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Gimme Shelter

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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?”

“Get. What?”

“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.

“You’re… gay.”

“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.

“A ring.”

“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?

Chapter Text

Waking up, was a bitch Zero decided. At some point during the night he’d managed to find his way back to his dorm though, so thankfully he was in his bed this time at least. The sounds of shouting drifted through the thin walls as students loudly and irritatingly fought in the halls. Why, oh why, did I let Cross force me into rooming with the fucking students?

The hunter rolled over and grabbed his spare pillow to place over his head. Fuck it. He was off the clock, let this be the class president’s job. Not that that guy ever did anything, anyway. But he could hope.

“----No! I’m telling you-“

“God---so fucking annoying!”

Zero groaned and squeezed his eyes tighter as though it might somehow block out the sound. He really was not in the mood to deal with this shit. His clothes from the previous day were still on him, wrinkled and smelling of dried sweat. His breath probably smelled horrible and if he had to guess, he’d only gotten around four hours of sleep. He felt just as shitty as he no doubt looked too.

Finally, he could hear the angry voice of the class president begin to chime in. Zero huffed, annoyance crossing his face as he rolled over onto his back and threw the pillow aside. Right, not getting any more sleep then. He hefted himself up off of the bed and stretched his arms above his head before rising with a grimace and moving across his room. If there was one perk to being a prefect, it would be that his dorm came with his own bathroom.

All the better for him, because Zero loathed the idea of anyone seeing his surgical scars and having to explain them as he had last night. Just thinking about that pureblood fucker’s eyes on him, roving over his body sent shudders of disgust down his spine. There was something so violating about having his privacy invaded like that, having that bastard eyes on him, staring at him like- like-

A wave of nausea rolled over Zero, and he decided that he didn’t even want to know what had been going through that asshole’s sick mind.

Zero paused to observe himself in the mirror before stripping off his clothes. His hair was sticking up in every direction, and there was still a lingering puffy, redness to his eyes. He sighed and looked away from the sight, carefully unclasping the ring around his neck that he’d forgotten to remove the night before and laying it on the countertop.

To think that fucker tried to touch it. Zero’s teeth ground together in annoyance. He could put up with a lot of shit from Kaname. The name calling, the threats, the physical harassment—that he could deal with up to a point. But if he even thought about touching Tomas’ ring again, Zero would put a fucking bullet in him.

Zero’s fingers clenched tightly around the ring for a second before releasing it and taking a deep breath. It was just an accident, a one-time fluke that he ran into the bastard in the first place. It wouldn’t happen again anytime soon if he had anything to say about it, that was for damn sure.

The rest of the day passed by relatively regularly. The shouting incident from the morning was finished by the time he’d emerged from the shower. A stern glower stopped any other little shits from starting a fight, should they get any ideas. His classes passed by as usual and nothing exciting happened, save for the students moaning and groaning about the massive amount of studying and readings piled onto them. He spent his lunch pouring over his notes for a biology review session that the professor had thought to put him in charge of.

The hunter barely had a minute breathe. He didn’t even get a chance to talk to Yori until after classes when they were just waiting around for changeover to start. Ever since everything with Yuuki had happened, he’d gotten closer with the woman and could even call her ‘friend’ now. The one good thing to come out of that was his friendship with Yori.

“Hey,” He greeted, strolling up to where she waited against the gates with her back pressed against the metal bars.

A smile crossed her lips. “Hi, Zero. You ready for class changeover?”

“As I’ll ever be.” He drawled.

“Fair enough.” Yori allowed with a shrug. “You doing alright? You don’t seem so hot. Geez, did you even sleep last night?”

Zero brushed off the concerned hand she placed on his shoulder. “I’m fine, Yori. Really. Just had to deal with a leech, last night.”

Yori frowned at the term they usually used to refer to the vampires, just in case any day class students happened to be lingering by, listening in. “They didn’t do anything to you, did they? I swear if they hurt you, Zero you can tell me.”

“Nah, it was just one of them. Kaname was just being a dick as per his usual. Nothing I couldn’t handle.”

“What did he do? Seriously, Zero, you can tell me. They can’t keep getting away with this.” Yori pressed with a concerned pout of her lips.

Zero folded his arms. “I was taking a shower, and he saw my scars, alright? There. Now can we please drop it?” This was the last thing he ever wanted to talk about with anyone. Yori was privy to the fact that Zero hadn’t been born a male. But that didn’t mean he wanted everyone on the whole campus to know and he’d prefer not to broadcast it by talking about it in public. Where anyone could hear.

Yori’s eyes widened. “You- he walked in on you in the shower?” She nearly shouted before dropping her voice to a low hiss. “Zero that is not okay! That is sexual harassment! You need to tell someone!”

He rolled his eyes. Yes, that would go over well. “Tell who? I’m a guy, Yori. No one would believe me if I tried to tell them that Kaname Kuran, of all people, walked in on me taking a shower like a perverted freak.” God knows everyone worshipped the ground that prick walked on.

“He can’t just do that to you!”

Zero sighed. “Look, it’s over. Nothing happened. So just drop it, okay? I promise I’m fine. I was honestly more pissed that he touched my ring.”

“Ring?” Yori questioned before eyeing the jewelry around her friend’s neck. “Oh.” She didn’t really know what was up with Zero and that thing anyway. Obviously, she could tell it was precious to him, given how Zero wore the jewelry everywhere and never let it out of his sight. But precisely where it came from and why, remained a mystery to her. Something had always told her it was better not to pry.

Zero stared at the ground aimlessly, though his eyes turned somber. “It- it was a gift. Someone special gave it to me a long time ago. They-“ His throat closed up. “They’re no longer… around.”

Yori’s face fell in sympathy, and she laid a gentle hand on the man’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry.” She could only imagine how close Zero must have been with that person to have a ring from them like that. It only made her chest ache more for her friend. Nobody deserved to lose someone so precious, especially not Zero. Not when he’d lost so much already.

“So am I,” He muttered to the ground. Then, the hunter straightened once more. “But it’s in the past now, anyway. There’s not much I can do now.”

“I suppose so,” Yori said, though there remained a furrow of concern between her brows even as she stood to attention alongside her friend. The loud sound of a bell ringing filled the air. Are you honestly okay, Zero? She knew better by now than to ask, knowing he’d either lie or brush her off.

The girl moved to follow his eyes where an eager crowd of dark-clad students was amassing, marching in their direction. Yori didn’t even need to turn around to tell that the night class students were emerging from their dorm rooms behind her.

Yori shared a glance with Zero as they both braced themselves for the inevitable onslaught. Here we go again.

The doors to the Moon Dormitory opened, and immediately, the crowd went wild with cheers that rang out through the crowd.

“Oh my god! Kain, I love you!”

“Marry me, Ruka!”

“Get back!” Zero snapped as eager students began to push their way forward, anxious to lay hands on their precious night class students. He gritted his teeth and stopped one of them dead in their tracks with a ferocious glare. The girl immediately stepped back into the crowd, thoroughly cowed.

“Easy, everyone! They’re just students like you and me!” Yori attempted.

Pain bloomed behind Zero’s temples from the surrounding noise. Odd, considering he was quite used to class changeover and the chaos it brought by now. But today? Well, today was just not a good day for his patience to be tried. He was running awfully thin on that particular commodity.

“Hey!” He yelled as another girl tried to edge past him, his temper finally snapping like a thin thread. “Next one who tries anything gets an automatic F in all of your classes!”

“Y-You can’t do that!” A spunky, blonde girl protested even as the others fell silent around her.

Zero set his jaw.

“Do you honestly want to try me?” She was right, technically. That was far beyond his duties as a prefect or a teacher’s assistant. But these students didn’t know that. Predictably, each one of the students in the crowd fell silent at his threat. “Good, that’s what I thought.”

