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Safe in My Arms

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A small, dark haired child looking around three or four years old curled on his side in his large bed. His eyes were closed, small hands curled into fists. Despite the fact that faint ribbons of sunlight slipped into the darkened room from under the heavy blinds over the windows, indicating that now was the time for all good vampire children to be asleep, the little pureblood on the bed wasn't sleeping. His small knees were curled almost to his chest and he pressed the side of his face against his pillow.

Kaname Kuran ached. So much he ached. His chest was hot and his throat was dry. His teeth hurt so bad his jaw throbbed. Something was wrong with him... something must be. Was he ill? But that was silly; purebloods didn't get sick; at least that's what he'd heard people say. Mama and Papa never got sick. But Yuki had been sick last week.

The baby had been coughing and crying disconsolately, although she had actually calmed down some when Kaname sat on the couch and Mrs. Kimura had carefully placed her daughter in his small lap for a while. Then Yuki had seemed to settle enough to fuss only occasionally, playing with the toys Kaname held for her. The little vampire had a strangely calming effect on the human child sometimes, much like she had on him. Yuki's mother, Mika Kimura had looked like she'd had a few too many sleepless nights recently. As she and Kaname's mother, Juuri Kuran had sipped tea in the kitchen and watched their two children sitting contentedly on the couch together she had remarked with weary wryness that she wished they could borrow Kaname for a while.

Juuri smiled softly. "Be careful what you wish for, Mika, if Kaname hears you he'll be begging me to let him sleep over again."

"Well if he did, maybe I'd actually get some sleep..." Mika returned with a resigned shake of her head, giving her friend a little smile. "Too bad he's a little too young for babysitting. They really make a cute picture together though, don't they?"

Juuri nodded in agreement. "They do. Sometimes I wish the others could see this... could understand."

Mika touched her friend's arm. "I know. Is anyone giving you trouble again? About all the time we spend together? About you bringing Kaname around so much?"

Juuri shrugged the question off. "It doesn't matter. The future is in our hands, in the hands of our children. If they can live together so peacefully, it means the rest of the world could too, if they were just willing to try..."

They talked softly, but of course Kaname could hear them. "Peace" was something that was important to Mama, although it was nothing but a vague concept to him. He got the impression that he was part of it somehow though. That his not frightening the Kimuras or acting like he was different from them was part of it.

If the Kimuras could see him right now... they would be frightened. Kaname's small eyes were red, his fangs were grown out and he was burning with a need he barely understood. Kaname tried so hard to hide it, from them, from his parents... he didn't want to disappoint his parents. He loved them so much. But he didn't know what was wrong with him. He felt so ill...

Kaname was a smart child and he knew that humans passed germs by being in contact with others who were sick. But he couldn't catch them from Yuki, could he? He didn't think so, even though he had not felt entirely well as he had held her that day. But that wasn't sickness. He knew what it was. He knew what he wanted, but must never, ever do. And he knew that if he gave any sign of how he was feeling, he would probably not be allowed to see Yuki again. He'd seen the fear in her parents' eyes before, that day in the car when they were on their way back from Yuki's christening. He'd felt the pain of them looking at him like he was a wild dog that might hurt their precious child.

No. Kaname wasn't stupid. He never let anyone see that just being near Yuki could make his fangs bud, especially not the Kimuras. He would smile closed-mouthed, and remain silent, hiding the evidence that he was not like them. That in some way, he did not belong in their world. He didn't want them to be afraid. He wasn't going to hurt Yuki.

Lately though, it wasn't just Yuki who was getting that reaction from him. He'd found himself watching Mr. and Mrs. Kimura in a new way as well; found himself staring at their necks sometimes without meaning to. He could hear the blood in their veins, he could almost smell it. Even his mother and father could make him feel that way. Last night, when Mama had carried him to bed, his head had rested on her shoulder, face buried against the sweet smelling side of her neck... Kaname's fangs had burned. He'd come very close to biting her and it shocked him that he'd wanted to so much.

Kaname curled into a tighter ball on his side, small hands gripping at his chest. His pajama shirt felt too tight, too constricting. He squeezed his eyes shut, breathing raggedly. He'd been feeling dizzy for weeks. It was hard sometimes to find energy to run and play, but that was okay because he usually preferred playing quietly or reading anyway. But he was so thirsty... he almost couldn't stand it any longer. Kaname knew that's what was the matter. He knew it was his thirst, his hunger making him hurt like this, but what he didn't understand was why. He drank the blood bubbles his parents gave him, he drank a lot of them, but they just couldn't quench his thirst anymore. They hadn't for a while now, and Kaname was getting scared. He didn't know what was the matter, why it wasn't working. He was drinking blood... why wasn't it doing anything for him? What was wrong with him?

