Disclaimer: I don't own Rosario+Vampire, nor do I make any money from the writing of this story. Simple enough, ne?

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Here In My Arms

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Where had the time gone?

It seemed like only yesterday he and his friends had been battling an unknown multinational corporation bent on God-knows-what, and now they were in their last year at the beloved Youkai Academy. A place that had once terrified him had become tolerable thanks to one very special person, and over time he gained more friends, more experiences, until it came to the point where in some part of his mind Tsukune Aono began associating the inhumanly creepy institution with 'home.'

There were so many different meanings to that single word, but the phrase, 'home is where the heart is' came to mind instantly.

It was ironic really. His first day at the seemingly normal school he had been the same as any other student, or so he had thought, and soon after it was revealed to him just how grossly out of place he was. If one had tried to summarize his person in any one word before he had entered that damnable establishment it would have been quite easy.

Normal.

Average.

Unspectacular.

The list of synonyms went on and on. He had been, like most freshmen his age, absolutely unassuming. His grades were okay, his athleticism was common at best, there was nothing overly special about his appearance, and he had about as much ability to attract the opposite sex as a mountain hermit around women for the first time. Apparently, the latter was part of the or so he had thought category.

One encounter on the very first day of his new life at his new school changed the course of his completely ordinary fate to that of something extraordinary. It was really that simple; from the moment he met—collided with—the girl who redefined the word beauty, everything changed for one Tsukune Aono. Suddenly the boy who stood out as much as sand in a sandbox, the teen that had never been very popular at any time in his life, started gaining friends.

That one word is used so casually so often, but it did so little justice in his mind to classify the people close to him. He'd seen friendships based on appearance, similar interests, even proximity, but what he had with his friends went far beyond that. It always started out simply enough, or what could be called simply enough for him. After he entered Youkai Academy simple suddenly took on new meaning for the young man. It started out simple, finding enough leeway to warrant continued presence around him, and soon spiralled until he was fighting battles of convictions, battles of life and death, for their safety and ideals. They had a bond of blood thicker than any fickle friendship, and what made that all the more difficult was that most of them were women.

Fate had taken one look at the cards it had dealt the young man and nearly killed itself laughing, he was sure of that. The one person barely able to stutter out two words to the opposite gender, and turned bright cherry red whenever confronted with anything of the sexual realm, had been given not one, not two, but five females as his best friends. It didn't help that four of them were outrageously attractive in every right, and that the fifth had a mind as dirty as it was intelligent. She would be a force to be reckoned with when she got older, and she was already hard to deal with now as it was.

But no, not even that had been enough. That might have been reasonable, that any average person like him might have been able to get used to after a while. No, Fate had decided like the abusive, maniacal mistress she was, to make the school he was going to be for monsters. From the second young fifteen-year-old Tsukune's first footprint was embedded in the soil of the hidden realm, he had been the weakest, most vulnerable being there could possibly be. It was no far stretch to say a toddler in that realm could have broken every bone in his body with relative ease.

Then again, Fate had been merciful, because who should he first meet but the most beautiful, most powerful student on campus. Of course, that had been the beginning of many of his problems right of the bat, those of the life-threatening variety. People—or Ayashi as they liked to be called—drawn to her would inevitably seek to harm the insignificant whelp she always hung around, or on, as the case usually was.

Before long he had soon met a succubus more than powerful enough in her own right, with a personality and physique to match; a young witch with an intelligence quotient only comparable to her perverted mind and desire to be loved; an oddball snow woman who somehow managed to synch her ethereal beauty to her unusual choice in clothing and habits; and an older witch who against all odds had done the impossible and managed to out-fetish her younger counterpart.

They became his friends, they became his lifelines in a world not meant for the definition of mediocrity that was himself. Just because he knew he was weak, that didn't make it hurt any less. Though it was so stereotypically male, it hurt both his pride and his heart that he, the one man among them, couldn't do anything to protect the ones he cared about. Her most of all.

Moka Akashiya.

The girl who had first run him over with her bike, the one with endless emerald eyes and a sea of candy pink hair, the one no-one would suspect could hurt a fly let alone another person, was anything but mediocre. Her grades were exceptional, her appearance the likes of which came around once every several generations, and her appeal, her natural magnetism? He had fallen instantly and hopelessly in love. He was used to being a failure, being average, someone who didn't have many friends as a given. He had considered it a crime that someone as naturally gifted as her had been so desperate for a friend that she had considered him of all people as a good candidate.

