It was a snowy, bleak day. The fire in the hearth crackled in a merry but quiet way, providing seeping relief to the chilled bones and faces of the Kiriyuu servants as they moved swiftly and silently through stony halls and rooms that seemed to reflect their terse silence back at them until the very manor was drowning in the tense noise of many hushed steps and muted whispers and the only noise that echoed harshly through the place was the ragged breathing of Zero, who laid beneath many bulky blankets and a roaring fire burnt in the hazy heat that had become Zero's room. Yet he laid as chilled as the unforgiving ice that skated the surface of the sluggish pond outside, as white as the snow that gathered on every frosted sill. Kaname was going mad with the worry and silence that suffocated the house. Aido, one of the louder more flamboyant members of the house was as quiet as a mouse as he set breakfast in front of Kaname without a word of good morning or a sunny remark. Kaname caught the gloomy chef's sleeve as he tried to hurry away, halting his steps. The cheery Christmas decor did not reflect the rather sudden sullen mood every member of the household practically oozed. And Kaname's curiosity tempted him to question why. Aido wrung a tea towel biting his lip nervously as Kaname poised his question. "Ms. Shizuka always gets in a rather nasty mood this time of year," Aido whispered quietly, eyes darting the entrances as if he'd expected a furious Shizuka to fly from the shadows in a screaming rage. "He died only a couple days after Christmas, you know. And Ms. Shizuka's husband died a week before Christmas many years before. And twelve years ago that bastard appeared and starting hassling Ms. Shizuka and master Zero about the estate. And with Christmas approaching and Zero in such a state I-"

A loud knock sounded at the door as the heavy brass handle was brought down upon the thick aged oak with intent and measured purpose. Aido's wringing of the towel froze and his wide icy eyes narrowed into heated slits. His lips curled with disgust as his handsome young face became anything but. Kaname's mother would faint to see such unadulterated hatred on such a young person's face. It however, piqued Kaname's insatiable curiosity.

"It's him," Aido hissed, whirling on his heel as his once quiet tip-toeing became harsh stomping that rang through the deserted breakfast hall like gunshots in the dead of night. Slipping out of his seat Kaname followed in Aido's angry footsteps with an idle air of interest. He eyed the tall dark figure standing still in the entry way, purposely leaving the door open and diminishing any warm air that might have heated the room before. Leisurely brushing the snow from his shoulders and onto the floor as if he owned the place, the rude stranger added insult to injury by simply throwing his coat over Ruka's head as if she was nothing more than a convenient coat rack. Aido growled low in his throat as Ruka pulled the expensive clothing from over her head with a silent insulted look of shock. And then the stranger, the rude, rude stranger turned and he was know longer an anonymous identity as Kaname's jaw dropped in pure shock at the familiar face that stared back at him. The rude, insulting figure titled his head as his eyes came to rest upon Kaname. A well-known and despised smirk wormed it's way across the others face as Kaname's mouth worked silently, try to form words but ultimately failing. The other person strode across the room to Kaname greeting him, "Ah, Kaname. It's been such a while since I've seen you."

Kaname's words finally succeeded him.

"Uncle Rido?"


Kaname paced the length of Shizuka's study, watching his uncle with the wariness of an injured animal. Shizuka's gaze was just as vigilant and maybe more so, as she gripped her tea cup with strong fingers until her knuckles were bone white against the poor china. Anger turned her eyes a dark violet and her cheeks a light pink but beneath Kaname could see the stress and tiredness and most importantly, the tight-lipped fear. The heartbreaking fear that was only feebly suppressed by the utter resentment that gleamed in her eyes, determined to show this awful, vexation of a man no weakness.

Kaname's pacing rapidly increased.

Rido took in this tense atmosphere with a smug smile as he finished his tea, mismatched eyes sharp as they clashed with Shizuka's. The silence of the room was smothering, yet neither was willing to break it and appear as the weaker party. Kaname quickly grew impatient as he watched their little stare off in the corner of his eye. Composing himself, Kaname did his best to quit his rather childish habit of pacing and fidgeting and leveled his eyes with the back of his uncle's head. He cleared his throat. "Uncle Rido…Why are you here?" he pried, keeping his voice as neutral as possible. Tearing his eyes from Shizuka's, Rido glanced backwards at his nephew with a small smile. "Ah, I had some business with my fellow council member here. I was going to come later on but when I heard my dear nephew was staying with you Shizuka," his eyes flickered back to Shizuka's pinched face, "I had to come almost immediately."

"Be that as it may, your arrival was quite a surprise," Shizuka said with surprising levelheadedness. She settled her tea cup onto its saucer. "I had no time to prepare a proper tea for you. If I had known you were coming today I would've cleared my very busy schedule." she said softly. She hardly looked as if she wanted to provide tea for him. She looked as if she wished to throw him out of her house the very moment he stepped in. Rido nodded at her barely hidden accusation. The barbs being passed between the two of them were a level below carnal, hidden behind sweet smiles and gentle nods of understanding. It fascinated Kaname.

