A/N: After thirty chapters, almost 400 pages and 9 months, we finally reach the end of this story. :) Thank you so much to everyone who has shared this journey with me. Each and every one of you have helped keep the story going and made this a truly delightful experience. As a fun, silly little side note, if you look at the chapters in the dropdown menu, you'll notice that you can read the titles almost like loose prose that somewhat sums up the story. Well, whether or not it reads that way, that was my intention anyway. ;) Thank you to YenGirl for inspiring some of the details of the Yagari / Zero / Kaname confrontation and to Sagakure for being so delighted about the idea that it made me want to extend the scene a little. ;D You both have been sheer inspiration to me this whole story. *hugs*

Chapter Thirty: "We'll Always Be Together"

Zero watched the shadows shifting on the ceiling above Kaname's bed. He'd slept most of the day and through the evening. His rest had been deep and contented and he felt refreshed. He'd been awake for almost a half an hour now, but he lay still so as not to disturb the brunette head pillowed on his arm. Beside the hunter, his pureblood lover slept on.

Kaname was lying on his back, arms at his sides, his head resting in the crook of Zero's elbow. The position was slightly stiff and unnatural compared to the way Zero was used to seeing Kaname when in repose. The pureblood had not stirred since Zero had awoken, and despite the dim light, he could tell that Kaname's skin was still flushed with sunburn, the bruises and bites on his body as clear now as they had been hours ago.

Zero frowned softly. The effects of the anti-vampire weapon should have started to dull by now and the marks should have faded at least a little. But he realized that that was not taking into account the additional effects of the pureblood's sun exposure. Even at full strength, the severity of the sunburn Kaname had gotten would have hampered his natural abilities. The sun exposure and the hunter injury combined and exacerbated by each other meant that Kaname probably wasn't going to bounce back too quickly.

Zero watched him silently for several minutes - listening intently to the cadence of Kaname's breathing and the beat of his heart. He used both his hunter and vampire senses to search for any indication of serious danger, but at least as far as he could tell, he found none. Kaname was not going to be a happy camper for a while, but he was not in any danger.

Zero smiled softly and brushed the fingers of his free hand lightly through the dark, tangled curls lying against the pureblood's forehead. A soft awe filtered through the silver-violet eyes as he looked at his lover. By now he was well used to thinking of Kaname by that description, but suddenly... suddenly the word meant a lot more. It was as if in one day, everything had changed, and yet actually, it was all very much the same. Just... better.

For the first time, Zero found himself considering what it would be like to wake up next to this man for the rest of his life. It was something he'd never thought about before, with anyone. Even with Yuki, love her as earnestly as he had, he had never dared hope they'd have very long together. The future had always seemed out of reach. Yet now... it felt almost frighteningly attainable. It was strange, and yet dear to him to have the stability and sureness of knowing that wherever life took him, it was to these arms he would always return and this heart that would be home. Home. Zero's throat felt tight. Yes... this was home. Right here, beside Kaname. He was not an interloper or an infatuated parasite sucking off his host's good graces. This was where he belonged. Zero hadn't felt like he had belonged anywhere in years.

The sudden thoughts washing over him surprised the hunter, but not nearly so much as how natural they felt. It was silly, he knew, maybe even sappy of him to feel this way, but he just couldn't get over the awe of it all. Kaname loved him, and Zero knew the pureblood well enough by now to know that he would not use that word lightly, nor if he thought he was ever likely to change his mind. It was just... it was just so beautiful he couldn't help the large, stupid grin on his face that thankfully no one could see.

Zero kissed Kaname's forehead gently and slid his arm out from under the other's head, pulling a pillow down to replace it. It was quite late in the evening by now and Zero was feeling both hungry and thirsty, not to mention badly in need of a shower.

Kaname stirred. His eyelids fluttered, but didn't manage to truly open. His breathing quickened a bit raggedly and he mumbled something indistinct.

"Shh..." Zero leaned down and kissed the pureblood's tangled curls again. He knew sleep was the best thing for Kaname right now as his body struggled to right itself. "Go on and rest, I'm just going to go make breakfast. I'll bring some up to you in a little bit, okay?"

He was met with another sleepy, inarticulate murmur and wasn't at all sure Kaname really understood what he'd said, but the pureblood seemed to get that everything was fine and gave a deep, contented smile before his body relaxed and his breathing evened out once more.

Zero slid from under the covers and adjusted them once he was out of bed. He pulled the sheet up to Kaname's chin, carefully covering his body. Sunburned skin was especially temperature sensitive and he didn't want Kaname feeling chilled. Zero returned to his own room for a quick shower and a change of clothes before making his way off in search of food. He figured he would have his own breakfast first, to give Kaname more time to rest, before returning with a meal for the pureblood. Izumi was probably going to give him grief again, but he didn't care. He was cooking for Kaname and that was that.

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A pall of cigarette smoke hung in the air of the guest house bedroom, but the dark haired hunter within did not bother opening a window as he stubbed his cigarette out in the ash tray. If the blood suckers objected, they could damn well air the place out themselves. He wasn't going to be here much longer, right? The extinguished butt fell amidst a small mound of its fellows. Yagari's smoking tended to increase when he was agitated or unhappy. Right now, he was both.

He'd not slept since he parted from Zero earlier, despite having made an exceptionally early morning of it to accommodate their training session. It was late in the evening now, and a faint hint of fatigue was not improving his mood.

Yagari's single eye gazed morosely around the spacious room. His things were packed. He'd already thrown together the minimal items that he had with him and they were sitting on the bed in readiness. He had only to either take the stuff down to the car that Kaname had made available for his use while he was staying with them, or, if he didn't wish to do that, call a cab. He was all set to go. He'd been set, for hours now... so why was he still here, pacing, smoking, and brooding?

Yagari grabbed his long jacket from the back of a chair and shrugged into it angrily. Because you're a moronic fool, that's why. He answered his own unspoken question sardonically. He knew why he was still there. He was waiting... waiting for Zero. Hoping that the boy would come to his senses and seek out the elder hunter's help. He didn't want to remove that option while there was still a chance the boy might take it. He hadn't expected to see Zero during the day, when all good little vampires were asleep and when that damn pureblood was probably... probably keeping him busy. But it had been dark for a while now. If Zero was going to come find him, there was nothing to stop him. Except Kuran of course.