With that, Zero turned his back on the crowd in favor of keeping an eye on the night class. Most of them weren’t overly fond of the attention the humans paid them. But there were a few (Aidou) who quite enjoyed it (Aidou), and he wouldn’t put it past them to do something stupid (Aidou).

Kain gave him the barest of grins and tipped his head towards the prefect in silent acknowledgment. Nicely done. Zero gave him a brief, two-fingered wave that the other vampire returned.

Ruka sneered from beside Akatsuki. “My my, Kain. I wasn’t aware your tastes ran that low.”

Kain turned to stare down at her, unimpressed. His gaze suggested that she should quit while she was ahead.

Kaname stopped to greet both prefects ahead of them, as per the usual, thanking each of them for their hard work. “It’s good to see you too, Kiryuu. You’re looking much better after last night.”

Zero stiffened, as a ripple went through the crowd. His face was burning, anger rising up within the hunter at the insinuation of those words. As if I would ever touch your diseased prick you fucking asshole.

“Go fuck yourself.” He spat

The pureblood smiled, such fire coating Zero’s words. He opened his mouth with a retort on his tongue, but stopped as Kain pointedly stepped between him and Zero. Kaname frowned in annoyance at that.

“Enough,”

Kaname’s eyes narrowed at the audacity of the man (a noble speaking to a pureblood as though he could tell Kaname what to do, how laughable). It was more than that, though. He grew increasingly agitated at being unable to see or speak to Zero because of Kain.

“It’s only a bit of harmless teasing, Kain. What’s the harm in that?” This was hardly the first time he had ribbed the prefect and Kain hadn’t intervened before. So why now? What precisely is your relationship with Kiryuu, Kain? Kaname found himself without an answer, and that bothered him. Immensely.

Enough, Kaname,” Kain repeated.

The pureblood’s smile fell away from his face, leaving an agitated frown in its place. He couldn’t say why, but he loathed the idea of Kain keeping Zero from him. It made his fangs lengthen in his mouth, urging him to rip and shred and kill.

“Honestly, Kain, what does it matter? He’s only a filthy level D anyway. And a hunter at that.” Ruka snidely commented. “I wasn’t aware you were into dogs, Kain.”

“Ruka, do shut up,” Kaname’s voice was brisk as ice when he spoke. He eyed her out of the corner of his eye with blatant distaste, unsure of why her words bothered him so. It’s only Kiryuu she speaks of. Why am I so concerned over a level D?

Ruka shrunk back with an irritated scowl. Shame crawled up her neck at being chastised so. She turned to glare at the ground stubbornly.

“Would you to just get to class?” Zero snapped, sick of the ongoing power contest between Kain and Kaname. Much as he enjoyed seeing the other vampire stick up for him, it wasn’t worth him facing Kaname’s wrath later on. Plus, if this continued, they’d be out here for the remainder of the night.

Kaname broke his glaring contest with the taller vampire for a second, russet eyes flickering over to the prefect as though just remembering he was there. “Of course. Kiryuu is right, we should be going.”

The pureblood side-stepped Kain with a menacing aura that spoke of future consequences and continued on, holding his head high and steady like nothing had ever happened. Yet inside he was still seething at the audacity of him, coming in between Kaname and Kiryuu like that.

Yuuki sidled up alongside her brother as they walked, fury rolling off of him in waves. “What was that?” She asked with a furrow between her brows. Was Zero okay? Did Kain do something to him? She wanted to ask, but with Kaname’s current mood, she didn’t dare mention the prefect’s name.

“To be honest, I don’t know.”

By now, Yuuki was considerably used to Kaname and his odd quirks. Even before awakening her pureblood side, she’d spent enough time with the man to know most of his strange habits. Such as the way he insisted on drinking blood tablets with wine and his incessant overuse of metaphors. It was fine, though. She’d grown used to it by now, she could handle it.

What she could not deal with, was the constant glances he kept throwing out the window similar to a lost puppy. After the tenth one, she gave up on trying to read the current passage in the textbook.

“Brother,” She prodded gently.

“Hm?”

“That’s the tenth time you’ve glanced outside.” Either you’re suddenly very fascinated by trees or… “You’re looking for someone in particular, aren’t you?” Yuuki fought to keep from smiling as she whispered to the man beside her.

Kaname frowned, turning back to his desk. “No, of course not.”

Yuuki hummed knowingly. “You won’t find Zero out at this time of night anyway. His patrol ended twenty minutes ago.”

“I thought it didn’t end for another hour.”

Oh, and you just happen to know that, don’t you? “Usually, it does. But I overheard him telling Yori that he was taking off early tonight.” The woman explained. “If you’re feeling that guilty, then why don’t you just go and apologize to him?”

The older pureblood pursed his lips. He wasn’t good at making apologies, it was one of the reasons why he seldom bothered. And certainly not with someone who loathed his very existence.

But maybe it would help him finally free his thoughts of the silver-haired hunter. He was curious about Zero Kiryuu, even more so now. How are you and Kain acquainted? Why is he the only vampire you tolerate? Who are you, Zero Kiryuu? Yes, Kaname wanted to find out everything about the feisty hunter. Perhaps this might be a chance to get some answers.

No one was more surprised than Kaname when he found himself standing in front of Zero Kiryuu’s dorm, hand poised to knock. Before he could do so, the door swung open to reveal the hunter himself. Zero looked disheveled, his hair in disarray and his jacket missing. Even his tie looked mussed on top of his wrinkled shirt.

The pureblood wrinkled his nose as he took in the hunter’s flushed cheeks and the reek of whiskey that clung to him. “You’ve been drinking, I see.” He noted, not bothering to hide the disapproval in his tone.

“Don’t see how that’s any of your business,” Zero slurred. His eyes narrowed. “What are you doing here, anyhow?”

Honestly, Kaname had been asking himself that very question. It was anyone’s guess. But he couldn’t get the silver-haired hunter out of his head. The hunter’s image had continuously plagued his thoughts and his dreams. He couldn’t, for the life of him, figure out what to do about that or this strange feeling in his chest that veered suspiciously similar to guilt. Thus, here he was at the hunter’s door and with no idea where to go from here.

“I wish to… talk.”

“Talk,” Zero echoed. “You want to… talk? With me?”

“Yes. May I come in?”

Zero’s face scrunched up, evaluating the truth of Kaname’s statement. He looked the vampire up and down before stepping aside and flinging an arm out. “Sure, why not? It’s a real party in here.”

Kaname carefully stepped in after the hunter who swayed in his steps before flopping down onto the bed. A half-empty bottle of whiskey sat on the nightstand. It was by no means small. Hell, Kaname was nearly sure that the whole thing would be enough to kill a mere human.

Kaname glanced around at the hunter’s room, unsure of what he’d been expecting yet still somehow disappointed.

The walls were completely bare. There was no trace of anything personal about it. Only the bed complete with drab blankets and pillows, a desk with a matching chair, a wardrobe, and an adjoining door. It was so… plain. The one window was blocked by solid black curtains, completely blocking out any light. A fine layer of dust covered everything. It was like no one even lived here.

Depressing, he decided. That was the best way to describe it. Depressing and empty.

Eventually, the vampire decided on taking a seat at the desk chair so he could face the hunter lying on the bed. Another bottle caught his eye on the floor, empty.

“Welcome,” Zero announced with a hiccup. “To my humble abode. Was it everything you hoped it’d be?”

“You could say that,” Kaname responded. It was relatively dreary, in his opinion. The blank walls, the lack of anything personal, anything that screamed Zero.

The hunter chuckled and sat up to recline against the pillows as he reached for the bottle beside him. Zero took a long swig of the alcohol before pulling back and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand as he set the bottle aside. “So, you came to talk. About what?”

