Disclaimer: I don't own R + V or its characters. All I own is my own potrayal of Moka's father, and I don't even own him.

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Learn Your Place

"Mom? Wait… where are you going? Why are you walking away? Mom! Wait, don't leave me! Let me come with you! Don't leave me here! Mom! MOM!!"

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"Learn your place."

Her father says it when she is six, after defeating her with one flawless kick; in her rage, her grief over the loss of her mother, she attacks him blindly. He picks her up by the nape of her neck like a puppy, takes her to her room, and leaves her there for the rest of the day, where she cries tears of frustration and loss.

When her tears run dry, she lies in a ball on her bed, softly repeating the words again and again until her throat is sore. Eventually, exhaustion takes its toll, and she drifts into a dreamless sleep, shivering slightly.

Later that night, she's stirred briefly as her father comes in and gently tucks her under the covers, stroking her hair the way her mother always used to. His hand is strong but gentle, and his voice is soft as he hums a wordless lullaby to soothe her.

"Learn your place, little Moka," he murmurs. "Because I won't always be there to put you in it."

As she drifts off again, she can almost understand why her mother loved him.

But she's still young, and she doesn't understand what love is yet.

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In their little dysfunctional family (yes, she considers them family, and yes, she kicks herself every day for it), everyone has their own little niche, their place, their role to fill that no one else could.

Kurumu is the big sister. She scolds people and puts them down soundly and with only a few choice words and a sharp look; but she also soothes, she comforts and she embraces, and she protects as if her life depends on it when the time comes. It balances out evenly.

Mizore is the overprotective one; and these days, it isn't just with Tsukune. She stalks everyone from a safe distance, keeping her eyes on them at all times and hurling ice projectiles whenever she sees fit. She always brushes it off as not wanting to see Tsukune saddened by the others getting hurt or harassed, but she was the one who stalked Kokoa on her first date. Alone. When everyone else thought it wasn't necessary.

Gin is the big brother. He teases and he snips and he still makes advances on Kurumu (and pretty much every other girl with a pulse); but he also protects, he gives advice, he watches over them and tries to guide them as best he can. Though lately, he seems to view Kurumu in a way that big brothers don't usually view sisters. But he still treats everyone else pretty much the same way.

Kokoa and Yukari are the little sisters. They annoy others and get into trouble, but they're quick to defend their older companions verbally or physically. They try to help but usually mess up, so the others protect them until they're old enough to do it themselves despite their grumblings.

Nekonome-sensei is their guardian, in a kind of weird way; she watches over their whole group, pops in from time to time to make sure they're all still alive, and she pulls strings in the background. Even now Moka doesn't totally understand what she does at times, but she seems to understand, and so far none of them have died yet. They all have trust in her, even if it at times it's a blind trust. Ruby is also their guardian; if it weren't for her and her intrusion, Tsukune would have died at Moka's hands long ago.

Even her shell, even her Outer self, belongs. She is almost the mother figure of the group; which is ironic, since her true self can't clearly remember her mother. But Outer Moka is just that; she dotes, she worries, she soothes injuries and wipes away tears, and she protects everyone in ways that even Kurumu can't. It's ironic and painful, and sometimes it makes Inner want to laugh and cry.

Tsukune is their heart, their glue. He holds them all together; he is their center. That, of course, needs no explanation.

Inner Moka fights.

Really, that's just about it.

In her mind, it's the one thing she's always been good at. And it's her only purpose.

"Learn your place."

How utterly ironic.

She says those words all the time, yet even now she still doesn't know her place or where she belongs.

And for the first time in a long time, Moka wishes her father was with her. He always knew her place.

But he isn't with her, and she needs to find her place on her own.

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"You've stopped saying it."

Ignoring Tsukune's comment, Moka extracts her foot from the jaws of an unconscious monster, brushing broken teeth off her shoe carelessly as long silver strands fall across her face and hide her from his view. But the boy doesn't let her keep her silence; he's been by her side too long, he knows her too well, if anyone can even claim to know Moka's true personality at all.

"Why don't you say it anymore?"

Briefly she considers ignoring him, but she knows that isn't right—it isn't fair. So she smiles bitterly and brushes the hair out of her eyes, glancing at him over her shoulder as her lips curve but don't quite reach her eyes. "I hardly think it's fair to tell others to learn their place when I still don't know mine, Tsukune."

