Author: Cinnamon-apple Tea PM
Yuuki wants to be herself again, even for just a while. So she goes back, to the place she called home and the people she holds dear.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Family - Yuuki & Zero - Words: 4,941 - Reviews: 14 - Favs: 18 - Follows: 2 - Published: 06-05-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6027893
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: Returning Home
Disclaimer: Don't own. VK would be very different if I did. All the characters will be stick figures, for one.
Warning: Un-betaed. Mild spoilers.
A/N: My muse is mostly dead these days. But after ch60, she woke briefly for this before going back to sleep. The story was written about a month ago, though I'm only posting it now. I don't know what's going on with VK anymore, or what the plot is these days. It's getting so... scattered. And despressing. Even so, I loved ch60 too much to just let this story lie around. ^^ Hope you enjoy.
The small café was an establishment that always bustled with activity. And late in the afternoon, there were many people stopping by to take a break from whatever business they had in town for one of its famous parfaits.
As she energetically dug into her strawberry-banana-triple-fudge parfait special, Yuuki tried to ignore the loud noises and the strangers constantly brushing past her table. Pureblood or not, she still had an aversion to being out alone. It was pathetic but… she still couldn't help it. At least the parfait helped her ignore most of her apprehension at the moment. The cold, sweet treat was heavenly on her tongue and she had no idea how she had survived more than a year without it.
Before leaving Cross Academy after the fight with her uncle, Yuuki had indulged in this dessert every chance she got. That basically meant she got at least a weekly or biweekly dose of her favorite source of sugar. Whether on an errand for the Chairman, or on an outing to town during weekends, she'd always drag Yori or Zero into this café. Well, Yori had also loved the parfaits here so there had been no need to really drag her. Zero, on the other hand… While he usually grumbled before letting her have her way, there were times when she'd had to literally drag him inside by his sleeve. Cinnamon eyes lifted from the parfait to the empty seat on the other side of the table. She was alone now. Swallowing past the lump in her throat, she returned her focus to her memories.
A small smile was on her lips as she remembered those days. How childish she had been. How carefree… how happy… She hadn't had to be anyone else than Yuuki. She was herself and no one wanted or expected otherwise.
Last night, she'd attended one of the social events hosted by the Aido family. Since her existence had been revealed to vampire society several weeks ago at the ball, and since she practically lived with the Aidos anyway, it had only been natural for her to attend. She went, she stood tall, she was polite, she kept up a calm façade… in short, she'd acted every inch the pureblood she was supposed to be. And she had hated every moment of it.
It wasn't just the covetous looks or falsely polite attentions of some of the other vampires. Those, she could brush off. After all, hadn't she survived far worse? But it was how no one, how absolutely no one saw her as simply herself that was unbearable.
She was always the Kuran princess, the youngest pureblood, Kaname-sama's little sister and sometimes even the rumored Kaname-sama's fiancée. She was revered, feared, coveted… but it was not her. Only Aido-senpai still treated her the same and still thought of her the same.
Well, there was Kaname-oniisama, of course. He loved her and she loved him. Ever since she was old enough to know about love and marriage, he was the only one she had ever wanted to be with. Now that she was with him, she was happy. Yes, she was very happy… most of the time. Sometimes, she was lonely. It wasn't that oniisama was away too much. He was, but even when he was home, she was lonely. And she could see in his eyes that deep down, he too was lonely. It was so stupid, to be lonely together. And sometimes, she thought he didn't see Yuuki when he looked at her. Not completely, at least. It was almost imperceptible but she noticed very occasionally whenever he looked particularly sad. She never asked him about it, as she had yet to gather the courage for it
Still, they loved each other. Wholly and dearly, and they were meant for each other. She was born for him and he had always waited for her and they'd do anything for each other.
But that didn't mean she didn't feel suffocated at times. And during those times, she'd just want to stop trying to be someone, to stop trying to put on her best face. She wanted nothing more than to be Yuuki and be comfortable with that. But she couldn't remember the last time she'd laughed or smiled from the very bottom of her heart.
This morning, Yuuki had felt suffocated. So much so that she'd felt like she would break every window in the house if she didn't get out. Oniisama was away again and Aido-senpai was asleep so a little after noon, she had managed to sneak out of the house without anyone following. Her apprehension at being outside alone was overwhelmed by the need to get away for awhile.
