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Blood and Juice Boxes

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Mika Kimura bounced the big-eyed baby girl on her hip to still her fussing as she juggled purse, diaper bag and a squirming infant in an insanely long christening gown. They should have waited and put it on at the church, but they were running late.

Mika's husband, Takai, hurried out of the house ahead of her, shrugging into his dark suit coat, keys in one hand as he moved to open the car door for his wife and child.

Just as Mika was sliding into the car with Yuki in her arms, another car pulled up to the curb and slid to a halt with speed that would have seemed reckless if it wasn't so controlled.

Mika and Takai both froze, looking in concern towards the familiar Mercedes. Mika started to get out of the car again, worried that something was wrong. They weren't expecting a visit, especially at this hour, and Mika could see a little head through the windshield, just visible above the dash. Juuri didn't usually drive that fast with her son in the car.

Juuri Kuran hopped swiftly out of the driver's seat. Crossing around and opening the passenger door she lifted the dark haired little boy from the seat and balanced him on her hip as she hurried across the Kimura's lawn. The boy looked sleepy and rested his curly head on his mother's shoulder, hiding his face from the bright morning sunlight. For him, this was the equivalent of several hours after midnight.

"Mika, Takai, thank goodness I caught you, I was afraid you might have already left."

"Juuri, is anything wrong?" Mika asked with concern as she tried to extricate herself from the car with Yuki in her arms.

Juuri gestured for her to stay put. "No... well, maybe," she answered uncertainly. "It's Haruka. He's away on business, but something's happened. I have to find him." Her free hand worried the base of her neck unconsciously. Her bond with her husband was throbbing in a way that was sending worry spiking deeply through her. Haruka's trip shouldn't have been overly dangerous, but she'd been feeling agitated all night and she hadn't been able to get hold of him. Then today she'd suddenly been jerked from her sleep by this urgent pain through their bond.

Juuri Kuran was a pureblood vampire, as was her husband and her son. She knew better than to ignore her instincts. And her instincts told her to get to her husband, as fast as possible. But, there was a problem with that...

"Listen, I know this is a huge imposition, especially on short notice and I'm so sorry. But please, can you watch Kaname for me? Just for a little while. Probably just for today, no more than a few days, I promise," Juuri requested rapidly, but earnestly. Ironically, of all the vampire associates she had to choose from, she felt the safest leaving her only son with her human friends. Especially since she didn't know what was wrong with Haruka and who, if anyone was involved. Her husband was a pureblood and a Kuran. For something to be wrong with him... who knew what might have happened? They'd been having all kinds of problems with the Council of Elders and other weighty factions in the Vampire world ever since they had started taking an active role in the coexistence movement some years previous. Juuri knew she was being paranoid, but she couldn't help feeling that Kaname was safest right here, where no one would think to look for him. His bodyguards would be watching unobtrusively and invisibly from nearby, and the Kimuras could be trusted implicitly.

None of this did she have time to explain, but she didn't have to. Mika and Takai both knew that Juuri wouldn't be agitated like this without a good reason and they made it a point to never inquire too deeply when explanations were not forthcoming. They understood much about the secret vampire world, including the fact that there was much they simply shouldn't try to understand.

"No, it's no imposition, of course we will," Mika assured quickly and Takai reached out to relieve Juuri of her sleepy child.

Kaname clung to his mother for a moment before he registered that he knew the man trying to take him and he settled down again, allowing the transfer and resting on Takai's shoulder. "Yuki?" he murmured blearily.

Juuri smiled and kissed her son on his forehead. "Yes, honey, you're going to stay with Yuki and Mr. and Mrs. Kimura for a little while. I'll be back soon. You be good for them, okay?"

"'kay," Kaname murmured back. The little pureblood was the human equivalent of around three or four years old. Takai patted his back gently and settled him into the backseat of the car.

"We're on our way to services," he explained as he buckled Kaname in and shut the car door carefully, unable to resist glancing at his watch. "Yuki's being christened today. Do you mind if we take him along?"

Juuri shook her head. "No, of course not. It's pretty late for him, so he'll probably sleep the whole time, he shouldn't be any trouble."

