Disclaimer: I do not own Vampire Knight.
Kaname chose not to wait at the headmaster's estate for Zero's return. He had a busy schedule and needed to prepare for the evening. It would not do for a pureblood to give the impression of waiting on an ex-human in the first place. He returned to the Moon Dorm, ordering another room prepared and a spare uniform assembled, then had a brief rest. He was well awake when half-an-hour after sunset Seiren reported Yagari and Kaito approaching the dorm escorting an unfamiliar vampire.
Kaname gracefully descended to the entrance way of the Moon Dorm. As president of the Night Class, it was his responsibility to welcome all new students and in this instance prevent Aido and Kain from preemptively attacking. He was hardly surprised to see his court of friends assembled in the main area. While most of the vampires attending Cross Academy usually slept in after sundown on the weekends, his friends had to have known he was plotting something. Takuma looked particularly suspicious after having seen the request for the opened room.
"I didn't realize we weren't expecting a new student at this point in the year," he said carefully.
"We weren't until this morning," offered Kaname. "I didn't mean to inconvenience you."
Takuma's suspicions deepened and rightly so, Kaname almost never apologized for anything. As a pureblood, he was obliged not to except, in very few cases usually involving murder, to other purebloods. It was a subtle signal on Kaname's part that he was inviting trouble for the Moon Dorm.
A single knock preceded the opening of doors. Yagari pushed them open, revealing Kaito and their new arrival standing further back. The younger hunter was wearingly an openly hostile expression. Yagari and Zero, on the other hand, had curiously matching blank faces. Their bodies gave them away though. Yagari was tense and frustrated while Kiryu was skittishly shifting from side-to-side.
"Welc-urk!" Takuma, who had automatically turned to give the welcoming speech to their new arrival, barely managed a syllable before he caught sight of their new classmate.
"You!" screeched Aido in an impressively high voice. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Aido," said Kaname softly.
That was enough to stop the raging blond. The handful of ice he had been forming vanished. Kain also dispersed his fire, and the rest of the Night Class looked to Kaname for explanations. He ignored the near demanding looks on some of their faces.
"This is Zero Kiryu," explained Kaname. "He will be joining us as a member of the Night Class starting today. I hope you will all do your best to make him feel comfortable."
Kaname would be highly interested to see their best. Zero had managed aggravate him practically every time they met. His friends, who were all, mentally anyway, much younger than himself, would likely find the ex-human supremely irritating. He was already in Aido's black book and quite possibly Kain's too, though the fire-user was usually much more relaxed than his hot-headed cousin. For the moment, however, the vampires backed down at his request.
Takuma gave a pointed, almost wounded, look. "Come in, Kiryu. I'll show you to your room."
Zero's skittish shuffling had vanished to be replaced a deadly sort of grace. He took three very calm strides into the Moon Dorm and stopped, waiting. He was still wearing the same outfit, but Kananme was surprised to see slung over his shoulder, in addition to the still sealed canteen, a worn-out saddle bag. It clunked as Zero walked, indicating that its contents were metallic and heavy. Kaname was mildly curious to see what was inside but was careful not to let his expression show.
Instead he turned and walked back up the stairs to the landing. Zero had proved himself reckless enough to walk into a room full of potentially violent nobles vampires, but he still hadn't come within ten feet of Kaname. The pureblood did not want to stand around forever waiting for someone to make a move. Seiren followed him obediently and continued down the hall at a gesture. He took just enough steps inside the second floor hall to hide him from sight before using his power to hide himself from all senses. He quickly, but silently, walked back out to watch Zero interact with his court.
Ruka had pushed her way to the front of the group and was practically staring down the ex-human. Zero's eyes were still lavender. Kaname wondered if that meant he wasn't going to attack her or didn't consider her a threat.
"So you're Zero Kiryu," she said. "Are you anything like that bastard brother of yours?"
Zero jerked back. It was just a tiny movement, and if Kaname had not been looking for such a sign, he would have missed it. There was dismay on Zero's face at the mention of his brother and an infinitesimal touch of sorrow. Mention of Ichiru was apparently a trigger for the young ex-human. All of that emotion was felt in an instant, only to be replaced by cold anger on the part Zero. Kaname wondered if he would need to intervene.
"No," said Kaito. "Zero is not like Ichiru at all."
The hunter's words startled the vampires, diffusing the tension in the air. They had all forgotten that the two hunters were still standing outside the open doors.
"What are you still doing here?" demanded Aido still angry and willing to take it out on anyone not forbidden by Kaname.
Takuma elbowed the excitable blond in the ribs and inclined his head graciously toward the hunters. "Thank you for escorting Kiryu here, but we'll see to him now."
Yagari grunted and turned away from the dorm. Kaito reluctantly followed, unconsciously unwilling to let Zero out of his sight.
"Don't forget, what I said, okay," cautioned the younger hunter, before he followed his master.
The doors of the Moon Dorm swung closed again. Now Zero really was alone with the students of the Night Class. He didn't seem to be bothered though. Ruka had backed out Zero's space enough that what had been lethal intent was scaled back to mere lethal ability.
