a/n: Chapter 13 was originally going to be much longer, but all the information got sort of bunched up and I didn't the way it was flowing all together, so I just decided to split it up (hence Chapter 14). I'm also debating whether to end this fan fiction in a few chapters or not. As much as I love Left Behind, I really don't want to get too into the recent manga arcs if I can help it. Granted, Yori's appearing quite a bit more in the manga now, but still. And I'm sorry for the belated chapter. I've recently had a surgery and I'm currently recovering from it. It's no excuse—and I don't intend it to be one, but I just wanted everyone to know that. Anyway, enjoy!
Vampire Knight © Matsuri Hino
It dawned on me that this was actually the first, real conversation that I had with Zero since the day I ended things. This is the first time we'd been alone together too. My heart pounded. With Ame leaving, I had almost let that slip my mind. I wish I had.
Zero turned. "I'll walk you back to the Sun Dormitory," he offered.
I was ready to decline his offer, to remind Zero that we can't go back to the things were between us, but I realized this would do no good. Obviously, Zero wouldn't leave me alone in the forest and if I rejected his offer, I was positive we'd always end up in some sort of misunderstanding or argument. I wasn't second-guessing my decision about Zero and me. My hesitance earlier was a weakness: a weakness that I would have to eradicate. Before the Night Class returns. Before Yuuki returns. I would not betray her. No, I'll only comply with Zero now to please him, to not make things more complicated than they already are. This is a friendly gesture, I told myself. He's being friendly. Zero is the type of person who wouldn't leave someone alone like this. And I wasn't going to trample over his good deed.
"All right," I finally agreed. "Let's go back, Zero-kun."
Zero stared at me, apparently expecting different words or an extended exchange. Clearly, he didn't expect me to agree with him so cordially. He lingered for a moment before he turned and we began walking. I hoped Zero didn't take my compliance as an invitation. My compliance was merely necessary under the situation. Zero wouldn't have left me alone, and I didn't want to get into fights with him. My agreement was the fastest way to get out of the forest.
The walk back from the Moon Dormitory to the Sun Dormitory felt longer than it did before. Every tree in the forest looked identical, and it seemed like we were wandering in an endless labyrinth. Zero walked ahead of me while I trailed behind. I tried to distract my mind with other thoughts. School. Horseback riding. Shopping. Yuuki. But instead of those potential thoughts, a different one appeared instead: my conversation with Ame.
"What's bugging you the most? Start from there. I told you that, didn't I? If you start from there, then I'm sure you and Kiryuu-san will be fine."
Her voice echoed in my head so clearly. Why was I thinking about that moment—that conversation—now, of all times? I knew the answer only too quickly. Zero. This conversation was about Zero. Even though I tried to steer my thoughts away from him, he always ends up on my mind. What was bugging me the most? Zero? No, it wasn't Zero. Maybe it was this awkwardness, this tension between us. Maybe it was everything that happened between Zero and me in that empty room. Maybe it was the thought of losing Zero. Maybe it was the thought of betraying Yuuki. Maybe it was Zero's unspoken words. It could have been any of those; it could have been all of them. The only thing that I knew of—the only thing that I was sure of—was that I didn't want to hurt Zero.
My gaze poured against his back. When a person disappears from your life, you begin to remember things about them that you didn't notice or care too much for before. When Yuuki disappeared, I remembered her in a cotton sweater she'd sometimes wear or the way her scent filled our dorm room or the way she would sleep so peacefully on nights when she wasn't so restless. I even remembered when one of the horses kicked her after getting provoked by something. I remembered these things, and yet I've forgotten. I forgot what color the sweater was or what the scent smelled like or if Yuki snored in her sleep or not. I don't remember the name of the horse that kicked Yuuki. I didn't realize until now, but Zero was tall. Our heights were obviously different, but I never took it into consideration until now—until I stared at his back and saw how long and broad it was. Zero could tower over my figure so effortlessly. I didn't realize something like this until it was right in front of me. This image—I didn't want to forget it like the sweater and the scent. This would all I'd have of Zero left. This memory. My hand reached out, and before I could stop myself, I grabbed onto his blazer.
