Disclaimer: I don't own Vampire Knight or any places, things, characters, or ideas therein. The aforementioned belong to Matsuri Hino and Viz Media. I am making no profit from this story in any way, shape, or form. It was written for entertainment purposes only, not monetary gain.
Summary: She's tired of trying and failing, of waiting and being let down. Perhaps, just for tonight, she can lose herself in the dance, in everything that's right, and forget everything that's wrong. :Ruka x Kain:
Warnings: Angst, slight mention of bloodlust
Pairing: Akatsuki/Ruka, mentions Shiki/Rima
Author's Note: I've been dabbling with writing Kain/Ruka fics before, but this is the first one I feel does the pairing justice. I've only watched the anime and read a couple chapters of the manga, so please forgive me for any errors in canon or characterization. I really enjoyed writing this piece, and I hope it's just as enjoyable to read. Thank you so much for giving my work a chance!
The lights shone so brightly they hurt her eyes, but she couldn't look away.
Souen Ruka rested a pale, slender hand on the pillar next to her to support herself as she watched, a silent sentry on the sidelines as always. The massive room glittered with the golden light of a hundred chandeliers, bathing its occupants in a surreal glow. It was everything she'd dreamed about since she was a little girl, a ballroom fit for a prince, with her the princess waiting, just waiting, for that hero to finally notice and come sweep her away with him.
Everywhere she looked, she saw happy faces. Everyone had set aside the tensions of their world for the night, playing their roles in a masquerade which required no masks - at least not those made of beads and lace and porcelain.
Suddenly feeling cold, Ruka tightened her wrap around her shoulders and tore her gaze away from the door. He'll be here. I just have to wait a little while longer, because when has he ever arrived on time? He likes to make an entrance. Isn't that what I like about him?
The music being played by the live band in the corner picked up its tempo, causing a ripple of delighted laughter to rise from its audience. As one entity, the colorful crowd picked up their pace to match the music. Ruka allowed her eyes to drift disinterestedly from face to face, noting those familiar as she went: Takuma, dancing with an equally pale-haired woman she recognized as being another Aristocrat who had made a big name for herself on the silver screen; Hanabusa, who had turned up the charm on the poor redhead who had managed to capture his attention; Senri and Rima, as always only dancing with each other, wrapped up in each other as if they were the only two in the room.
Swallowing back her jealousy, Ruka looked away. It had taken her a while to become friends with the younger vampire who had been her roommate since their first year at Cross Academy, but their friendship didn't stop her from being jealous. Rima had everything Ruka wanted - a mother who admired her, beauty that won her modeling contracts from companies all over the globe, and most of all the love of a man who only ever really came alive when she was around.
Everywhere she looked, people were getting what she wanted. For years, Ruka gave and gave and gave, but she received nothing in return. Her mother saw her as nothing but a failure as a daughter and a woman; she always struggled to find her place in school, in the world, even among her friends; and most heartbreakingly of all, Kaname just wouldn't acknowledge her, though she'd given up everything - even her own blood, the most precious thing she had to offer - to be noticed, just once...
For a moment she allowed the voice, a warmly familiar companion since her early childhood, to be that of another man. For just a single breath she closed her eyes and imagined another man's voice, eyes, presence, before she opened them and turned to acknowledge the real world.
"Akatsuki." Once again, Ruka found herself tugging her wrap a little tighter around her shoulders. Was it just her, or was the marble and porcelain tile turning the ballroom into a refrigerator?
He arched one copper eyebrow at her, then shrugged out of his dark jacket so he could drape it over her shoulders. The huge garment engulfed her, but she eagerly grasped its lapels and pulled it around her, feeling comforted rather than smothered. "Better?" he asked.
"Mm." Ruka shot another covert glance at the door - nothing yet, of course - before turning back to her friend. "I didn't realize you were still here. I haven't seen you on the dance floor, so I figured you were gone."
"I don't dance." Amusement briefly warmed his chocolate eyes, as if they were sharing an inside joke, before he tucked his hands into his pants pockets. "What about you? I haven't seen you out there, either. The men in this room are either blind or stupid if they haven't asked you to dance."