And there it was. The root of all this. Kaname cleared his throat. “I wished to apologize.”

“For being a jackass? A dick? A piece of shit?” Zero drawled. “Or are you referring to that incident the other night, where you were a total fucking creepy pervert?”

“All of that. I realize that my behavior was not- not appropriate. And I said things that I shouldn’t have, and I now regret.” The pureblood responded with a wince. “I am… sorry.

Zero laughed. The sound was anything but happy.

“Oh, so you’re apologizing now, huh? Must be Yuuki’s doing. I mean, who else could make you stop being such a dick. There is something good that can come out of banging your sister, I guess.” He said with a smirk before reaching for the bottle again and taking a long swig, grimacing at the burn. “Fine. Whatever. Apology accepted or whatever other bullshit you were expecting to hear.”

Kaname nearly snapped at him for that remark before ultimately deciding to let it be. Now that he was here, in front of the hunter, he found a million questions he’d been burning to ask. What are those scars on your chest? Why is that ring so important? How do you know Kain?

He asked none of them. Instead, the words that slipped out of his mouth were, “Why are you drinking?”

Zero snorted. “Let me tell you something, Kuran.” His tongue slurred out the pureblood’s name. “People drink for two reasons. Either to have fun. Or to forget.”

It was blatantly evident that the hunter is doing anything but having fun at the moment, which only left one option. For some reason, Kaname was immensely bothered by that fact. Stranger even than that was the thought that the idea of anyone hurting the hunter had his claws lengthening and fangs itching to kill.

He took a closer glance at the man on the bed. Zero’s eyes were red with bloodshot and shined with unshed tears.

“What happened? What happened to make you want to forget?” Kaname couldn’t resist asking.

Zero shook his head as he stared up at the ceiling. “You wouldn’t understand even if you tried, Kuran.” He murmured.

“Anyway, what are you going to do now that you know my ‘big secret’? Let me guess, you’re going to tell everyone?” No, that didn’t sound like the pureblood’s style. No, he was more the type to file it away to use as blackmail later, now that sounded like Kuran.

Kaname raised a brow in confusion. “Secret? I don’t follow.”

“My scars?”

“Why would I tell everyone that you got hurt, I presume, while on a hunting mission?”

Zero blinked. “Hurt? On a mission? Give me some credit, I’m not that fucking careless.” He sat up on the bed, fingers reaching to deftly undo the buttons of his shirt.

Kaname’s cheeks flushed at the implications of the action. He nearly spoke up, telling Zero to stop before the prefect yanked open his shirt, showing him the scars once more.

“Really? Does this look like I was hurt on a fucking mission?” Zero questioned with a flat glance.

The pureblood looked at the scars. Clean, clearly healing with minimal scarring so likely had medical attention.

“No.”

“Duh, cause they’re surgical scars, you dumbass.” Zero snapped.

“Surgical scars?” Kaname echoed. He honestly didn’t see where the hunter was going with this, or even why he was explaining this to Kaname of all people, given how much the boy despised him.

Zero rolled his eyes. “You ever heard of those people who were- born in the wrong body? Like, a woman that was accidentally born looking like a guy?”

Kaname nodded. “Yes, I’ve heard of it.”

Zero gave him a flat, unimpressed look. He nodded, as though expecting Kaname to figure the rest out on his own and merely sighed when he didn’t. “I’m one of those people, okay? I was born… wrong. There you have it. I always sort of knew I was a guy, but I was- I was born with girl parts.”

For a long moment, Kaname was unable to do anything else but sit in silence, struck utterly and entirely speechless for once. It was- he’d read of people like that, heard of it. But Zero? He’d never once imagined that the hunter might be one of those people.

How many times have I ever seen him bathe, though? And how often did he refuse to join Cross and Yuuki on their trips to the beach? How often has he never once taken his shirt off while exercising, no matter how hot the weather got? Come to think of it, he supposed it did make sense. He’d just never bothered to consider that. His guilt for his comments the other night came right back like whiplash.

“I see. I was… unaware of that.” He ignored Zero’s roll of his eyes. “Again, I am sorry for those words I spoke the other night.”

Zero leaned back on his hands against the bed, not bothering to do his shirt up again. “So, what are you going to do now? Use that for blackmail material later?”

“Blackmail?” Kaname wrinkled his nose at the very idea of using such dirty methods. He wished Zero would give him some credit at least. Such methods were beneath him. Moving beyond that little tidbit, however, “I would never use something like that against you, Zero. Surely you know that.”

“Mm, do I? Remember those times you force-fed me your blood?”

The pureblood pinched the bridge of his nose with two fingers. “Yes, because you insisted, quite stupidly, on starving yourself and putting the day class students at risk.” Kaname refuted. “But I would never hold something so personal against you. I would never stoop to such low and underhanded methods to achieve my goals.”

“Uh-huh.” Zero drawled.

“You don’t believe me.”

“No,” Zero gasped in mock offense. “Look, you’ve pretty much done nothing but lie and manipulate people, so forgive me if I don’t completely take your words at face value. Either way? I don’t give a fuck anymore. Do whatever the hell you want.”

Zero leaned back onto the sheets and reached for the bottle of whiskey, yearning for the sweet burn of the alcohol washing down his throat. “I don’t give two shits what you do, Kuran. I, on the other hand, have a bottle of alcohol to finish if you don’t mind.”

Most days he usually did okay, keeping up his facade of indifference and the scary prefect image of him. But tonight just so happened to be the anniversary of Tomas’ death. The day the accident had occurred. It never got any easier, but tonight? This was by far the worst day of the whole damn year. He really, genuinely needed to be drunk right now. Sobriety made it far too tempting to follow in Tomas’ footsteps. He even had a razor on the bathroom counter and everything.

Kaname stood and gave him a look that, if Zero didn’t know any better, could roughly be mistaken for concern. He snorted at the very idea.

“Very well. I’ll leave you to your thoughts then.” The pureblood murmured.

“Just don’t think this makes us friends, you pureblooded asshole.”

Chapter Text

To be honest, Kaname hadn’t the faintest clue how they got here, with his arms wrapped around the prefect as Zero dragged him into a kiss. Zero’s teeth nipped and pulled at his bottom lip, teasing the pureblood’s mouth open with his tongue in a way that made Kaname groan into the kiss. A growl left him as one of Zero’s hands reached up to grip his brown locks. Two can play that game he decided, sliding his arm on the hunter’s waist down further to grip the hunter’s ass through his skin-tight trousers.

“Mmm- Kana- “Kaname swiped his tongue along the hunter’s fangs, drawing a line of crimson along its surface. Zero moaned into the kiss and tugged him closer, searching for more of that intoxicating, delicious blood. His fingers tightened where they gripped Kaname’s jacket for a moment before the pureblood pulled away.

Kaname’s lips curled at the sight of the hunter in front of him. Zero’s cheeks flushed with arousal, and his pupils were blown so wide there was only a faint ring of purple left around them. He brushed a thumb over Zero’s lips that were still swollen from their kiss. “Red is a good look for you.”

Zero arched an eyebrow at that and tugged on the pureblood’s hair, pulling him closer. “Shut up and fuck me, Kuran.”

“As you wish.” And then Kaname was picking him up, forcing the hunter to wrap his legs around the pureblood’s waist as he pressed him up against a wall. He pressed a trail of faint kisses along Zero’s jawline before dipping to nip and suck at the delectable, pale flesh of the hunter’s neck.

Fuck-“ Zero choked out as Kaname attached his lips right below his ear, the place where his tattoo began. A low whine escaped the boy’s throat as the pureblood bit and teased at the sensitive skin. His cunt began to grow wet from the attention, and he ground against the pureblood, searching for some kind of friction to ease his arousal.