Yagari jammed his hat down onto his head and reached for the rifle lying on the foot of the bed. Despite what his head told him, the hunter's heart wouldn't let him just write Zero off. He'd done that before, and it had been a mistake. When he'd seen the young boy with gouges in his neck and hopelessness in his eyes and he'd understood all too well what Zero would become... Yagari had written him off. Because that was just the way things were, as horrible and hideous as it was and he had seen it play out too many times to hope for a different outcome. It was one of the few things that had come close to breaking his and Cross's friendship.

"Don't walk away from him, Toga! He needs you now more than ever!" Cross spun him around with a hand on his arm, normally gentle eyes flashing with a hint of the deadly spark that Yagari was quite aware hid beneath.

"There's nothing I can do," Yagari's dark gaze was filled with pain and a deep bitterness towards the injustice of life and the short, cruel emptiness of his once promising student's future. "The kid's an ex-human vampire, it would have been better if the bitch had killed him with his parents."

Next thing he knew, he was on his backside, half sprawled on the ground. The furious punch in the face had nearly broke his nose.

"Don't say that! You're my dearest friend, Toga, but don't ever say that again."

It was the only time Kaien Cross had ever raised a violent hand towards him, and Cross was probably the only man Yagari would have let get away with that unchallenged. Yagari had seen with his head, but Cross had seen with his heart. And he'd been right.

Yagari couldn't just walk away again now, knowing what kind of a situation he was leaving Zero in. Even though Zero hadn't come to him... the boy still needed him. After all, why should Zero come? Aside from berating him for deceiving himself into whatever state of delusion the kid probably needed to cling to in order to survive the abuse he suffered, had Yagari offered him any actual way out?

The truth was, Yagari didn't know if there was a way out, but he would do his damnedest to make one. Realistically, he realized that Zero couldn't just leave with him without severe consequences. Even if Yagari devoted himself to guarding Zero against the inevitable fallout of losing Kuran's protection and having his execution orders re-instated, that wasn't their only problem. If they ran, they'd no doubt have to contended with Kuran sending people after them too, Yagari was aware that the pureblood could be quite relentless when he wanted to be. The Hunter's Association would offer no assistance. They would not help him if he went against someone as powerful as Kuran without orders or provocation. They would only see Zero as level D who needed to be returned to his keeper. Sooner or later the two hunters would be toast, and if Kuran took Zero back alive and didn't kill him for the betrayal, then Yagari would doubtless have just made Zero's life a whole new level of hell.

No, the only real option was to have it out with Kuran himself and try to force the bastard to give Zero up willingly... or kill him. If he had to. If he could. They were fairly isolated out here and if done right, they would have enough time to disappear before anyone found out. Having the Vampire Council's lackeys out for their heads as pureblood killers was bad, but not as bad as having a specific pureblood hell-bent on finding you.

Yagari pulled the door of the house shut behind him and stalked swiftly and silently towards the main house, blending into the shadows with the easy skill of a veteran hunter as he grew nearer.

He'd told Zero he wasn't going to throw himself in front of another vampire for him... but Yagari knew that was exactly what he was doing now. The end result might be much worse this time. He might not walk away from this one, but he could do nothing else.

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Kaname slept peacefully with one arm thrown over his head, the rest of him still under the covers that Zero had settled over him. His tangled, dark hair fanned on the pillow and his features were relaxed in slumber. His sleep was deeper than usual as his body struggled to get to a point where it could begin mending itself. His usually keen senses were completely dulled and repressed by the lingering effects of the hunter poison and the sunburn. Ironically, this helped him sleep deeper, since he was not as hyper-aware of every little sound and movement around him as was usually the case.

It also meant, however, that he did not hear, smell nor sense the figure that slipped silently into his bedroom. He did not stir as stealthy footsteps made their way to his bed with practiced sureness. He did not stir at the soft ssshhhing sound made by a rifle being slid from underneath a long leather coat and brought to bear on the bed's lone occupant.

Yagari regarded the sleeping figure, just barely visible to his keen gaze in the deep darkness of the room. The seasoned hunter knew he was good, but he was quite surprised that Kuran had let him get this close. He suspected a trap, but... there was something off about the pureblood that was puzzling his hunter senses. Kuran's power levels were registering extremely low, making him appear quite vulnerable. Yagari had never confronted a sleeping pureblood before. Was it natural? Was it a trick to lure prey into a false sense of security? He didn't know, but he wasn't about to be fooled. However... even with all the reason and provocation that he thought he had, he was also too good of a man to kill someone, even a vampire, in their sleep.

The faint, but distinct scent of sex lingered in the air about the bed, giving no doubt as to what kind of recent activities it had seen. There was also the scent of something vaguely sweet, like coconuts, that for some reason brought a beach to mind, but Yagari disregarded the out-of-place scent for the moment. He tried to contain his anger and keep a level head.

Kaname finally seemed to vaguely sense another presence in the room and he gave a soft sigh as sleep and consciousness battled groggily. Perhaps something in him could still register the presence of a hunter... but that did not at all put him on his guard as it should have done. A faint, tender smile played about his bruised lips, invisible in the darkness. "Zero?" the pureblood murmured softly, not really awake.

Yagari's jaw tightened harshly at the confirmation of who the pureblood had entertained himself with in his bed that day. Perhaps he should have wondered more at the vampire making such a mistake in identifying him, but his mind was too hazed with red and filled with disgusting images of what Kuran had probably done to the young hunter.

With swift deftness, Yagari flicked on the small, but powerful miniature klieg light attached to his rifle scope. It was intended to clearly illuminate prey in night hunting conditions and to temporarily blind vampires in the process. It did its job well.

Even with his eyes closed, the intense light hit Kaname's optic nerves like a brilliant stab of pain. Jerked from his sleep and disoriented, his eyes automatically shot open, which was a mistake. The powerful light flooded his vision, making his eyes burn and completely blinding him in its glare.

Kaname cried out softly in shock and pain. He quickly clenched his eyes shut, his arms instinctively flying up, hands crossed, palms out, in a defensive gesture in front of his eyes. Disoriented, blinded and robbed of his other senses, he didn't know what was happening and panic sunk raw, tearing claws into his gut.

He scrambled backwards on the bed in an instinctive attempt to try and escape the source of the light, but he didn't go far. His own physical and sensory blindness trapped him and despite his frightened disorientation, he instinctively knew better than to run blind when you didn't know what you were up against and whether or not you were being forced back into a trap.

Just as instinctively, he knew better than to display any more weakness than he could help. One arm still protecting his eyes, the other had dropped to clutch the sheet covering his naked body, keeping it tugged to up to his chin. This was partially to cover his nudity, but mostly an attempt to hide the extreme picture of vulnerability that his marked up skin would betray. Vulnerability was an invitation to be attacked. All predators knew that.

