A/N: The Evanesence song "Surrender" goes very well with this chapter and the next one that will follow. I think I shall post the lyrics on my blog. :)

Chapter Four: "My Blood to your Blood"

Kaname carried Zero into the bedroom; both of them still dripping wet and trailing muddy, bloodstained lake water across the pristine carpet. Zero was shivering, his eyes reddened from crying, but his expression was tense and sullen and he was looking everywhere but at Kaname. He'd protested being carried like this viciously, but Kaname hadn't heeded him and Zero was too weak to struggle out of his arms, though he'd tried.

Zero was recovering, but his body was still under the effect of the hunter weapon he'd used on himself, leaving it weakened and still mildly in shock. He glared at the ceiling. At least the Moon Dorms were empty at this time of night and no one had seen Kaname carrying him around. Although he hardly knew why he should care at this point.

Kaname was keenly aware of Zero's heartbeat, close to his as he carried him. Unconsciously, the pureblood's heart was synching with the hunter's. So close. Zero's heart had come so close to stopping forever. It made Kaname feel like crying again just thinking about it, and that made him unbearably frustrated and ashamed. He was more terrified of losing Zero than he should have been of anything. It wasn't just because he was bound to the boy either.

Kaname's gaze lingered a moment on Zero's set, tense features and quickly pulled away. God he was so stupid. Here was this big, glaring weakness in a life that could not afford to have any. He'd thought they could go back to the way things were, thought that if he ignored the fact that the hunter existed, then they could forget whatever madness had followed in the wake of their bonding and pretend they'd never been anything but casual enemies who had needed each other to survive once, and who happened to have loved and lost the same girl. Zero certainly seemed to be able to do that, seemed to be able to coldly turn off and forget everything they had shared. But for Kaname... tonight had clearly shown him otherwise. Zero had so much damn power over him it was frightening and Kaname's sensibilities reeled back sharply in alarm from having been forced to realize just how much.

Kaname carried the ex-human through the bedroom into the bathroom. Pulling aside the shower curtain, he dumped Zero unceremoniously into the empty tub.

"You're filthy," the pureblood said coolly, glancing down and assessing his own mud and blood tainted state of sogginess. Kaname started unbuttoning his shirt. He had to get Zero's blood off of him. It was wreaking havoc on his senses and his willpower. "Get washed."

Zero remained slumped in the tub where he'd been dropped. All the fight seemed to have drained out of him and he simply felt lost and crushingly lonely. Stupidly, he ached at the loss of Kaname's warmth. He'd felt better for the few, wretched, embarrassing minutes he'd spent sobbing in the other's arms. Or at least, he'd felt something, something other than numb, aching, lonely pain. But he was a pathetic idiot to keep trying to grasp at something that wasn't there. Kaname protected him because he had to protect him, like an Achilles' heel. It didn't mean anything.

Zero's gaze slid momentarily to where Kaname was stripping out of his sodden shirt and undershirt and felt his breath catch painfully at the glimpse of perfect, pale flesh beneath and the familiar pang of longing that shot instinctively through him. He quickly looked away, staring up at the ceiling again. He closed his eyes. Kaname would probably expect... payment... for all that blood he'd given, even though 

Zero hadn't asked him to do it. But that didn't matter, he'd accepted, hadn't he? Whatever. Zero didn't care what happened now. He was deeply depressed and just didn't care anymore about anything.

Kaname tossed his soiled shirts in the hamper in the corner, pausing to glance towards Zero with attempted casualness, as if his entire attention wasn't burning and begging to be focused that direction.

Zero was still lying crumpled up in the tub, sullenly unmoving and Kaname frowned. "I said get washed. Or do you want me to do it for you?" he said in quiet, clipped tones, stepping towards the tub.

Zero resisted the urge to swallow and his cold fingers swiftly slid numbly to his shirt buttons, undoing them slowly. His eyes remained closed. He didn't want to have to look at Kaname. He couldn't even muster enough energy to be angry at being ordered about.

Zero's passivity actually unnerved Kaname a little, although he didn't want to admit it. Kaname kicked off his shoes and shed his waterlogged pants. He refused to feel awkward; it wasn't like Zero had never seen him naked before. Anyway, Zero still had his eyes shut, having barely made it all the way through his buttons yet.

