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Under the Rose

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Chapter One: "To Prove You Wrong"

Wind tossed the treetops in the dark park, a precursor of the coming storm. Below their shifting, rustling boughs, there was a different kind of storm already in progress.

A teenage boy with silver hair stalked angrily across the recently mowed grass of the lush, sprawling park. The formal dinner jacket he was wearing clashed oddly with the multiple piercings he was sporting and the large tattoo on the side of his neck.

In contrast, the tall dark haired young man catching up rapidly behind him looked completely natural in the formal evening wear, as if it were a second skin to him.

"Zero, what is the matter? Stop acting like a child..." A hand landed on Zero's shoulder, halting him and trying to turn him around.

"Stay the hell away from me!" Zero spun around and gave his companion a sharp shove in the chest. The dark haired vampire gave a step back, but caught the ex-human's wrist and jerked him close.

"Calm down and quit making a scene!" Kaname hissed, giving Zero a rough little shake. He was already well on his own way to being just about as angry as the hunter and was not at all in a mood to be taking any of Zero's trademark attitude. Zero had stormed out of the party like an injured bull and Kaname had been caught in the awkward position of either letting him go off in a huff, or chasing after him. The fact that he had chosen the latter would no doubt cause all kinds of talk. Put plainly, Zero had just embarrassed the hell out of him in front of his friends and associates.

Zero jerked his arm futilely, trying to get it away from Kaname's strong grip. "Let go of my arm, Kaname, or I'll show you making a scene!" he growled angrily, throwing an ill advised punch at his sometimes-lover.

Kaname easily caught Zero's other arm before the blow could fall, holding both wrists now. It was probably a good thing or he would have been very tempted to punch back. "If you're incapable of acting like a mature adult, at least tell me what the hell you're so angry about?" the pureblood demanded.

Zero glared at him, a deep, raw undercurrent of hurt hidden beneath the seething anger in his flashing silver eyes. Like Kaname didn't know? And if he really didn't... then that hurt even worse.

"I told you I didn't want to go to this event in the first place, but you made me," Zero said instead of answering. "It's not like anyone wanted me there. That's your circle, Kuran. Your scene. Not mine. So just... go back to your friends and forget about it, all right?"

Kaname's scowl darkened as a thread of pain wound through him. He hated the way Zero was always pulling away from him, always acting like he wanted nothing to do with the pureblood's life. "I wanted you there," Kaname shot back. "Why isn't that enough for you?"

"Well it's just not!" Zero was struggling again to be let go. He was hurting, angry, and lashing out the only way he could. "You don't own me, Kaname! I don't have to put up with you acting like you do! And I don't have to hang around like set dressing to be the butt of everybody's jokes!"

The beginnings of understandings dawned on Kaname. "Zero, is this about what Ryo said? Forget it! He's an ass who thinks he's funny; you can't let people like that get under your skin..."

Zero's eyes flashed with deep hurt that he couldn't completely hide. Sure, he knew. He knew he should expect all the ex-human and hunter jokes that were whispered not so-quietly whenever he was nearby. He understood that it was natural for everyone to assume that because he was accompanying Kaname, he was some kind of servant or slave. So what? He didn't give two damns what that brood of bloodsuckers at the party or anywhere else thought of him! It wasn't like he wanted to fit into the vampire world after all. What he did give a damn about though... was what Kaname thought of him.

"You laughed," Zero growled, his voice deceptively quiet. Maybe he was overreacting, but after everything else it just... it was too much. "You laughed just like everyone else."

Kaname blinked in surprise. "Zero... I didn't... I mean..." He released one of the hunter's wrists and ran his hand through his hair in frustration, suddenly angry with himself. "God, don't take it so personal, I was just being polite." It was a weak excuse and he knew it. The truth was that he didn't see Zero as an ex-human. He was just... Zero. Unique and completely special. He hadn't been thinking of the hunter when the stupid joke had been told, and... okay... it had been kind of funny, but...

Zero shrugged like he didn't care and twisted the wrist still caught in Kaname's grip.

"Right. Sure." He knew that deep down, Kaname really had thought the joke was amusing. Knew that even if it wasn't conscious, the pureblood had the typical vampire mindset that said Zero was below him – some kind of lower life form. That was what hurt.

"Like you were just being polite when you told that Shoji guy that I was your slave" Zero wasn't about to calm down. The whole night had been one thing after another and he hadn't felt this miserable in a long time. "Or didn't you think I heard that? I may only be an ex-human, Kaname, but I'm not that deaf!"

