The General's Prisoner

This is a short hurt-comfort story in five parts, concentrating on Zero and Kaname and their relationship. It is an experiment of depicting characters who must deal maturely with a terrible past. Reader discretion advised.

~{}~ 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 love to use them over and over in my twisted stories... ;)

Summary: General Zero Kiryu has changed the face of the world, scouring it of the vampire race. Emotionally scarred by years of war and revenge upon all vampires, he nears completion of his life's work when finally the last pureblood is brought before him for judgement. What will his verdict be, when this pureblood is none other than Kaname Kuran, an old enemy from a time long gone?

Rated M: implied non-con & violence, emotional M/M lemon (if you're not into M/M, do not read)

AN: OMG! So much attention all of a sudden! I'm blushing from head to toe... You give me too much credit! Though of course I am honored by your wonderful reviews and I'm happy you like it so much, I'm still at the point where I just hope to not disappoint you with every chapter I post. So... uhm... thank you so much for the praise. It means a lot to me.

Of course I wouldn't dare to abandon such avid readers by not finishing a story. ^^

So here it is - again, feel free to let me know what you think.

Part III: Desperation

One slip, one mistake was all it took. After nearly four and a half years of perfect servitude, Kaname had somehow wronged his master and without once looking at the wretched creature, Zero Kiryu dragged the whimpering vampire to the dreaded prison cells, neither of the two caring to heed the gleeful looks of the pleased onlookers. Kiryu's strength was unfailing as he forced him to follow, even though the pureblood knew him to be gravely wounded. Kaname did not struggle as the hunter's strong hands roughly stripped him of his clothing and slammed him hard against the wall.

Consumed by hopelessness and painfully aware of his pitiful appearance, he raised his eyes toward his master, pleading in silence as his body connected harshly with the hard surface. He feared what he saw there in the hunter's eyes, but he bore that fear in the vain hope of just the smallest sign of mercy. In Kaname's mind it made no sense. He knew this man to be gentle and soft spoken. Not once had he raised a hand against him. Feeling the evidence of Kiryu's strength hurting his own body didn't connect at all with his mind. It was like this man was not Zero Kiryu anymore. This was an angry, powerful hunter, not his master.

But his hope was in vain and his pleading to no avail. Not a single command from the General's lips gave Kaname a chance at redemption, not a word was spoken to allow him some insight as to what he had done wrong. The hunter just slammed him against the concrete until his blood coated the crumbling wall.

With a blinding pain to the pureblood's bruised body, the angry hunter changed the charm that bound the pureblood to himself. Kaname felt his remaining power drain into nothingness as the invisible slave bond between himself and the General was extinguished. In its place, invisible chains tightened painfully around his body giving him a taste of the horrors about to come. He could not move, he felt painfully constricted and panic surged through his chest as the mental hunter charms sliced through his flesh unseen.

He was going to be tormented for a very long time. Dread filled him. And panic. But as unyielding hunter metal locked around his throat, he couldn't bring himself to speak. Tears of desperation rolled down his face when saw the hunter's forbidding expression. It told him all he needed to know.

It was over.

He could only plead for forgiveness with his eyes - but the look in Kiryu's lilac gaze was as cold and stern as it had been when they had met four and a half years ago. Apparently, there was nothing at all between them. Kaname was a vampire prisoner again and nothing more - as though the past four and a half years had been nothing but a dream.

A cruel looking man was beckoned forward, but Kaname barely registered the movement in the shadows, because all his attention was held by the powerful General, formerly his master. When he spoke it was indeed his voice, yes..., but it was so cold... so distant... so painfully harsh. It was so different from the voice he had grown to adore that it took a long time for the actual meaning of the words to manifest in his mind.

"The vampire is yours now. Keep him alive for a long time." Kiryu said mercilessly. And then, without a glance back, he walked out.

The pureblood was too heartbroken to care. He couldn't understand what he had done wrong - he had wanted to help. But now it made no difference. Nothing mattered anymore. No one would care for him. He would rot in this dungeon, screaming in pain until his body finally gave out. He barely heard the snickering laughter of his tormentor, telling him to prepare himself for hell. He should have been shivering in fear. He should have been shaking with the knowledge of what he would have to endure...