"You don't know your place?"

Suddenly weary in a way she's never been before, Moka steps away and springs easily into a tree, settling on a low branch. Tsukune shouts in objection and scrambles after her, but he's still only human; he has to climb up. Moka ignores him, looking through the branches at the moon above, and her voice is surprisingly soft when she speaks as he settles next to her, gripping the bark for support. "I don't think I've ever known my place," she confesses. "My father always knew it, but I didn't."

Tsukune says nothing for a long time; his eyes soften slightly and he moves a little closer, so his shoulder brushes Moka. She doesn't look at him, doesn't even acknowledge his presence, but she's aware of him; she never can ignore him, even when she wants to.

After a few minutes, he speaks, his voice as soft and gentle as his eyes.

"… Moka-san, I don't think anyone really ever knows their place. They… just find it." He laughs sheepishly and rubs the back of his neck as Moka glances at him, eyebrow raised. "Or, at least, I know I've found mine."

"Oh?" She can't resist the bait. Something about this human, this boy, always makes her go the extra mile. "And where is your place, Tsukune?"

Tsukune smiles, and his nervousness is gone; he is calm and at peace with himself and whatever place he has found, and his eyes are gentle but sure as he looks at Moka, and the silver-haired vampire feels her heart skitter in a way that it never has before.

"My place is with Moka-san, wherever she may go. And whichever form she is in."

Oh.

Oh.

Well, then.

Tsukune looks away from her, his face stained a light shade of pink, and starts to lift himself up slightly, intent on leaving his perch by her side to go back to the ground. But as he begins to move, Moka's hand shoots out; her fingers close around his wrist, stilling him. He looks at her in surprise, but she isn't looking at him; her hair is falling across her eyes and he can't see her face clearly, and she's biting her bottom lip so fiercely that he fears she'll draw blood. "M-Moka-san?"

"… Will you stay with me, Tsukune?"

He doesn't get it; he frowns and sits back down, leaning back. "Well, yes, of course I will, if you want me to—"

"No." Moka looks at him, and her eyes are impossibly gentle, afraid and loving all at the same time, and only her Outer self has ever looked at him this way. "Will you stay with me?"

And this time, he gets it.

"Yes. Yes, Moka-san. I'll stay."

Assured, Moka releases his wrist, and after a few minutes she rests her cheek against his shoulder, closing her eyes with a tired sigh.

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Outer Moka lets Inner have her moments with Tsukune.

And she never says a word.

I'm glad for you.

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"You lied."

Her father smirks, a flash of white in the darkness, and Moka can't help but wonder if she's dreaming or if this is an illusion conjured by his hands; she is unsealed and standing among the trees, though she distinctly remembers being sealed away and returning to the dorms with Tsukune. His eyes, crimson like hers, gleam in amusement. "Did I, little Moka?"

"You told me to learn my place." She crosses her arms over her chest as he comes to her, and she feels a swift ping of love and fear as he absently brushes loose strands of silver hair back behind her ear. "You never said anything about finding it."

Her father laughs and pulls his hand away.

"True. I did say that." He smiles again, but it is gentle. "But tell me… have you learned your place now?"

She opens her mouth to retort, the insult burning the tip of her tongue—

A flash of brown, gentle eyes that remind her of melted chocolate and warm hands, a heart that accepts both sides of her, accepts her yin and her yang, knows everything about her and loves her anyway.

--and closes her mouth, bowing her head. Her fingers curl briefly into fists before relaxing. "Yes," she whispers. "I have." In a burst of courage, a surge of faith, she looks up and meets her father's eyes. "Was it… the same for you? When you met my mother?"

Her father blinks several times, and he softens; his eyes, his face, even his shoulders relax.

"Yes. It was." He reaches out, and she doesn't flinch away; he strokes her hair the way he used to, and she feels six years old again. She closes her eyes as he begins to hum her childhood lullaby, and she leans trustingly against him as his arms come around her.

"My little Moka…"

I'm glad you've found your sanctuary.

The End

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Meh, I don't know. I wanted to write something sweet after completing "War of the Worlds". And Moka's father is a character that intrigues me to no end.

Read and review, please!