Kaname wrapped a towel around his waist, more for warmth than modesty, as he was still chilled from the cold lake water. Zero was in the tub, so Kaname crossed over to the sink and turned on the tap, bending and running his head under the warm flow of water to wash the lake debris out his tangled, dripping hair.

He ran his hands down his face under the water and straightened up, throwing back his long hair and letting the warm, clean water run from it down his neck and shoulders in rivulets. He reached for another towel to blot the excess water away, rubbing his hair. Wasn't a proper wash, but it was just a temporary measure. Kaname didn't like feeling dirty.

Zero was still lying in the tub. He'd unbuttoned his shirt, but that seemed about the extent of his effort and he'd fallen still again. His heart was still beating, but his apparent continued lack of will to live was still scaring the hell out of the pureblood. Kaname pressed his face hard into the towel he was holding before pulling back and staring at it quietly, jaw set.

"What were you thinking, Kiriyu?" he inquired, voice soft but hard. It had to be hard to keep the telltale rasp of pain and fear away. He was fighting to keep the tremble out of it. "I'm bound to you, you know that. Did you even stop to consider that your death could very possibly kill me too?"

Kaname's shoulders stiffened as a new thought suddenly crashed in upon him, twisting like a knife in his gut and chilling his heart a few more degrees below freezing. Oh God... he was such a fool.

"Or was that the actually the plan?" his voice was deceptively quiet. His long fingers knotted harshly in the towel before he dropped it, hands falling to grip the edge of the sink as he leaned on the counter, staring fixedly at the porcelain bowl, his jaw so tense it felt like it would snap. Damn... he hadn't even thought of that. It should have been his first suspicion. It would have been with anyone else. Why did he have this stupid, unconscious trust that Zero wouldn't intentionally betray him? It was obviously unfounded.

Kaname's hard gaze turned towards the tub. "I'm disappointed, Zero," his voice was still quiet, but cold now, and predatory. "I would have thought you'd have more hunter pride in you than that."

Kaname crossed to the tub and crouched down beside it. He reached around and grabbed the hair at the back of Zero's neck, tilting the ex-human's head back a bit and forcing the dull, grey eyes to flutter open and look at him. "Don't destroy yourself to hurt me. You want to try to kill me? Do it to my face if you dare."

Zero swallowed as he found himself staring into the dark, red-brown eyes. His current apathy kept him from really feeling afraid. What could Kaname do? Kill him? Death held no fear for him, only living did. Yet Zero's chilled body still shivered automatically at the pureblood's dark aura swirling around them. Despite himself, he gave a faint, ironic hint of a smile.

"Here I thought you were trying to talk me out of suicide," he mumbled. "Give me some credit for intelligence." Even if Kaname's death had been his intention, which it hadn't, the idea of tackling Kaname one-on-one was just downright stupid.

It was a pale shadow of Zero's usual sarcasm, but the fact that that was actually faintly, if painfully, a little funny threw Kaname a bit. He didn't know how to respond. He was seething right now and deeply hurt... and Zero was making jokes? He hated feeling this confused and conflicted. It only ever happened with Zero, damn him.

Zero closed his eyes again. It hurt too much to see Kaname looking at him that way. It hurt too much to contemplate the twisted history of manipulation and shattered trust between them. He was just too tired.

"Everything isn't always about you," Zero murmured somewhat bitterly. He could have told Kaname he thought he'd shut the bond down enough on his end to keep him safe. He probably should have told him, but he didn't. He didn't want the pureblood to know that he actually cared. He didn't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that his manipulation had worked so damn well. So well that Zero, a born hunter, descendent from a strong, lengthy line of respected vampire killers, couldn't even bring himself to want to hurt the vampire who had taken over his life. If his parents were alive, they would have to despise what he had become. But they weren't. They were dead. Just like everything and everyone who had ever loved him. Just like his own heart.

Kaname silently started pealing Zero out of his wet shirt. Zero tensed, but he didn't bother resisting. He sucked his breath in quietly as Kaname unzipped his pants but remained passive, almost limp as he let the pureblood strip him. Why fight for something he'd already lost?

