Take the Lead
by Blackened Wing
Summary: Kaname and Zero have survived hell together... but can they make it through an evening out? Two strong willed individuals go out on a date and try to find the right balance of give and take in their lives. Romance. Fluff.
Warnings: male/male romance, established relationship between Kaname and Zero.
Pairings: Kaname x Zero
Series: This story is part of the Duet Series, which follows Kaname and Zero and their relationship as based off of my story "Crimson Door". This story takes place after "Blood Moon".
Important: This whole series splits off and is AU from the Vampire Knight Manga as of Chapter 33, so there is a lot that is different, such as Kaname and Yuki's past, etc. My version of their past and how the confrontation with Rido went down is told in "Crimson Door" which ended with Kaname, Yuki and Zero together in a tentative three-way relationship. In the following story, "Blood Moon" Yuki was killed and Kaname and Zero had to come to grips with her death, their loss, their grief, and eventually their love for each other. As long as you know that, you don't absolutely have to have read any of my other stories to read this one, but it may make more sense, and will certainly mean more if you've read "Crimson Door" and "Blood Moon" first.
A/N: Please note that this is not the sequel I mentioned in which we will eventually find out more about Yuki's death. This will be a short-ish fic that is aimed to just give our boys some downtime and a chance to enjoy life together a little as normal people before I start putting them through the wringer again. :) I think after the past few stories they've earned it. ;D
Please ignore the fact that the title of this story is the same as that of a movie that came out a few years back. They have nothing in common with one another except that both were named in reference to dancing. I tried to come up with a better title, but I just kept coming back to that one because it's such a good metaphor for Kaname and Zero's efforts to balance their strong personalities and figure out when they each need to lead, and when to follow.
For anyone who's curious, this story also takes place after my Senri x Takuma WIP "Yours to Hold" although that's not very important to the story line except to note that both nobles are both back at school at this point.
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. This story is for entertainment purposes only; no money is being made from it.
Chapter One: "Asking the Question"
Takuma Ichijo tapped the eraser of his pencil thoughtfully on the shiny mahogany surface of his desk as he leaned on one elbow, studying the paper in front of him with a thoughtful expression. The rubberized eraser bounced slightly on the hard surface, making the pencil jump rhythmically between his fingers with a small, barely audible thupping sound.
Thup. Thup. Thup. Thup...
"Takuma, can I ask you something?"
The blonde-haired noble turned quickly at the sound of his name, the pencil stilling and his smile brightening as he saw Kaname's tall, slender frame leaning in the open doorway of his dorm room. The door had only been left ajar a crack, and Kaname had not knocked, but it was not rudeness on his part, nor the entitlement given to a pureblood. He and Takuma had grown up in the same house, they were comfortable with one another and had their own set of unconscious rules – if the door was closed, knock. If it was open or cracked, then it was okay to just enter.
Takuma rose from his seat out of natural respect. "Of course, anything," he replied, gesturing for his friend to come in. "Have a se... oops, hang on," Takuma realized that Shiki had left his clothes on the nearest chair and quickly swooped them off with a slightly embarrassed shrug, bundling them up and setting them aside. He'd have to ask Shiki to not leave his things all over the place... again. Ah well...
Kaname smiled in amusement and shook his head, trying to save Takuma the trouble, although too late. "No, that's fine, I'll not keep you long," he assured, coming in and closing the door behind him.
Takuma reflected that it was good... normal somehow, to have Kaname drop in like this, to know they were both under the same roof, even if only temporarily. The two vampires had lived in the same dwelling in one place or another for over 10 years, but that was changed now. Kaname did not stay at Cross Academy any longer. He and Zero had their own place in the country, although from what Takuma understood they were hardly there either the past few months, what with Kaname's responsibilities dragging him all over the country and Zero accompanying Yagari on missions as the elder hunter strove to help Zero prove himself to the Hunter's Association.
Takuma supposed that he had to admit he missed Kaname, if he were honest with himself. He was so used to watching out for him and making sure he was taking care of himself, that he probably would have been at quite a loss over what to do with himself if he hadn't had Shiki in his life. Fortunately, the young model needed quite a lot of looking after.