For some reason, Ruka felt ashamed to admit she'd been refusing offers for so long, men had finally learned to give up instead of being turned down constantly. She would also rather die than admit the lack of offers hurt, just a little bit. Apparently she still wasn't as adept at shielding her emotions as she wished she could be. "I'm only interested in dancing with one man, and he is not here yet."
"Yes, of course." Akatsuki took a step forward and leaned his shoulder against the pillar she'd been hanging onto a minute ago. "I'm not even sure he'll be here tonight. He was still in that meeting with the Headmaster when we left."
"He'll be here." Ruka forced herself to sound confident as she turned back toward the door, still stubbornly closed. The two men attending it, one on either side, looked bored, meaning no one had come in for a while. At least she hadn't missed him while talking to Akatsuki... "This ball is too important for someone like him to miss. Even if he only comes for a few minutes, he'll be here." And if he's here, he'll have to accept a few dances. And I will be his partner for at least one of those.
Akatsuki adjusted his jacket on her shoulders, smoothing the collar so it didn't rub against her jaw, which she hadn't even noticed. "Well, until then, you mind if I keep you company?"
Despite herself, she felt a smile turning up the corners of her mouth. "If you're always so bored when you attend these things, why do you come?" Keeping one eye on the door, she turned the other toward him, genuinely curious about his response.
He shrugged, his gaze focused on the dancers swirling past them. "Same reason as you, I suppose. I'm always hoping for that one dance."
This time it was Ruka's turn to arch an eyebrow at Akatsuki. "But you just said you don't dance."
"True," he agreed. "But I meant I don't dance unless my partner is the right person." His eyes drifted across the room, as if, like her, he was hoping to spot a certain face among the crowd.
Curious, Ruka followed his gaze, wondering which jewel-and-silk clad woman had captured her friend's attention. "Is she here?"
Ruka searched for a few more moments, shaking her head when no one in particular stood out to her. "Do I know her?" Already she was flipping through her mental address book, trying to think of the few women of her acquaintance whom she thought might be Akatsuki's type. Then again, since she really didn't have any idea what Akatsuki's type was, or even if he had one, of course she came up empty.
"I would say you're fairly well acquainted, yes."
Following his gaze again, she felt startled when she realized he was watching Senri and Rima, who had left the dance floor and were now standing by the buffet, sharing a plate of fruit and cheese. "Rima?" She wondered if she should feel surprised, scandalized, or heartbroken.
Akatsuki turned to stare openly at her. "What are you talking about? Rima's a nice girl, pretty in her own way, I suppose, but I'd never cross Shiki like that, and neither would she. Whatever gave you that idea?"
Fighting down her blush, she shook her head. "I don't know. You were just looking at her, so I thought..." She trailed off, deciding it would be best if she not insert her foot any further into her own mouth. She loved shoes, naturally, but not so much she enjoyed eating them.
"I was thinking about going to get us something to eat, actually." Akatsuki's right hand left his pocket long enough to drag through his tousled hair. "Do you want something?"
"No, thank you. I'm not hungry." Seeing his mouth open again, Ruka hurried to add, "Or thirsty."
"All right then. I'll be right back." Akatsuki pushed off the pillar and began to turn away.
Out of the corner of her eye, Ruka saw the doors open and a familiar tall, dark-haired figure appear in its frame. For a moment she felt breathless, but then she shook it off and caught Akatsuki's arm before he could get out of reach. "Here!" she said, thrusting his coat back at him. "Take this back."
Shaking his head, Akatsuki pushed it back towards her. "No, you're cold, you still need it." He noticed her looking elsewhere and followed her gaze, and she saw a brief flicker of darkness in his eyes before he took his jacket from her, their fingers briefly brushing. "Ah, I see. No, I suppose you don't need it anymore."
Ruka glanced down quickly to make sure her dress was still immaculate, satisfied to see not even a wrinkle marring the midnight silk. "I'll see you later?" she asked breathlessly, noticing Kaname slowly working his way through the crowd toward her. Was tonight the night? Was all her patience and wishing and praying and hoping about to pay off?
