Unexpectedly Close To The Edge

Set 3 years after Vampire Knight Guilty, however, certain enemies aren't as dead as they were thought to be.

~{}~ signifies a change in time or perspective

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, these awesome characters do not belong to me in any way. They belong to Matsuri Hino. I just stole them and put them to use for my own sick mind ;)

Summary: Yuki's death brings the two former enemies Zero and Kaname closer than they ever expected to be. As the two of them - both broken in their own way - struggle to pick up a life again, will they cope by putting each other together again?

Rated M: mature emotions, rape, violence, M/M lemon (seriously, rated M for good reason!)


Chapter 1: An Unexpected Call

As it began to rise, the sun tinted the clouds in a pale pink that just barely outshone the blueness of the sky. The gentle light caressed the hunter's features and played through his silver bangs as he held a reflecting object in his hands, looking lost.

It had been three years, now. Three long years. Zero sighed and put the frame with the photo back on the small table by his bed. To the day, three years ago, his beloved Yuki had walked away from the wreckage of the school that had been created for the sole purpose of harboring her safely. Amid the smoking ruins of his miserable life, Zero had watched as Kuran, the damned pureblood prince, had taken her with him and she had smiled toward her new life as a pureblood princess. He had watched silently, devastated and heartbroken as she had answered the words of his vow: 'I swear, I will come for you - one day I'll come for you and I will be the one to kill you.' That moment had burned itself into his mind relentlessly, replaying over and over again. She had smiled her usual carefree smile, winking at him:

"I will be waiting."

Of course, why would she bother? She had all the right to being carefree - she was a precious pureblood, a Kuran no less, a cherished queen of her people - protected by another, even stronger pureblood on top of all else. He wasn't a bad hunter, but even so, as a Level D vampire ex-human hunter he had no way of going against that combined power. There wasn't a chance in hell he could get anywhere close enough to even look at her, let alone get a chance at killing her.

He dropped the Bloody Rose next to the photo and ditched his t-shirt on the floor. He would have to get another one, this one was torn and bloody. No good on a future hunt. There had been rather many Level E's tonight. Most of his wounds had already healed, being minor scratches only, but a slice in his side was still mending and thick crimson sluggishly dripped onto the floor. The sun was becoming very bright very quickly and he decided to get cleaned up so he could get a bit of rest. Daytime really wasn't his thing anyway. He went to the bathroom and stared at his image. But all he saw was her running up behind him as she had always done at Cross Academy - looking beautiful while annoying the crap out of him.

For the first year after she left, anger had consumed him. How could that damned Kuran-bastard just take her... What right did he have?

At least the anger served as a motivation to get him re-instated as a hunter. It was a tough beginning, but his sensei, Yagari, had helped him redirect that anger and hatred to useful ends. With many old hunters beginning to fade and new ones not yet ready to step up, it had actually been his quickly growing skill that had made an enormous difference in the hunts, so that the other hunters could only admit he was at least useful - even if not entirely trustworthy.

He didn't care.

He took on any assignment, it didn't matter - as long as there was something he had to do, some form of purpose. Usually, he would receive a call. It saved him the trouble of walking through the halls of their building. He was used to them shunning him by now, whispering behind his back. Hell, he'd be no different in their shoes. But he made no effort toward changing that. Even after three years, he kept no relations to anyone - with the exception of his sensei Yagari and his guardian Cross, the former Chairman of Cross Academy. The tattoo, branded into his throat on top of where Shizuka had bitten him, reminded him of that every day. He was a liability, nothing more. Well, perhaps a useful liability at times.

Hunting Level E's was all he was any good at - generally he worked alone, but if necessary, he fell in with the teamwork seamlessly, paying close attention to blend in as best he could. He was very good at what he did and he improved constantly, though he himself hardly noticed. It was all he did, and he did it with everything he had since he knew that it wouldn't be too many years until he fell to that state himself. Every time he aimed and fired, he was killing his future self in more than one way. He found it was soothing, really.

