Disclaimer: I do not own Vampire Knight, Yuki, Zero, Kaname, or any of its other characters. If I did, Yuki wouldn't be torn between Zero and Kaname, and Zero would be her definite choice, and there'd be another way to save Zero's life. The only person I own is Kuroma Yaseiri, so please don't steal him (when he makes his appearance in later stories)

IMPORTANT AUTHOR'S NOTE: For those of you who have not read my profile, I'd like to make this clear. I DO NOT READ THE ONLINE MANGA, THEREFORE I DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN VOLUME 5. I only read what is available in the store, because I prefer to read the published books. So, any store I write until volume 5 is available will be based solely on my knowledge from volumes 1-4 and my theories of what happens next, not what actually does. I DO NOT WANT REVIEWS TELLING ME WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS BECAUSE I DO NOT WANT TO READ ANY SPOILERS. THIS IS A FANFICTION BASED ON WHAT I KNOW. DO NOT SPOIL VAMPIRE KNIGHT FOR ME! I WANT TO BE SURPRISED!

This fanfiction is rated M for sexual situations. There is a lemony scene at the end of this story, so if this offends you in any way or you do not wish to read it, then please look elsewhere. Thank you.

How The Rose Blooms: Zero Tolerance

Yet another day at Cross Academy.

Drag my butt out of bed after being on patrol all night; scarf down breakfast; attend class; fall asleep during the lesson; earn myself supplementary classes; argue with Zero over it when he gets stuck with me; beat back the Day Class girls as the Night Class emerges from the Moon Dorm at twilight; blush and stammer when Kaname speaks to me; go on patrol with Zero; bust a few Day Class girls sneaking around, trying to take pictures of the vampires; crawl exhaustedly into bed and start the whole thing all over again.

At least, that was how it used to be.

I sighed, leaning forward to rest my arms on top of the terrace railing, only idly scanning the school grounds for Day Class students. It was an unseasonably warm night for the middle of September. The humidity – on top of the seventy-degree temperature – was so high that I could almost wring water out of my hair. I tugged at the collar of my uniform in attempt to alleviate the stifling heat that was trapped under the heavy fabric of my jacket.

Glancing up at the sky, I searched for the moon under the thick, cottony blanket of charcoal clouds. A hazy, circular patch of lighter clouds alerted me to its whereabouts. However, the weak glow did nothing to illuminate the darkened grounds.

Shoving myself away from the railing, I marched along the balcony, squinting into the shadowed trees for any sign of unusual activities. No matter how occupied my mind was, I was never one to forget my duties. And yet, even as I kept an attentive watch, my thoughts strayed back to the events of the past year and a half.

It never ceased to amaze me how quickly our routine, day-to-day lives changed… all through the course of one incident. Almost two years ago, when Zero had finally succumbed to the powerful, vampire instincts he'd been battling against for four years, life at Cross Academy had never been the same for us.

Ever since Zero had sunk his fangs into me for the first time, each consecutive event after that had snowballed. Our daily lives had become clouded with the ever-present, gut-wrenching fear that one day, my silver-haired partner would descend to a Level E vampire. It was inevitable. Just as it was unavoidable that it would be my duty to kill him when that time came. It was what Zero wanted, and I had promised to do so.

And if that wasn't enough, then there was the whole slew of other events that followed shortly after, barely giving us a breather. There was vampire hunter Toga Yagari's visit and his threat to kill Zero; me offering up my blood to keep Zero's thirst at bay; hiding this forbidden act from Kaname; shielding Zero's transformation from both the Day and Night Classes; hunting Level E vampires in town; and the arrival of Shizuka Hio to Cross Academy – the pureblood that changed Zero – hidden in the body of a teenage vampire girl named Maria Kurenai.

Whatever happened to Shizuka after Zero shattered her control over him, I never found out. She had simply walked away, trailing a scarlet path of blood behind her. I hadn't seen her since. Ichiru, Zero's long-lost twin brother, departed as well after a short visit with his sibling. And just like Shizuka, he seemed to have vanished into thin air.

However, I had a creeping suspicion that both Kaname and Zero knew what happened to both Shizuka and Ichiru. But neither one of them would tell me. Even to this day, I still didn't have any clue what happened.

With Shizuka's disappearance, we had a major problem on our hands. Zero's only chance for salvation from becoming a Level E had disappeared along with the pureblood.

Or so we thought.

Determined to save Zero from the same fate as all former-humans, I had searched high and low for someone who could help him. Eventually, I stumbled across a whispered rumor of a pureblood who could prevent the creation of Level E vampires. And so, Zero and I had packed our bags and bade farewell to Cross Academy to pursue this tiny spark of hope. The dubious tale had turned into a promising lead, and from there, Zero and I ventured on the wildest quest we had ever embarked on. At the end of it, we finally met with the legendary pureblood himself, Kuroma Yaseiri. The gossip had turned out to be true. Kuroma really did know how to save former-humans and allow them to become true, stable vampires. He'd agreed to assist Zero.

Again, Zero's second – and final – transformation was something where the details were unknown to me. I had no idea what Kuroma's secret was and Zero never told me what the pureblood did to save him. I didn't witness it myself because for three whole days, the two vampires had been holed up in Kuroma's private chambers while I was left to pace impatiently outside the door, wondering and worrying.

But when I finally got to see Zero, he was no longer a former-human, but a true vampire.

Now that the threat of my fellow Guardian becoming a Level E had passed, normalcy was beginning to return to our lives.

But how long will it last? I wondered, gazing blankly off into the distance. The journey to seek out Kuroma's aid had taken several months, and by the time we returned, six months had gone by. Now, an entire year had passed since Zero became a stable vampire. In fact, the one-year anniversary of his acceptance into the night world was coming up fast.

We were due for another major turning point.

And speaking of Zero….

Whipping my head around, I glanced left and right, turning in a full circle. Nothing. I peered over the edge of the terrace railing, scanning the grounds below, and even craned my neck back to check the tiered levels above me. But there was no sign of my fair-haired, pale-eyed partner.

Frowning, I rested my fists on my waist and pursed my lips. "Where on Earth is he now?" I wondered out loud, disapprovingly.

"Where is who?"

I froze.

There was no way that that smooth, silky voice belonged to Zero Kiryu.

Shyly, I peeked over my shoulder, and my heart leapt into my throat when my eyes landed on the impressive, tall, lithe figure clad in white. Hooded, mahogany eyes twinkled warmly at me from under a drape of dark umber hair.

"Kaname!" I exclaimed, snapping to attention as I rotated around to face him. I stood as straight as a board, my hands clasped in front of me. The customary, rose-colored blush tinted my cheeks.

The dark-haired vampire smiled kindly at me. "Good evening, Yuki," Kaname greeted, sauntering gracefully towards me. "May I inquire as to whom you are searching for? I could be of some assistance to you."

I blinked, confused. I couldn't recall what I'd been thinking about a second ago.

Then I remembered. "Oh! Just Zero. He's up and vanished again. You haven't seen him have you?" I inquired hopefully, gazing up Kaname as he approached me.

At the mention of Zero's name, his gentle chestnut eyes darkened, becoming a deep maroon. "Zero Kiryu?" he questioned, as if he was confirming the Guardian's identity. How many Zeros did he know? "No, I haven't seen him tonight."

Kaname was now standing directly before me, and it almost hurt my neck to look up at him. Something about his demeanor had changed. The welcoming, warm atmosphere had cooled, morphing into something that was darker, more sinister…. More vampiric.

I shivered. Forcibly, I was reminded that Kaname Kuran was a formidable and authoritative pureblood. Feared and respected by those below him, he possessed powers other vampires couldn't even dream of. More or less, he was the same as Shizuka, shared the same powers and commanded the same level of respect…. And had the same ability to turn humans into vampires, as Shizuka had done to Zero.

His compassionate and affectionate nature towards me often caused me to forget about the shadows that lurked under the surface… that he wasn't human.

Reaching out with his large, porcelain hand, Kaname combed his cool, slender fingers through my hair, allowing my chocolate locks to slip through his fingers. The tender contact made heat rise in my face in embarrassment, as it always did whenever he touched me.

"Yuki, I've been meaning to speak to you about Zero Kiryu," Kaname murmured seriously, threading his hand in my hair once again.

Lifting my gaze, I watched his face warily. "What about him?" I asked hesitantly.

"Well…." He paused for a moment, his hand stilling in my hair. "What I wish to discuss with you is not strictly about Kiryu," he explained cagily as he returned to playing with my hair. "It concerns you as well."

My guard instantly flew up and I stiffened under his icy touch. Solid steel walls locked firmly into place around that little area in my brain that regulated my emotions, incarcerating the terror and anxiety that had roared to life so Kaname wouldn't see them in my eyes.

Oh crap, I panicked frantically. This cannot be good!

