Spoiler Alert (Updated): This story is set after Chapter 73 of the manga. Everything that happened in the manga prior to 73 and also the events in the side novels will be accepted. People who haven't read up to Chapter 73 or the side novels (in particular, #2 The Noir Trap) should be aware of possible spoilers. However, reading them is not necessary to understand this story. :)
Disclaimer: Vampire Knight is a creation of Matsuri Hino. I am merely a fan.
Chapter One: Moments Like This
Humans were strange creatures. From birth to death, they rarely ever stopped to take a breath. Perhaps chased by their own mortality, they were forever rushing from place to place. There was always something that needs to be done, a place that they needed to be at, and hopes for what they wished to achieve one day in the not-so-distant future. For them, time was of the essence and it was their obligation to make every moment count. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Live every day as if it were the very last.
"Akatsuki, are you okay?"
Brought out of his thoughts, Akatsuki Kain looked away from the crowded street below to the person sitting across the table from him. On this bright early Monday morning, the two of them were the only two customers lounging around without a care in the world on the balcony of a coffee shop. All around them, humans were rushing to and fro. Some heading to work. Others heading back home. Some doing errands. They were like little fireflies, all desperately trying to emit as much light as possible in their short lifespan.
Didn't they know that those that shine the brightest were the ones that burn out the fastest?
"I'm fine," he murmured as he fixed his gaze on his companion. Wearing a simple buttoned blouse and grey plaid skirt, Ruka Souen looked as she always did – perfect. Everything about her, from her caramel-coloured hair down to her colour-matching knee-high boots, was coordinated to lure in attention. And it succeeded. All who entered the cafe did a second take when they spotted Ruka. The waiter had tripped over his own feet and spilt coffee three times already in the past hour. Even Akatsuki, who has had the luxury of being around her for years now, found it hard pressed not to stare.
Ruka frowned as she scrutinized him. Akatsuki kept his face carefully blank. Whatever she was searching for, she clearly didn't find. With a hearty sigh, she rested her chin on one hand as she watched him.
"You were somewhere far away a moment ago." She commented as she traced the ornate edge of the table with the tips of her long slender fingers.
He shrugged in response. What could he have said? It was her idea to come to the coffee shop at eight o'clock in the morning in the first place. She claimed to have had a sugar craving and wanted some cheese cake. Then, once they got to the cafe, she was reluctant to leave. So instead of returning to the hotel where they were staying, they had remained there in the exact same spot for the last two hours, nibbling their way through the cafe's entire range of desserts. Clearly, she had something in her mind but Akatsuki wasn't going to pry. She would tell him when she was ready.
"Aren't you going to ask me am I okay?" Ruka tilted her head in question.
"Are you?" Akatsuki countered.
She frowned again, before shooting him a rueful smile. "You're always so direct, Akatsuki."
Sighing, she leaned over the side of the balcony and stared down at the pedestrians on the street below. At times like this, Akatsuki could openly study her without fear of being caught. When it was just the two of them, the ice queen mask she wore whenever there were others around would slip away, revealing all the feelings and thoughts she had so carefully hidden underneath.
Right now, she was clearly troubled. There was a lingering frown set between her eyebrows. Her eyes were clouded with worry. Her mouth was turned down slightly. And though to anyone else, she might appear relaxed, Akatsuki noticed the way her fingers clenched at the railings.
"I'm fine," she murmured as she continued to stare at the humans below. "Besides, the one who's facing difficult days ahead is not me."
She had said those exact same words once before, back when they had just discovered Yuuki's real identity. Akatsuki wondered who she could be referring to this time. But before he thought to ask, Ruka spoke again.
"How do you think he's doing at the moment?"
"Kaname-sama?" Akatsuki blinked. It was inevitable that their conversation would eventually stray into this dangerous topic.
Ruka shook her head, setting the cascading hair down her back to sway and create a waterfall effect. "Hanabusa."
Akatsuki's eyes clouded over as his thoughts went out to their cousin. For most of his life, Hanabusa had idolized and believed in the head of the Kuran clan. Kaname's latest action would most definitively have dealt a devastating blow to his once-unshakable faith. Over the past few weeks, Akatsuki had often wondered how his cousin was faring. But given their strict order to lay low for awhile, he had no way of contacting his cousin.
"I don't know," he answered honestly. "Though I hope, for once in his life, he won't do something rash."
"The Troublemaker," Ruka smiled fondly as she remembered back to their childhood together. "He'd always come up with these crazy ideas and somehow end up convincing us they were sane plans."
"Yeah," his lips curled up into a crooked smile. "And I always end up being the one getting the blame."
"And why is that?" Ruka asked. Their parents always shook their head and called the two boys the Troublesome Duo, when really, it was always Hanabusa who led them into the mess. Now that she thought about it, Akatsuki almost always ended up with the blame, even when it was something that she inadvertently triggered when she fought with Hanabusa.
Akatsuki shook his head. "It was nothing."
There was still a lingering smile on his lips as he met her gaze. For that brief moment when their eyes locked, a wealth of memories flashed before their eyes. Of happier and simpler times back in their childhood. Hanabusa and Ruka fighting on the playground while Akatsuki tried to keep things under control. The three of them getting scolded by their parents. Sneaking into the kitchen to bribe some cookies off the head chef. They were inseparable. No matter what they were doing – fighting, playing, napping, laughing – they always did it together.
Then, Ruka blinked and they were brought back to the present.
Akatsuki looked away. Moments come and moments fade. That was how time passes. Anyone who believed otherwise was foolish at best.
"He'll be okay," Ruka decided, her hazel-coloured eyes firm with confidence. "Though," she added as she stared down at her coffee cup. Her fringe fell forward, hiding her gaze from view. "It would be nice to find out what he's doing at the moment."
Noticing Ruka stifling a yawn, Akatsuki glanced down at his watch. "It's getting late," he said. "We should get back and try to get some rest."
"Why?" Ruka's shoulder jerked. "So we could spend another day in this small town while waiting for further instructions?"
"Ruka?" He reached across the table to clasp one of her hands.
Ruka stared down at their joint hands for a few moments. Then, she sighed and pushed back from the table. "Fine, let's go back."
"Wait," Akatsuki rose from his seat and walked over to her side. He grabbed her coat from the back of the chair and helped her into it. Having done that, he pulled out his wallet and dropped some cash onto the table.
"Such a gentleman," Ruka shot a twisted smile up to him. "Is there anything you can't do?"
For a brief moment, his foolish heart leapt at the endless possibilities. Maybe this would be the moment she finally took notice of him. Maybe this would be the moment she would crack a genuine smile in his presence. Maybe this would be the moment she...
But he knew these were nothing more than foolish dreams of his. The moment passed and she was simply Ruka Souen – as beautiful and unattainable as ever.
Brushing those errant thoughts aside, Akatsuki turned and headed for the stairs. But before he could take a step, he was stopped by a gentle tug on his jacket.
"I'm sorry," Ruka murmured. Her gaze was fixed firmly on the floor. "I think I did something wrong."
"No, Ruka." Sighing, he lowered his head close to her ears. "There's nothing to be sorry about."
"I did something wrong," she insisted.
"No," he shook his head. He took her hand and tugged her along. "Come on, let's head back."
As they climbed down the stairs to the ground floor, Ruka said quietly from behind him. "I am trying to change but it's hard. One day, I will be strong and responsible."
He tilted his head back and smiled at her. "I know."
And until that day came, he would continue to wait for her.
"Come on, it's this way," he murmured as he guided her through the crowded street with a supporting hand on the small of her back.
Until that day came, moments like this would have to be enough.