I love Zero and Ichiru; however, I find that I like them completely different than how Hino Matsuri-sensei probably intended me to like them. I'm a sucker for the brotherly-love, especially when the twins were very young (not like most of the flashbacks used in the manga and anime).
This story takes place pre-series, when the boys are about 5-years-old or so. Back when they were both cute and cuddly, and Ichiru didn't want to get into his brother's pants.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. If I did, Yuuki and Kaname wouldn't exist.
Since before they were born, the Kiryuu twins had shared everything. And a little cold was no exception.
Ichiru had been feverish all day. The boys' mother said that he was too sick to play with Zero, too weak to do anything but stay in bed. Zero had no choice but to play by himself in his room.
After about an hour, he pushed his blocks aside and stood. Something wasn't right—he could feel it. But the house remained silent as though nothing was wrong.
A flurry of activity and sound hit him when he left his room and entered the hallway. Ichiru's door was jarred open and inside Zero could hear him coughing violently. He sounded almost dry retching.
Edging closer so that he was just outside the doorway, Zero looked into Ichiru's darkened room with mild curiosity. Their mother sat beside Ichiru in bed, patting gently at his back, while coaxing him into taking small sips of water from a glass she held before him.
By the time he was calm again, Ichiru looked exhausted. Zero wondered how that was possible since he had been sleeping all day. His pale cheeks were dusted lightly with pink and his face and neck were covered in sheens of sweat. His eyelids drooped just with the strain of sitting up, and he leaned back until he was resting heavily against their mother's arms.
Zero met his mother's gaze. She had spotted him at the doorway. Gingerly tucking Ichiru back into bed and leaving the water on the bedside table, she came into the hallway and took Zero's hand.
Just before she could shut the door, Ichiru lifted his head just enough to peek over the covers. He and Zero locked eyes for a moment, Zero giving his brother the faintest of smiles. Ichiru returned the sentiment, but just barely. He really was tired.
"We'll be leaving on a hunting assignment, your father and I," his mother said as she guided him back to his room. "We shouldn't be gone as long as the last time, but I've made arrangements to keep you both safe in the meantime."
Zero nodded, squeezing his mother's hand.
"Watch after your brother while we're gone, all right?"
Another nod, and this time she pulled him close and kissed his forehead.
It was several more hours before his parents left. They spent most of that time checking notes and exchanging information about the vampire they would be tracking. They always left at sunset, that way they were guaranteed a vampire appearance.
The first thing Zero did when they left was check on Ichiru. He was a dutiful son and was going to do his mother proud by nursing his brother back to health by the time they got back.
In many ways, Ichiru's room was like his own: small, dark, and littered with toys. Ichiru's room was also musty and smelled heavily of sickness. The effect was smothering when Zero first entered, so he left the door open to circulate some air through the small space.
Ichiru was sound asleep, curled on his side and sniffling.
Zero crept towards him and patted his shoulder. Ichiru slowly opened his eyes, blinking away Zero's blurry figure until he was a little clearer. He squinted through the darkness.
"Zero-nii?" Ichiru whispered groggily.
"Mommy and Daddy went on another mission," Zero said. "I'm going to take care of you until they get back."
Ichiru made a small noise of acknowledgement. "I'm cold, Zero-nii."
"Do you want another blanket?"
Ichiru shook his head, leaving Zero stumped. If Ichiru didn't want a blanket, what else could he do to keep him warm? An idea struck him and he scrambled to the other side of the bed, leaving Ichiru to turn around and face him.
"Scoot over," Zero said, sliding into the bed beside him.
"No," Ichiru protested weakly, coughing. "Then Zero-nii will get sick too."
Zero gently nudged his brother until he complied. Reaching over him, Zero grabbed the glass of water and shoved it under Ichiru's nose.
Ichiru took the glass and downed the rest of the water greedily. "Thank you," he rasped.
Zero shimmied under the covers beside Ichiru and waited only a few moments until Ichiru's breathing evened out as he went back to sleep. Zero yawned and fell in right behind his brother.
When Zero woke up he found himself shivering. He tugged earnestly at the sheets, realizing that Ichiru had already taken most of them for himself. He wrapped his arms around himself and continued to shake until...
The heat rolled off him like a furnace, his body still burning with fever. Zero inched closer until the two were practically touching, feeling as the warmth began to reach him. He was so cold, and Ichiru was hogging all the warmth up for himself.
"...ro-nii," Ichiru mumbled, his face twisting in discomfort. "Too hot..."
Ichiru then promptly sneezed in Zero's face.
Startled, Zero yelped and toppled off the bed. Ichiru pulled himself forward and peered onto the floor, confusion showing in his fever bright eyes.
"Y-Y-You...," Zero sputtered, pointing up at Ichiru.
It was then that he became aware of how dry and scratchy his throat was. He peeled himself off the floor and stomped back to his room, where he ripped the sheet off his bed and wrapped it around himself like a cape.
He returned to Ichiru's room and swiped the glass from the table, his brother watching him with heavy-lidded eyes. He left the room and headed for the kitchen, tripping only twice on the train of his sheet.
Standing on tiptoe, he placed the glass on the kitchen counter and paused. He could barely reach the counter, and the sink was at least another six inches back. If he got a chair, there was still a chance that his short arms wouldn't reach the faucet.
He was going to need some help.
Very quietly, Zero made his way back to Ichiru's room. He placed his hands on the edge of the bed and called out just loud enough to be heard.