Takuma knew that these were all just natural growing pains though as both he and Kaname began stepping out into the larger world and assuming the responsibilities that their intermingled pasts had now thrust upon them. The truth was, Takuma himself was only remaining at Cross Academy to act as Dorm President for the rest of the term. Then he too would need to leave to assume the mantle of responsibility passed to him by virtue of being the new head of the Ichijo Empire, seeing as his Grandfather's estate had finally been released from probate.
But just at the moment, it was rather like old times what with Kaname and Zero both staying at the school for a week or two. Kaname was a member of the recently formed school board and tried to show up as often as possible so that his very visible support and favor of the Academy would continue to encourage vampire nobles to send their children here.
Takuma leaned his hips back against the desk behind him, hands splayed casually on the edge as he cocked his head curiously. "Okay then, what did you want to ask?"
"What kinds of things do you and Shiki do together?" the pureblood inquired simply. His usual implacable manner was in place, but the very slight hesitation before he spoke told Takuma that the straightforward question hid some un-sureness underneath.
Takuma blinked, his ears flushing just a little before he decided that where his mind was going was probably not what Kaname was asking. "Um... you mean, besides..."
Kaname waved his hand quickly. "Yes, besides that," he clarified. "I mean when you're not in bed. When you just want to... I don't know, spend time together, do something... go out somewhere..." the pureblood gestured vaguely. He was looking slightly more uncomfortable now, but doing an admirable job of hiding it.
Takuma suddenly thought he understood what Kaname was really asking... and why. "You mean when we go out on a date? Senri and I do a lot of things, I suppose. Last week we went to the park, tomorrow we're going out to eat... Kaname, does this have to do with what Rima said yesterday?" he inquired.
Kaname didn't answer, which was an answer in itself.
Takuma smiled wryly. At dinner the previous day, Shiki and Rima had been discussing some of the people they had worked with recently on a shoot. They had some very amusing stories to tell, or at least Rima did and Shiki would put in dry details at humorous moments. Rima had remarked in passing that she thought the art director treated his current wife very poorly because they never did things together and he all but ignored her except when he wanted to knock boots. Takuma had seen Kaname shoot a silent, troubled glance at Zero, who was sitting beside him, eating his noodles and studiously ignoring the gossip.
"You should take Zero out, spend more time together," Takuma advised in the face of Kaname's continued silence. No one had asked his opinion, but he offered it anyway, having a feeling that this was in fact what was on his friend's mind. "That is what you're really asking me about, isn't it?"
"We spend time together..." Kaname muttered, folding his arms a little defensively. "A lot of time." He sounded peeved, but Takuma could tell it hid a different emotion.
Takuma had to admit, if he wasn't aware how much Kaname and Zero cared about each other, their relationship would seem very jacked up. They'd been sleeping together for god knew how long and they were now living together, but Takuma didn't think they'd ever been out on an actual "date" or done any of those things that couples normally did. He could tell he wasn't the only one who had noticed... Kaname appeared to be bothered by this as well.
"Sure, you spar together, you work together, I'm certain you relax together at home and you uh... get a lot of quality time. That's all good stuff, Kaname, but you two should try just having fun together sometimes. Get away from the norm, try a change of pace, go out on a real date... Trust me; it'll be good for both of you."
Kaname ran a hand through his long dark hair, looking uncharacteristically agitated. "I want to..." he admitted quietly. The fact that he'd not balked at Takuma using the word date tended to confirm that statement. He and Zero had been through a lot together. Their relationship was strong. They knew how to fight beside one another and how to watch each other's backs and look out for one another. They could stare down hell together and come out the other side... but sometimes it felt like they didn't really know how to just be together. They had such different personalities and preferences. It seemed like all their most intense bonding had always occurred during life or death circumstances, but surely, they could find things to do together when the world wasn't falling apart... couldn't they? The pureblood shook his head. "I want to, but... I don't know what to do," he confessed, obviously deeply hating having to admit it.
"It's not exactly rocket science, Kaname..." Takuma gave an incredulous chuckle before he could stop himself and the pureblood glared. "You just ask Zero to go out with you, and..."
"There, right there," Kaname interrupted with a scowl. "Problem number one. Can you even imagine what Zero would do if I actually asked him out on a date?" The pureblood looked like he could and did. "He will look at me like I have a third head and either laugh at me or die of embarrassment."