Of course, something too good to be true, usually isn't. She wasn't without her own strings attached. Whom he had first thought human, was the farthest thing from. The nightmarish realm into which his father had unwittingly thrust him was pounded home when the undeniably cute young woman had sunk her fangs into his neck mere seconds after their meeting. At first glance he would have never suspected the girl who looked about as threatening as a kitten had enough strength even in her sealed form to crush solid concrete.

Even as a monster, she was singled out.

Not only was she a monster, but the pinnacle of monsters, an S-Class Super Vampire. Set above the rest, constantly aware of her superiority in every respect, it had become too much for the young vampire. So desperate had she been for a friend, she had even hoped to find one in human schools. Split into her 'Inner' and 'Outer' forms respectively thanks to the Rosario ever-present on her black choker, Tsukune didn't find the form she had taken when sealed surprising at all, not after getting to know her.

'Outer' Moka was everything 'Inner' Moka was not: openly caring and compassionate, soft-spoken, 'cute' more than 'beautiful.' She personified everything she thought she lacked that kept her from gaining friends, and sealed the mature, jaded vampiress inside. It had the unexpected side-effect of creating two separate personalities, both equally Moka yet both fundamentally different. Her insane strength and intimidating beauty was hidden behind soft green eyes and childishly pink hair, which should have allowed those unsettled by her power to get near her. For whatever reason, that wasn't the case, and 'Outer' Moka nearly became as demoralized as 'Inner' Moka. All the sealing had managed to do was turn her into a weakling, and gained her nothing.

Then came along perfectly average, extraordinarily ordinary Tsukune Aono.

He smiled even as he thought of it. It really was ridiculous if he was being completely honest with himself, and yet somehow it had happened.

But time went by, and eventually perfectly average Tsukune Aono began to hate his mediocrity, hate the humanity that made him so weak even compared to the witch four years his junior. Even with all that, he never once resented any of his friends for being stronger than him; the only thing he wanted was to be able to protect them as well. They never failed to get into dangerous situations, he was like a magnet for them, and he supposed it was only inevitable that it had turned out the way it had.

He absentmindedly looked down on his right wrist, where the enchanted chain kept what had now become his true nature in check. He was no longer human, as much as the holy links of metal bound with a seemingly simple lock made it seem. Human blood no longer coursed in his veins, it had gotten to the point that his now black heart pumped utterly vampiric blood through a body now capable of making Youki naturally, without outside interference. He had gained the power he had dreamed of, and the price was of little consequence to him anymore. He could protect those he loved, his humanity could be damned.

Training that power had been hell on earth, what with his goddess' methods, but in all seriousness he could consider himself a vampire now, not a human. Ghoul was the term given, but Ghouls didn't have will, so for all intents and purposes the Holy Lock around his wrist effectively made him a vampire. Where once he had only found belonging through a select group of people, now he had become one of them. Now he really did belong there.

Youkai Academy, the place that had been the starting point of the rest of his life, not even it could truly be called 'home.' Home came in many forms, one caring and courageous, another pure and perverted; one wintry and warmhearted, another meek and masochistic. Where his home truly laid even in the world not originally his own, was in the one yet two. 'Home is where the heart is,' after all, and he had never been able to take his back from the pink-haired—silver-haired—green-eyed—red-eyed—cute—beautiful—woman—vampire—that was Moka Akashiya.

If only he could get up the nerve to tell her how he felt.

It was their last year of school together, the year that decided where he was going to stay. He wasn't a 'boundary being' like Yukari or Ruby, at least not naturally, but that was what he had become. If he got right down to it he knew he didn't belong in the Human World any longer, but if he was to admit that to himself then he didn't know what he'd do. His parents still lived there, they still loved him, he couldn't very well just extricate himself from his family without telling them why, and he wasn't about to do anything stupid like telling them he had died or some such nonsense.

As he looked in the mirror in front of him, it was all too obvious to Tsukune how Time had treated him. He had to attribute some of the changes to what had become his vampire blood, because if anyone had told him he would look like this when he was eighteen he would have laughed in their faces. Wide, once naïve eyes had narrowed on a face finessed through years of development, and where had once stood a scared little boy, now all he saw was an intimidating young man looking back at him, nearly identical to that which he took on when he transformed. His eyes were still kind though, he hadn't lost that, not even after everything he had been through. He couldn't lose his kindness, it was a part of who he was. His dark hair still hung all around his head just like when he was younger, but it had grown enough to nearly cover his eyes if he wanted it to.

His life at Youkai Academy was marked into his body. Where previously the untainted flesh of a minimally athletic boy had been now rested the scarred, strong physique of a trained fighter; someone who had been through more than thought possible and lived. While he was a bit self-conscious about how they made him look, he took pride in each and every one of the scars that riddled his body. Nearly every one of them had been when he was trying to protect someone close to him, though admittedly some of them were from attacks he hadn't been capable of dealing with at the time.

