More than One Way to Skin an Orange
by Blackened Wing

Rating: T

Summary: Zero and Aido argue over the right way to peel an orange and end up in a food fight. Everyone gets roped into helping clean it up. Kaname might be more interested in cleaning ZERO up, though...

Warnings: Implied established yaoi (m/m) relationship. Some innuendo / suggestiveness. It's not the whole story, but still DO NOT read if you don't like yaoi / slash. Massive amounts of silliness.

Pairings: Implied Kaname x Zero

Series: This story is mostly crack, but can be considered part of the Duet Series, which follows Kaname and Zero and their relationship as based off of my story "Crimson Door". By this point in the series the stories are pretty much completely AU from the current events in the manga although they tie in on some points. Some parts of this story will make a bit more sense if you've read the other stories in the series first, but it's not a must. Just know that the basic set up is Kaname and Zero are a couple, having surviving Yuki's death together and picked up the broken pieces of their lives. They are currently living together in a villa in the country. That's pretty much all you need to know for this fic.

If you're reading this without having read my other stories, please understand that a lot of any apparent OOC-ness (LOL like Kaname and Zero being together for instance XD) is because things have evolved differently in this series. Any other OOC-ness is probably because this fic is sheer silliness and not meant to be taken seriously.

A/N: This story takes place sometime not too long after the end of "Blood Moon". Thanks for the inspiration behind it goes to my friend YenGirl. This incredibly fluffy little bunny was born from a conversation we had wherein we wondered whether Kaname peeled his own oranges or not... and somehow this ended up the result. This is intended to be a humor / crack fic, so please forgive if things seem a little silly and over the top. I'm also not sure it actually ended up as funny as I intended unfortunately, but... oh well, hopefully it will give a smile. Take it for what it is, and take it with a huge grain of salt... or perhaps a dwallop of whipped cream. XD

Disclaimer: Vampire Knight and its characters do not belong to me. They belong to their inspired creator Matsuri Hino. I borrow them without permission, but with great affection. If she ever sees what I have done to them, no doubt she will grab them back and run off screaming. :) This story is for entertainment purposes only; no money is being made from it.


"What are you doing?" Aido inquired, leaning on the counter top next to where Zero was working with a plate of oranges. The noble, along with his cousin, was visiting Kaname and Zero at their villa for the weekend.

Izumi, Kaname's house keeper eyed the blonde as he invaded her domain - i.e., the kitchen. But since Zero was already invading her domain and she had no choice but to tolerate him, there wasn't much she could say about it. With a cool glance, she left to attend to her duties elsewhere in the house.

Zero was a little bit glad she had left. He got on great with the other cooks, but Izumi always glared at him and stomped around like a wounded bull whenever he insisted on making food for himself or especially, heaven forbid, for Kaname. In Izumi's opinion, they had trained, qualified cooks to do those things and she somehow felt that it reflected poorly on her skills as a house keeper to have an amateur cooking for the master of the house. Of course, since Zero was actually one of the masters of the house as well, and Kaname encouraged him to do as he liked, always making a pleased fuss over anything that Zero cooked... her hands were tied.

Zero glanced at Aido with a raised eyebrow. What he was doing was rather obvious. "Peeling oranges," the hunter stated the obvious anyway with a hint of exaggerated patience.

"For Kaname?" Aido inquired immediately, his look darkening just a little for some mysterious reason.

Zero was a little surprised that Aido had guessed that rather than assuming Zero was doing it for himself. He was right, actually. Zero had discovered that the pureblood did not peel oranges. He wasn't entirely sure why and wondered if Kaname actually didn't know how, or if he just had an aversion to touching food with his fingers... an amusing irony considering the other kind of food that vampires needed was definitely not something served up with a fork and a knife. Whatever the reason, Zero had simply gotten in the habit of doing it for him.

It wasn't as if Kaname asked or expected him to peel his oranges for him or anything like that, and Zero probably would have teased him about it endlessly if he had. No, Kaname simply just didn't eat them otherwise. At first Zero had thought his lover didn't like oranges, but then one time Zero peeled and broke one into sections before serving it and Kaname ate the whole orange before touching anything else. It was obvious he enjoyed it. Now Zero just did it as a matter of course. It was a little thing to make someone he loved happy and he didn't mind.