Takuma raised his eyebrows. "You really think so? Kaname... forgive me for putting it indelicately, but he's sleeping with you, you think he'd be embarrassed to go out with you?"
"Yes," Kaname said simply. He looked miserable and Takuma actually started to feel sorry for him. "And that's not the only problem. I don't... I don't know how to treat him. I mean, I don't know how to do the things I want to do for... for..."
"For another man," Takuma said quietly, finally understanding the real root of his friend's problem, and why Kaname had come to him. Kaname and Zero probably both had the same problem in this regard he'd wager. Takuma had known from early on that he could be attracted to both women and men, which was not very unusual in vampire culture. However, as far as he knew, the pureblood and the hunter had both been quite straight most of their lives... only to end up falling in love with someone of their own gender. It was a trifle unusual and bound to cause confusion.
Kaname nodded with a sigh. "Exactly," he admitted. "I don't want to take him for granted, Takuma. But what am I supposed to do? Bring him flowers and chocolate? Take him out to expensive restaurants and go dancing? How the hell do two men dance together anyway? Who leads? Even if I could get Zero out on the floor without getting shot, which I sincerely doubt..."
The pureblood's eyebrows pinched in a frown. He was usually good at navigating tricky situational minefields, but this one had him at a standstill. "I can think of so many ways to do something special for a woman... but... how do I do them for Zero without it seeming stupid or sappy? Without injuring his pride or offending his sensibilities?" Kaname felt the situation was made even more difficult by the wide difference in his and Zero's social standing. Not that it mattered one iota to him what level vampire Zero was, but he knew his lover was constantly being treated as less by the rest of the vampire world. He worried that if he behaved towards Zero as he would with a female lover, it might somehow come off as condescending and make it seem like he was also treating the hunter as less than the strong, capable person that he was. That was the last thing he wanted to do. He loved Zero so much... why was this so difficult?
Takuma thought that Kaname's problem was best summed up in his own words a moment ago. Who leads? In a relationship between two such very strong willed individuals, lacking even conventional gender roles to guide them, that question was bound to come up. He gave his friend a compassionate look.
"Kaname... I don't know what to tell you. This is something you and Zero have to figure out for yourselves. But if I could offer any advice, I'd just say don't hold back... take chances. Eventually you'll find whatever the right balance is for the two of you, whatever it is you really like to do together. But you'll never know if you don't try. So go ahead and bring him the flowers, take him to the most stupidly extravagant restaurant in town... if you both have a miserable time, then you'll know to try something else next time. Zero might be embarrassed, but he loves you, Kaname. Deep down, he's got to feel good if he knows you're trying to find a way to show him that you love him too. Don't worry about who leads, the truth probably is that you both will at one time or another. Leave that open. Don't be afraid to lead or to follow as the situation arises. Be ready to let him take you out when he's ready to as well. He'll come around."
Takuma realized he'd been rather going on and he fell silent, giving his friend a sheepish smile. Probably nobody else would have dared to presume to give Kaname so much advice, but then, Kaname had asked, and Takuma had the advantage of their long and close relationship to make him feel comfortable in doing so.
Kaname frowned thoughtfully, but did not seem offended. Perhaps Takuma had a point. He'd never know if he didn't try. After all, what was the worst that could happen?
"What?" Zero raised his voice over the sound of the shower. Kaname could no doubt hear him fine, but the pureblood had spoken softly and he hadn't quite been able to make it out around the whoosh of the falling water.
Kaname resisted the urge to just enter the shower with Zero rather than repeat his question more loudly... but if he did that then things were going to end up heading in a different direction from the one he intended. It was way too much temptation already, standing here in the steamy bathroom and imagining Zero a few feet away, lathing soapy water across his body... across smooth limbs, a strong, pale chest and well toned abs...
"Kaname?" Zero inquired in the sudden blank silence, pausing inside the shower with sponge in hand, water running into his eyes.
On the other side of the curtain, Kaname shook himself ruefully out of his heated daze. It was amusing, really, what just thinking of Zero did to him. You'd think after a while, after how many times they'd been together and how intimately he knew his lover, that the attraction would fade a little. You'd think he'd know Zero so well that the delicious fire fluttering in his gut when he thought about him would grow old... but it seemed just the opposite was the case. The more he had of Zero, the more he wanted him.