Was it enough? Were the changes he had gone through, the years they had spent together, enough to make her say yes?

Just like everything in his life, it couldn't be simple. There were two aspects of her. Though one had only been created as a side-effect of sealing her intense supernatural power, it was still her, and he loved both sides of her. Outer and Inner didn't matter. He loved Moka Akashiya. The question was, did the 'Inner,' the real, Moka, love him as well?

Unfortunately, there was only one way to find out.

While he made his way to class, it was funny to see how all the childlike teens he had first met during his first year had developed into young adults. People he barely saw outside of class had grown just as much as he had, and he'd be lying if said he didn't get a little jolt to his selfless ego when a female head turned his way as he walked by. It was always nice to feel appreciated.

He rounded the corner into his classroom…and was promptly pulled downwards into a rather amorous embrace.

"Yahoo~! Good morning Tsuku~~~~~~~ne!

He would have smiled had he not been flailing his arms trying to breathe. That voice—this situation in general—was all too familiar. Still, it wasn't like he could calmly analyze it like his mindset seemed to be today. "K-Kurumu-chan! Can't breathe! Can't breathe!"

Thankfully—or maybe not for her—he was soon released from her grip when his gifted assailant was frozen solid and pulled away. "Cool down, you big-breasted idiot."

Where she had come from Tsukune had absolutely no idea, but god if he wasn't glad she appeared. After sufficiently re-supplying his lungs with oxygen instead of cotton, he looked up gratefully. "Thank you, Mizore-chan."

The way the Snow Woman blushed under his praise or gratitude never failed to make him feel like the consummate idiot for not being able to return her advances. Even Kurumu, who had just broken out of her icy prison, was everything a man could ever wish for in a wife. He silently cursed Fate for making him so damn monogamous, because if he could have more than one of the women he cared for and not feel like a complete and utter dirtbag he would do so in a heartbeat.

Just looking at them was a test of self-control for any hormonal young man. Mizore Shirayuki was the epitome of what most would consider a cool beauty. Stoic face, breathtaking eyes, skin of purest snow white; the untouchable air about her only added to her mystique. Her unusual style was no less attractive than any other of the many deviations from the uniform norm; in fact it fit her so well he had never really commented on it before. She was a porcelain doll hiding a cold capable of freezing Hell itself; a gorgeous woman whose expressionless face seemed like it could break at any moment, yet behind that seemingly fragile exterior lay a warrior able to freeze all but the strongest opponents solid when provoked. The lollipop that never left her mouth was just too endearing, and it was a good thing he had never been asked if he had ever fantasized about what her tongue could do if he ever felt so bold as to kiss her. He had always been a terrible liar.

Kurumu Kurono was sexuality given physical form; Lust incarnate. Just looking at her was often enough to warrant an explosion of blood from the nasal cavity. It wasn't even just that; trapped within her small, busty frame was a heart more kind and courageous than he knew he'd ever be. She still hadn't grown past her old height, and now the older Tsukune Aono found himself more than a head taller than the tiny Succubus, which always made for an amusing sight whenever she pulled him into her cleavage. Her bright sapphire hair and entrancing amethyst eyes had lost none of their previous appeal, in fact as she got older the Succubus girl started looking more and more like the wet dream her race had become associated with. It was never-ending torment for someone like Tsukune.

Why he had to hurt the two visions of beauty in front of him caused him nothing but pain. He loved them, he really did; he would always hold them dear to his heart, but it belonged to someone else. With that came the reason he had been so hesitant to confess to Moka. Openly declaring his love for any one of the girls that were as much rivals in love as they were friends was sure to shatter their friendly camaraderie. Not to mention it was a very real possibility that 'Inner' Moka would reject him, and he could never go back to what he had with his other friends.

God, this is too much for my heart so early in the morning, he groaned mentally. This decision really did affect the rest of his life, and putting it off would only make it worse than it was already.

"Good morning Tsukune!"

Speak of the devil and the devil will come…

He smiled as he turned around and was greeted rather forcefully when the pink-haired young woman threw herself into his arms, nearly throwing him off-balance in the process. He had long gotten used to his enhanced strength and reflexes however, and was able to keep them from falling to the ground at least.

"Itadakimasu!" the cheery voice called out, and before he knew it the sharp spike of awareness in his neck clued him in to her daily breakfast ritual. In other words: him. He had always wondered why she found his blood so tasty even after he had become a Ghoul, but he supposed even though she had commented on the slight change in taste it was still close enough to what he had had before that she still enjoyed it. It made sense, the vampire blood within him had become his own after all.

