Cross Academy Kindergarten

_._._

It was a fine Tuesday morning when the teaching staff of Cross Academy Kindergarten was witness to Wakaba Sayori dropping her coffee cup as she stumbled into the staff room. Her face pale, she paid no mind to the spilled drink and limply fell into her chair, shaking her head in denial.

The teachers all watched her with a sense of trepidation, one muttering unintelligibly under his breath before making a quick exit. Two more followed in his wake.

"Ichiru-kun, you're sure? He really can't come in?" Sayori murmured faintly into her phone. She barely took notice of her observers simultaneously blanching in horror at what her one-sided conversation must be leading up to.

The moment she nodded, "All right, I'll just get someone to fill in for him then," the staff room couldn't have cleared out any faster.

Sayori sighed and stuck her phone back into her pocket, looking out at the empty room. She'd have to go to the Elementary building and see if there were any substitutes available. It was impossible to ask anyone in her division to cover for her colleague's class.

Class 106 was worth every rumor going around, true or not. Every kindergarten teacher with the exception of one was completely terrified of going anywhere near the classroom at the very end of the first floor.

Things were different in the beginning, of course, with many of them thinking it would even be something of an honor to teach those…those kids, but they all quickly learned appearances could be very, very deceiving. Delicate cherubic faces were not indicative of sweet personalities, nor were perfect academic results a sign of good behavior. No, class 106, consisting of the top students, the wealthiest, most beautiful little five year olds, were not in any way sweet or endearing.

Expression grim, Sayori leaned over to pull out her colleague's desk drawer to look for his students' profiles. She would need to hand them over to the sub for preparation if not as a warning. If things had been recorded properly, every damaging offense should be written out for the sub to see. She doubted it was the best way to convince anyone to fill in, even if just for a day, but it would hurt her conscience even more if she let someone walk into that classroom completely blind.

Stuffing the profiles into her bag, she left for the Elementary building, eyes determined if not a little anxious, and prayed to whatever god was out there, that her colleague would be well enough to come in the next day.

In the end, her search for a substitute was unexpectedly short, though she did wonder if the candidate herself was at all capable of handling 106 for an entire day.

"Don't worry, Wakaba-san, it's only for a day, right? I'll be fine."

"Are you sure you don't need to see their files?" Sayori gripped said files worriedly.

Narita Yumi shook her head. "I don't want to have any preconceptions about them before I even get to meet them in person. Thank you though."

"Still, I insist you at least keep them with you," Sayori handed them over. "You don't have to look through them, but," she pursed her lips, "I'm sure you'll get the urge to, some time during the day, so I think you should have them with you."

"…Okay." Yumi nodded uncertainly, slightly bemused at the confidence the other teacher seemed to have in her convictions.

"Good luck," Sayori said firmly, "If you need anything, anything at all, just run to the staff room and I'll do what I can."

"…Okay…?"

Coming to a slow stop in front of room 106, Sayori overrode last minute doubts in her mind. "Do you…want me to introduce you to them?" She offered. "They might fair better with a familiar face." Not that the children knew anything of her other than she was another fellow kindergarten teacher here.

"Oh, you think so? Are they people-shy?" Yumi actually looked worried for the kids and Sayori tried not to feel her guilt and conscience weigh her down. The sub seemed like such a sweet woman…

"…Ah, yes, you could say that." She finally answered. It wasn't exactly a lie. If…she inwardly corrected, one took out the 'shy' and replaced it with 'hater' along with 'for anyone who wasn't Kiryuu Zero' tacked to the end of it.

"Well, I guess I'll let you do the honors." Yumi said gently.

Honors…right. Pushing the door open, Sayori didn't bother for smiles or round about words. Clearing her throat, she waved towards Yumi who had come to stand beside her. Ten small children immediately paused in their activities and turned their wide eyes on the women.

"I'll be short." Sayori began. "Zero-sensei isn't going to be here today. You'll have Yumi-sensei instead. She isn't part of the kinder staff so welcome her nicely. Treat her like a guest."