But when his Zero-sama walked out the door without so much as a glance back, Kaname's heart just crumbled. It didn't matter now anymore - nothing mattered. He would hardly even feel the pain at all. Whatever awaited him, he would not feel it. His soul was already dead.

When the lashes fell, there was no sentient being left in his body. That part of him had been shut down entirely. He was mindless. It was the only way to exist in a world of pain and loneliness. And for him, now there was only pain. Always. He no longer questioned why or who or how many or how long. He didn't think at all anymore. Knowing he would die here, in this hell hole, he decided the minute his master left that he would not try to survive. No matter how pathetic he might become, it simply did not matter. He was already dead, he only had to wait for his body to fall apart.


With heavy steps that echoed eerily in the silence, the General stepped before the door of a cell that held the remnants of a vampire's body. His lilac gaze easily swept over the signs that showed that the last pureblood would not last the night.

Kiryu's approach marked the anniversary. Ten years had passed since the pureblood had been handed over to the dungeons. Still, Kaname Kuran was being held in the same cell he had last left him, ten years ago. The pureblood had been mutilated and raped in so many ways that his body was barely recognizable as humanoid. He was nothing but truncated flesh, charred and bloody without much of his sensory perception, except nerve endings to feel pain. Torture had merely been interrupted for the General's inspection, but the reprieve would not last - the tormenting hunter was waiting just a step away in the shadows for his General's order to continue.

Kiryu entered the cell with his usual unhurried steps and inspected the pureblood closely. It was a gruesome sight. Some of the less hardy guards turned green and quickly left the confining walls, but the General showed no reaction whatsoever. There was some quiet whispering among the remaining guards. It wasn't normal for a pureblood to give up so easily. Their pride usually forbade them to do so. The prison guards were all astounded that his body showed signs of decay so soon. They had prepared themselves to prolong the suffering of this last pureblood to lengths unheard of. But there seemed no spirit left within this vampire as his skin began to tear into smoking edges.

"It is time." Kiryu said, silencing the whispers.

"He has suffered enough." the General announced. "I will be the one to end the torment for the last pureblood."

"Sir?" His lieutenant looked at him quizzically. "But your guests are waiting... You shouldn't feel obligated to dirty your hands with the likes of..."

But Kiryu cut him off.

"I will decide that. Do not trouble yourself, I will be there as planned in five minutes. Open the champagne if you will. This won't take long."

"Yes, of course, sir." the lieutenant hurriedly agreed.

General Kiryu held out his hands and whispered a few ancient words. All hunters present knew the charms to execute a vampire. All of them would have recognized them immediately. But no one had ever heard the words to the spell their General was currently performing - of course, no one dared to ask either. There was a blinding light that startled them and forced them to shield their eyes. When they all looked up again, the pureblood's body had dissappeared and fine, glittering dust settled on the bloody, concrete floor.

General Kiryu smiled faintly.

"Sweep the dust. Tomorrow this place will no longer exist. This facility will be shut down, it is no longer needed. But for now, I will speak to all my guests." he ordered.

Zero left the cell. It's scent made him thirsty and nauseous at the same time. But that was not the main reason for his hurry. Nor was the waiting banquet. He intended to hurry because Kaname was waiting.


Three storeys higher, he exited the elevator and stepped into a large, decorated hall. All onlookers rose and applauded enthusiastically at his entry. When he stepped up to the speaker's desk, the room fell into a sudden hush. With a sweeping gaze across the audience, General Kiryu lifted his glass of champagne.

"I will not keep you from the buffet for too long." he began and there were chuckles all around the room.

"Today's anniversary is a special one for me. For 165 years, I have fought against vampires, and for the last 5 years, I have the honor of confirming that we have not encountered one single vampire anywhere across the globe."

There were many shouts of acknowledgement and praise, but the General silenced them with just the raising of his hand.

"The last pureblood was kept in this very place for the past ten years. I have decided for this day that it should be over. There is now only dust on the dungeon floor where he was held captive."

There was thundering applause from the auditorium and this time it took a while for everybody to calm down.

"This is a special moment for all who have fought by my side for so many years, because I declare this war to be over. It is a victory we celebrate today, for the vampire race is now extinct - except for one last vampire. Me."

A hush filled the room. In the dead silence, Zero continued.