"Do you really have to do that right off the bat?" a disgruntled Kurumu asked as the vampire popped her mouth away from her best friend's neck and sighed happily.

At Moka's adorable pout Tsukune almost lost it, though he was feeling rather woozy already. "I-It's okay Kurumu-chan, it if keeps Moka-san healthy I really don't mind."

The Succubus eyed him warily before sighing in defeat. "Fine. It's not like we don't have this conversation every single day." Now he really felt like a heel, but then she batted her long eyelashes at him and snuggled into his side as she exposed her pale, graceful neck to his eyes. "But if Tsukune ever wanted to suck my blood I'd be more than happy to let him!"

That time he did fall down.

It was hard enough dealing with the thirst without being taunted so openly like that! Admittedly, the only blood he wanted was from the pinkette looking down on him with concern all over her cute face, but still, as he picked himself up off the ground from his rather comical face plant, he couldn't help but wonder why Kurumu didn't realize she had just answered her own question. If she would offer him her blood, why wasn't he allowed to offer Moka his blood? He sighed; love was blind and deaf after all. Too bad it wasn't mute too, because damn it was giving him a headache. Every time he looked at Moka it screamed at him to confess, to do something totally against his character and take her in his arms and kiss her breathless.

The possible repercussions of that stayed his hands, but only for now.

"Tsukune-san! Moka-san ~desu!" There was no time to react before the tiny projectile the voice had come from had latched on to his and Moka's waists and pulled them together with the pint-sized witch cuddled between them. "Can we have our threesome today?"

She was swiftly smacked to the floor by an irate Kurumu.

"Owiieee!" she cried as she rubbed the bump on her head.

"Kids shouldn't talk about things like that!"

"You're just jealous!"

"Why you—!"

One of the famous bouts between the two began anew once more, and with a sheepish grin Tsukune rubbed the back of his head before simply walking over to his seat. He didn't want to get caught up in that any more than he had to.

"You look like something's bothering you, Tsukune. You want to talk about it?"

He nearly jumped out of his desk when he saw Moka crouching over in front of him, staring into his eyes innocently. "Gah! N-No Moka-san! Everything's fine!" She was too close! Too close! It was hard enough to restrain himself when she was at arm's length, even harder when she hugged him for her daily meal, but it was absolutely terrible when there was no pretext explaining her closeness.

She looked at him with a pout of disbelief, but acquiesced to his lie nonetheless. "Alright."

Taking a quick look around him to make sure Mizore was still occupying herself watching the other two fight, he grabbed her hand before his mind could stop himself. Moka's face instantly turned scarlet, but it had the desired effect and she stopped. "W-Wait Moka-san," he whispered softly. "A-Actually, I would like to talk to you. M-Meet me alone after school."

The young woman took her hand back from his, holding it against her chest with her remaining one and looking for all the world like her head was going to burst from embarrassment. Mindful of what he was trying to do, she too responded in a small whisper, "Okay, Tsukune."

His fingers clawed at his desk, blunt fingernails scratching noiselessly against the hard wood. Her voice…her voice had sounded so soft and understanding it took all he had to resist hugging her in front of everyone. He loved her, he loved her so much it literally hurt. He wanted to hold her, kiss her, love her. God how he wanted to love her.

He was only human after all. He snickered at that.

Behind him, Mizore Shirayuki's eyes misted sadly.

The end of the day had come like a river flash frozen, dripping slowly through the gradual melt and trickling towards that much desired instance.

Studying with Moka had done him worlds of good, but sadly there was one aspect of his life in which Tsukune Aono had remained rather mediocre: his grades. He could probably send a full-size truck flying with a flick of his little finger, he had four women and a girl constantly around him so that meant his appeal had to be improving, but his grades had been and still were rather unimpressive.

Meh, he thought distractedly. Two out of three isn't bad.

He was currently sitting on top of a gravestone, one of the many that littered the area surrounding Youkai Academy. He wanted to make sure they were far enough away from the rest of the population that if he had to do what he needed to no one would come running instantly. He knew Moka could find him even with how far away he was. Even if he hadn't left her the note telling her where to meet, her inner self would have been able to sense his presence, just like he could sense hers approaching.

It was almost frightening how comfortable he had gotten using his supernatural abilities. Now that he was able to keep the strain on the Holy Lock to a minimum whenever he did, it didn't worry him so much. It was a testament to the strength of the divine metal that even as cracked as all the links were it still held firm.

