A/N: And we've finally reached the end. :) There will be a bonus scene / chapter coming soon that encompasses what happens in the, er, strategic "fade to black" part right near the end, but I will post that either on my blog or as a one-shot story here on FFN, because it's rating will definitely be higher than the rating for this story. Thanks for reading! As always, a link to my review responses for the last chapter can be found on my bio page.

Chapter Seven: "Lead Me, Follow Me, Love Me"

Kaname tilted his head curiously, finding himself willingly enraptured by Zero's gaze. "Found what?"

"Someplace special," Zero returned softly. He wasn't sure why he was whispering, but the setting just seemed to dictate hushed tones. "That's what you said you wanted, right?"

Sudden understanding blossomed in Kaname's mind and he smiled. A faint hint of color returned to his cheeks, but it was pleased embarrassment this time. He was incredibly touched that Zero had done this, that Zero had understood and accepted his need for this to be something more than ordinary.

Zero was relieved to see that Kaname seemed to be okay with his reasons for coming out here. This was really being rather forward for him, but it just felt right. And if it made Kaname smile... if it made him happy... then the hunter could ask for nothing more.

"What do you think?" Zero asked, still sort of whispering. "Is this setting good enough?"

Kaname caressed Zero's cheek lightly, looking at him with an unusual, unspeakably dear shyness that the hunter rarely saw in him. "It's perfect," he murmured back. "Absolutely perfect." Stooping to set the cardboard box he was carrying down on the ground, the pureblood straightened back up and finally reached into his pocket, withdrawing the jewelry box.

This wasn't the way Kaname had planned it, but then, nothing with Zero ever seemed to be quite as he planned it. Yet strangely, that was okay. Actually, he thought, as he brought the box up and pressed it softly into Zero's waiting hand, this was better than he could have planned.

Zero had picked the place, and was looking at him with such tender expectation it made his heart flip flop right out of his chest. The silent park around them was like their own private little domain and the moonlight made the hunter's eyes shine like precious gems. Yes, this was better than anything he could have planned out ahead of time - just like his whole, unexpected, unlikely, unimaginably wonderful relationship with Zero had turned out to be.

Zero was hyper aware of the warmth of Kaname's fingers and the soft velvet of the box as the pureblood passed the gift to him. It didn't even matter what it was at this point, Kaname's eagerness to give it to him was as precious a gift as the hunter could ever have asked for. Zero hesitated a moment, then slowly cracked the lid of the box open. He realized his heart was pounding and he didn't even know why.

Kaname's heart was pounding too. His mouth felt dry and his stomach queasy. He felt like a complete bundle of nerves as Zero opened the lid of the box so slowly he thought he might go mad. He was torn between eagerness to see Zero's reaction and dread that it might be disappointment or perhaps merely placation. Please, let me have done this right. Let this mean to him what I want it to mean.

Zero really didn't know what to expect, so he was ready for anything as the box clicked open to reveal the small pendant resting on the dark velvet. The white gold glistened brilliantly in the moonlight and the stone was radiant. In this lighting, the royal plum cast of the crimson-purple stone was even more accentuated and the gem seemed almost to glow from within.

"Kaname... it's beautiful," Zero breathed honestly, as he traced his finger tips over the polished surface of the intricate metal work. The outline was familiar... and suddenly Zero realized that that was because it was roughly the same shape that was emblazoned in the blood seal behind his ear - a 3D representation of Kaname's family crest.

Zero suddenly froze, his hand pulling back from the pendant as a sense of familiarity washed over him. He had the unexpected, intense feeling that he'd seen this necklace before. A whirl of images from the past flooded through his mind. A locked safe... Kaname's burned hand... a rooftop under searchlights and the whir of a helicopter rotor... Zero blinked, reaching out again, hesitantly, as if inexorably drawn to touch the smooth stone, but suddenly not sure that he had a right to do so. It seemed a little different than he remembered, but it looked an awful lot like...

Awe and shock colored Zero's expression. His fingers stopped just shy of touching the smooth surface of the stone and his gaze quickly darted up to Kaname, who he found was watching him expectantly.

"K-Kaname... isn't this...?"

The pureblood nodded. He was on pins and needles trying to discern Zero's reaction. The hunter had seemed pleased, but... "Yes," he whispered hesitantly. "It was my mother's."

Zero had been with him the night he broke into Ichijo Enterprises headquarters and stole the pendant back from Asato Ichijo's safe. Actually, that had been the same night that he and Zero had first consummated the physical side of their bond as well. The first of many times that Zero had saved his soul from darkness. He thought perhaps, it made the gift even more appropriate in a way.

"I've had it erased and had the stone re-set... to you," the pureblood murmured, his gaze holding Zero intently.

Zero could hardly believe it. Something this precious... something that meant this much to Kaname... one of the few physical connections he had with his past... he couldn't believe Kaname was giving it to him. Zero knew what it was to lose everything, and how precious were the few things one could hold onto after the ashes settled. From nowhere, he felt the strange prickle of tears at the back of his eyes. His fingers ghosted again over the polished white gold and he felt a strange, pleasantly warm buzz when his fingertips just brushed the edge of the stone, as if it was in some way, alive. He felt drawn to the pendant in a way he couldn't explain. It was as if they resonated together in some fashion that felt very right. It was very probably the effect of its having been bound to his blood. He pulled back with effort.