Finally, the image in the mirror slowly became his own face again - not that he particularly wanted to see it at all. But indulging in this kind of memory pattern was just too easy and brought no relief - only misery. He glared fiercely as the color of his amethyst eyes dimmed to a bloody red around the edges. He cursed. The slash was a bit deeper than he had thought. He gripped the rim of the sink tightly to gain control over himself again. With grim satisfaction he watched how the color in his eyes returned to something close to human again while he fought the pain in his throat relentlessly.

It had been this struggle with him for so long - he was used to it. Blood was just another thing denied to him and he would bear this thirst until the inevitable end. Only two people had given their crimson essence freely. Well, that scheming Kuran pureblood didn't really count as 'people' now, did he? Neither did Yuki anymore, for that matter. But then, at that time, she had been human. Human... carefree, simple, humanly flawed and... gentle. Zero nearly growled at the mirror at the memory.

About a year after that ugly turn of fate at the school, his anger at Kuran had run itself out - life just became even more painful. The good memories with Yuki retreated slowly to allow all the logic of the situation to seep in at full force. Where beforehand he had always had some delusional hope that she might perhaps come back and be her old human, wonderful self - now reality sunk in, very deeply.

It wasn't happening.

And there was no reason why Yuki should care about him anymore. The wonderful memories about her caring for him when they were still school prefects burned away slowly leaving him hollow as he remembered only how powerful she had been wielding the fully extended Artemis. Zero could still feel her power flare in his mind at that moment like a burning white blaze. She was truly a goddess among her people. And he - he was nothing. Hopelessness took him at the darkest of those moments. And the anger he had directed at Kuran turned toward himself solely.

Kuran had every right in the world to be with Yuki. There was nothing he could do about it, he realized then. Hell, Kuran had been gracious enough to let him live to guard her. Even if he was using him - looking back, Zero found that the pureblood must have cared a whole lot about Yuki to feed him his pure blood. Grudgingly, he had to acknowledge that much. It was sacrilege to let a Level D drink such a draught. Yet his loathed enemy had done just that - for Yuki.

Yes, Kuran deserved Yuki. She was better off with him. If he was being realistic, what did he have to offer? A hunter and falling vampire? He was doomed to turn into a monster in a few years. She shouldn't have to see that, she shouldn't have to endure his thirst and watch his mind crumble. Even after all these years, he still loved her enough to wish her happiness. No, she deserved a carefree life with Kuran. It was a bitter pill to swallow and somewhere in the depth of his heart it broke him to know that it was true, yet he wasn't one to show that.

But as of that moment he knew also that he would never keep his vow. Not only because he couldn't, but because he had no reason to. There was nothing he would do against them. Yuki had never been meant for him. It would probably be the first time in his life he'd gone back on his word, but his choice was final. He wouldn't kill Yuki.
He continued killing Level E's with fervor, exhausting himself as much as he could - hoping that somehow, every move he made, every muscle he moved, might tire him and would bring him closer to his fall to Level E when he would be executed by another hunter. Yet, here he still was - the gnawing relentlessness somewhere inside him fueled by years of ingrained stubbornness doing little to extinguish the flame of his damned existence.

Now, three years from that day, he didn't care anymore. He still took any assignment the Association gave him. But there was nothing else in his life. There was no 'his life'. He simply endured. With or without purpose. He hunted, he slept and at irregular intervals he ate and drank. It wasn't a life. It was waiting for death. He was already dead inside. His body just didn't get it, yet.

He sighed. This place where he slept was no better than a motel room, really. A bathroom and a bedroom. Not even a kitchen. There was no one to cook for anyway. But it was enough for him. Enough for someone who isn't going to last long enough for a real life, he thought grimly. He didn't need more than this and the rent was cheap. Though counting the rats he had had to kill to have a peaceful sleep was actually more than he'd bargained for.

