Patrol was slow-going this night, the blistering heat of the lingering summer serving well to keep troublemakers and nosy students inside their air-conditioned dormitories. Zero would probably be more thankful for that were he not stuck still wandering the grounds with beads of sweat soaking through his clothes.
“Fucking heat,” He cursed as he stopped to reach behind him and tug his wet shirt away from his sweat-slicked back. Zero grimaced and wiped at the sweat starting to drip into his eyes, with his other hand. God, this was so not fair. For god’s sake, it was October – it was supposed to be freezing not fucking hot as the fires of hell.
Why, oh why, did he agree to take up a position as a TA again? “Just long enough for us to find a replacement prefect,” Cross said. “It’s only for a year,” Cross said. Zero was quickly finding out he’d underestimated how slowly a year could drag on. If this fucking heat didn’t kill him the sheer frustration of having to deal with screaming, hormonal teenagers would.
His regular route took him past the gymnasium once more, and he couldn’t help but feel a pang of longing at the thought of the showers inside. At this point, he’d give a lot just for a cold shower to help him cool off. Zero paused in his steps, looking around him at the empty, silent campus.
It’s not like anyone would know…
A trickle of warm sweat rolled down his spine, making his decision for him. Without stopping to question it anymore Zero strode forward, digging the keys out from his pocket and letting himself into the building.
He flipped on the light switch and found his way to the locker room with relatively little trouble, casting one more paranoid glance around before disrobing and turning the water on as cold as he could stand it. Zero let out a shocked hiss as the frigid water hit his boiling skin but relaxed shortly after as he began to get used to the sensation.
His breath left his lungs in a pleased little sigh as the man tipped his head back beneath the stream of water. Cold liquid rushed over his hot face, trickling over pale skin in rivulets and soaking his hair. Zero allowed a contented gasp to escape him. Finally, his scorching skin began to cool down beneath the-
“Well, well. I must say this is an unexpected sight.”
Zero’s eyes snapped open as his reverie was broken. Amethyst eyes fixed on the vampire leaning against the opposite shower with a smug grin on his lips. Too late, he forgot to remember to even think about covering the scars running beneath his nipples on each side of his flat chest and immediately Kaname’s gaze dropped to them when he turned around.
“Wow, you’re even watching people shower now? Have to say, Kuran. That’s pretty creepy even for you. Not to mention illegal.” Zero drawled. When all else fails, he’d learned that sarcasm and defecting worked well to hide his internal panicking.
It didn’t work though. Not this time. “You’re…a girl.” Kaname murmured in surprise while his red gaze stayed glued to the prefect’s chest – which, absolutely wasn’t creepy at all.
Anger bloomed in Zero’s chest, and before he knew what he was doing, he was across the room, swiping sharp claws across the front of Kaname’s pristine uniform. The fabric ripped apart beneath him, dangerously close to the pale skin of the pureblood’s throat.
“Call me that again, and you can say goodbye to your fucking balls.” He threatened with venom coating his voice.
Kaname blinked at the sudden fury coating the hunter’s voice. Don’t get him wrong, Zero has threatened him dozens upon dozens of times before and he’d far grown used to most of it by now. But never before had he seen the complete and utter loathing that filled those amethyst eyes. This wasn’t like the other times. This wasn’t some meaningless, trivial attempt at riling him up. Zero meant every word coming from his mouth.
But underneath the anger, Kaname could smell the bitter tang of Zero’s fear. He hated the pit of guilt that was slowly forming in his stomach.
Zero gestured to his flat chest with the two raised scars. “Do I fucking look like a chick to you?”
Kaname’s breath hitched slightly in his throat as his gaze roved over the muscled form of the hunter before him. He’d never really bothered to notice just how fit the other man was before.
It was somehow refreshing and incredibly aggravating how this low-level vampire dared to speak to him in such a way. A way that no one else would even begin to imagine. If nothing else, he’d always begrudgingly respected Zero for at least that much.
“I’m a man.” Zero firmly asserted with a glare.
Kaname hummed. “And those scars on your chest? What are they?”
“They’re from none of your goddamn business.” Zero retorted. “I don’t owe you answers, Kuran. So, fuck off. Besides, shouldn’t you be fucking your sister or something?”
The hunter smirked at the responding snarl he earned for that, a dangerous flash of crimson in the pureblood’s eyes. He was playing with fire right now by angering him, and he knew it. At this point, Zero couldn’t be bothered to care.
“You should watch your tongue, level E.” Kaname grit out.
Aw, hit a nerve have I? “Or what?” The hunter fired right back.
