"May I have your eyes?"
Zero blinked. There was a moment of silence in which Kaname continued to gaze at him, utterly serious, his own garnet eyes having regained their previous intensity, and Zero himself, staring back, a bit incredulous.
The older of the two coughed. "Er, I can't exactly pluck them out for you," he looked up uncomfortably.
Kaname's solemn expression suddenly lightened and lit up with a gentle smile. Zero's hesitantly confused gaze was endearing. Chucking, he shook his head, "no, for once tonight, I am not being literal." He raised his hand to trace the back of his index finger over the dried paint. "I'd like a chance to have your eyes for my own, just this night." He spared a glance back at the partially blue canvas.
Zero let out a small smile in return, a little more relieved Kaname's expression, his eyes, had softened from the near frighteningly familiar intensity. Closing his eyes and lowering his head a margin, he sighed. "Sorry, but I make it a self appointed decision not to model for just anyone."
"And Ichijou-sempai?" Kaname asked quietly. He supposed he shouldn't have been surprised at Zero's answer, but he was still nonetheless disappointed. A lot.
"We've known each other since we were eleven." Not to mention, they used to sleep together. Zero wasn't exactly unused to showing a little skin in front of him.
They'd been young, and felt sexually attracted. They both held love and respect for each other as friends, and hadn't been involved in a relationship. Their 'friends with benefits' setup had lasted, on and off, for a span of roughly half a year before Takuma had found Senri.
Zero had supported his smiley manipulative blond childhood friend wholeheartedly for his feelings while giving one Shiki Senri absolute hell for three months. He knew Takuma must have been exasperated at more than one point or another, but had let him free reign over dealing with his love interest.
Though, Zero thought amusedly, I don't think I was that bad. Senri came out of it in one piece, and he understood why I was acting the way I was.
The disappointment was clear in Kaname's eyes, and instead of feeling defensive, as he usually did, when people reacted that way to his refusal of being a model, Zero himself felt disappointed with not being able to meet the brunet's expectation.
He smiled, his expression wistful. "I wouldn't have minded, back then, but I've learned to draw the line to cover only those I trust." He felt the need to at least offer a few words on the matter.
Kaname smiled back, a bit pained. "And you and I…we've only met recently." They really had, hadn't they? Kaname could count the number of times he and Zero had personally been in the same room on one hand, and yet…and yet, things felt so different now, from when the older man had first helped him.
Zero had made him interested. He'd made him sketch, made the thought of drawing as something more than boringly tedious work that took hours. He'd made the thought of color and their uses as something that could be enjoyable. He'd made a paintbrush feel so comfortable between his unused fingers…
Zero ran the back of his fingers against the back of Kaname's raised hand, which was still against his cheek. "Don't look like that, please," he whispered, "it hasn't been long, sure, but still, you're here, in my studio, and," his lips lifted, "I've even let you paint on me." He shook his head, his smile turning lighter. "You're…a bit different, sorry to sound clichéd about it, but you are.
"I've known Yuuki for two years and she hasn't seen a speck of my apartment before today. Others I've known for even longer, have seen and spoken with nearly everyday, and still, I've never been so open with them." Or even thought of trying.
Smiling softly, he raised his hand again to gently take hold of Kaname's. "Thank you for wanting me, wanting a part of me," it wasn't as revolting as he'd come to think of it. If…if asked by the right person, it could feel…good, as though they really wanted to see you, not just for your lines, but for something more, something softer and warmer. Someone as purely genuine as Kaname looking so serious, so captivated, by something of himself, was flattering.
Yes, his intensity was familiar, but it wasn't the same…it wasn't the same. Not, not like something from back then.
"Will you…let me know?" Kaname asked softly. Let me know when you're ready?
Zero nodded, ever grateful for the younger brunet offering him the space and time he wanted and needed. "Thank you," he smiled, "again. And sorry," he swallowed, "for not being able to—"
Kaname shook his head. "You don't have anything to apologize for. It should be me, I think, for obviously bringing upon some unwanted memories for you." There must have been a reason for Zero's uneasiness in letting strangers openly view and study him besides the usual amount of shyness people held in having to take their clothes off. A reason that kept Zero tightly closed to those he wouldn't, or couldn't trust.