"Where is Zero?" Zero wasn't in the habit of speaking of his students too often, but every teacher knew of Kuran Kaname. A fine specimen of aristocratic breeding, she doubted there were many five-year-olds who could match his delicate features or intelligence. Adults tended to be swept away by his beauty and impeccable manners and never saw past the charming smiles to the devious child within.

"Zero-sensei is sick today, so he can't make it—"

"What! He's sick? Like when I had the flu? Is he throwing up?" Wide blue eyes shined with curiosity, belonging to one excitable Aidou Hanabusa. Pale and blond with a bright character to match, it was easy to mistake him for a cherub or an angel.

Sayori softened (marginally) at their show of concern. Hellions to everyone else they might be, they really did love Zero. "He's all right." She reassured. "He's not throwing up," at least, he wasn't from what she'd gleaned from Ichiru on the phone, "and he told me he might see you guys tomorrow."

"Oh good." Hanabusa sighed.

"Yeah, he's coming tomorrow." Next to him, Kain Akatsuki nodded. He was one of the quiet ones. He shouldn't give Yumi too much trouble, Sayori noted. Not every one of them was a lost cause, hard as it was to believe.

"I want to go home."

But there were a couple that liked to be difficult. Shirabuki Sara stood up, her arms crossed. Long golden curls bounced across her shoulders with the movement, her bright sapphire eyes defiant. "I want to see Zero."

Sayori held in a sigh. "Shi—"

"But Sara, Zero's sick." An adorable brunette, known as the 'sweetest' amongst the Little Terrors – Kuran Yuuki – was another name every teacher had memorized. Many tended to believe she was the most decent out of the bunch, but Sayori knew better. Yuuki just had the extraordinary ability to seem ordinary.

"I don't care." Evidently, Sara wasn't feeling too complacent. "I bet you want to see him too."

"I do, but you can't see him if he's sick. He has to get better."

"Kaname, are you going to say the same?" Sara demanded.

"She's right, Sara. We will disturb the rest he needs. Sayori-sensei said he 'might' see us tomorrow. There is a chance he might not. If we want to see him, we have to let him rest."

"Kaname is right, Sara," a green-eyed blond spoke up cheerfully. "It's best to let him get better so he can see us tomorrow." Sayori couldn't immediately dig his name up, but he was a bizarre mixture between Hanabusa and Yuuki in temperament.

Her full lips trembling in anger or sadness Sayori couldn't tell, Sara reluctantly took her seat once again, utter mutiny residing in her glare.

In an obvious effort to even her temper, Kaname prodded, "Zero told us to do well, remember?"

Sara gave a dismissive scoff. "That was a long time ago." She muttered, but even Sayori could tell she didn't mean it.

"But you know what he wants." So did Kaname.

"…Yeah."

Sayori cleared her throat to gain their lost attention. "If you want to give him any get well cards, you can hand them to me so I can make sure he gets them properly." She offered.

Predictably, that got their minds rolling, and the entire class fell silent as they considered her suggestion. Not a minute later, the room exploded with conversation.

"He'll get better faster if we make him cards." Kaname said softly, contemplatively.

"He likes cherry blossoms, so I'm going to have them on mine." Yuuki chirped beside him, cheeks flushed with excitement.

Sara squeezed her one-piece dress. "…He told me he liked peaches…" She murmured.

"I'm making one too!" Hanabusa grinned. "It's going have dinosaurs!" He roared and curled his small fingers into makeshift claws. He turned to attack Akatsuki who laughed and playfully pushed him back down on the floor.

Ruka rolled her eyes at their antics as she swiftly leaned out of the way.

"Takuma, I don't know what to put on my card," Senri mumbled.

"It's okay. Tell him good luck. We can make one together if you want. I'm going to have a special charm on mine…"

Giving herself a pat on the back for getting the kids sufficiently distracted, Sayori patted the substitute on the shoulder, gave her a stiff smile and made for a swift exit.

Zero-kun, please get better, she prayed. I'd hate to break another aspiring young teacher's dreams.

Well, that and having to call for an ambulance before lunch.

