These are original characters. Steal them, and I will hunt you down and you WILL die.

That said, emails and reviews are appreciated! I love my readers, as long as they don't steal stuff. And I love fanart, it anyone is inspired to draw it. Nyah!

Chapter One

The laughter was infectious, the warmth of cheer in the air intoxicating. The thump of hooves on pavement and the jingle of sleighbells resounded in his skull, maddening, hypnotizing. The virus of happiness had captured the hearts of a good many of the people surrounding him; they had all caught the disease and he was immune.

No, that was being melodramatic. He wasn't unhappy. He had no reason to be down. The holidays were here, the storefronts decorated with glittering icicle webs woven of Christmas lights, the sharp piney tang of wreaths and trees filling the air. A light snow drifted onto his shoulders, fading into his coat and leaving dark patches as they melted. Happy. Everyone was happy. And yet .

He paused in front of an old-fashioned toy store, all wood and scrolling letters, with dolls in elaborate Western gowns putting on a nineteenth- century fashion show. The store had a huge plate-glass window that he stood at for many long moments, feeling for all the world like that pane of glass separated him from the cheer and goodwill that store seethed with. Children in thick coats and their Sunday best (which, for some reason, parents always dressed their offspring in over the holidays) tugged at their smiling parent's hands, pulling them oh-so-subtlely toward the toy they had their eye on.

He leaned his forehead against the glass, hoping the cold would ease the headache that threatened at the corners of his eyes. Deep crimson orbs glimmered in the twilight briefly before he closed his eyes and sighed deeply, savouring the touch of the frosty glass on his fevered skin. He was pale, as most of his kind were, with hair that appeared to change colour in different lights. Though the tail at the base of his neck was black, it glittered with a myriad of colour, much like cormorant feathers. A wry smile revealed sharp canine teeth, strikingly white against the blood- red of his tongue. He was over six feet tall, but there was an aura of fragility about him, as if the slightest touch could shatter that porcelain fa├žade. He was broad-shouldered and skinny, cold and dispassionately beautiful.

A small sound that could have been a sob escaped his throat as he pressed a hand to the window. A child, a little boy in a crisp, collared shirt and too-stiff jeans was sitting dejectedly at the feet of his mother. The woman looked for all the world as if she had walked out of a Christmas magazine; even her earrings were tiny jingle-bells.

The mother was chatting with another, slightly chubbier woman, and the man that he assumed to be the father of the boy was leaning against the wall, scowling at his wife. The boy brightened when he spotted a toy that he obviously wanted, ran over to it and picked it up. His excitement was so intense that it bubbled over into his expression, and his cheeks were flushed with the pure, simple joy of a child. He dashed back to his mother and held the toy out proudly to her. She ignored him, but there was no way she hadn't heard him; she turned her back to him. So the boy held out the box suggestively to his dad. His father glowered at the toy for a bit, not replying to the boy's question. The boy's excitement faded, his arms dropped, his little body drooped as if he was a balloon losing its helium. The father snarled something at him and the boy hung his head, dejectedly shuffling to put the box back on the shelf.

Mekami Takeshi sighed and leaned against the window, his back facing the child. The utter dejection and misery on the little boy's face was too much for him. Too much to think about. Dammit, his head hurt. The sadness . the boy's emotions were eating him alive. His stomach twisted, his heart wrenched in his chest. "Fine," he said aloud to nobody, biting back a moan of agony. "Fine."

Ignoring the stares from a passing group of high-school girls, he slammed the door open with one hand. The bells above the door rang loudly, as if shocked from slumber. He stamped the snow from his boots, earning a glare from the woman managing the counter. Her glare quickly melted into a smile when Takeshi pulled out an expensive leather wallet stuffed with bills and paid for the overly-expensive robot toy the little boy had wanted.

He picked up the bag and knelt down in front of the child. "Hey," he said. "What's your name?"

"Hideaki," he mumbled, studying his shoes.

"Well," he said gently, "I bought this toy for my little brother. What do you think? He's about your age."

Hideaki's eyes shone with a mixture of wonder and misery as he gazed upon the toy's shiny metal surface. "He'll like it," the little boy said. "He'll really like it."

"Are your parents going to buy you one for Christmas?"

"No," Hideaki said, gaze dropping back to the floor.

"Why not? You seem like a nice boy."

"Daddy doesn't want to and Mommy wouldn't listen. It's okay. Maybe they'll buy me something else this year."

"What did you get for Christmas last year?"

"Mommy forgot it was Christmas. She was tired from all the parties she went to."

"What about your dad?"

"Daddy had a hangover and he didn't want me to bother him." The boy's voice grew quieter and quieter as he continued to speak, and tears pricked at the corners of his large eyes.

"Hmm. You know, Hideaki-chan, I just remembered that I already bought something for my little brother. So it turns out that I don't really need this after all." He handed the boy the bag and the child stared at him in utter shock.

"You mean.this is for me?" The boy's wide eyes sparkled. Takeshi winked roguishly at him, faking a half-smile, and walked out of the store.

"I'm impressed. You can do something halfway human, bloodsucker."

Takeshi rolled his eyes. "Y'know, I'm really not in the mood today. Maybe we can play more tomorrow." He turned cold crimson eyes on Aizawa Haruhiko.

Haru was short and thin, barely reaching Takeshi's shoulder, and absolutely adorable. His enormous blue eyes were framed by thick, smoky lashes, and his lips seemed to automatically curve into a smile. He brushed his dyed- red hair out of his eyes with a small gloved hand, arching an eyebrow at the suggestive wording of Takeshi's statement. Despite his angelic looks, he was an in-your-face, sarcastic type of person, always seeming to strike a pose for the benefit of the people around him. He intrigued Takeshi, to say the least.