"Yes, I'll see you later," Akatsuki murmured definitively, though she hardly heard him. The arm of his jacket brushed against her as he tossed it over his shoulder, leaving it hanging from his index and middle fingers as he wandered off toward the buffet table.
By the time Kaname reached her, Ruka was beginning to feel breathless, her heart pounding with excitement, almost as though she might faint. But she allowed none of her feelings to show as she dropped into a proper curtsy, keeping her eyes down as she murmured, "Good evening, Lord Kaname." She was proud that her voice didn't quiver, that her expression didn't betray her, as she waited for his response.
"Good evening, Miss Souen." When she dared peek upwards to see him waving her up again, she noticed he wasn't even looking at her, his eyes instead searching the dance floor.
Ruka hid her clenched fist in a fold of her skirt as she tried to get her suddenly frozen features to lighten into a demure smile. She wasn't sure she succeeded, since she was afraid if she got them to crack enough to change expression she would crumble into tears, but she gave it an effort anyway, since it was for Kaname. "I am glad you managed to make it, Lord Kaname," she said, trying to sound casual.
"Yes," Kaname returned with a brisk nod. "My meeting with the headmaster ran a little long, but fortunately I got out in time to attend. I have some important business to discuss with certain members of the coucil tonight."
The familiar icy embrace of disappointment, crushing and final, enveloped her heart. Ruka blinked back the tears stinging the backs of her eyes as she dropped another curtsy. "Then I shall take up no more of your time, milord. Have - have a good evening."
Kaname's eyes finally rested on her, their dark depths focused on her face for a single wonderful, torturous moment before they once again clouded with distraction and moved away. "Thank you, Miss Souen. You as well." And then he was gone, just as she'd known deep inside he would be, yet again.
Letting out a shaky breath, Ruka took a moment to make sure no one had noticed before she turned and left the ballroom. She kept her steps slow but deliberate in case anyone saw her, not needing any more embarrassment than she'd already suffered, as she searched for some alcove where she could sequester herself and try regain control over her emotions and her heart.
She pulled up abruptly when she saw Akatsuki standing in a small alcove between two statues, the exact kind of hiding place she'd been looking for. He watched her intently, his focused eyes seeing down into depths she wished she could hide from him.
"I'm sorry," Ruka said, wishing she could keep her voice from shaking. "I didn't mean to interrupt your - your reverie." She spun, wishing to escape, to be alone, to hide even from Akatsuki, her greatest and oldest friend in the world. "I'll go find another-"
Her name, spoken in that way, made her stop mid-stride. Briefly, Ruka lifted her hands to her face, wishing she could hide, wishing Akatsuki didn't know her so well, wishing he hadn't already anticipated what would happen and prepared himself to comfort her. Again.
"Akatsuki, don't," she whispered. How could he not see she didn't want his understanding looks, his sympathetic nods, his company tonight? Didn't he realize she'd been pushed beyond her limits, and that she needed some time to gather herself before she faced anyone again, even him?
Once again, the comfortable warmth of Akatsuki's jacket settled across her shoulders; this time accompanied by his hands, big and gentle, which slid up and down her arms slowly, carefully, trying to warm her.
Despite herself, Ruka shivered. She tensed, tempted to shove his touch and his jacket off so she could make a run for it, but the sudden desire for comfort instead made her turn into him, hiding her face against his chest as she tried to swallow back her threatening tears.
"What am I doing wrong?" she whispered. "Why, why won't he notice me? Why won't he pay attention to me, realize I'm here for him?" Her voice was thick with tears, and she wondered if Akatsuki had even understood her when she barely did.
One of his hands shifted, touching the lock of hair hanging by her cheek before he smoothed it between his fingers and tucked it behind her ear. "It's nothing you're doing wrong," he whispered. "You are perfect the way you are. He just can't see that." He hesitated, then his long fingers settled comfortingly in the hollow between her shoulderblades. "He never will."
