Disclaimer: I do not own Vampire Knight, Yuki, Zero, Kaname, or any of its other characters. If I did, Yuki wouldn't be torn between Zero and Kaname, and Zero would be her definite choice, and there'd be another way to save Zero's life. The only person I own is Kuroma Yaseiri, so please don't steal him (when he makes his appearance in later stories)

IMPORTANT AUTHOR'S NOTE: For those of you who have not read my profile, I'd like to make this clear. I DO NOT READ THE ONLINE MANGA, THEREFORE I DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN VOLUME 5. I only read what is available in the store, because I prefer to read the published books. So, any store I write until volume 5 is available will be based solely on my knowledge from volumes 1-4 and my theories of what happens next, not what actually does. I DO NOT WANT REVIEWS TELLING ME WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS BECAUSE I DO NOT WANT TO READ ANY SPOILERS. THIS IS A FANFICTION BASED ON WHAT I KNOW. DO NOT SPOIL VAMPIRE KNIGHT FOR ME! I WANT TO BE SURPRISED!!

This is the third of my one-shot series, How The Rose Blooms. Inspired by Matsuri Hino's side story "The Warmth That Slipped From Her Palm. And…" and a certain Zero/Yuki picture :)

How The Rose Blooms: Angel In Disguise

Ugh, how does this happen to me? I wondered bitterly as a deep, chest-crushing cough shook me. One second I'm running left and right, chasing away the Day Class girls, and the next, I'm quarantined in my room, confined to my bed, hacking up a lung. And on Valentine's Day of all days!

The thought caused me to let out a woeful sigh, which of course triggered a coughing fit. Gasping for breath in between rattling coughs, I struggled to get air into my plugged lungs. My chest ached with pain every time the ugly sound emitted from my throat, feeling very much like someone was driving a hammer against my breastbone. When the attack had finally subsided, I collapsed against the mountain of soft pillows behind my head, panting weakly.

Oh, yes, pneumonia was just a carnival of fun. It came complete with never-ending chills, a fever that rivaled the temperature of hell, a pounding headache, a bone-rattling cough and constricting chest pain. And I had it all. The whole nine yards. Every breath I took sent a stab of pain through my chest and made me feel as if I was trying to breathe underwater.

Reluctantly, I closed my eyes, sinking lifeless against my pillows like a stone dropped into a lake. Disappointment pulsed through me like a living entity and I pouted sulkily, five years old again. Well, there went my plans for this Valentine's Day. I'd missed the one last year on account of all the catching up Zero and I had to do after returning from Kuroma Yaseiri's manor. Now it appeared that, once again, it would pass me by without so much as a backwards glance.

Forlornly, I cocked my head ever so slightly to gaze at my bedside table and stretched an arm out to lightly touch the rounded knob of its small drawer. Thoughts of the item inside the hollowed out wood passed through my head, accompanied by my mini fantasies and daydreams of possible scenarios when it was presented to him. I'd been looking forward to this day for months, and now, all my plans had gone up in smoke. An involuntary sigh was extracted from me, and I winced as my chest tightened painfully. I braced myself for the coughs, but luckily, my sigh didn't cause another fit.

I'm not gonna get to see Zero at all since the Chairman's got me under lock and key so I won't spread my illness to the rest of the school, I thought sadly as I removed my hand from the knob. And I worked so hard on making sure they were right, too….

The one time I saw the silver-haired vampire today was shortly after my illness struck. For the past week, I'd been feeling off. I was weaker than usual, short on energy – a near impossibility for me – and had had a pretty nasty cold a few weeks earlier. Then, today, it all seemed to erupt. One second, Zero and I were on the way to class, and the next, I blacked out, waking up to find myself on the ground with my partner lifting me into his arms and carrying me to the Headmaster.

The Chairman had insisted Zero to take me to the room I slept in as a child while he ran to fetch the school nurse. When my adoptive father and the nurse returned, she quickly checked me over and announced that I had pneumonia and needed bed rest. I vaguely recalled Zero scoffing lightly, then saying something about how I wouldn't be able to lie still without something to tie me down to the bed.

I'd been about to respond to him with a nasty remark when the bell signaling the beginning of class sounded and he had to leave, but not without a parting comment:

"If I find out that you've moved from that bed even once, don't think that I won't do it. I'll go find a rope for the Chairman to use," he warned as he walked out the door, raising his hand in a departing wave. "I'll be back later."

So now I was stuck in my old room since the Headmaster didn't want me staying with Yori in our dorm and risk spreading my sickness to her as well. Thoroughly miserable, I stayed where I was, recalling Zero's threat. I was too drowsy to pick up a book and actually focus on what I was reading, but at the same time, I wasn't sleepy enough for unconsciousness to claim me. So instead, I occupied myself with thoughts of Zero, a guilty smile and a blush coming to my face as I closed my eyes and pictured his unusual, beautiful features.

Suddenly, there was a faint murmuring of voices just outside my room, followed up shortly by light tap on my door. My eyes flew open, my head snapping toward the door. A bright smile spread across my face and my heart soared.

Sometimes, he really has good timing, I thought cheerfully.

"Come in," I called breathlessly, battling against my dizziness as I weakly attempted to sit up, still beaming. "I was just thinking about you, Z – "

The door opened fully, and as rapid and brief as a summer's lightning storm, the smile slid from my face like melting wax. The strength of my discontent and the sense of a major letdown shocked me. Slumping back against my mattress and pillows, my sudden rush of energy evaporated when I realized that it was not my moonlight-haired vampire at the door, but rather, the tall, chocolate-haired, mahogany-eyed pureblood.

"Oh. Hello, Kaname," I said mildly with a faint, half-hearted smile. Attempting to mask the disappointment in my voice was no easy feat and I wasn't entirely sure that I managed to hide it from him.

"Good evening, Yuki," the royal nightwalker greeted amiably, closing the door behind him with a soft click. Gracefully crossing the small span of my bedroom, he approached my bed. Shiftily, carefully, I inched away from him by a small fraction as he sat down beside me, hoping to keep a few inches of distance between us.

"How are you feeling?" Kaname asked, placing an icy hand over mine and peered into my eyes with genuine concern.

Biting back my discomfort, I resisted the powerful urge to snatch my hand out from underneath the pureblood's. Normally, one would think cool hands on overheated, feverish skin would be most welcomed and feel wonderful. But Kaname's hand on mine only served to heighten this recent, reoccurring need to distance myself from him. His hands felt too cold, too alien, too unnatural. It was like having someone pour liquid nitrogen over my skin, impossibly cold and able to freeze any matter. However, I knew that if ripped my hand away, I'd hurt his feelings.

"I'm fine," I lied, hoping to speed things up and hurry him out of my bedroom.

However, curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to know who squealed. "How'd you know I was sick?" I asked.