"I have fulfilled my duty to you for 165 years. I have lead many hunters and watched very talented and capable fighters rise among the ranks of this organization in battles against bloodthirsty monsters. Fortunately, I can say now that those days are over. And future generations will need these outstanding leaders when they face new challenges. I may not look it, but I am old now and it is time for me to leave things in other capable hands. Therefore, I am resigning as of this moment. I will no longer involve myself in the affairs of the world, it is now other people's duty to do so. With that said, I encourage you to celebrate."

He lifted his glass. "To the future."


It was surprisingly easy to dissappear shortly after that - declaring the buffet for opened did the trick. People were so predictable sometimes. But it served Zero well. He had important matters to worry about - a wounded pureblood was waiting.

Kaname's body lay on the soft mattress, where the hunter had brought him to just a few minutes ago. His charm had by no means killed the pureblood, but instead, had teleported him away and returned some strength to his weakened body after revoking his binding. The dust was fake - a Level E's dust, enough to convince the other hunters that he was now dead. No one would ever look for the pureblood again. And now that he had retired himself, Zero would not be bothered much either.

Obligations would not bar his way anymore.

With great patience, the former general went to work, cleaning the pureblood's horribly mutilated body and wrapping him in healing bandages. Bathing would have to wait - he was too torn apart for that to be helpful - perhaps in two days he could try that. When he was satisfied with his handiwork, he sliced a gash into his arm. Carefully, he fed his blood into the broken body where a mouth should have been. The pureblood remained unresponsive until the blood touched what was left of his mouth. No sound came from the torn vampire, but his body jerked slightly as he unconsciously learned to swallow again.

After a few minutes, Zero's wound closed and the blood flow stopped. Now he would wait.


Kaname woke, the sound of waves and sea gulls around him. He was amazed to have full sensory perception again. And to have it be something so sweet... tears rolled down his face as more sounds enveloped him. He didn't question why he was being tortured in one moment and was listening to the sounds of the sea in the next, he just purely enjoyed it. Nothing hurt for these precious seconds and that was so wonderful in itself that he didn't care what had brought on this moment. A gentle breeze caressed his cheek and he tentatively let his eyelids reveal where he was, still fearing that this was all a dream and he would open his eyes to find himself back in reality in the dungeon.

"Good evening, Kaname."

It was the voice the pureblood had longed to hear above all others. The soothing baritone that made him feel warm inside every time he heard it. The voice he had thought he would never hear again. His heart was so moved by just that gentle sound that it let a tear slip past his lashes.

"Zero-sama." he said in quiet reverence, his voice thick.

He found himself resting in a comfortable sun lounger, the pink shreds accross the horizon indicating that the sun had set just a few minutes ago. He was dressed in a pair of dark slacks and a black shirt - just like he had always worn as Zero-sama's servant. The hunter was sitting in another lounger next to him in similar clothing, his lilac gaze fixed upon the pureblood. He shook his head.

"Just Zero, Kaname."

Kaname stared at him. Not only was he sure he had misunderstood his words, but the hunter looked worn out and tired, pale and almost... sickly.

"You look well. Have you healed?" the hunter asked, gazing at him intently.

Kaname's confusion at this strange turn of events had his mind clouded and slow to react. Of all the things that could have captured his attention, Kaname had eyes for one thing only - the hunter's features. And what he saw worried the pureblood. It was... wrong that he looked so worn out, so pale and... weary. Had he just been asked a question?

"Yes..." he remembered nervously to answer. It was almost like the last time he had woken after torture next to the silver-haired hunter. Again, he didn't quite know how to behave or what was expected of him. But this time, when Kaname took inventory of his condition he realized something shocking. He had his full strength. None of his powers were bound. He was entirely himself again as a pureblood vampire and in full control of all of his abilities.

"Why...?" he began. "Forgive me... Zero-sama." he said quickly, realizing it was not his place to question the hunter.

"You are free, Kaname." Zero said quietly. There was an odd look in his eyes now. Somewhere between relief and regret, as far as the thoroughly confused pureblood could tell. The words made no sense at all. Nothing made sense. It couldn't be real, Kaname decided. This was a dream in his torture delirium. Nothing else. It had to be.

