Gentle Affections

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Raiga was worried; seriously, truly, honestly worried. He'd looked after this child since they were brought in, more than a decade ago. He wasn't afraid to admit the little one grew on him and he'd come to care for them like a favored nephew. The little one was a precious thing, really, but the boy didn't dare let anyone the chance to know him. Like a distrustful stray cat, he was wary of letting anyone into the overly guarded fortress he called a heart.

One might've thought he must've had a harsh unrelenting life, and while that may be true, Raiga felt it was just in the little one's nature to test the waters over and over again before he jumped in. He'd seen too many examples of what could happen to those who didn't. If that were the only problem, Raiga would have wanted nothing more than to praise him for his precaution, but it wasn't just that.

He sighed as he put down more papers detailing the damage and the costs his little one had caused just the day before. Two shattered vases, a broken table, and three panels of stained glass windows now rendered useless. That was nothing compared to the impression the little one gave to the important members that had been in attendance during the impressive show of his temper. At this rate, Raiga couldn't be sure if anyone would want the child; such was the little one's horrible temper it tried even the most patient of saints.

Many of his acquaintances had advised him to bring the child to a Breaker, but Raiga could never bring himself to do so. It would be betraying the little one's hard earned trust in him, and Raiga loved the fiery spirit his little one held in those unique eyes of his. Those that were sent to Breakers usually came back just that – a broken shell of their former selves. They were like computers installed with a new programming that had them behave in whatever way their owners wanted. They were submissive robots that had no will of their own. While others may like that in a Pet, Raiga didn't and the more intellectual of his customers didn't either.

But how to get a decent owner… Those weren't hard to find, really, but one that suited to his little one's needs? Almost impossible, many of his acquaintances would scoff, but it wasn't completely impossible. Raiga hadn't given up hope for the child yet. He would find someone, he would. As much as he cared and adored his little one, he couldn't stay here forever. He was already nearing his maturity and should get an owner to look after him right and proper.

He frowned as he read the report from one of his underlings who had been at the scene when the little one's temper had struck. The reason was again, because one of the more forward of the party members had given into temptation and had decided copping a feel wouldn't hurt. It was unfortunate he assumed wrong and the little one had ended up losing control. Well, at least Raiga wasn't responsible for the damage this time. The rule when regarding his little one was looking but no touching and the reason for this was, as demonstrated quite spectacularly, the child detested being touched by anyone.

Raiga wondered why that was, not for the first time. Not even he was able to touch the child without the boy getting moody. Questions had been asked, but the child himself was unaware as to why his body and mind disliked contact and rejected it so fiercely. He went so far as to describe it as 'nauseating and painful'. That was when it was at its worst and at the least, he would feel irritated. It was a cause for great concern when trying to look for an owner. There were numerous clients of his that had tried and failed to coax more than an annoyed growl or snarl.

Looking through his other files, he was glad to see Harumi, one of the many Pets-to-be in his care, getting accepted by another one of his regular customers. His clients always came back, something Raiga was proud of. He was known as one of the more different types of Pet holders. He gathered the unique and rare to train and educate in the world of vampire politics and to serve their future owners loyally without having to be sent to Breakers. His clients never ceased to be amazed at the genuine care their pets had for them instead of the ingrained empty devotion many of the others had.

Another difference in his pets was that they were all human. Raiga never took in other vampires as possible pet candidates. He loved teaching and with another vampire, the submissive behavior towards another higher ranked vampire was in their nature. In other words, there was zero challenge in educating them. Not to mention, Raiga was part of the minority of vampires that took an interest in humans and their behavior. He liked being able to change their opinions or outlook on life as a Pet to a good owner. He had yet to fail.

His little one was a special case. Looking at his file again, Raiga traced the boy's face in the picture, a frown coming over his features again. If not for the touching problem, he was sure the child would turn out to be one of his best, a rare diamond that outshone the rest of his gems.

"Who could you be chosen for, I wonder?" He murmured aloud.

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Aido Hanabusa sent his friend, Ichijo Takuma, a wary glance. This plan of his was sounding more and more crazier by the second. Sure, Kaname-sama was going through one of his phases again, but this wouldn't be solving the problem. In fact, he thought maybe it might make it worse instead of better. Looking around, he could tell the others were just as uneasy. Shifting again in his seat, Hanabusa sighed.

Getting a human Pet…what would Kaname-sama say? He hoped if anything, he wouldn't be offended. It might not be the best of methods, but Takuma's feelings in this were completely genuine. He was truly worried for Kaname and wanted to ease his pain.

