A/N: Thank you all so much for the wonderful reviews! Don't forget to check the review response forum for individual responses. :)
Chapter Three: "My Tears to Your Tears"
The wavering moon looked blood red through the lapping crimson water. Zero's eyes slid shut, seeking peace, but finding only more pain as tainted water rushed into his lungs and his body spasmed in the painful throes of suffocation and drowning, numbed only by his deep state of desanguination.
Suddenly, strong hands gripped his shoulders, tangling in his shirt and propelling him back towards the surface as the formerly peaceful water churned from the abrupt movement. Disoriented and surprised, Zero struggled weakly, but he could barely move, and his diming vision could see nothing but the swirling darkness of the water and the fractured light of the moon bouncing around him on the choppy, bloody froth of the waves as his head was jerked above the surface.
Against his will, Zero's lungs heaved desperately for air, coughing and choking. It seemed his traitorous body still wanted to live, even if he didn't.
Someone was dragging him swiftly through the waves, back towards the shoreline. Zero didn't want to go and he thrashed weakly, trying to pull away. A swift, perfunctory elbow jab in the face put an end to that.
Zero was hauled out of the water and thrown down on the muddy river bank. For the first time, he got a look at his would-be rescuer. He almost laughed bitterly, except that he was still choking. Of course. He should have known.
Kaname knelt over Zero, water dripping from his hair and clothing, his pale shirt soaked and stained pinky-red with Zero's blood.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, Kiriyu?" the positively livid pureblood demanded harshly. He rolled Zero onto his side, carefully pounding his back, helping the ex-human cough up the water clogging his lungs.
Zero was too weak to fight him, flopping limply as Kaname rolled him onto his back again once the hunter was breathing in weak, shaky little gasps.
"Leeme alone..." Zero slurred in a hoarse, angry whisper. Couldn't Kuran let him die in peace? Who asked him to get involved anyway? Damn pureblood was done running his life. Done.
The weeks of separation had been torture for Zero. He'd tried to suppress his hunger. God forgive him, he had even tried to sate it other places – yet another dark mark on the unforgivable list of sins for which he deserved to die. But even so, that forbidden, stolen blood wasn't enough for him, it didn't do for him what he'd come to expect and need. The hunter had grown unfortunately accustomed to feeding off the richest and very best. He'd become reliant on the regular, heady influx of pure vampire blood. Now, nothing else truly satisfied. Nothing but Kaname.
Zero knew he would always be dependent on Kuran if he lived, he would always crave his blood more than any other, would always be tempted to crawl to him, willing to be used in exchange for... for a fix. He was nothing but a junkie who'd sold body and soul to his dealer. It was no kind of life. Not for him, or Kaname. They'd both be so much better off with him dead.
Kaname slapped Zero across the face. Hard. Zero had obviously tampered with their bond somehow, that's why it had fallen so quiet. Because of the way it was being diluted in the water, the scent of Kiriyu's blood had not reached him until it was almost too late. Kaname had followed the smell at a run, seeing Zero floating beneath the surface from a distance. His heart had almost literally stopped beating. There was no expressing the sheer, terrified panic that staked him through in that horrible moment. Kaname was prepared to swear it had taken centuries off his life.
He'd dived into the water after Zero without even having time to take off his shirt or shoes, knowing it was a race against the clock. There was so much blood in the lake... Zero was so still and lifeless as he sank towards the bottom... Kaname couldn't feel him through their bond. He'd thought he was already dead. He thought he'd lost him. He'd... he... he was very put out! And angry! And... and trembling almost uncontrollably.
Zero reeled, nearly passing out from the blow. "Get away fromme..." he slurred, pathetically powerless to do anything to make the pureblood comply. Zero just wanted to be left alone, to give into the cold darkness creeping over him. His wrists were still bleeding sluggishly, staining his shirtsleeves.