The pureblood's eyes watered and stung. He blinked rapidly, hand still shielding his eyes from the glare as he struggled to ignore the exploding spots in his vision and make out the figure behind the light. He couldn't. He could see almost nothing of the surrounding room. The only thing he could make out through his swimming vision was the unmistakable shape of the gun barrel staring him straight in the face.

Kaname's stomach was in his toes and his heart was racing in fear. He was vulnerable. So very, hideously vulnerable. His abrupt movements were already screaming pain through his aching body. He had no access to his powers or his strength. He doubted he could get out of bed without falling to his knees, much less fight anyone right now. If this intruder wanted to kill him, he was dead.

Clamping down ruthlessly on the terror that was making his head spin and his stomach churn, Kaname summoned the only thing that was left to him - his iron self control snapping back into place to pull up the mask of confident calm that he did not remotely feel.

"What do you want? How dare you intrude into my private chambers like this?" Kaname hissed coldly and fiercely. Only the slight, traitorous trembling of his hands betrayed his inner feelings.

"I want to talk to you, vampire, and I want to make sure you listen," a dark, angry voice answered and Kaname was surprised to find that he recognized it.

"Yagari?" he said in quiet shock, blinking against the painful light still stabbing into his head as he tried to get a glimpse of the hunter between his fingers. It was not a reassuring revelation. To be completely helpless at the mercy of a hunter was every vampire's worst nightmare. Kaname's tone had come out much more uncertain than he would have liked and he quickly hardened it again.

"I trust whatever you want to talk about must be fairly important, to take your life in your hands this way," the pureblood said regally, with a hint of dark anger beginning to rise in his own tone. If he wasn't in this helpless state, Yagari would have to be either extremely brave or extremely foolish to confront him in this manner.

The pureblood's arrogant gall in acting like he was in control of the situation when he so obviously was not grated on Yagari, but he was also growing a little puzzled. The harsh glare of the spotlight he had trained on the vampire was revealing things that the darkness had hidden from him before. The pureblood's pale, slender arms were mottled strangely. The intense light was washing out Kaname's sunburn, but it threw the dark, encircling bruises around his wrists and the other distinctly finger-shaped ones on his forearms into sharp relief. It was a surprising sight.

Pureblood vampires did not bruise. The only way Kuran would be showing marks like those was if he had already been injured with a hunter weapon... which rather agreed with the still very low power-readings he was getting off of the vampire even now that he was awake. Even more shocking though, was trying to figure out who could have given him such marks. He'd been with Zero, or so Yagari was assuming. But there was no way in hell the proud vampire would have let the boy do something like this to him, right? You didn't harm a pureblood and live.

Suddenly Yagari's gut twisted in pain and sickening apprehension, heart nearly sinking through the floor. Oh God... had what he'd said to Zero prompted the boy to act out? How dearly had he paid for that? Was he even still alive, or was Yagari too late, again?!

"Where's Zero?!" Yagari demanded harshly, a hint of fear just making itself known under the lethally angry rasp of the words. Moving with graceful hunter speed, he grabbed Kaname's wrist and yanked his hand away from his face, one knee resting on the bed now as he forced his light into the pureblood's face and unprotected eyes.

Kaname gave a choked cry of surprise and pain, clenching his eyes desperately and turning his head away as much as Yagari's grip on him allowed. Pain knifed through his head like rail road spikes being driven through his eye sockets. Vaguely, through his pain, he could tell the hunter was worried about Zero. Worried that the pureblood done something to him. If the situation weren't quite so painful and dangerous, Kaname would have been amused at the intense irony.

Kaname controlled his breathing harshly, his helplessness reinforced by the fact that he didn't have the strength to twist his arm out of Yagari's painfully tight grip. "I-I don't know exactly. He went to make breakfast," the pureblood grit out truthfully through his teeth, still trying to cringe away from the burning light. "He's fine, if that's what you're asking. You can go see for yourself if you don't believe me."

Yagari stared down darkly at the vampire he had trapped against the bed. There was no reason he should believe the pureblood. It seemed fantastic to think that Zero was simply off making breakfast somewhere with the pureblood in this condition, but he froze as he took in Kuran's attractively swollen and bruised lips and the dark outlines of multiple bites and punctures tracing the length of his graceful neck. Someone had been feeding on him, repeatedly and avidly. The pureblood's skin was unusually hot under his touch. This was really weird.

"Right, you expect me to believe that? Let me ask you this then... who is it that did this to you? Who got you with a hunter weapon and left you with these injuries, huh?" Yagari pressed the gun muzzle between the pureblood's clenched eyes.

Kaname swallowed carefully. He understood what Yagari was thinking, it wasn't an unreasonable fear if you didn't know the truth. The pureblood was loathe to air his private life to others, but neither did he particularly wish to be killed over a misunderstanding. He was very conscious of the gun at his head and the fact that in his current state, one pull of that trigger was all it would take.

"Zero did," the pureblood answered quietly, his eyes still screwed shut against the light and his body tense. "But it is not what you think. He did not attack me and I have not harmed him. He did nothing to me that I did not allow him to do, why should I harm him for that? Listen to me, Zero told me you were informed of our... our... relationship," Kaname hadn't meant to stumble on that word, but this was very awkward. "I believe you have a mistaken impression of its nature."

Kaname's heart was pounding. He didn't really expect to be believed, so he was a trifle surprised when Yagari snorted derisively, but released his arm and stepped back a pace, no longer kneeling on the bed. The hunter thankfully moved the light down, away from the pureblood's eyes. The gun remained warily trained on the pureblood, but Yagari reached over with his other hand and turned on the beside lamp before flicking the klieg light off. He wasn't sure he believed Kaname, but he was sure that the vampire was currently a very manageable threat. It was obvious he was extremely weakened or the hunter would never have gotten away with manhandling him like that. Yagari was angry, but while there was the possibility that Zero might in fact be okay, he was not inclined to be more cruel than the situation required. Kuran was a puzzling specimen of a vampire, he always had been.

Kaname's tense body sagged slightly in relief when the burning light was finally removed, replaced by a much gentler one. He hesitantly blinked his eyes open. They ached and blinding spots and flashes still danced freely before them, making everything seem unusually dark. But vision was at least possible now and he could make out Yagari's dark, blurry form standing beside the bed, gun still trained on him. The pureblood pushed painfully up to sit, sheet still clutched self-consciously to his chest even though Yagari had obviously already seen some of the marks he couldn't hide.