But if Zero's trust was so hard to gain, when and if he ever got Zero to open his heart to him, it would feel that much more precious.
"Well, don't." Zero responded simply. "It's not as if you caused it to happen." He tilted his head, "Are you going to let me clean my face now?"
A bit taken aback by the sudden change in topic, but unable to keep in the smile at how adoringly cat like Zero looked with his head cocked just so, Kaname gave a slight nod. "Yes, sorry for keeping you dirty."
Splashing a bit of water on his face, Zero gave a quick scrub on the spot under his eye. He'd never have expected Kaname to ask for something as his eyes. He'd never have expected him to want anything of him at all. And out of everything he could have chosen, his eyes? Really?
Lightly rubbing other parts of his face that'd been flecked with tiny spots of bright blue, he smiled amusedly. Kaname hadn't been the first to compliment his eyes, no, many others had stared and blushed and squealed over them, but not even Takuma would have chosen to paint them. It could, of course, be due to the blond having more of a thing for hands (Senri was a piano player – go figure), but he'd once commented it was hard to keep eye contact with him.
"It's not like I'm scared of you, or that I don't like you, I think I've proven that wrong on way too many occasions to count, but it's still hard. Zero, your eyes are really strong. I feel like I might lose myself staring too much," he'd laughed lightly.
Takuma hadn't been the only one to admit to something similar.
Zero's lips pursed. Katsuki…
Sighing, he grabbed for a towel and dabbed his face with it. He wouldn't dwell on that now. He had to figure out a way to deal with Kaname-the-anomaly. There was nothing wrong with the brunet himself, but in the way he affected Zero.
He'd first met him when Yuuki brought him over abruptly one drawing class some weeks ago (maybe more?), and initially didn't think much of his sketches either…at first. Yes, the lack of expression was bothersome, but it shouldn't have stayed so firmly lodged in his thoughts. Kuran Kaname had left an unsuspectingly strong impression Zero doubted the brunet himself was aware of.
And as though in a small package, the image of his clear, elegantly pale hands repeatedly crossed his mind, swiftly drawing out clean, precise lines of Seiji's nude form.
Hands that seemed both unsuited, but not exactly out of place holding a drawing pencil, light sketches that told nothing, with skill that spoke of years of experience, yet oddly cool and dispassionate, as though uninterested and careless – he remembered it all.
Thanks to that, Zero had become more conscious of his presence and curious as to what went on behind the impassive expression Kaname had on most frequently. But now, the more important question was,
Is he someone you'll be able to trust?
And of course, that was also where everything came to a dead stop, as Zero hadn't a clear answer to that. None whatsoever.
But he'll be something to you.
Yes he would. Friend or not, Kuran Kaname would come to mean something to him. That, Zero could tell. How and why else would the younger man leave such a strong imprint upon this mind just on their first meeting, which hadn't really been anything but getting the chance to know each other's names?
He'd have liked to comfort himself with the knowledge of knowing Kaname might come to mean something simple, close to a friend, similar to Yuuki, but a large part of him strongly denied such a possibility.
And if not a friend, then what do you want Kuran Kaname to be?
What indeed, he thought wryly.
"What do I want?" I don't want another Katsuki.
Zero blinked. "Yes? And Zero's fine."
"Ah, Zero then," Zero could hear the smile in his voice. He imagined it to be the soft, indulgent kind, one he often showed Yuuki, his lips lifted just so and his face relaxed in such a way his eyes would seem gentle.
But stepping out of the bathroom and seeing the actual expression Kaname had on, had him squinting with a slight frown. Yes, it was as he'd first assumed, soft and indulgent, but there was also a bout of innocently sweet joy woven, and mingling in between.
"Uh, what is it?"
"Mm, I just liked being able to say your name." It offered a sign of closeness he doubted Zero gave to many he'd just met. And, though it seemed Zero hadn't noticed, but this was the first time Kaname was mentioning his name aloud at all, and to be allowed such a naturally easy pass into calling the older man by his given name had him unable to keep in a smile.