"Mm Hm," Zero distractedly responded to the affirmative as he continued separating the peel from the fruit. It was one of those particularly stubborn oranges that only released the peelings in small chunks. Kaname had a mountain of paperwork to deal with again. Zero was bringing him a breakfast snack, since otherwise the pureblood was probably going to forget to eat until dinner.

"Then you're doing it wrong," Aido said flatly with a hint of that superior tone in his voice that was guaranteed to set Zero's teeth on edge, even if he did consider the blonde a friend now... most of the time. Aido plucked the orange out of Zero's hands, starting to do it himself.

"Look at all the membrane you're leaving behind, you have to get that all off. You probably don't even take the seeds out..." the aristocrat mumbled. There was a definite, faint hint of jealousy in his tone. peeling Kaname's oranges had always been his self-appointed task at school.

It was usual for the tables in the Moon Dorm's dining hall to be set with either fruit or salad platters before the students arrived for their meal. Since their meals were served rather than handled in a normal cafeteria manner, it gave them something to occupy themselves with while waiting for their meal.

Aido sometimes ate at Kaname's table along with the others and once, on a whim while Kaname was slicing a pear, Aido had peeled an orange and given it to him. Kaname had smiled and said thank you. It was back in the early years of the school, when Aido still tripped over his tongue every time he tried to talk to the pureblood and that acknowledgement had pleased him immensely. After that, Aido always peeled the oranges, just in case Kaname might want some.

He was usually one of the first ones to the dining hall, so even if Aido wasn't eating at Kaname's table that day, he would still usually peel the ones on the pureblood's table and leave them for him if he got there enough before the pureblood that Kaname wouldn't catch him at it.

Kaname was not unobservant enough to miss that his oranges were the only ones that were ever put on the trays in that manner, and he was well aware who was doing it. Once, Kaname caught Aido sneaking glances at him from another table as he picked up one of the orange slices and he'd given the blonde a wry little smile as he very deliberately bit the orange with the kind of understated relish that only a vampire could.

Aido had flushed a happy pink and stayed that way for most of the meal, much to Kaname's silent amusement. He couldn't help feeling a touch jealous now, to have someone else taking over that little task, no matter how silly it was.

Zero shot the other vampire an incredulous and annoyed look, snatching the orange back. Honestly, he liked Aido, he did, but the blonde was really too much sometimes. "You're insane," he said flatly. "There is no wrong way to peel an orange. Kaname likes the way I do them. And of course I take the seeds out." Or I'm going to this time, anyway...

Aido snorted in blatant disbelief. "There is a right way and a wrong way to do everything. You can't just give Kaname-sama any old oranges," he protested, snatching the orange again.

Zero's face darkened. This was getting old, and he did not appreciate Aido inferring that he was careless about anything that pertained to Kaname, even if it was over such a completely ridiculous matter. He got enough of that kind of guff from Izumi; he didn't have to put up with it from Aido.

"It's just a freaking orange for crying out loud!" the hunter growled, reaching to take it back. Aido didn't let him, backing up with vampire speed. Zero could have countered him, but he made an effort to not get childish about this.

"Aido, give me back the orange. Give it back now," he demanded.

Aido glared defiantly and Zero shook his head. "Fine, I'll just do another..." he turned back around only to find that the bag of oranges was frozen to the counter, completely encased in ice. Zero slapped his palm on the counter top, losing his thin thread of patience.

"Okay, that's it! These are all probably ruined now! Stop acting like a two year old, Aido and give me the orange!" Maybe he should have just let it go, but Aido was strongly pushing his buttons and there was only so much aggravation he could be expected to take.

He was sorely tempted to wrap Aido up in vines and take it from him while he dangled upside down. The look on Aido's face would surely be priceless. However, as of yet no one but Kaname knew of his powers, and he rather wanted to keep it that way for now. Besides, Zero still had the mindset that it was somewhat cowardly to hide behind one's powers outside an actual battle. He felt perfectly capable of trouncing Aido on his own terms.

He stomped towards the noble, intent on taking the orange from him by force, but Aido retreated again, lightning fast. This time Zero easily blurred to match his speed, but as he did, he found the ground under his feet was suddenly slick and treacherous. He was moving too quickly to stop. Slipping and sliding with no traction, he was unable to put the brakes on his vampire speed and his feet went out from under him. He landed on the floor on his backside, still in a mad skid that ended with a hard crash into the nearest set of counters and cabinets. The cook working in that area only just jumped out of the way in time to avoid the collision. That part of the kitchen was set aside for baking and canisters of flour and other such ingredients sat upon the counter at the recently abandoned station. Zero hit with enough force to knock out the support strut of the counter and make that section tip, causing everything on it to come crashing down onto him.

