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!)


AN: No, of course this is not the end of the story^^. I initially planned on 25 chapters (though I am not sure how accurate that will turn out to be). After all, I haven't rewarded Takuma yet. *smiles innocently*

Thank you so much for all your reviews, hugs and story alerts - and I sincerely hope those tears of yours are tears of happiness rather than frustration. ^^ I apologize for taking so long - yet again. But somehow I found this chapter extremely difficult to write and I kept changing things until the original idea became unrecognizeable. Then I re-did it all over again. But now this is the way I haven chosen to post it and I'll just have to deal with it. At any rate, it refused to get any better anyway...

So, without further ado, I hope you enjoy.


Chapter 16: A Sordid Revelation

Zero woke an indefinite time later with his body much more responsive and his mind more agile than before - but also with his thirst more prominent than it had been for years. His throat ached as though he had swallowed an entire desert and the icy claws of his need for warm blood tore hungrily at the inside of his chest. But without hesitation the hunter battled his thirst with all the unyielding determination he had accumulated over the years. He had trained his self-control for so long that no other action even occurred to him. To his satisfaction, it didn't fail him this time either. Though his fangs elongated without permission and he struggled to keep the crimson burn from his eyes, Zero was able to once more refuse his body what it greedily demanded.

Blood.

Always blood.

The eternal curse of the monster he was.

With great effort, he pushed aside the terrible need and sat up, caching his breath and calming himself - he knew this struggle, it was nothing new and it would pass. The suddenness of his thirst was simply... surprising. But of course, it was nothing unusual with the wounds he must have sustained. He had to admit to himself at least that he was still healing. Even being fed by a pureblood didn't compensate entirely for the energy he needed in order to repair all the damage done. Truly, only the pureblood could have pulled him back to life from that edge. He had escaped death - again.

For a second he contemplated what that meant and why this time felt so different from all the other times. For so long now, he hadn't feared to die, on the contrary, he had awaited that moment. But now...

Zero wasn't certain, if he actually felt glad about the turn of events. But there was this one big change he was certain of - he wasn't disappointed to find himself alive. And that - to him - was a very new perspective.

His mind wandering, the hunter let his gaze travel across the furnishings of the room he was currently occupying. It was unmistakeably the pureblood's room. Everything was kept in dark colors. From the luscious wall hangings to the antique furniture to the silken sheets of the bed - everything was dark. It had a certain homely feeling to it - perhaps a bit on the gloomy side. Even so, Zero would never have chosen such a decadently expensive interior. Still, the dark was rather pleasant to his eyes, even if the hunter didn't really like what that implied.

Zero felt almost... comfortable - apart from his gnawing thirst, of course. He felt rested, though not exactly ready to take on the world just yet, and he briefly wondered why this feeling, too was so foreign to him. It had to be the absence of nightmares - of course. He snorted softly at that realization. Apart from the relief he felt at his encounter with Ichiru - real or not, he also immediately recognized the soothing effect of the bond. He didn't have to look to know the pureblood was near. He could sense it. He could feel him close, almost as though his thoughts could just reach out and touch him. It was an unfamiliar form of perception and Zero shook the idea away, focusing on using his good old eyesight instead.

Said pureblood lay next to him, curled up to his right on top of the blanket - fully dressed, yet fast asleep. Zero watched the quiet rising and falling of his chest with every breath in its soothing rhythm. He faintly wondered why the almighty pureblood hadn't chosen a more comfortable position to sleep in. Perhaps he should be feeling awkward about the situation but instead, he just let his eyes rest on the pureblood's perfect face lying there in peaceful serenity. He remembered the first time he contemplated the sleeping vampire. Even back then, he had thought that Kaname looked too harmless in his sleep. There was no dominant aura, just a strong and steady warmth, no haughtiness, no aloofness... Kaname looked like a sweet young man and nothing like the powerful, ruthless pureblood he truly was.

Zero couldn't help contemplating the pureblood's lips as they rested softly on each other in quiet slumber.

Lost in thought, Zero's fingers moved to touch his own lips. They had... kissed. The hunter felt a faint blush spread across his cheeks. He wasn't usually one for modesty. Even the fact that the pajamas he was wearing must have been put onto him by the pureblood while he was naked and helpless didn't bother him much. After all, the pureblood had patched him up after he'd been torn into pieces. There was really no point in modesty there. But a kiss...

It had been his first kiss. Ever. The hunter had never expected to live long enough to be... kissed. He dropped his hand and bit his lip. He didn't regret it. His heartbeat began to thump loudly in his chest. He would be lying to himself if he said he hadn't enjoyed it. Never had he allowed himself to think about how it would feel. Now he knew. A kiss was soft, sweet and strange confusion, but not... bad. The best word to describe it, perhaps, was...

Gentle.

The pureblood was... gentle.

Zero grimaced. He was acting like an overly romantic teenager, he chided himself. But despite his own reprimand, the small tingle in his heart remained.

The hunter was still uncertain as to how he felt about this new turn in their relationship. Closeness was still quite foreign to him. He needed freedom and had always struggled toward being as independent as he could be. But he had allowed this closeness toward the pureblood. He no longer felt that it was entirely wrong, he could no longer summon the disgust he knew that Yagari would expect him to feel. His hatred for vampires just didn't include the pureblood anymore, it was that simple. But his wariness was certainly still in place. Zero Kiryu couldn't just hand himself over to the pureblood.

This was Kaname Kuran...

Gentle.

Kaname Kuran - Mr. Almighty Pureblood...

... was gentle...

... the same Kaname Kuran who owned a company worth a fortune, the same Kaname Kuran who could kill Shizuka without batting an eye, the same Kaname Kuran who could turn into a freaking panther and roam the enemy lines like a ghost, the same Kaname Kuran who fought for his mate's life for five days without sleep, the same one...

... kisses gently - almost like he truly cares...

Zero shook his head. He was being pathetically emotional. He should know better than that. Purebloods didn't care. Purebloods were cruel and heartless. They. Do not. Care. They use their pawns. They play their games. And when it fits their schemes, they turn on you after gaining your trust and tear your world apart. Nothing good ever came of trusting a pureblood. Nothing.

So he told himself, but there was no conviction behind the well-worn mantra. Not when he kept hearing those words from his memory over and over again in his mind.

You haven't understood yet. There is no need to apologize. You're my mate, Zero. I would do anything for you.

It had to be a lie. It had to be... right?

Right?

Zero bit his lip and looked away from the sleeping figure. Kaname Kuran was a pureblood vampire. How dare he look so harmless in his sleep, so sincere, so... human, so... vulnerable...

Why did Kaname kiss him?

And why did Zero answer? Why did he have to like it so much?

You haven't understood yet. There is no need to apologize. You're my mate, Zero. I would do anything for you.

Zero resisted the urge to rub his temples in frustration. Almost relieved at feeling nature's call, the hunter got up out of bed trying not to disturb the pureblood's sleep. On wobbly legs, he began to make his way to the adjacent bathroom. Three steps later, he had already abandoned his original plan of going back to his bedroom - the effort it took to take just those few steps demonstrating exactly how weak his body still was. He felt cold and ill somehow and it dawned on him that it was because he'd left Kaname's warm and protective aura. The calmness and peaceful feeling he'd had before was gone now and Zero felt strongly compelled to return to the bed and return to... dare he say his mate...?

Zero gritted his teeth against that thought and forced himself to resume his way. He hated to admit to himself that he liked the feeling of being passively cocooned by the pureblood in his frigging sleep and he couldn't help feeling a small leap in his heart at seeing the sleeping pureblood there on the bed... His heart grated on his nerves. Spurred onward by his annoyance at himself, he made his way to the bathroom, daring his limbs to resist. He clutched heavily at the door frame as he caught his breath after no more then ten steps.