He understood he needed blood, that was natural, but he didn't understand why the kind he was getting didn't satisfy him, or why he was feeling compelled to bite people. You bit people to get blood, but he didn't need to do that, he was already getting blood. His parents had warned him not to bite people. So why did he want to?

Soft tears escaped down the small cheeks. He wanted to go to sleep, but he couldn't. If he didn't feel better by morning... Mama and Papa might find out. The tears came a little faster. He feared not being allowed to go to Yuki's house anymore. He feared their disappointment. They looked so sad when he'd first started to indicate that he was still hungry after he'd fed from his blood bubbles. Kaname was afraid that it was because it meant that there was something wrong with him that his hunger was increasing so unnaturally. Maybe he was one of those bad vampires he heard people whisper about, who could never get enough blood. He didn't want to be locked up, or taken away from Mama and Papa. The mix of over-astute intelligence and yet childish reasoning and partial understandings that the young pureblood possessed was not doing him any favors, nor was the fact that he had started needing blood so early and had relatively little opportunity to socialize with other vampire children his own age.

A soft, stifled sob escaped him in the darkness.

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Juuri was in her nightgown and robe as she made her way down the hall towards her bedroom. She'd put Kaname down to sleep a few hours ago, but as she passed her son's door her sharp hearing picked up the soft, restless sound of movement from inside.

She frowned slightly, pausing. Kaname was looking disturbingly tired the past few days. He'd always been a quiet, serious child, but her mother's instincts told her something was off. Part of her guessed what it was. Kaname's consumption of his blood bubbles had risen dramatically. Soon no doubt, the canned blood would cease to satisfy and they'd have to start transitioning him to other options. It was inevitable, and she was proud that her little boy was growing up, but it was bittersweet too, because she knew the world he was growing up into, and she supposed some part of her just wished he could stay her gentle, innocent baby forever, foolish as the wish was.

Actually... Kaname had been on the blood bubbles much longer than she or Haruka had expected. It pleased them, certainly, that he seemed so content, but Juuri guessed that her son's restlessness was an indication that that phase of his life was passing. They were waiting for some kind of sign from Kaname that he was ready to move on, but none had thus far been apparent. Last night... she'd thought for a moment when his mouth moved softly against her neck as she carried him that he was going to bite her. She'd smiled softly and tilted her head a little to let him, but Kaname had stopped, simply snuggling with her instead, and Juuri had supposed he wasn't ready yet.

As she paused outside her son's door now, however, Juuri felt a strange pull. Something was telling her to go in there, that her child needed her. The softest, barest sound of a whimper touched her ears and Juuri's heart tugged, her hand immediately going to the door knob. Kaname must be having a nightmare.

Kaname froze as he heard the door opening. He smelled his mother's scent and heard her as she entered the room. No no no! Soft shame and panic flooded him. He hadn't expected either of his parents to come into his room again until morning. She would see... He closed his eyes, hiding the damning red and trying desperately to pretend he was asleep, but it was no use, his hammering heart would surely give him away.

The instant Juuri stepped into her son's room, she felt concern grip her inexplicably. She smelled salt... had Kaname been crying? His heartbeat was wild and erratic and his body was tense as he curled on the bed. He was trying to lie still, as if he was asleep, but she knew he wasn't. She could smell... fear?

Juuri crossed quickly to Kaname's bed, sitting down quietly on the edge and reaching over to rest a gentle hand on her son's small side as he lay curled under the covers. "Kaname? Kaname, honey, are you awake?" she murmured softly, allowing him the pretence of being asleep. If he'd had a bad dream, it must have been horrible to upset him so.

She leaned over, catching a glimpse of his pale, tense face. Tears streaked his cheeks under the soft tousle of long brown hair and her mother's heart ached. She brushed his hair away from his brow with tender fingers. Kaname was ignoring her, which wasn't like him. If he'd had a bad dream, she'd expect him to welcome her presence to drive the nightmare away.

"Come on, darling, I know you're not sleeping. Tell mama what's wrong..." she murmured soothingly, but Kaname still refused to budge, lying as still and as tense as a corpse. Suddenly... Juuri realized the small body under her hand was trembling.

Fear took her. Was something wrong? It wasn't possible that Kaname was sick, was he hurt somehow? How? Had someone hurt him? When? Who would have dared? A million unformed fears tore through Juuri as she pulled back the covers, needing to see that Kaname was all right, uninjured... He was, but he was curled tightly on his side, both hands clutched deathly tight into the front of his pajama shirt as if he was in pain.