At first, she'd had no idea about where to go. There were so few places she knew of. But then, she remembered her beloved parfaits. And she knew she'd feel more like Yuuki there. It was perfect. It did cross her mind that she could visit the academy while she was in the area but she knew there were several hunters in the school these days. Not to mention the high possibility of running into Zero… It wasn't that she didn't want to see him. She missed him more than anything or anyone else she'd left behind over one year ago. But their last meeting had not gone well. And she knew Zero wouldn't want to see her again, especially after the way she nearly hurt him the way Shizuka did.
Despite the large amount of sugar in her system, Yuuki again felt depressed. And her parfait was nearly gone, too. Debating whether or not she should order another one, she nearly missed that familiar voice.
"One tray of assorted cakes, to go."
Eyes widening in disbelief, the girl looked up. 'Speak of the devil…'
There at the counter stood a familiar figure, crowned by the equally familiar mop of silver hair. Licking her suddenly dry lips, she wondered what he was doing in this café of all places. He didn't like the food here, she was sure of that. Then she recalled the Chairman's sweet tooth and his fondness for the cakes here and realized that Zero was probably on an errand.
'But why does he look so tense? Did something happen?' Yuuki felt like hitting herself on the head for that thought a moment later. Of course he was tense. He no doubt felt her presence a mile away. And he probably felt her staring, too. He wasn't one of the best hunters for nothing. It was strange, though, that he had entered the café while aware of her presence. Did he think she would be so absent-minded that she wouldn't notice him? Or did he think she'd simply ignore him?
It certainly seemed like he was doing a fine job of ignoring her. Yuuki frowned. She knew why he was doing this, and she believed he had every right to hate her and avoid her. But she'd come here because she was upset about how she could hardly be herself anymore and his behavior was like a slap in the face. For a long time, Yuuki had thought Zero was the one person who knew her best. He'd understood her better than anyone else and she didn't have to pretend about anything when she was with him. They could never go back to the way they used to be but… it hurt.
As she continued to watch Zero's rigid stance and the way he deliberately kept his back to her, something within Yuuki snapped. She wouldn't take this. Not from him. It didn't matter if he hadn't forgiven her and it certainly didn't matter if they were supposed to be enemies. This was the one person who could make her feel like 'simply Yuuki' again and she was not going to watch him simply walk away without acknowledging her.
Perhaps it was uncharacteristic of her to feel like this, but all the sadness, loneliness and frustration she'd kept inside refused to remain restrained. And as people say, old habits die hard. Yuuki had always been comfortable with pushing Zero when she put her mind to it.
Abruptly rising from her seat, Yuuki approached the counter. She inwardly commended the server for taking his time with wrapping the package of cakes Zero had ordered. He had yet to pay and leave.
Plastering a bright smile on her face, she casually motioned to the cashier that she intended to pay her bill while turning to greet Zero.
"Good afternoon! I didn't expect to see you here. Did the Chairman send you on an errand?"
Only silence met her words as the hunter stubbornly refused to look at her. Yuuki felt her smile becoming slightly strained at his lack of response but tried again.
"How is the Chairman doing? And how are you?"
Yuuki told herself that she should have expected this. She knew how stubborn he could be, after all. Despite the annoyance and sorrow she felt, she couldn't help but be a little nostalgic. Even his stubbornness, she had missed.
The cashier cleared her throat in a discreet effort to interrupt the tense atmosphere between the two customers and Yuuki returned her attention to the bill. As she reached inside her bag for her wallet, she froze. Her wallet wasn't there. It was only then that she remembered leaving home without it. She had her train pass so she hadn't needed it since leaving earlier. She hadn't needed it… until now.
Yuuki started to panic. She'd already polished off two parfaits but she didn't have any money on her. Could she pay with any valuables she had? Like her coat? It was unlikely. Then would she have to work off her debt in the kitchen? Washing dishes for the rest of the day, maybe? But knowing her past record with dishes in the kitchen, her debt would only climb before she even had a chance to pay it off.
Running out of ideas, the girl was still panicking when a long arm reached past her and handed several bills to the cashier. Yuuki was startled to see Zero paying enough to cover both her parfaits and his order before he quickly strode out of the café.
Hurriedly, she followed. Half running to keep up with his longer strides, Yuuki punched the other's arm. Jerking back from the surprisingly hard punch, Zero finally stopped and turned his gaze towards the persistent pureblood. Glaring, he rubbed his abused arm. She had always packed quite a punch even as a human. As a pureblood, she didn't know her own strength. It was only because he too had become stronger since then that his arm wouldn't bruise.