A rain of raw eggs splattered down like small missiles while oil and milk splashed in his eyes and down his shirt. Mixing bowls tumbled, sloshing cake batter everywhere. The flour and sugar canisters came down last, causing a cloud like a small nuclear blast. Zero blinked and coughed as the haze of flower and powdered sugar slowly settled like snow all around him. He was covered in it - clothes, hair, even his eyelashes were white. It adhered to and crated a sticky paste with the milk dripping from his chin, the oil in his hair and the raw egg oozing uncomfortably down the back of his collar.

The ground under Zero was cold, but not as cold as it had been when he'd fallen and a glance at his previous path showed that the floor was covered in a glittering sheet of ice. Oh he did not just do that...?! Aido was so going to regret this...

Aido was standing frozen a few yards away, staring at Zero in surprise. He obviously hadn't quite intended for that to happen.

The blonde made a dangerous, but perhaps understandable mistake. Confronted with the sight of Zero looking like the abominable snow man and surrounded by smashed eggs, lumps of butter, cake batter and fallen pans... Aido broke out laughing.

Zero planted his hands on the floor, pushing up to his feet with dangerous deliberateness. His glare would have frozen the sun as he wiped his face on his sleeve, which didn't help much because it was just as messy.

It would have been prudent to show a little restraint in his mirth, but Aido really couldn't stop. The harder he tried, the harder he laughed, tears rolling down his face.

Zero was furious, but not enough so to follow his first instinct to try to pound the other vampire senseless. Let the punishment fit the crime, as he'd once heard. Let's see how the prissy blonde liked cake batter in that perfectly coiffed hair of his...

If Zero had lunged for him, Aido probably would have had time to react as that would have been an expected reaction. But Zero took a different method of retaliation and Aido was laughing too hard to duck in time when he suddenly realized something considerably smaller than a person was flying towards him. Aido yelped as the mixing bowl divulged its remaining contents, splashing his head and shoulders before hitting him in the head, concave-side down and spinning around once like a horseshoe before its own momentum and Aido's startled jerk threw it off.

Zero smirked, bouncing one of the few remaining unbroken eggs in his hand. Oh yeah, all that sparring with Kaname paid off, not only his aim but also his grasp of the physics of how to throw the bowl just right had been spot on.

Cake batter running into his eyes and dripping from his hair and lapels, Aido spluttered in shock and indignation. "HEY!" he shouted, and only just ducked in time to avoid getting a flying egg straight in the mouth, it missed and hit the wall behind him, but the next two launched at the same time hit him square in the chest.

That was it. This meant war.

Zero dived one way while Aido dived the other, each of them reaching for whatever projectiles were handy. A tomato splattered on the broken counter top behind Zero and another one caught him in the stomach with a splat. Hurled with vampire speed, it didn't have to be rotten to explode into pulp on impact.

Zero rolled to avoid a barrage of cucumbers and came up with two handfuls of butter which caught Aido in the neck and the leg.

The three cooks on duty had cleared out pretty fast with a few squeaks of protest and indignation, but mostly they were trying not to laugh. From a safe distance they hid behind tables and watched the ensuing food fight. It was going to be a pain to clean up, but it was the most entertaining thing they'd seen in weeks. It was so much more than your usual food slinging fest. Aido and Zero both moved with grace and speed, flipping and leaping and dodging like actors in a martial arts movie while turning an assortment of food items and kitchen utensils into weapons in their mini war.

Aido found a vat of partially cooked oatmeal and used a large serving spoon to deliver precision blasts in a strafing pattern as Zero dashed across an open space and rolled behind another counter, avoiding most of the barrage but still ending up with watery oatmeal in his ear and trickling down his lower back into his pants. He retaliated with globs of chocolate pudding snatched from the nearby counter top, one of which caught Aido on the back and the other on the butt as he dived for cover.