In more normal lighting, Yagari was now aware of Kuran's obvious sunburn, which explained the heat of his skin and the sweet, sun lotion smell, but only increased Yagari's confused curiosity. Kaname had let Zero bruise and feed from him this way? How was that even remotely possible? He just couldn't imagine it. He shook his head.

"Oh I think I see pretty clearly. You've always been a clever one, Kuran. I'll give you that. Maybe you really have made Zero think he wants to be with you, but a whore's a whore, no matter how much you try to dress it up," he said with dark, biting anger.

Kaname's reaction shocked the hunter. The pureblood's whole countenance changed. He snarled darkly and surged forward, despite his obviously weakened and disadvantaged state. He was checked only by Yagari's rifle jamming quickly against his heart and pulling him up short. One of Kaname's hands was still holding the sheet to him, but the other curled angrily into the mattress as he leaned on it, head swimming slightly from the surge of adrenaline and body almost trembling with anger. "Zero is no such thing. Don't you ever call him that again!" he demanded furiously, headless of the gun digging into his chest through the flimsy protection of the sheet.

The pureblood's dark eyes snapped fire and for a moment Yagari was transfixed. For some reason, he was jerked back to the look he'd seen in Cross's eyes the one time his friend had punched him. Perhaps it was because of the emotion in the sparking gaze, the protectiveness and... the care. Yagari had no idea how to deal with or understand what he was seeing. It was impossible that Kuran cared for Zero as anything but a slave and a pawn... yet that wasn't what his eyes said. It wasn't what his body said.

"I don't understand you," Yagari said quietly, his voice still hard, but having lost some of its lethalness. "I don't know what your game is. I just don't want to see Zero hurt any more. He deserves better than that. He's a great kid who's had a lot of bad breaks. You can have anything you want, anyone you want... why Zero? Why are you so interested in an ex-human? What's your plans for him?"

Despite the situation, Yagari's obvious, and very real concern for Zero struck an answering note in the pureblood. They were on the same side, Yagari just didn't know it. Kaname could not be too angry with the elder hunter for wanting merely to protect the boy that he himself loved more than life. Yagari's questions amused Kaname in spite of everything, and he smiled faintly.

"Are you asking me what my intentions are towards your pupil and whether or not they're honorable? You sound like a worried father..."

Yagari scowled. "He's been through enough! He doesn't need or deserve to have some son of a bitch bloodsucker like you mucking with his emotions and screwing him up like this!"

Kaname regarded the hunter evenly, knowing that as hard as it was for him to divulge such intimately personal information, the time had come for truth. If it was just a matter of his own safety, he would have been more reticent, but this was for Zero. Zero needed his Sensei's approval and support, Kaname would not have Yagari continuing to think that the young hunter was nothing but some kind of toy or diversion.

Fixing the hunter with a flat, no-nonsense look, Kaname dropped the sheet he'd been holding to his chest. It slid down his body, falling away to puddle to his lap. Embarrassment burned hotly through him but was overridden by determination as his fingers curled in the rumpled sheets, pulling them over further, so that one graceful hip and leg were also revealed. He kept the covers bunched in his lap, protecting his modesty, but he knew Yagari would not believe unless he had seen. The pureblood's motions revealed the full, clear picture of passion and possession that was written across his bruised, delicate skin. The cut across the front of his shoulder told how he had come to this state. The teeth marks on his nipples, his stomach and inner thigh - the distinctly finger shaped bruises on his arms, ribs and hip... they all told an irrefutably clear story.

Kaname's sunburn thankfully hid his painful flush at being so exposed to the hunter's shocked gaze. For Zero. This was for Zero.

"Look at me," Kaname said simply, his soft tone commanding and firm despite his silent humiliation. "Who do you think was doing the screwing here yesterday?"

Kaname's sense of embarrassment was at least eased a little by getting to see Yagari flush all the way from his neck to the roots of his hair.

"I'm not using Zero," the pureblood continued softly and seriously. He pulled the covers back over his legs, his gaze remaining earnestly fixed on the hunter. "I'm not playing with him, and I'm not abusing him. I love him." The admission was quiet, but irrefutably firm and resolute. The deep intensity in the pureblood's eyes defied anyone to call his love a lie. It burned in his gaze much too clearly and brightly. "That's why he can do this to me and it's fine. I wanted him to, because I belong to him as surely as he belongs to me. I want to protect him and I want him to be happy. That's why I give him my blood freely to preserve his sanity. That's why I train and spar with him. That's why I brought you here to teach him the things I cannot. That's why I want him to be able to achieve fullest extent of his ability in all realms. That's why, although you have no business with our personal affairs, I'm telling you all this now. I assure you, I could not care less what you think of me, but your opinion means the world to Zero. Your rejection is a crushing blow to him that he does not deserve. If you came here to try to get me to give him up, then I'm afraid that's quite impossible. But if you really wish to be sure that Zero is in good hands, then I promise that you do not have to worry about my intentions for him. My intentions are that I want to spend the rest of my life with him."

Yagari was shocked beyond words. Never in a million years had he expected to hear what he was hearing. He would have thought the pureblood was lying, except that it would have been a completely stupid lie. If Kaname merely wanted to save himself, he could have come up with something much more believable. For a pureblood to admit to loving an ex-human, not to mention allowing one to possess them would be the ultimate, most shameful blow to their pride imaginable. Yagari didn't think there was a single one of these proud, arrogant creatures that would stoop to that even to save their own hides... if it wasn't true.

Kaname's eyes said it was true. So did his body. The proof was just too strong to deny, no matter how incredible it all seemed and how disinclined Yagari was to trust a vampire. After all, here Kuran was, looking like hell and completely vulnerable, something that no pureblood worth their salt would ever want to allow to happen. Why would he have ever let Zero do something like this to him if he wasn't emotionally invested?

Despite himself, Yagari knew that if Kaname was serious... if he really did want to protect Zero and look out for him, then Zero could actually be in no better hands. Not only was Kuran's blood uniquely suited to help the ex-human keep from falling to a Level E, not only did being in Kuran's syndeo keep Zero from facing execution, but being Kuran's protégé gave Zero a certain legitimacy in vampire culture, while keeping him safe from all the other bloodsuckers who would see an unclaimed ex-human without a sire as free candy to be used up and passed around without regard.

If he looked at Kuran's actions in that light... it painted a wildly different picture than the one he'd been seeing before. It was still hard for Yagari to come to terms with this idea, but he could not help grudgingly respecting the pureblood a little more as the facts started to re-align into this new way of thinking.