It wasn't much of a response but it was something, she supposed.
"You were ignoring me."
Zero sighed before his glare was replaced by a distant, indifferent look. Yuuki decided she preferred the glare.
"Did you expect otherwise? You haven't forgotten what I said to you back at the academy, did you? Or even when we met since then?"
She didn't know how to answer that. But she did know one thing. She wasn't backing down this time. She wasn't going to let Zero walk away. Not like this. She could be just as stubborn as he was and for the first time in a long time, Yuuki felt that stubbornness rear its head within her. She welcomed that feeling wholeheartedly.
"I want to see the Chairman. You're going there too, aren't you? I still don't like walking in town alone so we can walk back to school together."
Without giving him a chance to protest, Yuuki grabbed his sleeve and resumed walking. It was a pleasant surprise when Zero didn't immediately shake her hand off and wordlessly started walking as well.
They didn't talk on their way to the Chairman's house. Yuuki didn't' know what to say and Zero had never been talkative. But it wasn't as awkward as they expected it to be. Much had come between then over the past year, but they shared too long and too deep a history to truly become alienated.
Zero continued to ignore the fact that Yuuki was still holding onto his sleeve and Yuuki was happy to let him do so. She felt as if he'd disappear and leave her behind again, and though it was childish, she felt a little reassured by the firm grip she had on his sleeve. And so they walked until they reached Chairman Cross' house.
As they neared the house, both jumped when the door burst open and a happily crying Cross practically flew out.
"Yuukiiiiii! You've come to visit your precious daddy!"
Seeing her 'father' flying towards her with arms outspread, Yuuki reacted on instinct. She stepped back and partially behind Zero. That had the Chairman abruptly halting in front of his 'cute and beloved but scary adopted son.'
"Good evening, Chairman! I came to see how you and the school were doing."
With the imminent threat of death by suffocation and too much crazy hugging taken care of, the girl stepped forward again to cheerfully greet the Chairman. It truly was wonderful to see him again. And avoiding his hugs was another thing that she could admit to missing.
"Yuuki, you must stay for dinner! I'll cook my-style, just for you! Zero, you have to stay for dinner too!"
At the Chairman's demands, Yuuki nodded happily while Zero simply handed over the box of cakes.
"I'm not staying."
But the young hunter didn't get farther than two steps before he was halted by the tightening grip on his sleeve. Turning, he was met with the large, imploring eyes of Yuuki.
"Zero, stay. Without you here, dinner's going to completely be Chairman's 'my-style'! You have to keep his experiments in check! Do you want me to die of food poisoning, of all things?"
"You survived his food as a human kid. You can handle it as a vampire. And it's none of my business, anyway."
Yuuki's grip only tightened further until Zero realized that if he really wanted to leave, he'd have to part with one of his sleeves. And while he wasn't one to care about clothes, he also wasn't one to purposely damage them. Not to mention, he had never learned how to say no to those puppy-dog eyes of hers. He knew she was different now but those damn puppy-dog eyes still looked the same.
Sighing, Zero glanced at the Chairman and inquired.
"So, how much of a mess have you made in the kitchen so far?"
The other two both smiled widely in delight as they all shuffled indoors, the Chairman protesting all the while that his children were being too doubtful of their dear father's excellent skills in the kitchen.
Dinner was a lively affair. The Chairman and Yuuki chattered on about everything and nothing, and they managed to wrangle out some responses from Zero with much concerted effort. Yuuki felt herself relaxing. This was all so familiar and beloved that she treasured every moment of it. What was even better was that Zero wasn't frowning or cold. He was still reserved but it was such an improvement from their previous encounters that she couldn't help but feel somewhat hopeful. Maybe it was just the familiar atmosphere or the neutral presence of the Chairman. Whatever the cause was, she wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
During a lull in the conversation, Yuuki found herself staring at Zero. He was just eating and she'd seen him eating countless times before, yet she found it hard to look away. In her mind, she traced every one of his features. She wondered what he was feeling and thinking. It took her a few moments to notice that Zero had stopped eating to meet her gaze with a raised eyebrow. Flushing slightly at having been caught staring, Yuuki merely offered a bright grin and returned to her dinner.
Once dinner was over the Chairman offered to take care of the dishes, leaving Yuuki and Zero alone. Now was a good chance to say something she'd been meaning to say since they'd been at the café earlier. Clearing her throat, the girl blurted out.