In fact, I knew this was going to be an uncomfortable exchange… and that was putting it mildly. What few advanced vocabulary words I knew to describe the upcoming situation had completely leaked from my mind, like spilt milk dribbling over the edge of a table. "Uncomfortable" was the only word that I could think of… and it wasn't even close to accurately conveying the strength of my unease.

Because I knew there was only one possible event involving Zero and me that Kaname would wish to discuss with me.

I could feel his mahogany eyes scrutinizing my face, boring a hole straight through me to see into the depths of my soul. I knew it was unavoidable. Hesitantly – all the while praying he wouldn't see the guilt and dread in my eyes – I met his prying stare. Maroon irises held my gaze long enough to make me feel like I was being examined under a microscope. I had to defy the urge to squirm restlessly under the dissecting stare.

The spell of his eyes was shattered when he opened his mouth to speak, and I instantly stiffened, bracing myself. "I am aware that Kiryu is now a true vampire," Kaname began, twirling a lock of my hair around his index finger. "Kuroma Yaseiri had mentioned to me when I last saw him several months back that he had recently saved a former-human vampire named Zero Kiryu. I also know that when he was still a Class D, you offered up your blood to him as substance, since the blood tablets proved to be ineffective to sate his thirst."

I flinched, and instantly averted my gaze, heart thumping painfully in my chest.

The brunette vampire caught my guilty expression and chuckled deeply. Abandoning my hair, he slid his hand down the side of my face to cup my cheek, its cold temperature most welcome against my overheated skin. My cheeks flushed when his thumb lightly stroked my face.

"Do not be concerned, Yuki," Kaname murmured, intently watching my face. "I am not here to reprimand you, nor do I have any intention of informing the Headmaster about what you and Zero did in the past. What I wish to speak to you about is this…. Now that Kiryu is truly one of us and his thirst is easier to control, my expectation is that no more special exceptions should be made for him. This means that I do not want you giving your blood away to Kiryu anymore. Given his circumstance, I can understand why you acted against the rules your father set down for those of us who wander the night. Your friend was suffering and you wished to aid him through his struggle. However, that battle is over now. Kiryu's bloodlust can finally be controlled."

Kaname's eyes hardened as they traveled from my face to my neck. Slender fingers brushed over my jaw to trail down the expanse of my throat, coming to rest on the side of my neck. A small part of my brain recalled that the pureblood's hand covered the exact spot where Zero had bitten me a year ago, where his fangs had pierced me for the last time before becoming a genuine vampire. He eyed the white bite mark scars on my neck with an emotion akin to anger.

I stiffened, blushing madly as my eyes widened when Kaname tucked his hand delicately at the base of my skull, carefully drawing me against his chest. His free arm gingerly looped around my back, tenderly holding me to his solid, cool body. Bowing his head to my level, the pureblood slid his face next to mine, his cold cheek pressed softly against my heated one. His lips hovered teasingly by my ear, only a hair's breadth away.

"Keeping my composure around Kiryu was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Kaname murmured dangerously, his icy breath tickling my ear. "The knowledge that he was drinking from my dear girl made my blood boil like nothing else in this world. I hated knowing that he was able to touch you in such a manner.

"And you, Yuki, so willing to do anything to help Kiryu, foolishly placed yourself at his mercy. Former-humans are unstable, ravenous vampires and you entrusted your life to him, voluntarily setting your very existence into the palm of his hands. Kiryu's insatiable thirst could have effortlessly driven him into insanity due to his powerful lust for blood. He could've drained you dry without even realizing it.

"Knowing this struck constant fear in my heart," Kaname whispered, his fingers tightening slightly in my hair. "I couldn't – and cannot – bear to lose you. Without you, my life would be meaningless."

My heart skipped a beat, then stumbled over itself to make up for the lost time. "K-Kaname…." I stuttered, more than a little flustered and frankly, quite at a loss for words. The pureblood had never been this open with his emotions before.

I closed my eyes, a small smile curving my lips as I relaxed a little in his arms, my cheeks flaming… as if it wasn't hot enough already. At least his frigid body temperature was keeping me cool.

"I know you like Kaname Kuran… I could tell… Even your blood tasted that way."

I froze as the memory of Zero's words floated into my head, the shy smile sliding from my face and my eyes snapped open. In the deep recesses of my memory, the image of his face swam into view before my mind's eye; withdrawn and solemn, silver hair falling into his morose, moonstone eyes as his slim fingers thoughtfully touched his lips.

You're wrong, Zero. Always….

My words. My thoughts in response to Zero's statement.

Yes, I did love Kaname Kuran. How could I not? Eleven years ago, he rescued me from a crazed, Level E vampire and brought me to live with the Chairman Cross, who had always treated me as if I was his own daughter. His cinnamon eyes mesmerized me every time I gazed into them, and the long, dark cocoa hair that fell into his face gave him a regal, mysterious aura. I had always been in awe of his power and the level of respect he commanded among both those in the Day Class and the Night Class. Infinitely kind and loving towards me, he had watched over me since that fatefully snowy day. I've idolized him ever since I was a child.

However, the pureblood has always inspired a flicker of fear within me whenever I see him, a dark, lurking emotion that conceals itself under the girlish admiration. The image of him thrusting his hand through the Level E's head eleven years ago had been branded into my mind. I could never get past that dwelling fear. Nor was I ever completely at ease with him. I've always been embarrassed or nervous or shy during each of our meetings. Kaname has always been distant and out of my reach, his duties forcing him to keep his short visits few and far between in younger days. And yet, despite the odds, as a young girl, I had never surrendered the childish dream that one day, this dark prince would sweep me off my feet and make me his.

However… when my adoptive father returned home with the broken and bleeding Zero Kiryu, my world – and my feelings – had been turned upside-down.

Much like Kaname, Zero had been a predominate figure in my past as well. Perhaps he wasn't in my life as long as Kaname had been, but what he lacked in span of years he made up with frequency. For the past five years, Zero had been a constant presence, one that has always been by my side and who I saw every single day. Besides Yori, he was my closest friend, even though he kept his heart tightly under lock and key, letting no one in except for me on very rare occasions. Teasing jibs, play fights, and petty squabbles were part of our daily lives. Despite his withdrawn, petulant and hot-tempered attitude, I was completely comfortable with him. There have been times when I've sworn that he knows more about me than I know about myself.

We've always watched out for each other. Whether it was when I cleaned the blood from his body after his family had been killed, offering up my blood to quench his thirst or willing to sacrifice my human life to Shizuka Hio in order to save hum, taking care of Zero has always been my duty. Likewise, Zero has always protected me, be it when he pulled his Bloody Rose gun on Aido when he drank my blood or when he rescued me from the Level E vampire in town or came after me when he learned of my deal with Shizuka. Completely unique, Zero was unlike anyone I had ever met. He was one of a kind in every way, from his fiery temper and solemn personality to his tragic past of a vampire hunter turned into the very creature he loathes. Even his appearance was unmatched with his pearly, silver hair, light beige skin, tall, lanky body and pale, fathomless lavender-gray eyes.

"You fool," Zero whispered, keeping my hands pinned to the wall behind me. "You're the one who hasn't been able to make up your mind."

But what I said is all I can manage to say right now… about Zero and me… and Kaname…

No matter how close my partner and I were, I couldn't tell him how right he was. There were some things I had to keep to myself, a secret that neither Kaname nor Zero could ever know. Zero was dead-on about me being torn between indecision. I was in love Kaname… but I also loved Zero just as dearly and deeply, as well.

Closing my eyes, I came back to the present and made an effort to not sigh. The brunette vampire's cool arms were still gently encircling me. It was indescribably frustrating to be in love with two people at the exact same time. My mind was constantly bouncing back and forth between the two vampires, comparing and contrasting them, attempting to come to a conclusion on who was the better choice. So far, I hadn't made any headway. I longed for both of them, but I knew I couldn't have both. I needed to choose.

However, until then, it was my intention to keep my feelings to myself and let the cards fall where they will.

Unexpectedly, my hair stirred around my face, startling me, as Kaname's icy breath brushed against my ear as he began to speak again, "I want you to understand this, Yuki. Kiryu may be the only vampire at Cross Academy attending the Day Class, thereby removing him from remaining under my control, but that does not exempt him from school rules. He is to take blood tablets like the rest of us and never drink from you again. Because…." Kaname's lips touched the hollow of my neck, directly under my ear. "Your blood is far too precious to waste," he whispered lustily against my skin.

The origin of the shiver that passed through me was unknown. I had no clue if it from the chill of his cool breath on my skin, his silky, seductive words, a thrill of fear when his fangs brushed lightly over my neck, or my own desire.

"Pretty words coming from someone who's practically salivating over the scent of her blood, vampire," a deep, husky voice growled roughly.

