Maybe if he hadn't been so focused on the cat, Ichiru would've seen the figure standing in the shadows, just on the borders of the trees. But he didn't.
"Rose," he coaxed, waving a small pale hand at the cat as if he expected it to reach out and take it. "Come on Rose, here girl," he pleaded desperately. The cat remained still on the ice, tail swishing as the small child crawled out towards it, even as cracks formed beneath him. Finally, the dark figure clouded in the shadows of the trees sprang into action, creeping around the edges of the pond just out of Ichiru's line of vision. "Bloody Rose!" the child cursed shuffling in the direction of the cat, only to watch, furious, as it marched off the ice in the opposite direction.
And that's when the boy noticed the cracks. But it was too late. He fell with a gasp, plunging through the ice and sending up a chilling spray of water as the murky serum sloshed over the ice and into the snow. The dark personage crouched at the edge near where Ichiru struggled underwater, hands at the ready, preparing for the very dark and sinister act it was about to commit.
Silver strands floated to the surface, followed by hands, grasping weakly in the air and then a small mouth and nose, gasping harshly. The presence sprang forward as Ichiru clawed at the edges of the ice.
And pushed him back under.
Ichiru's tiny hands groped the wrist weakly, hoping to pull himself back up, but those hopes were crushed and drowned as the evil character fisted a hand into his hair and shoved him under even deeper. Finally, Ichiru stopped struggling, staring through blurry eyes, tinged red around the edges, at the moon through the thin ice that was already reforming. The last thing he saw was two shadows standing at the edge of the pond through the wisps of his hair, faces lit by the unholy stare of the blank white moon.
And then there was darkness.
Kaname awoke to a damp pillow. Blinking blearily, he stared at the fuzzy face laying adjacent to his, tears streaming down their cheeks. Then his vision cleared and he slowly leaned over to shake the person across from him awake. "Zero," he said softly, "Zero, wake up."
Zero opened his eyes slowly, large tears slowly building and falling from his eyes like liquid crystals. "Kaname…" he said breathlessly, sitting up in bed. Kaname sat up with him as well, rubbing his back. "Why were you crying, dear?" he said softly. Zero shook his head, harshly scrubbing at his eyes until the skin around them was bright red and tear stained. "I had a nightmare, was all. It was awful," he sniffed, releasing a shaky sigh. Kaname noticed how he gripped the pendant around his neck tightly in one hand, as if he was afraid the charm would simply disappear. "Was it about…Ichiru?" Kaname asked hesitantly. Even he was beginning to believe saying the boy's name would be bad luck. Zero shook his head again, rubbing his arms. "No, not this time. I just…dreamt I was drowning, it was terrible Kaname. I dreamt I'd fallen through ice and then someone had held me under, I was so scared." he said, and then cursed as tears formed again. Kaname moved to climb from Zero's bed. "Shall I fetch you a glass of water?" he asked. Zero gripped his wrist. "No, stay. Just lay with me until you have to leave, please." he said.
Kaname gave him a small smile. "Okay," he agreed easily, sliding back under the sheets. Many of them had been removed since Zero had gotten his charm back, yet more so than average still remained. It was quite toasty under the blankets, and, if Kaname was being completely honest with himself, he didn't want to climb out from beneath the covers himself. Zero curled back up to Kaname as he joined him in bed, resting his head on his chest and fisting a hand into his shirt to reassure himself he wouldn't leave. Kaname wrapped arm around Zero's waist and then buried his nose in his hair. In the moonlight that flooded the room, they looked almost translucent, as if god had given him hair spun of the moon's brightest rays. Zero's eyes were half lidded as his breathing slowed from the panicked, shuddering state it was into a healthy, peaceful pace. His eyes cracked open again as his pillow wiggled beneath him. "Hmm?" he said groggily.
Kaname gave him a smile and switched their positions, laying his head on Zero's chest, just so that it rested above his heart. His mind was eased at the healthy, strong beat he heard there. "Nothing, love. Just go back to sleep, I'll wake you before I leave." he promised. Zero nodded sleepily and fell back into the pillows, out before a single strand had touched them. For hours, Kaname drifted in and out of sleep, sometimes just simply listening to Zero's slow heartbeat and watching his face as he peacefully slept, other times staring out the windows past the large flakes of snow gathering on the sill. Finally, a cold dawn approached and Kaname shook Zero's shoulder. Zero cracked open one eye and then another. He gave Kaname a tired smile. "Good morning," he whispered. Kaname returned the favor. "Good morning. I'm going now," he informed, watching as a small frown formed on Zero's lips. "Can't you stay, just for a few minutes?" he pleaded, but he already knew the answer. Kaname pressed his lips to his forehead. "I would, my dear. But your mother will have a servant check on you any moment now," he reminded reasonably. Zero sighed, looking unhappy but acceptant. "Okay, go, so you don't get caught. My mother will have your head for dinner if she see's you sneaking around." Zero said with a slight jest to his tone. Kaname gave him one more smile, before slipping out the room, as silent as the dwindling shadows of morning.