The hunter turned his weary gaze away. "You're not a slave anymore, you're not a prisoner and not a servant, Kaname. You are you - Kaname Kuran. And I am just Zero. No more general or master. I gave back all your power after I used it to bring us here. So you are free. You may go... wherever you wish to go. I trust you can evade the hunters now that they think you are dead."

It was all too much at once for the pureblood. "How...?"

The hunter didn't look at him, his eyes still fixed on the horizon of a darkening sky as he answered haltingly.

"You and I are the last of our kind. I faked your death so you could... No one will come looking for you again. I have retired from military service, my duty is fulfilled... I have enough money for just about anything I want and I liked this place. So I live here now. I thought it was... beautiful."

"Why did you bring me here?" Kaname demanded. He was irritated that nothing made sense, that everything was so unlike it should be, that the hunter was somehow not himself. He was so caught up in his need for understanding that he almost missed the quiet whisper that left the hunter's lips.

"I... care for you." he confessed. "I never... intended to let you... die. I know it sounds selfish - but I don't want to be the only one to live so long. I had hoped... that perhaps..."

Zero looked at him with the softest expression Kaname had ever seen on that face. It stabbed him directly into his heart. This was somehow important, the pureblood knew. But the hunter did not explain.

"... I apologize for being sentimental." he turned his face away from the pureblood again.

There was a long silence.

"What is it you hoped?" Kaname plucked up the courage to ask. "What did you hope... Zero-sama?" he whispered.

For a while, there was no answer and Kaname wondered if perhaps he wouldn't get one at all. But then the hunter's soft baritone picked up where he'd left off.

"I had hoped... that... that perhaps you would want to... stay with me." his voice trailed off into a whisper.

Kaname felt his heart stop.

"You're asking me if I would like to stay?" Kaname asked in astonishment.

Not only was the proposal ludicrous because the hunter could have simply enslaved him, had he so chosen, but the entire request was ridiculous. It was an insult to a full-grown pureblood who had been forced into servitude to ask such a thing. Only years of service stayed his hand before he did something he might have truly regretted. Kaname felt shreds of his former pride arise within him - most likely because he had his powers back.

He didn't attack the hunter, but he appeared before him, towering over him and glaring at the pale face that was once his master. Humorlessly, he growled in a low voice.

"First you send me to the butchers and now you want me to stay with you?"

The former general sighed quietly, seemingly unimpressed by the angry pureblood aura surrounding him. His tired lilac eyes showed no fear - only sadness.

"You needn't stay, Kaname. As I have said, you are free to go." this time the bitterness and regret were unmistakable in his voice.

"I want an answer... hunter." he retorted. "You made me a slave, you kept me in servitude, then you let me rot in the torture chambers and now you tell me you care and want me to stay? I will not go anywhere until you tell me why!"

The former general gazed straight at Kaname. It was as it had always been - the lilac eyes were too powerful to resist. Their gaze was weary and sad, but had lost none of their power. Of course he could have chosen to resist them, but inside Kaname felt his defenses crumble. It was wrong, this weariness, this bitterness, this sadness in those eyes.

"You want to know why I did what I did, Kaname?" he asked quietly.

"Do you really want to know all of it?" he whispered.

"Yes." Kaname commanded, forcing an angry edge to his voice. But the hunter remained unimpressed.

"At least now you will understand."

Zero closed his eyes as though in defeat and spoke quietly.

"I, too, was a prisoner to those butchers, Kaname. I, too was held captive by the hunters and tortured for 7 years."

Kaname stared at him in disbelief. "You... were a... prisoner once.. ?"

Zero looked up at him, his eyes clear and open. "Yes."

Then he added ruefully. "I killed my brother, remember?"

There was a long silence. At last, Kaname asked the most pressing question on his mind. His anger had all but evaporated at this new piece of information.

"How did you...?" he didn't need to finish the question.

"Yagari. He did everything he could to get me out of there again. But it took years..." Kaname just stared at the hunter.

"So you were... raped and... truncated and..."

Zero nodded. And pierced, and beaten, broken and burned... the list went on simultaneously in both their heads.

"O God..." Kaname looked devastated. His anger entirely forgotten, the pureblood felt only raw sympathy.

"You... a Level D... How did you... survive 7 years?"