Without having time to react to the voice, a strong, warm arm circled my waist and jerked me away from Kaname, ripping his hands from my body. The sudden movement caught me by surprise and I stumbled backwards, backpedaling frantically to regain my footing. Before I completely lost my sense of balance, my back collided into a hard, heated chest, and the lithe arm around my middle tightened, pinning me to the foreign body behind me. Gasping a little from the shock, I blinked wide-eyed at Kaname, who now stood a foot away from me. His mahogany eyes had darkened and his chocolate brows were sloped over his narrowed eyes, glaring maliciously at the person holding me. Gripping the black fabric of the arm's jacket sleeve out of instinct, I dragged my head back to peer up at the towering figure.

Zero's fair eyebrows were drawn into a low, menacing V over his twilight eyes, his full lips warped in a vicious scowl as he glowered unrelentingly at Kaname over the top of my head. Without breaking the pureblood's challenging stare, he deftly shifted me to the side and protectively stepped in front of me. Extending his arms slightly, he positioned himself so that his body created a solid barrier between Kaname and me. I had to peer around the side of his body in order to see.

The two vampires stood motionless, glaring threateningly at each other.

Finally, Kaname spoke.

"Kiryu," he addressed coolly, inclining his head to Zero fractionally.

The silver-haired vampire brushed off the icy acknowledgement without even so much as a narrowing of his eyes, and plundered on as if the pureblood hadn't said a word. "You should practice what you preach, Kuran," Zero snarled ruthlessly. "If you're so adamant on the Chairman's pacifist ideology and the use of the blood tablets, then you shouldn't be falling over the smell Yuki's blood like some kind of starved beast. You'd stave off your own hunger and desires with the tablets, just as you say we should. You are a part of this school as well, Kuran.

"And for the record, you say that I'm a danger to Yuki's safety, correct? But would she really be any better off in your hands?" he demanded brusquely, his fangs elongating marginally as his anger rose along with his voice. "Of the two of us, which one is the pureblood? Whose fangs would steal her human life the second they pierced her flesh, even before blood is taken from her?"

Kaname's cinnamon eyes narrowed, and Zero's mouth twisted into a small, humorless smirk.

"That's right, Kuran," he sneered, fangs bared. "You are as much of a threat to Yuki as I am. As a matter of fact, you might actually be more dangerous than I am. Now that my thirst is under control, I can't lose myself to the bloodlust as easily. I can fight against it. The most that could happen is that I take a little too much and she's woozy for a day or two. But you… you're still a pureblood. From the very moment you bite her, you'll have killed her. You'll have robbed her of her life and humanity, damning to the existence of a bloodthirsty, despicable monster. A beast in human form."

This is going to get ugly, I realized. Zero was difficult as it was around any vampire we encountered at Cross Academy, but throw him together with Kaname, and he got downright impossible.

Sliding a hand down the side of my leg, I reached under the hem of my skirt. My fingers closed around the smooth, cool metal of the compacted Artemis Rod that was strapped to my thigh. Moving with caution so neither vampire would see, I brought it out into the open and held it firmly in my hands, ready to snap it open if needed. I hoped its use wouldn't be necessary, but with Zero on a roll, things could get violent very quickly.

Kaname chuckled darkly. The very sound made the hairs on the nape of my neck stand up straight like little toy soldiers. I'd never heard such a deadly, malevolent laugh issue from my savior's lips. Quite frankly, it frightened me.

"A beast in human form…." the pureblood murmured thoughtfully, peering up at Zero through his long bangs. "You speak of vampires as if you weren't one."

"Once a hunter always a hunter," Zero responded frigidly, his hands curling into fists.

"Then tell me something, Kiryu," Kaname said casually, approaching Zero with measured steps. "If you detest vampires so much, then why did you allow Kuroma Yaseiri to permanently fix you into the night clan? Why not allow yourself to fall to a Level E for an aristocrat or hunter to finish you off? Why didn't you turn your Bloody Rose gun on yourself and pull the trigger?"

Zero's eyes narrowed. A muscle jumped in his jaw as he clenched his teeth.

"I have my reasons," he ground out through gritted teeth, tensing as Kaname neared. My grip on the Artemis Rod tightened.

The pureblood paused only a few feet away from Zero, critically observing him with his mahogany eyes.

"Hmm… I wonder what they are… Your reasons…." Kaname mused. He turned his body in the general direction of the hidden moon and crossed his arms over his chest. Tilting his face skyward, he continued to ponder, "Revenge, perhaps? Fear? Or…." He glanced at Zero out of the corner of his eye, his russet irises gleaming with something I could only define as malice, "Something else?"

What occurred next happened so quickly that I was barely able to follow it.

Kaname paused, as if allotting Zero the time to consider his words. Then, suddenly, his burgundy irises flared, turning a bright, brilliantly glowing scarlet red. Zero's eyes widened and an expression of pain distorted his fine features. The next second, his face was warped with fury, crimson flashing through his eyes as his upper lip curled back, menacingly baring his fangs. Faster than any human could move, his hand shot into his jacket and plunged into the inside pocket. He whipped out the Blood Rose and aimed it straight at Kaname, the thin metallic chain attaching the gun to his inside pocket jingling. His finger had already squeezed the trigger halfway down before I realized with was happening. Dropping the Artemis Rod, I darted around Zero, shouting, "No!" as I threw myself at him and shoved his arm up into the air, mere seconds before the gun went off….

….All within the course of a few, brief moments.

The night became eerily still as the last reverberating echoes of gunfire faded.

I peeked over my shoulder to see that Kaname hadn't so much as moved an inch, even in the threat of danger. Glancing up at Zero, I didn't even need to see that his face was still hard, contorted with ire, abhorrence, and agony. I could feel his body shaking against mine, seething with barely contained fury. Before he could wrench his arm out away from me and fire at Kaname again, I leapt as high as my lack of height would allow and snatched the Bloody Rose from his hand. Without hesitation, I hurriedly locked the safety, then rounded on Zero.

"What'd you do that for?!" I shrieked, backing away from his as he lowered his now empty hand. "Kaname didn't do anything to provoke an attack!"

"I was completely justified in pulling my gun on him," Zero growled, his eyes still blazing with an angry, burning scarlet. "He did more than enough to provoke me."

Gathering the Bloody Rose's thin chain into his hand, the starlight-haired vampire yanked on it, causing the gun to be ripped from my hands. Zero caught the sleek weapon with ease and smoothly slid it inside his coat without missing a beat. Fixing Kaname with one last cold stare, he spun on his heel and strolled away, hands shoved deep within his pockets.

"Zero!" I cried, reaching for the sleeve of his jacket. But the only thing my fingers closed around was air. He didn't even spare me a glance when I called his name. Hurt, I stared after his retreating back until he rounded a corner and vanished from sight.

The approach of footsteps behind me made me turn. Kaname stood behind me and knelt, one large hand reaching out to pluck the Artemis Rod from the stone ground. Standing fluidly, the pureblood wordlessly held out his hand, offering my weapon to me as it sat quietly in his wide palm.

Careful not to touch his skin, I took my Artemis Rod from him and slid it back into the brown-leather holster strapped to my thigh. My eyebrows drew together and I demanded in a hushed voice, "What did you do?"

"Nothing," Kaname answered smoothly, completely unruffled. "Kiryu simply doesn't appreciate some of the things that I'm thinking about."

Completely baffled as to what that statement meant, I stared at him blankly, then glanced back at the spot where Zero vanished. For whatever reason, my partner – my best friend – was deeply distressed. And I had to put it right.

"I'm sorry, Kaname, but I have to go track down Zero before he does something stupid," I apologized, bowing to him.

"I understand," he murmured.

Swishing around, I raced away and glanced back only to call, "G'night!" over my shoulder and raise my hand in a quick farewell wave. I didn't see if he responded as I rounded the same corner Zero took, and charged down the stairs leading to the ground floor.

Where did he go? I wondered, as I sprinted through the arched breezeways and darted between the benches and fountains of the courtyards. Dashing between the oak trees ablaze with brilliant, fiery leaves, I wracked my brain as I thought hard for the locations of Zero's usual haunts. By the time I had compiled a small list, I had already left the school grounds and was speeding toward the entrance doors of the Sun Dorm.

Might as well start with the boys' dorms since I'm already here, I decided, hastening through the double doors and down the hall. Maybe he decided to skip patrol and clock in early.

The thought made me sighed as I rounded a corner and peeled through the hallway.

Wouldn't surprise me. That would be so like him.

I flew down the lengthy corridor, skidding around bends and doubling back when I accidentally turned in the wrong direction, courtesy of my wandering, confused mind. The memory of Zero's tormented expression kept floating into my mind, hovering in front of my eyes as if someone was dangling it before me, mocking me with it. Unconsciously, I ran faster. I had to find him.

After what seemed like a decade, I finally turned into the corridor of the boys' dorms and I screeched to a halt in front of Zero's door.

Laying an arm on the doorframe to support myself as I wheezed, heart thumping from exertion, I called softly, "Zero? Let me in."