Grabbing a 2 liter bottle of soda from the nearby cabinet, Aido shook it up and popped the top, jumping up onto the counter and pressing his thumb over part of the bottle opening in order to direct the pressurized spray at Zero as the hunter rushed him. Zero sputtered, getting fizzing soda in the eyes, but not deviating from his path as he threw himself under the counter Aido was standing on, twisting to land on his back. He skidded, popping out the other side on his back and neatly nailing Aido with a strong blast from an industrial sized whipped cream dispenser. Aido choked and clawed at his face as he was flooded with sweet fluffy cream.

He pounced blindly, landing on Zero and fighting for control of the whipped cream. The two of them skidded and slid on the syrupy mess that the ground had become by now. They scrambled to their feet for better leverage, still struggling over the container. Neither of them looked angry anymore, however. It was hard to stay upset when you were fighting over a container of whipped cream and you both looked like refugees from a refrigerator explosion.

They weren't sure who had started first, but somehow, they both found themselves laughing as they struggled for the canister between them, getting the contents everywhere. It was becoming increasingly hard to maintain any kind of control while they were both laughing so hard and they stumbled and weaved, bumping into things and creating more chaos.

"You want it? You want it? Here!" Aido chortled, pressing the tip of the whipped cream dispenser into Zero's face and pushing so he got a mouthful of it. Zero choked and spluttered, trying hard not to kill himself laughing.

"No, you want it! Maybe it's the new miracle hair product you've been looking for!" Zero retorted as he wrestled the nozzle away and sprayed it all over Aido's sticky, dripping hair. The effect was almost too much and Zero was laughing so hard now he could hardly breathe. "Y-you look like soft serve..." he gasped, tears running down his cheeks at the way the blond now resembled some kind of messed up ice cream sundae.

They staggered, drunken with mirth. Aido snatched some new fodder from the counter as they bumped up against it. "You f-forgot the c-cherries!" he shot back, having difficulty speaking around the giggles as he dumped a jar of maraschino cherries down Zero's shirt. Zero grabbed the jar and pushed back, sloshing Aido with the sticky syrup as well. They staggered towards the door, still trying to spritz each other with the whipped cream.

Too late, both of them sensed the presence that was standing there, and had been standing there in quiet, complete amusement for the past minute or two. They tried to pull up, but there wasn't enough room to do so and the floor was slippery. They struggled to a stop just short of running into a highly amused looking Kaname Kuran, but the whipped cream was still on splatter mode and a thick ribbon of sweet, sticky cream cut a broad swath across the front of Kaname's burgundy dressing gown.

Aido froze, looking adorably horrified. Zero froze looking torn between complete embarrassed humiliation at being found this way, and complete amusement at the sight of Kaname's bemused face and whipped cream decorated robe.

Attempting to be sober, and therefore trembling slightly with contained mirth, Zero very seriously plucked up one of the cherries that had lodged in his shirt pocket and placed it in the center of the line of whipped cream on Kaname's chest, right over his heart. "D-don't forget your cherry," he said, deadpan except for the tremble in his voice.

Despite his horror, Aido couldn't help it. He was so busted it was too late to care about how much trouble he might be in. He cracked up, clutching at Zero for balance, nearly suffocating himself as he tried to regain control. It was one of those times when the humor was probably so inappropriate it made it even more unstoppable and hilarious. Zero was chuckling again as well and they lost their balance, slipping and falling on their rears.

Okay. Kaname couldn't help it. His grin of amusement turned into soft laughter, mixing with theirs. The tail end of the fight that he had caught had been rather entertaining. He was mystified as to what had brought this... unusual activity... about, but the completely unexpected sight of Zero and Aido collapsed on the floor together, covered in goo and laughing like school children was far too compelling to resist. Besides, seeing Zero laugh like this was incredibly precious to the pureblood. It was a side of Zero that he was only just getting to know, this mischievous, happy side that could laugh and joke and live. He adored it.

Still chuckling, Kaname calmly swiped one graceful finger through the whipped cream on his chest and tasted it as if wearing his food were the most natural thing in the world. "Mm," he approved, giving a wink to the two vampires on the floor before glancing towards where the cooks were hiding across the room. "This batch is very good, I like the hint of vanilla."

This brought fresh rounds of giggles from the two culprits on the floor, as intended, and even from the cooks who were trying and failing to smother their grins behind their hands.