Mika looked up at her friend from where she was seated in the car as her husband closed the door for her. "Jur, he's never any trouble," she assured with a smile. It was true; Kaname was a child of course, capable of creating a child's share of havoc, but he was very mature for a preschooler for the most part and had an almost impressive attention span. Given what he was, that was no surprise.

Juuri looked relieved. She'd known of course, that the Kimuras would come through for her, but it was still a load off her mind. "Thank you both so much," she said with a grateful smile to her friends before quickly hurrying back to her car.

Takai waved before sprinting around to the driver's side of their car and sliding in. Closing the door and starting the engine he pulled out of the driveway. By the time he made it onto the street, Juuri was already long gone. Takai wished he could drive that fast, that safely, but lacking pureblood reflexes, he kept to the speed limit. Better to be late for church than never get there.

In the back seat, Kaname rubbed his eyes with small fists, yawning and trying to wake up. "Where are we going? Why'd Mamma leave?"

"Shh, go back to sleep honey, it's okay," Mika said soothingly. "Your mamma needed to go find your papa. They'll both be back in a little while."

"Mamma thinks he's hurt. She didn't say so, but I know. She was holding her neck all funny," Kaname murmured softly with the concerned matter-of-factness of a child. Sometimes, Mika felt he was too aware of the dangerous world he lived in for such a little boy.

"But papa's really strong. Nobody can hurt him." There was more than a touch of pride in the sleepy little voice.

"I'm sure you're right, Kaname. Don't worry about them, just rest," Mika reassured as the car turned a corner. Yuki was still fussing, so she slipped a bottle from the diaper bag and nudged it into the infant's mouth. The baby quieted and sucked contentedly, starting to look sleepy. Car rides often had that effect on her.

Kaname remained slumped tiredly against the backseat seat, but he didn't fall back asleep. He'd been wakened in the middle of the day and his mother's agitation had not been lost on him. Concern he didn't really understand had rubbed off on him and he was restless. "I wanna hold Yuki," he mumbled.

Mika couldn't help smiling. The little pureblood hardly ever left Yuki alone when he was at their house. It would have bordered on obsessively possessive if he wasn't so sweet about it. It wasn't the Kimura's house, it was Yuki's house, and they were Yuki's parents. It was cute really. He treated her like a prize toy the way he was always toting her around. Much to her parents' relief, the little baby rarely seemed to mind or grow tired of the constant attention.

"Not right now, honey," Mika said patiently. "Later."

Kaname pouted, but he was still too sleepy to put up a proper fit. If the pureblood child had one fault, it was that he was far too used to getting his own way, but he had such a gentle nature it kept him from coming off as completely spoiled most of the time.


Juuri arrived at the airport and parked swiftly. Reaching across the empty passenger seat, she grabbed her purse and her travel bag. A small red sphere rolled across the floor of the car and she stopped to pick it up. The red ball was not perfectly round. It had indents built onto the sides which made it easy for small hands to grip. It had no visible openings and was fashioned from soft, opaque red plastic that hid the nature of the red liquid sealed inside.

Juuri frowned. Oh crap. It was Kaname's blood bubble. She had brought it because he was hungry when they left the house, but apparently he'd been too sleepy to eat, and hadn't kept it in his pocket. She hesitated, looking at the soft plastic container for a minute. She slid it into her pocket and got out of the car. Kaname would be all right. He'd probably sleep right through most of the day, and she knew the Kimuras kept a couple fresh blood bubbles on hand in their pantry for when he came over to visit ever since he started weaning.

They diplomatically referred to them as his 'special' juice boxes and acted like they were merely keeping his favorite brand of soda on hand. Juuri didn't think she'd ever said so, but she appreciated their easy acceptance and consideration. This was what she wished the rest of the world could see... how natural it could be to mesh their two worlds with a little bit of effort on both sides.

Well, there was nothing she could do now, so there was no use worrying. Locking the car, Juuri hurried the entrance gates, her high heels clacking rapidly across the paving, fingers worrying her neck again. Hang on, Haruka...