No answer. Anxiously, I shifted from one foot to another as I waited. As the seconds ticked by without a response, I raised my fist to tap lightly on the door, saying, "Hey, Zero. Open up."

Still, no response.

Is he even in there? Should I stand out here until he answers or just go in? I mused, agitatedly dragging my hand through my damp, sweaty hair. It really was far too hot out to be doing this kind of activity.

If I stood out here all night, I'd get nowhere. And besides, it wasn't like I've never barged unannounced into Zero's room before. Then again…. I blushed furiously, recalling the last time I done that. It had been right after I'd heard the rumor about Kuroma and I had raced straight into Zero's room to tell him…. Let's just say I saw a whole new side of Zero I'd never seen before and leave it at that. Frankly, I was lucky he didn't strangle me.

I'd spare myself the agony of suffering through his temper again if I wasn't so worried, I thought as my hand deliberated over the doorknob. Working up my courage, I closed my fingers around the handle.

"I'm coming in, Zero," I warned as I twisted the doorknob and gingerly cracked the door open. Hesitantly, I peeked around the door, fully prepared to jerk my head back and slam it closed if need-be.

But my concern was all for not. The dorm room was empty and his bed was neatly made, un-rumpled, and obviously not slept in. After staring at his vacant dorm room for several long moments – half expecting him to materialize out of the shadows like Kaname did – I softly closed his door.

Nothing can ever be simple when it comes to Zero, can it? I grumbled in my head. So, if he's not in his dorm, then maybe….

Autopilot took control. Without the aid of my brain, my feet sprang to life on their own, propelling my body down the corridor, out of the Sun Dorm grounds and back to the school. Retracing my former steps, they led me through the courtyard and breezeways and into the academy. I sprinted mechanically down a well-memorized path, through familiar corridors and around anticipated bends. Before I knew it, I was panting outside of the door to the Chairman's office, bent over as I gasped for breath. I was almost surprised I was here already. It was if I'd teleported here. One second I was at the Sun Dorm, then next, I was here.

Still huffing and puffing, I opened the door a fraction and poked my head through. The Headmaster – my adoptive father – was hunched over his desk, his work lit only by the small gaslight candle as he scribbled away on a long sheet of paper with his quill pen. Upon hearing the twist of the knob and the click of the latch, he glanced up, his hand stilling over the paper.

"Yuki!" he exclaimed, straightening up in his high-backed, leather chair and laying his quill off to the side. "Come in, come in! What brings you here?"

Slipping inside, I lingered by the door, keeping one foot wedged between it and the wall to keep it open.

"Good evening, Chairm – uh… Dad…." I corrected myself. "Umm, by any chance have you seen Zero at all tonight? He hasn't passed through here, has he?"

The Headmaster's overly cheery smile faded. Frowning slightly, he exchanged his childlike, merry expression for something a little more serious. Resting his elbows on his desk, he steepled his fingers together in front of his face, his oval glasses glinting in the candlelight.

"Kiryu?" he questioned, topaz eyes thoughtful as he tried to recall. "Hmm. No, I haven't. Not recently. Not since he dropped by two weeks ago to help you with your math. Shouldn't he be on patrol with you?"

"He should be, but he's bailed out on me again," I said with a long-suffering sigh. "He…." I paused, unsure if I should explain the reason behind Zero's abrupt departure. However, with the Chairman's tawny eyes trained expectantly on me, waiting for me to continue, I knew I had little choice but to answer him. "He and Kaname got into a bit of an argument."

"Ahh…." The Headmaster nodded understandingly. "I can see how this tale will play out. But, please, continue. What was the argument about?"

My heart spasmed. What did I say? I couldn't tell him the truth. Oh, nothing important. Just the two of them bickering at each other, going back and forth between who's a greater threat to me. You know, who can kill me with more simplicity when drinking my blood. Nothing to get all worked up about. Oh, yeah, that'd go over real well. There was no way I would be able to tell the truth without revealing what Zero and I had done. I'd have to explain why they were fighting over that in the first place, and that didn't appeal to me in the least. Drinking blood was a cardinal sin at Cross Academy. It was like having sex at church camp.

So I modified.

"Vampires," I answered simply, scrubbing my toe over the carpet. Keeping the sheepish, guilty tone out of my voice and expression was more difficult than I would expect. "Nothing out of the ordinary…."

I trailed off, remembering the crimson flare in Kaname's eyes and Zero's violent, sudden response directly afterward.

"However…." I deliberated, evaluating, decided it was safe and said, "Kaname… Kaname… did something that deeply upset Zero. I… I don't know what it was. His eyes changed color, and then Zero pulled his gun on him. After that, he stormed off."

"Hmm…." the Chairman mused, touching his steepled fingers to his lips. "Curious. What could've evoked such a response?"

I shrugged. "I don't know. That's why I want to find Zero, but he's not in his dorm room."

Spreading his hands out, palms face up, my adoptive father said, "Well, at any rate, Zero hasn't been by lately, but if I see him, I will inform that you are searching for him. In the meantime, perhaps you should check the guest bedroom where he slept before you and he enrolled into high school and began sleeping in the dorms. He may be there."

Plucking his discarded quill from its resting place, the Chairman dipped it in the ink bottle and returned to scratching the ink over the scroll. "Good luck to you, Yuki," he said without looking up from his work. "And give Zero my regards when you find him."

"I will," I promised, already halfway out the door. "Thank you, Ch – Father."

Carefully pulling the door closed behind me with a faint click, I leaned up against the wooden door and sighed. My eyelids slid shut.

Jeez, when Zero wants to disappear, he really disappears. It's like that magic trick magicians always do at shows – it's the vanishing act that never ends, I grumbled to myself.

Pushing off of the door, I broke into a gradual jog again, heading toward Zero's childhood bedroom. But to no avail. He wasn't there either. I checked my room, the Chairman's bathroom, empty classrooms, and the shooting range. Still no Zero.

Closing the range door, panting, exhausted, and very, very sleepy, I wiped sweat from my brow and thought, Okay, there's only one possible place left on the grounds where he could be. If he's not there, then I have no clue where he is. And then I've got a very big problem on my hands, and a very good reason to start panicking.

Dashing down the stairs, I raced over the school grounds, angling toward the fields. The sweltering, humid temperature had finally broken in favor of a cooler, more autumn-like feel. Not that it did me any good now. I was sweating buckets from running around all night. I'd had to ditch my school jacket because it was just too damn hot out to wear it and was now carrying it in my hand as I ran.

The foreboding gray storm clouds had dissipated and the night sky was beginning to lighten on the horizon. The deep, rich navy dome overhead had faded into a mellow, pastel hue of cerulean blue and jade green. A splash of bright yellow on the eastern horizon was seeping into the sky. Dried, fallen leaves crunched under the hard soles of my shoes, their crisp, earthy scent drifting up to greet me. Crimson and gold leaves floated gracefully around me like tears as I passed under the weeping oak trees, landing delicately on the amber grass.

As I trotted over Cross Academy's vast expanse of pastures, the rough stone and wood structure of the horse stables came into view. Nestled against the fiery, radiant colors of the autumn trees, the stables appeared to be an ancient, abandoned, but cozy and welcome little cottage in the woods. It held a serene beauty to it as the rising sun blessed the world with golden light, shrouding all that it touched in warmth. The sky had brightened to a dazzling salmon color, streaked through with stripes of rose red, coral pink, pale lavender and buttercup yellow. The sight was absolutely breathtaking.

Zero must be here, I thought with conviction. It's so peaceful and beautiful out here; a perfect place for to be alone to think and relax.

Just as the molten orange sun timidly peeked over the edge of the horizon, I slowed to a walk as I reached the door to the stables. Clutching at the stitch in my side, still huffing like a winded little old lady, I inched the great barn doors open and peered inside.

Pastel yellow light flittered in through the windows, murky and pale from the dust and dirt that drifted through the air. The potent, but not entirely unpleasant odor of earth, hay, grains, and horses permeated the stable. Horses of every color imaginable were safely padlocked within their stalls. Many were either lying comfortably among their beds of straw or standing around, turning their long faces towards me in question.

My eyes were lured to the far, back left of the stable, where White Lily was padlocked. Behind her stall was an open area of stable where straw and hay was usually stored. And there, sticking out as plain as day around Lily's stall, was a lanky, black clad leg.


Breathing a sigh of relief, I entered the stable and slowly made my way over to him, my footfalls muted by the soft layer of dirt and straw that covered the floor. I passed White Lily nervously as her snowy head snapped onto me. She snorted angrily at me, pawing at the ground with one diamond hard hoof.

Yeah, same to you, sweetheart, I growled sarcastically in my head.

Rounding the corner, I glanced down… and stopped dead in my tracks, my mouth falling open. My jacket fell heavily from limp fingers.