_._._

Back in class 106, the students had all migrated to the tables and chairs that were set up in one corner of the large room. Not a single child wandered astray, all diligently at work, facing a blank piece of paper.

A few minutes passed by without any change until,

"We need—"

"Yeah."

"Hey Yumi-sensei." Senri called out.

"Oh, yes?" She answered eagerly.

"Give me the keys to the cabinet." He came up to her with his palm out and ready.

"...The cabinets?"

A hand pointed to the cabinets in question. Indeed, there was a strong lock in place to keep its contents safe from rabid pre-schoolers.

"What do you need from there?" Even as she asked, she took out the assortment of keys she'd been given from her pocket.

Senri didn't deign her with answer, merely reaching for the keys.

"Wait." She held up her hand. "Can you tell me what you're getting? There might be things you shouldn't touch—"

One moment, the keys were in her hand, and the next they were in Senri's. She hadn't even seen him move.

Leaping onto the counter that was underneath the cabinets with a frightening amount of ease, he didn't hesitate in choosing the right key to open the lock. Pulling out a fairly large box, he lifted it over his head and jumped back down.

A closer look told her they were art supplies. Everything from crayons to paints and modeling clay were organized carefully in specialized compartments.

Frowning, she tilted her head. Weren't they scheduled to go over their reading assignments first thing? It was the regular standard from what she'd heard of the Kindergarten section of the academy. Did the kids intend to spend the day playing around?

Why was she letting six-year-olds order her around anyhow? Why did Sayori? She had let the kids decide everything from the very beginning and hardly put forth any effort to control their behavior.

These kids just needed someone to give them a firm guide in the right direction, she told herself, and got up from her seat determinedly.

She cleared her throat. "Everyone, I want you to work on your assignments, like your schedules tell you."

She waited for a reaction.

The quiet conversations and scribbling continued without pause. None of the students even bothered to look up.

Her face tightened. "If you don't, I'll have to take your cards away until you do."

"Oh, really?" It was Sara who spoke up. "But that's not the way it goes, Yumi-sensei."

Deciding to humor her, she inquired, "How does it go then?"

"First you do this," she made a zipping motion across her mouth, "then you sit right there and look at the wall. That's the way it goes."

Shaking her head, Yumi laughed softly. Kids really were the cutest things. "I see. That's nice, but you need to do your work."

Yuuki whimpered. "You're going to take our cards away…"

Beside her, Kaname clenched his jaw. "Seiren." He called softly.

"Yes, Kaname-sama."

That was all the warning Yumi got before darkness greeted her like a long lost friend.

_._._

Lunch soon rolled around before she knew it, and Sayori had almost forgotten about class 106 until her colleague hesitantly asked, "Is everything okay with that class do you think?"

Opening her lunchbox, Sayori could only sigh. "Well, we haven't heard anything yet. If there was trouble, I told the sub she could come to me. Since she hasn't I'm going to assume all's well and she's still alive."

Yana laughed nervously, picking at her own food. "Yeah…right. I just, I mean, I feel terrible for pushing it onto another teacher, but those kids…" She visibly shuddered.

"I know." Boy did she know.

"Just the rumors are enough to get me the willies. I hope she's fine."

"Yeah. I told them she wasn't one of us, so that should have made them go a little easier on her."

"Right." Yana sounded incredulous. "What is up with them anyhow? I seriously think they have more than a few psychological issues that need looking into. I talked to the chairman about it, but," she waved her hand, irritated, "he wouldn't listen to a word. Said it was good for kids to have 'strong personalities'."

"He would say that, wouldn't he," Sayori murmured flatly. She had her own personal experiences with the man.

"And you said how many teachers quit after one day with those kids? Like four? And the ones that stayed are too terrified to go near them." Yana had come along after the whole 106 fiasco was settled and was only acquainted with horror stories.

"If Kiryuu-san didn't have a degree in education, those kids wouldn't be here."

Sayori hummed. "Zero-kun…has a wide range of interests." He wasn't a genius by any standards, but he was a quick learner and the things he learned tended to stick with him. He went through school in a breeze and simply had the means of trying out for different fields. Education was one of them.