Kaname had been looking for someone since more than a decade ago. They didn't know who and never dared to ask. It seemed something too personal. They had no idea of this person's name, face, or even gender. Just that they were human – as if that helped in narrowing the possibilities. It would've been better if they were a vampire; if only to make the whole finding process easier.

Hanabusa wondered at Kaname-sama's interest in humans. The academy prefect, Cross Yuuki, was a fine example of his strange tastes. Kaname-sama cared for the human girl like he did no one else. He protected her like one would a fragile flower just waiting to be picked or stepped on, one that was on the verge of imminent death. The other vampires were more curious at this than anything. Though there were some, like Ruka, that regarded the girl with jealously and resentment.

"But a human pet?" He murmured to himself. "How would that make things easier?" He thought his voice was low enough not to be overheard, but Takuma caught on.

"It'd get Kaname's mind off whoever he's looking for. It must be frustrating for him to not be able to look, no matter how much he wants to. Besides, it'll make the Council happy Kaname's finally doing something vampire-like." Takuma reasoned.

"I've seen pets before and they were nothing but a waste of space, sitting around until their owner tells them to do something." Ruka said with a raised brow. She was not the least bit impressed with their current plan. A pet would only add to Kaname-sama's burden. He already had enough to take care of.

"Ah, but the place we're heading to doesn't hold those types of pets, Ruka. They're alive," Takuma smiled. "They feel and know how to think for themselves as well as their owner. And," his smile widened, "they're human."

"What?" She nearly exclaimed. "Did you consider how that could affect the rules of the Academy? Having a human amongst us would incite the others as well. You're getting sloppy, Takuma." She huffed. Takuma merely continued to smile.

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"Raiga-sama, your guests have been sent to the West Wing."

Raiga nodded and stood from his seat, taking his little one's file with him as he left the room. "Bring my diamond to us as well."

The guard smiled grimly. "Another client sir?"

Raiga nodded. "They insisted once they saw his picture. It's nothing out of the ordinary." His little one enchanted many with but a glance after all. He hoped these new clients would be the one for him.

Stepping into the room, Raiga smiled charmingly as he did with every one of his customers and sat down in front of them. "Good evening, my lady, gentlemen. I'm aware you've appointed for a specific one of my Pets." Smile still in place, he laid out his little one's folder on the table between them and slid it towards them. "I'm not surprised he's caught your attention, but if you've done your homework, you would know he isn't an easy one to care for. A bit difficult, our little diamond is." He informed fondly. "The file there contains any and all relevant information on him. If you still want to take him after going through that, you may." The file included everything from what the Pet candidate was educated in to what they'd done until now, acting much like a resume.

The little one's file was quite thick, for obvious reasons. Every temper tantrum he'd thrown since he'd been in Raiga's care was recorded there and there were many, a majority of them due to his touching problem.

Raiga's lips lifted in an amused smile as he saw his clients' eyes widen and their brows rising to their hairline as they looked through the file. The lone girl of the group looked away after a few moments, her expression one of extreme disproval if not disgust. The other two, both with honey blond hair, had a resigned air about them. The one in the middle of it all, Ichijo Takuma, was all smiles as he read. Putting down the file, he nodded.

"We'll take him. I honestly think he'll be perfect. Is it okay if we take him with us today? I'm getting him as a gift for a friend."

"You cannot honestly think to…!" The girl trailed off incredulously.

"Well, if that's what you've decided…" Raiga smiled. "Come on in little one," he called. "You've got a new owner that's willing to put up with your temper it seems." He turned back to his clients. "If you don't want him, send him back to me." They couldn't really do much else anyhow.

The door opened softly and his clients looked up to see his little one walk in, expression unreadable. Dressed impeccably, he bowed lightly. "Ichijo Takuma-sama I'm pleased to make your acquaintance. Please take care of me," he said, his voice low and soft.

"You're even more beautiful in person." Takuma smiled. "It's alright. I'm not your real owner. You'll meet him when we get to the Academy." Making sure not to have skin on skin contact, he took the slightly taller boy by the elbow and led him to their car.

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"Kaname-sama, Takuma is here to see you." Shiki Senri knocked softly. There was a moment of pause before a response filtered through the door, "Thank you Shiki." The answer was as good as an invitation. Takuma smiled and went in.

"Kaname, I have a gift for you. Is it alright to bring him in?" Kaname nodded, inwardly curious at the overly familiar scent wafting into his room. It couldn't be, could it? He'd wanted to look for him for so long, but had given up on ever getting the chance.

