it's time to celebrate how you came to be.
Touya Rima didn't do birthdays.
It was pointless to her, a vampire with her life extended as long as it possibly could. Years passed as quickly as they came and they matured bit by bit, but that was all she could think about when it came to birthdays.
It was normal for vampires, after all, that the passing of a year, 365 days, meant little to nothing for them.
Apparently, that wasn't the case for humans, so she discovered while watching a movie one night after class, in the bedroom she shared with Souen Ruka. It was about a girl and her tenth birthday. Her friends and her family all pretended to forget her birthday just to throw in a surprise for her. It was a scene which, much to her own surprise, Rima took a deep interest in. She replayed it a few times and watched the particular scene again and again, trying to see, to understand the simple acts as well as she could.
The blonde vampire picked up the DVD case, the movie paused on the picture of this little girl, her face glowing with happiness, and examined it silently. It was an old DVD she had found when browsing through Ruka's large collection of movies. They might not always look like it, but vampires had a lot of time to kill, especially when mostly everything was peaceful and there were less Level E vampires to hunt down around their area.
The sound of her bedroom door clicking as it opened sent Rima alert at once. She looked over her shoulder, expecting Ruka. It was almost morning and the girl should want to sleep anytime now. Instead, it was Shiki.
"Rima," he said, closing the door behind him.
Shiki Senri. The way he said her name sent an unfamiliar shiver down her spine, so strange she didn't understand why.
He walked towards her, "What are you doing?"
"Shiki…" she turned around and gestured to the television, "I'm watching a movie. What are you doing here?" she didn't mean to sound rude, but if she did, she was positive that Shiki would understand. They weren't childhood friends for nothing, after all.
The male vampire sat down on the arm of her chair, picking up the DVD case from her hand, looked at it once, and then returned it to her disinterestedly.
"I didn't see you in the common room," he said impassively, although his eyes were careful on hers, "Ruka said you might be sick." The next sentence hung heavily in the air, unspoken: just thought I'd come and see.
"Sick?" Rima echoed blankly. True, she wasn't feeling well—she hadn't had good sleep for two days already—but she hid it well and Ruka wasn't supposed to be aware of it. "I'm not sick."
He arched two smooth eyebrows but said nothing. It was obvious that he didn't believe her. His gaze flickered to the screen. "What's this you're watching?" he asked, deciding to humor her for a little more while.
"A movie," Rima replied the obvious, pressing the play button. She kept her eyes on the screen, watching almost tentatively as the girl started to unwrap her gift. She watched as the little girl's eyes glowed in pleasure when she discovered what her gift was: a Winnie the Pooh plushie, complete with the honey pot and all.
Rima couldn't remember what it was like to be ten, or to be so joyful and bubbly and naïve like this girl. She couldn't recall when was the last time she felt curious over a wrapped gift, and then pleasantly surprised when she discovered what it was. She wasn't even sure that she had these experiences before. If she did, though, why was it all black in her memory?
"I don't remember my birthday, you know," she heard herself saying to Shiki, her voice solemn and holding back.
The male vampire glanced at her, his gray eyes careful as he searched her eyes, "Really."
"Yes, really," Rima replied, her fingers tracing the pattern of the arm of the chair where Shiki was not sitting, determinedly avoiding eye contact. This wasn't what she wanted; to feel so uncertain of herself and that Shiki, of all people, to be there with her when she did.
Out of the two of them, she was always the more realistic one, and he was almost so ironically innocent that she felt like the one protecting the two of them at certain times. This wasn't true. It was he who saved her, most of the times.
She looked up, "I don't even remember whether I have a birthday or not. Like the one they celebrate in the movie."
"Mm," Shiki sounded as if he was deeply contemplating this, and then he told her, "I used to celebrate my birthday."
"You do?" Rima couldn't help but to sound astonished.
"Yes," a brief smile crossed his eyes, and she wasn't sure if it was just her imagination or not.
"Tell me about it."
This time, Shiki really smiled, and his eyes crinkled the way they always did whenever he had some idea cooked up in his mind, "Tomorrow."
"Shiki," her voice was threatening, but it didn't work on him. It never did. It never would. He was the only one completely immune to her charm.
"Tomorrow," he repeated, a little sternly this time. He leaned down and touched their foreheads together, pulling away two seconds after, "Get some sleep, Rima."