Haru's eyes glinted behind mirrored sunglasses. "Not likely. You see all these happy people?" He waved at the surrounding crowd with one gloved hand. "Well, it's my job to ensure that all of them live to enjoy this holiday. And that, that means taking you out of commission. Part of that whole vampire-hunter thing. I'm sure you understand."

"Nice," Takeshi said mildly. "How long did it take you to memorize that speech?"

Haru grinned. "A battle of wits, huh?"

"So it would seem. Unfortunately, you appear unarmed." From anyone else, this could have been a joke, but Haru hadn't seen any evidence of a sense of humour in the time he'd known Takeshi, and there was no reason to expect one now.

Haru's smile widened. "Real badass, aren't you?"

Takeshi shrugged and turned away from Haru, jamming his hands deep into his pockets. "I don't believe my ass is any of your business, Haruhiko."

Haru pulled a face. "You know I hate that name."

"Yes."

"That's why you use it, isn't it?"

Was that a smile? No way; vampires don't smile. "Yes."

A pause. "You suck, you know that?"

"Yes," Takeshi agreed. "Yes, I do."

He began to walk away. Haru chased after him before he got more than ten feet, grabbing his jacket sleeve. "Hey, wait for me!"

Takeshi glanced down at the small, Haru-shaped parasite that had attached itself to his arm. "Haruhiko."

"Yes?"

"Let go of me. Now."

"Yessir." Haru complied with a mock-salute.

"Are you sleeping at my place again?" It was a strange relationship they had; although Haru seemed bent on Takeshi's destruction, he had yet to actually do anything about the fact that Takeshi existed. Rather, he spent several nights a week at Takeshi's manor, since his own home was usually crawling with his parent's friends, all folk of a rather.disreputable nature.

Haru's parents had been the best of the best, back when they were Hunters. Vampires worldwide quaked at the mere sound of the name Aizawa.but after Daisuke, Haru's elder brother had been turned by one of the undead.Haru shuddered. He'd watched his parents kill their own son.nothing was quite right after that, and it became easy for the Aizawas to slip into the more human habits of drugs, drink and sex. Haru was the exception. If anything, his brother's death had only inspired him to rid his family's name of the ridicule it bore, and restore the Aizawa clan to its former glory.

"D'you mind?"

"No."

Haru's brow crinkled as he glanced up at Takeshi. The vampire always seemed so . sad. He knew, of course, that Takeshi's family line was cursed with empathy, and forced to experience the emotions of everyone around him. This led to an odd sort of sixth sense on Takeshi's part, as if he was able to read minds, not feelings.

"Is it awful around Christmas? The feelings, I mean."

Takeshi's eyes barely flicked in his direction long enough for Haru to realize he'd heard him. "No. It's fine."

"You liar."

They walked in comfortable silence the rest of the way home-Takeshi's home, that is. Not Haru's. Takeshi unlocked the door and handed the key to Haru.

"I'll be in my room if you need anything." Takeshi's voice echoed in the grand entrance hall and Haru scurried after the vampire, not wanting to be in the creepy room alone with the echoes of Takeshi's family, some of which had fled to Romania, in search of their own kind.

Now here was a room he recognized: the kitchen.

"Do you have anything to eat?" Haru opened the refrigerator. "Steak, maybe?" He sounded hopeful. Western food was so bad for you, but it tasted so good .

"I'm a vampire, not a werewolf. I don't eat, you know that."

Haru abandoned his search of Takeshi's kitchen, trotting up the stairs after the vampire. "Speaking of," he said, "I don't think any odd deaths have been reported in quite a while. Three or four years ago, and you were still a fledgling then, so you had to kill nearly every night. How do you stay alive?"

Takeshi paused at the top of the stairs, half-turning toward Haru, rolling up the sleeve of his black turtleneck and exposing the inside of a pale wrist. "Like this."

His fangs snicked across the vein neatly and a torrent of crimson flooded down Takeshi's arm. He lost control then, all his cool, reserved demeanour and drank thirstily, sucking at the severed vein desperately, hungrily, moaning in a sort of agony.

"Takeshi! Stop! What're you doing?"

Takeshi's head snapped around, his red eyes bored into Haru's. He smiled, a grotesque, sickening smile, the blood trickling from the corners of his mouth and down his throat. He turned his attention back to his gashed wrist, lapping up the crimson fluid like a beast. When he'd finally sated his bloodlust, he touched a finger to the wound and whispered "Heal," rather shakily.

Haru watched him, aghast. "You mean, you've been drinking your own blood?"

"Yes," Takeshi said wearily, as if suddenly exhausted. He staggered somewhat up the last three steps, leaning heavily on the railing. "Not very nourishing, but . " he shrugged. "I don't want to kill again."

"To save everyone else . doesn't that . "

"Kill me? Eventually." Takeshi shrugged again. "No one will mourn. My will's made out, I've left my house to you, you won't have to go back to your parents."

"To . me?"

"Yes . and don't be so upset. Wasn't my death what you wanted all along?"

Haru, who had a comeback for everything, found that he had nothing to say. Words had abandoned him completely; he could only gape at the shivering vampire.

His own blood, Haru thought, watching his sort-of friend ascend the stairs. "If you need anything, just call," Takeshi said. "Your room's already prepared. Good night, Haruhiko."

"Yeah, g'night," Haru said absently.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Takeshi glanced up from his book as the door opened, and Haru would have normally been amused to realize that the vampire wore reading glasses, but he was in no position to think right now. "Do you need something?"