"I suppose, Kaito would know," admitted Ruka.
Takuma neatly planted himself in the distance between Ruka and Zero. The vice-president gave his friends a charming smile. "I really do need to show Kiryu to his room. I'm sure you all have places you need to be right now anyway."
Ruka snorted and stalked off. Kain and Aido followed her, both of them giving Kiryu pointed glares before they left. For now they would place nice because Kaname asked them to. That was all the pureblood expected of them anyway.
"Your room is upstairs, Kiryu-san. This way," said Takuma.
Zero maintained a solid three foot separation as he followed Takuma up the stairs. When they reached the landing where Kaname was standing still hidden to the sense, Zero nearly pressed himself into the wall to get away from the pureblood. The ex-human gave no active sign of recognition, but some subconscious part of his mind must have remained unaffected by Kaname's power. Kaname was tempted to trail Zero to see what would happen, but now that the ex-human was living under his roof, so to speak, there would be plenty of time for that sort of thing later. Instead Kaname dropped his spell and walked back down to the first floor.
In a proper house, the foyer would be completely separate from the lounge. However, the Moon Dorm was still a dormitory and subscribed to certain patterns. If one walked through the main doors to face the stairs, then on the left were a handful of chairs and sofas, a pool table, a fire place, a piano, and an unnecessarily large television. Sitting on of these sofas were Senri and Rima, who had watched the entirety of Zero's arrival without comment.
"What do you think of our new student?" Kaname asked the silent pair.
The two models exchanged glances. Each wore a surprisingly serious expression when they returned their gazes to Kaname.
"I think he's very dangerous, Kaname-sama," said Senri.
"He feels funny," said Rima. "Funny wrong."
Kaname's curiosity was piqued. "What do you mean?"
"Kiryu-san, Zero, feels like a level E," said Senri.
"And he like Kuruizaki-hime," added Rima.
"And a little like you, Kaname-sama," concluded Senri.
Kaname stared at them in surprise. It took quite a bit to surprise the pureblood, and he had never expected anything this pair said to shock him. They were emotionally so far removed from everything and so highly analytical that listening to them was more like hearing his own thoughts in a different voice. He had expected the level E comment and even the hint of madness akin to Shizuka Hiou but certainly not the last.
"Do you really think he's like me?" asked Kaname.
"Yes, Kaname-sama," said Rima. "That boy is something primal wrapped up to look like a normal person. Most purebloods are like that, and Kaname-sama more than most."
"But we expect it from Kaname-sama," added Senri. "And Zero definitely isn't dangerous like a pureblood."
"That's good to know," said Kaname.
It was good to know. He had never actually noticed anything behaviorally odd about his fellow purebloods compared to other vampires. But then, almost all vampires deferred to him in the same way, pureblood or not. Perhaps something in them could sense the ancientness in him the way Zero had sensed him on the landing. He would need to watch his fellows closely now, and Rima and Senri more so than before.
Just then Takuma appeared leading Zero back down the stairs. The ex-human had left his duster and satchel upstairs, likely at Takuma's insistence, but still had the canteen strapped to his side. Kaname wondered what was in it that was so valuable to the boy, but there was no rush. He was certain he would find out in time.
"There are three staircases total, the main one and one at each end of the building. You can use the windows to leave in case of an emergency, but students from the Day Class try to sneak in from time to time and we don't want anyone to be seen jumping that distance. Now, on the first floor is the main exit, the lounge and the kitchen, as well as other personal rooms," explained Takuma. "There is no kitchen staff as most students don't feel the need to eat normal food or go out if they do, but the kitchen is fully stocked and operational. Also, there are extra blood tablets there if you need to replenish your supply—
"Blood tablets?" asked Zero.
Takuma frowned at him briefly before his expression cleared. "I suppose no one has told you yet. Students at Cross Academy don't drink from humans. We use blood tablets as a substitute. I suppose we had better go get you some."
"Do they really work?"asked Zero.
Kaname heard something like hope in Zero's tone. It was the sweetest sounding thing he had said yet despite the harsh delivery. Senri and Rima had noticed it too as had Takuma though the vice-president schooled his expression of curiosity into reassurance.
"Of course they do," said Takuma. "Why don't we go ahead and get you some?"
It was less of a suggestion and more of an order. Takuma was quite skilled at those. Kaname gave a nod to Senri and Rima and quietly glided after Takuma and Zero. He carefully stayed eleven feet away from Zero, and while the tension in the ex-human's shoulder indicated his recognition of Kaname's presence, the former hunter apparently felt no need to turn around and watch him. Kaname wondered if Zero really thought ten feet would be enough to dodge anything Kaname could try or if the ex-human was that eager to try the blood tablets. The pureblood watched from just inside the door.