Zero gave a mirthless snort. "Being a hunter helped. Knowing they were right about me being a monster... didn't. But what can I say - I was born as stubborn as the Kiryu bloodline comes. I knew that after what I had done I didn't deserve to die so easily." he conceded.

Kaname almost nodded slowly. Zero didn't have the benefit of being able to let go of his mind like Kaname had. Kaname was able to entirely zone out for the torture. It didn't lessen the physical pain, but it hazed the memory. And it denied access into his mind - because the mind wasn't there. But Zero had chosen the worst path to live through that time. The hunter had accepted it as his rightful punishment.

To believe you deserved every lashing and every beating... Kaname's fingers trembled at the thought. He still towered above the hunter, but now he regretted his rashness. Again, his eyes were captivated by Zero's. Even without a clear command in his tone, those eyes drew his gaze inexorably. Even if nothing about him physically showed his age - it was suddenly all there in his eyes. All the pain and hardship was right there. Kaname was so mesmerized that he was slow to hear his next words.

"I cannot erase those memories, Kaname. I cannot undo what they have done to me in that cell. I know I wasn't innocent. I knew I deserved to be punished for what I had done... But... does anyone deserve to be raped...?"

Kaname felt something inside him fall apart. It truly broke his heart to think of the hunter in one of those cells. To think that this man - the embodiment of strength - had been chained and beaten and brutally raped... Never in a million years would that possibility have crossed Kaname's mind.

"How did you... go on afterward...?" Kaname asked. He wanted to hug the hunter, comfort him somehow, but he didn't know if he had the right to do so.
Zero gave a soft snort.

"I trained every waking minute of my life to get the revenge I thought was justified. I wanted to eradicate the disease that made me the monster I am. For years I passed on the cruelty I had been subjected to. I did nothing else. There was nothing else."

"Did you torture them...?" Kaname asked quietly, dreading the answer.

There was a long moment of silence again. But then Zero shook his head.

"No." he said in a voice laced with bitterness. "I interrogated them, but I never went beyond charms and punches. The memories of how it feels are too clear. It taught me well to control my anger."

Again, there was a long silence.

"You trained every waking minute? Surely, there must have been more... Did you never fall in love?" Kaname asked hopefully.

"Love? After that? No." the hunter shook his head. "At first I was blinded by my hatred. Then I was certain that I did not deserve love. By the time that changed, I realized that I could never be together with anyone. The memories were still too clear. A human would have long forgotten. But I couldn't. I still can't. I was the General. They respected me. They obeyed me. Some of them worshipped me. But they didn't love me, Kaname. In their eyes I am not human. No one thought it odd that I showed no interest in finding a partner. So I have never touched anyone since. Not... for over 170 years." Zero's voice trailed off in a whisper.

"No..." Kaname sank to his knees in front of the hunter. Unbelievingly, he let his fingers lightly trace Zero's cheek. He could feel the hunter tremble under that touch bearing testament to the lack of physical closeness during his life. Kaname could only stare. He was truly devastated that the hunter who had seemed to be so strong had been scarred so terribly that he wouldn't even share intimacy with anyone for so long. But the hunter hadn't finished his story.

"I thought I didn't deserve to find love. I thought I had only my purpose to fulfill and then I would take my life. Then... they found you."

Kaname's fingers froze where they lightly touched the hunter's cheek.

"I realized you would be the only one who might understand. You are the Ancestor, in a way, the only one of your kind. I offered you to stay with me for the most selfish of all reasons. I wondered if it was possible - if I could let you come close to my heart and my body, if my mind would allow it... and I thought that perhaps..."

The pureblood stared at the hunter in utter astonishment - the lilac eyes were filled with hurt, pouring forth indescribable vulnerability, such as he had never seen the hunter show before. Actually, he had never seen so much open vulnerability from anyone ever before.

When he had given the pureblood that choice, he had said he was meant to live no more than one life span. That everyone he knew would die before he even showed a sign of aging. Who could have guessed the true depth behind those words?

Who could have guessed that General Zero Kiryu wasn't looking for a life-long slave but for a... partner?