Kaname took a deep breath of the warm, moist air. Focus... If he wasn't careful he was going to forget his plans and they'd end up spending today like they spent so many days... not that that wasn't delightful too.
Zero's head poked out from behind the shower curtain, silver hair slicked to his head and spiky. "Kaname?" He grinned in bemusement at the sight of the vacant-eyed pureblood standing nearby and quickly ducked back behind the curtain again. Oh, he knew that look. It was downright dangerous for Kaname to come around while he was showering or doing anything that required him to be naked. Surprising that his lover wasn't already in the shower with him.
Zero rolled his eyes, but a thrill of heat chased through his body all the same. He may complain sometimes, but in reality the way Kaname seemed to find him so shamelessly and obviously irresistible kind of pleased him. How could you not be pleased that your lover couldn't keep their hands off you? Sweet, insatiable twit that he was. Of course... Kaname wasn't the only one who felt that way, as was proved by the fact that Zero found his mind wandering to mental images of running the sponge in his hand down Kaname's body, and along the strong planes of his...
Zero dunked his head under the showerhead quickly. Kaname was very attuned to him. If he started getting aroused, it was all over. "Did you want something, or just come for the peep show?" he grumbled, scrubbing quickly as he finished up in the shower.
By now, Kaname was used to Zero's habit of growling or getting snarky in order to cover other emotions that the hunter was less certain how to express. The pureblood just smiled. "I wanted to tell you we're going out for dinner, but if you're offering..." he smirked.
The curtain pulled back enough for Zero's head to pop out again. "In your dreams," he returned dryly before yanking it shut again, obviously referring to the latter statement rather than the former. By now, Zero was used to Kaname sometimes phrasing invitations and requests as statements or commands. It could be irritating, but he understood that the pureblood didn't usually mean to come off as bossy as he was capable of sounding.
"I have very nice dreams..." Kaname retorted silkily.
Behind the curtain, Zero grinned and shook his head. The pureblood's tone sent a warm shiver tingling through the young hunter and the easy banter amused him. How was it possible that the more impossible Kaname was, the more he loved him? "Your dinner or my dinner?" he inquired as he rinsed one more time and then turned off the water.
It took Kaname a moment to digest the question before he realized what Zero meant. It was the usual small hitch about terminology between them. The hunter had converted to Kaname's nocturnal schedule for the most part, except when hunter business required him to reverse again. But Zero still thought of dinner as the last meal of the day, while vampires considered called that supper and used lunch and dinner interchangeably to refer to what was for them, a mid-day meal. Because their mid-day fell roughly at humans' dinner time, it was more convenient for vampires to have their main meal of the day at that time, at least if they intended to eat out. Come 'evening' for them, the only places still open were purely vampire establishments, 24-hour diners serving breakfast or some fast food restaurants. Somehow, attempting a romantic dinner at IHOP just didn't hold much appeal.
So it had come about that if it was an important mid-day meal that had to coincide with human operating hours, then vampires called it dinner. If it was just a break to eat before continuing their day, then it was lunch. All of this was instinctual to Kaname, but troublesome for Zero who found the contextual muddle of terms and definitions somewhat frustrating. He still got hung up trying to use morning and evening terminology while reversing it properly and as a result simply avoided it using it at all whenever possible.
"Oh, my dinner," Kaname clarified as he heard the water shut off. A wet, pale arm stuck out from behind the curtain in a waiting gesture. The pureblood obligingly pulled Zero's bath towel off the rack behind him and placed it into the hunter's hand, which disappeared behind the curtain again. Sometimes Zero would get out to dry off, wet and naked, just to get Kaname worked up, but he was obviously trying to avoid spending the next few hours on his back right now.
Kaname realized suddenly that he had told Zero they were going out just now, not asked him. It wasn't intentional, but he was... was... okay, he was nervous, and when he got uncertain, he tended to start asserting more command in order to feel back in control. He didn't usually catch that foible, but when he did he wondered how Zero put up with him. "I mean... if you want to. Uh, go eat, I mean," he added quickly. The pureblood flushed slightly, kicking himself for his incredible lack of eloquence.