“By all means, elaborate. You’ll… what? Kill me? Hit me? Go ahead, I’m sure you’d have a fun time explaining that one to the council and the association.” Hell, even Yuuki would probably just love to hear that one.
In an instant Zero found himself pressed up against the slippery back wall of the shower, a clawed hand wrapped menacingly around his throat.
“Careful, little hunter. You haven’t the faintest idea what I will do.” Kaname snarled into his face.
Against the logical option, which would be to give up and let Kaname have his victory, escaping unscathed, Zero had to go and open his mouth again.
“But I do know that you’re pathetic. Hell, you couldn’t even defeat your uncle without my help. You’re also a fucking hypocrite, preaching equality one minute and acting like they’re the dirt beneath your feet the next. You’re nothing but a piece of shit.” He managed to force out despite the crushing grip around his throat.
God, did it ever feel good to finally say that to the bastard’s face though.
“Why am I not surprised? You always were jealous of my relationship with Yuuki, and now it’s starting to come out.” Kaname drawled with a sneer. “Jealousy does not become you, Kiryuu.”
Jealous? Of him and Yuuki? Zero couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled out of his throat at the very idea. There was just something so incredibly hilarious about that idea that it made it impossible for him not to laugh. Kaname’s grip loosened as he stared at the hunter before him in confusion, probably thinking that he’d gone crazy at this point.
The pureblood stepped away, releasing his grip on the hunter. “What?” He demanded. “What is so amusing?”
“I- just- you-you think I’m jealous of you and Yuuki.” Zero huffed out between laughter. Finally, he managed to get ahold of himself and stand, gingerly fingering the bruises around his throat. “Boy, you really don’t get it, do you?”
“Really? You never noticed how often Kaito and I hung out?”
“He is your friend-“
“Or how none of the girls ever gave me chocolates on Valentine’s Day?”
“Yes, because you’re cold and cruel to them-“
“It just escaped your notice that I never had a girlfriend?”
“Is there a point to all of this?” Kaname snapped as his patience reached its end.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake-“ Zero rolled his eyes. “Do I have to spell it out for you? I’m gay, you dumbass.”
Kaname’s anger dispersed at his shock. “You- what?”
“I’m gay. You know, into dudes. Batting for the other team. G-A-Y.”
“Yes, I know what gay means, thank you, Kiryuu. I just- I never thought that you were. But what about Yuuki?”
“She’s my sister. For most of us, that means family and not fucking lovers.” Zero answered like he was speaking to a child. At this point, he might as well be. “I care for her like family, adopted or not. I just- maybe don’t care quite in the same way or as much as you do.” He finished, unable to resist another dig at the pureblood’s relationship with the woman. To be honest, it still creeped him out, the whole thing of the two purebloods being siblings and still hooking up. A shudder ran down his spine.
“Last I checked, yeah.”
Kaname cut him a glare. Always with the witty remarks and sarcasm. Could Zero ever be serious for once? It irked him to no end. Yet, as he looked back, he could distinctly remember a few of the male students shyly offering Zero chocolates or blushing and stuttering offering the prefect a letter- oh hell. He really was blind, wasn’t he?
Somehow, the pureblood felt as though he was seeing the man before him in a whole new light now. Not that it lessened his dislike for the insolent hunter in any way, of course. But something was undeniably different.
Zero stepped to the side of him to finally shut off the water pouring over both of them and stride out past Kaname.
As he passed the pureblood, Kaname could see droplets of water resting on sun-tanned skin, running down over taut muscles. His throat abruptly felt tighter.
It was hard to describe, but the sudden, potent, and unique scent of the hunter hit him like a slap to the face. It was strangely and perplexingly intoxicating. Before he knew what he was doing, the pureblood found himself turning to chase the scent.
His shoe brushed against something solid and shiny as it rolled out of Zero’s pocket while he pulled his shirt on. Kaname tilted his head, bent down to pick it up. A ring of shining silver glinted beneath fluorescent lights. The metal was bent into whorls and twists, interlaid with amethysts. There was something rough on the inside as well, an inscription of sorts. It read-
“Give me that,” Zero demanded, snatching the piece of metal out of his hand roughly. “Do you make a habit of just taking people’s things?”
Actually, he wouldn’t be surprised if the asshole did. Still, it made him hot with anger to think of Kaname’s dirty fingers touching his most precious possession.
“What is it?” Kaname asked, ignoring the hunter’s question. He couldn’t help but be curious at such a finely made piece of jewelry winding up in the hands of Zero Kiryuu.