As Ichijo's gift stepped through his door however, all of that was pushed back as Kaname's eyes widened and he moved faster than even Takuma could see. Appearing soundlessly in front of the boy that'd captured his attention, Kaname lifted a hand under his chin to tilt his head upward, getting a better view of his face. He couldn't believe…but it was him. It was Zero.

Takuma blinked, a little more than surprised. He was about to warn Kaname about touching the boy, but it seemed his concern was for naught. He wondered if it had anything to do with Kaname being a pureblood. It would explain why the rest of them weren't able to have any contact without triggering a negative response. From what he remembered from the boy's file, none of those who'd touched him had been pureblood.

It seemed the boy was just as surprised judging by his expression. "How...is it that you can touch me?" He murmured.

Kaname blinked at the question. How could he touch him? Why would he…no, he could guess why. The connection he shared with Zero refused to allow any physical intimacy and forbade any others to touch him. Unless Kaname himself gave permission, Zero would be off limits to anyone else. That meant, for over a decade, he hadn't any physical communication. While that may have been cruel, it pleased Kaname his precious kitten had stayed untarnished.

"How? Because you are mine, Zero." Cradling the boy's cheek, Kaname dipped his head and nuzzled his face into the tantalizingly soft pale neck before him, breathing in the boy's familiar scent. Yes, it was Zero. His stray kitten had come back to stay. Kaname wouldn't let him leave a second time.

"Yours? We'll see…but no one else has been able to touch me." Zero admitted softly. He'd finally found an owner his body and mind didn't mind being touched by. He wasn't about to refuse. He inwardly smiled at how happy Raiga would be. He wondered if his owner would allow him to call the Pet holder from time to time. Raiga was like an irritable, but lovable uncle to him.

Kaname smiled at Zero's answer and turned to the blond noble. "Thank you Ichijo, your gift is well appreciated." Takuma nodded, smiling. Knowing when he was being dismissed, he quietly left the room, ready to give the rest of the vampires the good news. Kaname had decided to keep the pet!

"Kuran-sama?"

"Just Kaname is fine when in private. Come," he beckoned. He settled Zero against him on his bed and threw the covers over both of their bodies. He just wanted to enjoy Zero's presence with him tonight. Other matters could wait until tomorrow.

How long had it been? He'd last seen Zero when the boy was four…twelve years? It'd been much too long. Even if the boy himself had no recollection of him, Kaname remembered everything in minute detail. The time they'd spent together couldn't have been more than a few months, and yet Zero had built himself a nice cozy room in his heart that'd felt terribly empty when he left. Now he was back again and though Kaname knew that room would get bigger, he wouldn't have it any other way.

Zero, along with Yuuki, were the only two he could place his trust in without question. Even a prince, no, perhaps because he was one, he needed some place to rest and he'd chosen Zero and Yuuki as his pillars long before he met anyone else. Even now, the pain of losing both of them one right after the other, made his throat tighten and his chest ache. Rido would pay for being the sole reason he had to part with them for so long.

Tucking Zero's head under his chin he let out a soft sigh before closing his eyes.

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As Zero was human, Kaname decided to let him attend classes with the Day students. No one would dare touch what was his, but the temptation would still be there. He would rather have Zero safe in a non-volatile environment, not to mention, he couldn't allow others to conclude just how important the human boy was to him, not yet. Until he could secure Zero's safety, he could not allow this slight…vulnerability to be known.

Zero was already in his dorm room with the Day class students. His uniforms had been provided for and he would be starting class the next day. The chairman mentioned introducing him to Yuuki and setting him up as another prefect to help the girl with the nightly rounds in addition to keeping the girls in line during class changeover.

Never having been to an actual school before, Zero was curious about what it was like. He already learned there was a ranking system based on one's performance in class and exams and as a prefect, he was supposed to behave as a model student. What that entailed, he wasn't so sure of, but the chairman promised Yuuki would do her best to explain how things worked around the Academy.

Slipping into his nightclothes, Zero tucked himself in and closed his eyes.

Hours later, he was awoken by soft knocks at his door. Rubbing at his eyes, he invited them in. Checking the time, he saw that he needed to get ready for 'school'. Having kept the hours similar to that of a vampire, getting up and staying up during the day would take some time to get used to. Slipping from under his sheets, he started at the high squeak from the corner of his room. Turning around, he saw a girl around his age, gaping at him.