Next thing he knew Kaname was cradling his head with unexpected gentleness, pulling Zero's face to the pureblood's neck as he knelt over him on the river bank. Kaname had pulled his collar aside and his intention was obvious. "Shut up and drink, Kiriyu..." he murmured, and Zero was sure he was imagining what sounded like the raw rasp of concern in the other vampire's voice. Zero had lost too much, he was dying from blood loss – but if he drank, he would live.
Zero twisted his face away, unintentionally burying it against Kaname's shoulder as he stubbornly refused to do as commanded. He didn't want to live, didn't Kaname get that?! Idiot. Just how dense was he?
Zero found himself reeling from another stinging blow that knocked him back against the riverbank again, blood trickling sluggishly from the corner of his mouth. Geez... was Kuran trying to save him or kill him?
"You're a coward, Kiriyu!" Kaname snapped harshly, striking him again. The pureblood wasn't holding back and didn't seem to care if he beat the crap out of the ex-human. Actually, that appeared to be a plus right now. "And you're taking the coward's way out. How dare you?"
Zero was just barely aware that Kaname was trembling as he shook him roughly. The pureblood raked his fingernails down his own neck, making blood ooze freely. Zero's reeling senses responded instantly, red filling his eyes, his fangs extending despite himself. The scent of Kaname's blood was too familiar, too delicious, he'd been dying for it for weeks and his drained body craved it instantly.
"How can you break your promise to Yuki this way?" Kaname demanded. How can you do this to me? How could you leave me alone like this? You know what will happen when our bond breaks... But those words Kaname didn't speak. He was sure Zero wouldn't care. Zero probably wanted to punish him. Probably wanted to see him go insane from the loss... The boy hated him now, and with good reason. It was his fault Yuki was dead. He wasn't there for her. He'd kept Zero from being there for her. Then he'd tried so hard to save her... and he'd only killed her faster. He'd promised her parents he'd never hurt her, he'd promised Cross he'd take care of her and Zero. In so many ways... he'd broken every promise he'd ever made and he would never be able to forgive himself for that. No one could ever loathe him as much as he loathed himself. Zero was right to hate him, but not to throw his own life away.
"How can you just give up and die, when somewhere out there, her killer still lives and breathes, her death un-avenged?!" the seething pureblood threw the words at Zero like well-aimed daggers, punching the hunter a few more times for good measure as if trying to pound sense into him or perhaps simply because the pureblood needed very much to hit something. "Did you love her so very little?!"
Zero, on his back on the muddy riverbank, head spinning from blood loss and the pounding he was receiving from the irate pureblood, realized with a small shock that as he gazed up into Kaname's stormy eyes... he could see in their raw, aching depths that the other vampire actually wanted to give up just as much as he did. But Kuran had spent a lifetime denying his own deepest desires and his will was as strong as his heartbreak and despair. He would not give up, would not die, would not rest, until he'd feasted on the blood and flesh and ripped the innards out of whoever had shattered his life and torn out his heart by taking Yuki away... and destroying whatever chance there had been between him and Zero. He could live for vengeance alone, if that was all that was left to him, and he would see it served. That resolve was etched clearly on every feature.
"If you're too weak and too afraid to live, then go ahead and die. But if you really loved her, then you'd struggle through your own pain and live to avenge her death and to honor her memory," the pureblood rasped, his voice still trembling with raw emotion, although quieter now.
Kaname yanked Zero's head back to his neck, and almost without meaning to, Zero hungrily lapped the spilt blood from the pureblood's wet throat, his fangs sinking into Kaname's flesh as he drank automatically. In his current state, and after denying himself so long, the intense, pleasing shock of Kaname's blood to his senses was a deep, dirty sense of bliss. As the blood flowed into his starved body, rejuvenating him and preserving his life, the full impact of what Kaname had just said, what Zero had just tried to do, and how incredibly, painfully empty he felt inside all started to settle in on Zero at the same time. He trembled, trying to contain the feelings tearing him apart. But he couldn't, not even though Kuran was right there. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered.