She didn't get the chance to retort as he slipped out of her bedroom quietly.
The next day, Rima discovered that birthdays were usually associated with birthday cakes, presents, and… balloons, much to her distaste.
She loved balloons—this, she remembered very clearly—but that was before she discovered that they could explode, and Rima disliked explosions. They were too noisy, and a little scary, perhaps, but it wasn't like she would flat out admit it.
Rima entered the Moon Dorm silently, hugging her textbooks to her chest. She had to stay in class later than the others to do an errand for the teacher, and it wasn't even a useful, much overdue errand like she thought it would be. It consisted of sorting out more than a hundred books for his free reading time, and it was just annoying, she almost felt like punching the teacher. But really, she didn't lose her cool that easily. Most vampires wouldn't.
She glanced at the huge clock on the wall. Eleven PM. At this time of the night, Ruka would probably be somewhere with Kain, talking, discussing, whatever it was she said she was doing whenever she was with Kain. It was too obvious to Rima that there was something else, something more than just 'talking' or 'discussing' between Kain and Ruka, but if Ruka didn't want to talk about it, she wouldn't push it either.
Rima walked into the bedroom, braced for extreme changes of anything. These days, Ruka had developed quite the habit of changing the furniture's positions as how she liked it, and Rima often had no say in it. As she entered, however, what she first noticed was not that her bed was now right under the window (the way she exactly hated it), but that there was something on her bed. As she came to take a closer look, it was a Post-It note with an all too familiar slightly cursive-but-messy writing:
Come down to the backyard when you're ready.
She almost wanted to laugh. That was Shiki all right, to the point and not wasting words. She put down her books on the table near her bed and peeled the Post-It from her blanket, reading it once more as she walked out of the room.
There was no one when she arrived at the backyard, all the garden lights switched off. "Shiki?" She moved around the backyard, eyes searching, the Post-It note crumpled in her hand.
"Didn't I say to come when you're ready?" a quiet, soft voice came from behind, surprising her. Expectedly, it was Shiki, dressed in his casual shirt that was secretly her favorite.
Rima turned around, automatically hiding the crumpled note behind her back. "Shiki," she said, "What is it?"
"Let's get you refreshed first," he said, leading her into the dorm once more, and to her room. "Go take a bath and change into something decent. I'll wait here," he gestured to the armchair in front of her room, the very same one she had sat down on when watching yesterday's movie. Ruka had obviously moved it out. He nodded at her, "Go."
Knowing that there was no going against Shiki when he was this awake to be serious, Rima sighed and entered her room. She did as she was told: take a bath and change into her nightgown. It was decent enough for her, at least.
She went out again and as she saw Shiki, his eyes closed as he leaned so comfortably into the armchair, wondered: when did he start growing up himself? Had it always been so fast, or was she the one who couldn't catch up or even witness it?
"Shiki," she nudged his shoulder, and he opened one eye, instantly standing up when he saw her.
"Oh," he said, breaking from his trance. "Oh, you're ready."
"Yes," she replied, "What is it you're planning, Shiki?"
A ghost of a smile appeared on his lips as he ignored her question and impassively said, "Follow me."
He led her into the library, not bothering to switch the lights on, and then to one corner of it. Rima squinted in the darkness, knowing better than to ask Shiki what this was all about, since he obviously wouldn't so easily give her answers. Her eyes made out several objects on the table: a box, a candle, and… a cake?
Before she could make out anything else, there was the sound of a burning match and the candle in front of her lit, the light enough for her to see what was actually in front of her: a small chocolate cake, round, and the same candle lighting them on it, and a even smaller box on the side of it.
"Shiki," she walked closer to him, more confused and surprised than ever, "What—"
"Ssh," he whispered, lighting up the other candle, the one that was sitting on a candleholder, quickly. He didn't look at her once as he gestured to the seat near the table and she obediently sat down. Then he sat across her and glanced at her, their eyes meeting for a moment, and he said, "Happy birthday, Rima."
Rima couldn't help it anymore, her mouth forming an 'o', the surprise in her face so obvious, "Shiki…" It isn't even my birthday.
"You have never celebrated your birthday," the male vampire suddenly said, leaning forward, "Never. I don't know why, but you… even when we were kids, you didn't. So, uh…" for a moment he seemed at loss of words, something very rare because Shiki was never a man of words from the beginning, and he usually thought out what he wanted to say before actually saying it, "I just thought that… Well. Happy birthday, Rima."