"Are, are you Yuuki?" The chairman did say he'd introduce her some time.

"Y-yes, but please, put some clothes on!" She squeaked again. When she came to wake the new student, she'd hardly expected to see him half naked as he climbed out of his bed. Didn't it get cold with just a shirt on? Half the buttons weren't done up either, exposing a part of his creamy pale chest.

Zero tilted his head, wondering what she was so bothered by. If she'd been a noble vampire, then of course, things would be different, but she was just a regular human girl. Raiga and his tutors had all taught them nudity or a little show of skin was hardly anything to get embarrassed or self-conscious about. They were pets. What was the use of hiding themselves from their owner?

But Zero was hardly one to impose. Shrugging, he slipped off his shirt, which caused another squeak, and went to the closet for the uniform the chairman had given him the night before.

Though she'd covered her face with both of her hands, Yuuki couldn't help a quick peek through her fingers. What normal teenage girl wouldn't, she thought defensively. Her eyes followed his long slim legs, stopping curiously at a faint mark on his inner thigh. It wasn't very big nor was it small. It almost looked like a rose, but she couldn't be sure. She wondered what it was.

"It's a tattoo."

"Wha…?" Had she said that out loud?

The boy traced the insignia with the tips of fingers. "This mark."

"A...tattoo…?" She wasn't even trying to cover her face now, openly blinking and trying to get a closer look.

"Yes." It was actually a sign of ownership and certainly had more properties attached to it than a regular tattoo. It usually didn't develop at such an early stage, but considering his current owner was a pureblood, he wasn't too alarmed. He supposed it'd started to show the moment Kaname had decided to accept him. It took a full week for the mark to become this visible with a noble. The powers of purebloods really were different.

Marks of ownership varied with each vampire. If they were a part of a clan or a large family with a crest, that would show as well as another element added to specify which exact family member it referred to. The colors the mark would take on also differed according to taste, as well as the location one would show up in.

Zero concluded the rose was of the Kuran family symbol and the intricate vines entwined around it were something from Kaname himself. The reason for it being on his inner thigh, he had yet to decipher. Currently a faint crimson, he knew if Kaname chose to keep him, the mark would darken. He was curious about what the thorny flower represented for the Kuran line, but supposed he would find out sooner or later.

Yuuki gave a slow nod at his answer. A tattoo...and on his thigh… She may not have been into learning much of the, the…well, pleasures of the flesh, so to speak, but even she knew having a mark like that on your thigh, on the inner side, wasn't so that just anyone could ogle and examine it. Touching such a place…it was only suited for lovers. She blinked then flushed at the turn her thoughts had taken and straightened her back, covering her eyes again.

Zero felt a smile tugging at his lips at the girl's actions and shook his head, slipping his pants on. What a weird girl.

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Prefect duties weren't so difficult to manage, Zero supposed. The girls had been frightened off by his anger, some actually running off, and when the vampires came through, all was quiet – for once. The surprise showed on their face as they passed. Though Zero caught looks of relief on some of them as well. He could only imagine what it was like to go through so much chaos just getting to class.

As he and Yuuki took their time patrolling, they stopped just as they were about to turn a corner seeing one of the night class students. Aido Hanabusa, if Zero's memory wasn't failing him.

Aido shot him a narrowed eyed glare as he spoke, "Kaname-sama wants to see you, now."

Hanabusa couldn't see why Kaname-sama would be so taken with a human pet. His looks could give other vampires a run for their money, sure, but he didn't think the boy was ready to live up to the high expectations of being a pureblood's pet.

Just as vampires in class A were different from the rest, so were the pets chosen to serve them. They had a certain atmosphere about them that distinguished them from any other normal pets. Instead of the drone like empty shells Ruka mentioned, they acted with grace, confidence, and poise, much like any other vampire noble. Hanabusa had only seen one pet belonging to a pureblood, but that one chance was enough to leave him impressed.

Compared to that, Zero was only sixteen in human years and completely inexperienced. Kaname-sama was his first official owner. The bursts of horrible temper tantrums were troubling as well. What good was a pet if the owner couldn't even touch them? Hanabusa was sure Kaname-sama wouldn't keep Zero around for long.

Shooting a glance towards the pale boy, he knocked. "Kaname-sama, I've brought Zero." He opened the door for the boy to enter and left swiftly to his own rooms.

Stepping in, Zero saw Kaname lounging on the couch. He didn't know enough about his new owner to guess why he'd been called. "Kaname?" Kaname looked up and smiled softly as he patted his knee. Wordlessly, Zero seated himself on his lap and relaxed against him.