Kaname was very much awake by the time they reached the church. Middle of the day or not, the unusual circumstances had completely disrupted his sleep cycle and there was no chance of him drifting off again for a while. Mika took a moment when they got out of the car in the parking lot to straighten the sleep wrinkled little button-down shirt he was wearing. Kaname's parents always dressed him much more formally than one might expect for a child his age. Fitted out in a dress shirt, slacks and loafers, Kaname looked perfectly in place with all the other children trailing their parents into the church in their Sunday best.

Kaname squirmed and fidgeted impatiently as she straightened his shirt, but smiled when his gaze landed on the baby snuggled in Mika's other arm. He seemed delightedly interested by the long, lacy christening gown, so different from the little rompers Yuki was usually wearing. "Yuki looks like an angel," he observed. "All white and flowy."

Mika smiled warmly. "Yes, she does, doesn't she? She's getting christened today."

Kaname made a face that said he didn't get what she'd just said. "Christened?" he repeated the unfamiliar word curiously.

Mika straightened up. "It's a very special day for her. I'll explain later, okay?"

"Okay. Can I hold Yuki now?" Kaname repeated with one-track determination, trotting after Mika across the parking lot with his arms extended up, bouncing on the balls of his feet with each step.

"No, Kaname, not right now," Takai said gently but distractedly as they made their way quickly towards the narthex entry.

Kaname stopped in his tracks. "But I want to..." he protested. The whine edging into his tone suggested he was overtired and winding up for a tantrum.

Takai pinched the bridge of his nose. This was so not what they needed right now. Mika cut the situation off quickly before it could degrade. "You can hold Yuki later, I promise. Right now, how about you carry her bag for me? I could really use the help."

"Oh, I don't know," Takai caught her idea and helped it along a little. "That bag's awfully heavy. I think he's too little to manage it, honey."

"It's not too heavy! I can help!" Kaname protested predictably, reaching up and snatching at the bag which Mika eased off her shoulder and handed to him. He slung it cross-ways across his body with a triumphant grin. "See?"

Mika smiled fondly at him and ruffled his hair. "You're right! Thank you, Kaname. You're such a good boy to help me out."

Kaname fairly beamed, now contentedly trotting along behind Mika and Takai, easily, if awkwardly, toting the bag that was almost half as big as he was.

The entrance music was already starting to play as the small family slid into a pew near the front of the church. Kaname seemed fascinated by his surroundings, craning his neck to look around at the huge stain glass windows, the large crucifix on the wall and the flickering candles on the altar. He settled obediently down onto the pew beside Mika, who relieved him of the diaper bag and set on the floor.

Yuki still dozed peacefully in her mother's arms and Kaname played contentedly with the long lace hem of her gown that was lying on the seat next to him. His legs were too short to reach the floor and swung absently back and forth. He was beginning to notice that his throat felt dry and his chest felt tense.

A few stanzas into the opening hymn, Kaname tugged on Mika's sleeve to get her attention. She pressed a finger to her lips but leaned down to hear what he had to say.

"I'm thirsty, please," Kaname whispered politely to her.

Mika started to reach for the diaper bag by her feet. "You can have some of Yuki's water," she whispered back, their voices covered by the singing.

Kaname, small fingers still entwined in her shirtsleeve, shook his head. "No, I'm thirstyyy," he repeated, and as he stressed the vowels in the word, Mika caught a glimpse of the boy's teeth. His tiny fangs were beginning to bud, making it clear what kind of thirsty the young vampire was talking about.

Mika got a sinking feeling. She knew Kaname was weaning, and prone to sudden bouts of thirst and hunger. But hadn't Juuri fed him before she brought him over? She usually did. This couldn't be happening. Not right now, not today, not here. She couldn't blame Kaname for needing what he needed, but the timing was very inconvenient. Still, it wasn't as if it was a life-threatening condition. Like any child who was hungry or thirsty, Kaname was capable of waiting for gratification, and right he was going to have to.

"We have some of your juice boxes back at the house Kaname, but I don't have any with me. We'll get you one as soon as we get home," she promised quietly.

