit about Ran's nature to their partner. Generally, they thought Ran and Jin would get along well. It was hard to find anyone that neither of them got along with; both of them were easy to like and easy to talk to.
He nodded his head solemnly when Amir explained a little bit about the Elder of the Night. Good thing to be enlightened about the kissing thing too. Ran was a free spirit but he didn't normally greet with a kiss. It wasn't an uncommon thing to do, however, and in many European countries it was normal. So, kiss. Then bow. Then figure out what he should be doing for his Order.
Then he could go see Shades.
Mara added a little more information for him, something he had hoped for since she was of the same Order as he. Amir knew many people, though, and if he claimed Jin was a good person then he was. To Amir, 'good' meant he was loyal to his Clan, didn't spend undue amounts of time being sympathetic to the plight of humans and Tacharan everywhere, and had a prestigious bloodline. Very much so, if he was Elder Mai's son. Ran was intrigued. A little daunted at the prospect of meeting his Acting Elder but not much; what could this Jin do if he didn't like Ran - un-Create him?
He would be good though. For now. Until being good got boring. Ran didn't ever really mean to cause trouble. Trouble just generally found him. A little voice inside of him said trouble might find him less attractive if he'd keep his big mouth shut but that synapse didn't fire on a regular basis so he worked with what did.
"Tonight?" he said to Mara. "Okay. Do you think I should change?"
He looked down at himself. He was wearing a pretty conservative outfit, for him. Torn jeans, big boots, and a fairly innocuous dark green sweatshirt with the word 'Poison' written across the front. Apart from one Hello Kitty contact lens, his face was clean of any makeup whatsoever although his hair was, of course, rather loudly styled. He liked it that way.
"Speaking of," he pointed out, "I can come get you the next time. I don't mind."
Ran's terror of enclosed spaces was well-known within their family unit. Amir, with his licenses and his own planes combined with his Command, was often Ran's escort. His private jets were far roomier than any commercial airliner and Ran was much more comfortable in them if not truly happy. If (or usually, in Ran's case, when) he panicked, Amir could handle that too.
Ran gave Amir a sheepish grin. "I didn't want to trouble you," he said. "I mean, you know how it is. It's stupid long."
Ran could be pretty sweet. Amir just waved him off. "Next time call me," he said.
He was the one who'd asked Ran to come to Nachton after all; he'd have been perfectly willing to fetch him. He was getting in touch with all of his vampires one by one. He wanted them away from Subira but of all of the, Ran worked the closest to Africa. Ran was also the most trusting of them. He wasn't naive, but Amir felt better with Ran close by. He was Amir's second youngest vampire and although he had five centuries behind him Amir still felt a little protective of him.
Either way here he was none the worse for wear. Amir was going to be in for it, though, when he told Ran he might want to take care of himself before meeting Jin. That was the best thing to say to Ran if you wanted him to dress in his particular, unusual manner. Maybe it wasn't so much 'unusual' as 'unafraid.' Mara had never met anyone as willing to draw attention as Ran.
Poor Jin was in for a shock. Mara just shook her head. "If you want to go shower or something we can do this," she said. "I know how much you love organizing."
She didn't mind the offer. Amir actually did enjoy organizing and Ran was horrible at it. He would probably love the chance to get out of it. He did, in fact, do so.
"Really?" he asked. Mara and Amir both nodded. "Okay! Thanks!"
Ran grabbed a few things from the nearest pile of clothing and then removed a smaller bag from one suitcase and disappeared into the bathroom. When the water was running, Mara turned to Amir.
In a low voice, she said, "You are absolutely evil. Who are you pranking, exactly? Ran or Jin?"
Amir simply smirked back at her. "Yes," he replied.
It was also nice to get a shower in and wash away the travel funk. It was a seriously long-ass flight to Nachton from Tokyo. He enjoyed the spacious shower with no door, just a frosted glass separator. The floor was graded down so there wasn't even a basin to step into or anything and the shower had multiple jets coming out of the walls and overhead. He loved it.
It took him a while to get ready, which was pretty normal particularly when your hair required a great deal of attention. Ran gave some thought to his dress but he liked what he'd grabbed so he emerged from the shower feeling like he was accurately representing himself.
His hair was spiked up and forward, the long top pieces dyed a bright medium blue. The sides, cut short, were dyed with two stripes of indigo that went down the back of his head to the nape of his neck, and the rest of the sides and back, also cropped close, was dyed a lighter shade of aqua blue, just as bright. He was wearing black hakama pants and black sandals. His tee shirt was dark purple, tightly fitted, with a sheer see-through band of black netting in the middle revealing a pierced navel. He had wrist bands of bright blue studded leather on and black fingerless gloves. He thought he was dressed pretty conservatively. He did remove his one Hello Kitty contact lens, replacing both contacts with a set of hypnotic swirling black and blue ones. The blue glowed in the dark but he didn't expect they'd be heading into a cave.