~{}~

When Kaname woke, his first instinct was to check for his mate. He quickly found that Zero had left the bed and the pureblood nearly sprang up instantly to search for him. His worry was unfounded, however. Relieved to feel the hunter's presence in his bathroom, he relaxed a bit. He allowed himself to close his eyes, stretch luxuriously and take in the lingering scent from where Zero had lain. The hunter's fragrance was delightful to his filigrane sense of smell. Very masculine with just a hint of something floral. It made the pureblood smile as he resisted the urge to grasp the sheets to his face.

Every part of his body wanted the hunter back in his vicinity and he kept listening for movement behind the closed door, eagerly waiting for his mate to return. He should be having better control over himself, but apparently, not leaving his wounded mate's side for nearly six days had somehow tied them closer together. The pureblood already dreaded being parted from the hunter. If beforehand had been bad, now was certain to become hell. The bond between them was becoming tighter and tighter, bringing them closer and closer together. His impatience at wanting his mate by his side was therefore not really his to control.

When he heard nothing after a few minutes, he began to worry. Waiting just a bit longer until he decided something had to be wrong, the pureblood gave in to the urge to be near his mate and knocked at the door. Technically, it was his own bathroom and he needn't have knocked. But bonded or not, Zero obviously had a great need for personal space and Kaname didn't want to upset him unnecessarily. There was no answer. Cautiously, he opened the door.

"Zero?" he asked.

He found the stubborn hunter glaring at his reflection, clearly thirsty and upset.

"Zero." he repeated soothingly. The hunter appeared startled at the pureblood's presence and turned to look at him with guilty crimson eyes.

Kaname held out a hand. "You need blood, Zero. And your body still requires much rest. It is nothing to be ashamed of."

At first, it seemed like the hunter was inclined to refuse. He scowled and his jaw clenched defiantly. But Kaname saw clearly how heavily he was leaning on the sink for support and how hard he was struggling to keep from succumbing to his no doubt terrible thirst. He wanted to argue how Zero couldn't have been completely healed by now, how he needed perhaps one or two more days, but he didn't have to say anything more. After a heartbeat, Zero nodded almost imperceptibly and stumbled toward the door. Kaname caught him easily as the hunter's knees buckled. He struggled a bit with his own emotions. He would have rather carried his mate, showered him with kisses and ravished him senseless. He concluded, however, that that wouldn't go over too well with the hunter if he took advantage of him in his current state. Trust, apparantly, had to be tediously won over bit by bit.

Leaning heavily on the pureblood for support, Zero managed to get back to the bed on two legs - unnecessarily, as the pureblood would have put it, but he recognized pride as something they had in common and didn't voice his objection. Without a word, Kaname unbuttoned his shirt and bared his throat to his hungry mate.

Even if he had wanted to, Kaname had no way of conceiling his racing heartbeat, or his ragged breath in anticipation of his mate's fangs. Though he expected the hunter to feed hungrily and that meant it would be quite painful, he still craved it. Zero's hungry crimson eyes and his sharp elongated fangs were nothing but a turn-on for the pureblood. His mate was hungry for his blood. That thought alone was intoxicating. Zero's scent all around him, knowing how soft those lips were - Kaname fought hard to contain a moan.

His breath hitched and he swallowed hard when the hunter's rough hands held onto his shoulders almost tenderly. Zero's eyes fluttered shut as his lips closed the distance to the pureblood's racing pulse. Kaname almost went mad with craving as Zero's lips licked the skin of his throat gently with instinctive preparation. Then his fangs sliced deeply into his flesh. A quiet groan escaped the pureblood's lips as Zero began drinking his blood in slow, delectable droughts. It astounded the pureblood every time how the hunter who had so little education in feeding managed to deliver so little pain and so much pleasure with his bite.

~{}~

Zero was more than conscious of the pureblood's emotional state. He felt the pleasure through Kaname's blood as he drank, through their bond as it pulsed through his chest and in the aura surrounding him in a warm cocoon. It felt so convincingly affectionate that he couldn't help himself. He understood easily that his body was reacting similarly, that he was aroused and intoxicated by their closeness. The pureblood was around him, was flowing into him with every sip of that sweet blood, was cradling him and pressing him close.

Zero felt the answering heat coarse through his body and through his own blood stream. And this time it was of his own volition. He didn't feel the pureblood invade him with a pleasurable haze like the last time. This pleasure was his. It may be induced by the bond, it may be fueled by their closeness, may be deepened by the heavy scent of the pureblood's arousal, but the hunter couldn't deny it. His body was attracted to Kaname. His legs slid against the pureblood's, their hips met involuntarily and he felt the deceptively slender body in his hands tremble ever so softly at their movement.

The hunter longed for more, as graceful hands grasped at his torso in need for purchase. His treacherous body delightedly indulged in the answering shivers traveling down his own spine. He could taste the change in Kaname's blood as well, could feel the pleasure overwhelm the pureblood like it was overwhelming him. Zero couldn't deny his arousal or his need. He hadn't ever felt like this. It was all so new, all brilliantly inexplicable. It was wild and hungry and uncontrollable and startlingly... good.

But his mind was conflicted, trepidation beginning to outweigh the intense pleasure. The hunter part inside him found it hard enough to deal with the pureblood presence, but loosing himself like this... he couldn't do it. He just couldn't. With a great strength of will he slid his fangs from the pureblood's skin, breaking their connection.

His eyes remained glued to the wound he had just made as he watched it close slowly, leaving only a stray drop of blood trickling across the pale perfect clavicle. Hesitantly, Zero leaned in to catch it. It shouldn't be wasted, he thought to himself. Kaname's body answered with a soft intake of breath as Zero's tongue barely grazed his sensitive skin. It startled Zero out of his trance and he looked up. The hunter swallowed hard as he realized with full consciousness how intimately woven into the pureblood's embrace he truly was.

He was basically in Kaname's lap, their arousals pressed flush against each other through the fabric of pajamas and slacks, generating unbearable heat between them. Kaname's dark eyes rested on him as Zero let himself be immerged in their unreadable gaze. The pureblood was panting slightly, his perfect features just a bit pink and his lips a deep and pulsing red - yet he appeared calm and collected otherwise, like it was no big deal that his arousal was twitching against the hunter's.

Zero was liking this entirely too much for the comfort of his hunter senses. But he didn't struggle as he felt Kaname's embrace tighten around him and those warm red lips closed the distance between them. The pureblood's eyes fluttered shut as their skin connected and Zero allowed the sensual lips to mold against his, he allowed his face to be cupped into warm slender fingers and his chin lifted toward the pureblood to meet him, he allowed Kaname to guide him and he allowed the sweet taste of the pureblood so close to his tongue, though their kiss remained chaste. Zero closed his eyes. His chest hummed with their bond's content and the hunter's heart raced as he felt Kaname's breath against his skin. Their noses brushed each other and the silky dark tresses of the pureblood's hair played against his cheek.

He couldn't help answering that kiss. He didn't resist his need to hold on tight to the pureblood. He wanted it. There was no denying it.

~{}~

Kaname smiled to himself. The hunter was delicious in this placid state. He especially loved the way Zero blushed at feeling so aroused. It was oddly sweet to see the grumpy hunter so out of control over himself. Perhaps it wasn't so strange after all for the hunter to yield so easily to his kiss. Living the doomed life of a falling ex-human hunter, he must be starved for affection. Was it possible that the hunter was still... a virgin...?