"I-I can't..." he looked up at Kaname with wonder and heartbreaking awe. "I can't take this. It's way too precious. This is yours, Kaname. It's like a - an heirloom of your house or something, you shouldn't give it to me..." Good God, no wonder Kaname flipped out thinking this had been lost, it was one of those rare things that truly were irreplaceable, even just from a sentimental standpoint was probably insanely valuable too.

For a heart stopping moment, Kaname had started to feel the ground drop out from under him when he thought Zero was rejecting the gift, but then his lover continued speaking and the look on that beautiful, earnest face told a very different story. It wasn't that Zero didn't want the gift, quite the opposite, he felt it was too precious and that he was somehow unworthy of it. Well, that was purely ridiculous.

Kaname gave a soft, brilliant smile and the light of a million stars seemed to shimmer in his eyes. "Oh, Zero... who else wouldI give it to? You are my house. You are my family. You are the other half of my heart. For my parents, this was a symbol of their undying love. I... I would like it to be the same for us."

Zero couldn't swallow properly. There was this huge, beautifully aching lump in his throat that was getting in the way. Stupid lump. It was hard to see too, because his eyes were getting blurry with silly, sissy tears that just wouldn't go away either. But he couldn't even bring himself to care, because he felt too damn happy to worry about anything else. His happiness overflowed in soft, translucent tears that traced silently down his cheeks as he pulled the necklace from the box, cupping the pendant in his hand and letting the leather cord dangle. The stone pulsed very faintly in his grip, almost like a heartbeat.

Kaname felt his own eyes burn and his throat constrict, relief and joy jumbling together. He'd wanted Zero to know how much he loved him, and he kind of felt like that had been a success. Zero's soft tears of happiness touched his heart in a way so deep it brought answering tears to Kaname's cheeks. He didn't try to hide them. He let them fall, displaying for Zero the pureblood tears that only the hunter was ever allowed to see.

"You like it?" Kaname whispered hoarsely, his smile achingly deep.

Zero grinned, half laughing, half choking on that damn lump still lodged firmly in his throat. "I love it, Kaname, thank you." His thanks went for so much more than just the physical gift, it was for the home that Kaname had given him, for the family they had become, and for the love that bound them together.

Zero held the necklace out, shy now as he wiped the embarrassing tears away on the back of his sleeve. "Put it on for me?" he requested in a whisper. He wasn't really trusting himself to be steady enough to work anything as delicate and complicated as a clasp right now. Besides, Kaname kind of looked like wanted to.

Kaname was only too happy to oblige. Taking the necklace from Zero, he crossed behind the hunter. He reached around Zero, settling the cord about his throat before carefully fastening the hasp and tucking it down inside the hunter's collar.

The cord was just the right length so the pendant lay against Zero's chest, near his heart. It looked very natural against his pale skin as it rested just above the end of the V formed by his open collar.

Kaname moved around in front of Zero again to get a look, and he smiled softly at the sight of it nestled against Zero's skin. It went very nicely with the hunter's outfit and with his coloring, as Kaname had hoped. He was also a little relieved to see that on Zero, it didn't look at all feminine either. The pureblood reached out and lightly covered the pendant with his hand, his fingers warm against Zero's chest. He could feel the hunter's heartbeat under his hand, almost seeming to reverberate in the stone.

He did not feel the soft buzz he used to sense, when touching the necklace. He'd only been able to work the memory stone at all before because he was a descendant of his mother's bloodline. Now that it was keyed to Zero instead, he could control it no longer. It was Zero's special box of memories now, for the hunter alone to treasure and to share only if he wanted to. Kaname wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Zero's warm lilac gaze held his, still looking a little awed as if questioning whether Kaname was really sure about this. Kaname already knew he was. More sure than he'd ever been of anything. He leaned forwards and their lips met softly in the dark.

Zero didn't hesitate at all this time. His arms slid around Kaname's shoulders as the pureblood leaned in and held him close. The hunter's lips parted in quiet invitation that still managed to seem a little on the sweetly shy side. Kaname caressed Zero's lips with his, skillful tongue just teasing his lover's sensitive teeth until Zero gave a hungry, impatient little groan and came looking for him, the sensation creating electric shivers down the pureblood's spine as Zero's warm tongue slid into his mouth, easily coaxing Kaname down into his own as they explored one another with heated delight. Kaname curled his fingers into Zero's short, soft hair and Zero's fingers knotted into Kaname's suit coat as they traded long, intimate kisses under the silent canopy of the starry heavens.

It was a little while before they finally separated, breathless and flushed. It was excitement and desire that painted a rosy hue to their cheeks this time. Kaname rested his head against Zero's shoulder for a moment, arms linked around the hunter's waist, heart pounding. The breeze was cool on his flushed skin and his senses were all blissfully full of nothing but Zero.

Soft strains of music floated to them on the breeze from somewhere across the lake. A party or reception of some kind must have begun outside at one of the waterfront establishments, because it sounded very much like a live string quartet. To their vampire hearing, the music carried across the open water pretty clearly.

The breeze was cool on Zero's face too and he let his head fall back a little, gazing up at the starry sky above as he tenderly stroked the silky chocolate tresses that tumbled down over Kaname's collar, nuzzling the pureblood with his cheek. Kaname's mouth was deliciously close to his neck and for a few moments he wondered if his lover was going to bite him. It was a bit of a surprise for the hunter to realize how naturally that thought could come to him now. He had no idea when exactly he'd managed to become so comfortable with the idea of this pureblood vampire sinking his teeth into his neck... but there it was. When it was just the two of them, he wasn't afraid or as self-conscious about it as he used to be, not anymore. Not with Kaname.