“Where did you get it?” It must have cost a small fortune.
Zero’s jaw tightened, and he slid the ring onto a silver chain before reaching up to wrap it around his neck. “It doesn’t matter.” He wondered if Kaname can hear the tightness in his voice.
“I find myself curious. Humor me.”
Zero finished tugging the rest of his clothing on without a word. “None of your goddamn fucking business.” The hunter forced out past the squeezing, crushing of his chest. At least he was facing away from the pureblood, so Kaname remained oblivious to the wetness in his eyes that Zero rapidly blinked back.
“Quit prying into my life, Kuran. I’m not your fucking toy anymore. You got what you wanted so just- just fuck off and leave me alone. Go find someone else’s life to ruin.”
Zero waltzed out of the room and back into the blistering heat of the night before the pureblood could reply. All the better, because the last thing he wanted was to hear anything that bastard had to say. He made his way across the silent grounds, toying with the ring around his neck, idly.
He didn’t make it even halfway back to the staff housing before he stumbled in his steps, catching himself on a tree and squeezing his eyes shut in an attempt to block out the barrage of memories that threatened to crash down upon him. No, no, I can’t. Zero shook his head. He didn’t want to revisit those memories, not right now. It hurt too much.
“Hey, Zizzy!” A peeked out at Zero from the kitchen doorway, wearing a wicked, crooked grin on his face that stretched the scar marring the man’s lips. He sidled up behind the younger hunter, wrapping his arms around him and resting his head on Zero’s. The silver-haired man grunted in annoyance. “Whatcha cooking? Smells good.”
Zero snorted and moved out of his grip. “Yuuki wants to give chocolates to that pureblood dickbag she’s obsessed with. And I don’t trust her not to burn down the kitchen. Again. So, here I am.”
“Aw, so I can’t have any?”
“No, you can’t have any.” Zero responded patiently before he felt Tomas’ form connect with him, sending the mixture in the bowl before him splattering over his hands.
The older man reached for Zero’s hand before he could stop him, bringing one chocolate-covered finger to his mouth and wrapping his lips around it. “Mmm, delicious.”
Zero rolled his eyes as he reached for Tomas’ hips to tug him closer. “God, you can be so dramatic, baby.”
Tomas grins as he bends down to meet the younger hunter’s lips. “You love it.”
Zero gingerly touched a finger to his lips, as though to chase the taste of his lover. If he concentrated hard enough, he could still taste the whiskey on Tomas’ tongue from that first kiss they shared. A fresh, new wave of sadness passes over him.
“Enough! Enough!” Zero yelled between huffs of laughter as his lover attempted to tackle him.
“But I just want a kiss,” Tomas protested with an exaggerated frown. He received a pillow to the face for his efforts.
“Not with that morning breath. Go brush your teeth first, then we’ll talk.”
Tomas’ shoulders sagged. “But I want it now!”
Zero snorted and took aim with another pillow.
No one but the trees surrounding him to witness the loud sob that tore its way free of Zero’s throat. His fingers clenched around the ring, torn between ripping it from his neck and cradling it like the precious token it was.
He knew that he was probably pathetic, sitting out here sobbing and crying like some child. Scratch that – he definitely knew he was pathetic.
It’s been at least a few years now since Tomas- since he died, but it still felt like it was just yesterday. His grief was still just as fresh and all-consuming, threatening to drown him from the inside if he wasn’t careful. Zero was tempted to let it on some days.
He tipped his head back against the trunk of the tree and let the tears come, figuring there was no use in trying to stop it anyway. It gets easier with time, everyone said. Bull-fucking-shit. Every second without the other man here beside him was hell, and it was like living a nightmare, having to continue on like this without Tomas there.
“Fuck, I really miss you, baby.” He somehow managed to tell the air in between the noise of his incessant wailing.
Just this once, let him have this, Zero begged internally. Let him have his breakdown as his grief overwhelms him. Tomorrow, he told himself. He’ll be strong again tomorrow. But for now, let him have this. Please.
“I crossed paths with Kiryuu while visiting Cross.”
Yuuki’s face fell at her brother’s words. “Oh, no. What happened this time?”
“Nothing much. Although he did call me pathetic, among a few other choice words. And a hypocrite as well.”
The woman sighed. “It’s just Zero, Kaname. You know how he is.”
“Yes.” Zero was crass and blunt in his words, he always had been. At the end of the day, it was just how the hunter was. “But I am beginning to see that the last bit may not be entirely incorrect. I have perhaps been unfair in my treatment of those below me and... and perhaps I have been cruel to the boy.”