When he got back to the bedroom Amir and Mara had finished their sorting and were sitting close together side by side on the bed, talking softly. Amir looked up at him and said, "We can go meet Elder Jin now. He's just finishing a meeting."
"Okay," Ran said agreeably. Best to get the formalities out of the way first so he could move along to exploring his new city.
"Not a word about it to Jin," Amir warned. Mara sniffed at him. "I can play a joke as well as anyone else," she said with an offended air. Then she giggled softly. "You're evil though."
Amir lifted one shoulder, the side of his lips tilting up into a half-smile. "I couldn't resist. How many practical jokes has Ran played with a durian fruit in our lifetime? He's earned some revenge."
The object of Amir's wrath soon returned to the bedroom looking... bright. Amir was used to Ran's clothing though. Considering some of the things he'd worn in the past, hakama pants and a tee was a pretty tame combination. Clearly he was trying to be a good vampire. Which made the prospect of a good joke even more appealing.
He led the way to the meeting room Jin was in. The last few Night members who'd attended were just filtering out. Amir nodded to Hana as she left; she nodded back to him. Her eyes drifted to Ran and she smiled at him.
Amir waited until the last person had left and then went in, seeing Jin at a table just putting away a few slips of paper. His lips curved up in a more genuine smile. It didn't really feel right unless the three of them were all together. Having Jin be part of their lives was like finding the missing piece to a puzzle and snapping it into place.
Walking up to Jin Amir greeted him by slipping his arm around Jin's waist and tilting his head down the slight bit needed to press a soft, delicious kiss to his lips.
"I hope it was a good meeting," he murmured into Jin's ear, "and that you're off for the rest of the night."
"Good evening, merit," she whispered against his lips when she too pulled away. Then she glanced back at Ran.
"This is Ran, he just arrived from Tokyo. Ran, this is the Acting Elder of the Night, Jin Han."
Then she too moved away, keeping a completely straight face although she could see the mischief dancing in Amir's dark eyes.
He looked at the people looking at him as they left the room when they reached it. One attractive woman smiled at him; he offered her a cheerful smile in return. Ran was not opposed to finding someone to hook up with, oh, immediately upon his arrival. Clanmates were the best but humans would do. It was something he and Amir never agreed upon but to Ran, he had been human once. Why would he quail at being in a relationship with one? Short term, of course.
They entered the meeting room and Ran saw his new Elder, dressed in very traditional Chinese clothing, a black tunic and pants with dark silver accent threads. He had long pale hair, most of it hanging down his back, some in a topknot on his head, and two pieces in front of his ears bound with silver. He was not tall, but Ran had learned many things about their kind and the first rule was never to judge a book by its cover. This man was the Elder of the Night and Elder Mai's son. Therefore he was a capable fighter and wickedly intelligent; crafty to boot.
Amir and Mara approached him quite intimately and first one then the other kissed him full on the mouth with a surprising amount of passion. Ran raised his eyebrows. He had been thinking, kind of a buss on the cheek sort of kiss. That was clearly not to be the case. But they all had oddities. A kiss wasn't such a bad thing, if that was what his new Elder expected as a greeting.
Mara introduced him and he stepped up nice and close. He had promised himself he was going to be very well-behaved and that meant doing everything Amir told him to. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Elder Jin," he said.
Then he reached out, placed his hands softly upon the Elder's hips, and kissed him full on the lips the way Amir and Mara had done.
Some of those people walked in the door just as the others filed out. He had been informed by his partners that another of Amir's children had been brought to Nachton. Jin thought that wise given the circumstances. He was very curious to meet all of Amir's children and harbored a secret hope that this one liked him a little more than Bao seemed to, especially since he would be working with this one.
His shoulders relaxed as soon as Amir's arm went around him. Jin the Elder could give way to Jin the man for just a moment. He smiled softly and and murmured a brief answer to his lover's question. "I hope so."
Mara came up to embrace him on the other side and Jin's smile widened. He squeezed her tightly and returned her intimate kiss with a small murmur of pleasure. Obviously they had told their kin about the relationship between the three of them if they were comfortable being so demonstrative in front of him.
As Mara stepped away, he got his first real look at her brother. He was definitely not subtle. Jin gave him a thorough sweep of his eyes from the tips of his blue hair down to the soles of his sandaled feet. Sometimes the best approach was not always subtle. Jin knew that he could use Ran and his talents, in fact an idea came to mind immediately.
He had just enough time to smile briefly at his fellow order member before he was embraced with an intimate kiss. Jin's eyebrows rose nearly to his hairline but he had centuries of training as a agent of Anantya and, like his sister, he knew how to handle odd situations with grace.