"And he was their…babysitter before that?" Yana questioned.

"Tutor," Sayori corrected.

"Tutor." Yana repeated with a fair amount of skepticism, as though she couldn't possibly see any reason for three or four-year-olds to have a tutor.

"The chairman called him in after going through every available teacher," Sayori supplied. "He knows those kids personally, so he knew about Zero-kun being their tutor. He just asked if Zero-kun didn't mind looking after them more officially in a public setting." And obviously, Zero hadn't minded.

Yana finished chewing on her food before holding up her hand. "I'm this close to thinking he has some sort of supernatural powers that makes them normal."

"You'd want some of that wouldn't you?" Sayori teased amusedly.

"Uh, yeah."

She laughed softly. "Well, I don't really know what it is, but there's something about him…" Zero had always been a little different, even in high school. He seemed to naturally set himself apart from everyone save a few, and though it could've been due to his younger age, as he'd grown up in the states and had skipped a grade, she knew it wasn't all to be said for his elusive character.

There were plenty of people who had wanted to know him, but kept their distance. It wasn't out of the way he spoke, he was fairly polite, or the way he acted, he was tall, but slender, and didn't use physical violence to get his thoughts across. Quiet and solemn, he didn't go out of his way to be noticed, though people still stared and whispered about him regardless. He simply had a sense of presence not even a blind man could miss.

"I guess you're right." Yana nodded. She tapped her bottom lip with her chopsticks. "I just find it so fascinating. There's this connection he has with them that's…special."

"He told me his parents were friends of the kids'. He's known them since before they were born." He had been there for half of their births, in fact. For Kuran Kaname, certainly, and a few others. Shirabuki Sara, Kain Akatsuki as well as Souen Ruka were just to name a few.

"Well… Then it's no wonder." Yana realized. "I would take my 'big brother' over a stranger to teach me any day. If I was their age, I mean. First day of school can be pretty scary. If you can't get used to it, it's even worse."

Sayori blinked. "I guess." Those kids…scared? She was almost sure it was merely out of childish attachment. They adored Zero, even she could see that, and their violent rebelliousness against the teachers was a way to get his attention. If they caused enough trouble, he would come to see them. It was a tactic some children used to keep affection from their loved ones focused in their direction.

It was a little twisted, but this was class 106. If they felt having to maim a few people here and there would keep Zero at their side, they didn't think twice.

"Did Kiryuu-san know how bad it was before he got called here?"

Sayori tilted her head at the new subject. "I…I don't think so." The kids never acted up around him and they listened to him well enough. "I don't think he's ever seen them at their worst."

"Ugh, supernatural powers."

The kids loved him too much to cause trouble. Though…it could also be that angering Zero was a very bad idea. She had never seen him lose his temper, but she had a feeling he wasn't the type to go out quietly if pushed too far.

"It's totally unfair," Yana sulked, "why do they have to act like spawns of Satan when we only want the best for them?" It was frustrating to be wound around on a child's whim. She had once felt indignant the school was bending to the wants of a group of children until the stories had reached her ears. She had been promptly extremely glad she hadn't been there for any of it.

"You can say that because you haven't dealt with them face to face." Sayori poked at one of her octopus wieners.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm glad those kids have someone they care enough to be angelic to at all." She said quietly.

Yana paused. "True." After taking another few bites, she suddenly declared. "They really are crazy. Completely nuts."

Sayori chuckled. Crudely put, but she couldn't find it in herself to deny it.

_._._

Back in class 106, the young students were having a blast.

"Hey, when do you think she'll wake up?" Takuma asked curiously. He leaned his head against Senri's shoulder, his eyes focused on the chessboard between he and Kaname.

"We'll know when she starts screaming." Kaname said absently, moving a pawn. They always screamed. Male or female, it was what they did. A strange inexplicable pattern, he had no idea of its origin or what incited such a reaction. They just screamed.

Takuma leaned in to push his rook forward.

"Don't go there." Senri pulled his hand back.

Kaname's eyes twinkled amusedly. "It wasn't a bad move. Leave him be."