The sudden removal of the covers made Kaname open his eyes, his gaze finding his mother... and Juuri froze, because the small eyes staring at her were utterly miserable... and glowing red in the darkness of the room. Vampire's eyes could glow for many different reasons that would not have alarmed her, but combined with the way he was acting... Shock coursed through Juuri as the reality of the symptoms she was witnessing tried to filter through her spinning mind. Kaname was acting like he was suffering from blood lust, severe blood lust. But... but he was much too young! Unless they were nutritionally deprived, children his age did not usually succumb to this extreme form of hunger until after puberty.

This was not the mild, expected kind of need brought on by simply not being satisfied with his regular food anymore. This kind of desperate craving was brought on by starvation.

Kaname saw the shock in his mother's face and his heart plummeted. Tears welled in his glowing eyes, burning as they rolled down his cheeks again. "I-I'm sorry, I'm sorry, mama..." he apologized miserably, his little frame shaking as he curled even further into himself. He felt so miserable, and he ached so much... he couldn't stop the tears, or the soft sobs that shook his shoulders. He was hurting and scared. "I can't make it stop," he sobbed softly. "I'm trying... I can't make it stop!"

Juuri's heart broke into a million pieces. She didn't understand... she didn't understand what she was seeing at all, but her precious little son's tears, his anguish... those she saw and understood all too well. Quickly, Juuri gathered Kaname's small body into her arms, lifting him from the bed and cradling him to her as she sat on the edge of the mattress. He was so small, so light, so heartbreakingly precious in her arms. His tense little body shook as he buried his face against her chest.

"Shh... Kaname... it's okay..." she soothed around the achingly painful lump that had formed in her own throat. Fear continued to plague her. What was wrong? What could possibly be happening to cause what she was seeing? Juuri trembled a little herself. "Can't make what stop? Kaname... are you hurt? Did something happen today?"

Kaname shook his small head miserably against his mother as he clung to her, trying desperately to hold onto the soothing sensation of her embrace around the burning, painful need inside him. "I-I can't make the hunger stop..." he rasped softly around his sobs, and Juuri could hear clearly in the lisping lilt to his words that he was trying to speak around fully aroused fangs. "I'm so thirsty, mama... it hurts..." Sometimes Kaname seemed very mature for his age, but right now he was very obviously just a little boy and his earnest misery was heartbreaking.

Tears escaped Juuri's eyes and rolled down her cheeks as cold horror clutched at her. Adult purebloods didn't cry in front of others, but this was her baby, and he... Oh God... he was starving right under her nose, in their own home, and she didn't even know it! How could she have been so hideously blind? Why hadn't he said something before it came to this?

"Oh honey..." she murmured comfortingly, holding him close. "You can't make it stop, there's no reason that you should. There's nothing wrong with what you need. We talked about that, remember, Kaname? When you started weaning..." She'd thought he understood... how had he not?

Kaname shook his head almost violently. She... she didn't understand! "No!" he protested with a soft sob. "No... something's wrong. I drink my blood but I'm still thirsty. I... I..." his voice dropped to the lowest possible whisper. "I want to bite people," he admitted, ashamed.

If Kaname hadn't been so obviously anguished and in pain, Juuri would have smiled at his childish innocence. It was almost precious. "Kaname, listen to me. There is nothing wrong or unnatural about what you're feeling. This is part of growing up. The blood bubbles won't satisfy you forever, darling... Why didn't you say something sooner? How long have you been hungry like this?"

Kaname actually stilled a little, desperately wanting to accept his Mother's unexpected assurances that he was not feeling anything strange and hideously unusual, but hesitant to do so. He was so confused now...

"I-I don't know. A while. I thought you'd be sad," he whispered softly, hesitantly looking up towards her now. His young eyes searching her face as if for some truth he couldn't quite grasp. "You and Papa said I mustn't bite humans. I could kill Yuki. I don't want to hurt anybody, Mama, I don't want them to be afraid of me..." he hiccupped, tears still standing in his eyes. "I... I don't want to be different," he whispered.

For a moment, Juuri completely hated herself. What had she and her husband done? What had they done to their son...? They had been quite worried when he started weaning, what with the Kimura's new baby and all. It wasn't unusual for vampire siblings to innocently attempt to feed on one another when they were going through the change, and it didn't hurt either of them. But Yuki was a human and Kaname was a pureblood... they couldn't afford any mishaps. For that matter, since they did not believe in killing their food, they couldn't have him biting humans at all until he understood the consequences. He was far too young to have to deal with accidentally turning people into vampires. They must have impressed their concerns too sternly upon the impressionable little boy, however. They never meant to make him feel that there was anything wrong with his need to feed. They certainly held no such feelings.

Juuri had wanted her son to understand that humans could be more than just food... but now she wondered if she had done him a disservice by their close, constant association with the Kimuras and the human world. She could not abide the idea of her son being ashamed of what he was, it was unthinkable.