"Kiryu," the burgundy-eyed vampire responded, and I detected a tone of darkness in his voice when he said Zero's name. "He informed me that you had fallen ill when I inquired as to why you were not with him today at the Moon Dorm gates."

With great difficulty, I beat back the humorous smile that was playing at the corners of my lips. It was threatening to break free as I pictured the displeased expression that Zero surely had on his face when he was forced to relinquish this information to Kaname. Of course the pureblood would go to Zero to inquire about my whereabouts. I was always with him.

"As soon as he told me, I rushed over here," the pureblood was saying. "I was worried about you."

Straining myself to smile faintly – without meaning – I didn't say anything to this comment, and an awkward silence stretched between us. Kaname was staring wistfully at me, anticipating some kind of reaction. I only half-meet his gaze, letting my eyes slide slightly past his face, beyond his dark-haired head to the door behind him, wishing a certain vampire would walk in and kick him out.

"Would you like me to get you something?" Kaname offered, removing his hand from mine to reach out, intending on touching my forehead.

Much to his surprise – and my own, for that matter – I flinched. I actually flinched like a frightened child and jerked away from his hand as if it was a giant, pale, long-legged spider.

"No, I'm fine," spilled from my mouth – quickly and shortly – before I had even made a conscious decision to say those words. For in fact, they were a lie. I did want something. Coughing at an almost non-stop rate had dried up the inside of my throat, causing it to grow sore every time I suffered through another episode. A drink of water sounded heavenly. But something prevented me from requesting this of the vampire and activated my involuntary, startled reaction.

Hurt flashed across Kaname's face. Almost as if pierced by an invisible arrow, his hand froze in mid-reach, pinned to the very air itself. Then, like a flower wilting from lack of sunlight, he withdrew his hand in a defeated manner and dropped it listlessly against his slender thigh.

Instantly, I felt horrible for my rather cruel reaction. However, I couldn't form an appropriate apology in my head. What on Earth was I supposed to say? "Sorry, Kaname, but I just don't get that funny feeling in my stomach anymore when I see you." If anything, that'd only make a deeper cut.

I wasn't quite sure when the transition had begun – the one that was shifting my emotions – or what had generated it. It could've been five months ago, sparked by Zero's and my rolling around in the hay – literally and figuratively… to an extent. Or, was it a mere two months ago after my partner had finally returned from his apathetic, cold shell, the one that had been induced by self-loathing and false notions of betrayal?

No matter how hard I tried or how deep I delved into the memory of those events and my feelings that accompanied them, I still couldn't pinpoint the exact moment of the shift's beginning. It continued to elude me. All I knew was that my heart didn't flutter like a hummingbird's wings anymore when I saw Kaname. Butterflies no longer developed in my stomach. I didn't blush around him, nor did I stammer or lose coherency. Now, my heart ached, not for Kaname, but for Zero. More and more, I found myself craving the moonlight-haired vampire's presence and touch.

Ever since Christmas, it was as if everything that had happened in the three months prior to the holiday had done a complete one-eighty. Zero switched from being distant and indifferent to me, careful not to touch even so much as my hand to being more open to me than ever before. When it was just the two of us, the dusky-eyed vampire had become more willing to share his past with me. The once impossible task of wringing a smile from Zero's pale, full lips became a thing of the past for me. It was a gift only I possessed. Though they remained small, just a barely-there upward curve of his mouth – nothing like the wide grin that had split his face the day he returned to me and certainly never when someone other than me was present – Zero's smiles had become more frequent. I cherished the secret knowledge that I was the only one who could bring a smile to Zero's handsome face. But the biggest change seemed to be his gradual acceptance and tolerance of what he was. It was still too early for me to tell, but as time progressed, the silver-haired hunter seemed to care less and less that he was a vampire.

We had been together constantly before, but now, we were virtually inseparable, almost to the point of being joined at the hip. Instead of remaining behind me in class, Zero had taken to sitting beside me so that I was now framed by my two closest friends: Yori at my right, and Zero at my left.

And the most surprising change of all between us was that we couldn't stop touching each other. In class, our knees always brushed against one another, either accidentally or purposely. On our way to our next class or lunch, we walked side-by-side, our fingers sliding over each others or sometimes, held hands, but only for brief intervals so no one would see. Then, when patrol nights were slow or chilly, my vampire would come up behind me and wrap his arms around me, his warm chest against my back, heating me. Whenever he stopped by to help me with my math and studies, he'd lift my free hand up from the table and play with my fingers, tracing patterns into my palm and overall making it difficult for me to concentrate on my work. Frequently, he'd brushed my hair out of my eyes just so he had an excuse to graze those slim fingers across my face.

These were chaste little gestures, but there had been some not-so-innocent kisses stolen in between classes when no one else was in the classroom, on patrol in abandoned hallways, or pinned against a wall in the shooting range. With an unspoken, mutual agreement, when desire and lust struck us, we stayed far, far away from the stables during our make-out sessions. Both of us felt that its remote location and lack of activity would be too much of a temptation for us. Neither of us were entirely ready for a repeat of September while we were still working through this strange, friends-but-not-just-friends relationship we were currently in. It'd only complicate things further. We had never gone as far as we did on that burning fall day, but that didn't mean we didn't think about it all the time nor did it mean that we didn't want to. So we found the perfect compromise….

Though it was unnecessary now that Zero was a true vampire, the forbidden act had become a frequent ritual these past two months to satisfy our more powerful urges. That is to say, urges that kissing couldn't quite ease. Since he only took a little at a time, it was no longer a means of sating my pale-eyed partner's thirst. If anything, it was merely a device for the both us to experience the sinful pleasure that the act brought on. It was something about the intimacy of the act that was addictive and pleasurable to us.

Sex without the sex… as Zero had put it one day while panting breathlessly into my ear.

It most certainly was. It was so sensual that neither of us felt the need to breach the undeclared boundaries that our developing relationship shouldn't cross. Yet. Our passion showed in the way Zero would trap me against a wall or hold me tightly in his arms. Or, how he'd kiss me deeply and thoroughly before trailing kisses down my neck to sink his fangs into my neck. How I'd let my head fall back as he drank from me, clutching at the back of his shirt or weaving my hand through his silver locks as soft, gasping moans escaped my throat. How Zero would gently lick the blood from my neck when he had finished, then capture my chin with his fingers and turn my head toward him to kiss me, the sweet, tangy, coppery taste of my blood sill lingering on his lips.

What had once been an act of duty and necessity had become one of pleasure and love. A different kind of lovemaking.

However, there was a part of me was still clinging to the attraction I felt for Kaname, like a drowning sailor in a stormy ocean, clutching onto a rope thrown from a lifeboat. And just like that figurative sailor, my grip was slipping. Zero was becoming an increasingly important part of my life, gradually climbing to the top of the mountain that was my emotions. The higher Zero trekked, the more he displaced Kaname from his spot at the peak – the highest point of my affection – replacing the pureblood's flag with his own.