The sensations must be overwhelmingly new to Zero to leave him so open to such subtle pleasure. It wasn't entirely the hunter's doing, of course, but he wasn't truly opposed either. Kaname had merely exuded a slight amount of... appeasement through his blood. He didn't really want to force the hunter... coercing might be the better choice.

The hunter's distrust was quite understandable - but Kaname wanted him close, he wanted to see the hunter aroused and needy for his mate and as long as Kaname felt strong enough to withstand the desire to shag his silverhaired mate senseless, he wanted to show him that they could share intense pleasure - if Zero allowed it. He had vowed that he wouldn't make the same mistake twice, but that didn't lessen his desire for the hunter even a bit.

At the moment, however, Kaname found it strangely easy to control his arousal. The hunter's body was still clearly too vulnerable, too weakened and fragile in this state of recovery. Somehow Kaname's highly sensitive pureblood body seemed to recognize that. Kisses would need to be enough to satisfy for now. But Kaname didn't trust himself beyond the hunter's lips. If he so much as parted them to explore the moist warmth inside, he was certain his decision to take it slow might fall victim to his crumbling will. He kissed those sweet lips once more, as sweetly as he could muster, and then let the hunter drift back to sleep, coercing his mind back to the healing rest he needed. He would not slip again, he repeated to himself.

Sucessfully retreating from the hunter's lips, Kaname found himself in a sweet predicament. Heat between his thighs throbbed needily under an arousingly pliant hunter. Zero was sleeping against his chest, his breathing slow and deep. For a moment, Kaname allowed himself to inhale his mate's pleasing scent, to finger the silken strands of sliver hair and to listen to his calm breathing. For someone so fierce and stubborn, Zero was quite the beauty when he didn't wear his trademark scowl. Or when he blushed... Smiling, Kaname laid him down on the pillow and covered him again.

The pureblood had provided a lot of blood in the past few days. It made him weaker than he liked to be, but he couldn't allow himself to rest anymore. Blood tablets would have to suffice to replenish the nourishment he needed. He had neglected many things for the past five days. Work was certain to have piled up to infinite towers in the mean time. He needed to speak with Kaien about the Treaty. There was a company that demanded his attention, enemy movements that demanded his careful evaluation and perhaps most pressing of all... a friend - dare he even call him that after what he'd done - who needed his reassurance.

Those thoughts should have done everything to dampen his arousal. But to Kaname's chagrin he found that they hadn't. His throbbing member ached between his thighs and compelled him to contemplate the hunter's lips once more. With one last glance at his sleeping mate, Kaname found it in himself to rise from the bed, grab some suitable clothing and disappear to his bathroom, shedding his pajamas and freeing his throbbing member. Before he consumed his mind in politics, his hands were needed elsewhere.

~{}~

Takuma had barely moved for days. He could not sleep, he could not eat, he could not think, and though he could have remembered, he certainly didn't want to. He had hardly registered being brought to Kuran Mansion - half of the time he didn't even realize where he was at all. A small part of himself knew somehow that he must be insane, but the rest of himself only lay there, naked, shivering to the bone equally due to his fear and the cold. For the sake of warmth, at least, he could have pulled the blanket over himself, but he didn't dare.

Kuran-sama would surely not appreciate it. And he belonged to Kuran-sama now. Every ounce of his wretched body was a servant to Kuran-sama. He didn't deserve warmth. He didn't deserve care. His filthy body belonged into a cellar, chained to the darkness. It wouldn't be long now before Kuran-sama came for him. And so he stared at the ceiling, shivering, tryinig desperately to suppress a whimper threatening to escape his treacherous throat.

He was already terrified. He was already at the limit of what his psyche could take. But when he felt a pureblood aura grow in the distance, he transgressed even that limit. A sheen of cold sweat covered his skin and he could do nothing against the tremble of his lip or the hysterical rising and falling of his chest. He wasn't sure anymore if that ominous pureblood presence was Rido Kuran-sama's or Kaname Kuran-sama's anymore. Somehow they had melted into one. Or maybe it was him who could not distinguish anyone anymore. And it didn't really make a difference, because he feared their wrath equally now. Their faces melted in his mind, hurting him, thrusting into him, stabbing him, cutting him, whipping him, laughing at him, killing anyone before his eyes... those eyes... those red and blue eyes. The hatred in them, that cold, calculating hatred as Sara turned to dust...

The aura became stronger and Takuma was certain he was coming for him now. He was going back to that dungeon. He was going to pay, he was going to repent, he was going to hurt... Through the haze of his terror, he found the energy to scurry to the corner of his bed as far away from the door as he could go. His naked body shook in terror, tears pouring soundlessly from his eyes as he crouched in the corner staring helplessly at where the presence was behind the wall. The pureblood aura had reached the door now and Takuma's terrified senses could hear him just a step away. Then the door opened and his mind went blank in horror.

~{}~

Zero weathered the stern gaze of his sensei without so much as a hint of discomfort. Perhaps it was a bit unusual of his teacher to show up at his appartment, but then again, with Zero's phone destroyed in the fight, they had no means of communication. Of course his mentor would check for him at his appartment every once in a while. Though Zero didn't remember giving his mentor a spare key to his rooms, the senior hunter was standing here, nonetheless. But of course Yagari-sensei wasn't one to be put off by something as mundane as a lock on a door. Most likely, he had spent much more time here than he'd ever admit, but Zero would never bring that up. He was grateful for the stern hunter's obvious care, but talking about it was not appreciated - nor was it necessary.

Toga Yagari's famous glare wasn't quite in place, he noticed. His sensei looked at him with a mixture of slight displeasure and thoughtful relief. Zero wasn't sure how much the senior hunter knew about him and the pureblood. But Zero wouldn't be the one to start that particular conversation between them. For the moment it was still rather unimportant, anyway. As if in answer, Yagari-sensei nodded, putting his hat back on - hiding a large part of his face underneath its shadow.

"Glad to see you're back to your whole self again, kid." he growled with fondness. Zero nodded.

"You're still pretty weak, though." he continued, his lips frowning in disapproval.

Zero scowled at the admonition. "I'm fine."

Yagari lit a cigarette behind the brim of his hat. Zero knew him well enough by now to know that his sensei had to be quite troubled. He didn't usually smoke indoors or hide his face from his pupil. Knowing this, he crossed his arms in front of his chest and waited for his teacher to spit it out - whatever it was.

"You aren't exactly in the best condition for a mission." his mentor began. "Unfortunately, this cannot wait. I need you to do something... unofficial."

Zero raised an eyebrow. He didn't mind things that were unofficial. He didn't really care for the Association other than the fact that it battled the monsters he hated. If Yagari asked him to get involved in politics, however...

"The Association doesn't know where you are, they aren't even sure if you're dead or alive. My report of six nights ago wasn't exactly detailed..." the hunter continued. "Who'd have thought that it would bother them so much..."

Zero heard a slight chuckle from behind the cigarette smoke. The thought amused him slightly as well, but he didn't see what the big deal was - he was, after all, quite the expendable nuisance in their eyes.

"So what do you need me to do?" he asked. Yagari beating around the bush like this hadn't happened in a long time. It worried Zero slightly. Usually, his mentor was more straight forward than this.

A new cloud of smoke puffed out from under Yagari's hat. "An object needs to be retrieved." he said. "I need you to be silent, invisible and untraceable."

Zero nodded. It was to be expected in combination with the term 'unofficial'.

"A hunter is in posession of pureblood venom. I can't think of anything a hunter should be needing that for - except one thing."

Zero nodded slowly in understanding. He didn't like the implication, either. "Until I figure out what exactly it is they're doing, I want no one to know that it's missing. But I don't want them using it, either. Switch it with this. It's an exact replica - except for the content."