Zero was reclining lazily against a small mound of hay, directly under a window. His eyes closed, his hands were behind his head and one knee was crooked while his other leg was stretched out. Both his ebony school jacket and vest had been discarded carelessly. The white dress shirt and blood-red tie remained on his body, but he had loosened the tie around his neck and had completely unbuttoned his shirt, baring his naked chest to me. Pale beams of light shone around him, casting highlights and shadows over his chest and the sharp, angular feature of his face. His ivory skin glowed with a creamy aura wherever the gentle rays kissed his bare skin, and his wintry hair shone in the soft light, gleaming like spun silver. Upon hearing the tread and pause of my footsteps, his moonstone eyes flickered open, pinning me with his lilac and milky silver gaze.

The sight of Zero – sprawled out among the hay with the pale morning sun casting him in an angelic glow – was breathtaking. I had difficulty convincing myself that the person before me was really my fellow Guardian, and not an ethereal god of the moon, taking a snooze in an abandoned stable.

My heart thumped unsteadily in my chest, much like it did on a regular basis when I saw Kaname. Seeing Zero like this, rooted to the spot with his lavender-gray eyes, made me grasp the fact that he really wasn't human anymore. No mortal was that beautiful. For the first time since Kuroma had transformed him, I could honestly look at the Night Class vampires and picture Zero amongst them, fitting in with seamless ease, as if he had always been one of them.

"Why," Zero began brusquely, shattering the mood as his dusk-colored eyes swept closed, "are you staring at me like that?"

I blinked, snapping out of my trance abruptly and blushed when I realized I had been caught. "Staring at you like what?" I stammered, taking a tentative step towards him, nervously fiddling with the hem of my skirt.

"Like you've never seen me before," he answered, eyes still closed and a hint of regret in his voice.

Not like this I haven't, I mentally agreed. But that didn't sound like something Yuki Cross would say her best friend, Zero Kiryu. So I didn't voice it aloud. Instead, I remedied it for something a little more appropriate and Yuki-like.

"Because I'm worried about you," I answered hesitantly. At least it wasn't a complete lie. I was only omitting the other, less acceptable response. "You were so furious that I was afraid you had run off and done something foolish. I was very near panic when I couldn't find you. I searched all over the school for you."

Zero snorted. "Trust you to get all worked up over nothing," he sniffed disapprovingly. Cracking open a moonstone eye, he fixed me with his pale gaze. "You do realize you don't have to keep track of me anymore, right?" His lips twisted into a sneer and a bitter tone colored his voice. "I'm a 'legal' vampire now, for lack of a better word. A common vampire. A Level C. Not a Level D, not a former-human. I can't descend to a Level E. So you can stop worrying about me running away from you. You won't have to kill me."

"That's not what I'm worried about!" I exclaimed. "I'm worried about you! My best friend! Not whether you're a vampire or not! Five years together and you still haven't realized that it kills me to see you in pain?!"

Closing his eyes again, Zero drawled, "Stop yelling. You'll spook the horses. You of all people should know better than to irritate White Lily… unless you want to get kicked in the ass again."

"Don't brush it off like it's nothing, Zero!" I snapped, irritated that he was trying to change the subject. "I know you too well. You're not okay! Your response to what happened tonight was far too powerful for you to be over that rage already!"

Zero's eyebrows twitched and a hint of a scowl twisted the corner of his mouth, but he didn't respond.

I calmed myself down, allowing the anger to evaporate from my tone. Adopting a gentler voice, I said, "I think we both know you're only hiding your fury, just like you do with everything else. You never let me in, you never confide in me. You're so hard to read, Zero. But just this once, I want an explanation. I want to know what's going on is that locked heart of yours, what triggered that response and why."

He still didn't say anything, and I continued, whispering now as tears prickled my eyes, "Zero, the expression on your face… it's one I've never seen before. It nearly ripped a hole in my chest to see you that furious and hurt. I don't know what Kaname did, but – "

"Don't. Mention. That. Name!" Zero snarled fiercely. Before I had even seen him move, he was abruptly sitting up straight, as if he'd been stung, his shoulders rigid and fingers curled.

The dam had broken.

The second Kaname's name had left my lips, the rage and hatred concealed beneath Zero's carefully composed mask of calm and indifference had surged forward. And I knew instantly his fury hadn't cooled in the slightest. His body was stiff and uptight, coiled as if preparing for an attack. Both of his knees were bent now, as if he was about to spring to his feet. His shoulders were hunched and his lithe, tall frame quivered with barely suppressed ire. Scarlet replaced the unusually colored pearly-lilac irises, and his lips were curled back into a snarl, baring his elongated fangs.

"I don't want to even hear that man's name!" Zero growled, eyes blazing. "That alone is enough to make me want to put my fist through a wall!"

A frustrated, animalistic growl emitted from deep with in his chest as his long, slim fingers came up to twist in his moonlight hair. Zero drew his legs up to his chest and bowed his body forward, touching his forehead to his knees, hands still clutching at his hair. Had I not known better, I would've assumed that he was suffering from a massive headache.

Watching him pant heavily, trying to reel in his emotions, I took another ginger step towards him. "Are you going to be alright, Zero?" I asked worriedly, my brow furrowing in concern.

"No," he grated out through clenched teeth, hands digging deeper into his hair. "I can't control this anger. I feel like a Level D again."

"Zero…." I murmured apprehensively, approaching him, my hand extended, meaning to touch his shoulder.

A violent tremor overcame Zero as my hand neared his skin. "Stay back," he growled warningly.

I paused warily, withdrawing my hand. "Why?" I asked softly.

"Because I want to be alone!" he snapped, quivering.

"Too bad," I retorted defiantly, standing directly before him. "I'm not going anywhere until you answer my questions."

Zero's hands tightened in his hair, and the tremors intensified. "I'm serious, Yuki!" he snarled. "Leave me alone!"


Fluidly, I knelt before him, trying to see past the wall of silver hair. This close up, his shudders were visible as they vibrated through him in a constant, unrelenting stream. He didn't raise his head to look at me, and kept his head down, hands in his hair. Frowning at his stubbornness, I reached out to take his hand….

…Only to have him grab my wrist and fling me against the pile of hay.

I let out an exclamation of surprise as I tumbled back against the hay, the yellowish-brown grass cushioning my fall. One of his hands held my wrists captive in an unbreakable, iron-strong grip, pinning them over my head. The other slammed against the ground beside my head, supporting the tall body that loomed over me. One lithe leg was pressed firmly between my legs and the second rested by my hip.

Heart racing from the sudden, unexpected change, I stared up at Zero in utter shock. Silver bangs fell into his glowing, crimson irises. The vampiric eyes were pulsing with his fury and hatred for Kaname… and something else. Something I knew very well. Bloodlust.

Zero bent his head to bury his face in the crook of my neck, his breath coming out in hot, ragged puffs against my flesh as he inhaled my scent.

My already flustered heart pounded even faster and an anticipated blush colored my cheeks. Suddenly, memories came flooding back to me. Memories of Zero drinking my blood. Memories of all those heated, unintentionally intimate and erotic moments in secluded, remote areas of the school. Memories of what it felt like to have a vampire drink my blood.

Now, with Zero's mouth pushed up against my neck, a familiar aching desire surged forth.

"Didn't I tell you to stay away?" Zero whispered huskily against my throat, his breath sensually tickling my skin and causing me to shiver. Wet warmth glided over my skin as the starlight-haired vampire dragged his tongue along the crook of my neck, eliciting a gasp from me. His fangs – now fully extended – grazed along my skin.

"Z-Zero…." I gasped, my fingers clenching restlessly in his grasp. "I thought that the… blood tablets were finally working for you…?"

"They are," he breathed ruggedly, fastening his lips around the side of my neck and sucking softly. Breathing became difficult. "But some times… intense anger can spark bloodlust."

"…I do not want you giving your blood away to Kiryu anymore…."

Kaname's words echoed vaguely in my head, issuing a warning to me. But a cloud of lust had made my mind hazy. I wanted Zero to drink my blood. I wanted to experience those sensations of pleasure again. And with Zero panting hungrily against my skin, his lips and tongue lavishing the side of my throat, I'd be damned if I were to say no.

"Do what you must, Zero," I encouraged breathlessly, practically begging.

Releasing my hands, he gathered me into his arms and hauled me into his lap, supporting my weight with one arm. His willowy fingers firmly seized my chin and sharply tilted my head to the side. I felt his hot breath on my throat as he bowed his head, his lips brushing my skin as he shoved the collar of my shirt out of the way with his nose.