He set his book on the bedside table and removed the glasses. Haru tried very hard not to notice that Takeshi wore only silk pajama pants and that the firelight cast a warm glow on his skin, making it shine most appealingly. His room was beautiful, all carved oak in an eighteenth- century sort of style, elegant in the same sort of way Takeshi himself was. He lay reclined on his enormous bed, his white skin stark against the deep red covers.

"Haru?"

Haru jerked out of his contemplation of Takeshi's room. "Yeah?"

"You're staring. What's the matter?" He sounded genuinely concerned, Haru thought. "What do you need?"

Haru feet moved of their own accord, shakily bringing him across the room. Before he could register what his body was doing, and before he could stop it, he was pressed roughly against Takeshi, pinning him on the bed. "You," he whispered huskily.

"Wh-what? Haru? Are you feeling alright?"

"Yes." He wrapped his arms around the startled vampire's neck. "I never knew," he whispered, a tear winding its way down his cheek. "I never knew what you sacrificed for us. To slowly kill yourself, just to save us all . that's so-"

"Foolish?" Takeshi asked bitterly.

"No, it's brave." Haru buried his face in Takeshi's chest. He brushed his hair away from his neck and arched it toward Takeshi. "Here. Drink." Takeshi could only stare. Haru had lost his mind.

"Just . try not to kill me, ne?"

"Haru . what are you doing?"

"I'm offering myself. Please. I don't want you to die, and I don't want you to be so weak that every kid pining over a toy gives you a heartache. Please, just . don't hurt me."

"Why?"

"Because, Takeshi, I think I've just realized why I haven't killed you yet."

"Why's that?"

"I think I love you."

Takeshi's harsh crimson eyes softened. "Haru . "

Haru shivered at the sound of his name from the vampire's cold lips. "Please. I'm offering it, just take it." He clutched Takeshi's shoulder. "I don't want to lose you."

Takeshi's lips brushed his neck, sending another shiver down Haru's spine. "Takeshi . " he sighed.

The vampire could feel his pulse throbbing in his fangs, feel the teeth lengthening to ensure that his victim was suitably drained. His body was adapting to the promise of fresh blood, even if his mind rejected the very idea. This was Haru, he couldn't drink from him. What if he hurt him?

The familiar clenching of his throat muscles alerted Takeshi to the onslaught of the bloodlust and he shoved Haru away, panting. "N-no, I can't-Haru, run, please, I'm dangerous-"

Haru took hold of the vampire's face and kissed him. Takeshi jumped at the initial touch, but soon found himself relaxing as Haru devoured his mouth hungrily, probing with his tongue gently, as if afraid Takeshi would bite him.

Haru snagged his own tongue of one of Takeshi's fangs and warm blood flooded their mouths, nearly driving Takeshi over the brink. He wrapped powerful arms around Haru's back, pulling the young Hunter closer, kissing him harder and more desperately than before.

They broke apart for breath and Takeshi stared into the Hunter's frightened blue eyes. "Haru . if we do this, you know our relationship will never be the same, right?"

Haru wondered if Takeshi meant drinking from him or making love, because the latter was weighing much more heavily on his mind at the moment. "I know."

"And you're alright with that?" Takeshi's breath was ragged, harsh, and his normally pale cheeks were flushed. Bloodlust, Haru thought. He doesn't really want me, he's just hungry. Had Takeshi understood? Haru didn't want to be a meal, he wanted to be Takeshi's lover.

"Yes, I'm alright with that. I want it. I want you." There, no mistaking Haru's intentions now.

Before Haru realized that Takeshi had moved, the vampire had rolled over so that Haru was the one pinned to the mattress. Takeshi bit at his throat lightly, not hard enough to break skin. "You're mistaken. I mean to have you."

Haru whimpered, nervous, as the fangs brushed his jugular. "Relax," Takeshi assured him. "I'll let you enjoy yourself before I drink.losing a pint or two of blood is rather good for spoiling a mood."

Haru blinked. That was a joke, he was sure of it. Takeshi had a sense of humour after all.

Takeshi's deft fingers began unbuttoning Haru's shirt, easing it off his slim shoulders. Bloodlust, lust, it was all the same to him. He could wait until later to slake his thirst, and right now the warm body beneath his was writhing in a most tantalizing way, his scent becoming musty with the underlying odor of arousal.

For someone who'd just offered himself to a vampire, Haru was rather jumpy. He tried to remove his shirt at the same moment Takeshi did, and wound up entangling himself in the fabric, thrashing around in panic, trying to get it off. Takeshi kissed him softly, feeling his own heart clench with Haru's fear. "It's okay," he whispered as he finally managed to pull Haru's shirt off. "Calm down. I'm not going to do anything yet. You don't need to be scared of me."

"I'm not," Haru lied. Takeshi ran slender fingers through his hair gently, trying to soothe the frightened boy.

"Are you sure about this?" Takeshi asked again, rolling off of Haru and lying beside him instead. He slid his arms around Haru's waist and the boy snuggled closer to him, burying his face in he hollow of Takeshi's neck.

"Yeah, I'm sure."

Takeshi lifted Haru's chin and stared into his eyes. "Are you absolutely sure? The last thing I want to do is hurt you."

Haru laughed. "You really are a pathetic excuse for a vampire, you know that?"

Takeshi smiled slightly. "Yes, I know." They lay there in silence for a good ten minutes, just enjoying each other's warmth in peace. "What about you? Falling in love with a man you're supposed to kill?"

"I-I can't help it," Haru said, clinging more tightly to Takeshi. "You.you don't get to pick who you fall in love with, I guess."

Takeshi kissed the tip of his nose lightly. "That's fine with me," he said.