So the place was small, dark and had been rat-infested. Big deal. Whatever. He didn't need more. Still, the tiny place had an uncanny way of becoming cluttered even though he owned almost nothing. I'll work on it tomorrow, he decided shrugging his shoulders. He was just too tired now.

No longer dripping blood or losing grip on his thirst, Zero kicked away his shoes and lay down in bed, still in his jeans and fell into an uneasy sleep.

~{}~

His cellphone beeped mercilessly only two hours later. Broad daylight blinded him before his senses caught up with reality. Should've closed the shades on that stupid window, he muttered to himself. Without looking who it was, Zero picked it up and - expecting it to be Cross or Yagari - growled a "Yes."
Still fighting blind spots randomly blurring his vision, he was quite taken aback when the caller turned out to be someone entirely different.

"Kiryu" the voice was soft and emotionless - exactly the way Zero remembered it, exactly the way it had always spoken to him with his aloof and condescending tone, exactly the way he remembered and hated it. Like a sugary poison slowly infecting the brain. It made him angry. Amazingly - he had thought that it didn't matter to him anymore. But that voice made him angry. Like it was laughing at him, looking down on him and mocking his inferiority.

"Kuran..." he spat out the name like a curse. He was about to hang up - thinking whatever the pureblood would have to say could only be a joke of bad taste, but the other gave him no time.
"Yuki is dying. She explicitly asked to see you one last time. A driver will pick you up in 15 minutes." the voice was still soft, but no longer emotionless. It was trying to be, but it cracked slightly, sadness seeping into it.

The words dripped into his consciousness like drops of water into a large dark lake, and then they got lost in that water, dissolving in a haze that made no sense. Yuki was …?

"Wh...what?" he asked stupidly. But the line was already dead.

Gradually, as though in slow motion, Zero lowered his phone. But Yuki was... she couldn't...

This was some bad joke, it had to be. Purebloods were virtually indestructible. Yuki dying? Total bullshit. Deceivers. All of them.
Really? A merciless voice in the back of his mind asked. Damned pack of lying blood suckers.
You're one of them... no better than they are. That sadistic little voice in the back of his mind spoke with venomous passion. It was seriously irritating the crap out of him.
Anger blazed in his chest. This had to be some kind of bad joke - or better yet, some kind of trap.
But you heard his voice, it was sincerely sad... the merciless voice continued.

'Sincerely sad my ass,' Zero growled, loading his gun and stuffing it into the jeans he had woken up in. If this was some trap, well then he'd go ahead and face it. It didn't really matter. He'd just as soon die now than sometime later. Made no difference.

He pulled a black t-shirt from his closet and hunted his drawer for a pair of socks. So like the pureblood to basically order him to come, without asking or waiting for an answer, he fumed.
He heard a car drive up ten minutes after the call. He snorted. Fifteen minutes, huh?

He was ready anyway. The driver started to get out, but Zero simply nodded and got into the car. No need for formalities. He didn't miss the distaste on the Level C's face that was his driver - not that he truly cared for a leech's opinion. He'd always known there was no place for him among that society. He'd rather be a hunter, albeit outcast and shunned, but at least useful - anything about the hunters was better than being stuck with these leeches in their stupid caste system of ass-kissing servitude.

He scooted uncomfortably on the expensive leather seats. Zero had never been chauffeured anywhere by a driver in a limousine like this. He didn't really like it. Maybe a few years ago he would have enjoyed it with Yuki by his side. She had always been so easily exited at everything. But not now. Not with a vampire driver and certainly not as a favor from Kuran. Then again, there wasn't anything he'd enjoy as a favor from Kuran. Except, of course, his death. Though the driver's silent hostility certainly qualified as oppressive, the hunter was rather glad he wasn't trying to make polite conversation or anything.

To his surprise - and growing unease - the ride was uneventful and he was not ambushed.