Kaname did not bite him though, he was just savoring the feeling of Zero in his arms a little longer before he could finally seem to bear the idea of releasing him. The pureblood finally let go a few moments later, stepping back a little with a warm, rueful smile. Tonight was a true exercise of his control and restraint, given how much his body was aching for Zero. But his heart was so very full, he couldn't have been happier. "I'm glad you like it," he whispered softly, not really sure what else to say but saved from feeling awkward by the happy glow of the kiss still lingering in his senses.

Zero smiled, both happy and self conscious, but mostly happy. How could I not like it? Even aside from the beautiful specialness of its meaning, he had to admit it felt very right around his neck. Kind of like Kaname felt so right in his arms. He didn't really notice that warm pulsing sensation he'd been aware of when he first touched it anymore, but it still felt very comfortable as it rested against his skin, like it had effortlessly become a part of him. The hunter's fingers slid up instinctually to touch the pendant.

He yelped softly and jerked when the stone seemed to grow warmer under his fingertips and a sudden whirl of lights flickered to life in front of him. The lights were rapidly merging together to form some kind of picture before they suddenly disappeared again. He'd yanked his fingers automatically away from the stone when the apparition appeared.

Kaname chuckled softly at Zero's surprise. "It's okay, Zero. You just triggered the playback. Go on, touch it again," he encouraged.

Zero looked a trifle uncertain for a moment, his hand hovering a few inches away from the pendant about his neck. It wasn't exactly that he'd forgotten what he'd seen the necklace do, way back the first time he'd seen it. But he had much less of an idea than Kaname did of what it meant or how exactly that worked. His own curiosity was killing him though and the tender eagerness in Kaname's eyes gave added impetus, overcoming his hesitation.

Zero curled his fingers around the pendant again, holding on firmly in his fist this time as the lights whirled to life in front of him, producing a small but very clear 3D image... of he and Kaname kissing. Complete with sound. Zero flushed a little. It was kind of odd to see it from the outside like this. But it was kind of neat too. He'd never seen anything like what this stone was apparently capable of and soft wonder danced in his eyes as he cleared his throat in mild embarrassment and quickly released the pendant again, causing the image to fade away once more.

Kaname was smiling deeply. He'd wanted this to be special for Zero, and the very fact that their kiss following the gift had recorded into the stone meant that it had been. He was touched that that should be the first of Zero's memories to be captured. The first memory that they had made in the stone together... but it would certainly not be the last, and Kaname looked forward to each and every one.

"The stone in the pendant is very rare. They call it a memory stone," the pureblood said softly by way of explanation, not sure how much Zero remembered from before and not really recalling how much he might have explained back then anyway. "It is sensitive to the emotions of the wearer. Once it has been bound to your blood, then as long as it is near your heart and touching your skin, it will record short scenes if it senses... strong feelings," the pureblood whispered.

Soft awe continued to be visible in Zero's gaze. He was getting an even better appreciation for just how special this gift was. Although the small, practical part of his mind said it was going to be interesting trying to be careful not to touch it and accidentally set off playback at some... inappropriate time. "How...?"

Kaname shook his head with a small shrug. "To be honest, I don't know. It's a very old art, the secrets of which have been largely lost over the ages. There's a few master jewelers who still know how to work with the charms that harness the abilities of the stone, but the origin and power of the gems themselves are a mystery," he admitted. It had already been a rare curio millennia ago when his parents were young. Perhaps they had known more about it, but if so, they had taken that information to the grave with them.

Zero shook his head with a wry smile. "Wow... you never do anything small, do you, Kaname?" he said with a trace of overwhelmed amusement.

Kaname smiled back. "Not when it comes to you."

Zero chuckled before his eyes turned a bit more serious. "You know, I thought this whole date thing was a terrible idea at first. But, I have to say... this... this really has been a great night, Kaname. Thank you. For everything."

The pureblood practically glowed with pleasure at his lover's words. "It has been for me as well. Thank you for putting up with me, and giving it a chance. You know, there's just one more thing that would make it perfect..." the pureblood murmured, his fingers almost wistfully brushing Zero's cheek. The music was drifting to them clearer than ever. A waltz now. Kaname hesitated, wondering how Zero would react if he finished that thought.

"Yeah..." Zero whispered back, leaning slightly into Kaname's touch. His gaze slid from the moon, to Kaname, and then out across the water to wherever the music was coming from. He knew what Kaname was thinking, it was pretty clear in the pureblood's eyes. Zero couldn't pretend he hadn't thought about the same thing a couple of times... wondering what it would be like. He shifted slightly, a shy, hesitant manner stealing over him. Kaname was very patient with him. This whole date was proof of that. It wasn't fair of him to always make Kaname be the one to carry the burden of making the first move. Certainly, Kaname seemed more than adept at it, but...

"Kaname would you... would you dance with me?" Zero blurted out suddenly, in a whisper. He colored to his ears, staring studiously at the ground now and quickly second-guessing himself. Okay, and what if that wasn't what Kaname was thinking? What if you're the only sop whose been fantasizing about what that would be like? "I mean... if you want to. Nobody's here to see," he mumbled, not sure he should have spoken. Yeah... that's right, this was why he usually let Kaname make the first move, because he felt like an idiot whenever he tried. "Never mind, forget it..."