"Takeshi?"

"Yes?"

"Can I ask you something?"

"What is it?"

"Do you . I mean, if we do this . you won't just leave me, will you? I . I don't want to be used like this. Not by someone I love."

Takeshi laughed in relief. So that was what had Haru so worked up! Easy to remedy. "You really think I'd do that? I'm a vampire, not a human."

"That sounded vaguely like an insult."

"No, you don't understand. Well, actually, it was an insult, but that's not what I meant. Vampires aren't like humans with this whole 'love' thing. We don't make love to people we don't intend to keep around, because sometimes we slip up, and the human ends up being turned in the heat of-no, I won't do that to you. I promise. The point I was trying to make is that I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't love you."

"It doesn't bother you that I'm a guy?"

Takeshi shrugged. "Vampires don't have the same sort of inhibitions about homosexuality that humans do, since specific genders aren't required to create one of our kind."

The Hunter nodded. That made sense. A fledgling vampire could be born to a male and female vampire, but two males could just as easily obtain a child to turn if they wanted.

"Does it bother you? That I'm male, I mean."

"What? Oh, no."

"So you're gay?"

"I . I don't think so," Haru admitted. "I just believe that you fall in love with a person, not a gender. I don't love you because you're a man, I love you because you're you."

Haru felt his heart melt as Takeshi smiled at him, genuinely happy for the first time in so very long. "So relax, Haru, everything's going to be alright."

Haru laughed and kissed Takeshi. It didn't matter to him if they made love or not, it was merely aftermath; he already had Takeshi in every sense possible.

Takeshi couldn't help but grin at the overflow of emotions he was receiving from Haru. He couldn't question that kind of devotion, that kind of love. "So are you okay now?"

"Yes." He clasped Takeshi's hand. "I am."

Takeshi's eyes widened slightly as Haru's other hand eased under the waistband of his silk pants. Haru laughed at the look on Takeshi's face, but the vampire recovered quickly, rolling on top of the boy and pinning him to the mattress. "Eager, aren't we?" Takeshi's voice was husky.

Haru whimpered again, a sound Takeshi had come to recognize as not one of fear, but as the Hunter's odd sort of encouragement. Willing his fangs to return to their normal size, he nipped at Haru's collarbone while he played patterns over the boy's bare chest, teasing the tender skin just below his navel. Haru arched his back, eyes closed, teeth set tightly, keening deep in his throat. The vampire laughed to himself; Haru was pure, and probably completely unused to the sensations flooding his brain.

Takeshi fumbled with the fastening of Haru's jeans awkwardly, since he couldn't really see what he was doing. Haru tried unsuccessfully to assist Takeshi, but the vampire pressed him back down. He'd probably just get tangled again. He finally managed to rid Haru of his clothes, and took a few moments to admire the Hunter's lean body.

Haru blushed slightly under Takeshi's examination, shifting uncomfortably beneath the vampire. He wondered if Takeshi liked what he saw.

"What are you embarrassed about? You're beautiful," Takeshi whispered, running his hands along Haru's flanks.

"That emotion-reading thing gets a little awkward sometimes," Haru said. "You're not supposed to know I'm embarrassed."

"But I do. And you have no reason to be."

Haru gave Takeshi his characteristic half-smile. "Thanks." He tugged at Takeshi's pajamas. "Now shut up and take these off."

Laughing, Takeshi complied.

Haru stared unabashedly. "Hell," he said. "Anyone's got reason to be embarrassed compared to you." Takeshi was a perfect blend of sinew and muscle, lean and strong, with a tangible sort of power rippling beneath his skin. As Haru reached up to put his hand on Takeshi's chest, the muscles slid away from his fingers, though the vampire hadn't moved. "So does this mean your ass is my business now?"

"Huh? Oh," Takeshi smiled, recalling their earlier conversation. "I suppose."

Without any warning, Takeshi grabbed Haru's hips, straddling him, grinding into a rather sensitive part of the boy. Haru's hands clenched around fistfuls of sheets. "Takeshi . " he moaned heavily. "I . I can't think . everything's shutting down . "

"Shh," Takeshi whispered, kissing Haru gently on the forehead. He slid a finger inside the Hunter and waited for the tight muscles to adjust before adding another. Haru whimpered in pain and curled toward Takeshi, clutching his shoulders tightly, back well off the mattress. "It burns . "

"It will at first," Takeshi said. "It'll get better soon, I promise." He pressed Haru back down, no mean feat, since the boy's muscles were rigid with agony. Haru's eyes were wide, pained, panicked, following Takeshi's every move. To the vampire's heightened senses, Haru reeked of fear. Everything Takeshi did was laced with fear, even the one who loved him was afraid of him, and he was still in human form.

"Haru . "

"No, dammit. Stop having second thoughts. Please." He caressed Takeshi's cheek with his fingertips. "I want this."

As if to accentuate his words, Haru arched his back, grinding his hips against Takeshi's, and the vampire moaned at the sensation. Even if Haru said no, he wasn't sure he could stop himself now. And there was something oddly comforting about the way the boy was so determined, even though he was in pain. It was nice to have someone so dependent on you, Takeshi decided, sliding himself into Haru. He tried to go as slowly as possible, since this was Haru's first time, but the Hunter's breath quickened, his heart speeding up to easily twice its normal pace. His hands released the sheets and tangled in Takeshi's long hair, clenching in spasms of agony. His neck was arched, his eyes shut tight, tears welling at the corners, and he was muttering something suspiciously like "Oh God, oh God, oh God," over and over again.

Takeshi paused, unsure for a moment as to what he should do. Haru jerked a handful of his hair, effectively catching his attention.