When Moka appeared from between the trees, clutching his note in one hand and her Rosario in the other, he tried to swallow the mountain that had suddenly situated itself in his throat. How he wished the physical strength the vampire blood granted him also gave him a more debonair demeanor, because even though he had been around so many women for so long he was still an abysmal failure when it came to talking to them alone.

"You wanted to talk, Tsukune?"

He shut his eyes and inhaled heavily as the scent of her body trailed to him downwind. Her soft voice sounded both hesitant and apprehensive, and if he didn't know any better he could even smell fear on her. What on earth did she of all people have to be afraid of! Reopening his warm russet orbs as they honed in on her instinctively, Moka Akashiya had to try as hard as she could to keep the blood in her head.

She would never admit it out loud, but Tsukune had become a very, very handsome human. Unlike her, his raw strength could be seen clearly in his body; hard, masculine sinew hidden underneath his wonderfully fitted white button-up. His growth over the past year hadn't really surprised her; after all, it was a well-known fact that males had a more extended period of growth compared to their female counterparts. She could honestly say that she was surprised by the way his body had refined itself as he grew older however, especially his face. He looked so much like the vampire transformation he turned into when he was younger it was frankly disturbing, but no less desirable. Even with his honey-brown eyes and dark chocolate hair he looked every bit as aristocratic as her unsealed form, and that was saying something.

This might not have been so totally unnerving had she not met his family. His father was nothing spectacular, just another run-of-the-mill Japanese man, just like Tsukune had once been. His mother was an elegant beauty however, and if he had inherited most of her grace she wouldn't have been so offset by his appearance as he grew older. Though that was possible, and likely a factor in his continued refinement, she had to consider the possibility that her vampire blood had a part in it as well. She didn't even know why she was so desperate to explain the changes she had been seeing ever since their second year, but the most probable explanation was she was trying to explain why she felt so physically attracted to him, more than for just his blood.

"Yeah, I did."

She resisted the shiver that crawled down her spine when his low voice finally addressed her. When he didn't stutter he sounded positively alluring. What truly got to the emerald-eyed vampire were those eyes, the eyes she had known for nearly three years. There was a resolve in those gentle orbs, a firmness that bespoke a decision to his being, one that had been silently made in the corridors of his heart. She wanted to ask what, but her suddenly dry throat restricted any words from escaping. Licking her lips nervously at the resolute Tsukune in front of her, she hoped he would continue on his own. She had never seen that look from him before outside of battle, and she could only wonder what it meant.

'Inner' Moka continued to watch silently from the Rosario.

God he really wanted to clutch his palpitating heart. Just saying that first line without his voice cracking had been hard, and his heart was pounding so hard in his chest he was sure she could hear it even all the way over where she was. His palms were sweaty but he kept himself from rubbing them against his pants. He needed her to know how serious he was about this. So he took another breath and readied to continue, heedless of the state of unease his body was in.

Of course, to Moka, this lack of discomfort just made the Tsukune before her that much more desirable, something she had been trying to ignore. The silence between them wasn't awkward, nor was it suffocating; there was a tension there though, one she didn't want to recognize. He wanted to talk! You need all of your faculties to help him! her naïve mindset berated her. Her hormones on the other hand were telling her a completely different story.

"I-I've never done anything like this before," the young man admitted with one of his familiar grins as he rubbed the back of his head, and the friendly gesture in the middle of the unfamiliar situation had warmth bubbling up in Moka's chest. Her Tsukune had never really changed.

Both Moka's became rather alarmed at that.

Her Tsukune? When had he become her Tsukune!

"I-I mean, we talk all the time, and now that we're finally alone my tongue feels like lead! I've gone over this so many times in my head I thought for sure I'd be able to make some sense at least without something or other making me sound stupid!" He coughed there, crimson dusted on his cheeks. "I-I'm rambling aren't I?" She had the sense of mind to nod, though her tongue was feeling rather similar to his, and getting heavier. "O-Okay…well…" He pushed himself off the gravestone he was sitting on and stood to his full height, which inexplicably had the effect of slightly disturbing Moka in this circumstance, even though she knew she was stronger than him and knew just as well he would never hit her.

She was startled out of her stare when her best friend began walking towards her, and for some unexplainable reason she found herself backing away the closer he came. It was only a matter of time she supposed, but that would have only helped her expect the tree trunk she backed into had she been in a right state of mind. The young man before her didn't stop walking, and soon stood right in front of her. It was the first time she could remember being intimidated by his taller frame, and she clasped both hands to her Rosario for assurance.