"Ichiru. Ichiru." He spoke a little louder. "Ichiru, wake up."
Slowly, very slowly, Ichiru opened his eyes.
"I need your help," Zero said.
"Get it yourself," Ichiru sighed, his eyes sliding shut.
Zero pushed down slightly on the mattress, just enough to get Ichiru to look at him again. "I can't reach," he said once he had his brother's attention. "The sink's too high."
Groaning with every muscle he used to move, Ichiru slipped out from under the covers and clumsily made his way to stand by Zero. Zero took a moment to steady him, before pulling Ichiru under his blanket with him.
"You're really warm," Zero said, enveloped by every bit of Ichiru's body heat.
Ichiru just coughed in response.
Together they inspected the height of the counter in relation to the distance of the sink. It was obvious Ichiru just wanted to go back to bed, but Zero had a tight hold on the blanket, cocooning them both inside.
"Give me a boost, Ichiru."
"Mommy and Daddy will get mad if you climb on the counter."
"Mommy and Daddy aren't here," Zero said pointedly.
Ichiru sighed and knelt down, cupping his hands together. Zero stood on Ichiru's outstretched hands, using them to leap towards the counter.
He struggled for a few seconds, scrambling to pull his leg over the side of the counter, but he was having a hard time maintaining a grip on the slippery tile. Once, he almost kicked Ichiru in the face with his other foot.
"You're heavy!" Ichiru exclaimed, teetering some under Zero's weight.
"Let me stand on your shoulders. I'll have a better grip that way."
Without waiting for a reply, Zero maneuvered so that he was sitting squarely on Ichiru's shoulders. He ignored his brother's grunts of disapproval and directed him closer to the counter.
But Ichiru was having a difficult time supporting Zero with his sickness-laden body. He staggered sideways and almost dropped Zero completely. Finally, Zero heaved himself onto the counter by standing on Ichiru's shoulders and using the long silver faucet to pull himself up.
"Zero-nii, I want to go back to bed," Ichiru said pleadingly.
"You've been sleeping all day."
"But I'm still tired, and I don't feel good!"
Ichiru then threw himself on the floor and cried.
Zero scooted closer to the edge of the counter and leaned over to pat Ichiru's head. His hair was damp with sweat and his body trembled with quiet sobs and coughs. He tilted his head back to look up and sneezed, thick green mucus now coating his fingers. His eyes welled up with fresh tears and he began to cry harder.
"Ichiru, don't be sad," Zero said. "We can go back in a little while."
He received no reply, except for the sound of continued sobbing. He grabbed his glass and crawled over to the edge of the sink. By now his throat hurt more than ever, and he eagerly waited to fill the glass after turning on the tap.
He drank one glass and then another, relishing the cool drink as it slid down his throat. He grabbed a paper towel off the roller and used it to wipe his face and hands. If his throat hurt this much when he wasn't sick, then Ichiru's must be on fire.
"Ichiru, are you thirsty?" he asked. "Ichiru?"
Zero jumped down from the counter, landing nimbly beside Ichiru, who now lay curled up on the floor, dozing. Zero managed to rouse him just enough to half-walk, half-drag him back to bed.
Ichiru was snoring before his head even touched the pillow. Zero felt a little guilty for bothering him; the dark smudges beneath his eyes were a little more pronounced, his breathing much more labored. Zero tucked the sheets around his brother and fell into his own restless sleep.
Zero woke again to the feeling of a hand being pressed against his forehead. He shuddered at the touch, and without opening his eyes, realized he was covered in warm, sticky sweat.
"Oh, Zero, did you get sick too?"
The sound of coughing came next. "Zero-nii took care of me last night."
"I know, and it looks like he may have caught your cold. How are you feeling, Ichiru?"
More coughing. "Okay. Is Zero-nii going to be okay too?"
Zero could tell their mother was smiling by the tone of her voice.
"I think so; he just needs plenty of rest today." Zero felt himself being shaken. "Zero."
He stirred, finding opening his eyes difficult and tiresome. From the dim light seeping in through the curtains, he could see that it was already morning.
It was then that he became aware of everything that hurt him. There was a dull thumping pain behind his eyes that left his stomach churning. His muscles were heavy and achy, and his throat hurt so badly that swallowing was like torture.
He made a feeble noise of protest and shut his eyes.
"Good morning, my brave boy," his mother said gently. "How do you feel?"
He shuddered again as she ran her fingers through his sweat-soaked hair, peeling his bangs off his forehead. He answered her with a few quiet coughs.
"Poor Zero. I'm sorry you got sick too."
"Ne ne, Zero-nii, thank you for taking care of me!"
Zero opened his eyes and looked at Ichiru. He had some more color in his face, but his cheeks still had that same telltale flush of fever. Ichiru grinned at Zero, who returned the smile weakly.
"You two are staying in bed today," their mother said getting off the bed. "I'll be back to check on you and see if you need anything. Ichiru, look after Zero for me, okay?"
Ichiru nodded vigorously.
Truthfully, Zero was glad for her absence. This must have been what Ichiru felt like yesterday. He heaved a small sigh and watched as Ichiru snuggled back under the blankets.
Zero started some when he felt warm lips being pressed against his fevered skin. He relaxed when he realized it was Ichiru placing a kiss on his cheek.
"Goodnight, Zero-nii. Get better soon so we can go outside and finish our snow fort!"
Zero smiled at that. "Okay. You get better too, Ichiru."