~{}~

Zero felt the car stop as they pulled up to a secluded building outside of town. Slightly uneasy, he gripped his weapon tightly, prepared for any kind of sudden attacks. When the driver opened the door, a stifling aura of distress engulfed the hunter. Warily, he got out of the car and felt the entire place heavy with melancholy. A blond vampire he remembered being Takuma Ichijo acknowledged his arrival with a nod and led him silently through the halls of the impressively enormous Kuran mansion. They met no one, but Zero felt the presence of a few vampires nearby and the entire Victorian-styled place reeked of servitude. The hunter had a hard time believing Yuki had ever wanted to live here. It was just too full of... vampire.

Even though his mind thoroughly indulged in detesting the place, the nagging voice inside Zero's head was pointing out all the minor details to him that he didn't want to see. Like how Ichijo was unnaturally quiet, how his usually sparkling green eyes looked dull and a suppressed aura of sadness clung to him as well as to the whole place. If this was a trap - it was kind of elaborate...
When they finally reached the end of hallway one-hundred and something, they stopped at another door that looked exactly like all the other's. This wasn't a house, it was a freaking maze. Who would live here?

Ichijo turned to look at him seriously.
"Kaname-sama has informed you of Yuki-samas condition?"
Zero was beginning to doubt his theory of a trap. He nodded shortly. With a doubtful look, Ichijo opened the door.

Zero was not prepared for the sight that greeted his eyes.

~{}~

His eyes burned crimson instantly upon opening the scent-proofed door. The air was saturated with the sweet smell of deliciously pure vampire blood. That wasn't the only thing that flooded his senses. Next to the desperate need his body expressed for the blood, his hunter senses screamed 'danger' at him with the two pureblood auras lighting up in his consciousness. One of them was like a hot burning fire, but the other was only a small candle in comparison.

Yuki...

Clutching his throat and struggling to control his thirst, Zero strained to see through his own hazed mind into the dimly lit room. A body was suspended up to the collarbones in what looked to be blood, the body entirely enclosed in a glass cylinder. Various tubes were attached to the cylinder infusing or draining liquid to and from the glass cylinder. The body... was this Yuki? Her face was drawn and haggard, and her skin was nearly non-existant, just a bloody mess whenever it was visible directly up against the glass. She was barely recognizable. But it was her. She looked so frail like that. Kuran stood next to the cylinder silently with his head bowed.
"It's true..." the hunter breathed.

The minute Zero had entered, her eyes had opened. Now her lips slowly formed his name. He stared at her without comprehension, incapable of understanding. Kuran's voice spoke quietly into the silence though he did not turn to face the hunter.
"She is asking your permission to speak into your mind."

Zero stepped closer to the glass holding her gaze, nodded and took a deep breath relaxing his thoughts as best he could. He wasn't entirely certain how this worked, but he knew that a relaxed mind might help. A slight tingle spread through the back of his head and he began to feel her presence in his mind. The instant she was there, in his mind, it burned him as thought hot coals had been dropped into his spine and brain. His skull throbbed with pain - hers was a presence of sheer agony. His hands clawed at his head as he tried to focus on external rather than internal pain.

With sheer stubborness, he reminded himself to calm his mind as he felt her presence waver badly. As well as he could, he refused to let his mind battle the intrusion. Yuki did not have the strength to penetrate his mind on her own. But it was so incredibly painful. He almost crumbled on the floor as the agony flooded his senses again, letting his mind reel.

Then another presence entered his mind. A calming presence. It took away the edge of the pain, dulling it to bearable levels. It was Kuran. Zero decided not to fight it. Grudgingly. Just this once. For Yuki and her only. Collecting his thoughts, he pulled himself up on the glass wall of the cylinder she was suspended in. Opening his thoughts as much as he could, the pain only got worse but he collected his stubbornness slowly. If this was her agony... it was horrible, how long had...?

"Zero..." her voice in his mind was weak. "I had hoped you would come..." It sounded so much like her voice had sounded when they were both still at Cross Academy. It brought all those gentle, wonderful and ridiculous memories back. He refused the tears and let the pain and sorrow touch nothing inside him. They were just that - memories. The past. Gone. He had to concentrate on now.