"Wow, Idol, the look becomes you," Kain drawled in dry amusement as he appeared behind Kaname in the doorway. He'd resolved to not be shocked by any of the trouble that his cousin managed to get into anymore, but this threatened to break that resolve as he looked around the trashed kitchen with raised eyebrows. Hanabusa... you really take the cake, you know that?

Aido scowled as much as he was able while trying to stop laughing and flung a handful of whipped cream at his cousin. Kaname quickly side-stepped to be more out of the path, and Kain ducked... which meant that the person who had just come up behind Kain got the whipped cream full in the face.

Izumi made a very comical sight as she stood there a moment, whipped cream dripping down her face before she wiped it slowly and deliberately out of her eyes. Shaking the cream off her hand, Izumi got a better look at the trashed kitchen, the two disreputable individuals on the floor and the whipped cream across Kaname's chest. She fixed a death glare on Zero and Aido that made both of them feel the intense urge to look immediately contrite.

Dead. Zero reflected that he was so dead. Izumi was never going to let him in the kitchen again.

"You... two... you – you...!" Izumi fumed, looking like she was going to suffer an apoplexy if that were possible for a vampire. She stalked forward, looking rather intent on bodily harm. Dead, dead, dead, those two miscreants were dead. She didn't care if Zero was technically one of her bosses...

Kaname chuckled and caught her shoulders, arresting her progress. "Now, Izumi..." he soothed. "I can't have you flattening guests and members of the household, no matter how much they may deserve it..." he added with a sly grin that was directed towards the two troublemakers.

"M-master, I'm very sorry about this, I didn't realize it wasn't safe to leave them unattended..." she managed a respectful, strangled apology to Kaname as she turned towards him, taking responsibility as she felt was her duty.

Kaname patted her shoulder. She was a good house keeper with excellent recommendations, but she was very old school. He knew the rather lax way he ran his house probably drove her up the wall. "Don't worry about it, it's not your fault and there's no harm done."

Zero actually did feel a little guilty now, and incredibly foolish as the heat of the moment cooled enough for him to realize how ridiculously they had acted. It had actually been really... fun... but that wasn't something he was about to admit too readily. He pulled himself up to his feet.

"Izumi, I'm sorry, don't worry, I'll clean it up," he promised, knowing it was the least he could do.

Aido squelched to his feet as well. He glanced at Zero and hesitated a moment before tilting his chin in a slightly competitive manner. "I will too," he agreed. He obviously didn't really want to, but he knew he should and he couldn't leave Zero to deal with the mess that was half his fault by himself. Besides, this was Kaname-sama's kitchen after all.

Betcha I can clean faster and better than you can. The gaze he shot Zero was clearly a challenge.

Zero gave him a half smirk. YOU? Bring it on. You wouldn't know which end of a mop to even USE!

Kaname caught the silent exchange and his grin widened. If they weren't careful they'd end up with Kitchen Wars Round 2 – the Battle of the Suds. "Ah... we'll all help, won't we, Kain?" He said.

Kain looked over, completely unsurprised at having been volunteered to help his cousin clean up another mess. Again. "Huh? Oh, yes, of course Kaname-sama," he agreed resignedly, shooting Aido a dirty look.

Zero went to get buckets and mops and in a few minutes Zero, Aido, Kain, Izumi and the cooks were all divvying up cleaning supplies and diving in. Everyone except Zero looked over in surprise when Kaname rolled up his sleeves and asked Zero to hand him a sponge. Zero tossed him one and he caught it, giving the others who had all stopped to stare at him a wry look. Obviously, everyone assumed when he said 'we' he meant 'everybody else'.

"Master, you can't!"

"Kaname-sama, no!"

Izumi and Aido broke out in horrified shock at about the same time before shooting each other venomous looks.

Kaname sighed in resignation, dipping the sponge into a bucket of water and giving them all a look that silently demanded if any of them were really going to tell him what he could and couldn't do in his own home. If he wanted to help them clean up, that was his call, certainly not theirs.

No one said a word and Kaname set to work washing down a flour covered counter top, deliberately ignoring them. There was dead silence for a moment, then the others seemed to realize that they were standing there and letting Kaname work alone and the room exploded into a flurry of industriousness.