Kaname removed Zero's clothing with swift, perfunctory brusqueness, although he wasn't unnecessarily rough. It was so... incredibly... hard... to undress the boy without letting his hands wander, without indulging the burning ache that expanded inside him at the sight of the other's toned, pale body. Damn Zero for refusing to take care of himself and making him do this... Kaname hid the tremble in his fingers as he balled the sodden clothing together and shoved it into the hamper with his own clothes, covering them all with a towel to keep the scent of blood down. Zero'd drunk a lot from him earlier; it was too easy to be hungry, and even easier to crave the closeness, the feeling of connectivity that he knew drinking Zero's blood would bring.

Zero's eyes were closed again and he was breathing shallowly, body tense as he lay vulnerably naked in the large tub, trying not to shiver from the cold. Silently, he willed Kaname to just do whatever the hell he was going to do and get it over with. He was so tired, he wanted to sleep. Wanted to sleep forever.

Zero started, eyes jerking open again when warm needles of water cascaded across his cold skin.

Kaname was kneeling beside the tub again, the nozzle of the detachable showerhead in his hand. It was the kind of shower where the nozzle was attached to a long hose that let you take it down and direct the spray as you wished. Kaname silently ran the flow of water slowly back and forth across Zero's body, washing away the faint skim of grime clinging to him from the muddy lake.

"The weapon you used will compromise your immune system. You'll catch a cold or worse if you're not careful," Kaname said quietly, as flatly as he could manage. He eased an arm under the hunter's shoulders, pulling him up to sit so he could run the water down his back. Kaname didn't know how soon Zero's vampire healing would return, it was tricky to guess with ex-humans. Especially ones who seemed bent on giving up.

Zero let his head hang forward, shuddering softly at the sensation of the warm water running down his back, and the even warmer feeling of Kaname's hand on his chest, supporting him. He ached so badly inside he could barely breathe. Why did Kaname always have to do this to him? Why did he have to act so gentle sometimes and mess with Zero's head and his heart? Zero wasn't going to fight him, he could do as he pleased... he didn't have to make Zero want him, didn't have to make him crave his affection and his touch so badly it felt like a raw poker in his chest. It was cruel.

Kaname leaned Zero back the other direction again, supporting him with an arm around his shoulders as he tipped the boy's head back and ran the water through his hair, washing the sticky tint of blood out of the silver locks. It hurt badly to see such deadened passivity from the normally fiery hunter. Why did it all have to end up this way? Why?

Kaname eased Zero to rest against the back of the tub once more, picking up one of the boy's arms. Zero's forearms and hands were stained with partially dried blood that had seeped from his self-inflicted wounds after Kaname had pulled him out of the water. Carefully, Kaname rubbed and washed the caked blood away. Kaname's thumb traced the dark, ugly, crisscross gashes that Zero had gouged into his own wrists. They were closed enough to not bleed now, but having been inflicted by a hunter weapon they would take time to heal completely. They might scar. Almost instinctually, Kaname pulled Zero's wrist to his mouth, licking the wounds gently to aide their healing. He closed his eyes against the burning sting pressing at the back of his eyeballs as he kissed the damaged flesh tenderly. The pain that had carved these lines... it made his heart burn. Had Zero really just wanted to end it? Or had he been that desperate to kill him? It was sheer stupidity, but even if Zero had intended to try to kill him... it didn't matter. It still hurt him to see Zero hurting.

Kaname switched wrists, lathing the other one with the same, warm, careful attention. Zero... hating me isn't worth this. It's not worth your life...

Zero swallowed raggedly around the raw lump in his throat, pressing his eyes shut as Kaname's warm mouth caressed the torn skin of his wrists, the much too familiar tongue lapping and stroking the injuries until they hummed softly with contentment rather than pain. Kaname could always do that. It was the vampire way to turn pain into pleasure. Physical pain, anyway. Emotionally...

"I preformed the solvo-confuto rites; I thought you'd be protected," Zero whispered softly, turning his face away, towards the wall. There. He'd said it. Kaname'd won yet again, but... he'd had to tell him. It hurt too much not to.