Slender fingers slid through his hair before gently resting on the back of his neck. "How was your first day?"

"It went relatively well. I have one question however." He turned to give his owner a curious look. "Are all school girls like the ones here in the Academy? They were all attracted the students in the Night class. Why is that?"

Kaname almost thought the boy was asking the question for humorous intent but he could see his inquiry was genuine. Zero had grown up learning to serve a future owner as a pet. He had the best education money could afford, but had only been taught by tutors with other pet candidates. He'd never been amongst regular human children.

"They are attracted to us because we are physically appealing to them." Kaname patiently answered. Zero nodded but tilted his head. "Human school girls have strange tastes.

"Raiga has never taught us how to see and admire by physical beauty alone. Neither has our tutors." He frowned, "I see Aido-sempai as a rather spoiled child, Kain-sempai doesn't act anything like his given nickname and is rather apathetic, Ruka-sempai is arrogant and icy, and Ichijo-sempai is like a mother hen. I don't see how any of that is worth the amount of attention they get."

Kaname chuckled softly. "I see. And what of your opinions regarding myself? Am I not worth the admiration of those strange school girls?"

Zero took a moment to gather his thoughts. "You are kind, Kaname, but not to everyone. I think that part of you is conditional. You only show gentleness when you wish to," mainly when it benefited him in some way. He pursed his lips as he continued, "There is also a part of you I doubt anyone can reach." It was like trying to look for something under a frozen lake. Trying to get through such a thick layer of ice would not be without some inflicted damage.

"You've concluded so in just so many days?" Kaname looked amused, aware Zero hadn't really answered his question.

Zero smiled. "You are my Keeper. It is a part of my duty to observe and serve you in the best way."

"Serve me…are you willing to do so for the rest of your life?" Kaname's voice softened and deepened, his tone silky.

"If you'll have me," Zero softly answered. Kaname held him tighter against himself and pressed his cheek to the silky strands of his hair.

"There was a reason I called for you tonight." He brushed his lips against Zero's neck. "I want to have you…permanently." He thought of the best way to keep Zero safe and this was the only option he could trust. He would not lose his kitten a second time.

Zero's eyes widened. To be a permanent pet for an owner…it was the highest honor one could receive. "Kaname…are you so sure? There may be others who are capable of serving you better—" he protested.

"I do not want anyone else. You were mine then and you are mine now." He stroked the boy's cheek. "Let me have you Zero." Mind, body and soul forever tied to his own. He could not have wanted for anything more at this moment.

Zero leaned forward and pressed his lips against Kaname's neck in response. How could he refused such an earnest request? The pureblood smiled. Zero was his.

Slitting his left wrist, he brought it up to Zero's lips. The boy's warm mouth gently suckled his skin. Petal pink and perfectly shaped, Kaname briefly wished those soft lips worked to suckle at more than just his wrist. Now was not the time however, and he tried to keep thoughts concentrated on one thing – the intent behind the bond he was about to form.

As Zero drank from him, Kaname whispered the lines to one of the oldest bonding rituals, tying Zero's life with his own. There were many different types of bonds an owner and their pet could share. What Kaname chose was for Zero to share the same lifespan as himself. Kaname's heart now literally beat for the both of them.

Lapping up the last trace of sweet crimson that leaked from Kaname's wrist, Zero sighed softly, "Kana, thank you…" He whispered, his voice nearly trance-like.

Kaname's eyes narrowed. "What did you just call me?" Had he remembered everything?

But Zero only blinked up at him. "Kaname?" He hadn't recalled calling his owner by anything other than his name. That was what the pureblood wanted, wasn't it?

Kaname debated on whether or not to ask. "Zero, do you remember anything from before you were taken in as a pet candidate?"

Zero frowned. "I was picked up by Raiga when I was four. I knew I was an orphan, and I remember a lot of warmth, but other than that, things are a bit confusing." He looked up. "Why?"

Kaname lightly shook his head, not offering an answer.

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Takuma sighed. Another invitation. Really, they got tiring after a while. Kaname hardly ever went to them anyway, and none of the other purebloods bothered. They knew they were just going to get ogled at by the other vampires. What self-respecting person liked that?

"Ichijo, what is it?"

"Kaname," the blond sighed. He just handed the card over, knowing that would explain the situation better than his words ever could. The pureblood's dark eyes scanned the invitation and paused at the bottom, where the name of the party's host was signed.