The pureblood’s own cock hardened in his trousers. Zero was intoxicating. His scent, his voice —God, everything about the boy made Kaname want to just take him. The hunter unleashed something in the pureblood, driving him mad with want for him. He couldn’t get enough of Zero, no matter how hard he tried. But the sight of darkening bruises and bright red bite marks did send a possessive thrill through him.

“God, Kaname. Just fuck me already.” Zero snarled, pushing at his chest enough that the pureblood let him down on the floor. Kaname’s eyes darkened as Zero hurriedly pulled at his clothing. His tongue darted out to wet his lips as Zero stripped, showing off taut muscles as he did so.

Kaname hurriedly stripped off his own clothes before picking Zero up once more, burying his nose in the hunter’s neck and inhaling the heady aroma of sweat and arousal. Zero’s wet cunt rubbed against the pureblood’s painfully hard cock, already slick with anticipation of being buried in the hunter’s tight, wet, heat. Were it any other time he would have loved to savor Zero, dive between his thighs and lap at his sweet pussy until the hunter was sobbing from overstimulation. But not now.

He buried his fangs into Zero’s shoulder at the same time he sank his hot cock into the hunter’s soaking cunt. Zero dug his fingernails into the pureblood’s back and tipped his head forward.

“Aaah! O-oh god!” His breath was hot against Kaname’s neck.

“Sadly, no. You’ll have to make do with me.”

The pureblood eagerly lapped at Zero’s neck, catching every single drop of his blood. Far too delicious to go to waste. It was addicting, the flavor of the hunter on his tongue. Gods, Zero, the things you do to me. It would drive a lesser vampire insane.

“Hah-“ Zero panted wetly against Kaname, fingers desperately tightening against his back. “Shit, you’re big. I- fuck- “ Kaname pulled back to draw the hunter into another bloody kiss as he started to move, driving into the hunter with steady thrusts of his cock. Kaname’s lips muffled Sero’s moans and whimpers, noise leaving his mouth with every movement. Waves of pleasure coursed through him with each thrust, each drag of Kaname’s cock against his inner walls making his skin tingle and toes curl.

“Harder!” He begged in a loud whine. “F-faster! I- oh fuck, Kaname-“

“Gods, you feel good.” Kaname groaned against Zero’s throat, settling into a punishing rhythm that had Zero clutching at him with desperation and throwing his head back. It bumped harshly into the wall behind him, yet Zero didn’t seem to care. “So tight around me. Like you were made for me.”

The hunter keened as Kaname bent his head, lapping eagerly at a nipple. “Aaah! Ngh- fuck, Kaname!” He was babbling now, unable to think of anything but Kaname and his cock inside of him. His toes curled as the pleasure built with every harsh thrust. Kaname’s fingers were tight on his ass, and he knew he would probably have bruises for a few hours, but that thought that only made Zero wetter.

Zero brought a hand down to rub at his clit, while the other clung desperately to Kaname. He couldn’t keep quiet, noises from his throat filling the room alongside the wet sounds of flesh. There was nothing gentle about this, it was just hard and rough sex the way he liked it. “S-shit, I’m gonna-“

“Do it. Come for me, gorgeous. Come for me, Zero.”

It was the name that did it, the sound of his name on Kaname’s lips. Zero’s mouth opened in a soundless scream, and his body stiffened. His muscles tightened around the pureblood’s cock, as the world around him went white following his release.

He went limp in the pureblood’s arms, shaking in the aftermath of his orgasm. “Kana-“

Kaname woke up quickly. His eyes snapped open, glancing around in confusion for a few seconds before it sank in where he was. Of course. He was back in his room in the moon dormitory. Alone. Something akin to disappointment stung bitterly in his throat.

Beneath the sheets, his cock was still hard, as evident by the apparent tent. Maroon eyes fell closed, remembering the feel of Zero, tight and warm around his cock, his arms holding the hunter up as he-

“Shit,” Kaname dropped his head into his hands. If anything, his cock only hardened further at the memory of his dream. He could try to write this occurrence off as no more than a bodily function, but even he knew that would be a lie. It wasn’t the first time the silver-haired hunter had shown up in his dreams of this… particular nature. Not since that incident a week ago had he been able to get Kiryuu out of his head.

Outside dusk was settling over the sky, indicating time for Kaname to ready himself for class changeover. Willing his ‘problem’ to go away and not succeeding, he stood and made his way over to the adjoining bathroom. A cold shower should do the trick.

It didn’t.

And Kaname was left to deal with his aching erection on his own. He tipped his head back beneath the spray of icy water and wrapped a firm hand around his cock. His mind immediately conjured up images of a certain hunter. Zero with his lips red and swollen, wrapped around Kaname’s cock, staring up at him with those purple eyes of his. Zero groaning into his shoulder, legs wrapped around the pureblood as he fucked into him hard and fast. Zero with his hands fisted in Kaname’s sheets.

Come to think of it, he still didn’t know whether the hunter’s genitals would look like those of a woman or a man. Kaname found he didn’t care even in the slightest. After all, he’d had his fair share of bed partners of both sexes through the years and enjoyed it all the same in the end.

With thoughts of the hunter haunting him and filling his head, Kaname found his release quickly. White spurts of cum coat his stomach and his hand afterward, while he stood there panting under the chilly water. It took a few long seconds before his brain was able to fully comprehend precisely what just happened. I just brought myself to release thinking about Kiryuu of all people.

It was ridiculous. Laughable, really. What exactly was that hunter doing to him? The pureblood shook his head and washed the come off of his body. It’s only lust, perfectly natural. Zero Kiryuu was definitely not hard on the eyes, anyone could see that. Honestly, it wasn’t that far-fetched of him to want the boy. And since Zero would never find out about Kaname’s fantasies of him, all was fine, really.

Kaname stepped out from the shower and silently made his way back to his room, glancing at the time and deciding to pour himself a glass of wine before class. He dropped a blood tablet into the glass, watching it fall to the bottom and dissolve. His thirst was killing him.

He’d barely taken a sip when someone knocked on his door. The pureblood schooled his features into something that didn’t portray the irritation he felt before he cleared his throat and called out to his visitor. “Enter.”

Thankfully it was only Takuma. He was hardly in the mood to face Ruka and Aidou or deal with their petty squabbles. And he certainly wasn’t fond of speaking to Kain either, though that notion seemed to be mutual given how the noble had appeared to be avoiding him as of late.

“Kaname,” Takuma greeted with a bow before rising and wrinkling his nose. “It smells odd in here.”

“Did you need something, Takuma?” Kaname interjected bluntly.

“Hm? Ah yes, Cross sent me. He requests your presence in his office.”

Well, that was odd. The pureblood frowned. “When?”

“At once.”

“I see,” It wasn’t the best time, requesting to meet with him right before scheduled class changeover. And the only time I’ll see Kiryuu, a voice whispered. “Thank you, Takuma. I suppose I should go and see what he wants.”

Another bow. “Of course, Lord Kaname.”

“Dismissed, if that is all.”

Takuma gave him a brief smile before turning on his heel and making his way out of the pureblood’s rooms, leaving Kaname to finish his drink in peace.

Kaname’s thirst lessened as he downed the rest of his wine. Though he found himself wondering what on earth Cross could want. Was it about the wedding, perhaps? Cross had seemed rather disappointed with the news. Yet somehow Kaname doubted that. Well, there was only one way to find out, anyway.

An annoyed groan left Zero’s throat as noticed Kaname approaching him in the long hallway as he waited outside Cross’ office. The hunter leaned back and braced himself on the wall and ground his teeth together. Oh great.

“What the hell do you want?” Zero drawled. The hunter folded his arms with a scowl, nose wrinkling at the smell of the other vampire.

Kaname merely glanced at him coolly in return. “Cross has asked for me if you must know.”

“Oh really, and where did his royal highness hear that?”