Kaname stopped the hurried words by clasping Zero's face in his hands and kissing him gently. The pureblood's heart was very full. "If you hadn't asked, I was going to ask you," he murmured truthfully with a deep, adoring smile. He didn't know why Zero still seemed so shy with him sometimes. Didn't the hunter know that anything he wanted to do would be okay with the pureblood? Even if Kaname hadn't considered it before? Well, maybe Kaname would just have to make more of an effort to make sure he knew that in the future. It would be his distinct pleasure to do so.

"Zero, I would be delighted to dance with you." He kissed the soft, moist lips again tenderly. "And I wouldn't care if the whole world was here to see." The pureblood stepped away and bent down to pick something up from the ground as a thought struck him. "Just give me one moment..."

Zero ducked his head, a pleased smile dancing on his face as he curiously watched to see what Kaname was up to.

The pureblood picked up the cardboard box he'd been toting around since the arcade and gave it a quick glance, easily reading the packaging despite the darkness. He nodded to himself as if confirming what he'd already thought. "Batteries included," he told Zero with a small, slightly mysterious smile.

Zero raised his eyebrows questioningly, but just watched as Kaname quickly opened the box and pulled out the small black globe, which was spotted with multiple plastic discs of varying colors. Two batteries were included in a small plastic bag and Kaname placed them into the square base of the toy. The little disco light came to life, the small light bulb inside the globe glowing softly and sending a cascade of multi-colored beams streaming out through the different plastic discs embedded into its surface. With a smile, Kaname set it down on the grass and the small ball rotated slowly around and around on its base. It was more of a toy than a real light, so it's illumination was quite dim, which was perfect for the mood.

Zero's surprised smile grew as he saw the way the soft, shifting, colored rays of light danced slowly across the silver, moonlit grass, making the already idyllic setting nearly ridiculously enchanting. Leave it to Kaname to find a way to improve upon perfection.

Then Kaname was standing in front of him and Zero felt himself swallowing almost nervously. He wasn't... wasn't really that much of a dancer. But what the hell? The fingers of their right hands slid together, and their left hands found each other's waists. There was a moment of pause, both of them looking at one another with expressions somewhere between hesitancy, expectation and maybe a little bit of awkwardness too. Then they started moving to the music.

The music was slow at first, and they mostly swayed to rhythm as if not sure what else to do, shifting back and forth in a small box step like teens at their first school dance who hadn't quite figured out the moves yet. There was a kind of sweetness to the awkwardness though which made it comfortable despite the uncertainty. Perhaps for the first time that evening, it actually felt something like a first date and for some reason that made Zero smile. He stepped the wrong direction and bumped lightly into Kaname's chest. Kaname tried to compensate, attempting to follow Zero's lead, and almost stepped on Zero's foot.

Kaname was an experienced dancer. Training in the social graces had been part of his upbringing. But he was, obviously, used to dancing the male part. Zero's dance experience was a little more sketchy. He knew how, but hadn't practiced much. Naturally, he too had learned the male steps, however, so that was how he attempted to move. Kaname recognized this and tried to follow him, but it was difficult for the pureblood because the other way was so ingrained into him. It was incredibly hard for him to resist simply taking the lead, but he was trying not to. Zero had asked him to dance, and he didn't want Zero to have to feel like he had to be the 'girl'.

Unfortunately, Zero, being hesitant in his knowledge, did not give a very strong lead to follow. He didn't realize that he was supposed to be leading, actually, and was simply attempting to match his steps to Kaname's in any way that worked and kept them from tripping one another. So sometimes he was leading by default, and then sometimes he was trying to follow. Both of them trying to follow was apparently just as problematic as both of them trying to lead.

The music had shifted to a slightly faster pace and attempting to keep up with it was not improving their fluidity much. It would have been embarrassing anywhere else, but here where it was just the two of them, alone in the dark after a beautiful evening... it was actually rather funny. Zero's shoulders shook softly and he started chuckled despite himself as his foot bumped into Kaname's and they jarred against each other's chests again. "Damn..." he said with dry amusement. "It's a good thing this isn't really our first date. I'm sure you'd never want to go out with me again."

Kaname laughed softly as well, attempting to follow what he thought was Zero telling him to turn, which ended up with them having to stumbling sideways to catch their balance. "Are you kidding? With those gorgeous eyes and a body like yours? Of course I'd go out with you again," he teased back.

"Oh really?" Zero returned with a playfully accusing smirk as they once again found themselves trying to go opposite directions. "So it's like that is it? You're so shallow..."

Kaname smirked in return, enjoying the verbal jousting. "Mmm... as a puddle," he agreed teasingly, lightly nipping at Zero's earlobe as they swayed back and forth.

Zero grinned and pretended to be scandalized. He rolled his eyes with resigned amusement as he bumped squarely into Kaname yet again. Maybe there were some things they just weren't meant to do... "Wow, we really suck at this."

"Speak for yourself," Kaname retorted, whirling them both around in a small, surprisingly graceful little turn that Zero found strangely easy to follow. "I'll have you know I'm actually an excellent dancer."

Somehow, Zero didn't have any trouble believing that, despite current circumstances. For a moment they moved together with an unexpected, relaxed grace and it actually seemed to be working... but then Kaname appeared to be waiting for Zero to do something and the hunter wasn't sure what. Kaname led so naturally that Zero wanted to follow, but Kaname was once again trying to follow him, so they found themselves merely shuffling back and forth a little disjointedly once more.