Takuma refrained from cringing. Though not as well off as his grandfather, the holder of this gathering was another high standing member of the council. Expecting the invitation to go up in flames, he was more than surprised when Kaname simply handed it back,

"I'll be attending this one."

The pureblood didn't offer an explanation, leaving the blond with more than a few questions.

Having just got out of the shower, Zero paused when he felt warmth spread from the completed mark on his thigh. The rose insignia was much clearer now and the vines, a lighter shade, now grew to loop twice around his thigh. He'd raised a brow when he first saw it, it was almost like a permanent garter. Though since it was placed fairly high, it wasn't as though anyone was going to see it.

The warm pulse from the mark reminded him Kaname was calling for his attention. Dressing himself in a simple pair of pants and a dress shirt, he made his way over to the Moon dorms, where he saw Ichijo Takuma waiting for him.

"Hello Zero-kun. I'm glad you came so quickly. Kaname's waiting for you." Nodding, he went upstairs. Entering his owner's rooms, he followed the pull of the mark to the pureblood's bedroom.

"Zero, I'll be going out tonight. I'd like you to accompany me." He gestured to the change of clothing lying on the back of the chair. "I'd also like for you to wear that when we go."

It was a matching set to the clothing Kaname was currently wearing. Nodding, Zero started to strip, unaware of the eyes on his slim physique as he slipped the clothes on. Just as he finished hooking the belt around his waist, a pair of strong arms came around him and pulling him back into a warm chest.

"You look lovely, as I thought you would," Kaname murmured softly against the shell of his ear. His hand trailed down along Zero's hip, and down his thigh…

"Thank you Kana — ?" He couldn't hold in the gasp that came from Kaname rubbing his fingers against the rose insignia on his skin. The area around ownership marks were especially sensitive, even more so when the owners themselves touched them. Even through the fabric of the pants, the barest brush of Kaname's touch felt as though his skin was on fire.

"Ka-Kaname…?" His voice came out breathy, the strength having gone from his lungs.

"Your heart rate increased…" Kaname dipped his head, mouthing the pulse on Zero's neck, giving it a gentle, experimental suck. He teasingly let the tips of his fangs scrape across the soft skin and delighted in the involuntary moan that escaped Zero's lips. His kitten was so adorably responsive.

Still paying careful attention to the enticing span of skin beneath his lips, Kaname stroked his thumb against the mark he knew was placed at Zero's thigh, eliciting a shudder from the body in his arms. Zero's reactions were so precious…he could keep at this all day. They didn't necessarily have to go to that party. They had something to perfectly occupy their time for the next few hours.

"Kaname, please…" What the pureblood was doing was incredibly distracting. Zero could hardly remember why he was here in the first place. There was...didn't Kaname have to go somewhere?

"Yes Zero?" He asked lazily, his voice husky. The low sultry tone to his voice further prevented Zero's thoughts from staying on his intended track.

"You – ah, y-you, nn…" Oh god, please don't stop… Kaname was sucking on a spot below his ear that was driving him insane. He nipped and nibbled at it, causing his blood to rush to, well, not very appropriate places.

Having been incapable of receiving or giving even the simplest of hugs without feeling like crap, something like this…it was nearly overwhelming. Zero wasn't just a virgin, he was completely inexperienced in the area of physical intimacy as a whole. And what Kaname was doing was pushing his limits.

A sharp sudden knock at the door interrupted their brief moment. Kaname looked more than slightly put out, straightening his clothes and that of Zero's, leading the both of them to the door. Upon opening it, they were greeted with Takuma's smiling face.

"Sorry if I was intruding, but if you want to go, now is the time."

Oh you have no idea, Zero wryly thought, his face still flushed.

The party was one for specifically introducing and showing off one's prized pets and the owners' capabilities as a good Pet keeper. Zero was expecting to meet more than a few old friends and acquaintances here. He knew Seiji had gone to Shirabuki Sara-sama and Ruri had gone to the beautiful pureblood's father. From what Raiga had told him, the both of them were enjoying their positions to the fullest.

After a few introductions, Kaname had allowed him to wander a bit on his own. Knowing better than to venture out too far, Zero stayed within Kaname's eye view, taking a few sips of water now and then, nodding to those he knew and recognized. Vampire gatherings really weren't much to rave about.

"Zero, is that you?"

Setting his glass down on the rim of the balcony, Zero turned to see a familiar face he hadn't seen in years. "Shuran."