For the first time in twelve years, my love for the young vampire boy that had saved my life… had dwindled. As I began to understand which of the two vampires was the more logical choice – the one that could guarantee my happiness and understand me – my love for Zero grew.

Returning to the present, I realized that the silence between Kaname and I had stretched to an almost unbearable point. The tension was so heavy in the air that I could nearly see it coiled tautly around the pureblood.

Releasing a long, pained sigh, Kaname stood. "I should be on my way to my next class," he told me, then paused, almost as if he was waiting for me to stop him like I had the last time I was suffering from a high fever. But time moves on and feelings change. All I wanted was for him to leave.

"Okay," I said blankly.

Kaname stood there for a moment longer, then murmured, "Feel better, Yuki," before turning around and walking out my door.

The breath rushed from my lungs in a long, grateful exhale, not even minding the agonizing coughs that accompanied it. Though I was shamefaced about feeling so relieved that the pureblood had left, but I couldn't help it. The air felt so much lighter now that he was gone.

That was painful, I thought to myself as another round of coughing seized me. Staring at the closed door, I now regretted not taking Kaname up on his offer. My throat was terribly sore and I would've killed for a cup of water. However, I didn't know it I could make it to the kitchen on my own and if Zero found out I had moved, he'd tie me up for sure.

Although… if that's the case….

I banished that thought to the back of my head before I gave it a chance to develop further.

However, my need for water was great, and I shoved aside the possible consequences of my actions, good or bad. I slowly sat up… and almost fell right back down as the room spun unpleasantly around me. I paused for a moment, amazed by how such a small movement could leave me so dizzy and winded. But I would not allow my progress to be deterred by my illness, especially as I started coughing again, my throat practically screaming in protest as it was stripped raw.

Propelling the covers away from me, I shivered as the warmth that my blankets provided me melted away, exposing my overheated skin to a blast of chilly air. Moving at the speed of a senile old woman, I gradually dangled my legs over the side of my bed, slipping my feet into my pink, fuzzy slippers so they wouldn't be subjected to the icy floor. Carefully, I stood, grabbing onto my bedside table as the bedroom gave a nasty lurch. I snatched my wooly, lavender bathrobe from my chair and hurried wrapped it around me to trap the escaping heat. However, neither the bathrobe nor my nightgown could shield my legs from the cold and goose bumps broke out over my skin, sending a continuous wave of chilled tremors through me.

Using the wall as a crutch, I shuffled over to the door, covering my mouth with my free hand as I coughed. My world refused to stop spinning but I pressed onward regardless, ignoring how lightheaded and weak I felt. My hand closed around the doorknob and twisted it, pulling it open…

…And very nearly slammed into the slender, black jacketed-chest that barred my way. Blinking in evident surprise, I glanced up at the tall figure, and balked when I saw lavender-gray eyes staring down at me through a fringe of silver hair, one fair eyebrow arched.

Ah, crap, I thought, lowering my gaze and blushing sheepishly. Snagged.

"Where do you think you're going?" Zero inquired, bracing an arm on the doorframe to prevent me from darting past him. Yeah, right. As if I could move fast enough to sneak by him in my condition.

"Uh… the… kitchen…?" I muttered, unintentionally turning my statement into a question. Still embarrassed that I'd been caught, I couldn't meet my partner's exotically colored eyes. "I wanted to get a glass of water."

I made a move to step back – intending on returning to my bed since that's where I'd end up eventually – when the walls and floor pitched nauseatingly. The wave of dizziness crashed over me, hitting me hard and I stumbled backwards. Faster than I could see, Zero darted forward, an arm around my back and a hand at my hip as he steadied me. Blinking like an owl, I clung firmly to the hunter's arm, waiting for my vision stop revolving.

"Not like that you're not," Zero said firmly, and in one fluid motion, scooped me off the ground into his arms, carrying me bridal-style over to my mattress. The whole sweeping-me-off-my-feet motion didn't exactly help my bedroom-spinning-around-in-circles issue, but it didn't last long once my back touched the soft, motionless surface of my bed, grounding me. I closed my eyes, fighting back the dizziness as Zero gingerly set me down. He removed the slippers from my feet, dropping them beside the bed frame, and covered me with the thick quilt.

When he had finished, the nightwalker straightened up and looked me square in the eye, moonstone irises firm. "You are going to stay right here and not move a muscle," he commanded authoritatively. "I'll get you your water. Just stay put."

"Okay," I sighed, my eyes closing, too weary to argue.

Slender fingers whispered over my face as Zero promised quietly, "I'll be right back."

Blushing faintly, I opened my eyes, only to find that my partner had already left. Rolling carefully onto my side, I stared at my door, anticipating Zero's return. A tiny smile spread across my face.

Maybe this day won't be such a bust after all, I thought, feeling giddy at the speculation. If only I can convince him to stay….

For some reason, the thought triggered a series of memories, and I was abruptly transported back in time to when I was eleven years old, the last time I'd been severely ill.

I drifted in and out of consciousness, feeling weak, disoriented and restless. Sleep wouldn't come easily, and when it did, it was only a mockery of the real thing, as though part of my brain was still awake. I was hot and cold, unsure if I should bundle under my covers or kick them off of me.

The Chairman had been by multiple times to check on me, the last of which he stopped to lay a damp washcloth over my forehead in hopes of bringing my temperature down. I remained still in bed, eyes closed, hoping for sleep all the while doing my best not to move so the moist fabric wouldn't slide from my brow.

Then, suddenly, the coolness of the washcloth disappeared as someone lifted it from my forehead and a rush of burning heat seemed to rush to my cooled skin with its absence. Blearily, I opened my eyes, struggling to bring the blurry figure above me into focus.

"Headmaster?" I questioned softly.

"Why not call him 'father' when you've got a cold?" a familiar, velvety voice murmured quietly.

My eyes widened fractionally and my heart fluttered in my chest as I recognized the silken voice.

"Kaname-sama," I murmured….

."If you won't sleep, I'll leave," Kaname said, starting to walk away.

"No!" I exclaimed, thrusting an arm out from under my quilt to snag his jacket sleeve. "No! I'll sleep! Please stay with me…."

.When I woke up, my hand was empty and Kaname-sama was gone, just as I knew he would be. Slowly, I sat up, staring at the vacant hand that had clutched his the night before – and clenched it sadly.

Suddenly, I couldn't bear to remain in this room any longer and I stood. Carefully, I made my way over to my door and opened. I began to walk out when I suddenly stopped dead, my eyes spotting a head of silver.

"Zero?" I wondered quietly.

The boy turned his head to look at me over his shoulder, moonstone eyes tired.