Zero gave Kaname an amused, but frustrated look. "Okay, that's it, just stop," he protested with a rueful laugh, bringing them both to a halt and drawing an apologetic look from his partner. He didn't know what he was supposed to be doing and Kaname's vacillation between leading and following wasn't helping. They needed to pick a method and stick to it, or be doomed to keep stepping on each other's feet. "This isn't working. Look, just lead and let me try to follow, okay?"

Kaname gave a slow nod of acquiescence, giving Zero's hand a little squeeze as they started again. "Okay," he murmured with a small smile. It was a relief for him to go back to doing what he knew how to do and his hand settled more snuggly at Zero's waist, silently telegraphing which way to move and when they were about to turn to his partner.

Kaname stepped forward and Zero stepped back, then Kaname moved back and Zero naturally moved forward. There was still a little hesitation at first, a little bit of shuffling with unfamiliar patterns, but Zero was a very quick study, and since he wasn't that strong of a dancer to start with, it was easier for him to fall into new patterns if given some clear direction. Kaname was able to provide a strong and steady lead that it wasn't hard to follow and Zero found himself flowing much more naturally to the music. He wasn't even sure how the pureblood was doing it, but with little tugs at his hand and varying pressure against his waist, somehow Kaname's body language told him which way to move and when. They weren't trying anything complicated, but by the time they'd reached the end of the waltz, they both felt a lot more comfortable.

The next piece of music was mellower and more intimate. Kaname pulled Zero a little closer, their movements slowing but remaining graceful. Zero watched Kaname's face in the moonlight as they slowly turned round and round together on the silvery grass. There was something enchanting about just moving together like this. The hunter didn't even realize that he'd stopped thinking about his feet as he lost himself in the music, the moonlight, and Kaname. Kaname was regarding him with that look again. That openly adoring one that made the hunter feel torn between kissing him and blushing and looking away.

Zero gave a soft, contented little smirk as they swayed and turned. "Okay, remind me, why didn't we just do this in the first place?" Their feet still bumped occasionally, but on the whole the change between their stilted attempts before and the perhaps hesitant, but much more relaxed naturalness now was pretty stark. "You just like seeing me trip all over my feet, or what?" he teased Kaname gently.

Kaname drank up the way the soft colored lights being thrown off by the disco ball painted the hunter's silver hair and sparkled in his eyes in the dark. He smiled a little hesitantly at Zero's statement. "Well... I didn't want to just take over if you wanted to lead," the pureblood admitted quietly. He knew he did that a lot, actually, in many different ways. The truth was, sometimes Zero got pretty damn irritated with him about it, which was the only reason he was beginning to become aware that it could be a problem. It was part of his nature, it was part of who he was and what everyone else expected of him... but everything was different with Zero, or at least, he knew it should be. He saw them as equals and he never wanted Zero to doubt that. "I don't want you to feel like you always have to follow."

Kaname's eyes were so soft and earnest that they almost surprised the hunter. Zero hadn't been analyzing the situation or reading meaning into it nearly so deeply, but suddenly he understood the significance with which Kaname was imbuing the outwardly simple act. His smile deepened a little. Just the fact that Kaname felt that way and wanted him to know it meant a lot to him. The pureblood was capable of being an arrogant control freak on occasion, but Zero had slowly begun to understand that those ingrained tendencies didn't mean that Kaname didn't respect him. The pureblood's very earnest efforts at moments like this were strong proof of that.

"Thanks," he said quietly as they continued to dance. It did feel that he was always stuck in the following role sometimes, but deep down he knew it wasn't really true. Kaname had had no problem following him into the park, or into the arcade earlier even though that hadn't been the pureblood's kind of place at all, just like Zero had been willing to let Kaname take him to see Kabuki even though he thought he'd be bored stiff. In the end, they'd both had a wonderful time.

"But I don't mind following, when you're more familiar with the path," Zero added silently, hesitantly reaching out and touching Kaname's mind lightly in order to impart the feeling of the statement rather than actual words. His gaze was earnest as it held that of the pureblood. Words sometimes seemed to stymie him, feeling right in his head but then sounding all stupid or sappy when they tried to come out of his mouth. Somehow imparting the pure feeling, the way it was in his heart, without trying to form it into a package that he could express verbally seemed easier at this moment. Some things, it was easier not to say out loud.

They slowed, but didn't quite stop as Kaname returned his gaze, flooded with the lovely warmth of the intimate mental contact that carried feelings and meaning much better than speech. Kaname loved it when Zero touched him this way. It was an incredible feeling. "Neither do I, Zero. Neither do I," he replied through the same bond, letting the hunter feel his thoughts more than hear them.

Perhaps the truth was, their whole wonderful evening was a simile of the silent truth they now shared between them. If they were both willing to let the other lead in the areas where they excelled and sometimes be the leader, sometimes the follower, if they were willing to be open minded and try new things for each other... then they both ended up having a great time, like tonight, and things went smoothly, like the close, intimate dance they were now sharing.

Zero shivered pleasantly as Kaname gave him a kind of mental caress that was not easily explained and he returned the gesture. Feeling very contented, Zero tilted his head forward, laying it lightly against Kaname's shoulder as they continued to dance together in the dark. Although they had the ability, they did not touch one another's minds or communicate without words too frequently. For one thing, they were both very private people and personal mental space was important. For another, it tended to tire Zero out, so Kaname rarely initiated the contact, preferring to let the hunter do so if and when he desired such. Incredibly strong as Zero's will was, it was inevitable that if they were mentally linked for too long, the pureblood's will would become dominant whether he intended it or not. So they limited that kind of contact. In a way, though, it merely made it more special when they did open to one another on that level. It gave a certain warmth and an almost intoxicating level of intimacy that left them both feeling as if they'd been drinking potent wine all evening.