My eyes widened in shock and I quickly let go, but it was already too late. Zero had noticed and turned.
"What?" he asked, perplexed. "Did you lose your footing?"
He thought I tripped. I sighed in relief and shook my head. "No. Sorry, it's nothing," I hastily apologized, just wanting this little slip-up to pass. I covered the hand that touched him with my other hand sheepishly and blushed. How embarrassing…, I scolded myself.
Zero frowned, scratching his head. "Here," he said, extending his free hand out to me without thinking. We stared at each other for a moment before he awkwardly began to lower his hand, realizing that we could not be as comfortable with each other anymore. Seeing that expression on his face again bothered me more than it should have, and I instinctively grabbed onto his arm with both of my hands. Another slip-up.
I immediately let go of him, startled by my own actions. "S-Sorry. I…," I began aimlessly.
Is this how it would always be? Would Zero and I act ridiculous around each other, unable to have a normal conversation or a common gesture without stumbling over them? Everything seemed to feel so awkward now, more so than when Zero and I were starting to become friends. Perhaps I ended things too hastily, too rashly. Perhaps we didn't end things on well terms as I had thought. Ame told me to be more honest with my feelings, but maybe I'm just not an honest person. I was never really one to speak my mind or voice my thoughts. They were private and personal, after all. But I guess it was because I didn't really think it was that important; I guess I was afraid no one would listen. Would Zero… listen? I slowly found myself grabbing his arm again.
Zero was uncertain on how to interpret my abrupt action. He appeared reluctant towards my touch, but he wasn't discouraging it. "What are you…?" he asked, taking a hopeful step forward.
I blinked rapidly. No, this wasn't an invitation. I had to say what I had to say before he got any wrong ideas. "Say, Zero-kun… Can we talk?" I asked him quietly. "About… what happened before?"
Zero flinched and jerked my hands off of his arm. "Don't touch me," he growled.
I was jolted by the sharp physical and verbal rejection. Those were the same words that he told Yuuki at the vampire soiree. My heart pounded. I placed my hand against my chest. This pain inside me... Did Yuuki feel this way when Zero rejected her? Did Zero feel this way when I rejected him?
"It's getting late. We should get going," Zero changed the subject and turned. I grimaced and reached out, my hand nearing his back once more.
"W-Wait a minute—"
"—Why? Why should I listen to a hypocrite's words?"
I flinched. My hand faltered and finally fell to my side. I lowered my head.
"Please don't say… what you were going to say. You'd regret it."
That's right. That day, in the empty classroom, I didn't listen to Zero. But I did it to save us—save what was left of us, anyway. Those words, if ever spoken, could never be taken back nor could they be forgotten. Once said, it would destroy us both. We can't have the relationship we had only days ago, but we could still cling to what we had before all of this happened. We could be classmates again and talk only out of necessity: a morning greeting, a mention of Yuuki and schoolwork, or randomly discussing the weather. It wasn't much, but we'd still have something to hold onto; I could have still something to hold onto. I was being selfish; I didn't listen to him, but then again, there were a lot of times where I didn't. Whenever a conversation went unplanned, whenever he took my arm when I wanted to leave or looked at me with eyes that wanted to be met, sometimes I'd avoid the touch or ignore the glance. It was an automatic impulse to reject anything that contradicted my world that once revolved around Yuuki. And Zero… Well, Zero was one, big contradiction in my fragile world.
I lifted up my head and stared at him. The last thing that I wanted to do was to hurt Zero—I tell that to myself over and over again—and yet it seemed that no matter what I did or what I didn't do, hurting him was the only option. It wasn't fair. None of this was fair. But, most of all, I wasn't fair.
"You… should be more honest with your feelings, Sayori-chan."