The hunter pulled out a small vial and tossed it over to Zero. He caught it and turned the small crystal vial over in his fingers looking at it intently. It hummed discordantly to his senses and was unpleasant to touch. Zero gave his mentor a quizzical look.

"Don't worry. You're part vampire - of course you know the difference. But to a mediocre hunter it's just a vampire object of a certain strength."

Zero trusted his sensei. Without question, he nodded.

"Here's the address." A slip of paper followed.

Zero shook his head, looking at the address.

"You're kidding me."

"Wish I was." Yagari answered with a growl.

Zero snorted softly. Then he nodded.

"Tonight?"

Yagari nodded. Then he grunted.

"Oh, yeah - and when you're done, do me a favor and visit Kaito. The idiot needs to see you."

~{}~

Kaname entered the room he had appointed to the noble. He had expected to find an upset vampire, or perhaps a grieving vampire, with bloodshot eyes and a tearstained face - but what he saw instead, was heartbreaking.

When he entered the room, it reeked of fear. Takuma's green eyes stared at him, wide open in terror. There were streaks of tears and grime down his usually so cheerful face and his naked body was crouched into the farthest corner of the room. He apparently hadn't slept or washed for five days. His blond hair was in grimy disarray and his naked body was still dirty from having escaped from Sara's mansion. There were dark bags under his bloodshot eyes and his pale skin showed signs of severe blood-malnourishment.

His cracked lips trembled hopelessly.

"Please... Kuran-sama..." he croaked barely audible.

"Takuma." Kaname said solemly, hoping his voice would help.

It didn't. The noble began sobbing uncontrollably and shaking his head profusely.

"Forgive me... Kuran-sama... Forgive me..."

Kaname wondered briefly what exactly had Takuma apologizing so formally, how exactly the noble had been broken like this. Rido had been cruel, certainly... witnessing his lover's death must have been horrible - but Kaname had yet to understand the depth and reason of his friend's emotional turmoil. Takuma was kneeling now, bowing his head in shame, muttering apologies in endless repetition.

Kaname needed to put an end to Takuma's unexpected torment. For now, he decided that the easiest way to do that was to do what had this entire drama started. Though he had little to spare at the moment, he saw no other way. Resolutely, he dug a fingernail into his wrist and offered his crimson essence to the noble. Takuma's green bloodshot eyes turned crimson instantly but he stared wide-eyed at his pureblood friend. It must have triggered something in him, because he stopped apologizing at least. Yet he didn't move to take the offer.

Patiently, Kaname re-opened the wound and insisted.

"Drink." he ordered.

Fearfully, Takuma crawled closer on hands and knees, staring into his face with scared crimson eyes, undoubtedly too afraid to resist. With shaking hands he grasped the offered arm, his eyes darting between the blood and the pureblood's calm eyes. It was only after he had sunk his teeth into the soft skin that Kaname sat down onto the bed and searched through the noble's mind. Great emotional upheaval greeted him there. And through the flashes of his memory, Kaname easily understood now, why Takuma was so upset.

Rido had struck him both at his weakest and strongest point. Pleasure and pain weren't two things that went together in the cheerful noble's mind. And then Senri Shiki had unknowingly challenged poor Takuma's loyalty. Of course that would only break him further. And in his fragile emotional state, the noble had been fooled by Kaname's aura as well, believing him to be Rido when he came to execute Sara. He seemed to have merged his fear at failing his pureblood 'mate' and disobeying Rido when being forced to flee. Takuma had payed bitterly for his loyalty to the pureblood. Kaname let the noble drink freely - he could most certainly not refuse him the relief and of course, his friend and vice president could not remain in such a volatile mindset.

However, erasing the entire memory from his mind was out of the question. Kain and Aido had seen him in emotional disarray and it would be unbelievable if he could remember none of it. Kaname's followers would never dare to question him, even if it was apparent that he had replaced Takuma's memory, but this time the way Takuma remembered his experiences would most likely serve them all best. Besides, Shiki's death was something that couldn't just be erased - his lover's death had affected Takuma on too many levels.

But Kaname smoothed out many of the other painful moments. By the time Takuma slid his fangs from Kaname's skin, his memory of Sara was barely hazy - except for 'Rido' killing her - and being in Rido's clutches was reduced to a mere day of slightly more bearable torture. Shiki's death, however, was still fairly clear. Kaname was prepared for the noble's grief that could finally surface in a more natural way.

Takuma began sobbing uncontrolled again and Kaname held him close to his chest. The pureblood did nothing but hold him and rub soft circles across his back. There really was nothing he could say to alleviate the pain of losing someone you loved. He would know best. And so he patiently waited out the noble's grief. Kaname's shirt was very wet by the time Takuma was able to get a hold on himself again.

Only then did the noble realize that he was naked and dirty. Embarassed, he pulled away hastily and covered himself.

"I apologize for what you have had to endure, Takuma." Kaname said seriously.

The noble just nodded and bit his lip. Understanding Takuma's need to be alone now, both to groom his appearance to more acceptable levels and to sort his emotions, Kaname rose.
"Please join me for dinner in two hours."
Takuma didn't look at him, the blond hair falling into his face in shame. Then he nodded.
"Yes, Kaname."

~{}~

"Has it perhaps not occurred to you that I don't appreciate your just leaving without a word?" Kaname spoke into his mind with irritation.

Zero had spent the last few hours observing the building before him, until it was past midnight. Of course it hadn't escaped his notice that their bond had become stronger. It was much harder to be parted from the pureblood now. His chest didn't just throb with a discordant ache, it burned and stung with being parted from his bloodbound mate. Zero clenched his jaw. Kaname's voice inside his mind was currently just the reminder that he definitely did not need of how close they were.

Zero growled back. "So I need your 'appreciation' to be allowed to do my job?"

"Why are you on a hunt? Your body is not fully recovered, you should be nowhere near a mission." Kaname gave back tersely.

It annoyed the hunter to no end, that just hearing that voice in his mind lessened the ache. Even if it was just an accusation, it was still soothing. Zero breathed deeply, making the most of this interuption. Of course, he could have just allowed the pureblood insight into his thoughts instead of withholding them. But his pride forbade it and so he allowed their communication to slightly relieve the ache, even if he didn't really want the disturbance.

"Relax. I'm not fighting Level E's - there's no need to get all worked up. I'll be back in a few hours."

"You are incorrigeable." Kaname muttered. Zero ignored the comment.

Finally, a man exited the elaborate housing complex and Zero crouched closely behind one of the many video cameras, ready to loop a few minutes of footage after the hunter passed from its view.

Zero easily evaded all camera angles, not wanting to take the slightest of risks. He found it almost too easy to circumvent all hunter security measures as he entered the large house by a half open window near the koi pond. He already knew the layout of the architecture. And the scent of what it was he was supposed to find rested faintly but unmistakably in the air once you knew it for what it was. Zero waited patiently for staff members to hurry past him. It astounded him that none of them were hunters, any hunter would have instantly felt his presence - but they were all human. The only hunter still on the premise was a senile watchman snoozing in front of the cameras in a tiny house near the gate at least three hundred meters away.

What hunter would ever let down his guard like this?!

When gossiping maids finally finished cleaning the dining area and the room fell into quiet darkness, Zero emerged from behind the heavy curtains. Carefully reassuring himself that he wouldn't step into any hunter charms, he made his way through the surprisingly charm-free house. He couldn't help but scoff at the portraits in the halls, all of which showed the face of one man only. Zero had known the owner of the house was a stuck up snob - but who would have thought he glorified himself enough to fill his own halls with portraits of himself - one more unrealistic of his age and stature than another.