When it was finally a much saner time to be awake, Kaname returned to Zero's room. "Good morning," Kaname greeted once again as he slowly pushed the door open. The mousy, easily flustered housemaid that had brought Zero his tea and medicine that morning almost dropped her tray as their handsome guest entered the room. When both Zero and Kaname gave her odd looks she squawked a hasty excuse to leave before almost running out of the room. Zero gave a crooked smile, "Such an odd bird," he laughed, running his fingers through his long hair in an attempt to finger-comb the tangles out. Kaname took the brush from the nightstand and joined Zero on the edge of the bed, slowly working the brush through his hair. "You shouldn't be one to talk, Kiriyuu," he chided lightly with a chuckle. "Neither you, Kuran. You're too skilled at plaiting hair to say anything." Zero shot back. "I," Kaname said, tying the end with a simple hair tie, "Have a younger sister. You, however, have no excuse at being as well as a plaiter as you are," he said simply.
"Twelve years bedded leaves much time for practice."
Kaname moved to sit in front of him with a smile. "Shall we make up for those twelve years of monotonous plaiting, today?"
Zero gave a mischievous grin, "We can certainly try."
Kaname laughed, a loud, bright laugh that made the world around them seem sunnier as Kaname lost his impish and calm composure. Kaname knelt next to the bed, hooking an arm under Zero's legs and one going around his back. He startled Zero as he stood up, who automatically wrapped his arms around his neck. "Where are we going?" he asked curiously.
"Breakfast, I thought you'd like to join everyone in the dining hall today," Kaname replied, "Was I wrong to think so?"
"I'm not dressed!" Zero protested, still in his nightgown.
"It's your house, lord Kiriyuu, you should feel entitled to run naked around it if you wanted to," Kaname replied smoothly. The short walk down the main staircase was accompanied with Zero's peals of laughter and suddenly the Christmas decorations didn't seem so inappropriate in the house. The gloomy manner of everyone in the house had lifted when they found out about Zero's mysterious recovery, and it was beginning to feel much more merry and holiday-like. Aidou's head peeked out of the dining hall. "Quiet.."he whined, squinting in the bright light of the morning sun reflecting off the chandelier. Unfortunately for the staff of the manor, as Zero had gotten better, they had all gotten worse, and many could not even get out of bed with their sicknesses. Aidou groaned as he walked past, "This is the first time I've had a hangover in years…ugh." he complained, almost setting his tea tray on top of Takuma's head, that rested on the table top. "Get that thing away from me…I'm going to be sick again from the smell alone," he said, sounding congested and pained. His face was a little green and his eyes a little shiny around the edges. Even Shiki wasn't looking all that well, with beads of sweat on his forehead yet he shivered even through two coats and a scarf. "You all look awful,"Zero stated, unhooking his arms from around Kaname's neck as he set him in a chair. "Why don't you all take the day off and rest. You surely deserve it." he suggested. Aidou grimaced and waved a hand. "No way Master Zero, this is your first day out of bed," he said with a smile that looked more like a grimace, "We should celebrate!"
The company at the table groaned at the thought of moving. Zero shook his head. "Stubborn fools," he tutted. Kaname sat down next to him at the table, inconspicuously linking hands with him underneath the tablecloth. "I was hoping that breakfast company would be more lively and less, well, sick but it seems I was wrong," he said lightly with a small smile. Truthfully, he couldn't care less. His precious rose was awake and well just within his uncle's time limit. Everything was going swimmingly well. There was heavy footsteps behind them and Kain leaned in the doorway, pressing a handkerchief over his mouth as he coughed. "Dunno 'bout you lot, but I'm quite excited to see the look on that mismatched prick's face when he see's Zero up and walking," he smirked. His eyes widened as he noticed Kaname sitting next to Zero at that table. "Uh, no offense was meant Lord Kuran.." he apologized sheepishly. Kaname waved away his apology. He as well couldn't wait to see the look on his uncle's face when he realized he wouldn't be securing this state for his own selfish reasons. As he glanced around the table, Kaname's chest filled with a special kind of warmth. He watched these people, his current company, gathered around a large table, laughing and complaining and looking just a bit ill, he was glad his uncle wouldn't be stealing this estate away from such brilliant, amazing people. Zero squeezed his hand under the table, and he squeezed back.
Things were looking up.
A/N: A short chapter to balance out the length of the last one! Originally, it was a lot longer but I split it into two parts and served up the fluffy part by itself instead. I almost posted the whole thing but then I thought with the stuff that's about to come, let them wallow in the fluff for a lil bit before shit really hits the fan. And trust me, it will.