Though his tone was gentle, Akatsuki's words still stabbed like a knife through her heart. "I can't just give up," she cried. "I won't. I need him. Everything - everything will be all right once he realizes that."
Akatsuki's long sigh loosened the hair he'd just tucked behind her ear. "Ruka," he whispered. His tone was just as gentle as it had been before, but now there was a hoarseness to it which was unfamiliar. "Oh, Ruka..." She felt him rest his forehead against the crown of hers, his soft breathing rustling her bangs.
She closed her hands into fists around his dress shirt, not caring she that she wrinkled it. "Why must I keep trying and trying only to be knocked down again and again?" It hurt, so much it was a physical pain in her head, her chest, her stomach. She curled tighter against Akatsuki, willing him to dull the pain like he always did.
This time her friend's fingers curled around the back of her head, cradling her against him as his thumb brushed at the loose tendrils of hair at the base of her neck. "I'm - I'm here, Ruka. I'm always here, I'll always be here." She heard him swallow, felt his eyelids flutter against her hair as he closed his eyes.
"I know," Ruka replied, shifting so it was her cheek instead of her forehead resting against his cheek. "You are such a good friend to me, always. I don't deserve you." There it was, at last, the blessed relief of his presence she'd been longing for. It started at the top of her head and filtered downwards, easing her crushing anguish into a more manageable, but ever-present, ache.
His thumb stilled. His breath hitched. His heartbeat stuttered, just for a moment. And he didn't say anything.
Sensing the change in him, Ruka lifted her head, startled at the expression on his face. He looked pale and tired, dark circles beneath his eyes which had not been there a few minutes ago, his eyes dark and sad as he silently regarded her.
Ruka wrinkled her brow, having the feeling he was trying to tell her something, though he didn't seem to have words to voice. "Akatsuki?" She'd never seen him like this before. Whatever had happened? "What's wrong?"
Very carefully, he shifted his hands to her arms again and gently set her away from him. Disappointment flared in his eyes, a single spark of life before they dulled. He offered her a smile, small and grim, before he brushed her cheek with his fingers. "You'll be all right," he said. "Don't ever believe you won't. You're beautiful, and funny, and bright, and smart, and those who can't see that in you are utter fools." He withdrew his hand, tucked both into his pockets, and slowly moved past her, back in the direction of the ballroom.
She blinked, shocked at his words. Did he really see all those things in her, even though she felt pretty sure they didn't exist? Did he really think her beautiful, funny, and bright? How?
"Akatsuki!" Ruka spun around, reaching out to grasp his arm and pull him back, but he was farther down the hall away from her than she'd thought.
He hesitated, just for a moment, but shook his head and kept walking.
"Akatsuki!" Grasping her skirts, she lifted them away from her feet and rushed after him, needing to understand. For all these years he'd been there for her, so why was he all of a sudden deciding to leave her?
When she was finally close enough, she let go of her skirt and grasped his well-muscled arm in both hands, clinging until she was able to drag him to a stop. "Akatsuki!" she repeated, shifting around him until she could see his face.
"I'm sorry, but you're going to be all right now, Ruka, and I need some time to myself." His other hand lifted, coming across his torso to pry her fingers, gently but firmly, off his arm.
Her hands dropped to her side, suddenly feeling numb. "But-"
He smiled, looking more like himself once again. "I'll be okay, Ruka, just like always. Promise. And I'll be here again when you need me." Leaning forward, he pressed a soft kiss to her forehead, then started walking away from her again.
Ruka blinked, her skin still tingling from his brief touch. Akatsuki? She lifted her hand, which was suddenly trembling, and brushed her fingers over her forehead. It was still warm.
What if-? No. That's impossible. Ruka watched him walk away, his broad shoulders slightly slouched, his hands in his pockets, his stride long and loping, the same Akatsuki she'd known her entire life, but at the same time, different.
But what if he meant something entirely different by "I'm always here, I'll always be here"? Dare she think it? Dare she believe he actually meant his words that way, and had this whole time, though she'd never seen it, or him, that way before?
"Akatsuki!" She took a step forward, then paused, knowing she needed to stay where she was if she was going to get the answers she needed.