Zero raised a brow. He was starting to suspect he'd been right on more than one account when calling Kaname 'different'. Not that he minded. Kaname's sudden bouts of flippantly bold straightforwardness was rather endearing.
He just preferred not to have it spring in his face, as the brunet had done with the question he'd asked tonight. Just when he thought he couldn't be any more surprised by compliments regarding his features…
"Glad you do, now what are we doing about that canvas tonight? Seems a bit lonely in my opinion," he lightly commented.
"You started on it, you finish it," Zero interrupted playfully. "Don't panic, I'll help. I can't give you my eyes, but I'm pretty there're other parts of me that could be useful."
Not really understanding the sudden bouts of light giddiness building in his heart, Kaname didn't hesitate in following Zero back to the canvas. He had a feeling Zero's offer of helping him finish a painting together wasn't something he gave out to others so easily, and again, felt warm at being included in what felt like Zero's private world.
Dark, ash blond lashes fluttered open and a deep groan ripped forth through lips pulled tight in a grimace.
"Ugh…" What a good way to describe what he felt like. Something that didn't even amount to a word. Just a disgusted Ugh.
And where was he? A creamy ceiling, glass table, sweet familiar scents mixed in with a faint trace of…solvent? There was also a bit of newspaper and oil…that was oil, wasn't it?
There was an amused, achingly familiar chuckle. Everything…everything was familiar here…
"Wow, you look like crap. All you need is a bit of brown."
"Z-Ze-ugh!" He really shouldn't have gotten up so suddenly like that. Bad, bad idea.
"Hey, take it easy. Seiji's told me you drank yourself stupid last night." Gentle hands supported his neck and head, cool soothing water touching his lips not a moment later. Hesitantly, he parted his mouth and took a few sips, drinking down the two pills offered to him along with the water.
"Those should get rid of the nausea and headache in a short while. Stay down until then, alright? I don't need an idiot with a hangover stumbling around my studio this early in the morning."
"Mm, it's three-thirty…ish." He could almost hear the shrug in his tone. "Look, I'm painting with someone and would really appreciate it if I could have some peace and quiet until we're done."
It took a moment for him to process everything, and when he did, he couldn't stop himself from staring up, tired eyes wide in surprise, even with his monstrously blinding headache. "You're…you're painting with someone?" Zero had never, never, once done that in all the time he'd known him. Zero loved what he did, and taught what he loved, but never did he share his pieces with anyone before it was done. Never.
"Who?" He demanded weakly. Who in the goddamn world was given such privilege as to be given the opportunity to share in Zero's most personal moment, his most preciously coveted time?
"You don't need to know that," Zero's voice sounded cool and distant. "Just rest, Katsuki, and get sober. I'll let you stay until you can walk straight. After that, it'll be a swift kick in the ass and out the door for you. Watch your tolerance next time."
"Wait, Zero," he started, but the other man was already out and back into the studio, leaving him to squint after him.
What the hell had that been? Even for Zero, that'd been much too abrupt. Was he so eager to get back to painting with whomever?
Taking a few breaths, he lightly rubbed his temples before slowly, very slowly, peeling himself back off the couch he was lying on, standing at perhaps an ever slower pace, and peering into the well lit studio.
Having immediately assumed it was a woman; he first blinked when his eyes registered the image to his brain. The person Zero was painting definitely wasn't a woman unless he'd somehow gone blind as well as drunk.
It was a brunet, rather tall, a few centimeters, maybe more, taller than Zero. Slender, but well built, and, he noticed dryly, well dressed too. Pale in a way that was different from Zero, but complimentary to his features. And what features he had, Katsuki thought warily.
The guy was every kind of positive adjective – handsome, gorgeous, beautiful, elegant, etc. Whatever it was, this guy was it.
Who… "The hell is he?" He silently mouthed. He definitely would've remembered seeing a guy like that around.
He watched as Zero gestured to the canvas, a smile, a smile, on his face, his shirt specked with paint, as well as the hand he was gesturing with. And the image he was gesturing to…it was beautiful.