"Thanks, about the parfait earlier. I didn't have money with me and well…"
It had been an embarrassing incident, but thankfully Zero had been there to prevent it from becoming downright mortifying. And with Zero, she felt like she didn't have to worry so much about looking stupid. He'd had the misfortune of tutoring her for exams back in school. He already knew all about how stupid she could be.
Nodding at her thanks, Zero recalled how frantic and pale she had looked as she desperately searched for her wallet. He'd considered leaving her be, but he hadn't been able to ignore her in such a state of panic. And out of sheer curiosity, he had to ask.
"What were you planning to do if you couldn't pay?"
"Umm… Give them my coat as payment. Or work off my debt in the kitchen by washing dishes and stuff."
Zero's eyes widened slightly in surprise. Yuuki, thinking that even he wasn't expecting her to be quite so stupid, blushed. So maybe she'd expected him to be a little more understanding of her situation. And maybe she was a little embarrassed with even Zero considering her even more of a ditz than he already did…
But contrary to her belief, Zero wasn't thinking of her foolishness. He was surprised at how Yuuki-like her ideas were. One phone call to one of her undoubtedly many vampire lackeys would have had half a dozen of them showing up with more than enough cash within half an hour or so. Yet here she was, thinking of working to pay her bill. She hadn't changed. Even after becoming a Kuran and a pureblood princess, she still remained Yuuki. He'd known that. After the fight, at the ball, at the cemetery… he'd known and ignored that. He had turned away, thinking it was for the best. Now, though, with the truth and her smile and his heart all staring right at him, he had nowhere left to turn.
At the scraping of a chair, Yuuki looked up to see Zero leaving the room.
"…Where are you going?" she asked.
His reply was short. "Home."
"You live off-campus now?"
Sighing, Yuuki consoled herself that one-worded answers were better than no answer at all. It was progress, at least. So with a sweet smile, she called after the departing hunter.
"Good night, Zero."
There was a brief pause before she was answered with a soft, "Good night."
Her smile widened. It was definitely progress.
Once Zero had left, Yuuki wondered if she too should head back now. Aido-senpai was probably awake by now and he must have seen the note she'd left on her desk about going out. She knew he'd be tearing his hair out for every moment she did not return but… Right now, she felt too happy and content to go back. Besides, it was dark out. She didn't want to make her way through unfamiliar places in the dark alone. She was also rather tired, having not slept a wink during the day. Maybe she could go back in the morning.
The more she thought about it, the more appealing that idea became. It wasn't as if the Chairman wouldn't allow her to sleep over tonight. She knew he'd be positively delighted. So getting up from her seat, she made her way over to the kitchen where Chairman Cross was cheerfully humming to himself while drying the dishes. Yuuki grinned at the sight of his lacy, pink apron as she made her request.
"Can I stay over tonight?"
"Will Kaname be okay with that? Does he know you're staying out?"
Yuuki blinked at her adoptive father's questions. She hadn't really thought about Kaname-oniisama's reaction. Of course he'd be more pleased if she'd stayed put back in the house but he didn't have a say on where and when she decided to go out. He did give her the freedom to do as she wished, hadn't he? And if he decided to let her out while inwardly wanting her to not take that chance… well, it wasn't really her business.
She knew it was a matter of fact to most that oniisama had such a large sway on her life and choices. She usually expected and accepted that, except during the occasional days when she felt like she could no longer recognize herself. This was one of those days. But to have even the Chairman ask as if it were the most natural thing in the world… In an unusual display of pique, Yuuki met his gaze with a hint of defiance.
"It's fine. So can I stay?"
If Chairman Cross was surprised by the look in her eyes or her answer, he didn't show it. Smiling enthusiastically, he nodded and ushered her towards the hallway, telling her to stay and rest and that he'd be back after doing some work in his office.
Alone now, Yuuki slowly walked down the hallway to the door of her old room. Even though she'd lived with Yori in the girl's dormitory after entering high school, it had remained her room. And now entering the familiar space, she realized that the Chairman had still kept it as her room. Little had changed, except for the fact that it looked unbearably bare without her personal belongings. Her eyes wandered towards the only two items in the room that were not furniture.
Two picture frames. She remembered them well. One was of her and Yori, the other of her and Zero. She'd chosen not to take the pictures with her back when she'd left the academy. At the time, she'd really thought that living as a vampire would change everything. She no longer had a life as Cross Yuuki and all the things she'd had as a human, she'd thought to leave behind. But things weren't so simple. Looking at the bright smile of her younger, human self, Yuuki felt that all too keenly.
