Tic, tac --

(here in the Night Class, sound only echoes if Kaname wants it to echo, and Aidou knows that Kaname wants it to echo)

-- the footsteps pause. There is a long silence outside the door.

Aidou sits amid the remnants of his hobbies and memories, pieces of things that he found beautiful, saved and treasured. Is it his fault that he thinks they're pretty? Is it his fault that they clutter up the room? Is it his fault that he likes them?

Is it his fault that he could smell little Yuuki-chan's blood from across the room, or that he could tell exactly what was happening to Zero?

Is it his fault that he knows too much?

He doesn't look up as the door opens (silently, but he can feel the brush of cold air against his cheek) and Kaname enters the room. It's strange; now there are two of them, he feels that much more alone.

"Are we going to have to discuss this?" Kaname asks, his voice light and uninterested.

"There's nothing to discuss, is there?" Aidou says to his knees. He still doesn't look up. He can feel the weight of Kaname's presence on his shoulders; the pureblood isn't trying to force him to his knees yet, but the awareness of the possibility is there. "I went out. I came back."

"Why did you go?"

There are two ways to answer this. One is to say, Because I know what you did to Shizuka Hio, to the Princess Blooming Out Of Season, and the other is to say nothing at all and keep his mouth shut and endure whatever will come next.

What Aidou actually says is: "Yuuki-chan is so sweet."

He is aware that this is asking for trouble. But it's trouble that he understands, and when Kaname's hand knots in his hair and drags him to his feet, he is smiling.

"I thought you understood matters," Kaname says, cold eyes considering Aidou's throat.

"Of course I do," Aidou complains. This he understands perfectly. "And really, Kaname-sempai, is it fair to the poor girl? You saved her all those years ago, and now she's saving herself for you, but she's just too nervous to step forward and offer her neck. I tried to encourage her --"

Kaname drops him.

Now Aidou is on his knees before the pureblood. He doesn't bother saying the rest of it, and really Yuuki-chan's doing her best, she is trying, you ought to finish the dance and take her before the matter gets even further complicated, you owe her that much and she'd be grateful for it . . .

"Enough of this," Kaname says, as though he was answering Aidou's unspoken words. "You know my position. You know that I can't afford any weaknesses. Are you going to be a weakness to me?"

"I came back, didn't I?" Aidou says sulkily, a thread of excitement behind his breathing. He can see where this is going. "I didn't have to."

"That was the only reason I didn't come after you," Kaname answers. "But I think you owe me something for what you've said."

Aidou looks up at Kaname through his eyelashes. "Did I offend Kaname-sempai?" he purrs.

Kaname looks as if he'd almost rather be yawning and reading a good book. Almost. Aidou knows him well enough to recognise the dark fires in his eyes, the tension in his hands. "If you did, then wouldn't you say that you should take the consequences?"

Aidou inches one hand up to his collar, slowly, slowly, so as not to excite a reaction out of Kaname (not quite yet, not quite yet) and twitches it aside. He knows what his neck looks like. He's seen it in photos, in mirrors, in the eyes of other vampires. "And if I was ready to take the consequences?"

His fingernail moves very slightly. One cut; the blood moves down his neck, hot against his cold flesh. He wonders what colour it looks to Kaname, in the moonlight, in the dark.

Kaname is too controlled simply to bend down and put his lips to Aidou's neck. He pulls Aidou to his feet, and bends him back against the side of the couch: it is not, his motions imply, that he is in any way tempted, but this is merely a transaction, blood for payment and for punishment and for duty. Aidou shouldn't take this personally. Kaname certainly isn't.

Aidou can feel the ice burning in his veins as Kaname drinks, as Kaname's tongue flickers over the edges of the wound, as Kaname's hands tighten on his shoulders. Power is sometimes a curse; it grows in him with anger, and it grows in him with other things as well. He can hear the crackling as it spreads from him across the floor of the room, encompassing fragments of crockery and glass and pieces of mirror and photographs and books and fallen shirts and little pieces of debris, little petty vanities, fragments of his life being swallowed up just as Kaname's swallowing him up now. He brings his hands up to try to hold Kaname, to pull him closer . . .

. . . and Kaname releases him. Just like that. He steps back and wipes his mouth and doesn't even care. He stands there in the moonlight without a trace of Aidou's blood on him, leaving Aidou helpless and half-reaching for him, the wound on his neck still open, the blood running out of it.

"The discussion is over," Kaname says. The door is shut behind him before Aidou can speak. He's alone with the fragments of ice and the blood running down his neck, and the cold night air, and not even Yuuki-chan or that stupid Zero to talk to, and he has betrayed himself more thoroughly than he wishes to remember, and Kaname knows it, and the footsteps are going away again now.

Tic, tac --