/ / Prologue: Some Things Stay the Same / /

Disclaimer/Notes: Let's start with the obvious. I own lots of candy, a fair amount of manga, and a cool little green shirt with clouds on it, but I don't own Vampire Knight. Now that that's out of the way—I'll just say it straight. Umm... ThisisanAlternateUniversefic! (watches people run away screaming) Yeah... I'm usually a stick-to-the-right-universe kind of girl, but thanks to my sister's suggestion to make all the metaphors in Vampire Knight real, this story was born. If any series is ripe for an Alternate Universe story, I think it's probably Vampire Knight, what with the Knight metaphor and all the other comparisons. There will be no spoilers in this story, of course, but unless you've read the manga up to chapter 38, my reasons for placing some of the characters as I did may be confusing. Another thing I should probably just say right away: This is a Zero x Yuuki fic. Please bear with me for a little bit. I promise things will start making sense... eventually.

"Yuuki," he said. "Yuuki... Yuuki," like her name was a lifeboat that he desperately gripped onto. His teeth ground furiously into his lips as he tried to keep himself from crying out.

She spoke quietly, gently, her small, child-like arms wrapped around his slender body. "Shh..." And she didn't say it was okay, because she knew it wasn't. "Shh... I'll be here. I'll be here, so you won't be alone."

His body shook with violent, silent sobs, his usually unperturbable demeanor crashing down in front of his eyes, and she held him, tightening her grip until her fingers turned white, but it was okay, because she was sure that if she let go, he'd fall to pieces. She was afraid for him, and broken by his brokenness, so she just continued to hold on. "I'll never go. I'm not going to leave you!" Not like his parents had.

"Never..." she promised.

Just three days later, Zero turned thirteen.

After six days, the Kiryuu family had lost their status, and had been branded as traitors to the crown. Two weeks later, Yuuki left. Then a month and a half following that, he suffered his first major attack, and Zero knew that he could no longer be who he had once been. Promises made were often left unkept, no matter how strong your resolve to keep them, and even the most familiar of things could be torn from you before you could do anything to stop it.

Four years passed, and many, many things changed. One thing remained the same, though. When he was in pain, it was her he always called for, even though he was not conscious of the fact that he did so.

But some things did change.

Now, when he said her name into the fevered silence, she never answered. Now, she lived among people he hated, and she didn't remember him at all.

And maybe it was better for her that way.

/ / Four Years Later / /

It was a fateful day in more ways than one when Yuuki asked to attend defense lessons in the lower guard.

"I really hate for you to do this, Yuuki," Kaname had said. "It's so dangerous."

Yuuki raced down the long stone steps and into the large, open space where the lower guard was stationed. She felt strangely relieved, but also discouraged by Kaname's obvious distaste for her idea. She had really hoped that he would support her. But either way, she did not allow her determination to waver.

It had been something Yuuki had put an awful lot of thought into. She wanted to learn how to defend herself. And this, at least, was one thing she wasn't giving up on.

Halfway through a blindingly sunny day down in the lower sections of the towering city, Yuuki sighed, watching as another man fell.

And what would she be willing to bet that Kaname had informed the guard of her impending arrival, and promised to hurt anyone who dared to actually fight her seriously? Yuuki stewed a little, then addressed the group of men. "Kaname put you up to this, right?" she asked tiredly. His overprotectiveness was characteristic, and though she understood it, sometimes it was exhausting. The very thing she was trying to avoid, and she'd come across it even down here.

"Of course not!" one of the men rushed to reassure her. "Of course not, Princess."

Her eyes swept the crowd of soldiers, meeting all the eager eyes as her heart sank. Then, suddenly, her gaze stopped. "You!" she said. "Hey, you! I want you to match me."

Her eyes met a matching pair of the most peculiar color, and something inside her lurched, though, for the life of her, she could not explain why. "You!" she repeated.

She got no response. The boy stood, and, without a single word, threaded through the crowd, moonlight-colored hair distinctly visible all the way, and disappeared around the corner of the worn stone guard tower.

"How dare he!" Yuuki said.

"Sorry, Miss," spoke the captain. "That was Yagari. He's very insubordinate. I apologize on his behalf."

Yuuki shook her head. "Please don't," she said. "Thank you for your time. I'm done here for today."

"It was nothing!" the captain bubbled.

Yuuki departed, because she knew that the soldiers would not go back to work until she was gone. Across the courtyard, Yori began walking toward her. A tired smile washed over Yuuki's face. Yori laughed. "How was training today?"