Hanabusa bustled up to their table, trailing a long link of crumpled paper stars on his shorts. "I think she'll wake up soon." He looked to Kaname. "Do you think Zero will be mad?"

"No," Kaname said smoothly. "He always knows when we're bad, remember?"

Hanabusa swallowed nervously. "Oh yeah."

"It's okay if he's not mad." Takuma agreed.

"Sayori-sensei said he's sick though," Senri noted. "Maybe he doesn't know yet."

Kaname shook his head. "He always knows." He intoned.

"What about that?" Hanabusa pointed to the girls who were painting the windows. Bright flowers and hearts decorated the glass panes in varying shades.

"Zero will like it." Kaname said dismissively, deeming it a right time to move his knight.

"Do you think it's soon?" Sara chimed from her place on the sill, taking a momentary break from shading in a pink petal to glance at the closet doors normally used to house their coats. The other girls beside her stopped and giggled, expressions expectant.

As if on cue, there was a long high pitched shriek followed by frightened muffling. Sounds of frantic shuffling made the closet doors rattle.

Ten little boys and girls smiled deviously and quite pleasantly ignored the disturbing noise to return to their activities.

_._._

Putting the kids to work on another assignment, Sayori was interrupted by a soft knock. "Hey," Yana whispered, mindful of the students. "I think we should check on the sub. I'm honestly worried."

Cautious, Sayori slowly nodded. "She could have had lunch in the classroom, but I haven't seen her at all, not even in the halls."

Brows creasing, Yana looked down the corridor with unease. "That is a little weird."

Together, they swallowed and headed to Zero's class. Giving it a few knocks, they almost expected the worst when it took a while for the door to be opened, but audibly breathed a sigh of relief when it parted with a click.

Kaname stood on the other side, his expression impassive. "Hello," he greeted. "What can I do for you?"

Their dread came back tenfold. "Is Yumi-sensei here?"

Yana tried in vain to peer into the room for any sight of the sub.

"…She's busy playing with Sara and Ruka."

"Could we…talk with her a bit? It's very important."

Kaname hummed sweetly. "That's fine." He stepped aside to let them in.

Just as the young boy had mentioned, Yumi sat with Sara and Ruka at a table, a fine set of china laid out, performing an adorable parody of a classic tea party.

So even 106 has regular playtime interests, Sayori noted. Games of pretend that promoted domesticity were common among young girls.

That was until she reached the table and overheard, "Which one, which one? Choose fast, Yumi-sensei, or we have to choose for you!"

Sara's voice chimed with something that didn't altogether sound innocent. She looked as precious as a doll, small and dainty with glossy gold ringlets and bright sapphire eyes. The white lacey dress she swore, instead of the standard academy uniform, only added to the impression.

"Yumi-sensei?" Sayori called. "Yana and I would like to discuss something with you, is that all right? I'm sorry to intrude." She said to the girls.

"Yes, of course." Yumi said blankly, getting up from her seat.

Once the three teachers were outside the classroom, Yana immediately demanded answers. "Are you okay? They…haven't done anything to you?"

"Y-yes of course. They haven't done a thing, no. They're," Yumi looked ready to choke, "They're polite and well behaved. I couldn't ask for better." Her smile was forced and tense.

Yana stared incredulously. "Are they threatening you?" She half whispered, half hissed. "If they are, we have to go to the chairman. He can't keep letting this happen!"

Yumi shook her head. "It's almost over." The kids were to leave at three-thirty. "I'll be fine." She had an hour left to go.

"Did you read the files?" Sayori asked softly.

"I didn't get a chance," Yumi said dryly.

"Hang in there. Those kids have never outright killed anyone, so your life is safe, but be careful."

Yumi nodded back and went back inside.

When Sayori and Yana had seen to their own students' safe departures by four, they shared a relieved laugh with Yumi when they met her in the staff room. Yana went into interrogation mode once again, but Yumi became reticent on subjects relating to the little horrors of 106, deliberately changing the course of the conversation entirely, and Sayori started getting worried.