He stopped, though it was clear he didn't really want to. "Yes, Ruka?" Though he didn't fully turn to look at her, he had turned his head so he could see her out of the corner of his eye.
Ruka swallowed hard, her mouth suddenly dry. She clenched her hands into fists, hating herself for being such a coward, knowing she should just come out and ask the question. His answer would be the one she needed, one way or another. "Will you dance with me?" she whispered.
Akatsuki drew in a sharp breath, and the sound echoed down the hall to her ears. This time he spun, surprise visible on his face as he stared right at her. "What?" he asked hoarsely.
She licked her lips and nervously twisted her hands into her skirt, suddenly feeling like a shy child asking for an extra sweet. "Will you dance with me?" she repeated, a little louder this time.
Slowly, so very slowly, he walked back to her, his eyes remaining focused on hers the whole time. "I told you earlier," he said softly, "there's only one woman I want to dance with tonight, or any other night."
Ruka's heart fluttered anxiously, but she didn't back down. She didn't look away. She had to know.
"And you said there's only one man here you wanted to dance with," Akatsuki continued. He was searching her eyes, looking past the surface like he always did, looking for something. An affirmation.
Not blinking, she let him search, nervously cracking open the door to the deepest part of her she'd always tried to keep hidden before. "Am I not allowed to change my mind?"
He blinked. His mouth opened, then closed, and finally his lips curled upwards in the smile she'd been so hoping to see. "I suppose. Though I hope you'll forgive me if I don't change mine."
Her breath caught. What exactly did he mean by that? This time it was her searching his eyes, trying to find the answer she hoped would be there.
Down the hall, the music changed in the ballroom. Without looking away, Akatsuki reached out and took her hands, keeping one clasped in his as he guided the other to his shoulder.
As one, they began to move, easily falling into rhythm with each other though they had never danced together before, an effortless flowing from one movement to the next, Akatsuki leading her as if the music was part of him, or him a part of the music, she wasn't quite sure.
"Close your eyes."
Ruka wasn't sure if Akatsuki had whispered the words, or if she had thought them, or if they had been a suggestion of the music itself. But as soon as she did, she felt the last little bit of tension she'd been clinging to evaporate, perfecting their dance. She felt like she was floating above the floor, dancing across the air with only the places where her body and Akatsuki's touched keeping her anchored to the earth.
Wasn't that how it had always been? She'd been living with her head in the clouds, reaching for unattainable dreams, while Akatsuki kept hold of her hand, keeping her from flying too irretrievably far away. He kept her anchored, and always had. But she realized now, with a guilty start, that she'd almost pushed him too far. She had been pulling at her hand so hard, trying to reach for Kaname, she had almost yanked herself right out of Akatsuki's grasp.
And, in the end, if she had to choose between Kaname and Akatsuki, she knew whom she would ultimately choose.
Keeping her eyes closed, Ruka leaned her head forward until it rested on Akatsuki's chest. She felt him press a soft kiss to the crown of her head, and it made her smile. It would not be easy for her to give up her dreams of Kaname - she'd been living that way so long, and a part of her still yearned to seek the approval a relationship with him would bring her - but there was something better out there to help her leave those dreams behind.
Akatsuki would never pressure her; she appreciated him for that. He would also be waiting for her at the end of the long road she'd have to walk to get over Kaname and her other obsessions; she found him a worthy goal.
Tonight she would dance with Akatsuki and pretend they were the only two on the dance floor, in the world. Tomorrow...
...Well, tomorrow could only bring more good things.
Author's Ending Notes: Apologies for any errors in canon or characterization. I've only watched the anime and read a couple chapters of the manga, but I love Akatsuki and Ruka and when this idea came to me, I had to write it down and share it. I know Ruka's still obsessed with Kaname, but I just have this feeling she's right on the verge of finally seeing how Akatsuki is always there for her, how much he loves her. He'd never push her, so I think she'd have to find out on her own, and I thought this might be a good way for it to happen. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my fic, and I hope you enjoyed it!