Yuuki's face flitted through a myriad of expressions before stopping on confusion. "Do you think I've gotten any better?"

"It's only been a day, Yuuki..."

Yuuki sighed and kicked up some dust. "This sucks."

Yori nudged Yuuki until the girl acknowledged her existence with a soft smile. "Don't worry about it. I'm sure Hanabusa would be more than happy to train with you."

Yuuki couldn't help the expression of utter horror that spilled onto her face. "Last time I met him in the courtyard, he licked my hand! I mean... eww?"

"Akatsuki, then?"

"Kaname's men," Yuuki sighed. "Did he put you up to this?"

"No," Yori said. "You know how I feel about the nobles, but you were looking for someone to treat you as an equal, weren't you?"

A long pause stretched between them. "So... about that odd boy..."

Yori snorted. "Which one?"

"You didn't—?" Yuuki bit her lip. "Never mind. I should probably go tell Kaname that I came out all right. See you later, Yori."

"Of course."

Sometimes it was so easy to forget that Yori was a commoner and a servant. Sometimes it was so easy to forget what Yuuki, herself, was.

The smile that had blossomed in Yori's presence withered a little bit as she walked up the cold steps to her room. She couldn't bring herself to knock on Kaname's door right now. As eager as she was to tell him about her day and about the odd boy who hadn't listened to her, she felt a little bit like an intruder in this exquisite perfection. She fell onto her bed and was asleep within minutes.

Somewhere into the night, she heard her door creak open, and then felt pressure at her bedside. "Yuuki." It was Kaname. He had come. She offered him a sleepy smile of delight, but exhaustion wouldn't let her open her eyes all the way. "Kaname-sama," she said.

"Just Kaname," he told her.

Of course.

"Sorry, Kaname. Tired. Had fun today."

"That's wonderful." His lips touched to her palm, and the place where they made contact tingled. "Good night, Yuuki. Sleep well."

She smiled up into his eyes. "G'Night."

And she was asleep again before the door closed behind him. She dreamt of tingles on her palms, and of Kaname, but somehow, an odd boy crept into the dream somewhere, and with him he brought memories she thought she'd lost a long time ago, of dry laughter by a creek bed, and of trying to get someone to sit still for a portrait she was drawing (badly). She dreamt of lighthearted taunting and a happiness that was simple and yet so wonderful, but when she awoke, the memories were gone, and she felt a profound emptiness, as if she'd slept half her life away and couldn't remember what she'd missed.

She woke to embroidered curtains of the finest cloth, in a bed where she sunk relaxedly, but as the dream taunted the edges of her consciousness with its passing, she felt like she would do anything to fall asleep again, and stay that way forever.

Soon, reality set in, and memories of Kaname's entrance into the room last night stole everything else away. Her cheeks colored pink and a smile lit across her face. She ran out to find him, but when he could finally excuse himself from the company of an elderly noble, she had forgotten what she had been going to say.

"Last night!" she blurted, immediately embarrassing herself.

Kaname smiled. "I didn't mean to wake you. You were sleeping so soundly."

"Umm...!" She mentally slapped herself. She only seemed capable of speaking in squeaky exclamations when it came to this man.


"I'm going to go train today..."

The only words she got out at a normal volume, and she just had to say something like that.

Kaname's smile faded. "I wish you wouldn't."

"I..." Where had her determination gone?

Kaname read her face correctly, and conceded. "I understand that you won't listen to reason. That's fine. Make sure that Yori attends. I would send Seiren, but—"

"No!" The solemn noble scared Yuuki a little bit. "Please. Yori is wonderful."

"Be safe," Kaname said. His words were clipped, almost cold, telling without words how much he wished she'd change her mind, but as much as Yuuki wanted to please him, she wished for just this one, single indulgence.

Yuuki walked away without a word, running as soon as she reached the first corner. "Sorry," she murmured. But once she got to the room, the embarassment had evaporated into barely-veiled excitement. "Yori?"

But one of the servants informed her that Yori was attending to her duties at the moment.

So Yuuki went alone. She went slower than usual on the path down to the guard tower, lost in thought.

Suddenly, a voice echoed to her from somewhere far away.

"Yagari's out again today. What's gotten into that guy? Anyone else and he'd be out of the job. I don't get why the captain puts up with him."