Zero grinned over at Kaname as the hunter scrubbed tomato off of a nearby cabinet. He knew Kaname didn't like it when people got all shocked at him wanting to do things like that, but he also knew that Kaname had to battle the feeling that he was lowering people's opinions of him when he did. With this group he didn't have to worry, but still, Zero knew that struggle was there within his lover and yet he still chose to stick by Zero and do things like this with him. Zero wasn't stupid; he knew Kaname wouldn't be cleaning up in here if he weren't involved.

Maybe later, when they were alone, he'd tell Kaname how sweet and kind of hot he found it to watch the pureblood up to his elbows in suds, scrubbing up cake batter and cherry syrup.

Seiren showed up not long after, giving the kitchen a long look and wordlessly reaching for a mop as soon as she saw Kaname involved in the clean-up. In a matter of minutes the atmosphere had become surprisingly companionable and light with people teasing and laughing as they worked together.

Aido and Kain got into a squabble over whose sponge was whose and ended up lobbing them at each other until Izumi grabbed them both by the ear and banished them to work in opposite sides of the kitchen.

A few minutes later, Aido ducked behind Zero, hiding as if trying to escape from someone's wrath. He grabbed the hunter's shoulders and made him slosh his bucket. Zero hadn't seen what was happening and wasn't sure who he was hiding from but he stepped away, giving Aido a sudsy splash of water across the chest. "Hey! Hands off. I've had enough of your trouble for today," he joked reprovingly.

"Me?!" Aido looked even cuter trying to look innocent with his hair caked, face smudged and clothes completely ruined. "You started it."

Zero raised his eyebrows. "Me? Oh I think not..." he shook his head, chuckling as Aido quickly darted away again as Seiren approached. She had a big wet spot on the front of her shirt and Zero shot her a sympathetic look.

As he swapped his sponge for a mop, Zero looked over and saw Kaname silently watching the others while he scrubbed. The pureblood had a small smile on his face, obviously enjoying the atmosphere, but at the same time Zero felt a soft, melancholy tug inside him.

No one teased Kaname, or included him in the mirth. Not that they were excluding him, nothing would have been farther from their desires, but they just respected him too much to presume upon him. It was an old, old familiar story by now and Kaname was used to being with and yet apart from everyone else.

Zero didn't think it was fair though. The others meant no harm, in fact quite the opposite, but Zero knew the way they kept stealing surreptitious glances at the rare and unbelievable sight of a pureblood scrubbing up made Kaname very uncomfortable and self-conscious. It wasn't fair that Kaname couldn't just tease and be teased with the rest of them, but without encouragement, Zero knew that the pureblood would simply stay quiet and aloof. It was a role to which he was far too accustomed.

"Hey, Kuran, you missed a spot," Zero taunted, intentionally pulling Kaname into the mix with everyone else. He pointed at a still sticky portion of the counter that Kaname obviously just hadn't gotten to yet. Actually, Kaname wasn't very good at this, he had way more soap on the counter than he needed and had been washing the same place for much longer than was required, but hey, Zero figured he probably didn't do this a lot. "Come on, I expect better than sub-standard work from you..."

Kaname grinned sardonically at the ribbing. His eyes caught Zero's for a moment in understanding. He knew what Zero was doing. He knew the hunter didn't like to see the way he always looked alone in a crowd. He loved Zero for that.

Zero started slightly as the pureblood was suddenly behind him. Kaname trapped him with one arm around his chest while the other squeezed the soapy, dripping sponge he was holding directly over the back of Zero's collar, letting the warm suds run down his shirt. If Zero wanted to play...

Zero yelped softly in surprise and tried to scowl, but couldn't help grinning instead as he heard Kaname's velvety chuckle behind him. The pureblood's breath brushed his ear.

"Why, yes, Zero... I think I did miss a spot..." Kaname agreed in a silky voice, rubbing the sponge teasingly against the side of his lover's face. "A rather big spot. Look at you, you're a mess... maybe I should clean you up first, huh?"

The soapy sponge trailed down Zero's neck, intentionally messaging his bite area with way more deliberateness than was necessary. Kaname leaned forward and licked the other side of Zero's neck, tasting the sticky cheery juice and traces of whipped cream mixed with Zero's own unique flavor.

"Mmm..." he purred. "You taste like dessert..." Kaname murmured suggestively.

Underneath the smudges and lingering flour dusting, Zero blushed an attractive pink as Kaname's tongue got way too intimate with his neck and ear given their very public location. Everybody was looking their way now. Wait, in what universe had it actually seemed like a good idea to get Kaname's playful side on the surface? The hunter was apparently a glutton for punishment - or at least embarrassment - today.