"It is you! I never thought I'd see you at this type of gathering. Raiga-san told me of your latest tantrum." He smiled teasingly. "Two shattered vases, a broken table, and three panels of stained glass windows? You've been hard at work."

"I aim to please," Zero said sarcastically.

The older man leaned in closer and took a delicate sniff. "So you do. I hear you've caught the attention of Kuran Kaname, our one and only prince." Zero definitely carried the pureblood's scent. It was all over his clothes. And, Shuran inwardly narrowed his eyes, all over his neck. His imagination could come up with more than enough scenarios on how that happened.

"The others have noticed and they're more than willing to test you." Shuran warned. The boy must have been aware of the stares.

Zero merely shrugged. "They can put me through the proverbial grinder as many times as they like." He raised a brow. "I wasn't Raiga's best for nothing."

"Such modesty," Shuran chuckled. But he was also confident Zero would go up and over those vampires' heads. The boy was made to thrive amongst the convoluted world of Vampire politics. Seeing an approaching Lady, he smirked,

"Ah, it seems the first 'grinder' is here."

"Such handsome young men standing alone on such a wonderful evening?" She smiled pleasantly, her full ruby painted lips lifted just so.

Shuran carefully tried to make himself inconspicuous. This was Zero's battlefield. And, as expected, he rose to the challenge. "Now that we have you to admire, of course not, Shimizu-sama." He held out a hand and bowed elegantly, "You would be doing me an honor by joining me for a dance."

Refusing the offer from the Pet of a pureblood? Not happening. Smile widening, she gently placed her gloved hand atop Zero's in acceptance of his invitation. Shuran watched in amusement as Raiga's diamond led the awaiting Lady away.

It was as though everything had been set up for this moment, even the music was a hard one to dance to. There was only one type of dance that fit and the fast-paced steps were difficult to learn much less master. That was for a vampire. Shuran couldn't imagine how many times humans were to have to practice to get those steps right.

Ironically, this dance was Zero's favorite. Raiga had personally taught it to him and the boy had known it since the age of six. And, as he peeked a look at the dance floor, the years of training paid off in vast amounts as the other couples were now stopping to admire Shimizu-san and Zero's fluid, graceful movements.

Reika was absolutely delighted. Her friends had playfully suggested to purposefully mess up and make the boy look bad, but she couldn't bring herself to. He was an excellent dancer, and he seemed to enjoy it, not like the others who only asked a Lady for a dance to get a chance to talk her up or get 'acquainted'.

Reika, who loved to dance, always felt inadequate with the majority of her partners because of this. They just danced because they had to. This Zero was different. The slight smile she caught on his lips confirmed this. Letting out a grin of her own, she upped the playing field and gracefully slipped her hands from his grasp to spin away, utilizing her inherent speed to have her dress wrap tightly around her thighs before leaping forward and sliding between the boy's long legs and coming to stand behind him.

Zero, not missing a beat, took a hold of her hand again and pulled her to him, spinning her in the process. As soon as her back touched his chest, he took a firm hold of her waist and flipped her over.

Reika quickly tucked her long legs under her before landing gracefully on her feet. The delight in finding a competent dance partner shown in both of their eyes as they resumed the regular steps of the dance. As it soon came to an end, Zero, as a last finishing touch, pulled the ribbon free from her hair as she spun away and brought it to his lips.

Smiling, he bowed, "You are more than an accomplished dancer, Shimizu-sama. I dare say I've been enchanted." He walked forward and tied the ribbon back around her wrist.

After he escorted Lady Shimizu off the dance floor, Zero breathed a huge sigh of relief. He should've thought better than to jump into something so big, but he'd taken the chance, as the Lady was pretty much covered in cloth from head to toe. Her dress came below her knees and she was wearing long elbow length gloves. There were fewer chances of getting skin on skin contact than were he to try dancing with one of the other scantily dressed vampires.

But that dance should have put the other 'grinders' on the back burner for now. He doubted a lot of other people here could dance as well as Lady Shimizu. They wouldn't go out of their way to make a fool of themselves by demanding a dance from him. Taking a breath, Zero grabbed a cup of non-alcoholic juice to cool himself off.

"My, that was some show you gifted us with, Zero."

Zero inwardly scowled. "Enka-sama," he greeted softly.

"I must say I was fairly surprised to see you here, a gathering where only pets and their owners are welcome." He smiled coolly. "Has someone succeeded in taming the infamous Silver Bullet where I have failed?"