"Terribly sorry. I haven't seen you recently at any of the council meetings so I assumed your schedule was relatively free, but I see I was wrong now with how absolutely assiduous you appear to be at the moment. You have my apologies. May I finish what business I have with you and then I shall be on my way and leave you to your work." he said cooly, scanning the desk where not a paper laid in sight. Shizuka's eyes narrowed and her shoulders tensed in defense. "That should be well. Tell me Rido, why have you come? If it is for the reasons I suspect you should already know my answer." she said, her words a poisoned knife slashing the air and opening barely healed wounds that Kaname was almost oblivious too. Rido shook his head, removing some papers from inside his jacket. "You suspect right. But you also know that I am hellbent on returning this property to its rightful owners, the Kurans." he explained. The paper he smoothed out across the desk was rather old and withered. Shizuka hardly spared the aged document a glance.

"This land was rightfully purchased by the Kiriyuu's over a hundred years ago. We have made our roots here, this is Kiriyuu land now and I have told you repeatedly over the many years that I have no intention to sell." she uttered softly. Kaname looked upon the scene with new interest. What on earth were they talking about? The house? Rido didn't seem pleased by her answer yet looked as if he had heard it many times before. "I must respectfully disagree Shizuka. This land will always belong to the Kurans as it was there first home when they settled here. Besides, I don't believe you have the authority to decline my offer. Not only am I higher than you on our great council-" Shizuka's nostrils flared at this -"But the master of this estate is no longer you, but your boy."

Kaname's head whipped towards his uncle as he referred to Zero. "And unfortunately, he is ill. You cannot ask of him such a great thing when he cannot stand consciousness for more than a few minutes." Shizuka beseeched with a face of stone. Rido shook his head. "I believe I could. A few minutes is more than enough time to sign a deed." he said with a quirk of his lips. Kaname shook his head in disbelief at his uncle's actions. He wasn't serious was he? The estate was the only property the Kiriyuu's owned as he recalled. He was basically asking Shizuka to throw Zero and herself out, not to mention the many servants employed here. And Kaname knew that there was no land to be sold for many many miles and cities. They would have to travel far to find another place to settle down. And Kaname could not bear the thought of such kind people doing so.

He couldn't bear the though of losing Zero.

Rido observed the small cracks and fissured that were appearing in Shizuka's ladylike facade, he could see how much she wanted to lunge over the desk and swipe at him. He could see how deep he was getting under her skin and he loved watching her squirm.

Soon enough, this land would be his.

Rido gave an artificial shrug of sympathy. It was as fake as the caring smile on his face and the good meaning in his eyes. It was all fraudulent in the eyes of Shizuka. A sharp harsh feeling rose in the back of her throat like acid. She hated that man. She hated him wholeheartedly.

Rido leaned forward on the desk, deciding to drag out his little game of torture just a bit longer. "Shizuka, allow me to make you an offer. Produce Zero as healthy and whole and ready to decline my bid on this land and I shall leave you alone. For good. I will return in a week, if he is not conscious and ready to turn down my bid, you may as well continue the deed to this land signed."

"What a ridiculous proposal!" she spat, her face alight with new ire. Rido gave something similar to a feral grin at her uncontrolled outburst. "It is an offer. One that may grant you a chance at retaining your property. Think about it Shizuka. Until next week," he bade goodbye, rising from his chair and making his way to the door. He paused in front of Kaname, eyeing him with a small smile. "Oh, Kaname, please do me a favor and give this to Zero. I figured you two would become…close." And he pulled something from the inside of his jacket.

A delicate, fragile white rose.

Pressing it into Kaname's shocked palm, Rido slipped out the door as if he'd never been there, a simple dream. Kaname shook his head at that thought. No, more like a nightmare. He turned to Shizuka where she had gone silent at her desk. He felt guilty somehow, as if it was his fault for being related to his uncle. He approached her, mouth open and head full of apologies but she just pointed a sharp fingernail at the door. "Out." she commanded. Kaname furrowed his eyebrows. "But-"

"Mr. Kuran. Leave. Now." she said in a biting, icy tone. She turned away from Kaname as if she was disgusted at his very presence. Kaname left without another word. He headed towards the sitting room, where a large fire simpered at him without a care in the world. Right now, he hated his lineage. He hated his lineage and Zero's lineage but most of all he hated the pure smugness that had shone in his uncle's mismatched eyes when he'd first laid eyes on him like he'd figured out everything in that second. Kaname's hands clenched into fists at his side and he ignored the sharp pain in his right hand and the blood that was probably bubbling to the surface. He ignored it, and breathed. He grounded his teeth, waves upon waves of hatred crashing upon each other in his stomach and he suddenly felt sick with the rushing waters of rage that pounded his insides like a whipping hurricane.

He glanced at the flower being crushed in his right hand, at the blood that painted the rose's delicate petals. His mind flashed back to his uncle's smirk and how with meaningful purpose, he pressed the rose into his hand.

"Please do me a favor and give this to Zero. I figured you two would become…close." those damned words echoed in Kaname's head and made the room spin with his bitter outrage towards his uncle.

Glaring at the fire, Kaname unclenched his fist and threw the white rose in, it's petal tainted by his blood. His heritage. Turning on his heel, Kaname walked away, not looking back as the flames consumed the flower whole.


A/N: Oh my god I've taken forever haven't I? Feel free to come at me with torches and pitchforks, I totally deserve it.

And here it is! The newest chapter, any thoughts, any opinions, any theories? Feel free to share them in the reviews, I love getting them. It's nice to get input from my wonderful not to mention PATIENT readers. Once again, I'm so sorry!

Reviews would be great!