“Takuma told me,” Kaname said, pointedly ignoring the sarcastic nickname.

“Ha. Funny. Unfortunately, Yori told me the same thing.” Zero told him flatly and straightened where he was. “So I hate to break it to you, but I think your little lackey fed you bullshit.”

“Takuma wouldn’t lie to me,” The pureblood insisted with a frown. He’d know it if he did. Takuma was a terrible liar. “Perhaps Cross simply made a mistake.”

“Or the man’s finally going senile,” Zero muttered under his breath. He stood from where he was leaning against the wall. What reason could he have to try to force Kaname and him into the same room together? They were like oil and water. They just didn’t mix.

“Perhaps we should just ask the man,” Kaname offered. He swept a hand towards the wooden door before them. “After you.”

Muttering something about ‘getting it over with’ under his breath, Zero strode forward, shoving the pureblood’s arm out of the way. He didn’t even bother to knock before harshly yanking the door open.

Cross looked up from his desk where he’d been hunched over paperwork, pen still in hand. He set it aside, smiling at the sight of them. “Zero! Kaname! Come in, please have a seat!”

Zero pursed his lips, noting absently the stiff grace that the pureblood asshole carried himself with. Arrogant bloodsucker. “Yeah, no. I think I’m good.”

“How rude, Kiryuu.”

The hunter raised his brows at the older vampire. “Coming from you? I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Now, now. Play nice, you two.” Cross chided as Kaname elegantly took a seat across from the man. The older hunter folded his hands together before him, setting his arms on the desk.

“It’ll be a cold day in hell when I ever get along with this prick,” Zero grumbled. He preferred to linger against the tall bookshelf in the office rather than ever sit beside that pureblooded bastard. The younger hunter crossed his arms and glared at the old man. “Let’s just get this over with. What do you want, Cross?”

Cross let out a heavy sigh. “Oh, very well. What do either of you know of a village called Ivorgarde?”

Zero straightened at that. Ivorgarde wasn’t exactly close to the academy. A trip that far would cost maybe a week if one made good time with little to no sleep in between days of riding. Less so, perhaps, if one decided to risk going through the wastelands but that was a death wish. It was a small little village that sat at the base of a treacherous mountain range. Mountains that were often coated in slick ice and crumbling, uneven rocks that threatened to fall at any moment. Not many dared to venture over them for obvious reasons.

“I know of it. Didn’t you send Nains and Bishop there not more than a month ago?”

Cross gave a small nod. “That I did. Nains and Bishop were both sent to search for a trio of junior hunters that turned up missing a few weeks before they left. Unfortunately, after three weeks, we lost contact with them as well.”

“I still don’t see what this has to do with him,” Zero countered and jerked a thumb at Kaname.

“I am getting to that.” Cross firmly said with a pointed look towards his adopted son.

“Now, as I was saying. Ivorgarde, along with several other villages in the area, has been experiencing a series of grisly killings recently. Which was why I sent those hunters there in the first place. People and livestock alike were all turning up dead, reduced to nothing more than a pile of bleeding innards and ribbons of flesh. In addition to that, we have reports of odd noises heard during the night. Howling, scratching, that kind of thing.”

“Were any bodies found in town?” Zero asked, straightening. It was odd to hear of vampires venturing into such a populated area, but it wasn’t entirely unheard of. Still, gruesome, drawn out deaths didn’t sound like any vampire he’d heard of save for perhaps a level E. Surely Nains and Bishop wouldn’t have had a problem dispatching a few level Es if that were the case though.

Cross nodded and pushed his glasses further up his nose, adjusting them slightly. “Yes, They even found a few slaughtered just steps from their front door.”

The younger hunter’s brows furrowed, and he tilted his head slightly. “So that rules out wolves. They wouldn’t venture that close to humans.” It could be a bear, but Ivorgarde wasn’t particularly known for having many bears around and once again, bears were not fond of venturing close to humans. “ Do you think it’s a werewolf? I thought they were supposed to leave humans alone.”

“Indeed, they are, according to the terms we established with them years ago,” Cross answered with a slump of his shoulders and a pensive frown. “Which is disconcerting. We need to find out what’s happening in Ivorgarde and the surrounding villages. If this is more than just a rogue wolf and werewolves have decided to start hunting humans again, then we have a huge problem on our hands. I want you and Kaname to go to Ivorgarde. Find out what you can about this and take care of it quietly.”

“You what?” Zero echoed, freezing where he stood with wide eyes.

Even Kaname blinked in surprise at the older hunter. “I’m sorry, I believe I misheard you, Cross. You wish for me to hunt this wolf, with Kiryuu?”

“He’s not even a hunter!”

“No, he isn’t,” Cross agreed with a sigh. Why must you always make things difficult, Zero? “But whatever creature is killing these humans has killed vampires as well. Dozens of them. As you can imagine, The council isn’t very pleased about that. And of course, it would greatly improve relations between hunters and vampires, with the head of their council working with the heir to the association.”

“Are you joking? You- seriously, this has to be a joke,” A humorless laugh escaped Zero’s throat as he gestured wildly at the pureblood. “You honestly expect me to work with him?”

“Yes, I do.” Cross rubbed at his forehead. Trust Zero to always be so stubborn. He blamed Toga for that in large part. “Zero, someday you will be the head of the association. Whether you want it or not. It’s time you let go of this childish hatred you have for-“

“Childish hatred?” The younger man echoed in disbelief. “I highly doubt it’s fucking childish considering one of his kind fucking killed my family and ruined my life!”

“I understand your anger, Kiryuu,” Kaname spoke finally, irritation leaking through his voice. It bothered him more than he cared to admit, hearing the loathing and venom in the boy’s voice. “But I am not Shizuka Hio. You cannot force all vampires into one category only to suit your prejudices.”

Much as he wished it didn’t, the aversion and disgust in Zero’s voice smarted. All the loathing in Zero’s voice stung like salt in a wound he never knew he had.

The silver-haired boy turns away with a scowl etched in place. Vampires had taken everything from him. They took his parents, his brother, his sister and even the remainder of his fucking life thanks to that stupid bite. And when that wasn’t enough, they had to go and take the person he loved. Every damn thing he’d ever had, ripped away from him by those bloodsuckers. While they lived happily in their plush mansions like kings. Arrogant pieces of shit.

No, his hatred is justified. He’d earned his contempt, his right to be angry. No one would take that away from him.

“Fine,” He gritted out, looking determinedly away from the pureblood. Zero could do this. He would do this. Just a simple job—in and out, no problem. I can deal with this asshole for a few weeks. “But when this moron gets himself hurt or killed, I am not going to be responsible.”

Kaname’s eyebrow ticked with annoyance at the ‘when’ not ‘if.’ “I assure you, I am more than capable of taking care of myself, Kiryuu.”

The hunter gave him a suspicious glance and looked him up and down. Specifically, Zero gave the pristine cloth uniform and the pureblood’s soft hands that had clearly never seen a day of work in his life, a sneer. “Guess we’ll see, won’t we?”

“Excellent!” Cross exclaimed with a happy clap of his hands, oblivious of the rising tension between both vampires. He waved hurriedly at both vampires. “Now go, shoo, pack your things. You’ll leave at first light.”

Zero groaned at having to deal with Kuran so soon. He was hoping he’d at least have a few days’ reprieve before heading off. It seemed luck was not on his side today. “Whatever. Just meet me in the stables tomorrow, Kuran.”

Chapter Text

Zero woke bright and early the next morning, forcing himself out of bed before the sun was even up. His bag containing a bit of food since hunting might not be possible for a while with the route he was planning to take. Hunting in the wastelands was just asking for trouble, and not even Zero was that thick. In the bag as well were several bottles of fresh water, medical supplies, and other items that might come in handy. There’s a saying amongst hunters. Better over prepared than underprepared.