"What're you doing?" I asked, confused, cocking my head slightly.

He was silent for a long moment, almost as if he was embarrassed, though why he would be I couldn't figure out. Then, Zero averted his gaze, the barest hint of a pink blush coloring his pale cheeks and murmured, "Nothing."

Before I could stop him, he stood up and promptly walked away.

They were almost the exact same situation, then and now: Confined to my room because I was too sick to carry on life normally or mingle with others; Kaname dropping by on an surprise visit; unexpectedly encountering Zero as I tried to leave my room.

However, this time, there was one major difference. Instead of begging Kaname to stay with me, I wanted him as far away from me as possible. And, rather than allow Zero to escape me once again, it was he that I intended on pleading with to spend the night with me.

My thoughts drifted back to that morning, the pain I felt to learn that the pureblood had slipped away some time in the night and my shock to discover my wintry-haired friend sitting by my door. Now that I thought about it, I recalled quite vividly how the floor had been warm to the touch… right where Zero had been seated. The warmth of the floor suggested that he'd remained out there on the floor for an extended period of time, long enough for the wood to absorb his body heat.

Had he been sitting there all night?

My heart swelling at the thought.

But why?

That was when Zero chose return, darting through my door so quickly, silently and gracefully that I actually jumped in surprise. It was as if the fair-haired, pale-eyed vampire had materialized out of thin air like some kind of phantom, appearing and disappearing without a moment's noticed. Once I overcame my initial shock and my heart rate slowed to a more reasonable pace, I noticed that he carried a tall glass of crystal clear water in one hand and a damp washcloth in the other.

"Here." Zero handed me the glass, then dropped a tiny white pill into my palm.

"Make sure you take that aspirin, too," he instructed, delicately lowering himself onto the side of my bed. "It'll bring your fever down." His cautious movements baffled me – it wasn't like I was going to bite him after all… I had more reason to worry about him doing that to me, not the other way around. Then I realized he was probably trying not to shake the bed too much so I wouldn't become dizzy again. It never ceased to amaze me how the littlest actions could speak volumes on Zero's commitment and concern for me.

"Thanks," I murmured, a vague, appreciative smile on my face as I brought the glass up to my lips. Before I could take a sip, there was an unpleasantly familiar tickling sensation in my throat, followed up by a tightening in my chest. I had about two seconds to register what was about to happen when another round of violent coughs began. Without hesitation, Zero snatched the cup from my hands so that the water wouldn't slosh over the rim as my coughing rattled the bed like an earthquake.

It hurt like hell. My chest pounded with each harsh sound and rush of air, feeling far too tight to be normal, and I had to gasp for oxygen. When they subsided, I was panting and clutching at my aching chest. The cool, smooth edge of glass was suddenly pressed against my lower lip as Zero touched the rim of the cup to my mouth. Tilting it slightly, he eased the water into my mouth, forcing me to take a drink.

"You sound wonderful," the vampire slayer murmured sarcastically as I drank, smoothing my hair from my face. Under the sarcasm, a spark of true concern shone through.

"I feel wonderful, too," I muttered as I took the glass from his hand. Popping the painkiller into my mouth, I took another long gulp of water, washing it down.

"I'll bet you do," Zero commented softly, watching me greedily guzzle down the water. Once the cup was empty, he removed it from me hands and placed it on my nightstand as I sank back against my pillow. Almost as if he was on automatic, Zero reached for the washcloth the second his fingers left the glass and folded it into a narrow rectangle. Leaning forward, he tenderly laid it across my forehead, and I sighed as the cool, moist cloth touched my skin, enjoying the relief it brought.

I could get used to this, I thought. Zero taking care of me… It's nice….

Peering up at him, I took in his relaxed pose – one that suggested that he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Pleased by the fact that – for the time being – he'd stay by my side, I scooted over a little to allow him more room, tugging encouragingly on his hand as I went. As he shifted to position himself more comfortably on my bed, a faint glimmer from his chest caught my eye and I smiled.

In the dim light, the silver dragon necklace I bought him for Christmas glittered. I'd been correct in following my gut decision, the one that insisted to me that there was no need to buy Zero an alternative gift, just in case he didn't care for the one I bought on the spur of the moment.

It still brought a smile to my face every time I recalled the memory of presenting Zero with his gift. The clarity of the memory was as vivid as if I was reliving it all over again: the nervous twitch in my fingers as he unwrapped it; the torturous anticipation as he lifted the lid; the way his moonstone eyes widened in surprise, lighting up; the small, grateful smile that upturned his lips.

He absolutely loved it – if the bone crushing hug he'd pulled me into and the breathtaking, passionate kiss he'd smothered me with were anything to judge by. Had I not known any better, I would've thought the thin silver chain was welded to his neck. Zero almost never took it off. The delicate necklace had become a permanent part of my fellow guardian's appearance, just like his ear piercings and tattoo.

I was brought back to the present as Zero removed the washcloth from my forehead and lightly dragged it across the exposed skin of my face and neck, cooling me off. The caring, tender action reminded me of my earlier thoughts and the question I wanted to ask him

"Hey, Zero?" I began, gently touching the platinum-bodied, moonstone-eyed dragon resting against his chest.

"Hmm?" the vampire intoned lightly, indicating that he was listening to me as he laid the cloth over my forehead once again.

"Do you remember the last time I was really sick like this?" I inquired, fighting to focus as his fingers glided across my skin. "When I was eleven?"

"Yeah, what of it?"

I paused, then asked, "How come you were sitting outside my door?"

Dusk-colored eyes met mine, and an exasperated expression crossed his face, staring at me like I was an idiot. "Isn't it obvious?" Zero questioned quietly, withdrawing his hand. "I was worried about you."

Even then? I wondered. He cared that much even then? How long has he felt this way about me?

Sure, I knew that Zero cared for me in a way that went beyond friendship. He'd made that clear to me over the last five months. But I still didn't know if he loved me or how long these emotions of his had been present.

"Were you there all night?" I asked incredulously, gazing up into his twilight irises.

The barest hint of a smile drifted into Zero's full lips and he settled himself against the wall behind us, taking my small hand into his larger one.

"I was," he admitted, stroking his thumb over the back of my hand. "I stayed out there from the time the Chairman put you to bed to the time you woke up and saw me there. I saw Kaname come and go. I even went in to check on you a few times, but you were always asleep when I did."

My heart swelled in my chest, the feeling of elation indescribable. I never knew… that all this time… he'd watched over me without my knowing…. What else had he done to protect me that I didn't have any knowledge of?

"That hasn't changed, even now," Zero said, flipping my hand over to kiss my palm and my heart rate accelerated. "That is to say, my stubbornness when it comes to your well being. It's still here of course. It's just a little… stronger now… the need to watch over you and protect you, leading my tendency to become overbearingly protective."