There was a lot about this he still didn't like and wasn't comfortable with, such as the whole guys loving guys thing, which still seemed creepy and unnatural to him. But he cared and was open minded enough to not reject Zero on sexual orientation alone. If this was good for Zero... if there was a chance that Kuran was serious about wanting to make him happy, then maybe it wasn't so bad.

Yagari's mind jumped back to the fang marks on Zero's neck earlier as his gaze lingered on the similar marks on Kaname's now. If Kuran was letting Zero drink his blood direct, not just giving it to him in cups or vials, and he was obviously partaking in the same, then...

Kaname read the question in the hunter's eyes as they lingered on his neck. "Yes, he and I are blood bonded," he responded quietly. "But I need you to promise not to reveal that to anyone else, for Zero's sake. If others know he is my weakness, the danger for him will be intense."

Yagari nodded silently, and Kaname did not doubt that he could be trusted in this. The elder hunter obviously did not want harm to come to Zero.

Yagari pushed his hat back on his head with one hand, obviously at a loss for words. The rifle was now held much more loosely in his other hand although it was still pointed at Kaname. Lifelong habit refused to let him let his guard down around a vampire, but he had to admit that he had a lot to think about now.

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Zero set the breakfast tray he'd made for Kaname down on the small table in the hall so he could open the bedroom door. He'd made Kaname a special tea, infused with blood tablets, but he'd filled the cup too full and it was threatening to slosh every time he moved the tray if he wasn't careful.

Even as he opened the door though, Zero's senses became alert. He had the unmistakable feeling that there was someone else in the room, besides Kaname. He knew that his lover would not willingly let even Seiren see him in his current state so his concern was instantly engaged. He slid the door open swiftly and silently... and his stomach dropped through the floor in horror.

He took in the scene in an instant. Kaname was sitting on the bed, obviously having been caught unawares, probably in his sleep, considering he was still naked and covered only by the sheet over his lap. Yagari stood beside the bed, a rifle pointed at the pureblood's heart.

Zero knew the mood Yagari had been in when last they parted. He knew that Kaname was completely vulnerable right now because he had allowed Zero to make him so. Fear constricted his lungs so sharply he physically couldn't breathe. If any harm came to Kaname now, especially because of him... Zero would never forgive himself and he'd never recover. He didn't know what he'd do... he'd probably go crazy.

"NO!" Moving faster than he'd ever moved before, Zero was across the room in a hearbeat. He threw himself between his teacher and his lover, standing defensively before the bed, the barrel of Yagari's rifle now pressing squarely against his own chest as he shielded Kaname with his body.

Zero held his hands out to the side in a gesture both of protectiveness and appeasement. He didn't want to have to fight Yagari. It would kill him to be forced to do so, but to protect the weakened pureblood on the bed, he would fight to the death... against anyone.

"No, Master, please! Don't hurt him!" Zero was almost shaking from the terror that had shot through him a moment ago. "I already told you, I'm with him because I want to be." Zero's eyes were anguished but his voice was firm. "I know this is hard for you to believe but I'm not deluded or being manipulated. Kaname is a good person and I... I... love him." Zero swallowed, his voice a trifle hoarse. Yagari could hate him, could think he was a hopeless idiot, a depraved monster and a slut and he would just have to live with that. He couldn't risk Kaname.

With sinuous speed, vines were forming behind Zero, twining around the bed and climbing towards the ceiling. If there was a fight, Zero didn't want any stray shots striking his lover... nor did he want Kaname trying to become involved when he was in no shape to do so. He was swiftly starting to form a thick shield of vines around the pureblood to protect him.

"I can't live without him," Zero rasped softly, his throat almost swelling closed. "So if you want to hurt him, you're going to have to go through me."

The gut-twisting irony of this situation was not lost on the young hunter. It was not the first time he'd stood between Yagari and a vampire, protesting their worthiness to live. But just because he'd been wrong then, didn't mean he was wrong now. In truth... he hadn't even been wrong then, he had merely made the youthful mistake of not realizing the desperately unstoppable effects of blood lust. The woman who had taken his teacher's eye had been a good person. She had simply been taken over by something stronger than herself that she could not fight. Zero hadn't been able to understand that distinction then. He understood it now. The unfortunate souls who lost themselves in the horror of that which they were never meant to be had to be put down, but being a vampire - whether born or made - did not make you evil. Surely, many were evil, but then, was not human history also soaked with the blood shed by tyrants, despots, genocide and serial killers? There were good and bad humans, there were good and bad vampires. Somehow, Zero knew that now in a way that he had never really been able to accept before.

Kaname was not a monster. He was not a monster. The potential was in them, certainly, but they chose against it.

Kaname's heart jumped back into his throat upon seeing the gun pressed against Zero's chest. As the vines started to grow around him, he realized in panic what Zero was doing. He was deeply touched at what his beloved was willing to do to protect him, but he didn't want this to spiral out of control.

Scrambling to the edge of the bed and kneeling up behind Zero, he wrapped his arms around the young hunter's shoulders, hugging him gently but urgently from behind and preventing the vines from cutting them off from one another. "No, Zero, it's okay..." he assured quickly.

Yagari stumbled back with a muttered curse of surprise, quickly yanking his gun down harmlessly towards the floor, heart pounding. Zero could have gotten himself fricking killed jumping in front of the older hunter with his vampire aura swirling like that. But he had to admit he admired the boy's courage. If Zero actually said he loved this vampire, then Yagari did not doubt he meant it. Seeing Zero's obvious devotion, following on what Kaname had told him, emphasized by the protective way the pureblood was now clinging to the ex-human as if he could pull Zero to safety, was enough to make up Yagari's mind.

As ridiculous and incredible as it was... these two were for real.

"Relax, kid, I'm not going to hurt anyone, okay?" Yagari assured wryly, holstering the rifle and holding his hands up in front of him in a gesture of peace. "Kuran and I were just having a little... chat..." he shot the pureblood a rueful look and Kaname grinned, his body sagging just slightly against Zero as the tension bled out of the situation.

"I guess maybe I did have the wrong idea about a couple things," Yagari admitted, gaze still holding Kaname's with a hint of remorse. His tone was gruff, but it was obviously something like a sort-of apology for the way he'd stormed in here.

Kaname acknowledged it with a faint nod. As long as it all ended well, then for Zero's sake he was willing to overlook what had happened. He still had spots dancing in front of his eyes, he was distinctly embarrassed and a decade or too may have been shaved off his life from fright, but no real harm had been done.

Yagari read that in the pureblood's eyes and his respect for Kuran went up another tiny notch. Purebloods were petty creatures, if Kuran was willing to put aside the humiliation of being cornered by a hunter in this fashion without batting an eye... then that said something for his character. The hunter's gaze switched back to Zero. "I may have overreacted earlier. You say this is what you want. Okay, I respect that."