He stopped apruptly when his ears picked up a faint sound. Very cautiously, Zero entered the room where he knew he would find what he was sent to retrieve. But he was very surprised by what else he found. Dumbfounded for a second and unable to quite comprehend what he saw, he quickly regained his composure after he concluded that there was no immediate threat.

"Master?" a feeble voice whispered.

In the dark bedroom of the Association's President, spread across the covers of an elaborate bedspread, lay the pitiful figure of a young male Level D vampire. He was drugged so heavily, that his aura was extremely faint - so that Zero had only been able to feel it once he stepped inside the room. The blond boy was certainly no older than twenty and his young body was elaborately bound by soft restraints, finished with furs and little golden pompoms. He lay on his stomach with his legs and arms cuffed to the bed posts and his rear cushioned high into the air. The blindfolded pleasure servant most likely reacted solely to Zero's hunter aura, though he could probably barely distinguish it from that of another hunter, if the smell of intoxicants was anything to go by.

This, of course, explained immediately, why none of the house staff was a hunter. If this became know, it would be a scandal of immense proportion. Zero grimaced as the vampire squirmed in a blatantly sexually enticing way.

"Master..." he panted. "Master, please allow me to come."

Silently, Zero reached into his coat and pulled out a small object, identical in appearance to the one he was supposed to retrieve. Yagari-sensei had even placed a hunter charm on it that exuded a similar scent and an unpleasant hum when it was touched. Zero could easily tell the difference, but his sensei had assured him that a hunter of the inhabitant's calibre would never notice the difference.

Not wanting to waste any time, Zero sighed internally as he realized where exactly the object was located that he was supposed to retrieve and replace. Between the trembling thighs of the young Level D, there hung a golden thread with a plush pompom at its end. It was attached to a small crystal vial, barely recognizable between the clenching and unclenching of a small circular muscle.

Zero facepalmed internally. Of all the places to hide a vial of pureblood venom it had to be the rear entrance of the president's personal vampire sex slave...

There was, of course, no way to obtain the object in question without interacting with the vampire. Much as he detested vampires, he couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for creature on the bed spread. But he also couldn't help the disgust at the thoughts that flashed through his mind. In another mansion, it could be him lying on a bed in such a pitiful state, and instead of a hunter it would be a pureblood he'd be whoring himself to...

"Master, please... I... I... I love you..." the vampire whispered.

Zero stood, rooted in shock. What had he stumbled into? A lover's confession? He was almost angry at the vampire on the bed, now. How dare he speak of love when he was handcuffed to the bed in such a humiliating pose? Zero shook those thoughts away. He couldn't afford to jeopardize this mission. Resolutely, he decided on the least likable of all actions: he'd pretend to be who the vampire thought he was. The boy was blindfolded and his face was turned away from him. He was already covered in the fluids of his own desire. It wouldn't change his appearance to come once more. Sliding the vial in and out of a damp passage would perhaps make switching it less obvious. If he did it cleverly, he wouldn't even need to touch the vampire.

Zero sighed silently to himself. Then, without revealing himself or his intentions, he approached the blindfolded vampire on the bed.

~{}~

"Cross-san?" Kaname asked peering at the man sitting behind an overly crowded and ridiculously untidy desk.

The pureblood's words shook the man from the depth of his thoughts. The former hunter looked troubled.

"I apologize, Kaname... Negotiations between both parties are always tedious, but of course this Peace Treaty seems to pose an inexplicably large amount of controversy. There are unanticipated difficulties that can have only one explanation and I don't like it."

"I see." Kaname said, when the former chairman lapsed into silence. Kaname already had a vague idea of what Kaien wanted to say. Remembering the laboratories, he gave an educated guess.

"There is some form of weapon trading or weapons experiment under way..." he concluded.

Kaien looked up sharply, the alertness in his eyes still a very lively reminder of his heritage.

"How do you know this?"

"I found out a few... unpleasant things involving members of the Vampire Council." Kaname answered.

"So there are inofficial deals between the Association and the Council..." Kaien guessed.

"Indeed."

"Kaname, there are many aspects of this treaty I would like to see in place. Even if I cannot have them all, I still want as many as can be included. I am willing to rephrase the part about the weapons if it is necessary to allow all other passages to be signed."

"I understand, Cross-san. But allow me to speak with members of the Council first, before we revert to that option."

Kaien looked at him intently.

"I hope you aren't thinking of blackmail."

"Of course not." Kaname smiled lying effortlessly. The pureblood wondered sometimes how the former chairman got anything accomplished with the idealistic attitude of his. Hunters were merely stubborn and rebellious. But vampires were sly, cruel and most of all power hungry.

"Then I trust that matter into your capable hands." Kaien said, his voice betraying how truly relieved he was to leave the matters to someone else.

Kaname nodded in approval. The hunter looked exhausted to him, the lines of weariness deeply engraven in his skin. The pureblood decided that enough had been discussed for the moment. Cross looked like he needed a few hours of sleep and Kaname didn't want to keep him. He rose from the chair and prepared to leave. As usual, the former chairman rose as well.

"Kaname?" Kaien asked. "Before you leave, there is another thing I wanted to speak about with you."

"Of course. What matter did you have in mind?" Kaname asked.

"Kuran Rido." Kaname waited for the hunter to finish studying his reaction. Kaien was easily underestimated. And once again he didn't disappoint.

"So the rumors are true..." he concluded from seemingly nothing. But he must have somehow seen it in the pureblood's eyes. Or maybe he just knew anyway.

"He is indeed alive and has killed again?"

"I have seen him, yes." Kaname confirmed.

"How? How did he survive?" the hunter looked at him both worried and thoughtful.

"I have an idea about that now." Kaname answered.

"He will want revenge..." Kaien continued.

"Yes." Kaname agreed.

"On you... and..."

"Yes. Zero Kiryu."

~{}~

Zero knocked at the shabby appartment door. He could sense the inhabitant was home, the hunter aura was strong and steady even if there was no sound to be heard. After some moments, a rumbling, a shuffling and then the sound of overturned furniture reached Zero's ears. A string of colorful curses followed. Five heavy steps later, the door opened to reveal a totally drunk hunter with tousled dark hair, deep rings under his eyes and an unhealthy pallor that looked suspiciously like sleep deprivation.

"You motherfucking asshole." He slurred a greeting. "You dare show that ugly bitch-ass face of yours here?" Kaito flared, cussing like a drunken sailor.

Zero smiled ruefully at the string of profanities.

"Good to see you, too, Kaito. Hell, you look like crap."

Kaito slapped him square across the face, almost loosing his balance in the process. Zero could have easily evaded the drunken hunter's outburst of violence, but there was no harm done in Kaito venting a bit of his frustration. Especially not, if it was no more than a meek slap with a miniscule fraction of his actual strength. They'd sparred often enough for Zero to easily judge that much.

"I thought you were dead." Kaito accused, his anger fading. "I thought you were fucking dead. I messed up. I fucking messed up and I thought you died because of me. You asshole."

The hunter's dark eyes became moist as he flung his hurt toward his visitor. Then, Zero almost toppled over backwards as the overwhelmingly emotional and drunk hunter practically fell into his chest.

"I fucking messed up." He sobbed into Zero's shirt. Ignoring the stench of liquor, Zero frowned and then steadied his companion, dragging him up again. "Damn you. I fucked up and I thought I'd lost another brother..."

"Sensei is right." Zero remarked dryly. "You're an idiot."

~{}~

Zero entered his room at Kuran mansion. He felt the warmth of their bond engulf him, even before his hunter senses kicked in to tell him that the pureblood was near. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, letting the pureblood's presence pervade his senses. When he opened his eyes to look, he found himself in a warm embrace, inches from the pureblood's throat.