At the end of the kiss, he stepped back and placed his hands on Ran's arms, keeping him at arms length for a moment in case another kiss was about to be offered. Carefully he let him go and then reached out to shake his hand.
"A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Iyala." He spoke more or less sincerely. "In the future a simple handshake will do." Jin favored the man with a questioning expression before giving him a more tentative smile. He would have to ask Amir and Mara if this was typical of their kin. If so then he wanted to be there when he greeted his brother.
"Yes sir. I'll remember that. They always say there's no greeting like an Islander greeting."
He wasn't sure who 'they' were and he was pretty sure 'they' hadn't said that, but it was very plain to him that he'd been set up. And even plainer who the culprit was. That was difficult to believe. But it did have a certain evil flair to it.
"I'm looking forward to working here in Nachton," Ran said.
Still smiling cheerfully, Ran took advantage of the fact that Mara and Amir were both standing somewhat off to the side. He continued to look at Elder Jin, while Mara's hand suddenly rose up and smacked Amir in the back of the head.
"So," Ran said conversationally, "how long have the three of you been a team?"
He looked between the vampires in question. Jin had not been shocked by the embraces he'd received from Amir and Mara, in fact he had very clearly returned both. That meant only one thing to Ran.
His brief retaliation had not been the end of it. Oh, no. Ran firmly believed revenge was a dish best served cold.
Ran recovered well, as did Jin, and they made their pleasantries. Ran didn't 'out' him which meant that some sort of retaliation was going to be forthcoming. That was when Mara slapped him in the back of the head.
He choked on a laugh and looked at Mara, who wore an expression of shock and horror on her pretty face, her cheeks flushing red. Amir put his arm around her and drew her close, and then brought her toward Jin as Ran asked how long they'd been together.
"Oh, a while now," he said. "Over a year. And hopefully many more. I've been telling your Elder what a dutiful, responsible person you are."
He slid his hand into Jin's and squeezed it gently. They would explain the nature of their prank later - in private. Jin could hardly miss the strange noises they'd made just now but Amir suspected the diplomat in him might not call attention to it immediately.
He could be wrong, though. Either way it had still been worth it.
To his credit Ran didn't explode at them. She did feel bad about pranking him like that, though. The guilt faded somewhat when her hand jerked somewhat spasmodically and made a short arc through the air to slap Amir in the head. Her eyes grew wide and she stared at Amir in horror and then, as she realized what had happened, Amir pulled her close. From over Jin's shoulder Mara glared at Ran, raising two fingers to her eyes and then pointing them at him.
She would remember in the future that Ran's ability was not so much fun when he as directing it at her. If she'd suspected it was coming she might have been able to pull away and stop it, but he hadn't so much as glanced at her and it had been very fast. Damn him.
Meanwhile, Amir had moved them both closer to Jin, and they stood all three together. Mara loved being with Jin and Amir. It was definitely where she belonged. She didn't have anything to add to what Amir had said; she actually liked the work she'd seen Ran do and thought he was, indeed, more or less dutiful. Sometimes pleasure came first but he had never let them down when he'd been truly needed.
"I've worked with him myself," she finally spoke up. "It wasn't dull. That's for sure."
There was a small smacking sound of flesh hitting flesh beside him but Jin did not turn to investigate. Instead he smiled at Ran and nodded. "I believe I remember that custom. A greeting of kindred." Jin smiled wickedly and reached for Ran again, planting an equally intimate kiss on the man in return. Once he was done, he held him at arm's length once more. "It is good to meet you, brother."
Amir answered the question of how long they had been together and Jin nodded. He smiled at the hand that entwined itself with his. Amir then explained that he had been telling him of what a dutiful and loyal member of the Night Ran was. It had been explained to him that Ran was loyal and quite talented but dutiful was not exactly one of the words that had been used. He suspected that one was mentioned for Ran's benefit and not his own.
Mara's words added to his own guesses. Ran was gifted if not always orthodox. That was alright; often one had to be adaptable in the field. He knew that first hand and he also knew someone else who was adept at dealing with the...unique.
"That is good. As it happens there is an event that I need to send a couple of people to. There might not be much of note but someone with your gift for languages would be perfect." Jin smiled. "I have another talented Order member who can accompany you as your date. It is a Christmas gala that Nachton puts on every year. There will be many different countries present. I have heard rumors of an island nation being run by a group of clanless vampires. They have not been a threat so far so we have been content to only watch them for the moment. However, word has come from our agent in the area that they are hoping to gain alliances and power amongst the Nachton clanless community. Their delegates will be at the party and we would be greatly interested to see who they speak to." Jin waved a hand. "Amongst anything else that might be found useful." The gala was full of people in positions of power and many were backed by people with even more power. All kinds of interesting information could be gleaned from the event.