Kaname stilled, his mouth still pressed against the inside of Zero's left wrist. His gaze fixed slowly on Zero. So... it was only his own life Zero had been trying to end. Still a horribly stupid waste, but... He went back to kissing the wrist he was holding. The charm of which Zero spoke wasn't easy and it wasn't something you could just do on the spot, it took a lot of preparation. It was a vampire charm, not a hunter one, and despite himself, some small part of Kaname's mind was fleetingly impressed that Zero had managed it, although he was not at all pleased that the ex-human had obviously put so much thought into killing himself.

"Zero... those charms can temporarily deaden the bond, but they can't sever it. Centuries ago, the solvo-confuto rites were developed during one of the wars to try to protect pureblood spouses from going mad or perishing with their mates if something should happen to one of them," Kaname knew all about it because he had researched the same thing the past few weeks, trying to see if there was any way to undo what he and Zero had done. The short answer was that there wasn't. The slightly longer and more cynical answer was that they had apparently been mucking around with some very powerful natural forces without understanding the full gravity of the situation and it was now threatening to come back and bite them on the ass. "It didn't always work then, and it will never work for us." Kaname closed his eyes, head bowed over Zero's wrist.

"Our bond is too strong. The fact that I had to hold onto you, to survive losing Ichijo..." Kaname trailed off, helpless, hopeless, frustrated and aching. Once again, it his fault, although he didn't know what else he could have done. He hadn't asked for what had happened with Ichijo, damn it! He'd never intended to end up in this situation with Zero...

The truth was, the more he'd tried to learn, the more he was beginning to understand that blood bonds were not an exact science. The strength and effect of any given bond could vary significantly depending on the people involved, and other factors. From what he'd read, he was also beginning to realize that because of the circumstances leading up to it, the bond that he and Zero shared was possibly stronger, or at least a lot more deeply seated, than many. Even those formed voluntarily by lovers and married couples, which was another fine example of the cruel irony of life if there ever was one.

"I doubt I will survive the breaking of a second bond," Kaname whispered faintly. Even if he did, he had a feeling he would be irreparably changed. He would have lost too much to remain himself. Whether he would go mad, or simply lose himself to the darkness that lurked within his own soul, he didn't know. He didn't want to find out. "You probably would, if situations were reversed. Your human heritage makes you less sensitive, and you've never been fully bound to anyone else. But for me... the risk is very high." He felt so hideously vulnerable in that confession. He might as well have just handed Zero a sword and bared his heart. It bordered on stupid and suicidal to admit that in this way, he needed the hunter more than Zero needed him. But Zero had to know, ignorance was obviously dangerous for both of them.

Zero felt even more wretched, which he hadn't thought was possible. He felt so incredibly trapped, it was suffocating. If that was true... then there really was no way out for him. He couldn't even die without doing something unforgivable. "Great, guess we're both screwed then," he rasped mirthlessly.

Kaname sighed in silent agreement. He realized he'd stopped moving the showerhead and started doing so again, distractedly, although he was deeply unwilling to let go of Zero's wrist just yet. His lips slid back to it, tracing the broken flesh once more.

Zero's gaze slid slowly away from the wall, to the dark head of the pureblood who was still bent over him, studiously tending to his injured wrist. A new, numb, horrible thought had crept through him. "Kaname... now, or in a few years... it doesn't matter. If your life is truly tied to mine..." he swallowed, for the first time really grasping the full enormity of what Kaname had just said.

Pureblood vampires lived for thousands and thousands of years if nothing ill befell them. Kaname was practically immortal. He should have eternity ahead of him. Zero could look forward to the brief life expectancy of an ex-human who was only staying sane because of whose blood he was drinking. But if what Kaname said was true... then Kuran was very possibly tied to his lifespan. A unicorn bound to a mayfly. It didn't matter how angry he was with Kaname, the horrible unfairness of that shocked Zero deeply.

Kaname was intentionally ignoring him, continuing to work on his wrist.

Zero snatched his arm away, sitting up a little more in the tub and looking at Kaname with conflicting emotions tracing behind his eyes. "Kaname... I'm an ex-human vampire. I've got the life expectancy of a Popsicle in July. You can't really mean that we're... that you're... that when I die..."