It was beautiful, but more importantly, he was making it even more beautiful with someone else.
His hand tightened against the wall as he saw Zero lean in, his head nearly touching the brunet's, quietly discussing something with him, that smile still on his lips. The brunet gazed back at him, the look in his eyes soft, adoring, maybe with a touch of indulgence, as though he were a father watching on as his son explained his new toy.
The handsome stranger gave a slight nod and turned fully towards the canvas, lifting his right arm to dab on a few more patches of a clear sea green, turning back to Zero with an inquisitive glance after he did so. Zero took a few steps back, tilting his head before nodding and rushing forward, resting a hand on the brunet's arm as he further spoke to him in a low tone.
How…how was he so close? He hadn't seen anyone so close to Zero besides Takuma, but the blond had known Zero since they were eleven. And even then, it was more of Zero allowing Takuma's physical closeness rather than approaching on his own. Zero wasn't one to initiate contact, his family members and extremely trusted individuals being the only exceptions.
Then who was that other man? Katsuki hadn't ever seen anyone like him. He couldn't say he was an expert in Zero's recent personal life, but he knew enough Zero hadn't been especially close with any tall handsome brunets to the point of letting him into his home and painting with him.
Despite himself, he felt the familiar ugly dark tendrils of terrible, silent jealousy wrap around his cracked heart. He'd known Zero for nearly as long as Takuma had, but he'd never been allowed to be so close, allowed to enjoy simple innocent touches as a hand to his arm or soft lips near his ear, and he'd most certainly never been allowed to work alongside Zero on a painting.
A clear, delighted laugh interrupted his thoughts. A softer, slightly deeper, but one nonetheless just as delighted as the first followed. Zero. And that man.
They both looked so…intimate, but not exactly in a sexual way, just…just close, and new…? No, they seemed to know each other well (where and how, he still couldn't figure out), but there was freshness to them as a pair, and he didn't know about the stranger, but Zero seemed a bit different.
If he thought about it objectively, it was fascinating. Two people, who couldn't be any more different, when put together, seemed more alike than different. There was something…a common ground that seemed to connect them and in turn, produced an image that consisted of not two individuals or separate elements, but a single, mixed, well blended piece. It was like taking two drinks, otherwise perfect on their own, and finding a way to combine them as one beverage that was better.
Vanilla and chocolate…? He mentally snorted. How corny. But now that he had comparisons running through his mind, with someone like that guy and Zero, he'd rather liken them to stones, as in diamonds and amethysts with garnets and a touch of onyx. He didn't know how someone would make something decent out of clashing colors like those, but—
Ugh, Katsuki roughly shook his head. What the hell was he thinking? His head still felt clogged and heavy from the alcohol. Maybe that was it.
But even if he were completely sober, he doubted he could muster up any serious amount of jealousy or envy against them. How could he, when they looked so natural standing together? He couldn't go up against the feeling of utter rightness the two exuded with a clear conscience.
As much as he'd loved to barge in and ask whom the other man was, Katsuki sighed and headed back to the couch. His head still felt like it had a million things flying all over the place, and he'd rather not keel over in front of Zero and the other guy.
Lying down with a slight groan, he let out a resigned laugh. "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." For Zero, it was art.
"Really? This looks like—" Zero cut himself off, laughing again. Kaname laughed along with him, "Yes, it does. I couldn't help but think that as we further added more color."
The hand on his arm squeezed slightly, as Zero shook his head. "Well, why don't we add a bit of yellow?"
"Yellow?" Kaname asked breathlessly, laughing harder. "Are you trying to make this into Yuuki's cooking project one, version two?"
Zero grinned. "Why not? We can show it to her tomorrow and see if she recognizes it at all. We can call it that too – 'Yuuki's Cooking Project One, Version Two'."
"It'd be something close to amazing if she did. She'll ignore us for days, she'd be so mad."
Zero chuckled. "Her fault for having so many things to make fun of."