God, are you really this pathetic? It wasn't like Kaname had ever asked anyone out before. Usually he was trying to politely decline other people's advances. He'd always assumed he would be good at it if he actually tried, but when you had a huge emotional stake in how the other person responded, it was much more gut-knotting than he'd anticipated. Stupid, considering Zero was already with him, it wasn't like he was trying to woo him or anything, but... but at the same time, maybe he was. Maybe he wanted that missing element of their relationship.
Zero pulled back the curtain and stepped out, the towel loosely wrapped around his hips, water still glistening here and there on his body where he hadn't quite dried it all off. He eyed Kaname a trifle suspiciously. The pureblood was acting weird, which probably meant he was up to something.
"Sure, sounds fine," he said slowly, as if trying to ascertain what was going on in Kaname's head. "Tired of school food already?"
Kaname shrugged, a little relieved, but still uncertain as what to say. Zero didn't really get what he was asking, and Kaname wasn't sure if it would be easier all around if he just left it that way, or if he should try to make himself a little more clear. He hated feeling indecisive like this. "Well, it's not bad, but it can't compare to your cooking, of course," he teased fondly.
Zero blushed slightly and grabbed another towel to dry his hair some more as it was still dripping a bit. "Well, I could cook something instead if you wanted," he offered quietly. It always both pleased and flustered him the fuss Kaname made about his cooking. It wasn't like it was that good, but Kaname acted like it was. He didn't really feel like standing over a hot stove right now, but for Kaname, he didn't mind.
Kaname smiled and leaned over, giving Zero a little kiss on the cheek. "Thanks," he said softly. "But I don't want you to have to do that. I'd rather go out. The arrangements have already been made. I can have a suit sent up if you didn't bring one..." he started to offer, unsure of what kind of wardrobe Zero had packed. Dress clothes weren't usually the foremost thing in the hunter's closet.
Zero shook his head with a patient, faintly peeved look. "Kaname. We've had this discussion. I am perfectly capable of picking out my own clothes," he warned.
Kaname grinned and raised his hands in placation, not having meant to tread on that little minefield. "Of course, of course. It was only a suggestion. Just wear something really nice."
"Why?" Zero's tone was suddenly wary and suspicious. "Kaname... this isn't another dinner party, is it? You promised I could sit the next one out..." the hunter sounded grumpy and tired just thinking about it. It wasn't that he didn't want to be with Kaname, but long, boring social events spent surrounded by vampires looking down their noses at him, constantly mistaking him for Kaname's servant and ordering him around, were not his idea of fun.
Kaname shook his head quickly. "No, no. This is private, just the two of us. I made reservations for us at the Edo."
Zero's eyebrows raised. The Edo had to be the most pricey, upscale theater dining experience in the area. He remembered hearing about it back when they were in school. As he recalled, the place booked out months in advance. Only Kaname could have gotten a reservation there on such short notice. His interest was piqued.
"Oh... okay. Why?" Zero inquired before he could stop himself. Inwardly he grimaced, wondering why he had to ask. Kaname wanted to go out and have some fun, he didn't mean to sound like he expected the pureblood to have an ulterior motive. It was just... well... no, he couldn't really explain it, nor could he have said what exactly he was hoping Kaname would answer.
Kaname raised his eyebrows. "Do I really need a reason to go out with someone I love?" he asked quietly.
Zero froze, slowly lowering the towel from his head and looking at Kaname. His chest felt suddenly very warm and tight and his breathing stuttered slightly as he looked at the pureblood. "Kaname, are... are you asking me out on a...?"
"Date?" Kaname finished for him, ruthlessly squishing his own unease in an attempt to not make Zero uncomfortable. "Yes."
Something inside Zero leapt. He felt a soft, intense yearning inside him, coupled with a hot flush of embarrassment. He was surprised and flustered and he didn't deal well with either of those emotions.
"Date? Are you kidding? No way..." Zero shook his head, color hotly infusing his cheeks.
Kaname had to admit he loved that look on him, but he cringed inwardly because his lover was reacting exactly as he'd suspected he would. He knew Zero wasn't really rejecting him... but it kind of felt like it anyway.
"Why not?" Kaname pressed. "It's just dinner. Zero, I swear, I'm not trying to embarrass you, I just want to spend time with you... please?" he whispered softly.