Well, that and one other common phrase. Those who enter the wasteland are either stupid or suicidal.

Zero figured he must be both.

The brown bag was packed and laid in the corner of his small room and ready to be secured to a saddle. Along with a rolled-up tent, sleeping mats and the usual gear he stored away for longer hunts. That’s all this was. Just a regular hunt, away for a few weeks. Albeit with extra baggage this time.

He took his sweet time in the shower that morning, savoring the warm, clean water on his skin. It would most likely be a while before he got to have this again, so he’d take the time he had. When his fingers finally pruned under the water, he decided it was finally time to step out. While dressing, he eyed the ring on the countertop, hesitating briefly over wearing it or not. It was a dumb idea with Kuran around, but without it, he felt strangely naked.

Fuck it. Zero reached for the familiar necklace and fastened it around his neck before tucking it beneath his shirt.

The hunter made a brief stop in the cafeteria to snag a protein bar and some coffee. He would need it. His stomach was too queasy to hold down much else though, filled with the usual jitters most hunters get right before a job.

After forcing down a bit of food, Zero lugged his packs over to the stables across campus. There, White Lily greeted him with a leisurely swish of her tail and impatient stomping until he walked over to greet her.

“Hey, old girl,” He soothed, petting her muzzle softly. Next to her was the other horse that would be Kaname’s. A much tamer and younger chestnut gelding, one who looked to be asleep now where he stood.

White Lily was rarely easy to saddle, and this time proved no different. She seemed to constantly fidget and squirm underneath Zero’s touch or sucked in her breath, forcing him to redo the whole process. It took an entire hour and half a dozen sugar cubes to bribe her enough that Zero could place the saddle on her.

“See? That wasn’t so bad now, was it?” Zero smoothed a hand down over her big muzzle, smiling when she pressed into the touch. The horse nickered at him and leaned forward enough to nibble on strands of her human’s silver hair. A chuckle escaped Zero as he stepped away. “Hey!”

White Lily stared at him with her big, dark eyes, not an ounce of remorse in her gaze. She sighed in soft disappointment at both the lack of Zero’s attention and any more sugar cubes she thought to weasel out of him.

By then the chestnut gelding, named Zephyr had woken up and looked on in curiosity at the whole scene. Thankfully he took to saddling much easier than the cranky mare beside him and let Zero suit him up without a hitch.

“You could learn a thing or two from him,” The hunter drawled with a glance at White Lily. She snorted, as though finding the very idea preposterous. It earned her a light chuckle from Zero though.

White Lily had been Zero’s only constant companion as far back as he can remember. Ever since he’d raised her from a foal, she’d understood him in a way that no one—not even Yuuki, had understood. When Zero needed space away from everyone? White Lily was always there to offer silent comfort, without added, unwanted conversation. When he needed a distraction or to be on his own? She was always ready to go for a ride, carrying him far and fast across the school grounds and through the forest. And on the rare occasions that the hunter needed a swift kick to his ass? She was happy to offer that as well—accompanying bruises free of charge.

Zero didn’t let himself get close to people. There was just too much headache and heartache involved with emotions and feelings, and just, no thanks. But White Lily wasn’t a person. She was his friend, his confidant, his constant companion. They’d been through thick and thin together—the old mare having carried him through at least a dozen missions and saving him from a few close calls. There was a bond between the hunter and White Lily, one that Zero wouldn’t give up for anything, no matter how stubborn she was.

Zero heard the doors to the stable creak open simultaneously as the unmistakable scent of pureblood invaded his nose. He turned to greet Kuran with pursed lips and stopped.

“What is that?” Zero asked dryly. His eyes roved over the pureblood’s clothing. A dark blouse, loose trousers, and shoes that looked more fit for literally anything other than riding. The hunter raised a brow and folded his arms.

The hunter was dressed much differently. He wore a strange-looking dark gray and black jacket that crossed over his chest in different places along with a pair of thick, brown leather boots. Zero’s pants were black and made of a much rougher, more durable fabric than the pureblood’s, and he wore a pair of dark gloves over his hands meant for riding. A deep, navy cowl lied crumpled around his neck, connected with a scarf that could be lifted to cover one’s nose and mouth.

“You realize we’re hunting a werewolf, not going to a gala, right?”

“Of course, I do.”

“Because that isn’t fit for riding at all,” The hunter told him with a gesture towards the pureblood’s outfit. “Give me a second. Wait here.”

Zero turned and disappeared for a moment into the back of the stables, where he set their bags down. He bent down and opened one, rustling around in the crowded bag for a minute or two before emerging triumphantly.

There was a bundle of thick, dark clothing in his arms when he returned to Kaname. He held a pair of riding boots somewhere around Kuran’s size, an armored vest and a hooded cloak along with a dark cowl. He’d almost snagged an extra pair of his own pants and a spare shirt, figuring they’re close enough in size before looking back at the pureblood. No, scratch that—there was no way the hunter’s clothing would fit the pureblood. For fuck’s sake, the man was built like a damn tree!

“Put these on.” He demanded, shoving them into the pureblood’s arms. Unfortunately, the pants and the shirt would just have to do for now.

Kaname gave him a shrewd look at being ordered around but reluctantly did as he was asked. He tugged on the thick coverings over his own clothing before looking at Zero with confusion on his face. “Can I ask why the cowl?”

Instead of answering him, Zero spread out a sheet of parchment on a nearby table and waved him over.

Kaname followed, standing over the hunter’s shoulder to look at the dark ink spread across the page. It was a map, he realized. Illustrating Cross Academy and the forest surrounding it, along with the nearby village and a dark stain above all of that. Beyond the stain laid small, jagged lines drawn to represent mountains.

“When was the last time you even left town?” The hunter asked with a quirked brow.

“Most likely years ago. I don’t often find that my business takes me away from the Academy, and when it does, the routes I take are well-traveled.” Kaname admitted with a shrug.

“Figures,” Zero muttered before gesturing to the map. “See that spot?” He jabbed a finger at a spot of ink beyond the mountains, surrounded by more drawn trees.

“That’s Ivorgarde, where we’re going. Now ordinarily, most people would just take the long way around the mountains over here. But that takes weeks, and we don’t have that kind of time.”

Dozens of people and vampires dead already, that was what Cross had said. “No, we don’t.”

“So, we’re going to go straight through the mountains,” Zero announced. “I know of a pass that shouldn’t be too risky this time of the year, except for the occasional group of bandits. But to get to those mountains, we have to go through the wastelands.”

“Sounds charming,”

Zero chuckled darkly at the sarcasm in the pureblood’s tone. “Yeah. Believe me, they have their name for a reason. Even now that area is teeming with radioactive fallout, toxic water and air that can burn your skin down to the bones if you’re exposed to it for too long. Our vampirism would make sure we survive, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t painful as shit. That’s what the cowl is for.”

“What about the horses? Won’t they be affected as well?”

“Nope. White Lily and Zephyr here are black bloods, a rare breed. It means that the toxins in the air won’t hurt them as badly as it does us.”

Unfortunately, it was also painting a target on their backs. Black bloods were rare and sold for a pretty price. Ah well, they’d just have to watch their backs then.

Then Kaname turned his attention to both horses. Zephyr looked to be the calmer and more docile of the two, with a sleek chestnut coat and his head lowered as he fixed the pureblood with dark eyes.

White Lily, however, towered over the other horse, her smooth white mane and coat brushed and cleaned. She pinned her ears back at the pureblood, front feet stomping on the ground. She dwarfed Zephyr in comparison and easily stood above him and Zero.

The pureblood stepped back from the mare.

“Hey,” Zero chided her softly as he adjusted the bags on her side. “Play nice.”