"Um, Kaname... I'll wash later. We're doing the kitchen right now. Remember, the kitchen?!" he protested, wriggling in Kaname's grip as he flushed even deeper, partially from embarrassment and partially for... uh... other reasons.

"Okay, we'll do that now. I'll do you later..." the pureblood promised. He couldn't resist, Zero was way too cute like this.

Zero nearly choked, Kaname's tone was light and innocent, but Zero didn't for a moment believe that turn of phrase was anywhere near accidental. Aido chuckled from somewhere else in the room, meaning that he didn't think so either.

"Right! So, you want to help me with the floor...?" Zero asked a little too cheerfully as he turned a little too abruptly, 'accidentally' bringing the dripping mop in his hand up swack into the side of Kaname's face. "Oops! Sorry," he said in a tone that clearly indicated he wasn't.

Sudsy, none-too-clean water trickled from the ends of Kaname's hair on one side of his head, dripped from his chin and ran down his collar. The cooks, who didn't know the pureblood and the hunter much, all fell collectively silent in shocked horror. Izumi knew them well enough to resignedly ignore what would normally be an unbelievably serious breach of etiquette and just keep working. The three nobles who knew them very well tried hard not to smile or look like they were remotely amused by watching Kaname stand there and drip. Well, except for Aido who fumed indignantly, requiring Kain to sit on him, which the other vampire was only too happy to do by this point.

Zero smiled in mock apology as he brushed a few soggy curls back from his lover's face. "Sorry, guess you shouldn't fluster me quite so much, I don't know what I'm doing..."

Kaname grinned broadly, if a bit devilishly. "Oh, I think you know exactly what you're doing..." he replied, taking the mop from Zero and raising one dripping eyebrow in a way that defied Zero's resistance and made the ex-human chuckle despite himself.

You are so going to pay for that later... Kaname's eyes danced with the playful promise that made heated butterflies swarm Zero's stomach. His fingers brushed Zero's as he leaned close and took the bucket from him too.

"I love you," he whispered softly against Zero's neck in the brief moment he was close before he straightened again. Those words were only for Zero's ears. But he wanted Zero to know that all teasing aside, he appreciated the chance Zero always gave him to not have to be a pureblood, to just be frighteningly... ordinary.

Zero smiled, their eyes meeting tenderly for a brief moment as Kaname straightened up before their expressions became wry again.

"Since you obviously don't know what to do with this mop, why don't you take the counter and I'll do this," Kaname said, walking away with the mop as if removing a dangerous weapon from the hands of a maniac.

Kaname looked up at the rest of the room with an innocent, why are you all standing around and not doing anything? expression that quickly sent everyone scuttling back to work, the friendly chattering and teasing resuming.

With all of them working, the mess was cleaned up in under an hour and the broken counter-piece propped up until it could be repaired. Everyone was in a remarkably good mood as they filed out, if badly in need of showers. Kaname hung behind a moment, speaking with one of the cooks who went and got something for him, presenting it gladly but with a slightly puzzled expression.

As they left the kitchen, Zero shot a glance at what Kaname was carrying and was surprised to find that it was another, smaller canister of whipped cream. He looked at Kaname somewhat suspiciously. "What's that for?"

Kaname was the picture of innocence as he brushed his slightly sticky and still damp hair back from his face. "You. After we shower," he said simply, his eyes twinkling. The food fight and how good the sugar had tasted on Zero's skin gave Kaname so many ideas. His stupid paper work could definitely wait.

Predictably, Zero colored up again like one of the cherries they had been washing up not long before. With Kaname, Zero knew you shouldn't ask a question if you didn't want the answer.

"Kaname!" he hissed, glancing at the other nobles who were walking away with them and could probably hear everything they were saying, even if they had the good manners not to show it.

Kaname grinned and shook his head. It wasn't as if the others weren't already completely aware of their relationship. Kaname wasn't ashamed of the fact that he was completely in love with this boy, nor was he hesitant to let others know that Zero was his. His heart. His soul.

"Yes?" Kaname kept up the innocent act, wrapping an arm around Zero's sticky shoulders. "Come on, Zero, you totally trashed our kitchen and my favorite robe, I'd say you owe me a little..."