"Narita-san?" She steered Yumi off to the side, away from Yana who was catching up with another teacher. "I don't want to force you or anything, but…could you come in tomorrow to meet with the given teacher for the class you subbed for? He'd want to meet you."

The blood seemed to drain from her face, but Yumi gave an affirmative and the ten-minute walk to the bus station was spent discussing the best way to make sock puppets.

_._._

Epilogue (?)-ish

_._._

Checking her watch, Sayori let out a nervous sigh and shuffled some papers around to give her hands something to do. She had come in a full half-hour before classes were due to start so Zero could meet with Yumi. He had never taken a sick day and she knew he'd be worried about his little terrors. It might be hard on Yumi after an entire day with 106, but she thought it'd be good for Yumi to talk about the kids with someone who knew them well.

Zero would be fair in his judgment, without bias, and Sayori hoped he would enforce something to keep the kids in line for future subs.

A sharp knock had her looking up.

"Hey." Zero greeted, a cup of coffee in his hand, which he placed on her desk. "Two sugars no milk."

Smiling lightly she thanked him. "Just the way I like it."

Zero dragged a chair over, pulling off his coat and scarf to drape it across the back.

"You want me to meet the sub."

"I do." She took a long scorching sip. "I know you care for the kids, Zero-kun, but…" There were some things he needed to know about them.

He opened his mouth, but closed it again and turned towards the door. Yumi smiled shyly by the doorway and gave a little wave.

"Good morning, come in." Sayori offered up her seat across from Zero and dragged another chair over for herself. She sent Yumi a reassuring smile, knowing Zero must have caught her off-guard. Having to manage a class like 106, people usually expected a stern military sergeant or someone equally frightful. At first glance, Zero looked the average man, quiet and unobtrusive, harmless, even. It was the careful, piercing eyes that told another story. Fierce, yet gentle, they didn't miss a thing.

"Kiryuu-san," Yumi started.

"Zero," Zero corrected. "You put up with them for a day. I think you're entitled to at least that."

Yumi laughed softly, her posture losing some of its rigidity. "Zero-san then." She coughed. "Uh, Wakaba-san asked me to…tell you about the kids. She was really worried when I first met her, you know, and I had no idea why," she smiled feebly. "It was only afterwards that I…" She hesitated. "The…the kids…" She shook her head. "I don't mean to sound offensive." She sighed long and hard. "They're a little different." She hedged. "The way they…what they… A little different."

"How so?" His voice was steady and uncritical.

She sent him a look full of frustrated embarrassment. "I've never been seriously scared of kids before…! They—" She cut herself off, her face tightening, cheeks flushing with unease.

Sayori watched on sympathetically, now convinced getting her to meet with Zero hadn't been a mistake. She needed to let things out.

Zero seemed content to sit silently, patiently waiting her out. He was in no hurry.

"You don't need to worry about offending anyone. Just tell me what you think." He said after a few minutes.

Yumi sent him a wary look.

"I know what the kids are capable of," he added, "they're not called Little Terrors or Godzilla Tots for nothing."

Yumi blinked owlishly. Sayori tried to not blush at the names the rest of the staff (herself included) often used in reference to 106.

"…I was…they really scared me." Yumi admitted. "I could hear them laughing, like it was all a game, and even when I," her brows knitted, "even when I…screamed for them to let me out, they just kept…" She looked down, thoroughly ashamed. "I should've listened to Wakaba-san, taken her seriously and read their files. None of it would've happened. I would've known—"

"They made exactly three teachers resign, turned one classroom completely unusable, and had the school yard looking like a war zone. There's no telling how many others they've caused trouble for." Zero gently interrupted. "Reading their files might have made you aware, but you couldn't have stopped them if they wanted something."

It wasn't your fault.

"I could've taken precautions…"

"They would've found ways around it. Not to mention, the chairman's completely soft on them, you would've gotten no support."

It wasn't your fault.

"I…" Yumi slowly nodded. "I just felt like I failed them, failed myself." She laughed weakly. "I'm not that bad of a teacher. I've never had problems sorting students out if they got out of hand. This was the first time I found myself helpless against kids who aren't even tall enough to reach my waist. I didn't know what I was doing half the time. I could only go along with them and hope nothing worse happened."