I cried out in pain when Zero bit hard into the side of my neck, his fangs plunging agonizingly deep into my flesh. Hot blood spilled from my throat and Zero drank deeply, taking great swallows of blood. His anger and frustration made him rough, fueling the hunger buried under his rage. My hands, which had been lying quietly in my lap, suddenly clenched as pain shot through me, twisting at the fabric of my skirt. Silent tears slipped from my eyes as Zero sucked roughly – almost desperately – at my neck, his arms constricting tightly me as he crushed me to his chest, his hands frantically clutching me. Wincing at the way his sharp fangs tore at my flesh, I bit my lip to keep the sobs at bay and squeezed my eyes shut against the flow of burning, salty tears. I kept silent, breathing heavily and shaking at the pain. I knew it would abate as soon as his thirst was tamed, thereby smothering the flames of his wrath.

I was right. As his bloodlust was satisfied, Zero's desperation faded and his frantic feeding grew calmer – not quite gentle, but at least it didn't hurt anymore. I sighed contently when a familiar, warm, tingling sensation spread throughout me. The pain of the deep bite and brutal feeding subsided, and pleasure began to rise to the surface. It spread throughout my body, electrifying every nerve ending in my body.

As if to atone for his rough actions, Zero drank carefully from my neck, more like a lover's kiss than a vampire's bite. Deliberately, he swept his tongue over my skin, serving to both catch the little streams of blood that seeped past his lips and to heighten the euphoria of the experience. I gasped in surprise, my eyes flying open when Zero's hand – the one that had previously been holding my chin – trailed down the opposite side of my throat and over the length of my body. A shiver passed through me as his hand grazed over my stomach and came dangerously close to touching my breasts. Long, lean fingers found my face and lightly brushed away the salty tearstains on my cheeks, silently apologizing for the abuse he'd put me through. I wound one hand in his silver hair, wordlessly showing him that he was forgiven and softly held his head against my neck, encouraging him.

Now that his anger had cooled somewhat, a question came to me, one I really didn't have a solid answer for. Despite the risk of sparking Zero's rage again, I asked between gasps, "Zero… why… do you hate… Kaname… so much?"

Garnet irises opened and tilted toward me, partially obscured by starlight hair. His lids lowered over his eyes and he ignored my question, just as I thought he would. His free hand continued to roam boldly over my body, increasing the pleasurable sensations. Gasping and sighing, my eyes drifted shut and my lips parted as my breath rushed from me in ragged pants. My heart hammered wildly, pumping out more blood for Zero to feast on. When his hand brazenly dragged down the center of my chest, I gasped, shuddering. My fingers timidly stroked the silky winter locks that were brushing against my cheek and throat.

Just as I was beginning to get lightheaded, Zero slid his fangs from my neck. He placed a kiss over the twin puncture wounds in my flesh and dragged his tongue over them. Willowy fingers pulled my shirt collar aside as he licked along the expanse of my throat, following the scarlet streams of blood that had oozed down my neck like little tributaries. A shuddering sigh passed my lips as he thoroughly cleaned the blood from my skin before raising his head.

Staring down at me, Zero used the back of his free hand to wipe away the blood that had dribbled down the side of his chin and licked his lips. The vampiric ruby glow was diminishing in his eyes and returning to their natural dusky hue, signifying that his thirst was sated.

I half-expected Zero to shove me off his lap and turn away from me, disgusted by his actions, hating what he is and what he must do to survive. Or, at the very least, I was anticipating on him releasing me. However, he did just the opposite. Twining his tapered fingers in my hair, the arm encircling my waist tightened, and Zero drew my body closer to his.

Touching his forehead to mine, Zero stared into my eyes, his ragged breathing falling on my lips. "Do you still want to know what your blood tastes like?" he asked suddenly, his voice huskier than usual.

His inquiry caught me off guard. I blinked up at him in bewilderment, softly blowing a lock of silver hair out of his face so I could see his eyes better. My brow furrowed in bewilderment when I realized that he was being completely serious. That alone was enough to raise an eyebrow at. It wasn't like I wasn't curious about what my blood tasted like, what it was about its smell and flavor that attracted vampires… because I was. However, the last time I'd asked, Zero had given me a cold look and ignored me. And now he was the one asking.

I snapped out my confused contemplation when I realized that Zero was still waiting on a response.

"Well, yes," I answered, meeting his beautiful, hypnotic gaze, "but what has that got to d –"

Abruptly, my words were cut off when Zero's warm, blood-covered lips descended on mine.

My eyes widened. In utter shock, I stared up into the silver-haired vampire's half-lidded moonstone irises. Locked with mine, his eyes studied me, gauging my reaction as he kissed me firmly.

Zero… Kissing me….

Zero, the stranger that had been raised as my adoptive brother, the one I had watched over when we were younger and had coaxed out from within his protective shell. Zero, the child that I had held in my arms as he sobbed after waking, screaming from another nightmare about the slaughter of his family. Zero, the boy that I joked with and fought with, the one who I got supplementary classes with, the one who spared no expense to protect me from danger. Zero, the vampire that had fed from me when his need was greatest, the one that hated himself afterwards for what he was and what he'd taken from me. Zero, the man I had grown to deeply love, was kissing me.

Somewhere, at the back of my stunned brain, a part of my mind registered this and sent out the necessarily chemical message to my mouth, telling my lips to move hesitantly against Zero's. Stumbling clumsily, I eventually fell into the same, slow rhythm he had set as my brain fought through the numb shock and caught up with my actions. Relief seeped into Zero's dusk-like eyes and his rigid body posture slackened minutely now that I had reacted to him. To allow himself better access to my mouth, the vampire tenderly pressed against the base of my skull, thoroughly kissing me with his gentle lips. No trace of his anger remained. Although the kiss was chaste and shy – testing the waters – it sparked a jolt of electricity somewhere in the pit of my stomach and my hands clenched in my lap.

I wanted more.

Praying that I wasn't getting in over my head, I kissed him back a little harder, tasting the blood – my blood – on his soft, full lips. It had the same coppery, tangy, metallic taste that all blood did, but it was mingled with some warm spice and a dark, sweet taste, richer than chocolate and far more seductive. No wonder vampires found my blood so intoxicating.

Wanting another taste, I timidly licked some of my blood off his lips.

The effect was instantaneous, powerful, and unexpected.

Zero shuddered violently, as if he'd been doused with ice-cold water. Clinging to me, his grip around me tightened and he compressed me firmly against his chest. His eyes slid shut and he crushed his lips to mine, causing me to gasp. Fire ignited in the pit of my stomach as my heart pounded erratically, heat surging through me with an emotion I had never known. I suddenly wanted to be as close to Zero as humanly possible. My arms encircled his neck and I pressed myself closer to him, kissing him back with all my might, craving the heat that radiated from his hard, muscular chest and the feel of his gentle, plush mouth against mine.

It was as if a brick wall inside of us had crumbled and the emotions inside were released like a cage full of feral tigers. For the moment, I completely forgot about Kaname and how I was torn between him and Zero. At this current moment in time, every hidden desire, every ounce of burning passion and love I felt for Zero came pouring out, unbridled, raw, and fierce. I couldn't hide them. They coursed through my veins, electrifying my cells with love and lust that expressed itself to Zero through my actions and responses.

Likewise, the silver haired vampire responded to me in a similar fashion, though I couldn't tell if it was fueled by lust or anger. His actions were rough – not violent – but he definitely wasn't treating me as if I was a breakable china doll like Kaname did.

Long fingers were tangled in my hair, bending my head back so he could have better access to my mouth. His mouth crushed desperately against mine, hot and open. Parting my lips, Zero's tongue swept into my mouth, and I could taste my blood on his tongue, sweet and metallic and tangy all at the same time. The sharp points of Zero's fangs grazed over my lower lip as he kissed me, the razor-like edges slashing thin incisions into my fragile skin and splinter-like lines of blood welled to the surface. Zero's starlight hair mingled with mine, brushing over my face like dove feathers, his arm clasping me securely.

The need for air soon became apparent, and reluctantly, Zero broke away from me. I very nearly whimpered at loss, only to sigh contently when he buried his face in the crook of my neck. Heavy puffs of warm, moist breath fell onto the skin of my throat as Zero – like me – panted, trying to slow his ragged breathing. My lips were still tingling from the intensity of the kiss, and my arms remained firmly wrapped around his neck.

Through my lust-hazed brain, thoughts began returning to me, and I spoke the first one that came to mind, "Why did you – ?"

I gasped, my words halting abruptly as Zero nipped lightly at my ear, mindful of his fangs. Leaping to life once more, my heart thudded in my chest, and my fingers dug into his silver hair as breathing became difficult once again.

"That's why I hate him," Zero rumbled suddenly, his voice deep, rough and seductive, his breath hot against my ear as he lightly sucked on my earlobe. "That's why I hate Kaname."

Frowning very slightly in confusion, I managed to cup his jaw with a shaking hand and lift his head so I could see him face. His pale eyebrows were pull dangerously low over his twilight eyes, and his lips – smeared with my blood – were drawn into a hard line.