"Now you're just being stupid!" Kaname snapped in irritated disbelief. "I never said any such thing."

"Oh yes you did, you told him very clearly. 'Kiriyu belongs to me' I heard you say those exact words. he's mine'. Well guess what, Kaname. I'm not! So get your filthy pureblood hands off me, or I swear I am going to try to hurt you!"

Zero had pulled the Bloody Rose from under his jacket with his free hand, the chain flashing dully in the starlight as he pressed the muzzle flat against Kaname's chest.

Kaname wasn't afraid of the gun. He could easily take Kiriyu's arm off before he could even pull the trigger, and he knew Zero wouldn't really use it on him completely unprovoked. But the fact that he was even playing so dangerously told how upset the hunter was.

Kaname's eyes flashed darkly. That was what Zero was so upset about? Because Kaname had said he was his? Because Kaname had been protecting him? Hurt seared through the pureblood's chest at Zero's violent rejection.

"Fine. If that's how you feel, then go. Do whatever the hell you want," the pureblood said in short, clipped tones, releasing Zero's arm with a small shove. "And don't come back."

Zero shoved the gun back into his belt and stepped back a pace, rubbing his aching wrist, eyes locked on Kaname for a minute. His heart burned painfully.

"I don't intend to! Go back where you belong, Kaname and let me do the same," he rasped more hoarsely than he intended, backing away a few stumbling steps before he turned and jogged off into the darkness of the park.

Kaname didn't follow this time; he stood staring after the hunter and wondering what had just happened. Had he really just told him to not come back? Zero wouldn't really do that, right?

Zero... the pureblood realized he was clenching his fists so tightly at his sides that his fingernails were digging painfully into his palms. Turning on his heel, Kaname stalked back towards the distant lights of the gazebo and the party still in progress down by the lake. He didn't remotely feel like speaking to or seeing anyone anymore, but he had to go back and act like nothing had happened, for Zero's sake as much as his own. Nobody could know about the true nature of their relationship, they would both lose way too much creditability in their respective worlds.

Damn it all... why didn't Zero even try to understand him? The ex-human's words echoed in his head. Filthy pureblood... Go back to where you belong... Kaname's jaw clenched angrily. Fine. He'd do that. And if and when Zero ever wanted to see him again, he could try acting more like a rational adult and less like a petulant child.

Zero lost himself in the far reaches of the darkened park, stomping through the trees and trying to settle his mind and calm down. Maybe he'd overreacted a little. Normally the stupid jokes, the slights, the subtle and not so subtle derision aimed at him from higher class vampires would have rolled off his back. But... he couldn't get the casual tone that he'd heard Kaname use out of his head. Oh him? He's mine. Like Zero didn't even have a name, like he was his dog or something. Was that how Kaname really saw him? He knew his and Kaname's relationship was not like anything that could be quantified as normal but he'd be damned if he became another one of the pureblood's possessions.

Don't come back. FINE. He freaking wouldn't! He didn't need this... Zero felt like it was hard to breathe.

He was so troubled it took him a minute to detect the presence of the other vampires until they were quite close. There were two of them, a brunette and a blond. Both were male, neither was familiar. Zero's hunter senses told him they were aristocrats. They were dressed like they had probably come from the party, but Zero hadn't seen them there. He and Kaname had arrived rather late to the event actually, so it was probable that these two had skipped out for some private fun prior to their arrival.

Zero froze, eyes narrowing and hand automatically sliding under his jacket for his gun again. Not because the two men were vampires, but because of what they were doing.

They had a human girl trapped between them. She was dressed like a jogger and wearing a sweatshirt with the logo of a nearby university on the front. Probably a student working out the stress of a midnight cramming session with a moonlight run in the park. Unfortunately, tonight had not been a good night to be alone in the dark.

The brunette vampire was holding the young woman's back against him, one hand clamped over her mouth to muffle her screams and to pull her head to the side, baring her neck. The blond had his hands underneath her sweatshirt, pushing it up to expose her body. The woman was struggling fiercely, but was of course no match for her attackers.

"Hey now, relax... this won't hurt a bit..." the blond murmured darkly, leaning in to mouth one side of her neck while his companion took the other. The woman gave a small, muffled squeal of terror as she felt the sharp points of their fangs on her skin, obvious disbelief and panic written across her face.

"Now, now... he said relax..." the brunette mocked, and he must have done something because the girl slackened in his arms. She was obviously still awake, but no longer struggling as the blond started to pull down her bra and the brunette started to bite her.

"Let her go!" Zero demanded harshly, holding the Bloody Rose level, a steady bead drawn on the closest vampire's head. "Now!"