It would have been so much easier had his eyes looked frightening, had they deceived even the smallest bit of cruelty. No, all she saw in his eyes were love, kindness, the very same things she had come to attribute to Tsukune. They were different this time, and that was what scared her. It just…couldn't be true.

"I don't even know how to begin, so I'll just say it straight out. I love you, Moka-san."

She must not have had as much of his blood as she needed that morning, because it felt like anemia was coming on. Her heart was hammering against her ribs, her fingers and toes were turning numb, even her head felt light. It couldn't be that easy, that simple, could it? Could he have just come right out and said directly what she had longed to hear for so long she couldn't remember? She had to keep a cool head, it was necessary; not because she wasn't affected by his confession, but because she shared a body with another personality, the true form of the body she was in.

As much as it tasted sour on her tongue, she had to voice it. "Which me?"

Tears gathered and fell from her eyes as she saw his expression soften, and he smiled tenderly at her. "I told you long ago didn't I? 'Even if you are a little scary, even if you suck my blood, to me, Moka-san is Moka-san, so it's alright!'" He held up his right arm and scrutinized it carefully before exposing the Holy Lock under his sleeve. "I remember the day I got this like it was yesterday you know. Don't—" he cut her off before she could even speak, when he saw her open her mouth to apologize. "—say anything. Every time I think back only one thing comes to mind. 'To me, the current Moka-san, as well as the Outer Moka-san, are both important to me. That's why I…wanted power to protect Moka-san.' My own words ring louder in my ears than all of your other self's protests. Even today, that thought hasn't changed. You gave me that power Moka-san, the power to fight alongside you. Even if I didn't love you, I could never hate you for that."

"Tsukune…I…I…"

He smiled at her understandingly, and her heart clenched painfully within her. "I know. That's why I'm doing this."

Seconds later she looked down in shock at his hands, where a silver Rosario was glistening in the mid-afternoon sun. The change happened instantaneously as her Youki was released from its prison, the very atmosphere around them seemingly changing in response to her extreme power radiating with abandon. Pink hair bled silver, emerald eyes absorbed into reptilian scarlet, her physical body was changed as its true nature was freed and finally Inner Moka stood, fangs gleaming, eyes pained.

A pale, feminine hand—one that bore more power than most Ayashi could even comprehend—reached up, oh so close to his cheek as she looked at him, like she wanted so badly to touch him but just couldn't bring herself to do it. "You…have changed much…Tsukune."

She was as beautiful as ever. Each silver strand of her hair stood out like metal silk in the light, casting shadows over her unblemished alabaster skin. Even the nondescript school uniform, as dull as ever, was brought to new life on her deific body. Her strong muscles accentuated supple curves not in the least bit hindered by the tone of her body, revealing a woman with such a fierce splendor looking at her really was like walking into the realm of a queen, a goddess.

"Moka-san…"

Her eyes bore true pain as she looked at him, conflicted deep in the core of her soul. He leaned forward slightly, and before she knew what she was doing she had too. Even her arrogance abandoned her in the face of this situation. She had always known he was going to have to make a choice one day, she had even told him he was going to have to make it. It might have been unavoidable, but he had chosen her, and for the first time in his life he had looked her straight in the eyes and told her. Both of her.

Their lips were so close, so close she could feel his moist breath against her skin. He had grown into a wonderful man, one that should have looked just as powerful as she needed at her side. Her fluttering eyes closed in pain as she forced her trembling hands up to his chest…

…and pushed him away.

"…I can't."

Those two words caused him more agony than anything in his entire life combined. He half-expected that little bat to come out of nowhere and give the usual one-second counter. One second. One second, two words, and he had been totally and utterly broken.

The burning sensation behind his eyes grew as the mist of his tears started clouding his vision. "…Why…?" he croaked in despair.

Her face contorted in as much pain as he had ever seen her express physically. "I…I just can't. You're…you're human, Tsukune. It's impossible for us to be together. I can't…bring myself to be with you."

The tree next to them exploded into a million pieces as his fist struck out to the side. "But I'm not human! I was, but I'm not! Not anymore!" If her face expressed sorrow, his expressed the very tortures of Hell, heavy tears falling from a face not suited for them.

"But you can never be my equal. I…cannot accept anyone who is not my equal, not even you. You must know your place, just as I must know mine."

He fell to his knees, battered more emotionally than even the S-class Super Vampire in front of him could dish out physically. Once more Fate seemed to have laughed in his face. Rejection would have been easier to handle, this was far more than just rejection. She had constantly scolded him, told him one day he'd have to make a choice, and when he finally got up the nerve to tell her…she had denied him. Not only had she denied him, she had told him flat out that she could never accept him.