The side of his mouth twisted into the tiniest lopsided grin, the long expanse of an ivory fang gleaming past his pale lips. It was a fairly understandable statement he'd made, but for some reason, it baffled me. Maybe it was the fever making me delirious.

"What do you mean?" I asked, peering up at him.

The crooked grin straightened out into one of Zero's infrequent, full-blown smiles, where his porcelain cheeks lifted, his lavender-gray eyes sparkled, and every inch of his ultra-white teeth were bared to me. All the air literally rushed from my lungs as I was left in breathless awe as he smiled down at me, just like I always was whenever I was fortunate enough to witness one of his rare, genuine smiles.

"Well," the moonlight-haired boy hedged, playing with my fingers, still grinning, "I decided against telling you since I wasn't in the mood to hear you whining and yelling at me for it. But, since the damage is already done, it's far too late for you to do anything about it, so I don't see any harm in telling you."

My eyes narrowed in suspicion as my guard instantly went up. "Tell me what?" I asked slowly.

The smile widened to a nearly unbearable point, and I was tempted to remind Zero that I needed to breathe. Then, with all of the glee of child being caught doing something he wasn't supposed to, he informed me, "I skipped school today."

"What?!" I gasped, my tone instantly colored with disapproval. "Zero! Why?!"

"So I could keep an eye on you, of course," he said simply, and I shut up like a clam. "Just like I did when you were eleven, I've been in and out of your room all day when you were asleep to check on you. I left only to keep the Day Class girls away from the vampires and of course, to get you your water. But other than that, I've been sitting in a chair outside your room since I carried you in here this morning. I even convinced the Chairman to take over patrol tonight so I can watch you. In this instance, I consider my vampirism as a blessing rather than a curse. Now I can listen to your heartbeat and breathing and use them as a judge if you need something."

There was a warm sensation in center of my chest that temporarily overwhelmed the tightness and pain. I had a sneaking suspicion that it was my heart melting into a puddle of goo.

"Are you really that worried?" I murmured softly, blushing embarrassedly.

The light in my vampire's eyes dimmed and the smile faded from his face. A more somber expression flitted across his beautiful features. "I'm always worried about you, Yuki," Zero confessed quietly. "I'm always afraid someone or something is going to take you away from me."

His words triggered another memory.

"Don't… take… anything… more… away from me!" Zero roared, eyes blazing in fury as he wrenched himself out of my grip, his finger squeezing the trigger of the Bloody Rose, firing at the white-haired pureblood's icy body.

Zero studied my face as if he knew what I was thinking, his twilight eyes intent on my expression.

"Why do you think I reacted so violently when Shizuka almost bit you?" he murmured questioningly, absentmindedly twirling a lock of my hair around his index finger. "I'm afraid to lose you. I was then. I am now. That hasn't changed in six years."

The starlight-haired nightwalker didn't grant me the chance to respond as he removed the washcloth from my forehead. Shoving my bangs away from my forehead, he brushed his fingertips over my brow and laid his palm over my skin, taking note of my temperature. My fever was so high that even my partner's perpetually warm hands felt uncharacteristically cool against my forehead.

"You're burning up," he murmured worriedly, his voice gentle as he stroked those long fingers over my brow.

"That happens when you have a fever," I muttered sarcastically, but the force of my jib was somewhat lessened by the by the quiver in my voice as Zero's slightly calloused fingertips brushed over my skin. Twisting his hand over, the vampire hunter trailed the backs of his fingers down the length of my cheek, then back up again to repeat the process.

Suddenly, the corner of Zero's lips quirked into a barely-there, playful smile. The next second, the covers were flung from my body, the washcloth slipped off my forehead and I was lifted into the air, supported by a pair of strong, slender arms.


Instinctively, my arms shot out, coiled around Zero's neck, holding myself to his solid chest.

"W-what're you doing?" I shrieked in protest as he carried me over to the door, nudging it open with his foot and strode down the hall.

"Going to cool you off," he informed me lightly, striding with purpose to some unknown destination, "Since the washcloth clearly isn't doing its job."

I opened my mouth to demand to know where he was taking me. But then, my stomach backflipped unpleasantly as the hall wavered, and my jaw snapped shut with an audible snap so something other than words wouldn't spill out.

Sighing in defeat, I ceased struggling – knowing full well that it wouldn't do me any good – and nestled my flaming brow against the long column of Zero's neck, concentrating on breathing deeply to steady my queasy stomach. Of course, with my nose gliding across the skin of his throat, I couldn't help but take in his scent: the musky smell of his shampoo and the acrid tang on metal that clung to him from handling the Bloody Rose. An odd combination, but strangely alluring and entirely unique… just like Zero. As he carried me, I fiddled with the delicate chain around his neck, twining it with my pinkie finger and rolling the dragon pendent between my fingers.

Then, Zero stopped before a door and bent over to twist the knob with the hand supporting my legs. The door swung open and the vampire flicked on the light. Suddenly, it seemed as though that glass of water hadn't done me any good as all the moisture in my throat promptly dried up, leaving it as parched and cracked as a desert.

We were in the Headmaster's private bathroom.

"Zero…?" I murmured, peering meaningfully up into moonstone irises.

My fellow guardian didn't say a word or even acknowledge that I had spoken. Stepping into the bathroom, Zero kicked the door closed behind us and deposited me gently on the countertop.

"Zero, what're you doing?" I prompted again, trying to decode the mischievous light in his dusk-colored eyes.

A tiny, impish grin spread across his full lips as he took my face into his hands and leaned toward me. With extreme difficulty, I inclined my head away, though the only thing I wanted to do was close the distance between our mouths.

"Don't," I whispered softly. Then, upon seeing the sudden flash of hurt in his eyes, I quickly added, "I don't want you to get sick too. The guilt would tear me to shreds."

Zero's expression instantly cleared, and the faint smile returned as he leaned in once more. Resistance was impossible against his vampiric strength and his plush lips brushed against mine, weakening my resolve.

"I'm a vampire, Yuki," he murmured against my mouth, causing me to shudder. "I don't get sick easily anymore. It would take a lot more than just a kiss to pass your illness onto me."

Without waiting for a reply, his lips pressed against mine, kissing me softly and all my defenses eroded away. I went limp in his arms as his soft mouth parted my lips, moving against mine firmly. Threading my fingers in the fine strands of spun-silver hair, I kissed him back, crushing myself against his body.

Then, all too soon, Zero broke the kiss, and touched his forehead to mine, his striking eyes bright. Quick puffs of his hot, moist breath hit my still parted lips, mingling with my own ragged breathing. He was definitely not helping to bring my temperature down when he did that.

"How is that supposed to help cool me off?" I grumbled under my breath. "That's only making me warmer."

Zero simply smirked. "That's not going to cool you down," he told me. "I kissed you because I wanted to."