Kaname looked at her a little shocked and dismayed. He wasn't used to not getting blood when he asked for it. His throat felt all tight and funny and his teeth were starting to ache dully. "But..."

The hymn was almost over. "Kaname, please. We can't leave to get you one right this minute. I need you to be a good boy and just wait a little while. Look at Yuki, she's all dressed up so pretty... if we leave, she'll miss her christening. Don't you think that would make her sad? You don't want to do that to Yuki, do you?" Mika knew that was a pretty shameless tactic, since the infant in her arms could have cared less about what was going on around her, but she also knew that for whatever reason, Kaname would usually do just about anything for the baby.

Kaname seemed to consider this for a moment and then settled back in his seat. "I don't want Yuki to be sad," he said quietly, gaze resolutely tracing the flickering altar candles again as his legs swung restlessly. "I can wait."

Mika gave his small shoulder a warm little squeeze. She knew it was still difficult for him at this stage, knowing what to do with his instincts and needs. Vampire children did not drink blood when they were very small. Instead they sucked energy from those they touched. For the most part, their parents were naturally suited to supply the majority of the energy needed. But once the little ones hit a certain age they went through what vampires called weaning. Mika thought it was more appropriate, although perhaps a little macabre, to call it a second period of teething. It was when vampire children's fangs started coming in and their bodies began needing to drink blood to survive. Kaname had hit that stage a few months ago. The age range at which youngsters started going through this process was fairly broad, but as often happened with pureblood children, Kaname had started weaning very early.

For now, Kaname's parents were dealing with his new needs by using the blood bubbles. The soft plastic containers were perfect for little vampires cutting their teeth, and were easy to drink through. The bubbles were individually filled and packaged fresh every few weeks from a privately owned blood bank. Mika didn't really know, or want to know, exactly how it worked, but somehow they'd managed to find a way to make supply meet demand and give the blood a semi-reasonable shelf life. The bubbles, or at least something like them, had been around for a while. Modern times made it inconvenient for vampires to have to constantly be catching or keeping humans around for their children to feed on in small doses when they started weaning. The Kurans had poured significant money into research for improving the process and making it more widely commercially available after the birth of their son.

Unlike most other vampire children, Kaname was being raised exclusively on the bubbles, and Mika knew that Juuri and Haruka were getting a lot of flak about that, as if they were abusing their child. Still, the bubbles were only a stop gap, while Kaname's body was still going through the changing process. Soon, canned blood would cease to satisfy him. He would become ill and eventually die without being able to drink real, fresh blood from a living being. Much as they believed in pacifism, Mika knew that in the end, her friends could not escape their own natures and needs, and neither could their son. When the time came, they would never allow their precious child to suffer. They would have to get him what he would need. She shot a sidelong glance towards the quiet, serious little boy sitting beside her. This line of thought was taking her nowhere good and she didn't follow it any further. It was better not to dwell on some truths.

The microphone squeaked with a brief whine of feedback when the lector started the scripture reading. Kaname winced at the sound and clapped his hands over his especially sensitive ears and Yuki woke up. She was not pleased to be pulled from her slumber and announced this fact with a vigorous cry that totally captured her mother's thoughts away from anything else.

"Shhh, shhhh, Yuki..." Mika murmured in a placating manner, bouncing the baby on her lap and trying to get her to take her pacifier. Yuki was having none of it and continued to wail.

Mika was starting to think she'd better take her to the cry room when suddenly Yuki stopped crying and giggled instead. Glancing down, Mika saw that Kaname was playing peek-a-boo with her from where he was sitting.

Silently, Kaname held out his arms, almost pleading. Mika relented and quietly shifted Yuki into Kaname's lap. Truth was, sometimes Kaname could keep Yuki quiet like just about nothing else. She would sleep a whole 8 hours without waking up when the little vampire was sleeping next to her. Mika knew, because one day a few months ago when he was sleeping over, Kaname had crawled quietly into her crib and cuddled up with her while she was napping. Of course... considering the opposite schedules they kept, that didn't work out so well because Yuki was then awake all night, but Mika still thought it was kind of sweet, this unlikely connection between the two children.