"I didn't like balloons," was her quiet reply. "I… I don't like balloons. Maybe… maybe that was why."
"Maybe," his reply was quiet, and then, "Make a wish. Blow the candle."
Birthday traditions. This, Rima remembered quite clearly. She closed her eyes, only to open them again two seconds after. She didn't know what to wish for, but maybe it didn't matter. It wasn't her birthday, and she didn't believe in that kind of things. She blew the candle, following his gaze, and then cut the cake with a knife he presented to her. His eyes were on her the whole time, and something about that was—somehow—a little comforting.
Shiki didn't say much, but pushed the tinier gift box in her direction. "Open it," He urged.
"Is this from you?" Rima asked, peering at the box curiously. It was white with pink ribbons tying the box. As he silently nodded, she picked up the box and untied the ribbons quietly. Expecting to see something… boyish, since Shiki was never one to actually discover the wonders of females and their choices of presents, Rima removed the top part.
And immediately, she drew in a sharp breath.
It was a ring.
It was his mother's ring.
She could remember very clearly how it came to be in his mother's possession. Originally her family's, the ancient diamond ring was passed down from generation to generation. When her mother was born, it was hers, until she chose to give it away to Shiki's mother the day they both got engaged. It was a ring that, while before meant almost nothing to her, now signified a whole lot of things, the engagement, the friendship between their mothers, and so much more, but mostly: happiness.
Happiness. Something Rima had never quite fully experienced before.
She looked up, only to find Shiki staring down at her. "Where… where did you get this, Shiki?" she asked, her index finger touching the ring gently.
"My mother sent it to me," the male vampire replied. "She's really fond of you, Rima. She thought it would be a nice present for you." A moment of silence, and then, "I think so, too."
"Mm," she eyed it again, speechless, as she picked up the ring and held it under the candlelight. The diamond glimmered under the light and she shivered, wondering how she could forget that she was once a fan of sparkly, bright things. Then she said, "Thank you."
Shiki took the ring from her, slowly pressing it on her palm. The gold felt cold against her skin. He looked at her calculatingly, and then asked, "May I?"
Rima nodded, a lump forming in her throat.
And she was mesmerized, as he took her right hand and gently slid the ring onto her ring finger, all unceremoniously but still tentative. It fit perfectly on her finger, as if it was made for her. She held her hand up, and this time, it glimmered even brighter than it did before.
Her attention instantly wavered all of a sudden, Shiki took her left hand, his eyes avoiding hers as he did so. He traced the shape of the ring finger, slowly, slowly, and then he looked up.
"This," he said, and something flashed in his eyes, something she couldn't decipher, "This. Leave this blank, will you? I… I'll give you another ring," he swallowed—oh, God, was he actually nervous?—and then added, "Some day."
She looked at him, their eyes meeting, and remembered how hearing him say her name with that special tone of his sent shivers done her spine, remembered how curious—no, not quite enthusiastic, but curious enough—she was with that Post-It of his, and remembered the way he looked at her each time he thought she wasn't looking.
Shiki's voice was deep when he asked, "Okay?"
There was something, Rima was sure of it.
"… Well," she began, and for the first time in a few years, gave him a genuine smile of her own, "Well, okay."
It might or might not be a promise.
They might or might not happen.
But there was something, Rima was sure there was, something she couldn't understand. She didn't know what it was, only recognized how unfamiliar it was, and only recognized that she didn't hate the feeling.
She didn't have the answers, but they were far from getting there, Shiki and her, so very far. It was just the beginning, and she didn't have to know all the answers to her questions, not yet. However, she knew that they would both understand it when they had finally gotten there.
Her smile widened as she felt his hand squeeze hers very briefly, and let her go.
Meanwhile, they had all the time in the world they needed to figure it out—slowly, slowly.
There's no rush.
notes: This was so fun to write, albeit some parts of it did require more thinking than the others. It was so hard to portray them in love and yet make them in character. They are usually so distant in both the manga/anime, and we only get glimpses of them until the most recent chapters. Even then, I'm not really quite sure of what to make out of both of them, but sure.
Anyway, this is my first Vampire Knight fic, so I'm sure that there's something I need to fix. Reviews are highly appreciated, if you will. Thank you! :)