"Stop . treating . me . like . a . doll," he whispered.

Takeshi nodded and slammed into him the rest of the way.

Haru didn't scream, which surprised both of them. Takeshi leaned toward him and Haru arched toward the warmth, nuzzling the vampire's cheek with his own. Takeshi's sensitive ears picked up each tiny cry that escaped Haru's lips every time he moved and he rocked his hips slightly, trying to find an angle more comfortable for the Hunter. Haru gasped and clutched Takeshi, digging his short fingernails into the vampire's shoulders, hovering somewhere between ecstasy and searing pain. "Ah." he moaned, clenching his teeth tightly, and Takeshi was momentarily concerned. The boy was so fragile inside, like one wrong move would break him, and his strained muscles protested violently at the intrusion, clenching around Takeshi as Haru writhed in an attempt to lessen the pain.

And then Takeshi must have done something right after all, because Haru cried out pathetically, not in an attempt to make him stop, but to urge him on with the keening noises deep in his chest. Haru's hips bucked without his consent and to his horror he heard his own voice begging, pleading with Takeshi in a tone that was definitely not his own.

And the vampire was only too happy to comply.

Haru soon lost track of time, reason, and everything that had ever mattered to him was forgotten as he allowed himself to give into the flood of alien sensations that set every one of his nerves on fire and coaxed such shameful noises from his lips that he would look back on this event and conveniently delete them from the memory.

He had no idea how long he held out, only that Takeshi kept him hovering painfully on the brink of climax for what seemed an eternity before they were done.

By the time it was over the sun had sunk low beneath the horizon and the boys were covered in a fine sheen of sweat. Takeshi collapsed on top of Haru, completely drained, which alarmed the Hunter until he realized that the vampire was simply tired.

Tired and hungry.

Haru was reminded suddenly of his promise to Takeshi, and he shook his shoulder.

"Eh?" was all Takeshi could manage to force out at the moment.

Haru pushed the hair away from his neck. "I didn't forget. I got what I wanted, and now it's your turn."

Takeshi grinned wearily. "Don't give yourself so much credit. I wanted that as much as you did. However," he said, one hand gripping Haru's shoulder, the other the side of his head, "I am rather hungry . "

"Before . do you mind? One more favour?"

"What is it?" Takeshi released him.

"Could I see what you really look like?"

Takeshi smiled and nodded. He opened his mouth so Haru could see his teeth elongating, becoming fearsome fangs where they had formerly been just abnormally sharp canines. His fingernails lengthened into wicked claws, several inches long and perfectly capable of gutting a full-grown person if necessary. His ears, always slightly more angular than human ears, became longer and pointed, protruding from the tangle of sweat-soaked hair cascading down Takeshi's shoulders. There was something more fierce about him, perhaps in the narrowing of his bright crimson eyes, perhaps in the tightness of tensed muscles. Fact is, he was beautiful. Powerful and breathtaking, with eyes like ice chips and a glare that could melt steel.

And, Haru thought, he's mine.

To his surprise, it didn't hurt at all when Takeshi's fangs sunk into his throat. Rather, there was a strange sense of euphoria. A natural anaesthetic, Haru decided, that not only dulled the pain but was capable of sending Takeshi's victims to their deaths with grins on their faces. Maybe it was a vampire's sort of mercy, or maybe they just found it amusing, but he was glad for it, since he'd anticipated much more pain from this particular experience.

Takeshi drank hungrily, unconsciously tightening his grip on Haru and pressing him more firmly into the mattress as he licked blood from the wound, snarling to himself like an animal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Haru sat up, staring at Takeshi, rubbing the sleep from his wide blue eyes. "You want me to what?"

"Calm down," Takeshi told him. "They won't eat you or anything."

"How am I supposed to know that? Not too long ago you'd have happily killed me!"

"Oh, stop whining. I lived with them most of my life, and they usually just drink donated blood."

"People donate their blood to vampires?"

"Well-Romania's a bit different than Japan. We're more . respected there."

"You mean people are too scared of you to say no."

Takeshi laughed. "Yes, kind of."

"Still-meeting your parents? Isn't it a bit, ah, early for that?"

Crimson eyes narrowed in confusion, and the vampire looked slightly hurt. "Too early?"

"Well, I mean, it hasn't even been a full day yet . "

"Did you just decide you loved me yesterday? I'm offended," Takeshi said, half-joking. "I've been watching you for about a year and a half now."

Haru blushed. "No, that's not what I-I mean, what if it doesn't work out?"

"Oh, I don't know," Takeshi said thoughtfully. "I'm sure we could find a fledgling somewhere to take you off our hands." When Haru blanched, Takeshi's voice took on a tone of alarm. "Hey, if we're going to be together you need to get used to my sense of humour."

"No," Haru muttered rebelliously to himself. "I need to get used to the fact that you have a sense of humour."

Takeshi laughed and whacked him with a pillow. A brief struggle ensued, ending only when Takeshi pinned Haru to the bed and tickled him mercilessly until he surrendered.

"Agh! Ahahaha-Takeshi, stoppit!"

"No way, you're too cute to be left alone!"

"I give up! You win!" Haru cried, giggling until his stomach hurt.

"Yes, I do, and I want some sort of prize," Takeshi purred, leaning toward Haru.

Haru shoved him away playfully. "Oh, come on, it's too early for that." He sat up, tugging his shirt down, and headed for Takeshi's door. "We need to go shopping," he commented. "I'm hungry."

"Shocker," Takeshi grinned, grabbing Haru's rear and causing the boy to jump ahead of him as they left the room.