Before I could open my mouth to ask what he meant, Zero bent his head again, sowing butterfly kisses over the arch of my throat, impairing my breathing abilities once again. "Aside from the fact… that he's an… arrogant, manipulative… pureblood that concerns… himself with only… what makes him happy…" my partner murmured raggedly between kisses, "…I hate… the way he… thinks about you."

"Zero… you're… confusing me," I gasped, my eyes fluttering closed as a shudder ran through me when he sucked at the spot just below my ear. "How could… you possibly know… what Kaname thinks… about me?"

"He showed me," he answered swiftly, his free hand drifted from my hair to my shirt collar, idly fiddling the top buttons and very slowly slipping them through the small holes, unbuttoning my shirt little by little. My heart leapt into hyper-speed.

"He… showed you?"

Kissing along the bared skin of my collarbone, Zero whispered against my flesh, lips brushing me, "Last night, there was a reason why I pulled the Bloody Rose on the pureblood. Just before that, Kuran invaded my mind. It was almost as if he was reading my mind. But instead of reading my thoughts, he allowed some of his thoughts enter my head, permitted me to read his thoughts. However, he deliberately selected certain thoughts or memories or scenes to assault me with. All of them, every last one, were images of you. None were real memories, but rather, they were scenarios that he's pictured, all of which dealt with you… and him."

Through my clouded mind, I felt a twinge of shock, and I glanced down at the top of Zero's pale head.

Kaname paused, as if allotting Zero the time to consider his words. Then, suddenly, his burgundy irises flared, turning a bright, brilliantly glowing scarlet red. Zero's eyes widened and an expression of pain distorted his fine features. The next second, his face was warped with fury, crimson flashing through his eyes as his upper lip curled back, menacingly baring his fangs.

"Kiryu simply doesn't appreciate some of the things that I'm thinking about."

"What kind… of things?" I asked haltingly, quivering in aroused excitement when I realized Zero had half of my shirt unbuttoned already. I knew this was wrong, that things were happening way too fast, but I couldn't find it in my to care.

Moving away from my chest, Zero kissed up the side of my throat and jaw to capture my mouth against in a vigorous kiss. The breath was knocked out of me by the intensity of his passion as his lips, tongue and fangs assaulted me. Before I could react, he pulled away, both of us breathing hard.

"Those kind of things. Some people like to call them sexual fantasies. I attacked him because I hate it. I hate to know he's thinking those things about you," Zero growled, nipping lightly at my lips. His free hand trailed along my naked side, brushing aside the slack material of my shirt and causing me to gasp and shudder. "I can't stand the thought of Kaname kissing you."

Then, he suddenly swooped down to claim my mouth again, this time letting me kiss him back. For some reason, the knowledge that Kaname thought about kissing me – or possibly more than just that – wasn't the earth shattering good news I thought it would be. Right now, my brain was saying Kaname who? Every current thought I had was focused upon the moonlight-haired vampire cradling me in his arms and passionately kissing me. There was no indecision between the two men at that given moment. There was only Zero.

One hand slid down the side of his face, reveling in the smooth, warm, supple texture of his skin while the other buried itself deeply into his silvery hair, yanking his mouth harder against mine. A small groan rumbled from his throat, and he towed me against to his chest. His tongue twining fervently with mine as our lips meshed together, parted and met in perfect sync with each other. His fangs nicked my lips, causing the sweetish, coppery blood to well forth, fueling Zero's lust. The sudden looseness of my shirt and the cottony sweep of fabric over my stomach told me that the final button had been undone. The sides of my shirt fell to my sides, leaving my entire torso and my white-and-pink-polka-dotted bra displayed for Zero to see.

With a great effort, the moonlight-haired vampire pulled himself away from my gasping lips. "I can't stand the thought of him kissing along your neck, biting you," Zero breathed, trailing a path of soft, teasing bites along my throat, careful not to pierce me with his dagger-edged canines. Zero smiled against my skin every time I gasped when he left yet another set of red, teeth marks imprinted into the fragile skin of my neck. Always mindful of his fangs, his lips burned a hot, wet route over my collarbone, along both my shoulders, across my heaving chest, and between the valley of my breasts. A thrill of excitement shot through me, and I quivered in his arms, peering down at the silver head nestled against my chest

Lifting his head from my chest, Zero's moonstone eyes drank in the sight of me lying in his arms, practically shirtless; my hair in rumpled disarray, cheeks flushed pink, skin glistening with a fine layer of sweat, shirt wide open, and chest rising and falling in rapid succession. My breath hitched in my throat when I saw Zero's twilight eyes darken with lust as he gazed at me.

With a groan, Zero buried his head in the crook of my neck. "I can't stand the thought of him seeing you sprawled out over his bed in nothing more than your bra and underwear," he murmured, his long fingers sketching a line up the center of my stomach and over my ribs to trace along the underside of my bra.

A delicious shudder passed through me as his willowy fingers traced swirling patterns into my skin over my ribs and between my breasts. A burning jolt of heat shot through my stomach whenever his fingers touched my skin and a strange, aching desire overcame me. I wanted something, wanted it badly, but the problem was, I didn't know what it was. All I knew was that I needed something to stop the ache…

"I can't stand the thought of his hands cupping your breasts," Zero whispered huskily, lifting his head back to watch my face.

My eyes shot open and I cried out in surprise when his hand cupped my bra-clad breast, squeezing me. The ache flared suddenly, and I realized that this was what I'd wanted. I'd wanted him to touch me.

My head fell back against his bicep, panting desperately. "Z… Z-Zero…?" I gasped, groaning and arching my back, pressing myself more firmly into his hand. Gently, he caressed and massaged my breast through the padded bra, shooting volts of electricity through me. My fingers tightened in his starlight hair as I cried out. I couldn't believe how good it felt. Writhing in his arms, I yelped in pleasure when his deft fingers found my hardened nipple under the fabric of my bra and pinched it, sending a thrill of pleasurable pain through me.

The ache between my legs was getting worse, and I shifted uncomfortably, trying to relieve it. I groaned in frustration when it wouldn't go away. It made me feel weird. It made me want more, more of Zero and more of the pleasure he was bestowing upon me. I needed more.

Seizing the loose tie around his neck, I yanked on it, dragging Zero down to my lips and kissed him passionately. His moonstone eyes were wide with amazed shock at my aggressive action. Pulling away, ignoring his stunned expression, I demanded breathlessly, "Wh-what else… did you see?" Unraveling a hand from the pearly hair at the nape of his neck, I dragged my palm over his shoulder and down his bare chest, tucking it under his open shirt to rest my hand on his strong back. "Show me," I pleaded.

Zero groaned, and almost frantically, his fingertips folded under the padded material of the bra and pulled it down, exposing one small breast. Bowing his head over my chest, his warm breath ghosted over my left breast, making the nipple harden and tighten as he whispered, "I can't stand the thought of him kissing your breasts."

A strangled moan tore from my throat as Zero's hot lips closed around my nipple, sucking firmly on it. His tongue rolled over the hardened peak of flesh as he sucked, heightening my level of pleasure. I jerked in surprise and bliss as Zero lightly bit down on the sensitive nub. He seemed to chuckle and released his hold on my bra, allowing the thick fabric to cover me again.

"I hate the thought of his hands skimming over your bare skin," he continued huskily, his long fingers sensually dragging over the flat plane of my stomach. His nails lightly grazed my flesh, causing goose bumps to erupt over my skin as my stomach muscles involuntarily contracted. I shivered as his hand traced up and down my sides, over my ribs, and down the other side of my body, trailing lower and lower.

The ache worsened as his slim fingers traced the waistline of my skirt, dangerously close to where I wanted him. Meanwhile, his mouth descended on the swell of my left breast that wasn't completely covered by my bra and lightly began to suckle on my skin. Slipping under my skirt, his hand rested teasingly on the inside of my thigh. A shudder of desire surged through me as the ache spiked, especially when his fingertips began to idly draw patterns along my inner thighs and the edge of my panties.

Lifting his head from my breast, Zero breathed, "I can't stand the thought of him marking you as his own." He lightly planted a kiss on my neck – just over his bite marks – and on my breast where his mouth had been ravishing me moments before. Glancing down, my breath hitched in my throat when I saw a small, blue-black bruise on the top of my breast that hadn't been there before. I blushed when I realized what it was and where it had come from. The silver-haired vampire chuckled at my embarrassment, his lavender-gray eyes twinkling mischievously.

Zero's marked me, a small voice whispered in my head. Twice, in fact, in two different ways. Does that mean I'm his? That I belong to him and that no one else can touch me?

Somehow, I liked that idea.

Kissing the hickey softly, Zero moved his head back to claim my lips and whispered, "I can't stand the thought of you naked under him." Without warning, his hand slid from my inner thigh to between my legs. Gasping in surprise, I broke away from his mouth to whimper in bliss as he very gently kneaded the heel of his palm against me. Instead of soothing it, the pleasure I felt only served to fan the flames of my aching desire. Reclaiming my mouth, Zero swallowed my moans as he gently stroked me. I groaned and bucked my hips against his hand, feeling myself growing damp as the pleasure increased. It wasn't enough though. I needed to feel his hand on my skin.