Kaname was enraptured by the glorious, fulfilling feeling of Zero's light, hesitant touches against his mind and he stroked his lover's consciousness in return with tender, oh-so-careful caresses. It sounded odd when put into words, but for the two of them at that moment, it felt incredibly natural.

His head buzzing contentedly, Zero nuzzled the side of Kaname's neck, pushing his collar down so he could kiss the side of his lover's neck with languid fascination as they danced. It was Kaname's turn to shiver. He held Zero tightly to him, feeling the thrum of the other's heartbeat and the warmth of the hunter's mouth against his skin as they turned round and round. This, he thought, was the most perfect dance ever.

For a long time they danced, content to linger in this moment and let the world slide by unheeded. By the time the dance music ceased and the quartet shifted to playing sonatas and symphonies that were lovely, but not meant for dancing, the two vampires felt almost fully intoxicated from their own contact and the sheer loveliness of the night. Neither of them felt remotely ready to go home. They wandered down the hill hand in hand. They took off their shoes and jackets, rolled up their pants and waded in the cool, lapping water of the lake, talking in low tones, laughing, and occasionally splashing each other 'on accident'.

Many of the lights dotted around the lake were starting to go out by the time they made their way back up the hill again. The was grass soft and slick under their dripping, bare feet.

"You left your light on, you're going to run the batteries out," Zero pointed out practically, nodding to the still softly sparkling little disco ball as he dropped his shoes and socks on the ground and more carefully draped his suit coat on one of the nearby picnic tables. Kaname similarly disposed of the extra clothing items he had carried up from the lake and unrolled his pant cuffs. He rather liked the dim color display being cast by the little party light and merely gave it a glance before flopping down onto the grass on his back, arms pillowing his head as he gazed up at the sky.

"I think I can afford to get new batteries. If I save up," he teased.

Zero shot him a mock scowl and dropped down onto the grass next to him. Kaname immediately moved closer, reaching over and pulling Zero to his side. Zero started to resist, then realized he had no idea why he should want to, and allowed it. He rolled onto his side, pillowing his head on Kaname's arm and letting his hand rest on Kaname's chest, fingers lightly splayed over the pureblood's heart.

They were silent with their own thoughts for a few minutes and Zero was aware of both the feeling of Kaname's heartbeat and the small, comfortable weight of the necklace resting at the base of his throat. Silently, the hunter wondered how he'd gotten this lucky. He'd once thought his life was completely cursed. Sure, it wasn't all a bed of roses now, but... he was happy. He really was. That was something that for a long time he'd never believed would be possible.

As annoying as his lover could be on occasion, Kaname was pretty wonderful. Not that Zero would admit that to him most of the time and give the sweetly insufferable blood sucker an even bigger head than he already had... but still. It was true. Zero felt Kaname give a little shiver as his fingers slid under the pureblood's collar, finding skin to rest against. The pureblood was so incredibly responsive to him. Truly, anyone would have to consider themselves the luckiest person in the world to...

A small frown crossed Zero's face. Luck really didn't have anything to do with it though, did it? Conversation had been flowing easily between them for the last little while, as it tended to do whenever they'd allowed themselves the intense closeness of touching minds. Somehow, after feeling what the other was feeling, words became easier to say and both barriers and hesitancies were for a while soothed away into insignificance. So after a few moments Zero said what was on his mind. "You know... I wonder sometimes. If I've taken advantage of you," he admitted softly.

Kaname blinked, an incredulous smile tugging the corners of his mouth up. "Don't you have that kind of backwards?"

"No, I don't." Zero shook his head against Kaname's arm, he was obviously serious. "Kaname," he turned a bit so he could see the other's face better. "Do you think you'd love me, if... if it weren't for the blood bond?" he asked softly, his eyes hesitant and unsure, but hopeful. He wanted to be told it wasn't true, even while he feared otherwise. "I mean... earlier we were talking about that first time. You know, inthewarehouse," Zero's words ran together in a mumble as if he'd rather they not be heard, making Kaname smile. "And I can't help wondering sometimes, if..." he trailed off.

Kaname rolled more onto his side so he could face Zero. His hand cupped the hunter's cheek and his eyes burned with tender fierceness. "If this is all biological?" he whispered softly, understanding now what had Zero concerned.

Zero gave a small nod, unconsciously worrying his lower lip with his teeth. For a long time, he'd tried hard to convince himself that that was all it was. Now, he knew otherwise, but he sometimes he still wondered if he was being unfair. "I know that our bond has always effected you more than me, and that... that... you need me, to survive. And maybe... maybe I've taken advantage of that. Maybe you only think you love me, but if we weren't bound..."

Kaname laughed softly and pulled Zero close. "And maybe if the beach wasn't so near the water the lake wouldn't lap up onto it..." he held Zero to him tenderly, stroking his cheek. "No, Zero... our bond is a part of our love, but it's not the source of it. Had we no connection at all... still, I would love you with every breath in my body."

Zero felt himself relax, warm happiness threading through him again. Somehow... somehow he knew that that was true. He believed Kaname, but he felt the need to talk this out. "But you would never have thought of being with me, without it..." he whispered.

Kaname held his gaze earnestly. "No, I suppose you are right. No more than you would probably have let me touch you with a ten foot pole otherwise, hm?" he smiled.