Zero offered her a wry understanding look. "Sometimes, that's all you can do. You did what worked best. The kids are fine, no property damage, the other classes weren't disturbed, no emergency calls or need for an evacuation. I think you did pretty damn well for a first-timer."

Yumi sputtered. Her eyes had gone wide at 'property damage', 'emergency calls' and 'evacuation'.

Sayori cringed. They had all been actual incidents during the 'before-Zero' era. The Kindergarten section of Cross Academy had never seen so much excitement. It was after the destruction of classroom 103 and the demolished school yard that the chairman finally felt the need for special reinforcement. Namely, Zero.

"I'm sorry, I should've been more insistent," she mumbled. "I should've made you read their files then and there."

Zero let out a short, terse sigh. "What's done is done. Next time, just ask the chairman. I'm surprised you didn't."

"What – the chairman…? But he's… No, you're right. I should have." She said lamely.

The chairman loved spending time with 106. Though usually busy, he could've spared a day's work for them and gladly. She felt a right idiot for not thinking of it sooner.

Rapid clicks came echoing down the hall and a delighted shriek burst into the room. Sayori nearly jumped. Yumi squeaked.

"Zero!"

Sara and her golden curls bounced with every step. Not sparing Sayori or Yumi a glance, she scrambled onto Zero's lap to squeeze his neck.

"I knew it was you!" She squealed.

"Hey, Queen Bee." Zero patted her back, shifting her weight to settle more comfortably. "You're early. Kaname's usually here first."

She giggled. "I made pokes in his tires. His car is stuck."

"All four?"

"Yes!" She beamed incredibly proud of herself.

Sayori blinked. 'Made pokes in his tires'? She had vandalized someone's car?

"Sara, you'll be paying for the damages." A soft voice spoke up from the doorway.

"So?" Sara grinned. "I still got here first."

Kaname stepped in, impeccably dressed, not a hair out of place. He gave proper greetings to both Sayori and Yumi, distantly polite, before turning to Zero, placing a hand on his knee. "You're fine now?"

The change in his tone from indifferent to concerned, cool to warm, was something Sayori had seen and heard more than once. Kaname's social world really was divided between Zero and Not-Zero. She never felt the distinction as strongly as when this happened.

Zero ruffled his hair. "Yeah. Missed me?"

"Yes." Getting up on the other side of Zero's lap, Kaname delivered a swift kick to Sara's midsection and took up her previous seat with his legs.

Neither Sayori nor Yumi were surprised by his actions. They were more interested in how Zero would deal with one of his students implementing violence on another classmate. Punishments and rewards went a long way into deciding how a child developed. Sayori hadn't the chance to see Zero's brand of discipline up close.

Before Sara made a painful tumble to the floor, Zero caught the back of her blouse, gently letting her down. She looked indignant, glaring between the dusty footprint on her pristine blouse and the young brunet responsible.

"Kaname." Zero said meaningfully.

Kaname frowned, his cheeks tinting. "She made me late." He muttered. "She hugged you first." He added defensively.

"Kaname." Zero's gaze was unrelenting.

Dark eyes narrowed. "…I'll get her the diamond earrings she wanted."

Sara crossed her arms and pursed her lips. "…Accepted. I want it by next week."

"Wednesday."

"Fine."

They looked to Zero as if to ask, "How was that?"

Zero gave a slight smile, amused and understanding. "Well done."

Kaname nuzzled into Zero's sweater, immensely pleased with his praise.

"What were you talking to Sayori-sensei and Yumi-sensei about?" Sara had acquired her own chair, letting Kaname monopolize Zero's lap for the moment.

"How much trouble you munchkins should be in for locking your substitute in the closet."

Both kids tensed.

Yumi blinked. "How did you…?"

"He always knows." Kaname muttered.

Sayori sent Yumi a resigned look, only slightly apologetic. She knew not everything must have been all right, but at least Yumi hadn't suffered the shock of waking up five stories above ground with only a hook to the window keeping her there.