Kaname met Zero's gaze slowly. It was a truth he wasn't ready to face. He hadn't fully accepted the possible reality of it yet and he definitely didn't want to talk about it. He hated to hear Zero say things like that though; hated to hear him speak of his own life so carelessly or mentioned the possibility of his death. It made Kaname's heart bleed, and not because of what it could mean for him, but because... because... he... Kaname sucked his breath in slowly... because he was a freaking idiot. The pureblood gave Zero a warning glare that told him to shut up and grabbed the hunter's arm, pulling it back to his mouth.

"I'm not going to let you die," he said simply, as if that settled the whole matter.

Zero snorted softly. Oh, yeah, there was a realistic attitude. "Kaname, be serious. You can't control everything, no matter what you think. I don't have much time; I've known that since I was bitten. One day I will die and..."

"Don't say that!" Kaname's eyes were fierce as they looked at Zero, pinning him in place with his glare. The pureblood was breathing somewhat harshly. "Don't... ever say that..." he commanded slowly. He couldn't lose Zero. He'd lost everyone else. Even if Zero hated him and things could never be the way they were, Kaname couldn't lose anymore, he just couldn't. God, this hurt so bad. Don't leave me, Zero, don't you abandon me too, please... it will break me. Kaname knew he probably wouldn't need the bond to kill him at that point. One heart could only lose so much.

Zero felt frozen in place by Kaname's gaze, a weird, unexplainable lump rising awkwardly in his throat. Suddenly the pureblood was in the tub with him, kneeling over him. He'd dropped the shower head and it dangled, rotating slightly, spraying the wall of the tub and letting hot water run down across their legs. Kaname raised his own wrist to his mouth and opened a vein with his teeth, drawing blood. He did the same to his other wrist and then crossed them, pressing the bleeding wounds together. He murmured quietly under his breath, Zero just making out snatches of the ancient words he was chanting. Zero sucked his breath in sharply, but he couldn't move. Kaname was 'holding' him still.

Kaname turned Zero's head to the side, pushing his wet hair back from the un-tattooed his neck. He held his crossed wrists up and let several drops of his blood drip down directly behind Zero's right ear.

"Sanguis meus ad sanguinem tuum. Carnis meus ad caro." The words were soft, but intense.

Zero's mind automatically translated them. My blood to your blood. My flesh to your flesh. He recognized the incantation. Kaname's face was very close to him now, breath stirring Zero's hair as he dropped his crossed wrists and leaned forward, blowing lightly on the drops of blood behind Zero's ear. He used his power over air to manipulate the crimson liquid into a small, very precise shape.

"My strength, to your strength," Kaname whispered, still in the ancient dialect. "Bound to you for the keeping, all that I entrust..."

Kaname pressed his lips to Zero's skin in a firm kiss and Zero's back arched suddenly against the cool porcelain as an almost electric shock seemed to flow out of Kaname's body into his. Something like a lightning bolt surged through him, thundering through his muscles, making his heart race and his eyes water. He arched his head back against the lip of the tub, fingers scrabbling automatically against the porcelain. Then the surge was gone, although the skin behind his ear still throbbed faintly as Kaname withdrew his lips, leaving behind the small, graceful outline of a geometric rose that appeared to be tattooed on the pale skin. Kaname's symbol was the same as his mother's, the Kuran Rose.

Zero couldn't see the mark, but he could feel it. His fingers slid up to shakily trace the blood seal Kaname had placed on him. He knew that's what it was, although he'd never seen one instated before. He could feel the odd thrum of slightly discordant power that was not his own humming through him. It was a lot like when he drank Kaname's blood, only... different. More subtle but also more strange.

"Why did you do that? I'm not dying now!" he protested, almost upset although mostly in shock. Zero raised his other hand, automatically calling to mind the words that would release the power Kaname had stored in the seal back to the pureblood.

Kaname caught his wrists and held them. "No, leave it. You release it, and I'll just put it back on again," he said simply, stubbornly. "I told you. I won't let you die."