"I should keep a better eye on you. You slip away like the wind..." the words sounded amused, but the hunter inside Zero bristled at the thought of being controlled. He didn't share the pureblood's playful mood - it wounded his pride to be so dependent on someone he was forced to learn to accept.

"You can't keep me here." he growled defiantly struggling against the scent of pure blood so close to his tingling fangs.

"You know that's a lie." Kaname said softly.

Perhaps they were meant as a gentle reprimand, but the words spoken so sweetly hurt the hunter more harshly than he cared to admit. Zero found his pride rear its head sharply. But he had no anger to match it. So he said nothing. It was true. If Kaname wanted to keep him here, there was nothing Zero could do about it. And the hunter had promised himself not to struggle. But it still hurt.

The pureblood nuzzled his ear. "I could keep you here, Zero..." he whispered almost seductively.

Unbidden, the images of his previous 'unofficial' mission crawled into Zero's mind. How the blond Level D rocked against his restraints, moaning in delight. He loathed that image. How could anyone let themself become so utterly helpless and even enjoy it? How could anyone want to be caged and bound by another person like that? Why did every one else seem so satisfied by their place? Why was he the only one who wanted to defy his helplessness, why was he the only one who wanted freedom?

"But I let you go... because I know you want to, Zero." the pureblood's velvet voice pulled him from his reverie. He still spoke in his playful tone, but it was obvious that there was much more than just a playful meaning to it. A soft nip on his earlobe was all it took to let the hunter's treacherous pulse sky-rocket with the tingling sensation. He was hurt on a very deep level by the truth in Kaname's words and his own inaceptance of it. So his body cleverly evaded that hurt by entirely surrendering to the pleasure Kaname was providing.

"I let you go... because you are a hunter and want to live as one." Kaname continued quietly, his tongue playing across the hunter's sensitive earlobe undeterred. As the heat between them grew steadily, Zero feared he might hyperventilate with the sensations even as he felt his heart shatter into a thousand pieces. He didn't want to hear this. He didn't want to acknowledge how much power the pureblood truly had over him - and that all the defiance in the world would not help him.

"I let you go... because our bond will bring you back." Kaname whispered in devastating sweetness. The pureblood kissed a line across Zero's cheek to his lips. The hunter didn't struggle but remained rooted to the spot - pleasure raging through his body. It was true. He was caged. Caged by a bond he had created. The hunter fought the tears of helplessness that threatened to spill across his face.

Why had he cared enough to save Kuran? Why did he have to care? Why couldn't he have just continued to suffer and then die an honorable hunter's death? When had his emotional defenses crumbled so easily? What part of him had been stupid enough to want to live? Where had he failed to keep his heart locked away? Was it Ichiru who had brought him back to life? Was it the pureblood's kiss?

"I don't want you to go, Zero. I don't." In silence, the hunter listened to Kaname's soft words.

"Every time you go, I don't want you to and yet you do. But I can live with all of that." the pureblood's voice trailed off into a whisper close to the hunter's ear.

"I told you, I would do anything for you."

He didn't say anything, because if he did, it would be a horrible lie and entirely pathetic. So all he could do was to remain silent. Perhaps if he had been less focused on his own hurt he might have registered the tremble in the pureblood's lips, the almost desperate edge of his words as they outlined a truth that both of them had somehow understood immediately and had yet to grasp in its entirety. Perhaps if Zero had been less self-centered at that moment, he would have realized that he was not the only one who felt helpless.

But he didn't.

To him, the pureblood's next words only spelled out his doom.

"I can live with all that. But you must allow me to care for your well being, Zero."

And then, Kaname lips were on his and Zero felt his body react completely to the pureblood's kiss. He was hugging him back, holding onto the slender waist as their lips molded together and the skin of their noses brushed each other in gentle caresses. Zero's mind concentrated on nothing else. It wasn't love or happiness or even trust at that moment. It was only desperation. He didn't want to think about what Kaname said. He didn't want to think about what it all meant. He just didn't want to hear it. He wanted his mind clouded and no more questions filling his head. So he gave himself up to their kiss and willingly parted his lips when he felt Kaname's tongue asking for entry. If only to forget.

He didn't battle the intrusion, instead, he tentatively tasted the pureblood as his tongue explored the hunter. He focused entirely on the sweetness of their tender moment, ignoring all the implications it had. He savoured the taste, enjoyed the feeling and then hesitantly participated, only to ignore those thoughts for just a little while longer.

~{}~

Kaname broke their kiss after long minutes, leaning his forehead against the hunter's, panting heavily.

The words he had spoken didn't even begin to describe what he felt. Every second they were parted was hell on the pureblood. His body was so sensitive to their bond now that it was unbearable. But though Zero answered his kiss, though the hunter didn't struggle as he feared he might and though he had even allowed the pureblood beyond his lips, Kaname wasn't fooled. There was something going on in Zero's mind. And he wasn't allowing Kaname to be part of it.

The hunter was so infuriatingly silent. So annoyingly defiant. So frustratingly private. In Yuki's memory she had called him a fortress. And it was true. The pureblood seemed to be no closer to the withdrawn hunter than before. The question remained, how could he care for someone so bent on ignoring his own needs, so bent on defiance and filled with so much disregard for himself?

Now that he knew the hunter's physique so well, it was entirely obvious to his eyes that he was malnourished - both for blood and human food. He could sense how thirsty the hunter was. How he struggled against it, though he had promised the contrary. Kaname himself was rather malnourished after days of providing blood as well, but all of that seemed forgotten at the prospect of providing for his mate. Kaname had a certain understanding for how bonds worked by now and it was a simple thing, really. His mate needed blood, so his body being the stronger of the two was prepared to provide it. It recognized the hunter as its other half and leant extra energy to his healing, as though he was a wounded limb of his own body.

And Kaname found himself yearning for it, craving the bite of those fangs because he knew it would be both a sensual and pleasurable experience. The pureblood yearned for even more than just blood sharing - and this time he wasn't certain if he could contain that yearning. Being parted from Zero had his body go haywire instantly upon embracing him once more.

~{}~

Zero withdrew his fangs from the pureblood's throat. Kaname's soft moan only roused his own libido. Moreover, the taste of that blood became sweeter and sweeter with every time he fed. He wasn't certain if it was his imagination or if it was true. It didn't matter much to him at that moment, though. He was still thirsty, he wanted more and he had only stopped because his instincts had registered that Kaname needed to feed in return. He used to fear it, but now he didn't shy away from his responsibility. They had done it before and Zero felt sated enough himself that he didn't waste a thought on it. He was well aware of the pureblood's pleasure but let the thought pass through the haze of his blood-induced high. All he knew was that he felt warm and pleasantly drousy.

Zero offered his throat to the pureblood and shivered as he felt a pair of hands steady him. He was still in a pleasant haze, warm and complacent. He vaguely made the connection that he was currently not quite himself, but when the pureblood's fangs broke his skin, all thoughts evporated instantly. Zero grasped at Kaname's chest in shock, almost flailing at the sensations. The pleasure flashing through his blood was like a hurricane and he heard himself give a long lascivious moan. His cheeks flamed red with sudden embarassment but the pureblood didn't allow him a reprieve. With every drought of the purebloods fangs, Zero voraciously groaned in pleasure. Kaname had to hold him, because he had no way of steadying himself.

~{}~

Kaname was so desperate for the hunter that he did what every pureblood would have done. He used his own blood as a sedative and his bite as aphrodisiac. It worked instantly on the Level D ex-human hunter. Zero was beautiful putty in his hands now. Though Kaname was very thirsty, he took only a small amount of blood - just enough to satisfy his emotional need for his mate's blood. But that was just about the limit of his control.