Sobs shook Zero's shoulders as he drank from Kaname's neck. Soft at first, as he struggled vainly for control, then growing harder and more gut-wrenching until he could barely breathe enough to drink, salty tears trailing hotly down his cheeks and falling upon Kaname's neck and collar, his hands twisting into the front of Kaname's wet shirt because it happened to be right there and he had to hold onto something. He felt like he was coming apart at the seams, everything unraveling and bursting open. So what if he was falling apart in front of the pureblood? So what if he was yet again feeding his hopeless addiction to the man he'd whored himself to? Kaname already knew he owned him. Zero was so empty, so lost and numb that he couldn't even care. There was no way to hold back the raw tide of heartbreak that was tearing him apart and he sobbed the utter brokenness of his heart and his life out against the pureblood's warm neck, letting Kaname's wet hair cover his face and hide his weakness and pain. Kaname's body was warm and Zero couldn't fight the fleeting, incongruous feeling of safety. He'd found comfort in these arms once. Even if it had all been a lie, at least for a few moments, he could pretend...
Kaname cradled Zero's head against him almost fiercely, fingers tangled in the wet silver hair. He sat up on the riverbank, pulling the other with him. He wrapped the arm not cradling Zero's head around the ex-human's shaking shoulders, holding Zero protectively to his chest as the boy sobbed against his neck.
Kaname closed his eyes, breathing harshly, fighting a losing battle with his own emotions. Zero's sorrow seemed to have cracked open the tightly sealed and padlocked floodgates in his own heart. In Zero's tears... he too could cry... for perhaps the first time since Yuki died.
Kaname always had to be strong in front of everyone else, it was expected of him. He trusted his friends here – Ichijo, Aido, Kain, Ruka... but some things were just not done. No one ever saw purebloods cry. No one but Yuki and Zero had ever seen his tears, and no one could. It was his destiny and his curse. He always had to carry on no matter what he was feeling, always had to carry on after everyone and everything he loved died and was taken from him, time after time after time after time... It didn't matter how strong a pureblood heart was. His was broken to irreparable pieces and until this moment, he hadn't even been able to grieve with anyone, hadn't dared let them see him as anything but calm, controlling and aloof. The one person he could have shared with and sought comfort from, had rejected and pulled away from him since the nightmare started. Perhaps the cruelest final stroke had been that he'd not only lost Yuki, he'd lost Zero too. But at least this... this the two of them still shared. The bond of pain. Utter pain and heartbreak beyond expression.
Kaname buried his face in Zero's hair and gave into his own unforgiveable, but now unstoppable weakness. He wept with the hunter, his tears spilling silently into Zero's already dripping hair and seeming to scald his eyes with the burn of having been so long repressed and denied release.
"Kaname... I'm worried about Zero. I'm afraid of what he'll do after I... after... I'm gone." Yuki had seen the strain that had come back between the two vampires, even if they hid the full extent of it from her, but she hoped that they could find each other again. One of the things that gave her the most peace was knowing that deep down, they loved each other. She wanted so much for them to be happy. "Please Kaname, promise me you'll look after Zero, that you won't let him give up."
Yuki had made her request one day near the end, when they were alone. Kaname had hardly felt like breathing the same air as Zero that particular day, so deep was the hurt running between them, but there was nothing he would not have done to ease her mind and make her smile a little longer... he had promised, and he would keep that promise. For her... and... and for Zero. She'd made him promise not to grieve her too much either... but she should have known, that one he could not keep. Perhaps the rest of the world could not see the raw, gaping hole that had been ripped in his chest where his heart used to be, but it was there. He could feel it.
Kaname's shoulders shook. He shouldn't be letting go like this... and yet... the release of being able to finally express his heartbreak, especially with someone who understood this horrible ache as deeply as he did... it was hideously painful, and yet strangely cleansing at the same time, as all the pressure he hadn't realized had been building up like a smothering volcano in his chest tore loose.