Naturally, during his servitude, Kaname had guessed that there was more to the silent hunter than he let on. Just the fact that he didn't treat a pureblood vampire with contempt gave birth to that tiny shred of hope. But Kaname had attributed it to the hunter's wish for company and to his gentle heart. Until the night he had asked the burning question in his mind, he hadn't even known if the hunter found his body desirable. He was a pureblood - it was taken for granted that his body was desirable, but in Zero's behavior he had not noticed even the smallest bit of attraction. The hunter conceiled his thoughts and feelings far too well. Until Kaname had asked, he hadn't known anything about the hunter's thoughts on their relationship. He might have asked him more but the blow to his budding emotions had been too harsh. He hadn't understood the rejection.

"You wanted to know why I didn't use your body." How Zero knew what he was thinking about, eluded the pureblood. There was too much that he didn't understand about this man. He could only listen to the tale of this man's life that he apparently knew so little about, despite serving him for years.

"The answer is simple." Zero explained quietly. "I couldn't. If... If you had been evil, I wouldn't have hesitated to shoot you, but I knew you weren't. And even if you had been - I couldn't have... raped you. When you suggested it, I... I realized you didn't understand..." Zero averted his eyes and stared out past the pureblood at the night sky.

Kaname bit his lip. He hadn't known, he couldn't have known - but he realized now what that must have felt like. He was about to stammer something, but Zero interrupted him, his tone forbidding with a ring of finality to it.

"And then... you offered me to drink your blood."

There was a long and pregnant silence. Kaname didn't know what to say. He withdrew his hand from the hunter's face judging by the sound of his voice that it had no place there. Still, the hunter's gaze slowly swept the horizon.

"I haven't had a drop of blood for over 170 years, Kaname."

The pureblood's eyes widened. This couldn't be true. This Level D vampire in front of him had not once in 170 years...

"You must be starving..." he whispered.

Zero closed his eyes.


It was a whispered confession that he seemed to be horribly ashamed of. Kaname had no words for his emotions. He was torn between admiration bordering on awe and incredible sadness at the deprivation this man had endured. Again, he had the intense urge to hug him, to care for him and to put him back together. But he didn't trust himself anymore with this man who was such an enigma to him.

As though he knew that Kaname didn't quite grasp what he meant, Zero explained patiently.

"Ichiru's blood completed me as a hunter. The amount of Shizuka's blood he had in his blood stream was enough to stabilize me. I am a full hunter - I do not need blood to keep me strong. And I am a stable Level D - I do not need blood to keep from falling. But I am still a vampire - I can hear the call for blood roar loudly throughout my body. I killed my brother and devoured his essence. It has made me strong and I have paid for it dearly. I am still paying that debt. And I will continue to pay for it with every breath that I take. In order to be a hunter I was never allowed to show weakness. I was never allowed to show bloodlust - ever. It didn't matter if I was wounded close to death. When I left that prison I had to vow that I was cured, that I would never need blood again, that their so-called 'treatment' had taken effect."

The pureblood felt his throat constrict. It was a miracle Zero had survived the dungeon, being only a Level D, being so convinced of his guilt. It was a miracle he had picked up a life again with those constraints and been successful at it. It was even more of a miracle that he had become what he was. And yet, the pureblood began to understand only now what loneliness the hunter must have endured all that time.

It hurt almost physically to learn all this and how very slowly, it all made a horrible kind of sense.

"I knew they couldn't stand that I treated you without cruelty. I knew Internal Affairs would try to kidnap you to make me look like a fool for wanting you back. I also knew the only way to stop them was to be wounded myself. Attacking me would reflect badly on them, no matter the cause and even if they took you they would have to give you back. It was the only way to save you. I took two bullets for you, Kaname."

Kaname hung his head. "I know." he whispered.

It had looked almost like an accident. Zero had been clever enough not to let it look like he was saving his slave. To the hunters it had looked like an unfortunate coincidence that he barged in through the door with a command for his slave the same instant they shot at Kaname. But the pureblood knew Zero had saved him. And that was why he had felt the need to offer his blood as a thanks.

He had been raised with the knowledge that a pureblood's blood was sacred. Allowing someone else to drink it, was considered the highest honor there was in the vampire world. Even if he was a slave and the honor at receiving it was lost, his blood was still pure and still had all its healing abilities. In that moment, it hadn't occurred to him that his offer might offend the hunter.

Zero's face became forbidding and bitter.