"Try hundred foot," Zero couldn't resist shooting back with a small grin. "No, hundred and ten," he amended," making Kaname laugh softly.

"The bond did bring us together," Kaname agreed. "It forced us past our preconceived ideas and let us see what might be, which we might otherwise never have seen. But that doesn't make what we've found since then any less true."

Zero smiled, his fingers toying with Kaname's shirt collar. "You mean, it made us stop hating each other long enough to figure out that we could love each other if given the chance?" he said wryly.

Kaname gave a silent chuckle at that. "Yes, I suppose that's one way of putting it. And I'm very glad it did. I can't imagine a life where I didn't discover you." His finger slowly traced the shape of the pendant resting against Zero's breastbone.

Zero's hand slid up to cover his, curling around Kaname's fingers and the pendant. He didn't start this time as the soft whirl of lights sprang into being and the memory stone called up a small image of he and Kaname dancing together, suspended in the air. The hunter smiled, just watching for a moment. He was glad it had captured that. His first dance with Kaname on their first date. That was one of those things to remember, wasn't it?

Kaname smiled too, contentedly watching he and Zero sway together, hovering like ghosts in the night air. He liked glimpsing what was going into the stone's memory, because it gave him a look into Zero, and what effected him and his emotions. That was something that wasn't always easy to tell with his sometimes habitually introverted lover. The fact that all these things that meant a lot to him, must mean a lot to Zero too pleased him deeply.

Not really sure who started it this time, they found themselves trading silent kisses again for a minute before Zero finally leaned back and pulled his hand away, letting the image fade with a chuckle and catching his breath. "You know, that could get awkward if I accidentally set it off sometime like, oh, I don't know, in one of those boring vampire dinner parties you drag me to."

Kaname laughed softly. "I dare say that would. But you don't have to activate it when you touch it. You can learn to control it, and to control what plays and how much. You just need to practice."

"Oh, well, that's good to know. Thanks for not telling me that up front," Zero teased. "Anything else I should know? Like it start beeping if I fill it to full, or..."

Kaname leaned in and kissed Zero again soundly, cutting him off. Zero made a soft, delighted little groan of protest before he gave up whatever he'd been going to say and just kissed the pureblood back.

"No, Zero," Kaname said finally when he came up for air again. "Considering that it's been known to store several thousand years worth of memories, I don't think you're going to have to worry about it getting too full."

The pureblood turned over, rolling Zero onto his back on the grass and leaning over him as his mouth dipped down to taste those beautiful lips again before trailing down Zero's chin to his throat. Zero's neck had been driving him crazy all evening with that delightful low collar and he just had to savor it, kissing and licking the pale flesh ardently.

Zero drew a shuddering breath in as he felt Kaname's weight settle over him. "That's... good..." he murmured breathlessly, his fingers seeking Kaname's back as the pureblood coaxed sheer, beautiful fire from his sensitive throat. "Because I want to make lots more memories with you, Kaname."

Kaname beamed against his lover's skin, the intense, compelling thrum of passion, love and desire threading through him finally becoming too much for him to ignore. "I want to, too, Zero..." he murmured back around fiery kisses as he licked and sucked at the base of Zero's neck, hips rubbing slowly and suggestively against the strong, slender body beneath him.

Zero's shirt had come un-tucked and Kaname was unable to resist letting his hand slide under the hem, traveling slowly across the smooth skin of Zero's side and the toned planes of his abs. "I'd like to start... right... now..." the pureblood panted softly, his eyes starting to deepen to that darker color they sometimes took on when he was particularly aroused.

Zero reached out and caressed Kaname quite intimately with his mind and the pureblood shuddered, eyes nearly rolling back in his head.

The answering brush of Kaname's mind left Zero gasping for breath, his groin burning mercilessly. Whoa... this was good. Zero gasped again, head arching a bit against the ground as Kaname's skillful, searching fingers found a nipple beneath his shirt and teased it skillfully. His body felt extra sensitive and his senses danced with delight.

Kaname drank up the reaction, his body throbbing almost painfully. He knew they were starting to skirt well beyond where he was going to want to come back from again. "Zero..." he murmured hoarsely, lifting his head to gaze into his lover's eyes as his fingers continued to twist and tease the warm, velvety nub of the hunter's nipple. "Do we still have to be on first date behavior...?" he groaned softly in a tone that was faintly pleading and intensely seductive.

Zero chuckled breathlessly, fire jolting from Kaname's fingers on his nipple straight to his groin, egged on by the slow, steady rubbing of the pureblood's hard body against his own and the light, somehow erotic caress of Kaname's consciousness. They were outside, in a frigging public park... but it was well after midnight and there was no one out here... and to be honest, he just really didn't care at this point. It had been an intensely beautiful date and Kaname was so sinfully, wonderfully close. "Oh, I think that ship has so sailed already, Kaname..." he murmured back with a heated grin, his hands sliding down to grip his lover's backside and rock Kaname's hips more firmly against his own.

Kaname's heated smile was deep and delighted as his head quickly dropped down once more to capture those delicious lips and suck Zero's breath skillfully out of his body.

------------------------------------

Epilogue

It was almost dawn when Kaname and Zero finally returned to Cross Academy. Kaname smiled to himself as he slid silently through the trees behind the Moon Dorms and slipped in the back door. The irony of sneaking back to school in the wee hours of the morning after a particularly... delightful date was not lost on him. Technically, he had no need to sneak as he wasn't a student there any longer and even when he had been no one would have questioned his coming and going.