Zero seemed shocked at this turn of events, not having expected this kind of acceptance from his Sensei. It warmed his heart deeply and he hesitantly relaxed a little. His hand strayed up to curl protectively around Kaname's where the pureblood's rested against his chest. He was a little too aware of Kaname's naked body pressing against his back, but he tried not to show it. The vines surrounding the bed retracted slowly and vanished.

"Thank you," Zero murmured softly. The hesitant part of him that was still just a young man who craved his teacher's approval showed through a bit in his gaze.

Kaname buried his face against the side of Zero's neck, nuzzling him and planting a light kiss on his lover's throat. The pureblood's body was on fire, his head was swimming and being close to Zero helped.

Zero's cheeks flushed pink and he shifted uncomfortably as he saw Yagari watching them, eyebrows raised. "Um..." he cleared his throat slightly, tilting his head away a little in a clear not now! gesture directed towards Kaname. But he didn't pull away. He could tell that the arms wrapped around him were clinging to him now as much for support as to embrace him. Kaname trembled slightly against his back. Zero knew how important it was for him to appear strong in front of others. His fingers curled tighter around his lover's hand. He would not let him be further humiliated in front of Yagari. Resolutely, he lifted his free hand and stroked Kaname's hair gently.

Yagari looked away and coughed as if to remind them that he was there. Damn, this was awkward... and yet, as much as it squicked him to see them hanging on each other like that, it reassured him and touched his heart too, more than he would admit.

Kaname slowly lifted his head, the motion trying to appear lazy instead of labored. "Well, are you satisfied now that I mean your apprentice no harm, master hunter?" he inquired wryly.

Yagari rubbed the back of his neck, giving his head a small shake. His expression was rueful. "I was wrong about you, Kuran and I apologize. If you mean what you say, then I'm glad you're in Zero's life. If you don't, and you ever hurt him... I will hunt you down," the older man said seriously.

"Master!" Zero protested, flushing again in mortification.

Kaname grinned. Complete opposites he and Yagari might be, but they were united at least in their protectiveness towards a certain silver-haired young man. "You sound like his father again," the pureblood remarked in amusement. He half kissed, half nibbled Zero's ear playfully. "I promise I'll be very good to him..."

"Kaname!" Zero protested again, embarrassed to death at his lover's suggestive tone and at the way they were talking about him.

Yagari frowned at Kaname's display, but despite himself, he seemed to be a little amused this time as well. "Yeah... well... I guess I'm the closest thing he's got. So you better be, and you'd better believe I mean what I say."

"Hello... HE is standing right here... stop talking like I'm not in the room!" Zero's ineffectual protests fell on deaf ears, although he sounded like he'd already conceded defeat. If Yagari and Kaname double teamed him, he knew he hadn't a chance.

Kaname smiled, his arms tightening around Zero as he held Yagari's gaze. "I do believe it. I would not have asked you into our lives if I did not believe that you hold his best interests at heart as much as I do."

Zero rolled his eyes and gave up.

Yagari gave a wry half-smile. This was one crazy, screwed up world, wasn't it?

Kaname released Zero and sank back down onto the bed, pulling the covers with him with effort and breathing carefully. Zero could tell that Kaname really needed to recoup, and he shifted an uncertain gaze towards Yagari.

Apparently, Yagari could tell the same, although he was gracious enough to not acknowledge the weakness that Kuran was unable to help displaying. The older hunter laid his hand on Zero's shoulder and gave it a little squeeze. He wasn't sure how to act... but finally gave up and just did what came natural. What the hell... so what if they were guys?

"Hey, nice work, kid..." he said, giving Zero a dry, meaningful nudge-nudge, wink-wink kind of look as he jerked his head towards Kaname.

Kaname gave him a decidedly cool glare, not pleased at being eluded to as the object of a sexual conquest, which of course amused the senior hunter and had probably been his intention in the first place. Zero flushed even more deeply and looked like he wished he could hide under the bed.

Yagari smirked slightly and ruffled Zero's hair. Then his gaze turned more serious. "Are you going to be... okay?" he asked quietly. His manner was concerned and a little awkward. As Zero looked back towards Kaname on the bed he understood why. The pureblood's eyes had gone faintly red and his chest was heaving softly in contained distress. Recent events had obviously been too much for his weakened body. When he found them both looking at him, Kaname must have realized that his eyes were changing without his consent, because he quickly closed them and leaned his head back against the pillow.

Zero's gaze shot quickly back to Yagari. "Yes," he said firmly and without hesitation. "He won't hurt me, Sensei," he said softly and earnestly. "He'll never take from me unless I give it willingly."

Yagari searched Zero's face, finding only deep conviction there. I hope so, for your sake Zero. "And are you going to?" he asked softly. He knew he probably shouldn't have asked, if he didn't want to know the answer. Yet... maybe he did want to know. He need to know that this was Zero's choice. Even if he found the whole idea of blood sharing repulsive.

Zero swallowed his natural aversion to answering such a question, especially considering the source. He squared his shoulders. "Yes," said simply. "I care about him, and I don't want him to suffer." If you think I'm an animal, then okay, I can't change that. But even animals are true to those who are important to them.

Something in Zero's eyes and his bearing spoke to Yagari. The angst ridden, hopeless boy who had been ready to let Yagari kill him when he'd first come to the Cross Academy because he had so little faith in his own reason to live had changed. He had become a young man who was confident enough in his feelings and his sense of worth to admit without flinching that he was going to let another vampire drink his blood... because he felt it was the right thing to do. It was a huge change, and setting aside whatever he may feel about the particulars, Yagari couldn't help feeling that it was a good one. His gaze darted momentarily to Kaname. The pureblood's eyes were open again and he was watching the unfolding conversation quietly. For a brief moment some unreadable, gentler emotion flickered in the elder hunter's weathered eye. If Kaname had helped bring about this change, then maybe the pureblood really wasn't so bad. For a blood sucker.

Yagari gave a small nod. He didn't have to like the idea, but he respected Zero's right to make these decisions. "Okay then. But I expect to see you back for lessons again tomorrow."

Zero's sudden smile showed surprise and delight. "Y-you mean you're not leaving?"

Yagari grinned. "Nope, not getting rid of me that easy." He turned and headed for the door. It would take time for him to truly reconcile himself to this whole situation... but he was all right enough with it to be willing to leave Zero in this room with a hungry pureblood vampire, and that said something. He tossed a wave and a sardonic "have fun" from the doorway, and disappeared.