"Hey!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Oh . " Haru whispered as they entered the kitchen. A five-course breakfast was laid out on the long carved-oak table: eggs, pancakes, waffles, cinnamon rolls, sizzling bacon, cereal, seven types of fruit, juice, coffee, cereal, pocky, and what looked somewhat like sushi. "Takeshi.you did this?"

Takeshi grinned and kissed him on the cheek. "Didn't know I could cook, did you?"

"No," Haru said happily, biting into an orange. "I can't believe you did all this for me!"

"Not just for you," Takeshi said, sliding an arm around his waist and plucking the orange from Haru's fingers, proceeding to feed it to him bit by bit, shivering each time Haru's tongue flicked out and brushed his skin. Eventually Haru learned that he could make Takeshi jump by licking his fingertips, and they spent the better part of an hour with the Hunter sitting on the vampire's lap, being hand-fed each bite.

Not only was Takeshi insanely sweet, Haru thought, he was a good cook. The Hunter couldn't remember when he'd had a better breakfast.

"My turn," Takeshi said, pulling Haru closer, so that the boy was straddling him, with his tanned arms wrapped around the vampire's neck. Haru cringed.

"Hold on, aren't you supposed to wait? So my blood cells can reproduce or whatever?" Haru had donated blood a month ago, and the memory of how weak he'd been afterward was still fresh in his mind.

"You remember the way it felt last time?"

"You mean that anaesthetic stuff you injected into me?"

"It accelerates cell replication, so we can drink from the same person night after night."

"Oh." He didn't know why he'd never thought that there was a science to this whole vampire thing . perhaps it was due to the legends surrounding the undead, the stories that made being a vampire seem like a glamorous, mystical kind of life.

"So relaaax," Takeshi murmured, drawing out the last syllable as he kissed Haru lightly on the lips. "It didn't hurt last time, did it?"\

"Well, no," Haru said, still uneasy. "It's just hard to get used to the idea of fangs sinking into your neck. Hey," he said suddenly, "aren't I supposed to turn into a zombie or something? Like your undead, mindless slave?"

Takeshi stared at him. "What are the Hunters teaching you these days? Tell me you don't believe that armies-of-the-damned thing. No, all vampires can do is turn humans into full-fledged-"

"Children of the Night?" Haru asked eagerly.

"Aah, that's such an archaic term . but yes, I suppose that's it."

"Aww. Armies of the undead sound so cool."

Takeshi snorted and leaned in towards Haru's neck, baring his fangs. He was somewhat full from his meal last night, and his feasting wasn't nearly as desperate as it had been. He was much more gentle, Haru noted, leaning his head back to expose more of his throat to the hungry vampire. Takeshi nibbled at his collarbone, licking up the blood that pooled there, making Haru arch and moan under his touch.

"So much for 'too early,'" Takeshi laughed. Haru moaned again, but this one was more joking than the last.

"So, where does your family live?" Haru asked as Takeshi healed the puncture marks on his neck.

"Romania."

"Where in Romania?"

"Transylvania," Takeshi said with a "duh" sort of look. "Baka."

Haru stuck out his tongue at his lover. "Don't treat me like a moron."

"So stop acting like one."

Haru pouted adorably. "Don't call me that," he whined. Takeshi kissed him, and Haru cheered up considerably.

"Will your parents be alright with us?"

"Yes. They like to keep tabs on me, and it's likely that they already know." The vampire shrugged. "Still, I want you to officially meet them."

"How old're your folks?"

"Couple centuries," Takeshi said, shrugging. "I don't know, I never really kept track. Pain in the ass to buy them gifts, though . "

"They don't mind you showing up at their house?"

"Nah. They'll probably invite all my relatives to meet you.they'll be overjoyed that their idiot son has found a lover.they've always wanted grandchildren." Takeshi was starting to look slightly less enthusiastic about returning home. "Y'know, on second thought, maybe this isn't such a great idea . " Takeshi hated banquets almost as much as he hated the clothes he was required to wear to the banquets.

"Oh, come on. It'll be fun," Haru said.

"Fun?" Takeshi snorted. "Have you ever been to one of these gatherings? Vampires don't need much sleep . they go on for days at a time."

"Alcohol is fun!" Haru said brightly.

"You're underage," Takeshi reminded him.

"Aah . "

"I'm not going to have you get drunk and pass out on my grandmother or something. That'd be a rather bad first impression," Takeshi said sternly. "Besides, most of the wine is mixed with blood."

Haru made a face. "Yummy."

"Haru?"

"Yeah?"

"Are you going to tell your parents about us?"

"Eh . " Haru looked away. "I don't know."

"Are you ashamed of me?"

"No! That's not it at all. I just . I don't want them to try to kill you or anything . "

"They're going to find out sooner or later."

"Yeah, I know."

"Maybe they'd take it better if they heard it from you."

"Yeah, you're probably right." Haru stood up and walked over to the entrance hall, pulling on his jacket.

"Where are you going?"

"Home." Haru stepped outside. "You coming?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Oi! Parents!" Haru slammed open the door, shaking snow off of his boots. "I need to talk with you!"

"Keep it down, would you? I've got a hell of a headache," a woman's voice called from the family room.

"Yeah, yeah," Haru grumbled. Takeshi put a comforting hand on his shoulder; he'd never seen his lover so upset.

"Mom?" Haru tossed his jacket on the kitchen counter, scattering empty beer cans and ashtrays filled with cigarette butts. "Mom?"

"Yeah, what do you want?"

Takeshi stared at the woman lying on the couch. She was a mirror image of Haru, down to the same dyed-red hair, save for the fact that her eyes were chocolate brown. She was pretty, even for an older woman, but she looked so tired.