Unsurprisingly, that incident had been followed by a prompt request (vehement plead) for resignation.

"Were we bad?" Sara tugged at the ends of her skirt. "We were only playing."

"I know. And you weren't bad," Zero said gently, but firmly. "You're never bad. You just had to explain the game first to Yumi-sensei and see if she wanted to play."

"Oh. But what if she didn't want to?"

"Then you can choose another game."

"I wanted to play that one!"

"Did Yumi-sensei say she wanted to play?" He sounded mild, but there was a hard undertone to his voice that called straight to guilty consciences and speared right through any amount of excuses that normally cropped up in a willful defensive student trying to cop out of punishment.

"…No."

"What do I want you to do from now on?"

"Ask first. If she says no, we can't play. We have to do another game."

Zero nodded. "Kaname?"

"I will remember to as well."

"Thank you."

Zero still looked expectant however.

Sara's skirt tugging turned violent, the embroidered cloth was getting put to its limit. Her defiant glare showed extreme reluctance. "I only wanted to play."

Zero wasn't letting up an inch. Sayori well recognized the calm 'That's nice, but I know you know what I want and I'm waiting' look she'd seen a lot parents give their children.

"…I'm sorry for not asking for permission to play." Sara finally ground out, glaring down at her knees.

Kaname gave a pleasant nod to Yumi not a moment afterward. "I'm sorry too. We were having fun. I thought you felt the same. Screaming is a show of enthusiasm for your kind, yes?"

"Will you play with us again?" Sara leaned in eagerly.

"Er…" Yumi leaned back, face frozen in a mixture between panic and terror.

"Yumi-sensei works at the Elementary building. She'll be very busy." Zero cut in smoothly. "She has her own students."

"Oh. Like you have us!"

"Even if she does come, it would mean less time to be with Zero." Kaname narrowed his eyes. "Unless you're suggesting to give up your share of Zero's time for your new playmate, Sara?"

"Hey." Zero chuckled softly and ruffled his hair, tucking his head against his chest, ending the argument before it had a chance to begin.

"It's almost time. I want you two to have your homework for yesterday and today on the board, pictures within reason allowed."

"Even the extra credit puzzles?"

"Even those."

The Godzilla Tots gave a glinting smile. Jumping off their respective seats, they fast-walked down the hall, most likely obeying the 'no running' rule only out of Zero's silent encouragement. Those sharp eyes of his never missed a thing.

Watching the kids go with a fond smile, he got up, grabbing his coat. Plopping it down on his own desk, he flipped through a thin binder. "Narita, right? You're going to get gifts and apology cards sometime during this week. Ten of them. If you find the flowers distracting, you can tell the messenger to deliver them straight to your home." Tucking the binder under his arm, he sent Yumi an acknowledging nod, heading for the door.

"It was good meeting you; shitty circumstances aside. You were a good sub."

Yumi sent him a grateful smile. "Thank you. You're a remarkable teacher."

He snorted as he left the room.

The moment his footsteps stopped echoing, Sayori breathed in loudly and exhaled just as loud. "Phew! Not so bad, is he?"

"Not at all. Thank you for arranging this. I had no idea he was so…" Yumi shrugged.

"I…didn't either, actually. He has to have superpowers. Somehow." He got those kids to listen like that.

Yumi chuckled. "Maybe. There's something about him." She shrugged again. "I hope he'll agree to continue teaching through elementary," she said wryly. "No one in my building is capable of handling that for an entire semester."

Uh. Right. Sayori personally couldn't wait for those kids to graduate out of kindergarten.

_._._

Disclaimer: No own no own.

It's been a while. Just wanted a break from my thesis *pulls at hair* Deadlines are fast approaching I think I'm going mad XD

This came from a while ago, when I saw Hino-sensei's sketch of Zero as a caretaker and Yuuki, Kaname, and Aidou as tots dressed in animal costumes for an idea request from a fan :D It's absolutely adorable, light and fluffy, except for the creepy book Kaname's reading on Zero's lap ;) Coincidentally the book is titled Vampire Knight.