Wriggling in Zero's grasp, a sudden, intense blush bloomed over my cheeks when my body accidentally rubbed over a hard lump situated in the center of Zero's lap. That oh-so-awkward conversation I'd had with the Chairman when I was eleven came crashing back to me when I realized what it was. However, I overcame my embarrassment when I felt a swell of pride, knowing that I could affect Zero in this manner without even touching him.

Separating from my lips, Zero panted raggedly in my ear, "I can't stand the thought of him touching you." I cried out in bliss as his fingers nudged aside my underwear and very lightly caressed the slick, heated center of my core. Moaning and shuddering, I collapsed limply in his arms as I lost all feeling in my limbs as he stroked me lethargically, taking the time to explore every inch of my core. I was amazed by the level of pleasure brought on by his slightly calloused fingers as he touched my moist, sensitive skin.

Unexpectedly, Zero carefully slid a finger fully inside of me, and I gasped in shock, my body clenching around him at the unfamiliar but pleasurable invasion. As he slowly moved his finger in and out of me, Zero lowered his lips to my ear, his moonlight hair whispering against my skin like a soft breeze. "I can't stand the thought of Kuran inside of you, surrounded by your warmth, pleasuring you," he breathed seductively. Zero's husky voice had become rougher and deeper than usual, turning into a voice that reminded me of dark velvet and erotic dreams. It was incredibly sensual… and vampiric.

Clinging to Zero, I was unable to stop the noises coming out of me as I drowned in the torturous pleasure he was granting me. My body was slick, easing Zero's movements as he slowly pumped his finger inside of me. Thoughts spiraled from my brain, chased away by the bliss as my entire being focused on Zero.

"More," I gasped, rocking my hips against his hand.

Zero groaned and dropped his head to kiss me fiercely as he added another finger inside of me, thrusting a little harder and faster. Pleasure blossomed in the pit of my stomach, coiling tighter and tighter. The arm wrapped around my back – the one that was supporting my body in Zero's lap – snaked up from its place around my waist to cup my left breast and squeeze it.

Pumping his fingers in and out of me quickly, I clutched myself tightly to Zero, kissing him with intense passion as I ran a shaking hand over his body. I wanted him to experience the same state of bliss that I was in, but I had no way of touching him since my body was still sprawled out over his lap. Then, all thoughts were scattered from my head when Zero suddenly struck something deep inside of me. Unbearable pleasure shot through me and my eyes shot open so wide I feared they might fall from my skull. His fingers struck that magic spot again and again and again, and with a tremendous effort, I ripped my mouth away from him as I practically screamed my pleasure.

"There!" I gasped frantically, bucking desperately against his hand as I clawed at his back. "There! Please! Don't stop!"

Again, Zero groaned as if he was in agony. Squeezing his eyes closed, his arm tightened around me as he kissed and licked along the arch of my throat and kneaded my breast in time with his thrusts.

Through frenzied kisses, he panted breathlessly, "I can't stand… the thought of him… being the one… makes you… scream and moan… in pleasure, like… this…."

I moaned, completely beyond rational thought now. Zero's fingers were thrusting hard and fast in and out of me, striking that one spot repeatedly. Extreme pleasure shot through me each and every time he did, so powerful that my entire body shook uncontrollably from the bliss. It was so intense that I was torn between wanting him to stop so I could get air into my lungs and to never stop. Loud, pleasured cries that were almost screams were being pulled from my lips. My heart pounded at a breakneck pace as if was trying to burst free from my chest. I was gasping frantically for air and becoming slightly lightheaded, almost high, on the pleasure. It coiled tightly in my stomach as Zero's fingers slammed into me, burning white hot. The pleasure kept of building and building so high I thought I might explode.

"Zero," I moaned, throwing my hips against his hand, strangely desperate. I needed something more, but I didn't know what it was.

What's happening to me? I thought, moaning and screaming as the pleasure reached an unbearable peak.

Breathing hard against my throat, Zero whispered, "And finally… I can't stand the thought of… Kaname… and not me… being the man that… makes you come…."

Those wonderfully erotic, sensual words combined with one more hard thrust against that spot inside of me sent me over the edge. The tense coils of pleasure inside of me snapped, and pure, white ecstasy washed over me. Spots of color splashed before my eyes as I cried out in pleasure. Powerful waves of bliss overcame me, one right after the other in a seemingly endless tidal wave. I shook violently as my body clenched around Zero's fingers and threw my head back as I voiced my pleasure to the heavens. I wouldn't be surprised if every student in both Classes heard me.

Zero slowed the thrusts of his fingers as I rode out the powerful waves, allowing me to enjoy it to the fullest. Moonstone eyes dark with lust, he watched me as I became to come down from my high, his expression pleased and needy at the same time. When the quakes had finally subsided and the pleasure had faded, he removed his fingers from my body and allowed my now soiled underwear to slide back into place.

A satisfied, heavy exhaustion settled over me, weighing down my eyelids. A thin sheen of sweat slicked the skin of my face, chest and breasts. I was panting raggedly, my heart still stumbling over itself. I laid limply in Zero's arms, vaguely grappling with what we had done. If drinking blood was a cardinal sin, then we were going straight to hell if anyone ever found out about this.

But somehow, I honestly could care less. Though my limbs were heavier than lead, my heart was lighter than air, floating away in complete and utter joy.

Bowing his head, Zero's silver hair fell into his face, shielding his features from me as he gasped and panted breathlessly. A fine trembling rocked his tall, lithe frame and I could still feel the hard lump pressing against the small of my back. I was too tired to be embarrassed and was overcome with the intense desire to grant him the same mind-blowing pleasure I'd just experienced, but couldn't make my body respond.

Sliding his hand out from under my skirt, Zero raised his hand as if to brush his hair out of his face, and then thought better of it. Then, I could almost swear I saw him lift his fingers to his mouth and lick them clean. But I wasn't sure because then his moonstone eyes were on me and he awkwardly tugged my shirt closed around my body.

Shifting, he moved me off his lap to sit on the hay. Keeping his body angled perpendicular to mine, he sat upright, crooking one kneed and extending his other leg, much like he had been when I first discovered him here. He glanced at me and for several long moments, neither of us spoke or brought up what had just transpired between us. We simply stared at each other. Zero was still panting as heavily as I was, his full lips slightly bruised and stained with my blood. Moonlight hair fell in his twilight irises, brighter than I had ever seen them before.

Finally, Zero spoke. "Do you understand now, Yuki, why I hate Kuran so much?" he asked, his voice strained. "He made it very clear to me what he wishes to do with you. And I can't stand the thought of him making love to you"

Standing up, Zero brushed off the seat of his pants, deliberately keeping the front of his body turned away from me. Swiftly, he buttoned up his shirt, adjusted his tie and plucked his discarded jacket and vest from the stable ground. Throwing his coat over one shoulder, started toward the barn door, then paused to pet White Lily. Quietly, he stroked the horse's long nose for some time.

Then, he tossed a glance over his shoulder at me. He stared at me with his beautiful, moonstone eyes, appraising me silently.

"I believe that…" He waved his hand vaguely at me, motioning to my disheveled appearance, "…sufficiently answers your question of why I hate him. If that doesn't, I don't know what will, short of spelling it out for you. So now you know why when it comes to Kaname Kuran, my tolerance level is the same as my name," Zero said smoothly.

And then, as if nothing had happened, he turned on his heel and briskly walked toward the door. Over his shoulder, he called. "You might want to clean up. Class starts within an hour."

And just like that, he was out that door and vanished.

Shakily, I stood up on legs that felt like wood, clumsily buttoning my shirt with trembling hands and throwing my jacket on. There was no way I could pull off going to class looking and smelling like this. A shower was going to be a necessity.

Lightly touching my neck, a small, shy smile curved my lips when I realized I could still feel Zero there. I could still feel him everywhere.

Yawning widely, I became aware that I was completely exhausted from patrol, searching for Zero, and now physically drained from our… activities. I grimaced. "Trying to stay awake in class today is going to be a bitch," I grumbled, stifling another yawn as I left the stable.

Before closing the doors, I looked back where Zero and I had lain not long ago…

I was right. We were due for another major turning point. We just witnessed it.

…And smiled contently.

If you enjoyed this story and wish to continue reading, then keep an eye out for the second in the series The Will To Live.

Please altert me of any mistakes or errors and let me know about them and where they are so I can fix them.

Also, for those of you who are interested, I'm considering making a prequel to the How The Rose Blooms series so you all can see exactly how Zero was saved. I think that'd make for an interesting story, and will most likely be told from Zero's point of view. How 'bout it? Anyone interested? Give me your opinions if I should write a prequel or not once I complete the series. - Des