Kaname beamed happily as he settled Yuki's little body in his arms. She was small and fragile, and looked even more so in the big white dress. He always felt so warm and happy when he held her. It was like holding a puppy, only... better somehow. He slipped a small finger into her even smaller fist and Yuki smiled up adoringly at him. There was something amazing about a baby's eyes. They were so open, so trusting. Something in Kaname's young soul responded to that in a way he wasn't old enough to explain.

It was much easier to ignore the building ache in his stomach and teeth now, and Kaname sat quietly through the hymns and the liturgy, holding Yuki and looking around at the big church. He found it kind of cool in a slightly creepy way. There were all kinds of scary stories about churches and priests and what they could do to vampires, but Kaname knew those stories were rubbish and folklore. His parents said so. Still, it was kind of exciting to be someplace like this. He couldn't wait to tell Ichijo about it next time he saw him. He could just imagine the other boy's reaction. It was so funny the way Ichijo's eyes would get wide when he was excited or frightened. Maybe Kaname would make the story a little scarier than it actually was. That'd be fun.

Kaname had to reluctantly give Yuki up when it was time for them to go stand at the front of the church. Mika held Yuki and Takai held Kaname's hand, keeping him with them as they stood around a pedestal near the altar. Kaname could smell water, and he wondered for a minute if the priest (it was actually a pastor, but he didn't know the difference) was going to give Yuki a bath, but he just dabbed some of the water on her head. Yuki squeaked as if it ticked and kicked her little legs, squirming slightly in the pastor's arms.

Kaname eyed the water curiously. Was that holy water?

When the pastor returned the baby to Mika, Kaname reached up and lightly touched a stray drop of water that remained on Yuki's head. He touched it quickly, like one might touch something that could possibly be hot.

Ha! It didn't burn him. Of course he believed his parents, but still... he'd wanted to find out for himself. He rubbed the liquid between his fingers and tasted it on his tongue. Just water. Nothing scary about it. Perhaps that wasn't what he would tell Ichijo though.

Afterwards they went back to their seats and there was more singing and a lot of talking about living water, a term that interested but puzzled Kaname. He wondered if they meant blood, kind of like the Kimura's said 'juice boxes' when they meant his blood bubbles. Then everybody in the church took turns lining up and kneeling at a railing by the altar. They were being given something, Kaname observed - small wafers of some kind and little cups of red liquid. His hearing was quite good and he had no trouble making out what the pastor was saying as these items were handed out. The man repeated the phrases over and over again.

"Take and eat, the body of Christ. Take and drink, the blood of Christ, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins..."

Kaname's ears perked up. He didn't smell blood, but that might not mean anything. When it was their turn to go up to the rail, Kaname knelt quietly next to Mika. He'd already observed that the children who went up didn't receive any of the little cups. He assumed they mustn't be weaning yet, or were human. But Kaname was capable of being very quick and very quiet when he wanted to be, and he was still quite thirsty.

The communion bread and wine were again distributed, and at the pastor's bidding, were eaten and drunk by the adults in appropriate turn. In the reverent moment of silence that followed, a small voice near the end of the row piped up in a not-so-quiet stage whisper. "That doesn't taste like blood."

Mika's gaze quickly shot down to the little boy by her side, who had somehow gotten hold of one of the little plastic communion glasses which was now empty. She felt her stomach flip and her color drain. Beside her, her husband tensed.

But a soft, gentle ripple of laughter murmured through the other congregants at the railing and even the pastor smiled in rueful amusement, although he shot a questioning look towards the now slightly flustered man who was helping him distribute the communion wine as if wondering what he'd been thinking, letting a kid get hold of one of the cups.

Flushing a bit, but relieved that everyone was taking the innocent words with humor, Mika quickly took the cup away from Kaname and caught his hand as they all rose to return to their seats. "Kaname, you are not supposed to do that!" she hissed softly to him, but she was smiling now too, fighting the ridiculous urge to laugh. She'd not stopped to consider what a child from Kaname's background might think of the familiar sacrament.