The flushed hunter in his arms was hard and slightly dazed when Kaname licked the bite wounds to close them. The pureblood had waited too long for this moment. He would wait no longer. Keeping the hunter's lips occupied, he slowly peeled him out of his shirt. Kaname tried to take his time exploring the feel of their lips together and by the way Zero moaned into their kiss, he appeared to relish every second of it as much as the pureblood did. When Kaname slid his tongue between his lips, Zero's groin thrust against the pureblood's straining arousal causing him to moan breathlessly in answer.

Kaname claimed the hunter's mouth, letting his own tongue caress Zero's before he sensually explored the wet cavern. His hands worked their way across Zero's firm body in a feverish haze. He undid the hunter's belt, and then the button. After sliding his hand across the hunter's arousal to undo the zipper, Zero was wearing nothing but his boxers. He quickly shed his own slacks and pressed their groins together once more.

The tremble that travelled through the hunter's body turned Kaname on beyond measure. He claimed his mouth once again and this time he was more dominant. He clasped his arms around the hunter as though he was his one and only posession. He rubbed his body against the other in feverish movements that spoke more of his longing than of true passion. But Zero didn't seem to mind. His body ground right back and his tongue answered the pureblood's challenge without hesitation.

Kaname ran his hands down the hunter's muscled backside and came to rest on the curve of his rear. He savoured the feel of those muscles before he slid his fingers lower across the damp fabric to where the cleft between the firm cheeks gave way to a tiny entrance. Kaname wanted only to tease the small pucker through the boxers.

Their connection sprang to life suddenly. The hunter had shared none of his mind through their bond the entire time. But the instant Kaname's fingers slipped between his round cheeks, the pureblood felt his heart skip a beat as a bolt of intense fear slashed through him. He froze his movement instantly. Zero had shown similar fear only once before. Kaname had thought that being bitten was the only thing capable of terrifying Zero Kiryu. Obviously he had been wrong.

"Zero?" he questioned softly.

He hadn't seen the hunter so much as bat an eyelash at his touch, but he knew by now that it was due to Zero's stubborn nature to refuse to show what went on inside his heart. He retreated his fingers instantly.

If it weren't for their bond, Kaname would never have noticed. The hunter's face was still pink with a heated blush, he was still grinding his body ardently against the pureblood, his breath hitching at the friction between their bodies. But Kaname was sure of it - something was wrong.

"Zero?"

"Hm..." he answered in a daze.

Kaname almost cursed himself for putting the hunter into such a placid trance.

"What is it you fear?" he asked quietly, but seriously.

There definitely was a reaction this time. Kaname felt the hunter's body shudder as another flash of fear tore through their bond. Realization seemed to have struck, because Zero looked up at him. His wide open lilac eyes were laden with pleasure, his pupils dilated by the arousal Kaname had induced. But there was no hiding it - the heated gaze in the beautiful lilac eyes wavered upon meeting the pureblood's questioning eyes.

It was on impulse that Kaname hugged the hunter tightly to his chest, letting his fingers trail unthreateningly through the hunter's silver hair. The way Zero silently burrowed into the pureblood's chest answered a question Kaname hadn't even needed to ask.

"Who hurt you like that?" Kaname demanded to know in a toneless whisper.

There was a long silence in which Kaname wondered if he'd ever get an answer. But finally Zero said quietly. "It doesn't matter anymore."

"Yes, it does." Kaname retorted fiercely.

"If you say so." Zero gave back without much spirit.

"Let me see." Kaname demanded.

"No." Zero refused angrily, shoving the pureblood away from him almost violently. He had his hand on the door handle, ready to leave when Kaname spoke.

"So it does matter." Kaname said definitively.

Zero scowled angrily and opened the door. The anger spiked through their bond for just an instant before it was doused again. The hunter must be terribly upset to allow his emotions to get so out of hand.

"If you hurt so much, it must matter." Kaname argued and caught his wrist before he could leave. He would not let the hunter go. Not like this. Zero stopped.

"Let me care for you, Zero. Let me see and I can take away the pain." Kaname said soothingly.

"I don't want you erasing my memories." the hunter growled through gritted teeth.

"I won't - just the fear." Kaname bargained.

"I'm not afr..." the hunter began.

"Don't lie to me." Kaname's voice was quiet, but stern. Perhaps it wasn't fair to reprimand the hunter this way. Perhaps it was too personal a pain to demand access to his memory, but Kaname was tired of their distance. Now that he had learned a fragment of his mate's past, he would not let it rest. He was determined to get the full story. It obviously affected the hunter, still. So in the pureblood's mind he had a right to know.

~{}~

Zero's anger broke through his fragile control. He wouldn't back down when confronted like this.

"Fine." he yelled, shaking the pureblood's hand away. "You want to see me humiliated?" he shouted. "You want to see me get fucked by some..."

"No." the pureblood interrupted, but made no move to restrain him. "I want to know who hurt my mate." he said, his voice sincere. "I want to know how you've been hurt so that I can take away your pain. So that I don't make the mistake to hurt you again. Is that a concept that is too difficult for a hunter to understand?"

There was a long silence. Zero was tired beyond measure. He simply had no energy left to spend on this. It didn't matter anyway - the past was the past. There was nothing he could have done to prevent it, it was a humiliating and shameful chapter of his life that he really didn't want to share, but if the pureblood wanted to know nothing would stop him.

"No erasing my memories?" Zero voiced his suspicion.

Kaname nodded. "No memory alteration or deletion." he confirmed.

Zero sighed but then resigned, not wanting to be a coward. He closed the door again, but made no move toward Kaname. He leaned his back against the door for support, the wood cool against his moist skin. Crossing his arms in front of his chest, he glared at the pureblood.

"Fine."

He cleared his thoughts and concentrated on remembering the details in an order that would make sense.

~{}~

"See ya tomorrow kid..." Yagari's gruff voice sent him on his way home.
The silver-haired hunter trudged along the street that led through the outskirts of the city park. He was weary. He'd been on a mission alone battling too many Level E's to be training effectively with Yagari afterward. They'd done some sparring, but had resorted to charm work after even Yagari acknowledged that Zero's minor injuries and the six-hour hunt showed its toll on the young hunter. He'd been wounded one of the fights and it still hadn't quite healed. The wound appeared to be light now, but in reality his vampire healing had kicked in, turning a serious injury into a mild one during the three hour ride back to his mentor. It hurt, but it wasn't the pain of the grazing cuts in his arm that bothered him - that was just merely inconvenient.

Rather, it was his thirst that was gnawing at him. Every time he was wounded it would come back to him, haunting him, its severity depending on his physical state of body. Right now, he was painfully aware of the fact that he'd been fighting against the red color clawing its way to his irises and the cold fingers of frost slashing at the inside of his chest through his entire training session, stubbornly refusing to show his mentor what state he truly was in. All in all, it put him in a grouchy mood that didn't improve by the fact that his charms training wasn't going as it should, either. Frustrated and worn out, he resisted the urge to massage his temples and kept his hands in his pockets, scowling.

It had, after all, been only four months since his decision to return to being a full hunter and he wasn't nearly as fully trained as he should have been at his age. School life at Cross Academy had let his skills deteriorate and his senses dull. But with the fervor he was showing to take on missions and training every night he was quickly improving, albeit at a high price to his health.