"Zero... I know I left you... but, perhaps, … can you forgive me one day? Forgive me for hurting you... If you... if you remember me... at all... then please remember me as I... as I was when we were younger." Her emotions went through him unfiltered. Her regret was evident, was swallowing him and there was only one answer he could give.

"Of course, Yuki." He closed his eyes against the flood of hurt that wanted to drown him. She was hurting, but she was also relieved that he didn't hold a grudge. And it was her relief that went straight to his heart more than anything else. That was 'the past' invading his 'now'. He refused to give in, but the pain was awful. She was hurting terribly, physically and emotionally and it all poured into him. Though dulled by Kuran's presence, it was still there. He swallowed hard. Allowing her to enter with this amount of pain had his mind fighting back instinctively. He wasn't used to this level of mental control against his instincts. But then he forced himself to look at her again.

"Please, Zero. Remember me … like... like your... your little sister." Did she really need his forgiveness that much? He watched as her eyes closed and she seemed to struggle to breathe. Kuran moved quietly toward her. Only then did Zero actually see what he was doing. A thick tube was attached to his lower arm, buried deep inside his flesh. He was transferring huge quantities of blood to her. The pureblood looked up toward her, a strained expression on his face. He looked very pale - even for a vampire.

"Zero." Yuki's voice was fading. "Zero... you will... will always be... my... brother." with that her voice and presence disappeared from his mind. The pain receded as well and he saw that she had sagged against the leather holsters holding her body together. Kuran clawed at the cylinder before his knees gave way, too. Without a thought, Zero caught him - his eyes still glued to the image of Yuki submerged in blood. Unconscious. Dying.

When he opened his eyes, the pureblood didn't look at Zero. "She will not regain consciousness again." With difficulty, Kuran got up and laid a hand on the glass.
"I gave her all the energy I could so she could say goodbye. I tried to shield her from the pain. She told me... Oh, Yuki..." his voice trailed off as he collected himself to a calm demeanor again. Why was Kuran telling him this?

There was a silence. Then, Kuran drew out the tube from his arm and connected its end to a machine. The blood made Zero dizzy as the wound on the pureblood's arm closed very slowly. He was so thirsty. He'd gone so long without real blood. Any blood. Kuran had gone a long way to stabilize him more than three years ago, and the strength his brother had given him completed Zero as a hunter. Still, his blood lust remained difficult to control, especially with blood everywhere. And it wasn't just any blood - it was pure blood. He knew his eyes were still red because they were burning, but he couldn't take them off Yuki - suspended in all that pure blood, her eyes closed. Even in his state of burning thirst, even with her unconscious, her presence kept him sane somehow.

He stared at her - an image from a horror movie. Another one in his life, burning its way into his mind, never to be separated from him as long as he lived. Not like he didn't have enough of them already. Flickers of ash grey played across her raw face. It looked like the burned edges of paper. Zero knew what that meant. He'd turned too many vampires to dust not to recognize it. Her death was imminent. In no more than a few minutes there would be nothing left but ashes and memory.

"What did she say, Kuran?" Zero asked in a hoarse whisper, thirst giving him a raw throat and his fangs hindering his speech. The other turned to look him in the eye.
"She wanted us to share the blood after she..." he trailed off seeing Zero's expression.
Zero stared at him. "You're kidding..."
Kuran looked impatient. "It's not like that. She has memories and thoughts she wants to give."

Zero watched the grey edges play more demandingly across her body. In a daze, he shook his head and whispered hoarsely, thirst and hurt threatening to choke his words: "I'm sorry, Yuki. I can't." He was stupid, he knew. Her blood would perhaps save him for good and give him life for a very long time. It would show him all her memories and thoughts she wanted him to see. Perhaps he could have felt like he shared a few moments with her again. Yeah, he was definitely stupid. But he just couldn't do it. Getting a grip on his thirst and the hurt he took one more look at her closed eyes.

"Goodbye, dear sister."
Without looking back, he turned and left the room.