Kaname looked confused. "But that wasn't blood, and they said..."

Mika hushed him as they retook their seats, leaning close to keep their words private as the congregation thankfully took up another hymn. "Kaname, honey, it's not blood like you're thinking of blood. It's..." she struggled for a simple explanation. "It's symbolic. I'll explain later."

Kaname didn't look pleased, but he gave a small nod, folding his arms and leaning back against the pew with a sigh. Mika wrapped her free arm around his little shoulders and drew him in against her side.

Kaname let her, his head sliding to rest on her breast, his small body curling up on the pew beside her. He was tired and his chest was really starting to hurt, but he stayed quiet, listening the lulling sounds of the pastor's voice and of Mika's heartbeat.

Kaname was only half listening to what the man at the front of the church was saying, but he was naturally attentive and caught bits and pieces as they interested him. Part of it was a story, something about a man and woman and a well... snatches of it caught his attention because it was talking about being thirsty, and right now he was really, really thirsty. "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again..." Kaname, who at this age was naturally inclined to take everything litterally, thought that sounded pretty nice right about now, although water wasn't what he wanted. His head was starting to throb and he burrowed a little further under Mika's arm, breathing shallowly. He unconsciously tried to draw energy from her, the way he used to with his parents... but he couldn't. It just... didn't work that way anymore. Right now he wished it did.

Angular, colored splotches of light from the stained glass windows fell gently upon them, painting Mika's dress and Yuki's white gown in soft, pastel colors. Kaname, safely snuggled under Mika's arm out of the direct path of the rays, watched the small dust motes dancing aimlessly in the colored shafts of muted sunlight. Despite his headache, he found it pretty, almost mesmerizing. This place wasn't creepy at all, he decided as his eyelids drooped slowly. In his thirsty, sleepy state, it was kinda peaceful, actually. Peaceful enough that he finally dozed off towards the end, until the sound of the organ and everybody singing again woke him up once more.

He rubbed his eyes and yawned. He caught a little girl in the row across from them staring at him, but Kaname didn't pay much attention. Sliding off the pew, he held onto Mika's sleeve so as not to get lost in the bustle of knees, slacks, skirts and shoes in the aisle as they made their way out of the church. He felt a little better after his nap, even if it was only temporarily.

Outside, Mika and Takai were accosted by a number of friends and fellow congregants wanting to talk and congratulate them on Yuki's baptism. They doted appreciatively over the baby and of course they all wanted to know about the adorable, unfamiliar little boy, whom the Kimura's easily explained, was the child of a friend. Kaname was used to being fussed over and simply smiled charmingly and politely, leaving them all quite taken with him.

A little girl around the same size as Kaname, although perhaps a trifle older, made her way over shyly while the various parents continued to talk. It was the same girl who had been staring at him in the church earlier.

"You have Halloween teeth," she observed with innocent curiosity, obviously having seen his fangs when he yawned. "Can I see?"

Kaname didn't know what she meant but he obligingly gave her a half grin, half grimace that pulled his lips back from his teeth. "You mean these?" With all the events of the morning, he'd forgotten he wasn't supposed to show anyone his fangs unless he knew they were another vampire. "I'm budding pretty early," he said with childish pride.

It was the little girl's turn to have no idea what he was talking about, although she tilted her head, looking at the small, perfect set of fangs in fascination. She touched one of the long, funny looking teeth and giggled shyly. "They look so real! But why are you wearing them?"

Kaname winced slightly, his aching fangs were incredibly sensitive at the moment, but he smiled in bemusement at the little girl's strange questions. He was about to try to explain that they were like that because he was hungry, when Takai caught sight of the conversation in progress and quickly made his way over.

"Okay, Kaname, come on, say goodbye, it's time to go home," he said cheerfully, steering the little boy quickly away with him. It was about that point that Kaname remembered he wasn't supposed to be talking about his teeth.

Kaname waved goodbye to the little girl as he was half led, half tugged away.

"Kaname..." Takai murmured gently as they headed for the car.

Kaname hung his head slightly. "I know, I'm sorry," he said quietly, twisting the corner of his shirt in his hand. "I forgot."