But the pureblood was thinking of the adorable, sleeping burden he was carrying in his arms. Zero's hair and his clothing were suggestively disheveled and he probably wouldn't have been pleased if Kaname simply walked up the main drive carrying the slumbering hunter bridal style in front of him. At this hour, even the vampires were most likely already in bed and the hunters and humans were probably only just beginning to stir, but still, the pureblood knew Zero wouldn't have liked it.

Kaname pressed a soft kiss against Zero's damp, tousled hair as he climbed up the stairs with him, careful to make sure the hunter's dangling arm didn't bang into the banister. Kaname was quite tired himself, but he didn't mind carrying Zero. Ultimately, he was sort of responsible for his lover being out like this anyway. The hunter was completely worn out from their delightful evening and their... activities... in the park. It had been beautiful and intensely intimate and they had allowed themselves to touch and caress one another both physically and mentally, as they did very rarely. It was an aptly special ending to a very special day.

One of the side effects of that though, was that Zero fell deeply asleep afterwards and was fairly impossible to awaken. Kaname had laid with him for a long, peaceful while on the grass, also exhausted to a certain extent, his heart so full he thought it might burst. But eventually of course, they had to come back. Kaname could have called for the car... but he hadn't wanted to. With vampire speed, it wasn't terribly far. Kaname hadn't really even hurried. This was their special night and he treasured the long walk back to the Academy with his lover sleeping peacefully in his arms.

Now they were home though, and the pureblood was glad because he was feeling pretty weary himself and very ready to fall into his nice, soft bed. Beside Zero.

Kaname turned into the hallway leading to his rooms, starting to summon the energy to work the door with his mind, since his hands were occupied, but he didn't need to. Takuma was making his way down the hall from the other end. The pajamas he was wearing and the plate of cookies in his hand said he'd probably been down to the kitchens for a bedtime snack. The pitcher of milk suggested that he was getting the snack for more than just himself, probably Shiki.

When the blonde saw Kaname, he quickly set the plate and pitcher down on the floor and hurried forward, opening Kaname's door before the pureblood got there.

"Thank you," Kaname gave his friend a small smile as he reached the doorway.

"Good date?" Takuma asked with an affectionate and knowing smile as his green gaze slid across the pair's rumpled clothing and their obvious, happy exhaustion. His gaze caught on the open neck of Zero's shirt, where a small gem rested against the hunter's pale skin. Even though the colors seemed to have changed a bit, Takuma instantly recognized the pendant he'd seen many times around Juri Kuran's neck when he and Kaname would play together as small children. The noble's smile deepened, an infinitely tender and happy look in his gaze as it shifted up to hold Kaname's. He was so glad. So fiercely glad that his friend had found a love like this, one that could complete him so utterly.

Kaname caught where Takuma's gaze had lingered before finding his and his answering smile was deep. "You have no idea," he responded with a twinkle of amusement and bliss in his tired eyes.

Takuma grinned broadly and just stepped out of the way, holding the door for them as Kaname carried his exhaustedly slumbering lover inside. He shut the door softly behind them and picked up the cookies and milk once more before slipping away down the hall. A tender, happy smile danced on his lips. Oh, I think I have a pretty good idea, Kaname.

Back in the bedroom, Kaname laid Zero down gently and got him ready for bed. He removed his lover's rumpled clothing and changed him into a fresh, soft sleep shirt. The light, cream colored tunic was lightly embroidered and ornamented with a Turkish flair, falling most of the way down to the ex-human's knees. It had a matching pair of pants, but Kaname rather liked it when Zero didn't wear pajama bottoms to bed, and since the hunter wasn't exactly in any position to voice an opinion... Kaname smiled fondly as he shed his own rumpled clothing and slid into a similar sleep shirt.

He draped his and Zero's suits on one of the nearby chairs, intending to have them sent out for cleaning tomorrow. Zero's orchid he removed carefully and set on top of the dresser. His rose was more or less fixed to his jacket until Zero released it, so that would have to wait.

An amused smile danced on Kaname's weary lips as he set his little disco light, whose batteries were thoroughly dead now, on the nightstand and then turned to regard the hunter's resting form.

Long fingers brushed tenderly through mussed silver locks as the tired pureblood took a moment to enjoy the sight of his sleeping lover. Zero stirred finally, violet eyes fluttering blearily open for a moment to catch a glimpse of the room and the pureblood before closing again as if the effort was just too great. Somehow, his sleepy brain just managed to process the notion that they were back at the academy. How they'd gotten there didn't really cross his mind yet. Maybe it would tomorrow.

"Stop standing there staring at me like the freaking cat that ate the damn canary..." Zero murmured in fondly annoyed, sleep slurred tones. The hunter's hand came up to grasp Kaname's arm, giving a tug that indicated he should get some rest too, preferably somewhere in close proximity.

Kaname willingly followed Zero down to the bed, curling up contentedly beside him as their heads rested together on the pillow. Zero, not really awake, tugged Kaname's arm over him and snuggled into the pureblood's shoulder more by instinct than anything else.

"... 'at was a really good date," the soft, slurring murmur was muffled by Kaname's nightshirt, only barely audible as the hunter's body relaxed back to sleep with a soft sigh that was awfully close to a satisfied purr.

Kaname smiled as he curled closer to Zero, pulling the covers over them both. He closed his eyes, face buried in a tangled mane of silver hair. "Yes, Zero. It was," he whispered back.

THE END

"We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance."
--Japanese Proverb