The vampire sauntered away and I glared down at my hands, grumbling incoherently about boys and male hormones. I didn't think to look for Zero until I heard the shower turn on and the water hitting the tile floor.

The instant my head whipped around to locate the source of the noise, I paid dearly for it as the bathroom swayed like a tree caught in a hurricane's wrath. When I managed to return my vision to normal, I saw the moonlight haired hunter standing before me, lips quirked. Pointing toward the shower door, he said, "That is going to cool you down."

I frowned. "Zero, how do you expect me to take a shower? I can barely stand without feeling like passing out."

"Simple," he stated, and my jaw hit the floor along with his school jacket and vest as he shrugged out of them. "I'm coming with you."

"Wha – ah! Zero! Wait!" I yelped as he tugged my bathrobe off my shoulders and lifted me up into his arms, walking into the shower room. My heart was thumping wildly in my chest. A shower? With Zero? Naked?!

Again, he seemed to read my mind – either that or heard my frantic heartbeat with his vampiric hearing – because he chuckled. "Relax, Yuki, I'm not going to take off anymore clothes than this. I promise," he vowed, closing the door to the shower.

"O-okay," I whispered, tightening my arms around his neck, still deliberating if that was a relief or a disappointment.

Zero stepped under the stream of tepid water – clothes and all – and I gasped in shock as it hit my feverish skin. Though he had kept the water lukewarm so it wouldn't chill me, it still felt as if I'd had the breath knocked out of me, much like how one feels when jumping into an icy cold pool on a sweltering hot day. A sigh rushed from me in a long, drawn-out exhale. The cool water felt unbelievably good sliding over my body.

"Think you can stand?" Zero murmured in my ear, sending a shiver down my spine that had nothing to do with the water's temperature.

"If you hold me," I responded, reluctant for him to release me.

"I don't think that's too much of a chore," he whispered huskily, gently lowering me. Once my feet touched the smooth tile floor and I was standing upright, Zero embraced me, drawing me against his muscular, warm torso. I rested my head against his chest, feeling the wet fabric of his white, button-up shirt cling to my cheek and the cold metal of his necklace. Zero's large hands chafed against the soaked cotton of my nightgown, rubbing soothing circles into my back. His other hand came up to weave in my hair, running his slender fingers though the dripping strands.

After several minutes, I heard Zero murmur, "Turn around for a sec, Yuki."

I tilted my head back to stare up at him, confused. "Why?"

The corner of his lip twitched, as if he was trying to fight back a smile. "You'll see."

A little reluctantly, I slowly twisted in his arms until I was facing away from him and leaned my back against his hard chest. The starlight-haired vampire didn't seem to mind supporting all of my weight, and one slim arm wrapped around my waist to steady me. I felt him reaching for something and pull us out of the water slightly before his lips were against my ear, whispering, "I'm gonna let go of your waist, so just lean against me so you don't fall over, okay?"

"Why do you need to let go?" I whined, pouting slightly as I obstinately clutched onto the arm circling my waist.

"Because I need both of my hands," Zero replied, his voice light, as if he was suppressing laughter.

I wanted to argue the matter further, but he was already pulling his arm away, so I had no choice but to lean into him and hope that another dizzy spell wouldn't hit me and send me crashing to the floor. As I stood there, missing the pressure of Zero's arm against my stomach, curiosity flowed over me like the water that fell from the showerhead. What was he doing back there?

Then, I felt something cool touch the top of my head, and I jumped in surprise. Zero snorted in amusement behind me, his hands in my hair.

"Just a little bit edgy, are we?" he taunted, his long fingers massaging my scalp.

I scowled at the mocking edge in his voice, but the ferocity in my frown was somewhat lessened by the pleasantly distracting sensation of his hands in my hair, kneading my skull.

"What're you – ?" I began, reaching back to touch Zero's hands… and stopped when I encountered something softy and foamy in my tresses. Withdrawing my hand to peer it, I noticed that the tips of my fingers were coated in white, sudsy bubbles.

Suddenly, everything made sense and I felt like a fool for not realizing it sooner. Zero was washing my hair. The cool drop of liquid that I had felt on the crown of my skull was shampoo and now the silver-haired vampire was lathering it into my hair. I could've laughed at myself for acting so silly.

Smiling, I closed my eyes, relaxing against Zero's chest as his fingers worked in my hair. I couldn't believe how wonderful it felt. The hunter's deft hands massaged every inch of my scalp, not leaving a single area untouched. His fingers combed through my hair, spreading the soapy foam throughout the strands. I could only lean against him, completely unable and unwilling to support myself, allowing the bliss to overtake over me.

After several heavenly moments of this, Zero shifted us fully under the stream of water once again to rinse the shampoo from my hair, careful to prevent any of the suds from sliding into my eyes. His slender fingers raked through my short tresses, washing away the soapy foam that clung the chocolate strands.

When Zero completed his work, the vampire pressed himself firmly against my back once again, and his arms wrapped fully around my waist, hugging me to him. Craning his neck down to my height, he slid his face up against mine. I involuntarily shuddered at the sensation of wet skin sliding over wet skin.

"Feeling better?" he inquired softly in my ear, his voice unintentionally seductive.

Actually, now that he mentioned it, I was. Granted, I still felt terribly weak, my chest continued to ache, and my throat was sore from all the coughing, which hadn't ceased. However, I didn't feel like there was molten lava flowing through my veins, heating my skin to intolerable temperatures and the walls of the shower stayed in one place; they didn't lurch every time I turned my head anymore.

Twisting my head around, I peered at Zero over my shoulder to answer him, and abruptly had to remind myself to breathe.

The argent-haired hunter was watching me with his beautiful twilight eyes, their lavender-gray color darkening ever so slightly from behind the dripping, moonlight hair that fell in front of his face. Water poured over his head, racing down the alabaster skin of his face and neck in crystal rivulets or in diamond beads of liquid. The white fabric of his shirt clung to Zero's chest in the most appealing way, the pale fabric practically see-through, granting me with a teasing glimpse of his perfectly muscled chest. His dragon necklace, earrings, and tattoo only added to his appearance, all but screaming sexy.

Realizing that Zero was still waiting for a response to his question, I forced myself to tear my eyes away from his body long enough to smile at him and say, "A little, yeah."

"Good," he murmured, burying his face against the crook of my neck. I heard him inhale deeply, no doubt breathing in the scent of my blood, and his lips pressed against my beating pulse.

There was in uncontrolled reaction of wanting that rose up in me as he did this. It was a sensation I was extremely familiar with, and now that it was here, there was only one way to get rid of it.

"Hey, Zero?"

Zero's mouth brushed over the length of my neck, up and down, before planting a light kiss over my vein.

"Hmm…?" the vampire hunter hummed against my throat.

"Are you… thirsty?" I asked hesitantly. Why I was still shy about this matter was beyond me.