"It's okay," Takai gave his shoulder a squeeze. You couldn't expect a child to understand why he couldn't be who and what he was around others all the time. Why most of the time he was treated like a little prince and then other times he had to hide as if he was something shameful. "Let's go home, huh?"

Kaname brightened and nodded as Takai opened the car door and the little vampire slid quickly into the back again. "Can I hold Yuki?"

Takai laughed.

Kaname held Yuki carefully on his lap in the backseat on the short drive home. Yuki cooed and gurgled in quiet contentment and Kaname kept his small arms wrapped securely around the tiny waist so that she was 'sitting' with her back and head cushioned against him. The little vampire let his head rest near hers. She had such a sweet, unique scent. Like scented soap, sweet baby sweat and... he couldn't quite describe it, even with his keen sense of smell. But he loved to just smell her. Softly, Kaname buried his small face against the warm, velvety side of the baby's neck, inhaling quietly. She smelled... delicious.

Kaname's chest ached sharper and his teeth throbbed painfully. It was all still very new to him, this sensation of need. The blood bubbles helped, but sometimes he still felt hungry afterwards. Sometimes he almost felt dizzy. His mamma looked at him with such sad eyes when he said so, though and she and his father would hold hushed, worried discussions just out of his earshot. He didn't understand what was wrong, but he stopped saying anything. He didn't want to make them unhappy. He knew he wasn't supposed to bite people without permission, and he knew he especially could never bite little Yuki, because she was so small, she didn't have a lot of blood and would probably die. His mamma had made sure he understood that right away as soon as he started weaning and Kaname had been horrified almost to tears at that thought.

Kaname had not bitten a person yet, but he felt stirrings of an unfamiliar temptation as he sat there holding Yuki. His chest burned softly and he could practically feel the blood coursing through the small veins under his face. She smelled so good...

"Kaname!" Mika's sharp, unusual tone of voice made Kaname's small head snap up quickly towards her. The woman was sitting turned in her seat, looking back at them. There was fear in her eyes. Kaname could see it clearly. It was the first time she'd ever looked at him like that. Not with the loving gentleness that were usually in the warm brown eyes, but with alarm... as if she had suddenly realized that a dangerous animal was holding her precious little daughter.

"Kaname, honey, let me hold Yuki now, okay?" Mika's voice softened immediately, but it was still tense. Kaname could still smell her fear as she reached back, trying to ease Yuki away from him.

Kaname's arms wrapped tighter around Yuki and he scooted away from Mika. He pressed his back into the corner where the door met the seat, hugging Yuki to him, out of her reach. "Nooo..." he protested petulantly. "It's okay, I've got her. She's happy, see?"

His tummy hurt, bad, and it felt hard to breathe. But it had nothing to do with his thirst, and everything to do with the way Mika was looking at him.

Mika's heart was in her throat. Perhaps she'd overreacted, but glancing over her shoulder to see the thirsty little vampire with his face buried against her baby's vulnerable neck... the sad truth was she couldn't afford to forget that as much as she loved Kaname, he was not an ordinary child.

Yuki, blissfully unaware of everything, reached up and twined one small hand in Kaname's dark curls, contentedly sucking on the side of her other fist.

Takai had caught the tone in his wife's voice and his knuckles whitened on the steering wheel as he quickly started scanning for some place to pull over. "Kaname! Give Yuki to Mika!" he snapped quietly but sharply. Kaname rarely willfully disobeyed them.

Kaname wasn't used to them being so sharp with him and he curled back even farther against the seat, as if he could pull Yuki into it with him and disappear.

"Nooo," he repeated, shaking his head and earnestly cradling Yuki against him. "I won't hurt her! I know not to bite her, I wasn't gonna! I promise... I'd never hurt Yuki. I promise." There were tears glistening in the little boy's wide brown eyes, threatening to spill over although he was obviously struggling to not let that happen.

"Kaname..." Takai's voice was tense with warning, but Mika laid a hand on her husband's arm, silencing him. Her heart clenched in pain at the wounded, uncomprehending look in the little pureblood's eyes. They were only winding him up more by reacting like this. He could both sense and smell their agitation.