In response, the mare gave a soft nicker and butted her head against the hunter’s shoulder. Zero allowed a rare smile to grace his features as he reached up to pet her muzzle, rewarded by her pushing her head further against the hand.

Kaname’s gaze softened as he watched the two. It wasn’t every day he—or anyone - got to see Zero like this, unguarded and happy, bereft of his usual glare or scowl. He stared longer than he cared to admit at the faint trace of smile adorning Zero’s features, before turning away as Zero’s eyes flickered over to him.

“So, what dangers can we expected in these wastelands?” Kaname questioned instead, trying to chase the hunter from his thoughts.

The hunter sighed and frowned to himself. The more he thought about this plan, the more idiotic it sounded. “Well, that’s the thing. No one knows. They’re sort of a dead zone. No one bothers to venture in most of the time and those that do- “

“Never make it out.” Kaname finished for him.

“Got it in one. Not to say that none live. Some do, but their stories are usually wild enough to be passed off as bullshit. Or drunken ramblings.”

Ah, so they were heading into this endeavor near blind then. “Lovely,”

Zero smirked slow and cruel as he cocked a hip and looked at the pureblood. “Aw, don’t tell me your scared, Highness?”

“Of course not.”

Zero snickered quietly under his breath at the vehement denial.

“Sure, sure. Whatever you say.” They’d be fine anyway. As a hunter, venturing into dangerous territory and whatnot came with the job, so this was far from unusual for Zero. Having a powerful pureblood was a bonus. The hunter was confident that together they’d be able to handle anything that crossed their path.

White Lily’s nostrils flared as the pureblood accidentally drifted closer to the mare and she pinned her ears back against her head. She gave a few angering stomps of her hooves and swished her tail in agitation. Kaname stiffened and took a cautious step backward.

“Oh, I’d be careful around Lily. She’s got one hell of a temper and doesn’t take kindly to people.” Zero informed him belatedly. “Don’t worry, you won’t be riding her. You’ll be riding this young one over here, Zephyr.”

Zephyr greeted the pureblood much more calmly than the mare. He looked hesitant at first but quickly warmed to Kaname’s presence with a few apples and sugar cubes. Within a few moments, he was pushing his muzzle into the pureblood’s hand with a happy little whicker.

“I can see you’ve been busy,” Kaname noted with a look towards the bags each horse was carrying.

The hunter blinked at him, unsure whether that was a compliment or an insult. It sounded like a compliment more than the latter, which made it even odder to hear it out of Kuran’s mouth. Call him paranoid, but Zero couldn’t help but be suspicious.

“That I have.” He settled on as a neutral response. Zero tightened a strap on Zephyr’s saddlebag and buckled it closed.

“He’s all yours,” Zero announced, stepping away from the gelding and letting Kaname approach him. His eyebrows rose in mild surprise at how easily the pureblood hefted himself up into the saddle, easily taking hold of the horse. The familiarity in his grip was surprising.

“I used to ride,” Kaname said for a way of an explanation when he saw the hunter raising his brows. “Quite often, in fact. It was one of the few past times I enjoyed.”

“Why’d you stop?”

“Life got in the way,” The brunette murmured. His eyes were somewhere far away when he spoke.

The hunter got the distinct impression he was approaching a tender subject, and it sent an uncomfortable shiver down his spine.

“Well, much as I’d love to stay here chatting all day, we’re burning daylight. Let’s get going.”

The first few hours of their journey were less than eventful. Zero led White Lily ahead of the pureblood in silence, sitting rigid as a statue upon the mare, with Kaname following a short way behind him, dark hood pulled up over his head.

Not only because of the sun. No, it had been years since he ventured out beyond the village, but his odd appearance wouldn’t go unnoticed—it hadn’t back then, and it wouldn’t now.

Zero handled the stubborn, ill-tempered mare with ease. He steered her with a firm hand and kept her in line, not that she seemed to fight the hunter much. No, she seemed happy to go along with whatever the hunter on her back decided. Then again, this was probably routine for them Kaname realized.

Sounds of twigs breaking underfoot and wildlife scurrying around in the trees above them, and the surrounding bushes were the only sounds that filled the air. Overhead sunlight filtered through branches, shadowing on shapes on the ground.

And then the woods abruptly stopped. There was no other way to put it. The trees and greenery came to a sudden stop, bordered by miles and miles of a thick fog before them. Zero halted and let the vampire step up beside him.

Through the dense mist, he could make out putrid, black water interspersed with sodden, black ground, and misshapen trees. A horrid, sulfuric smell filled the air and Kaname could hear something not-quite water lapping at a shore. It sounded too thick and viscous to be water, yet the thought of it being anything else was disturbing enough for him to dismiss it.

Hot, vicious winds whipped at the pureblood’s face when he looked up, his skin reddening as it burned. He yanked his head down with a hiss. Odd, misshapen trees jutted out of the swampy ground ahead, bereft of all leaves or foliage.

“Here we are,” Zero announced dryly. He swept an arm out ahead of him as he tugged his scarf up over the lower half of his face. “The Wastelands. In all their glory.”

There was nothing ahead of them as far as the eye could see except dank swamp. No wildlife to be seen. Even the plants looked oddly shaped and discolored. The sky had an unhealthy green-yellow tint to it. The hunter’s vision wavered in the heat, and he forced down any trepidation. Zero yanked his cowl up to cover his nose and mouth before grasping the reins again.

An old, wooden walkway stood above the muck of the swampy lands, rotted in places and bent or broken in others. Far from ideal, it would have to do. The alternative would be to wade through the water laden with all kinds of toxic chemicals, and god knows what else. Zero would take his chances with the walkway.

Zero nudged Lily on and tipped his head down to avoid the stinging winds that tugged at his clothes with harsh movements. It didn’t stop his eyes from watering as he moved. Every step was a fighting effort, pushing against the chaotic winds and stifling humidity. At some point, he wasn’t even sure that Kaname was behind him anymore, but he couldn’t risk looking back.

Sometime later, the storm—or whatever it was—calmed down and ceased. The winds settled into an oppressive heat that laid over the wastelands like a blanket. Zero glanced around and found Kaname still behind him on the walkway, miraculously.

“Why do you continue to loathe your own kind so much?” Kaname asked suddenly, breaking the silence that had fallen across the land as the storm subsided. He knew it was a dangerous question to ask, and he was risking a bullet by doing so. But with only silent mist as their company out here, there wasn’t much to do besides talk. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t curious.

“Thought we already went over this,” The hunter clipped back, scowling beneath his coverings even as he knew Kaname couldn’t see it.

“Yes, but you haven’t told me why. Does it not get tiring, hating yourself for nothing more than being what you are?”

“I didn’t choose this.”

“No one does. None of us ever desired to be born a vampire, Zero.” Kaname narrowed his eyes at the boy’s back. “You aren’t the only one who has lost people. Hunters and vampires. We’ve all lost people to the other side. This prejudice of yours is selfish and childish.”

Zero’s grip on White Lily tightened. His knuckles went white beneath his gloves. “Vampires took everything from me. You wouldn’t understand.”

“There are many others who would say the same of hunters, no?” The pureblood countered. “I’ve seen them, myself. Families torn apart or massacred by hunters. Your kind.”

“That isn’t-“ Zero stopped.

“That isn’t what? Are you trying to say that not all hunters are like that? That the actions of a few do not speak for all hunters?” Kaname prodded. “There are two sides to every story, Kiryuu.”

Not everything is what it seems. The murder of an innocent was self-defense in the eyes of another. There was always more than one side.

“I doubt it was self-defense when my family was slaughtered in their fucking sleep,” The hunter hissed back, unable to contain his anger any longer. “But oh please, continue to tell me how dangerous my parents were being asleep in their own bed. Tell me how dangerous an eight-year-old child is!”