The kitchen was beautiful and fully equipped to prepare any kind of meal. A professional chef might have wept to own such a kitchen. Of course, like many rooms owned by vampires, the kitchen looked so perfect because it was so rarely used. It had gained the empty, portrait like-quality that houses owned by sleeping purebloods often held. It existed because it might one day be needed and to be without one would be odd. The one exception to this rule was the cabinet where extra blood tablet packets were stored along with a set of crystal cups, just in case someone really needed a drink.
Takuma pulled out a packet along with a glass. Zero did look like he needed a drink, possibly several. Kaname suspected that the hollowed out look wouldn't disappear without several bodies' worth of fresh human blood but as Zero was a former hunter and unlikely to agree the point was moot.
"Just fill up the glass and drop in a tablet or two," said Takuma. "They'll dissolve and it's almost like drinking an equivalent amount of blood. The nutrients are all there anyway."
Zero followed the instructions with a sort of slow haste like he wanted to try but did want to look like he wanted to try. The boy wasn't really fooling anyone, but no one was heartless enough to say anything. Kaname was certain Zero was stubborn enough to try to go without food if someone pointed out exactly how much he needed. When the tablets had fully dissolved, Zero suddenly looked unsure.
"Are you sure it works?" he asked again.
"Yes, I'm sure," said the ever patient Takuma.
Zero took a small sip and grimaced. His eyes silently asked again.
"It does take some doing getting used to the taste," admitted Takuma. "Some people try to cover it up with wine or juice."
Zero sighed and then chugged down the entire glass. His mouth puckered, his nose wrinkled, and he set down the glass with a watery glare. Kaname resisted the urge to laugh, as that would be unbecoming, but did allow an amused smirk to settle on his lips. Takuma had to hide his grin behind his hand.
"You can have this packet," said Takuma once he recovered himself. "And now you know where the extras are—
He cut off as Zero suddenly blanched and turned toward to the sink. The ex-human wretched violently expelling all of the blood substitute he had just consumed. He didn't stop vomiting as his body tried to reject even the smallest speck of the fake blood, but there wasn't anything left in Zero's stomach except bile. The convulsions worsened and Zero started spitting out blood, his own blood, blood that he could not afford to lose.
"What's wrong?" asked Takuma, even though Zero couldn't answer.
"Step back," said Kaname.
The vice president moved out of his way as the pureblood walked to Zero's side. Kaname was far inside Zero's comfort zone, but the ex-human's body wasn't obeying him at the moment and all the boy could do was lean away. He couldn't even turn his head to glare.
Kaname put his hand on Zero's back and mustered his power as a pureblood. "Stop."
Zero froze. At Kaname's back, Takuma's breath started to stutter as the noble struggled to breathe against the order. The pureblood might have over done the order, but he could feel Zero's body still attempting to revolt beneath his hand. Kaname took another clean glass from the shelf. This one he filled with water and held in front of Zero.
"Drink this," he ordered again.
Zero's arm snapped up as he grabbed at the glass. The boy's eyes were bright red, brighter than was normal even for level Es. In them, Kaname could see resentment, hatred, and reluctant gratitude. Kaname refilled the glass three more times before moving away from Zero and issuing a canceling order.
Zero's arm dropped back to the sink to brace him. The ex-human vomited the water in stomach in two tremendous heaves but then fell still. His harsh breathing was the only sound in the room until that too finally quieted. Zero stood slightly hunched with an arm hovering protectively around his stomach. He looked like he wanted to flee, but Kaname stood between him and the only door.
The pureblood reached over to what Zero had used for a glass and tasted what remained of his dose of fake blood. As Kaname suspected, it tasted normal, vile but normal. He set the glass down and gave Zero a speculative look.
"How unfortunate that the only vampire that would prefer a blood substitute to the real thing can't have it. The formula must not be suitable for the consumption of level Es. Whatever you have been eating will have to sustain you for now," said Kaname.
Zero grimaced but kept his mouth shut. Kaname watched him for a moment longer before turning his attention to Takuma. The vice-president looked off-color but was breathing normally again. The instant Kaname turned his gaze away, Zero sped around the center island and darted out of the kitchen.
"I'm surprised he can move that fast in his condition," said Kaname idly. "Are you alright, Takuma?"
"Yes, thank you, Kaname," said Takuma appreciatively. He hesitated then asked, "Do you really think Kiryu is a level E? Is that possible?"
Kaname considered the question. It was one he had asked himself many times since his first encounter with Zero almost a month earlier. Frankly, it was not possible for a level E to function like a human for anything length of time except under the direct control of its master pureblood. Shizuka Hiou was dead, presumably killed by Zero, and somehow the boy had killed her without stabilizing his own nature. It was a puzzle. Kaname enjoyed picking apart puzzles. Zero could probably stand up to the scrutiny. Probably.
I apologize for the lack of updates. Real life and a virus (of the computer kind) then a monitor failure (also of the computer kind and significantly more permenant) has prevented me from working on this story at all. I will try to do better in the future.
I also realize that the tone of this chapter might not quite match the others, but that's what happens when you don't work on a story for six months.
Please review. Thanks for reading.