"Shh, no, it's all right, Takai," she said quietly. "I know you wouldn't ever want to hurt her, Kaname," Mika said soothingly, opting for positive reinforcement to try and calm him down. "You protect her, like the time you scared away the mean dog when she was on her blanket in the park. Yuki's always safe with you, isn't she?" Her eyes were gentle and tender again.

Kaname looked at Mika searchingly, but he didn't sense that she was lying to him. He nodded and snuffled silently, closing his eyes to pretend like he hadn't almost been crying. He was too big for that. Purebloods weren't supposed to cry. He rested his chin lightly on top of Yuki's silky head. "Always," he murmured.

"Just take us home Takai, it's okay," Mika said quietly to her husband, who nodded, although he kept glancing in the rearview mirror towards the backseat.

"Mrs. Kimura?" Kaname said quietly after a few moments, as the car turned onto their street. "The man in the robe kept talking about living water. Was that what was in the little cups that wasn't blood?" he asked in a soft, thoughtful tone.

Mika was surprised by the question, and by the fact that Kaname had actually picked up that much from the service. But then again, he was a very attentive and quick-minded child. "I guess... that's one way of looking at it," she said slowly. "But in a symbolic sense. It was wine in the cups, Kaname. It has significance because of what it represents – a sacrifice made by one for everybody."

Kaname's chin still rested on Yuki's head and he looked deep in thought. With no background on the subject, he didn't really get most of what he'd heard, or what Mika was saying to him, but some parts of the service had stuck in his mind and left him with questions. "But if I could find something like living water... do you think I wouldn't have to be thirsty anymore either?" The question was soft and plaintive, asked with the earnestness of youth.

Again, Mika was surprised by the quickness of the child's mind in putting all those pieces together from what he'd heard. She knew what kind of 'thirsty' Kaname was talking about and her heart ached guiltily. They had no right to make him feel so bad about what he needed. It wasn't his fault.

"I think, Kaname, that if that's what you really want, you'll find a way to make it happen someday," she answered gently.

Kaname seemed to accept this answer and nodded quietly. They pulled into the driveway and Mika let Kaname carry Yuki into the house. Takai let Kaname help him change Yuki from her gown into a little pink romper while Mika headed for the Kitchen.

There was a message on the phone machine and Mika pushed the play button while she put a pan on the stove and filled it with water to start boiling. She was glad to hear Juuri's voice on the machine.

"Mika, just wanted to let you know that everything's all right. Haruka had a little... trouble... but everything's going to be fine. Tell Kaname we'll be home by tomorrow. Thanks again for taking care of him , see you soon."

Mika smiled in relief to hear that everything was all right. She was sure there was quite an untold story behind the short message, but whether or not she'd ever get to hear it, was anybody's guess. She took out one of Kaname's blood bubbles and popped it into a boiling pan of water for a few seconds to warm it up. Pulling it out and drying it off, she set it on the counter for him.

"Kaname, I've got your bubble for you. I'm going to make some sandwiches for Takai and me, do you want one too?" she called out to him. She'd tell him the good news about his parents when he came in to get his drink. If he hadn't already head the message himself from the other room.

"Yes, please," Kaname called back as he carefully deposited Yuki in her playpen under her father's watchful eye. He gave Yuki a little squeeze as he set her down.

"I'll be right back, Yuki," he told her. He always spoke to her as if she understood him, even though he knew she didn't yet. "I'm going to go drink my bubble so you won't have to be afraid of me anymore," he said matter-of-factly.

Yuki laughed and wriggled as if he'd said something ridiculous, her little hands reaching after him, like she didn't want him to go. There was nothing but open, innocent adoration in her wide-eyed gaze. Kaname paused halfway to the kitchen and ran back, reaching into the playpen and giving her another tight little hug, burying his face against the top of her head. She squealed softly in amusement.

"I know..." Kaname whispered softly. "You're never afraid of me, are you?" Smiling, he put Yuki down again and headed into the kitchen.