The entire canvas was filled with color, a mix of bright blue, cool blue, blue-green, lighter green, and a shy touch of cool purple. Aesthetically, neither thought it turned out all that bad, but one comment from Kaname had turned it into something else entirely.
"It kind of looks like Yuuki's first time in the kitchen."
Zero had paused out of sheer incredulity before Kaname's words firmly registered with his brain, and the image had him unable to keep in his laughter. "How in the world did she manage to bring out blue and green in the kitchen?"
To which Kaname easily replied, "She was seven."
And now, they were adding yellow. Kaname had described a bit of what he'd remembered, and yellow had been one of the colors present in the aftermath of leaving Yuuki, age seven, in the kitchen for three hours.
"She can cook now, but Kaien-san thought an alien landed and took her away, only leaving their residue behind as a clue." The chairman had a very active imagination. "Yagari-san never ate in there again either." The man was especially leery of going near the counter, but he generally stayed away from the kitchen altogether.
"Where should we add the yellow?"
Zero tilted his head, once again stepping back. "Let's bring out the purple and warm the green with it." He waved to the areas that contained the colors he mentioned.
Cleaning the brush and dabbing on some yellow ochre, which he'd lightened with a bit of white, Kaname leaned forward mixed it in, smoothing it out and blending it in.
He couldn't believe how much fun it was to paint with someone else. He'd done it plenty of times with Yuuki when they were children, and though he'd enjoyed it then, it started to lose the luster it once held, as he grew older. He started wonder what could be so interesting about slapping pigment on any old surface.
He could still appreciate beautiful things, but he'd forgotten how to involve himself personally, always regarding everything with a detached air, his emotions not quite following with his mind, always more than a few steps behind, or not following at all. He supposed he'd always been that way, and it'd only steadily grown worse over the years.
But it felt so natural to paint with Zero.
He hardly had to force himself, wondering what to do next, or what to feel. Zero offered his emotions space to spread and catch up, to settle in his chest and let him fully enjoy and experience what he was feeling. He also made him feel things hadn't known he was capable of feeling and brought back ones that made him nostalgic, Yuuki's first kitchen experiment being one of them.
Sharing memories, his thoughts, his emotions…had never seemed so easy, so comforting. He wasn't afraid of what Zero might think, how he might react. Kaname could just be, and Zero would still be there. Maybe it was a bit irrational on his part, but it was what he felt.
And he loved being able to say that – it was what he felt.
O.M.A.K.E. – If Ichiru was in this story and Yuuki had asked him for help:
"My brother? Who is this?"
"Ah, sorry, this is Cross Yuuki—"
"You mean, the girl that won all those art awards? My brother mentioned you a few times, actually." He laughed, "He said you were like a harmless Hello Kitty bag with bombs hidden inside. You know, cute on the outside and absolutely disastrous on the inside?"
"What?! He said that?" She demanded. The boy on the other line coughed, muttering something that sounded suspiciously like, 'Oops…really, wasn't supposed to say that…'
He cleared his voice, "So what was it that you wanted?"
Explaining everything in detail, she waited for his response. Hearing the silence last a bit long, she wondered if he was really there until she heard laughter filter through the phone. It was triumphant and lasted for quite a while. It seemed he was of the same opinion as her when it came to their loved ones.
"Alright, I can play along, but what'll I get in return?"
"Their first video?" She offered. She herself was eager to see it if she succeeded in recording it.
"…I hope you felt that pause. It was me taking a moment to gag. Their first video? That's disgusting, Cross-san, he's my brother for crying out loud," he exclaimed. "What kind of sick mind would I have to have to want to watch something like that?"
"Oh, right, brother status," Yuuki coughed. "Then what do you want?"
"The tape was too much but I wouldn't mind photos." He smirked. "I need to get even for all the ones he's held over me."
"Keeping the hate alive, huh?"
"Wait, so he really said that about me?"
Disclaimer: No own Vampire Knights.
Thank you for reading! (No seriously) Sorry for those I've kept waiting. I hadn't even noticed how much time had passed on this one *nervous laughter*
Right, hope the omake didn't bug anyone. I just thought it amusing and wanted to share it :D