"So that's it?" he whispered hoarsely.

"…That's it," she responded softly. If he didn't know any better he would have thought her voice was just as coarse as his was, but he couldn't bring himself to look at her. She gently removed the Rosario from his hand and stood once more, looking down on the body of what was indisputably a broken man. Turning away, she spared one last glance at the silent form from over her shoulder. "I'm sorry, Tsukune."

Thick tears falling from red eyes, she sped away from the scene.

Far away from the sinister-looking halls of what had been named Youkai Academy, a silver-haired woman collapsed against a tree, throwing the Rosario in her hand off to the side angrily.

She didn't cry. She never cried. She was a proud, powerful Super Vampire; the pinnacle of Ayashi, feared by all. Feared by all but one. Fear would have been preferred, but no, this one…this one loved her.

She had never known anything could hurt so much. To want something so badly, to have it, right in front of her…and have to discard it. To feel her blood, her heredity, her nature, everything she had ever been taught, rage up inside her, scoffing at its insignificance compared to her. It felt like she had swallowed acid, actually, acid would have tasted good at this point. It felt like she had swallowed Holy Water.

In the face of the confession of the person she cared about most—the one who had stood by her through hellfire and hailstorms, the young man who had refused to leave her side even after everything she had said to him and all they had been through—she had reached into his chest and torn out his heart.

She hated herself, hated the arrogance that made up who she was. She cared about him so much…they both did…so why couldn't she have said yes? The pain soon settled into a dull ache in her chest, not uncomfortable, but never receding. She chuckled bitterly. It seemed she couldn't even mourn for very long before she wrote it off as below her.

If there was a God out there Moka Akashiya prayed then and there that He hated her, because at least then she wouldn't be alone in hating herself. She prayed that Tsukune would finally hate her, that he would finally realize that all further contact with her would do to him was cause him more pain.

But somewhere, somewhere deep in the core of her soul, she prayed that she could love him.

She prayed that he could forgive her.

Looking despondently over at the silver Rosario, she was sure the cross was crying.

"I'm sorry. I'm so very…very…sorry."

Then she clinked the Rosario back into place on her choker.

An anguished scream tore the air soon after.

The days passed by in a blur.

Not even their closest friends dared confront the two, either together or alone. The sheer suffering present on their faces hindered that, like part of their souls had died. It had taken everything Kurumu had to hold out as long as she did, and when she had finally broken down and tried to rush into Tsukune's arms, a cold hand on her shoulder prevented her. She looked over at Mizore questioningly, tears hot on her face, but the Snow Woman simply shook her head silently, and that was all it took.

They knew what had happened, they weren't stupid. Only one thing could cause what they were seeing, and it left a bitter taste in the back of their mouths. Though the thought was definitely there to kill the pink-haired vampire in vengeance, they simply couldn't bring themselves to do it. The look constantly on the young woman's face bore more pain than they could ever inflict.

Tsukune noticed all this, naturally. It was almost ironic, because now he really felt as dead inside as he supposedly was. The first few days he had tried to have lunch with his friends, but he found he couldn't laugh at anything they said, nor could he smile. As he was he was nothing but a burden.

He still couldn't wrap his mind around it. Why couldn't they be together, why did she have to reject him? He could never hate her; as much as he wanted to, as much as he knew he should, prayed he could, he just couldn't hate her. He wasn't made to hate, holding a grudge was for lesser people. So, he had done what came naturally: he hated himself.

He had always known he was painfully average, nothing out of the ordinary. Even after gaining the Holy Lock he had worked long and hard to become as strong as he was, but he should have known. He would never add up.

It just didn't make sense! Myths and legends always had some sliver of truth that had sparked their creation! Folklore was exaggerations upon exaggerations usually but there was always, always, some hint of truth behind it all. It made no sense that so many humans had been friendly enough with the warring and terrifying race that was vampires in the past as to become injected frequently with their blood! There was no way the legend of vampirism in humans was all Ghoul lore, it just wasn't possible!

He wanted, needed, to become a vampire. He had thought he was, at least technically, but technicality was not enough for her. His heart ached in his chest every time it beat; his broken heart a very physical ailment that caused him nothing but grief every second longer he lived. It hurt so much…so much…

What humanity was left in him? Other than his mindset, he was no different than a sealed Ayashi. The blood his heart pumped was no longer what he had been born with, now the purest of vampire lifeblood flowed through his body, healed his injuries, strengthened his senses. He had become so accustomed to using his power he didn't even need to think consciously of doing it anymore. What had once been a gamble on his continued consciousness was now nothing more than a thought. He was a vampire. He had spent so long with the blood coursing through his veins he didn't even know where the vampire began and he ended! If not for the Holy Lock…

He stood, new life shining in his eyes for the first time in over a week. A glance around and…class had ended? When had that happened? Life had really become monotonous lately, so much so that he just went through his days, talking to no one, staring at nothing. That ended today.