Turning, she walked back out into the hallway and gently closed the door behind her. That room was too bare, too cold and yet, too full of all that she had lost. She headed for the door a little further down the hall.
When she entered that room, she found that this too was clean and bare. It had been Zero's room before… Apparently, he never stayed here anymore. She couldn't even detect his scent in the room. And the only personal artifact in the room was…
'Bloody Rose?' There on the bedside table lay the familiar silver gun. Yuuki remembered how the Chairman had pulled Zero aside as soon as they'd entered for dinner. There had been low sounds of arguing, though she hadn't known what it was about. Now, she could guess that the Chairman had taken Bloody Rose and placed it here until Zero left. Worried about her safety and Zero's threats… She wondered if the Chairman was just being paranoid about his 'children's' well beings or if he really thought that Zero was capable of carrying out his threat.
Shaking her head at the thought, Yuuki closed the door and padded towards the bed. This was where she'd petted Zero's head until he could sleep without being overtaken by his nightmares. It was here that her own nightmares started receding as well. She had been the one comforting Zero but she had been comforted in turn by his presence. Right now, she wanted that. And maybe in this room, she could remember it and dream of it enough to be comforted once more.
About half an hour passed before the door to the room soundlessly swung open again. Zero had wrestled with himself over whether or not he should return to retrieve Bloody Rose. He'd cursed himself repeatedly for forgetting something so vital as he finally decided to retrieve his weapon. Though he could feel Yuuki's presence still lingering in the house, he felt too uneasy and vulnerable without the weapon to simply wait until she left. And it didn't even seem like she'd be leaving until the morning.
So he'd hoped to quickly grab Bloody Rose without running into the pureblood again. But looking into the room, he admitted that this was a complication he hadn't foreseen. Yuuki was in his old room, lying curled up under the covers, sound asleep. She was beautiful. Yet with the way she was curled up and hugging herself, she looked so small and desolate. He recognized the look on her sleeping face as one she often wore when her dreams were upsetting. It bothered him that she wore such an expression now. Hadn't she said she was rid of all her worries and fears?
Swallowing, he tore his eyes away and silently headed towards the bedside table. Her dreams and fears were none of his business. Not anymore. He was a fool to hope it could be otherwise. He'd just take Bloody Rose and go. If she slept as soundly as she used to, she wouldn't even know he had been here.
But even as he picked up his weapon, a small hand caught his other sleeve. Just barely refraining from wrenching away, Zero turned to see a bleary but awake Yuuki holding his sleeve. What was with this girl and his sleeves?
"Zero… stay. Please."
The voice was soft, almost pleading but with an edge that hinted at the fear of rejection. And though her grip this time was only light, to Zero they might as well been steel chains laced with anti-vampire spells. He couldn't walk away when she was like this. Even if every shred of reason and sanity he had screamed against it, warning him that it would only bring more pain in the end, he couldn't walk away.
He sighed and resigned himself to his fate. Sitting down on the floor with his back leaning against the bed, he allowed Yuuki to keep a grip on his sleeve.
So much had changed, but some things… they had never changed.
Yuuki wanted to cry. Her dreams had been hazy but they'd unsettled her so her sleep had been light and uneasy. Then that nostalgic scent… She'd woken up to find Zero standing right there and she'd stopped him from leaving, asked him to stay before she knew what she was doing. Just when she was about to mentally kick herself for such an unreasonable request, Zero had acquiesced. He was sitting next to her and was asking her what was wrong.
She didn't know why she felt tears stinging her eyes or how to answer his question. Nothing and everything was wrong. The memories of her times here had stirred up her emotions until her heart was a confused mess and she no longer know which way was up. But Zero was staying and he was here and that… that was enough. It felt like home.
"Stay…" was the only word that left Yuuki's lips in a whisper.
Several minutes later, Zero felt her relax, while her breaths evened out in sleep. Yuuki's hand on his sleeve twitched until it found the warmth it was unconsciously seeking and lightly grasped at his hand. Eventually, she shifted closer until he could practically feel the radiating warmth of her resting form. Zero remained still.
When he later twisted his head around to look at her, he saw that this time Yuuki was sleeping deeply. Her face was relaxed and even seemed blissfully at peace. The only sounds that broke the restful silence were her soft breathing and a barely heard murmur.
"I'm not going anywhere…Yuuki."
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