"Don't start feeling sorry for her," Haru muttered. "They did this to themselves. Where's Dad?" he said gruffly, picking up a few of the vodka bottles surrounding the couch and setting them on the coffee table. When there was no reply, he snapped his fingers in his mother's face. "Oi! Where's Dad?"

"Over there," she said, her eyes finally focusing on her son, and she waved a hand in the general direction of the fireplace.

Takeshi simply stood in the doorway, feeling incredibly awkward and somewhat nauseous from the odor of strong alcohol and marijuana that permeated the house. Haru stalked across the room, kicking garbage out of his way as he went, and shook the shoulder of the man sleeping on the couch. "Wake up."

"Uunnngh," the man grunted unintelligibly.

"Hey. Wake up. I'm making coffee. You two look like you need it."

He grabbed Takeshi's arm as he passed him, dragging the vampire into the kitchen. "You see why I stay at your place?" he asked bitterly.

"Haru, I-"

"No. Don't pity me. Just help me clean this place up a bit."

Takeshi nodded and began tossing the junk on the kitchen table into the trashcan while Haru rummaged through drawers to find the coffee beans. To Takeshi's surprise, the place was relatively clean; although trash littered the floor and every other surface, the tiles were scrubbed, and there weren't any vermin scurrying around in the corners.

"I keep the place pretty tidy, but it's always a wreck after they have one of their parties or something," Haru said, in answer to his unasked question

"Oh," was all Takeshi could think to say. How do you tell someone you're sorry their life sucks?

"Yeah . Let's get this place cleaned up and get them completely awake before we tell them, okay?" Haru asked, with a hint of his old smile, although a heavy aura of sadness still surrounded him.

Takeshi dropped the garbage bag he'd been holding and crossed the room to wrap his arms around Haru. "I'm so sorry," he said, burying his face in the shorter boy's hair. "I didn't know."

Haru nuzzled into his embrace. "It's okay," he said. "It'll be fine."

Takeshi blinked. Haru thought he was worried about breaking the news to the Aizawas and he was trying to comfort him! "No, that wasn't what I-oh, never mind. Even if they don't like the idea . you can come live with me."

Haru looked up at his lover, eyes sparkling. "You mean it? I can . I can live with you?"

"Of course," Takeshi said. "I've got more than enough room, and more than enough money. We'll fix up a room for you."

Haru hugged him fiercely, crushing Takeshi's ribs somewhat. "You're the greatest," he said, kissing Takeshi's nose. "I love you."

Takeshi ruffled the boy's hair. "I love you too. Now let's clean this mess up, ne?"

Haru smiled. "Hai!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Half an hour later they'd pretty much managed to make the house livable again. Haru's parents were in the bathroom cleaning themselves up, and from the sound of the awful singing, Mr. Aizawa was taking a shower.

Haru smiled wistfully. "Sometimes it's like the old days, you know? Back when Dai was alive . "

Takeshi took Haru's hand, entwining their fingers.

"I just wish they'd get over it. Daisuke's dead, and drinking themselves into oblivion won't bring him back."

Guilt clenched Takeshi's stomach for a moment, and he opened his mouth to say something to Haru when-

"Good morning, Haruhiko," Mrs. Aizawa said, breezing into the kitchen. "Where were you last night? We missed you."

Mr. Aizawa joined her at the counter, pouring cream into his coffee and downing three aspirin for his headache.

"I was at a friend's house." Haru let go of Takeshi's hand. "This friend, actually."

Takeshi stood up and bowed, nearly tripping over his chair. He'd expected something akin to the homeless drunks he'd seen wandering the streets, but both the elder Aizawas were clean-cut, and genuinely loved their son.

"Oh, dear. I'm sorry the place was such a mess, but thank you for taking care of our boy . we haven't been ourselves lately . we just lost our son . "

"Eight months ago," Haru interrupted loudly. "Look, you guys can't keep having parties here. The landlord's going to kick us out."

"Don't be such a worrywart," Mr. Aizawa said, pulling up a chair and sitting down. "We just had a few friends over. We can discuss this when your friend goes home, alright? What's your name, son?"

Takeshi winced at the man's breath. To his sensitive nose, Mr. Aizawa reeked of alcohol. "Mekam-"

"This is Takeshi," Haru said hurriedly. "You idiot," he added in an undertone. "They were Hunters too, they'll recognize your surname."

"Oops."

"Pleased to meet you, Takeshi-kun," Mr. Aizawa said, shaking the vampire's hand and nearly crushing it in the process.

"The pleasure's mine," Takeshi said smoothly, removing his hand from the man's crushing grip. If they had gone slightly to seed, he could see very clearly why the Aizawas had once been the most feared Hunters in existence . Mr. Aizawa was strong!

"Actually, Mom, Dad, I wanted to talk to you about Takeshi."

"About Takeshi, dear?" Mrs. Aizawa looked slightly surprised.

"Yes. He and I-well-he's my boyfriend."

You could have cut the tension in the room with a knife.

"Your . boyfriend . ?" Mrs. Aizawa sounded faint, and she grabbed her husband's shoulder for support.

"Yes," Haru said stubbornly. "We're lovers."

"L-lovers?"

"I shouldn't have to explain this to you," Haru snapped. "We sleep together."

"You . ?"

"Mom," Haru said gently, touching his mother's hand, "I wanted you to hear it from me first. I realize you're going to be upset, but I'm happy. I love him."

"You, boy," Mr. Aizawa shot at Takeshi. "You treat my boy right? Do you love him?"

"Of course I do," Takeshi said, half-expecting the big man to hit him.