Any and all further protests died before ever reaching Zero's lips. He knew Kaname didn't ask for things in that manner, didn't lay himself open like that lightly. There was no way he could offer rejection in the face of that curiously tender, vulnerable look Kaname was fixing on him.
He'd die for this man. Certainly... he could survive going out on a date with him. It was almost stupid, really, when you looked at it that way. Zero swallowed, caught and held in Kaname's deep garnet and chocolate eyes. "All right," he finally murmured.
Kaname rewarded him with a brilliant smile. "Excellent! We leave in an hour." He paused. "I... thanks, Zero," he said softly.
Zero ducked his head, confused at how to feel. He almost felt guilty at seeing Kaname so pleased by something so simple. He wanted to grumble at him that it was no big deal, but he got the feeling that maybe to Kaname it was. "Hey, you're the one paying," Zero teased with a small, hesitant grin instead. "So thank you, and now get out so I can get dressed."
Kaname gave a small nod and turned to go. Zero and he were inhabiting Kaname's old set of rooms in the Moon Dorm, so they were sharing a bathroom, although Kaname had had the guest bedroom set up for Zero. Not that Zero spent much time there. Most nights he shared Kaname's bed, even if all they did was sleep, but the pureblood knew a sense of autonomy was very important for his lover. Especially while they were back here at the Academy, where there were so many memories and old patterns of behavior to avoid.
"Hey, Kaname?" Zero stopped the pureblood before he could leave, and when Kaname turned around, the hunter leaned forward and gave him a quick, hesitant little kiss.
Kaname was surprised, and his gaze bottomed out into sheer, soul-encompassing adoration as he lightly pushed Zero back against the wall next to the towel rack, kissing him very thoroughly in return before slipping out of the bathroom with happy, twinkling eyes. "Don't be late..." he murmured.
Zero leaned his back against the cool bathroom wall and let his head fall back against it as he heard the door click shut. His heart was thudding in the wake of Kaname's kiss. The pureblood's taste was still on his lips. The steam was fading slowly as the air cooled and settled, but his body still felt very warm.
Protesting to Kaname's invitation before had been a knee-jerk reaction to something unexpected. He didn't deal well with surprises, since for so much of his life they had always been bad. He tended to pull away from the unknown first, and then consider it more carefully later.
But... the truth was... something inside his chest ached quietly. He was embarrassed and flustered at the idea of going on an actual "date" with Kaname, and yet... yet he kind of liked it too. From the beginning of their sometimes tumultuous relationship, things had always been very physical between them. Zero had given Kaname his virginity when they were hardly even over being enemies yet. He flushed with intense humiliation at thinking of it in such terms, but however you wanted to dress it up, it was still true. The intense sexual attraction and near addiction between them after that had been almost more than he was ready for back then. Love had come later. Although... maybe a thread of it had been there all along. Like a precious diamond in its rough, uncut state - it had taken time and the sometimes painful sheering off of their rougher edges before the beauty of what lay beneath could be revealed. And like a diamond, that love was strong now, despite their differences and strong willed personalities.
But maybe... maybe there was still a little something they were missing. All of Zero's most precious memories of Kaname seemed to come after one or the other of them had almost died, and while that made them doubly precious, Zero also realized he wanted to be able to have slightly more normal memories to treasure as well. He... he loved Kaname so much. Maybe... maybe he wanted to do sappy things like walk in the moonlight hand in hand and count the stars together.
He felt so embarrassed, thinking like that, but... would he have felt embarrassed if he was thinking that way about a girl? He'd never thought it weird to want to do those things with Yuki, the only other person he'd ever loved this much. So why shy away from them with Kaname?
Logically, Zero told himself these things. The fact remained, however, that it still felt different and awkward. Maybe it shouldn't, but it did. And yet... he kept coming back to the even more unshakable fact that Kaname was worth the discomfort.
Zero ran his hand down his face and pushed away from the wall with a faint, hesitant smile. Okay. Okay... he... he could do this. He wanted to do this. Zero still felt incredibly shy and hesitant, but he was determined to give this a chance. He glanced at his watch, lying on the counter where he'd left it, and rubbed fog off the dial with his thumb. Well, he'd better get a move on if he was going to get ready for... for their date.