Zero was beginning to feel the effects of too little sleep while taxing his body so much. He'd put it off as a weakness that he couldn't allow since he'd missed out on so much while being stuck in Cross Academy peace-treaty life. But now he began to rethink that - maybe his body was simply demanding what it needed. Other hunters trained three times a week and had three days off unless there were high priority missions on the list - and they did not take missions alone, except the most experienced ones. The fact remained though, that except for Yagari, no one was really too happy about the idea of pairing up with an ex-human hunter. It suited Zero well - when he was alone he concentrated best and there was no distracting gossip or animosity - just himself, the Bloody Rose and his Level E prey.

That was also the reason, why he didn't train at the Association's main building. Yagari had chosen a smaller, more protected post to save his student the discomfort of continuously prying eyes. Zero was glad for it, although that meant that he had to leave hunter territory to walk home. He didn't really care about it much. He enjoyed the solitude on his way home. Just like he enjoyed going on a hunt on his own. However, there was no denying that his physical exhaustion was becoming dangerous to his missions - and his life. He snorted. Then again, that was the whole point, wasn't it? To die during battle, not endangering innocent people. To get it over with and do something useful on the way.

While stuck in these musings in his state of fatigue he didn't realize he was in trouble, until it was too late.

"What do we have here?"

A noble vampire with short cropped black hair and piercing dark eyes was too close all of a sudden. Zero growled, drawing his gun - only to have it knocked from his hand by another noble. A shot rang out from its muzzle before it left his hand. But the bullet went wide and the Bloody Rose fell to the grass with a dull thud, way out of his reach. He heard an amused chuckle as he faced his two opponents weaponless. All of a sudden, three more nobles appeared, grinning cruelly, staring at him hungrily, with red eyes.

Without his gun, lacking experience, outnumbered five to one and tired as he was, Zero had no chance when they attacked him. Of course he fought them, he even succeeded partially in using a charm to repel them. But he had no strength to use that as a diversion to grab his gun. So in the end, when five sets of fists started beating him mercilessly, all he could do was to struggle to remain standing. In minutes, they had him punched to the ground and wasted no time in using his own cuffs to secure his hands behind his back. They held him down, pressing his cuffed hands into the gravelly ground and tearing at his clothing to free his throat.

Zero's body screamed at him in pain where he was sure to have broken ribs. His leg fared no better - the way his eyesight flashed in white and red when he moved it, confirmed that something very painful had happened to his knee. Of course his previous wound wasn't fully healed yet and he could taste his own blood where it welled up from his bruised lip. Nevertheless, he was certain that his inventory of damage wasn't completed there, yet.

But all that was nothing compared to the shame he felt. It was the most humiliating thing that had ever happened to him - being cuffed with his own anti-vampire cuffs, his energy slowly being sapped with vampires all around him to gloat at his weakness. He refused to give in to the vulnerability. He would not let them see it. He concentrated on hating them. But he hardly had anything left in him to struggle when the noble with the dark eyes yanked his head up by his hair, baring his throat to the others.

"A Level D and a hunter... Hmmm, anyone wanna know what that breed tastes like?" he drawled in mock curiosity.

"You touch me - you die." Zero spat out, more fire in his voice than he was feeling like he had. It was an idle threat and they all knew it. It only succeeded in making them laugh.

"I love it, when my banquet is this entertaining..." Zero struggled violently as he felt a pair of fangs scrape the skin of this throat.
"Tsk tsk tsk..." A clawed hand shot out, almost crushing his neck to restrain his movement. Blood pounded in his head making it throb angrily. He felt like he was going to suffocate.

"How fortunate we happened to be here for a small business chat tonight - that wound of yours sure is tempting, hunter. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to taste such a rare treat."

Zero clenched his teeth furiously but it was futile. It hurt. Really, really, hurt. He felt like he was being sent back in time, back when he was just a child in the arms of a pureblood monster. The horror of Shizuka's bite flooded him. A growl escaped his clenched teeth. He shook off the memory - this was now, not then. He would never show a vampire he was afraid of them. Never. He endured the pain, clutching at the knowledge that it was only temporary until he was sucked dry.

But it only got worse when another four sets of fangs tore into his body, clearly doing everything they could to inflict damage. Every part of him hurt. Hurt so bad, he couldn't help writhing in pain and cursing violently. But he refused to cry out.

As they drank, the five males almost reduced him to a limp unresponsive corpse in the matter of no more than two or three minutes. He thought that that was all they wanted. At that time, Zero had little experience in the world of vampires, he knew nothing about how closely related drinking blood and sexual desire was. The only times he had had blood was to save himself from madness and at those times he had been too lost in it and too disgusted by himself later on to ever make the connection. But the nobles knew exactly what they wanted. And they decided to leave their prey conscious for the act. He was delirious and unable to fight, so Zero had no time to contemplate the reason for their suddenly retreating fangs before they clawed his clothes off his body.

He thought he had been humiliated enough, he thought he had felt vulnerable before - but what followed was so much worse.

Even with his head spinning from the loss of blood and his body aching from the punches he was conscious enough to understand what would follow instants before two cocks were shoved into his mouth violently. His eyes snapped open in horror as he choked weakly on the brutal intrusion into his throat.

"Make no mistake, hunter... you're a Level D - you are nothing but scum, even being a hunter won't help you now..."

Seconds later, his rectum was penetrated so violently that he saw white and red for a few seconds - choking on the two cocks in his mouth, forcing him to cough badly. But that only resulted in deeper penetration. For a few moments he wished with all his wretched heart that his body would give up and at least permit him the sanctuary of unconsciousness. But his stubbornness did him no favor there. He felt every thrust as it tore him in two, he gagged every time their disgusting flesh pounded into his throat. He struggled to breathe while they blocked his air passage and sat on his bruised chest, further dislocating the fragments of broken ribs. He was almost glad he had the pain in his chest and knee to focus on when the tearing through his rear became unbearably short-paced.

He was only numbly aware that one of them had finally come and his face was covered in white, milky fluid.

Five shots rang out in rapid succession - it was a sound Zero had heard so often. Glittering dust showered down around him, confirming that each bullet had hit its target without failure. It had been only fifteen minutes from when Yagari heard the shot of the Bloody Rose to the moment he found his student. But instead of being delighted that his sensei had found him, Zero couldn't help feeling dread rise in his chest for the state he was in. He feared it was sure to disappoint his mentor and he closed his eyes against the humiliation.

But there was nothing Zero could do - his hands were cuffed underneath his back, he was drained of blood, barely holding onto consciousness and what little blood he had left was currently running out of very private parts of his bruised, naked body. Everything - especially all of his insides connected to his rear - was burning with pain. He couldn't help groaning softly when his mentor shook his arm gently.

"Holy shit, kid..." Yagari growled.
The last thing Zero remembered was being lifted carefully into the older hunter's arms before he finally passed out.

~{}~

Zero shivered against the memory as his naked skin leaned against the wood of the door. He didn't want to have to remember that ever again. It annoyed him that Kaname looked at him with softness in his eyes.

"I don't want your pity." Zero growled. His emotions were a tad bit raw around the edges at the moment. He knew it was a bad idea to relive it, but he didn't want to seem a coward. Now, having relived it again and seeing the pureblood's reaction, he regretted it.

Kaname shook his head. He lifted a hand to caress Zero's cheek.

"I wasn't pitying you. I was admiring you."

Zero scowled, confused."How can you admire something as weak and pathetic..."

Kaname laid a finger on his lips to silence him. "Someone, Zero. Someone, not something. You're precious." he let his hand brush through the silver strands that fell into his face.

"You didn't even scream." he whispered. Kaname kissed his forehead softly. "No one but Zero Kiryu could ever be that stubborn."

Zero allowed the pureblood to wrap his arms around him. Self-conscious, he growled softly in protest but the pureblood took no offense.

"Idiot." he muttered.