"I have control, Kaname, I have control way beyond what you know. But I saved you from their clutches, provided you with what I could within the confinement of my social corset. I let them shoot me for you. And thus was I repaid? How could you tempt me like that? Your blood above anyone else's is the most tempting to me, you know this. It brought me back from the brink of insanity. How could you turn on me like that? How dare you wait for a weak moment of mine and then tempt me like that with your blood?"

Kaname swallowed thickly. He couldn't have known how wrong his attempt at helping him was. Even so, perhaps the hunter might have forgiven him if he hadn't been forced to abandon his needs so wholly. But how was he to know the hunter's emotions ran so deep? He would never have guessed that his pain was engraven into his soul so harshly, that he had been hurt so badly. That he was forced to endure so much. He hadn't known. How could he have ever known...?

The hunter's voice continued, a bit unstable now.

"I wanted to hate you, Kaname. But I couldn't." The lilac eyes burned with shame now. "I didn't turn when I left you in that prison. But it wasn't because I hated you. It was because... if I had looked back... even once, I would have done the unforgivable in the their eyes and pardoned you. I thought I could lock you away. But with you, I locked away my heart in that prison."

A tear slid down the pureblood's cheeks unbidden. He hadn't known. He hadn't... known. He remembered how the hunter had laid an arm around his shoulders in comfort one night. He hadn't known at that time how much it truly meant. He hadn't known that he was the gloriously innocent receiver of the most intimate touch Zero had probably granted anyone in over a century.

He hadn't known.

But how could he have known?

"I tapped the cameras, Kaname." he whispered. "I watched them torture you, just to catch a glimpse of your face, just to hear your voice, even if it was contorted in pain. Soon I did not sleep anymore until you blacked out and I could see your face in slumber. I know it is wrong, but I needed you. So I watched and I waited."

The hunter sighed and closed his eyes. And all the weariness and pallor on the hunter's face made a sick kind of sense to the pureblood that instant.

"I saw immediately that you were close to fading. And I couldn't bear the thought of your death. So I brought you here and let them all think that you are dead. I am a selfish man, Kaname. I did everything I could to be their hero. But in truth I am only a selfish man. I have no excuse for it, but that is all I can be."

The pureblood was frozen to the spot, horrified at what he had just heard. His body rooted in shock. And still, Zero continued.

"I have betrayed them all for you. I didn't kill you when I should have tortured you to death. I fed you my blood when I should have punished you with more mutilation for escaping to death so quickly. I returned your power when I should have bound you even tighter to myself. And now I am giving you a choice again. Only this time, your choice is not between a life of servitude to me or your torturous death. You are free to go if you want - not a servant or slave or prisoner. Just because I can never truly enjoy freedom doesn't mean I have the right to take yours. This time, you're deciding on my torturous death. My body will survive without you - but my heart..."

There was a long silence. Kaname stared at the hunter's face as though seeing it for the first time, trying to grasp the enormity of all that he had heard just now. It was almost laughable, really.

He had spent hours steeling glances at this face, hoping against hope that it might be less unapproachable than it seemed. This man had captivated him, had terrified him and had cared for him like no other being ever had. After hearing his story, what right did he have to even wish for his company? It was wrong that this man should even want him. Let alone give away his fragile heart...

"Please if you don't wish to stay with me... leave now... just leave" Zero began, but Kaname silenced him.

"Stop." he said weakly. "Stop." he whispered again. And the hunter did, a look of inevitability ill-conceiled on his face.

"You... watched the entire time?" Kaname asked quietly.

"Yes." the hunter said in a defeated voice.

Every whiplash? Every cut, every stab and bruise? Every rape? Every...

"Oh, my god." Kaname breathed. "You remember what everything feels like, but you watched anyway...? How did you endure seeing them do that?"

"All I saw was you." Tha hunter whispered, a tiny smile of hopelessness on his face. "It was all I looked at - you." Zero answered, his lilac eyes fully open and vulnerable as he looked at the pureblood.

The pureblood lifted Zero's right hand, locking gazes with the confused hunter. Then he softly brushed his lips against the knuckles.

"You cared for me all this time... You call yourself a selfish man, but you truly aren't. You are the most amazing man I have ever met, Zero Kiryu. More special than anyone in this world. I could never leave you. I want to stay with you, Zero. Forever."