The two vampires looked up slowly, more annoyed than alarmed. The shine in their eyes said they were both somewhat drunk. They'd sensed Zero approaching of course, but he was another vampire and an ex-human at that, so they hadn't paid any attention. Someone of his station had no business interfering with the affairs of nobles and they looked at him like he was nuts.

"Get out of here, 'D," the brunette said dismissively, using the derogatory term for ex-human with which Zero had come to be quite familiar by now.

"Yeah, before we report you to your handler," the blond agreed with irritated arrogance.

Zero was not impressed. "I said let her go, or I'll blow your heads off," he said with deadly calm, cocking the gun in his hand.

The two vampires laughed, but it turned into yelps of surprise and pain as Zero fired a warning shot that neatly nicked the blond's head, taking part of his ear off. He wasn't looking to kill anybody, he knew better than to cause that kind of trouble without a very good reason, but he did intend to let them know he was serious.

"Why you friggin' little toad...!" the blond seethed, stumbling back and clutching his bleeding ear. There was murder in his eyes and he started to lunge forward, but his companion stopped him, catching his arm.

"Forget it man, it's not worth it," the brunette said, nodding meaningfully towards the gun Zero still had leveled on them. The brunette shrugged and shoved the girl towards Zero. "You want her? Take her."

The blond sputtered in sheer rage, but his friend just squeezed his arm and gave him a meaningful look. "Come on, let's get out of here."

The blond scowled, but stopped arguing. "Yeah, something stinks around here anyway," he sneered, shooting Zero a venomous look before the two of them trailed away.

Zero caught the trembling girl as she stumbled and nearly fell. He watched the two vampire's retreating backs warily for a moment before he turned his attention to their victim.

"Hey, are you okay?" he asked gently as she nervously tugged her shirt back down quickly, half-clinging to her unknown rescuer. The young woman was shaking like a leaf, but looked otherwise unharmed. She hadn't been bitten, but she knew how close she had come and looked at him with eyes full of terror.

"T-They were vampires..." she rasped like she couldn't believe it. "I'm not crazy, mister, I'm not! They were gonna..."

"Shhh..." Zero soothed, holding her gently. "It's okay now." He tucked his gun back under his jacket and cupped the back of her head with his hand. With his other hand, he took out a small bottle that looked like smelling salts and uncorked it, holding it up under her nose. She started to protest that she was fine, but the instant the fumes hint her senses she fell silent and slack.

"It was all a bad dream," Zero murmured. "None of it was real. You're going to jog right home now, and get some sleep. It was a normal night, a normal run in the park, nothing happened..."

"Nothing happened..." the woman repeated blankly but peacefully.

Zero almost felt a little guilty, but it was best this way. The secret existence of vampires had to be protected, and this girl didn't need these memories anyway.

He watched as the woman jogged away, unaware of how close to death she had come that night. Zero capped the bottle and put it back in his pocket. He didn't actually need the special salts in order to perform memory alteration, but it made the whole process a lot faster and easier.

Zero wondered who those bozos had been. Kaname was gonna be pissed when he told him about this... Zero stopped himself. Considering they weren't currently on speaking terms, he wasn't likely to be telling Kaname, any time soon, was he?

Zero's hunter senses suddenly screamed, but not in time for him to get out of the way as something heavy struck him in the back and sent him sprawling. He immediately went for his gun, but his arms were yanked behind his back. Zero bucked hard with strength that his attackers weren't expecting. He rolled over, struggling and punching at the lethally strong body trying to pin him. It was the brunette vampire from before. A hard punch caught Zero in the stomach and knocked the breath out of him as he finally managed to draw his gun.

The blond vampire was back too, and he kicked Zero sharply in the side of the head and in the elbow, making pain shoot down Zero's arm and causing his fingers to scrabble numbly at the grip of his weapon. It slipped free, falling to the grass and skittering a few feet away in the course of the struggle. The blond snatched it up and before Zero even realized what was happening, he heard the tell-tale click and felt a horrible pain tear through his shoulder.

Warm blood oozed from the hole punched through his shoulder and Zero's senses reeled in pain. He struggled to clear his head from the devastating effects of the weapon as the brunette jerked him up to his feet. It was one of the drawbacks of being a vampire hunter. His own weapons could be turned against him as well.

Stupid stupid stupid! Zero shouldn't have gotten caught like this, he should have known they'd given up too easily and were probably planning something of this nature. Whether he realized it or not, he was perhaps too accustomed to dealing with vampires under Kaname's influence. Vampires that might act up, but generally obeyed the rules. These were definitely not such a pair. They were out for blood and fun tonight. Zero had robbed them of their first prize, so they intended take their sport out on him instead.