After he was gone. Zero slid onto the bed, sitting next to Kaname. He leaned on one arm, his other gently brushing the pureblood's hair as he looked down into his blood colored eyes without fear.

"You didn't have to tell him," Kaname whispered softly, aware what it must have cost Zero to admit he was going to give his blood to another vampire.

Zero smiled faintly. "Yes, I did. He needs to know that this is what I've chosen. You are what I've chosen," he murmured.

Kaname blinked and swallowed the warm, adoring lump in his throat. "I love you," he murmured in a soft, choked whisper.

Zero leaned down, kissing him gently, his fingers curling into Kaname's hair. "You too."

Carefully, Zero pulled the neck of the t-shirt he was wearing further aside, baring his neck invitingly for his lover as he leaned close. "I made you some breakfast," he whispered. "I'll go get it in a minute. But I think... you need this first?"

Kaname gave a small nod, inhaling Zero's scent deeply with a soft groan. He did. He was hurting and famished and he needed blood... but more than that, so much more than that... he wanted Zero's blood. Because it was part of Zero, part of his lover's essence. His lips caressed Zero's neck slowly, tenderly, kissing and sucking warmly.

Zero shivered as he leaned over Kaname, his fingers knotting in the sheets on either side of his lover's shoulders as Kaname's lips and tongue made his pulse raise and his body beg breathlessly for the fangs that would follow. The ex-human exhaled softly in an almost-moan as the beautifully sharp teeth finally claimed him and he felt the rush of his blood being drawn. So long he'd hated the thought of this... been afraid of it... but now he wanted nothing more than to give Kaname his blood... his body... his heart... his soul.

He cradled Kaname tenderly as his lover drank passionately and hungrily, the pureblood's body trembling softly with his need. It was an unusual and intoxicating feeling. Aside from the occasions when they'd been in too much danger or and too much of a hurry for him to really think about it, Kaname didn't usually need him like this. He finally understood why his own bouts of blood lust effected Kaname the way they did. There was something beautiful about knowing you could provide that which your loved one needed.

"Did Yagari hurt you?" he asked softly, almost fearing the answer. Kaname had been so vulnerable, and it had been his fault. "I'm sorry..."

Kaname shook his head slightly, drinking slower now so as not to risk hurting Zero, but unwilling to disengage from his neck just yet. Yagari had hurt him, but not seriously, and it wasn't Zero's fault. "He was just worried about you, Zero. He's a good man. Just don't ever tell him I said that." He grinned, releasing Zero's neck just long enough to speak before he slid his fangs back in sensually.

Zero chuckled, his breath trembling in delight at the sensation of Kaname's fangs penetrating him again. "Okay, deal," he agreed wryly.

Despite the blood that Zero gave him freely, Kaname healed slowly from his injuries and sun exposure. It was two days before he was able to walk about without pain or be touched without flinching. He informed Zero – daily – just how much being anything close to human sucked, but he certainly seemed to enjoy all the sympathy and consideration it garnered him from his lover. Zero waited on the pureblood hand and foot and attended his every need with gentle care, although towards the end he began to suspect that Kaname was rather enjoying all the attention and was no longer quite as bad off as he let on.

Zero felt inclined to complain that it wasn't fair that after a burn that bad, Kaname didn't even peal, something for which Kaname was very grateful as he found that thought utterly revolting. The pureblood did, however, tan quite nicely, which caused those who knew him to do a serious double-take when they saw him, especially Aido, Kain and Takuma upon their next visit. Kaname was naturally extremely fair skinned and it wasn't every day you saw a vampire sporting a beach-boy tan. Zero swore the look was very attractive, despite how fast it faded. Kaname, however, was not of the opinion it was worth the price, although he allowed that Zero could probably make it worthwhile...

-------------------------

Epilogue

The breeze rustled softly through the cemetery trees and through the hair of the two young men making their way towards a certain marble gravestone.

Yuki had been laid to rest beside the man she had called father for most of her short life. Both Zero and Kaname respectfully touched Kaien Cross' headstone before stopping to stand before Yuki's grave. What had once been raw, torn up earth over her coffin had now healed over into a soft, green carpet of grass.

The pureblood and the ex-human stood silently for several long moments, dealing with the bittersweet memories they would always carry of the girl they had both loved. The girl who they would have done everything for. The girl who had believed in both of them, who had brought them together and enabled enemies to become lovers who could now face anything, even the horrible pain of her loss, as long as they were together.

Neither Zero nor Kaname had not been here since her funeral. It wasn't that they hadn't wanted to... but the pain had been too raw, the memories too painful. Silently, Kaname slipped his hand into Zero's. They squeezed each other tightly.

By silent agreement, they both knelt before the headstone. Zero placed one hand on the top of the cool marble. Kaname lightly traced Yuki's name with his fingertips.

"We haven't found who did this to you yet, Yuki," the pureblood whispered softly. "I'm sorry. But we will. Zero and I are working on it together, and I promise if I have to search for as long as I live, we will get justice for you."

Zero swallowed carefully. He would have expected it to feel silly to talk to her like this, but kneeling here with Kaname... it didn't. It was true that Yuki may be beyond hearing them, but these were things they needed to say. And who knew... maybe somewhere, she did hear them. He liked to think that.

"And don't worry, okay?" he said softly, his voice a little thick with emotion. "I'm making sure he doesn't run himself into the ground doing it. I know you wouldn't want that."

Kaname gave a soft, choked little laugh. "He's one to talk you know. He's the one who fell asleep on his reports the other night because he'd been up all day tracking down a lead."

Zero sniffed and chuckled, wiping his blurring eyes on the end of his sleeve. "Hey, quit tattling, you'll worry her."

Kaname wiped his own eyes with his palm, smiling despite the tears. "Idiot," he said softly and with deep affection.

"Jerk," Zero retorted with equal affection, smiling back.

"We miss you, Yuki. And we... we wanted you to know that we're going to be okay," Kaname murmured softly, his palm resting on the gravestone. Yuki's love, her innocent faith in both of them had opened their hearts and ironically ended up giving them what they would both need in order to survive her loss. Given them the ability to see past the barriers of race and prejudice and find true love in the unlikeliest of places.

"I wonder sometimes, if you knew how we felt long before we did. You were always so insightful that way. But I wanted to tell you myself... I love Zero," Kaname whispered. "So you don't have to worry, because I'm always going to look out for him. I'll make sure he remembers to smile and not be so serious all the time."