Yuuki did well to hide her shock from her face. She was amazed that Zero, of all people, had managed to get her brother to step back and look at things from a different perspective. Dear as he was to her, Kaname tended to be a bit stubborn and set in his ways.
“I’m impressed,” she mused. “Usually you two can’t go one minute without verbally ripping each other to pieces.”
Kaname gave a petulant frown.“Yes, well. If Zero wouldn’t antagonize me so much…”
Yuuki rolled her eyes. “Zero has a skewed perception of vampires, and by rising to his taunts, I have to admit, you aren’t exactly proving his perceptions wrong with your actions, Kaname.”
The older pureblood’s frown deepened further. Much as Kaname hated being chastised by his younger sister, she might have had a point or two. “Perhaps.”
“Or maybe you just like yanking on his ponytail.” The woman offered with a smirk and a suggestive wink. “Maybe you just like teasing and picking on him because it gets you his attention.”
In truth, Yuuki meant the words as just a joke, but the more she stopped to examine things, the more it began to dawn on her that she might not have been too far off. Kaname was awfully concerned with Zero, all things considered. He was always watching the hunter, wondering what he was doing and who he was with. Come to think of it, wasn’t it Kaname who also made sure Zero had access to blood back when Zero’s allergy to blood tablets had first appeared?
She glanced at her brother, wondering if he was even aware of his own possible feelings toward the hunter. Likely not, she ultimately decided. After all, he’d been convinced for years that his love for her was romantic and only recently found out that it very much wasn’t for either of them.
“You think… you think I like Kiryuu.” Kaname repeated, dryly.
She shrugged. “I’m only saying that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…”
“I most certainly do not have any feelings of that sort for the hunter, of all people.” Kaname snapped, unusually angry with his sister for thinking such.
Yuuki raised her hands in surrender, knowing better than to argue with him.“Alright, if you say so.” But your actions say otherwise, dear brother. Honestly, it was so obvious Yuuki was starting to wonder how she hadn’t seen it earlier.
“I don’t.” Kaname pressed.
“Alright, alright. I believe you.” Yuuki said, stifling an amused grin. Who are you really trying to convince here, me, or yourself?
Kaname couldn’t shake the hunter from his thoughts as he dropped a blood tablet into a glass of wine. Those odd scars on his chest, what were they? For once he found he didn’t know and it bothered him immensely. He firmly shook his head as his mind inevitably began to then drift towards the hunter’s naked body.
Perhaps his sister would have some idea, having grown up alongside the man. “Yuuki-“
The door to his room opens before Kaname can finish speaking, Takuma striding in and his smile growing as soon as he sees Yuuki lounging on the couch.
“Kaname.” The blonde greets with a customary bow, before striding up to Yuuki and bending down to plant a kiss on her forehead before taking a seat beside her. “How did things go with Cross?”
Kaname turns to look out the window, his own bitter jealousy unable to stand the sight of the happy couple. “As well as expected. He was saddened to hear about the broken engagement, but it seemed to lessen as I assured him that Yuuki and I were both happier with this decision.”
“That’s good, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Why wouldn’t it be?” Kaname asked.
“You don’t seem all that thrilled about it.” Takuma pointed out.
“He ran into Zero,” Yuuki told the blonde beside her.
“Ah.” Kiryuu was the one person who never failed to make Kaname angry it seemed. From what he’d heard from Yuuki, it was mutual on the hunter’s end. Those two… Takuma shook his head. It was hopeless to dream of them ever getting along. But that did explain the pureblood’s foul mood.
The pureblood sipped quietly at his wine. Zero Kiryuu was an endlessly confusing enigma. Every single time he thought he had the hunter figured out he only stumbled upon something new about him. He couldn’t pin Zero down. It gave him a headache sometimes, trying to piece together all the odd bits and ends that made up Zero Kiryuu.
“I think I would like to be alone for a while if you both don’t mind.” Kaname clipped, pain beginning to brew in his head yet again.
Yuuki frowned but stood alongside Takuma. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Yuuki. I just need some time to myself.”
Her shoulders sagged lightly, but Takuma quickly managed to distract the woman with talk of some other topic as he led her from the room, giving his friend an understanding smile as he did so.
With both vampires gone Kaname sidled over to take a seat at the window, leaning against the glass panes and looking out over the dark, silent forest. It usually helped center his thoughts, just relaxing and taking in the view like this. Yet this time, for some reason the silver-haired hunter still stubbornly remained fixed in his head. He downed the rest of his wine with a pensive furrow of his brows.
Who are you, Zero Kiryuu?