The blond, the side of his face still coated in blood, smirked darkly as he gave the gun in his hand a look and then let it drop back to the grass. He obviously didn't really like handling it, despite its effectiveness. "Anti-vampire weapons smart, don't they 'D?" he growled, reaching forward and gripping Zero's wounded shoulder tightly.

Zero grit his teeth in pain as the vampire's fingers dug into the injured flesh.

"Not as much as you're gonna!" Zero spat angrily. He slammed his elbow back into the brunette's gut, trying to wrench away, despite the pain.

The brunette's arms tightened bruisingly around Zero's chest and suddenly Zero felt something strange coming over him. His limbs felt odd and heavy, his muscles weak and sluggish. It was like being injected with a very strong tranquilizer. He realized that it was the brunette. This debilitating numbness must be his power. Zero had seen him use it on the girl, and now he was feeling the effects himself. He tried to fight, but he couldn't, his body wouldn't obey.

Panic set into Zero's gut for real as his body slackened complacently in his captor's grip.

"That's better..." the vampire behind him murmured darkly. "I think the 'D needs a lesson in how dangerous it is to play with guns. Don't you, Masaki?" he inquired with malicious intent.

The blond, Masaki, nodded. "Oh yes, definitely. As well as a lesson in how to respect and obey his betters..." he agreed, reaching forward and sliding Zero's ruined dinner jacket roughly off his shoulders.

Zero winced, but was otherwise incapable of struggling as Masaki peeled him out of the jacket and grabbed the neck of the white dress shirt underneath. The shirt was stained crimson down one side by the blood leaking from Zero's shoulder. Masaki gave a sharp jerk downward, tearing Zero's shirt open and popping off buttons as he shredded the fabric.

His companion quickly nuzzled the ripped collar out of the way, sucking and mouthing the un-tattooed side of the hunter's neck.

"Get. Away. From me," Zero ground out through his teeth, his voice one thing he still managed to control. But the other two just laughed.

"You need to learn your place, 'D. Don't worry, we'll make it really clear for you..." the brunette murmured with dark, evil promise as he helped his friend strip Zero out of what remained of his shirt. Masaki's fingers curled around the hunter's belt buckle, starting to slide it loose and Zero scowled darkly at them, struggling sluggishly, like one well drugged.

"Go suck a pig," he spat angrily, lashing out verbally since he was physically incapable. Terror was pounding through him, but he was trying not to give it expression.

"Alexander... do something about his smart mouth, will you?" Masaki asked distractedly as he worked Zero's belt free and unfastened the hunter's trousers.

Alexander licked Zero's neck. "No, I want his neck, you do something about it..." he purred.

Zero tensed as he felt Alexander's fangs sink sharply into his neck. He'd not been bitten by anyone but Kaname in a very long time. With Kaname... it was intimate and intense. This... was a disgusting and painful violation.

"Leave me to do all the hard work..." Masaki grumbled and straightened up, grabbing Zero's hair and yanking his head back so that his mouth was forced open. Masaki caught him in a rough, punishing mockery of a kiss, fangs and teeth tearing sensually but cruelly at the hunter's lips and tongue and savoring the taste of his blood.

Zero twisted and growled darkly but hopelessly as the two vampires pressed against him from in front and behind. Masaki squeezed his wounded shoulder hard, making Zero scream softly into their brutal kiss. Zero's knees felt weak, his weight now only supported by the vampires mauling him.

Alexander slid his hands into the waistband of Zero's slacks and pushed them down his hips. Zero's heart was racing and a sickening flush of humiliation crept up his body as they stripped him down completely. There was no mistaking their intentions and Zero felt a raw, bubbling well of fear churning in his stomach, along with rage and indignation.

Masaki's sharp nails raked down his body, leaving deep, oozing cuts across his chest and sides. They would have their fun with this impudent ex-human, and there probably would be very little left of him by the time they were done. Masaki dropped his head to the other side of Zero's neck. The tattoo didn't taste too good to lick, but he bit Zero anyway, drinking deeply. The boy's blood was good. Really good. Surprisingly so for an ex-human. Masaki wondered what and who the boy had been drinking to end up this tasty.

Zero, blood dribbling down his chin, tipped his head back in dizzy agony as the two vampires drank from him at the same time. They were gorging too roughly, too demandingly and enough blood wasn't making it to his brain. His head spun and lights flashed like falling stars before his eyes.