"A little," he admitted quietly. "I haven't taken the blood tablet yet today."

Fidgeting with the dragon pendent, a blush swept over my face as I stumbled to force the words out of my mouth. "Will you… um… you know… feed… from me…?"

Zero lifted his head from the crook of my neck to peer curiously at my face. Then he kissed the top of my wet hair before leaning over my shoulder to look into my eyes.

"No," he told me softly, lavender-gray eyes gentle as his arms tightened around my waist. "It wouldn't be right to take blood from you when you're this sick. You need that blood to fight your illness."

Although I knew he had a valid point, I couldn't help but feel disappointed.

"Please, Zero?" I begged, peering at him pleadingly from over my shoulder. "I want to feel good."

A strange expression came across my vampire's face as I said this. Zero's eyes widened and their moonstone color darkened to an almost amethyst-steel color. His lips parted and a hungry expression – laced heavily with lust and want – crept into his eyes and facial features.

It was then that I realized how unintentionally erotic my innocent words must've sounded to Zero, and I blushed.

Lowering his silver head, Zero whispered seductively into my ear, "I can think of another way to make you feel good."

A delicious shudder trembled through me like an icy finger tailing down my spin. My heartbeat sped up and my plugged lungs had to fight for air. Ridding the last of the soapy suds that clung to his hands, my vampire tucked his fingers under my chin and tilted my head back to him, kissing me.

Something about the position we were in excited me. With Zero's chest against my back, leaning over my shoulder to kiss me under the spray of water… was extremely intimate. My body tingled with exhilaration, shocks of electricity shooting through me.

The vampire broke away from me then, his breathing fairly ragged as he smiled faintly at me, the water crashing down around us. "It's kind of like kissing in the rain, isn't it?" he breathed.

Before I had the chance to respond, Zero spun me around, crushing me to his chest and recaptured my mouth. The breath was knocked from my lungs by the amount of passion and raw hunger that permeated Zero's kiss. The last time we'd shared a kiss like this was back in September and I ended up half naked under him with Zero's fingers on places that had never been touched by male hands before. Another shiver passed through me as the silver-haired hunter's soft lips melded with mine, raw desire almost seeping from his pores. I wondered if this kiss would lead to a similar situation as September.

All thoughts and coherency were dashed from my brain as Zero pressed me tighter against his warm body, his large hands running firmly over my back. Sighing into the kiss, I laced my fingers in his pearly hair and tugging him closer to me. Zero deepened the kiss, tilting my head in such an angle that he would have better access to my mouth. Pointed fangs scraped lightly over my bottom lip, teasing me as his tongue entwined with mine in a competitive dance.

Completely unabashed, Zero's hands roamed up and down my body, touching flesh hidden by the soaked fabric clinging to my body. His wide palms and slim fingers glided across my shoulders and collarbone; trailed down the center of my chest; stroked softly and teasingly over my breasts; skimmed the flat planes of my stomach; traced the curves of my hips and butt; then climbed up my back to repeat the process all over again. My entire body was tingling from his touch, as if his willow fingers completed a circuit and were sending jolts of electricity coursing through me.

Almost on their own, my hands began to mimic Zero's actions. Timidly, I ran my hands over his chest and stomach, feeling his toned muscles – outlined against the wet fabric of his shirt – contract involuntarily under my touch. My caresses weren't nearly as bold as Zero's but judging by the way he was panting into my mouth, I made an educated guess that he didn't mind it too much.

Hungrily, Zero ravaged my mouth, fangs nicking my lips as one hand curved around my butt to the underside of my thigh and hiked my leg up to wrap it around his waist. My breath hitched in my throat as a familiar, throbbing ache returned to me as Zero dragged his hand over the skin of my thigh not covered by my nightgown. Even with the stream of water cascading over us, I still felt overheated and lusty.

Ripping his lips away from my mouth, Zero gasped, "Jump up."


"Jump up," he repeated huskily, moonstone eyes dark and cloudy.

Bewildered though I was, I leapt as high as I could and Zero's hand captured my butt, pulling me against his stomach. Instinctively, I wrapped my legs around his slender waist and he swung me around, pinning my back against the shower wall and crushed his mouth to mine.

Heat coursed through me as Zero's and my lips crashed together, our hands roaming shamelessly over each other's bodies. My vampire was pressing me roughly against the shower wall, my shoulder blades digging into the hard, smooth tile, but I couldn't find it in me to care. The fingers of one hand tangled in his hair as I tugged on it, dragging his mouth closer to mine while the other trailed down to the top of the vampire's shirt. Trembling, my fingers worked to unbutton his shirt, but an ironclad grip and the absence of Zero's lips on mine made me stop.

"I think we should stop before this gets out of hand," Zero panted, removing my hand from his shirt. "Unless we want another episode like last September."

I almost said I wouldn't mind a repeat of that warm fall day, but thought better of it.

"Good idea," I gasped, struggling for breath.

Zero backed away from the shower wall and lowered me to the ground when I detangled my legs from his waist. Reaching behind me, he turned off the water, then led me out into the bathroom. In comfortable silence, Zero snatched a towel from the rack and wrapped it securely around me, then hoisted me into his arms and carried me down the hall. I nuzzled the side of his neck, still damp from the shower and closed my eyes, feeling lethargic and sleepy.

When we arrived at my room, Zero set me down and said, "Change into something dry. I'll be back."

I did as I was told and riffled through my drawers, selecting a pale yellow nightgown. Peeling my wet pajamas off of me, I deposited them on the ground in a soggy heap, then changed into my dry clothes. Walking carefully, I sat on the edge of my bed, facing the door and waited for Zero to return. I wasn't going to let him escape without giving him his surprise and glanced at my nightstand drawer.

I smiled when I realized the vampire had accomplished his goal. No longer did I feel as though I was immersed in a sea of liquid fire. Whether it was the shower or simply the aspirin taking effect, my fever had gone down.

It wasn't long before Zero was walking through me door, dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and loose sweatpants. Spots of water-darkened fabric dotted his shoulders from where drops of water from his still-wet hair had landed.

"A bed is made for lying down and sleeping," he intoned dryly, walking up to me. Ever so gently, he laid a large hand against my shoulder and pushed me back into a lying position. "Sitting on it doesn't do you much good."

"I was waiting for you," I told him as he drew the covers up around me.

"You could've waited lying down," he reminded me, perching on the edge of my mattress once again.

"I was afraid I would've… fallen asleep," I said, my speech punctuated by a wide, un-ladylike yawn.

"And that's a bad thing?" Zero questioned, arching an eyebrow. "You need sleep."

"I know, but I didn't want to fall asleep before I could give you this."

Zero frowned. "Give me what?"