“That isn’t what I meant, Kiryuu. I never meant to insinuate that your family’s deaths- “

“Oh, fuck you, that’s exactly what you meant.” Zero laughed harshly. “Don’t you dare try to tell me my parents’ deaths were deserved, Kuran. You don’t have that fucking right. Don’t you try to fucking tell me that To- “

The hunter stopped himself just short of letting his old lover’s name, leaving his lips. He didn’t want Kaname to know of Tomas, unable to stomach the thought of the other man’s name leaving the pureblood’s lips. Tomas was the one thing he’d had that Kaname had never tarnished with his filthy little fingers. Like hell was Zero letting him touch even the memory of the man.

“What were you about to say?” Kaname questioned, his interest piqued now.

“Nothing.”

“No, I heard that. What was it?”

“Kuran. I can, and I will leave you out here in the wastelands to either slowly starve or death or let some poor animal tear you apart if you don’t shut the fuck up right now. Understood?”

For the first time, it occurred to Kaname he didn’t know anything about this place. He hadn’t the faintest clue how to navigate these desolate lands. They were well and truly in Zero’s territory now, his area of expertise.

In all fairness, he hadn’t meant to anger the hunter. But naturally, Zero drew the wrong conclusions and lashed out in his usual fit of anger. The pureblood sighed. Of course, the deaths of the boy’s parents would be a sore subject, he should have thought before he spoke. It was probably best to let it lie for now.

“Understood.”

Zero urged White Lily into a canter, needing to put distance between him and the pureblood right now.

They came to a crossroads in the walkway eventually, a large circle with four bridges leading off in either direction. Dark branches loomed ominously over them, casting dark shadows and blocking out the moonlight. In the distance, an animal released a long, wailing noise.

Zero drew to a stop turned White Lily to face him and tugged his cowl down enough he could speak with broken, chapped lips. “Let’s set up camp for the night.”

It wasn’t a question, and Kaname didn’t have a response even if it had been. Purebloods rarely tired but his poor gelding could probably use the rest. He gave a short nod and dismounted from Zephyr. Above them stars twinkled, yet despite night falling, the desolate lands remained as hot and treacherous as ever.

The hunter barked out a sharp word in a language unknown to the pureblood, and the horses stilled before lying down.

“Are you certain they won’t run off?” Not that Zephyr seemed like the type to do so, but Lily looked as though she would do such a thing if only to spite Kaname.

“These two are trained for hunters to use,” Zero explained. “They’re trained to listen to commands. Besides, they’re smarter than they look. If they know what’s good for them, they’ll stay put.” He finished, before removing the tent he’d brought along from White Lily’s saddle.

“You said that not many know what lives out here,” The pureblood commented as Zero attempted to set up their tent on the small wooden platform.

“Yeah,” Zero confirmed.

“I cannot imagine much of anything living out here. It’s so desolate. How would anything survive?”

“Oh, you’d be surprised.”

Zero finished setting up their shelter for the night. It was small—barely big enough to hold both sleeping rolls, but it would have to do.

They mutually agreed that it was best to forego any fire for the night. Aside from the very-much-flammable wood beneath their feet, there was wildlife out here that neither of them had encountered. Best not to draw unnecessary attention to themselves.

Kaname followed Zero into the cramped little tent, zipping up and securing the opening more for the hunter’s peace of mind than his own. In a few deft movements, Zero removed the cowl covering most of his head.

He hadn’t known how much he missed the sight of the hunter. Long lashes batted against pale cheeks, and silver hair stuck up in every direction, tousled and unkempt. Kaname forgot how to breathe for several seconds.

“Hey—you okay?” Zero questioned, leaning close to scrutinize the pureblood. Kaname hid his lengthening fangs behind his lips.

“Perfectly fine,” He clipped, and if his voice was more rough than usual, the hunter either didn’t notice or chose not to comment on it.

“You were staring.”

“Perhaps I was,” Kaname commented. It was no use denying it now. “I’ve always held an appreciation for the finer things in life.” His voice dipped low, words coming out in a husky purr.

To his dismay, Zero’s cheeks flushed pink at that. He jerked his gaze away from the pureblood, staring resolutely at the cloth wall of the tent instead.

“Whatever. Just keep it in your pants.” He bit out, concentrating on trying to calm the way his heart quickened at those words. Only it wasn’t Kaname that Zero envisions but a cocky smirk and a dark ponytail that swung when the taller man moved. A rough, low voice,

“Z- “

Kaname chuckled under his breath. “But you look so pretty when you blush like that.”

“Kuran. I swear to god I will kick you out of this goddamn, fucking tent.” Zero was thankful that his voice didn’t shake, betraying how perturbed he was at the memories of Tomas surfacing. It didn’t make sense. Kaname was nothing like Tomas. He wasn’t even half of the man Tomas had been.

The pureblood backed off at that and raised his hands in surrender.

Although Kaname had meant every word he said. It was strange that he was just now noticing how striking the Kiryuu boy was. And the fire in those eyes, sparking defiance at every turn, never failed to make his blood race.

The beast inside of him rose at the challenge it saw presented before itself. Mine, mate, bite, it whispered, urging him on. Oh, how it wanted the other vampire and Kaname was not opposed to the idea himself.

Zero had always stood up to Kaname with no problems, effortlessly spitting venom in his face and disobeying whenever it pleased him. He refused to be kowtowed by the pureblood merely because of his status. He was the only one who could ever match the pureblood—Kaname’s equal. No one could ever come close to the enigma that was Zero Kiryuu.

Zero tilting his head back in ecstasy, plump lips parting eagerly on a moan.

The hunter’s pale flesh turning pink and purple under his attention. Zero’s hands tightening in his hair, tugging him closer.

“Kaname,” Zero’s breath on his lips, whimpering his name.

Images rose unbidden to the pureblood’s mind. He squashed them before his body reacted. Yes, he wanted the stubborn, defiant hunter before him. More than he’d wanted anything in centuries. He wanted to bury his fangs in Zero’s neck, to taste the very blood that flowed in his veins while the hunter writhed beneath him and moaned out his name in pleasure.

“Oi, Kuran,” Said hunter prodded, forcing the pureblood out of his thoughts. Kaname schooled his features into something neutral as he turned towards Zero. Mine.

Zero offered a bottle filled with fresh water. Meanwhile, the silver-haired boy himself was chewing on some flavorless jerky, after choking down a bland ration bar and washing it down with water. It wasn’t a gourmet meal by any means, but he’d grown used to the flavorless rations by now. Besides, it only had to last until they were out of the wastelands and able to hunt.

“Thank you,” Kaname murmured, accepting the drink. “And I am sorry for what I said earlier. I misspoke. I didn’t mean to upset you, Kiryuu.”

Call him crazy, but whether it was the strange fumes getting to him or something else affecting Zero’s head, but he believed Kaname for once. Maybe the pureblood wasn’t as bad as he thought he was. “Don’t mention it.”

 

Chapter Text

So, the title of this chapter pretty much says it all. Unfortunately, I knew in the beginning that starting this fic was going to be a lot of work as I still have to write it in addition to editing and posting the chapters. And while I'm still posting chapters of my other fic, Real Hearts Don't Lie as well as being busy with a full-time college course load and other responsibilities of mine. And right now I'm sorry to say that it's just gotten to be wayyy too much for me to keep up with and the stress is making me sick. I'm really sorry guys, I overestimated my capabilities and I just need to take a breather right now. I'll still be updating RHDL, so don't worry if you're an avid follow of that fic. But right now I can't handle the stress of writing and editing one story and uploading another.

 

However, I'm NOT giving up or abandoning this fic. I still have about the next 10 chapters written already. I will come back to this fic once things calm down a bit more and I can actually breathe. I promise you all that. Again, I'm really fucking sorry about this and I hope you all understand. Thanks!