Kaname's hands, griping Zero's wrists, trembled slightly. Without warning his head dipped and he quietly let it sag down to rest on the hunter's chest. Kaname inhaled slowly, his and Zero's breathing automatically synching into unconscious, perfect rhythm. The pureblood was tired and drained. He'd put a lot of himself into that seal and it would take him a bit of time to recharge. There was a certain portion of his strength he'd never get back unless the seal was released, but compared to his overall level of power, it was negligible. He would grow accustomed to it and then he wouldn't even notice anymore.

The blood-seal would not give Zero indefinite life, in fact, Kaname wasn't really sure how much time it would actually buy him, this wasn't something that had been tried before in this type of situation and he knew that once again, they were floundering around in uncharted waters. But the pureblood hoped it could extend Zero beyond the fatedly short realm of an unbound ex-human's lifespan. Maybe... maybe even into the realms of a noble's life expectancy. The seal would act as a balance to help maintain Zero's un-stabilized vampiric state much the same as if he'd been able to drink Shizuka's blood. Combined with a steady diet of Kaname's blood... he could hope, couldn't he?

Providing he wasn't screwing up without even realizing it again, like he had with Yuki... the thought slammed pain through him and the pureblood closed his eyes, shoving the hurt back down as best he could. He couldn't deal with that right now. Or ever.

His hands slipped from Zero's wrists and curled at the side of his ribs, resting against Zero and the tub. He listened to the steady sound of Zero's heartbeat under his ear. Kaname knew he was taking a gamble, but logically, it all made sense. He didn't want to overwhelm Zero's system by giving him too much all at once, but he could always renew the seal as needed if it started to deplete... He was a pureblood. He had to believe he had enough strength for both of them, for as long as they needed. His mother had done something like it and been fine. She died, too, you know. He pushed that thought away.

Kaname's head was a warm, comfortable weight on Zero's chest as it rose and fell somewhat shakily. Zero tipped his head back against the lip of the tub, staring up at the ceiling. The fingers of one hand slid unintentionally into Kaname's dark hair.

"Kaname... I saw what happened to Cross, because of the blood seal your mother gave him. It lengthened his life, but he was exhausted, stretched painfully thin by the end. I don't want to end up like that..." he whispered quietly, not sure why he thought Kaname would care what he wanted. Truth was Kaname didn't need him conscious or sane, did he? He just needed him alive.

"Cross was carrying much more power than I'm certain mother intended to give him, due to the flow-back that occurred at her death. And he was a human," Kaname replied slowly. "His body wasn't meant to deal with raw vampire energy. It's like... plugging a cord into a socket with the wrong kind of wattage... the circuitry eventually burns out. The only reason he was able to benefit from it as much as he did was because of the bit of vampire that all hunters carry in them. But Zero, you are a vampire... our bodies run on the same power. What happened to him won't happen to you."

Kaname's breath was warm as it brushed Zero's damp chest when he spoke. The pureblood's hair was still wet, making it even softer than usual as it clung to the hunter's skin and to his fingers. Water beaded on the pureblood's pale, silken skin, making it glisten softly in the warm steam still rising from where the showerhead continued to bathe the tile wall and their entwined legs. The pureblood's scent was close, mingling with his own in a strangely compelling way. Zero closed his eyes and drew in a soft, shuddering breath. He was the worst kind of fool...

Kaname wasn't sure how long he stayed like that, resting against Zero, listening to his heartbeat and inhaling his scent, but eventually the warmth and the nearness seeped into his bones, a warmth he had not felt since before Yuki died. Silently, the pureblood lost his long battle with himself. He could no longer ignore the way Zero's blood pulsed in his veins, the way his breath sounded, the way he smelled, the way his beautiful, familiar body was completely naked under his own... He'd never intended to touch Zero again like this, but he couldn't stop himself as he slowly turned his head, pressing a soft kiss against the hunter's sternum. He shouldn't, he should be trying to distance himself, not bring them closer... but he couldn't. He was no longer his own master and he needed Zero too much. It'd been so long...

He placed another kiss above the last, and another above that, warm lips slowly working their way in a straight line up Zero's chest, stopping to lightly lap up the few beads of water that had accumulated in the hollow of the hunter's breastbone, tasting Zero's intoxicating flavor on every drop.

You can't abandon me, Zero... you can't...