"You are different, Kaname, but it's not bad... you're special," she murmured as she held his eyes earnestly. "You are a pureblood vampire. You come from a long, powerful blood line of which you have every right to be proud. You come from a line of kings," she whispered gently. "Never forget that; never be ashamed of it." Juuri bent down and kissed her son's damp, tousled brown curls. She silently resolved that they needed to make sure Kaname had the chance to spend more time with other young vampires his age, when possible. He got on well with little Takuma Ichijo, even though things were tense between she, Haruka and his grandfather, what with the mounting situation with the council. But maybe they should take him visiting to some of the other loyalist families, like the Aidos or the Kains. They had sons only a little younger than Kaname... yes, it was a good idea. But right now, she had more important things to be worrying about.

Gently, Juuri pushed the sleeve of her robe up to her elbow and slid her bare wrist to her son's mouth, brushing his small lips. "I'm not sad, Kaname. I'm proud of you. All your hunger means is that you need to start drinking fresh blood now, you're ready to start becoming a man. You're right not to bite Yuki or other humans, you've always been a very good boy. But you mustn't be afraid of drinking fresh blood..."

Juuri felt Kaname's whole body quiver in her arms as she tenderly offered him her blood. It was natural for parents to give blood to their children until they were a little older, and could be taught how to get their own food.

Kaname was mesmerized by the smoothness of his mother's skin, by the intense ache in his chest... he hesitated a moment, looking questioningly towards her and seeing her soft, encouraging smile before his hunger got the best of him.

Small fangs sank desperately into his mother's wrist, small hands clutching her to him, trembling with a need that one so young should not have been forced to know. Juuri shifted her arm a little, nudging her son's fangs to the right place to find the vein he was inexpertly but urgently seeking. Juuri's heart ached deeply that Kaname had deprived himself like this and that she hadn't realized it sooner, but as he drank, she felt his small body starting to relax in her arms, his breath starting to come easier, the trembling starting to cease. She smiled tenderly. The soft little mouth was innocent and needy as it drew from her, and Juuri cradled Kaname tenderly, rocking him slightly as she had when he was a baby. She couldn't help the warm, maternal glow she felt at being able to provide for her child. It was a tender moment for mother and son, reminding Juuri of when she used to breastfeed him.

Eventually the hitching breaths evened out, and the desperate sucking on her wrist became slower less hurried. Kaname felt so warm, so safe in his mother's arms. Her blood had sated the unspeakable need inside him and he no longer hurt. With the passing of the pain, he was able to let go of his fear. Obviously... there was nothing wrong, blood still did sate him, it just had to be the right kind of blood. He'd been so stupid to worry like that... but Juuri's warm arms around him, the sound of her heart beating next to his ear and the tender feel of her body giving him nourishment helped dispel any lingering sense of foolishness or discomfort. Kaname realized he was tired... he hadn't slept well, hadn't been able to really relax in so long...

Juuri watched with silent adoration as her son's features started to slacken slightly, that unmistakable sleepy look creeping over them. His eyes had faded back to their normal, chocolate brown color and he looked like any other sleepy child as he sucked slowly, lightly on her wrist. She couldn't help being struck again by how much she was reminded of him as a baby.

Finally Kaname slid his fangs free. Or rather, they slid themselves free, having already retracted with the sating of his need for blood. Eventually he'd learn better control over them, but right now he was still very young. Instinctively, he lightly licked the tiny puncture wounds for a moment, like a kitten with his mother, before his head settled wearily back against Juuri's chest. He felt so good... so relieved... so at peace. He smiled sleepily.

"I love you, mama," he whispered softly.

Juuri held her baby tightly, stroking his silky hair with the utmost tenderness. "I love you too, Kaname," she murmured. "From now on, when you get hungry, you come to me or Papa, all right?"

Kaname nodded and Juuri shifted around, laying him back down on his bed and tucking the covers around him. A small hand shot out to catch the hem of her sleeve. Sleepy brown eyes held hers, blinking in the struggle to stay awake.

"Stay... please...?" the words were soft, but Juuri heard. She smiled tenderly and lifted the covers again, sliding into bed beside her son and curling her arm around his little waist as she rolled onto her side. Kaname was old enough he didn't usually want one of his parents sleeping with him anymore, but tonight... he didn't want to be alone. He wanted to stay in this lovely warmth.

"Okay, Kaname, just for tonight," she murmured. After all, it was her baby's first time drinking real blood. That was some kind of milestone that deserved a little pampering, right? He'd certainly been through enough. Haruka was still up anyway, and he'd doubtless smelt her blood and knew what that meant. She'd tell him about all this tomorrow.

Kaname cuddled into the warmth of his mother's loving embrace and finally let sleep claim him.

THE END