Why should I? The end result would only be the same and bringing it up only brought Zero and me pain. I ended things with Zero; I made that very clear with him. Any further contact would only give us false hope for a friendship that could never prosper; anything more than that was a delusional fantasy. I shouldn't be doing this. Deceiving Zero was unkind, but honesty was much worse.
I pulled out Ame's note from my pocket and stared at it again. I closed my eyes and loosened my hold, letting it slip out my fingers. Say, Ame-san, I wish I could have told her. Did you know? Being honest with yourself is more difficult than I thought.
"Mm. You're right, Zero-kun. Of course you are," I decided and began to walk ahead of him. "Forget what I said then… okay?" In the end, I shouldn't have said anything at all. Zero was right. I'm sure Ame just wanted to help, but I think her advice did more harm than good.
Everything happened so fast that I didn't have time to process it all. Before I knew what was going on, I was cornered into one of the trees, my back pressing against the wood, as Zero stood in front me with one of his hands at my collarbone and the other holding my wrist. Pain panged from my back and wrist, and the tree shook slightly from my impact. A leaf or two fell into my hair. My breath stiffened and I looked down, unable to stare Zero in the eye. I was afraid of what expression I'd find on his face.
"Z-Zero-kun… I-It's getting late. You said so yourself, didn't you? We should really be going…," I hastily tried to persuade him. When that didn't work, I tried to push him from me with my free hand, but that only made him press me back harder. "Zero-kun… What are you…?"
"Just tell me what you were going to say already!" Zero yelled. I flinched. Noticing my reaction, Zero lowered his gaze and gritted his teeth together. He exhaled and then spoke in a lower, softer voice, "… Then, you can stop tormenting me."
I looked up at him, incredulous. "I'm tormenting you?"
"You don't get it, do you?"
Zero stared at me, as if his stare alone was an answer enough. I was tormenting Zero? How could I… Perhaps I was. Zero would have never brought up that discussion in the empty classroom unless it had something to do with me—unless I did something to make him even consider his unspoken words. I led him to say those words. Zero-kun and I are close, I had once said to Maria Kurenai. Zero-kun became an important person. He's precious to me. But what did I mean when I said those words? Back then, I was so sure of myself, so confident. I told Zero that I meant every word. Now, I reflected on those words and found myself uncertain. Yes, Zero is important to me. Yes, he is precious to me. But when I said those words, what did I really mean? Did I mean it as a friend? Did I just say it because I was provoked by Maria Kurenai, and I wanted to spite her? Or…
There was a reason, I was sure. There was a reason why I started this arrangement of give and take in the first place, why I volunteered to ease Zero's suffering and to become Yuuki's replacement. There was a reason why I couldn't answer Zero when he asked what he was to me, and there was a reason why I finally found the words to answer him. There was a reason why I felt like I was betraying Yuuki by becoming so close to Zero, and there was a reason why I was growing to resent my role as Yuuki's replacement. There was a reason why I didn't tell Zero that I was engaged. I avoided these thoughts for so long, ignored them, denied them, and now it all came rushing in to me with no warning, and I had no choice but to face them all.
What I was unable to admit to Zero.
What I was unable to admit to myself.
"Well?" Zero asked, waiting for my answer.
I stared at Zero, and it was almost like I was looking at him for the first time. I lifted my free hand up towards him, and Zero removed his hand at my collarbone and caught it instinctively. But I didn't let that stop me. My fingers found his face and cupped his cheek. Zero furrowed his brow, trying to calculate why I'm doing this, trying to reject this close proximity, but his head caved in and leaned into my touch. I wondered if I had realized all of this sooner, would the outcome have changed? Could things have been different between us? Could we have been… No, I thought. In the end, things would always be the same.
"I have been tormenting you… haven't I?" I finally agreed, meeting Zero's gaze, and smiled sadly.
Zero's eyes flickered. "Wakaba?"
"All right, then. I'll tell you what I was going to say, and then I'll release you, Zero-kun… from this terrible web I've ensnared you in."