Yeah, okay, Kaname had a point. Zero grinned despite himself at the memories, shooting a wry look towards Aido. The blonde was grousing at his cousin and Seiren was repeatedly pinching his ear apparently just to annoy him. She obviously hadn't forgiven him for whatever had happened between them earlier. Aido was a sticky, sudsy mess – rather like Zero knew he himself was – and the young hunter had to try not to chuckle. Yes, they had made idiots of themselves, but in the long run, it had been so worth it.

Aido caught Zero looking at him and returned his gaze, grinning and sticking his tongue out at the hunter. Before he could stop himself, Zero responded in kind. He quickly straightened his face again, but he could practically feel Kaname's silent amusement radiating from beside him. Zero reflected with a bit of resigned embarrassment that apparently something about Aido seemed to bring out his eh... more childish side.

"So what exactly started the... festivities?" Kaname inquired curiously as they all made their way up the stairs towards where the halls would split leading towards their respective chambers and guest bedrooms.

Aido and Zero looked at each other again, both of them flushing a little this time. It sounded so ridiculous to actually say now, after the fact.

"Um... well..." Aido stalled. "It, uh... had to do with a disagreement about... um..."

"About the right way to peel an orange," Zero finished, applying the just-get-it-over-with principle since there was no way to make it sound any better.

Kaname's clear, amused laughter rang softly in the hall. "An orange?" He was having sudden visions of Gulliver's travels and wars being waged over which end of the egg you were supposed to crack. He hadn't expected it to be anything earth shattering, of course, but the matter seemed so incredibly trivial it surprised him.

Aido looked completely abashed, Zero had resigned himself by this point to the fact that it was going to be one of those days where he just went around perpetually feeling the urge to hide.

"Yup," the hunter said simply. "An orange."

"Not just any oranges, your oranges!" Aido blurted, obviously still feeling it was justified and needing to vindicate himself.

Zero rolled his eyes. Oh great, Aido just had to go and spell it out.

Suddenly understanding dawned and Kaname realized with fond amusement and surprise that they had in actuality, been to some degree fighting about him. That was both touching and embarrassing and he wasn't sure if he wanted to thank them or bop their heads together. He was actually quite used to dealing with those contradictory feelings where Aido was concerned, and he had no doubts about who had started things this morning.

"I see, well, I think with lunch, we shall have apples... if there's any left after this morning's activities, that is," Kaname said after a moment. He raised an eyebrow as if hesitating. "You two don't happen to fhave any differing opinions on the right way to eat an apple, do you?"

Aido dutifully shook his head quickly and Zero just rolled his eyes and shoulder-punched Kaname until he realized the pureblood was going to just keep looking at him until he answered. "No, okay? No."

"Good then! It's settled. I'll see you all at lunch," Kaname said with a gracious nod to Kain, Aido and Seiren. He hooked his arm through Zero's as they walked away. "You I'll see sooner..." he teased, leaning close and nibbling Zero's ear once they turned the corner. "Your shower or mine?" he whispered.

Now out of sight and earshot of the others, Zero didn't protest. Fighting fire with fire instead, he reaching around to knead Kaname's neck with his fingers in a way that made the pureblood's eyes dilate and his breath catch. Kaname was so sensitive... and so delightfully easy to distract.

Zero turned and kissed him lightly. "Mine," he murmured, then snatched the whipped cream away from Kaname's distracted fingers. "But you have to catch me first!" He took off down the hall towards his rooms full tilt.

Kaname, beaming with delight, took off after him. "And what do I get when I do?"

Meanwhile, in the other wing of the house, Aido was getting ready to also take a shower, but first, he pulled something small and round from an inside pocket where he'd kept it mostly protected. He set the partially peeled orange on the edge of the bathroom sink. He couldn't give it to Kaname now, of course. But he still mentally dubbed it his "Kaname Orange" which he had valiantly defended. Maybe he'd eat it later, or maybe he'd just keep it preserved in ice forever. He encased it in ice for the moment and then got into the shower.

A few minutes later he heard Kain moving around in the bathroom, probably looking for a wash cloth or something. There was a clunk and the sound of something dropping into water. "Uh, hey Aido, why is there a lump of ice with an orange in it on the counter and do you care if it falls in the-?" his long-suffering cousin started to inquire, prompting Aido to burst out of the shower.

"Nooooo! Don't touch it...!"