A harsh laugh, like something rough scraping against brick, followed the derisive words, echoing into the near-silence. "I hear it's someone up top. You know..." The voice dropped to a lower tone, and all Yuuki caught was, "... captain ... Royal Guard ... Touga Yagari ... name." The voice raised, and the speaker conspiratorially repeated, "Same name, you see? Something's definitely up with that."

The voices carried to where she stood, and it was only then that Yuuki realized she had stopped at the moment when she heard that boy's name.

"Must've done something real bad to get put down here with us commoners, you know."

Yuuki bit her lip and walked on. The path down to the guard station was a dimly lit spiral staircase that branched out into many different alleys and open spaces, which led into the various settlements surrounding the top-most section of the castle. Commoners were at the bottom, and those with noble blood of varying purity lived in the higher floors. The only way those two guards could have gotten up there to gossip was protection duty.

The enclosed staircase threw back the deafening echoes of her footsteps as she hurried down. At last, she reached the bottom, and welcomed the beating glare of the sun. Yuuki turned toward the large protrusion on the stone wall up ahead—the guard station, and its training grounds for soldiers.

She immediately made her way to the captain.

"Is there something you'd like to ask of me, Princess?"

"Yes," Yuuki said quietly, and wondering why she cared, continued, "May I ask where that boy Yagari has gone?"

The captain's face immediately closed up. "That one is...ill today, I'm afraid. But why would you be asking after him?"

He was asking the question that, to an extent, Yuuki was asking herself. In the end, it all came down to the fact that she had been rudely ignored. She wasn't used to that, and it had actually been twistedly refreshing. But if she said it to this subservient soldier, he'd surely think she had lost her mind.

"I'm sorry to have been a bother to you, Captain. I hate to impose, but would it be possible for me to watch the training session today?"

And as always, the captain agreed to her request before his mind could have possibly processed it.

Yuuki just watched today, observing as the soldiers were pitted against each other in an attempt to strengthen their skill in real-world combat. She saw the determination and brutality to their movements, and began to wonder if their sparring with her was just a joke to them—entertaining the Princess for a day.

A particularly violent strike drew blood, spattering the red liquid generously over sun-baked dirt.

The captain was quick to stand beside her. "I'm so sorry, Miss! This happens from time to time. I wish you didn't have to see it. Please... please send Kaname-sama my apologies for allowing you to—"

Yuuki smiled, and she couldn't keep the bitterness out of it. "Of course."

Without anything further, she walked away, taking the stairs two at a time and mumbling to herself all the way. Her steps made unecessarily loud echoes on the stone stairs. She was so caught up in herself that she didn't realize that another person was hurrying down the stairs just as quickly, until she bumped into him. She didn't recognize the man, but he was extremely tall, with wild-looking brown hair that completely obscured his right eye. Yuuki tried to see his other eye—this man looked like a noble, but she couldn't tell—but he turned away.

He hurried down beside her and turned right into the first level of the rising city. It was where the guards lived.

She heard the man mutter something like, "Damn! Sooner! Those idiots need to tell me sooner when this happens..." before disappearing.

Confused, Yuuki stood there, staring into the place where the man had disappeared.

Somewhere, she thought she heard an agonized cry.

Zero was absolutely positive that his heart stopped—and stayed that way—when he saw her face through the crowd of onlookers early that morning in the training grounds.

The first time he saw her after four years, she looked just the same as she always had, and though her vivid hair was just a little longer than she'd worn it as a child, those wide amber eyes had not changed one bit. Her body was still slight; he was sure she wouldn't ever be very tall.

He had the distinct desire to touch her, just to make sure she was really there, that she wasn't something born from his fevered delusions.

As soon as the notion entered his mind, everything started crashing down. She was different now. She was one of them. And... even if she hadn't changed, he had. He'd changed too much. Even his last name had been altered to keep him undiscovered. He'd never expected to see her again, never allowed himself to consciously entertain the idea.

He was not fit for her, nor had he ever been.

Yuuki was everything he hated, but somehow ... somehow, he couldn't stop loving her.

And that was the most dangerous part of it all.

Notes: All done with the first chapter! All the weirdness will be explained, I promise! I even made an outline to keep my twisted thoughts in order. I'm having a lot of fun writing this, and can't wait to write Zero and all the other characters much more. (But especially Zero.) Please Review? I'd appreciate any thoughts beyond all possible comprehension, since I'm freaking out in about one hundred and seventeen ways right now.