Swatting his warm hands away, I sat up and opened the drawer of my bedside table. Reaching in, I groped around blindly for a minute, then touched the hard corner of what I was searching for. I produced a tiny box wrapped with silver wrapping paper and adorned with a deep purple ribbon.

"This," I said, depositing it in his hand.

Zero frowned down at it, eyeing me critically. "Is this what I think it is?" he asked.

I shrugged. "Open it and find out."

Zero continued to watch me for a moment longer before he lowered his moonstone eyes and his slender, nimble fingers untied the ribbon. I watched in silent nervousness as the silver and purple wrappings feel away, and the lid was lifted.

"Happy Valentine's Day," I murmured softly as Zero gazed down at the chocolates lying inside the box. Then, feeling like I needed to explain, I rushed, "I actually got them right this time. Granted, it took me three tries but they eventually came out the way I wanted. I tried one, too, just to make sure and it seemed to taste pretty goo – "

The silver-haired vampire cut off my hurried rant by leaning forward swiftly and pressing his lips against mine. As he deepened the kiss, I could taste chocolate on his tongue. He must've popped one of my chocolates into his mouth while I had been talking and I hadn't even noticed.

Too soon for my liking, Zero had pulled away, a smile curving his beautiful lips. "Thank you, Yuki," he murmured, pressing a kiss against my forehead.

"You're welcome," I sighed, my eyes fluttering closed at the feel of his soft lips against my skin.

My beloved partner stroked my hair a few times and passed his palm and fingers across the side of my face before he was forcing me back into a lying position. Then he abruptly was standing, bending over me.

"I should go now or you'll never get to sleep. Gods know you need it," he murmured, beginning to walk away. "Good night, Yuki."

There was a sudden surge of panic in me, and my hand shot out, grabbing onto Zero's. "No! I'll sleep! Please just stay with me!" I begged.

"If you won't sleep, I'll leave," he said, starting to walk away.

"No!" I exclaimed, thrusting an arm out from under my quilt to snag his jacket sleeve. "No! I'll sleep! Please stay with me…"

Same words, same irrational panic, almost the same situation. Different person.

Zero turned to look at me, twilight eyes gentle, framed by the silvery fringe of his moonlight locks. Squeezing my eyes shut, I braced myself for the cutting rejection, already biting my lip to restrain the flow of tears welling behind my closed lids.


The word barely registered in my mind at first, and it didn't truly click until his hand drew away from mine and I felt the bed sink on the side opposite me. My eyes snapped open and my head whipped around to see Zero next to me on the mattress, climbing silently under the covers. Chuckling faintly at my shocked expression, the hunter collected me in his arms, clasping me to his chest and resting his chin atop of my skull. Joyous warmth seeped through me, and my arms snaked around his waist as I nuzzled against his shoulder.

"Now, get some sleep or you'll never get better," Zero ordered firmly, closing his lavender-gray eyes, his breath stirring my hair. "Just wake me up if you need anything."

For a long time, I simply stared up at him. Enraptured, I drank in the sight of his starlight hair strewn over my pillows, his thick, dark eyelashes closed over his beautiful, ethereal eyes, two dark smudges against his porcelain skin and sharp facial features. Zero looked more like an angel than a vampire….

A heavenly being disguised as a bloodsucker, I thought.

Snuggling closer to his heated, welcoming body, I listened intently to his heartbeat and his steady, deep breaths. I knew he wasn't sleeping yet. Smiling gratefully, I murmured quietly, "You're always watching out for me, Zero. You're like my guardian angel." I craned my head back to kiss the underside of his defined jaw. "Thank you."

Moonstone eyes opened and peered down at me, a strange expression swirling in their pale, milky depths. Threading his hand in my hair, Zero shook his head and said gently, "No, Yuki. You are my guardian angel. I'm just returning the favor."

Another chaste kiss ghosted over the top of my forehead, followed by the soft command, "Go to sleep."

The childish fear of him leaving in the middle of the night – just like Kaname had done – returned. I didn't think I could bear waking up to an empty bed.

"Will you be here when I wake up?" I asked, berating myself slightly when my voice came out weak, high, and needy. Gods, I sounded so desperate.

However, my vampire didn't seem appalled by my apparent anxiety. "Not even all the fiery fury of the Seven Hells could keep me away," Zero promised. Then, with a smirk and an uncharacteristic but oh-so-adorable wink, added, "Or the Chairman."

I giggled slightly at that.

I'll hold you to that vow, was my last thought as I cuddled against the wintry-haired nightwalker's comforting warm and sank into sleep.

When I woke the next morning, my eyes fluttering open grudgingly as light poured through the window, I found myself staring at my door. The sight unleashed a sudden pang of agony through me. At first, I couldn't understand why I felt so anguished. Then it occurred to me.

The view of my door was unobstructed by another body.

Disappointment and hurt radiated through me, so powerful I was shocked when I didn't burst into immediate tears.

He didn't stay….

Sighing, I began to sit up, not caring if I wasn't well enough to move just yet, but unable to linger in this room a moment longer. However, something was restricting my movement, preventing me from sitting up. Something strong and unyielding that was wrapped firmly around my waist.

Confused, I glanced down… and felt my heart leap in my chest when my eyes were greeted with the sight of a pale, ivory arm circling my middle. Hope pulsed through me like an additional heartbeat and I whipped my head around. A wild smile broke across my face.

Soft morning light was flittering in through the white, lacy curtains, draping over the bed like a sheet of cream-colored silk. But what captivated me the most, was the figure lying peacefully beside me, the light highlighting fine, satiny hair the color of the moon and smooth, fair skin.

There's an angel in my bed….

Pure joy and elation filled me as I stared at Zero's sleeping figure, his full lips slightly parted and his breathing was deep and even.

He stayed…. I must've turned over in my sleep in the middle of the night. That's why I didn't see him when I woke up.

All desire to get up for the day evaporated and I settled back against my bed, twisting in his arms so that I was once again facing him and snuggled against his warm chest. The smile that had split my face remained as I closed my eyes and allowed drowsiness to claim me once again.

Content, I once again fell asleep in my angelic vampire's arms, the blissful smile never once leaving my lips.

Woah, this took a long time to edit! I just couldn't get motivated to suck it up and go over it (curse you Xbox360 and Devil May Cry 4!). I'm actually relatively happy with this one. Not perfect, as always, but it more or less came out the way I was hoping. I had originally planned to end it with Yuki falling asleep (the first time) but that felt incomplete, so I added in the final scene.

I also noticed I seemed to focus in A LOT on Zero's lips in this particularly story… Guess I can't help it. He's got niiiiiiice lips :)

As always, if you pick up on any mistakes I might've missed, please alert me to them (and if you could, tell me where) and I will go back and fix them.

If you enjoyed this story, keep an eye out for the fourth installment, Realize. And guess who finally makes his first appearance real appearance in this story? :) - Des