Fresh purpose filling his limbs, he moved to leave, and was startled when a hand reached out and grabbed his sleeve. It only took an instant to know who it was, her cold hands gave her away. Looking back at her sadly, Tsukune could only wince at the look she wore. Her porcelain face was as expressionless as ever, but her clear blue eyes were heavy with sadness, begging for him to come to her.

"…I'm sorry."

He gently shook his arm from her grip and left the room, leaving the young woman standing there silently.

He couldn't keep hurting his friends. They needed him, just like he needed them. For being so selfless, he had been nothing but selfish over the past week and some, and yet he needed to be selfish once more. He couldn't allow himself to go on like this, he needed to know.

Her rejection stung like an infected wound, festering deep in his chest, and even over all the days that had passed he hadn't once looked at her. He couldn't remember looking at much of anything really, but he could feel his friends' pain like it was his own. He couldn't talk to them though, not about what had happened.

As much as they were his friends, they all considered themselves rivals in love. He didn't deserve to talk to them after making his choice. It was his own fault he had been rejected, he wouldn't go crawling back to them. He knew they would pity him, and they would be angry at Moka. He didn't want that.

If he was going to go back to them he was going to go back as the person he was before. If he was going to love one of them the way they wanted him to love them he needed to let them know they weren't a rebound, they weren't a substitute. But he had to know, he had to see…he had to try.

Rain pelted him as he ran through the dead forest with single-minded tenacity, but he couldn't care less. He had always liked rain. Rain brought life, nourished plants, sated the thirst of humans. Too much rain could be destructive, but even then it served the same purpose. Just like fire, rain could also signify rebirth. The only thing he had against rain was that it would hurt someone he cared about if she was left exposed to its onslaught. He sighed. He really was a fool, even now he still couldn't help but care about her.

Standing at the tip of the cliff Mizore often went to when she was depressed, Tsukune let the ocean wind slap against his skin as the waves of the oddly-colored sea crashed wildly against the rocks below. This was his last gamble. If it didn't work, he was no worse off than he had been before. He had been practically undead anyway.

Smiling blithely, Tsukune turned around and spread his arms as he closed his eyes, feeling the full force of nature push against his back, pushing him forward, to the safe ground in front of him. He laughed lightly, which was drowned out in the howling winds of the storm. Fate had never cared about his well-being, but Nature apparently did. He was going to show Fate once and for all that he could defy her whims.

Moving his arms in front of him, Tsukune reopened his eyes to focus in on the cracked links of the artifact on his arm. It seemed so fragile, so weak. His left hand closed in around it. If it worked it worked, if it didn't…at least he was making sure he didn't harm anyone else.

With a mighty yank the lock gave way, just in time for him to see a very wet, very tired Mizore, Kurumu, and Yukari running up out of the forest. They stared at him while they panted for breath…stunned…shocked…at what they were seeing. Their Tsukune was standing before the drop of a cliff…with the now broken chain of the Holy Lock dangling in his left hand.

And he was smiling.

They waited for the malicious Youki to push down on them all, waited long enough in fact they didn't even realize he was slowly falling backwards until he disappeared over the edge.

"TSUKUNE!"

Across the plain, through the forest and in one of the characteristically eerie dorm rooms of Youkai Academy, swollen emerald eyes shot open.

"Oh god…please no…"

A Rosario's eye went wide, unconsciously praying the same thing.

Sometimes, what people don't realize is that by trying to defy Fate they are actually falling into its plan.

And Fate was not yet done with Tsukune Aono.

Author's Notes: I wanted to get away from Bleach for a while, so I sat down and started on a fic I'd always wanted to write. This is all based solely on the manga, I watched the first season of R+V and was sick when I found the manga for comparison. The plot, the characters, everything is simply better, no question about it. I watched the first episode of the second season in the blind hope that it followed more of the magnificent plot but alas, it was not to be. As you can see, I set this after Anti-Thesis was defeated because honestly, I'm not gonna mess around with their storyline, I make my own.

'Fate' was just something I chose to put in there, I am by no means emphasizing that humanity has no choice in their actions. I'm sure you all understand what I meant when I chose to use 'fate' to describe certain things in Tsukune's life.

Well, here's the first chapter! I'm sure I left enough for you to come back for more…hopefully.

I hope you enjoyed the chapter!