"Enka-sama, as I've mentioned numerous times, we weren't compatible. It was only right for Raiga-sama to drop me from your care." Zero smoothly responded, trying to keep his anger in. 'Incompatibility' was an understatement. Zero couldn't stand Lord Enka's attitude and his touch had been downright nauseating, at times even with the protection of cloth.

Enka sneered. "You enjoyed me touching you. What would your owner say, when I tell him—"

"Tell me what?"

Enka paused, completely taken off guard. What was Kuran Kaname doing here? "Kuran-sama," he began, only to be interrupted once more.

"Out of all that has approached Zero tonight, you seemed the most interested. Or is there another reason why you are encroaching on his personal space?" Kaname's tone was mild and yet the intensity of his wine red gaze put Enka on edge. Kuran Kaname knew Zero?

"We were just trading old stories, Kuran-sama." Enka tried to appease. "Zero and I go some ways back."

"Is that so," Kaname smiled. Enka resisted the urged to gulp.

Kaname then turned his attention to Zero, placing his fingers beneath the boy's chin to lift his face. "Zero, you know him?"

Enka's eyes widened at the show of physical contact. Was Zero hiding his discomfort? But no, from what he'd observed, Zero wasn't one to care much about who he threw his anger out on, especially when it came to those that touched him.

"Yes, though we are not on the best of terms."

"Is that so," Kaname repeated. "So whatever he was threatening you with mustn't have been anything pleasant, no?"

Zero had to keep from smiling as he caught on. "No, I dare say." Really, he should've expected Kaname to be the type to get a kick out of unsettling others. Especially the slow ones.

"Should some punishment be in order for trying to hurt what was mine?" Both of them could practically feel Enka's discomfort and fear rolling off of him in waves. It seemed he finally understood the relationship between them. Zero was Kaname's and no one bothered what belonged to a pureblood.

"Should there? I can only suggest you do what you feel is best, Kaname-sama," Zero answered, his eyes widely innocent.

"Please, Kuran-sama, I meant no offense. If you would excuse me," Enka bowed deeply and scurried off to mingle with the rest of the party.

As he watched the thwarted noble's retreating back, Zero couldn't help himself and leaned fully against his owner, resting his forehead on the pureblood's shoulder as he laughed.

Just as amused, yet only showing it in a slight smile, Kaname let Zero indulge himself as he patted the boy's head and ran his fingers through his silky hair.

Letting the last of his chuckles die down, Zero remained as close to Kaname as he was allowed, breathing in the other's scent as he smiled into the pureblood's collar. At last, he'd be rid of the overbearing noble. Zero couldn't be gladder to have found an owner. On top of that, Kaname was free to touch him however he pleased and Zero in turn, could enjoy his owner's affections without having to worry about bursting a blood vessel.

"I believe you've shown yourself off enough for one night." Kaname commented. More than eager to leave, Zero had no complaints. With best regards to the host, they both left for home.

QQQ

Changing into more flexible clothing, Kaname relaxed comfortably against the headboard, his dark sheets pooled around his waist. Looking beside him, he smiled.

"Did you enjoy yourself tonight?"

"I'd rather have done without Enka-sama, but Shimizu-sama was a wonderful dancer." If he could, he'd love to get another chance. It was hard to find a partner who clicked and matched his tempo.

Kaname chuckled. Yes, Zero seemed to have the most fun when on the dance floor. He'd noticed the boy's caution in choosing someone who was sufficiently covered as to prevent too much contact. It wouldn't have mattered however, as Kaname was able to let Zero a little more leeway in the way of physical contact, especially if it was something Zero seemed to enjoy.

"Kaname?" Zero's voice was already laden with sleep. The party left him more tired than he'd thought. He shifted to get more comfortable and nuzzled the pillow under his cheek.

"Hm?"

Smiling as he took a hold of the pureblood's hand in his own, he murmured, "Thank you for choosing me." Soft lilac eyes slowly drifted closed and the boy's breathing evened.

Using his other hand to stroke his soft pale cheek, Kaname smiled sadly. "And I'm sorry for leaving you on your own for so long. Let me protect you now, Zero, as I should've. You'll not regret giving yourself to me."

Yes, for this boy who'd given him everything of himself without expecting anything in return… Kaname couldn't know what was ahead of them, but he wouldn't let anyone take Zero from him.

QQQ

Disclaimer: No own Vampire Knights.

Thank you all for reading. I also want to thank everyone who's taken the time to review all of my other stories. Each and every one of them made me smile, thank you! :D