Zero gave a shaky, rueful smile. "I, um... I love this idiot too," he said softly, having to wipe more tears off on his shirt cuff until it was completely soaked. "I'll take care of him, so he never has to face the world alone. And I'll try to get him to stop blaming himself for everything. Including your death, which was not his fault."

Zero had turned and was looking straight at Kaname now. He didn't know if he'd ever told him that, but he needed to set that right between them. He did not blame Kaname for Yuki's death, and he wished that the pureblood wouldn't either.

Kaname blinked, tears swimming in his eyes again as he looked at the hunter. "Zero... I... it was..."

Zero shook his head firmly. He knew all the facts now, everything Kaname had found out. But it didn't matter. Even if Yuki was targeted because of her relationship with him, that did not make it the pureblood's fault. "No, Kaname. It wasn't. She wouldn't want you carrying that, and neither do I."

Kaname's shoulders shook and he sank his head into his hands. Zero wrapped his arms around the other vampire, pulling Kaname close and hugging him fiercely as soft sobs shook through the pureblood's body. He kissed Kaname's hair, crying with him, grieving, letting go, and finding peace.

Kaname curled his arms around Zero and held him tightly. It would take time for him to try to actually accept what Zero said, maybe a long, long time. But right now, the hunter's love and support were enough to make a world of difference to him. The sobs were pained... but they were also freeing. It was as if the tears were purging him of the soul destroying pain and grief he'd carried so long alone, melting them into the softer, sweeter ache of his and Zero's shared sorrow.

After a while, the tears stopped and they both felt better. Kaname pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his eyes. He offered the unused half of it to Zero, who was running out of dry spots on his shirt cuffs. "Um... here..." he said with a wry little grin. "These are somewhat easier to launder..."

Zero rolled his eyes and chuckled, accepting the offered handkerchief.

"We'll always remember you, Yuki." Zero touched her headstone again one more time. "And we really will be okay, I promise. Thank you... for... for everything." His gaze strayed to Kaname with pure, aching love in their amethyst depths. Thank you, for being so gentle and teaching me to look beyond what I had been taught, so I could see the treasure that was right in front of me.

The look in Zero's eyes filled Kaname's heart, leaving no room for emptiness as he leaned over and gave the hunter a tender, chaste kiss.

"Thank you," he murmured in agreement. Thank you for giving me something to hold onto all those years, for bringing this boy into my life, and for helping me accept the possibility that I could love and cherish someone I would have never expected I would.

Kaname looked at Zero, and Zero nodded. Pressing his hands to the earth on the top of the grave mound, Zero closed his eyes. Slowly, small, pale green shoots began to sprout from the earth. They were not like the vines Zero usually created. These were actual, physical plants that he was coaxing to grow from the earth. They would persist even after he left, following the natural cycles of nature as if they had been grown and planted normally. These were harder to create than his usual, temporary vines, and Zero concentrated intently as the shoots slowly grew and budded, turning into a beautiful ramble of climbing roses that completely covered the length of Yuki's grave and twined up her headstone like a gentle embrace.

Kaname laid his hand on Zero's back, lending him strength. The buds began to open and unfold, revealing striking, pale violet roses. Zero looked over at Kaname, giving him a small nod this time and Kaname removed his hand, silently slicing open his right palm with the nails of his left hand.

Clenching his fist, Kaname held it out over the grave, letting his blood fall upon the growing vines. Where the drops fell, the budding roses changed, blooming a deep, velvety scarlet. Kaname wiped his already healed palm on his handkerchief before stuffing it away in his pocket again. He crouched beside Zero, hand once more on his lover's back as he silently watched the violet and ruby roses grow together in a beautiful, intimate tangle. Distinct, and yet part of one another... much like his and Zero's hearts.

After a few minutes, Zero removed his hands from the earth, and Kaname helped him rise, sliding an arm around Zero's waist as much to be near him as to offer support. As they stood together, looking at the roses, a strong breeze brushed across them like angel breath from another world, stirring the blossoms and sending the strong, sweet scent of the flowers' perfume dancing on the breeze. The wind in the trees almost sounded like laughter, and both vampires felt a warm, deep sense of peace. It was almost as if somewhere, beyond the reaches of this world, Yuki was smiling at them, bidding them to laugh, to love and to live in happiness, promising that she would watch over them until the day they should all meet again.

Kaname and Zero left the cemetery hand in hand. Their hearts were no longer empty. They were full now. Full of memories, full of dreams for the future, and full of one another and the beautiful, tenuous beginnings of the love they shared.

They walked in comfortable silence back towards the car that was waiting for them. The driver had the radio on. It was turned down respectfully low and no one else would have noticed, but vampire hearing enabled snatches of the soft refrain to carry to them on the wind.

"There's a life inside of me, that I can feel again..."

Kaname paused, looking over at Zero with a soft smile.

"It's the only thing that takes me where I've never been..."

Zero smiled back, a little shyly since they were now in view of the car, even if the driver was the only one in it.

"I don't care if I lost everything that I have known..."

Their fingers twined, their eyes held. Their hearts sped up, perfectly in sync.

"It don't matter where I lay my head tonight... your arms feel like home feel like home."

Kaname pulled Zero into his arms, and Zero let him, fingers curling into the back of Kaname's jacket as their lips met. They kissed tenderly, and then they just held each other, faces buried against each other's necks, holding tight and inhaling the comforting familiarity of one another's scents. At this moment in time, it was as if the song was made for them. Yes... these arms... these two hearts that beat together... this was their life. This was everything that was important right here. As long as they held onto that... they could face anything. Even the future. And it could be beautiful.

THE END


A/N: The song mentioned at the end of the fic is "Your Arms Feel Like Home" by 3 Doors Down. This is not the end, but rather the beginning, for Kaname and Zero anyway. If time and inspiration allows, I plan to be writing more stories in this series, following off this one.

Hopefully no one is too disappointed that I haven't wrapped up the identity of Yuki's killer in this story. It just didn't end up working with the flow of the plot. This story was more about getting Kaname and Zero together and to the place where they are at now. In the end, I almost felt it was better to not yet have that resolved, because it really shows their strength and courage that even with those issues still unresolved, they are starting to find enough peace and courage to dare to move on and live again. There isn't always the opportunity for perfect closure in the real world, sometimes we have to struggle to make sense of things that don't make sense, but they are strong enough to survive that and come out the other side. :)

I do have another sequel planned which I hope to write soon, and that will deal with revealing the mystery surrounding Yuki's death, so those questions will eventually be answered. Thanks to everyone for their patience.

Don't forget to see my bio for info about where to find my review responses and other stuff.