Instead the former Hunter clapped Takeshi on the shoulder, grinning from ear to ear. "Well, congratulations!" he said heartily. "You've got a fine boy there!"

"Hunh?" Haru stared at his father. "You . you're not mad?"

"Mad? Why would we be mad?" Mrs. Aizawa smiled tearfully at her son, hugging him and then a very startled Takeshi. "Of course not, sweetheart! Of course, we always wanted grandchildren, but all we really want is for you to be happy, and if you love him . "

Haru could only blink at his parents as if they'd both completely lost their minds.

"Well, that went . better than I'd planned," Takeshi commented as they left Haru's house later that evening.

"It was . weird," Haru commented. "I thought they'd be upset for sure."

"Well," Takeshi shrugged. "I guess they weren't. No use worrying about it, right? I mean, they didn't even notice I was a vampire!"

"Hey, watch it!" Haru cautioned, clapping a hand over Takeshi's mouth. A girl passing by gave Takeshi a very strange look and began walking a bit faster. Takeshi bared his teeth at her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As Takeshi unlocked the door, they were greeted with the sound of a phone ringing.

"I didn't know you had a phone," Haru said, glancing around as if it was hiding in the shadows.

"It's here somewhere," the vampire said, walking into the kitchen. "I don't use it much . "

"I never would have guessed." Haru had unearthed the phone from where it had been buried beneath a stack of old, musty-smelling books. "Hello?"

Haru listened to whoever was on the other end for a moment, nodding every so often. "Yeah. Uh-huh. He's right here." He held the phone out to Takeshi. "It's for you."

"Obviously," the vampire remarked, taking the phone from him. "Hello?"

"Takeshi. Where the hell are you?"

"What?"

"This is your mother, don't you talk to me like that! Where are you?"

"At home! How else would I be able to answer the phone?" Takeshi rarely used the term "duh," but it seemed entirely appropriate in this situation.

"You're supposed to be here! You were supposed to be here yesterday!"

Takeshi stared at the receiver, wondering how he'd missed that. "What do you mean?"

His mother sighed. "Your brother's wedding? Please don't tell me you forgot."

"Oh. Shit."

"And watch your language," she said tiredly, as if she'd been over and over this, which, in fact, she had. "I swear, you're the most irresponsible child I've raised-"

"Love you, Mother, I'm on my way." He hung up, cutting her off in midsentence.

"Where're we going?" Haru asked, looking up from the book he'd been examining.

"We're going to Romania. Now." Haru blinked at him. "What're you waiting for? Go pack!" Haru jumped at the angry tone of his lover's voice. Something had him upset, and it had something to do with the woman who'd called . Takeshi's mother?

"Pack what?" Haru asked. "I don't have my stuff with me."

Takeshi glanced at the boy's worn jeans and faded shirt. He couldn't very well show up looking like that. "Oh . never mind. I'll lend you something. You look like my parent's worst vision of a human . "

"Gee, thanks," Haru snapped.

"I wasn't trying to offend you. I just don't think you're going to be very comfortable in that. It's kind of cold in Romania."

"So what? You can keep me warm!"

Takeshi glared at Haru; the thought of visiting his family had put him in a rather foul mood. "I'm really not in the mood right now."

"Oh, lighten up. It's just a visit, right?"

"It's my brother's wedding. Have you ever been to a human wedding?

"Yeah. They go on forever."

"Vampire weddings are about twice as long, and you have to wear all this formal clothing . " Takeshi shuddered. "It's hell."

"Ah. Well," the Hunter said, irritatingly cheerful, "at least you'll have company, right?"

Takeshi half-smiled. "I suppose."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You know, when I first found out you were a vampire, I thought that was so cool."

"Mm-hm."

"I mean, being able to do magic, drinking blood, flying . " Haru smiled. "It sounded so awesome."

"Mm-hm."

"Especially the flying."

"Mm-hm."

"So, if you can do all that, could you please explain to me why the hell we're on a plane?"

"We're flying," Takeshi said waspishly. "I'd think that was obvious."

"You're ruining a lot of childhood dreams here," Haru said, flipping through the airline catalog in front of his seat.

"Yeah, well," Takeshi mumbled grumpily.

Haru cocked his head to one side. "You really don't wanna go home, do you?"

"No, not really."

"Why not?"

"I don't like my family much. They're very . traditional."

"Is that why you live in Japan?"

"Well, the Mekamis are originally from Edo-"

"We call that Tokyo now," Haru interrupted.

"I know that. My parents moved to Transylvania not long after I was born, and I just . stayed. My brother, Katsuyuki, lived with me for a while-he's the one getting married-until I'd grown enough to take care of myself. Vampires mature faster than humans do, and I was able to care for myself when I was about ten. I guess I never really forgave them for leaving me . I just don't look forward to seeing them again."

"You've lived by yourself for eight years? Do you even remember your parents?"

"I last saw them at my official initiation into the Mekami clan when I was thirteen. They were proud of me, I guess, but my whole family looked at me a bit strangely-I mean, the Mekamis pride themselves on their appearances. Blonde hair, pale skin, blue eyes . I didn't really fit in. At least I got the Mekami skin, right?" He gave a wry, self-deprecating laugh that wrenched at Haru's heart.

"I don't like tradition. They . made me drink the blood of a virgin girl for my initiation. I'd never killed before . but they didn't give me a choice."

"Why'd they make you kill? I mean, you can feed yourself without your victim dying, can't you?" Haru asked, thinking of his experinces the night before.

"Yes, of course we can. It's tradition," Takeshi snarled bitterly. "I can't sleep one night solid without seeing her. I'll never forget the look on her face . she didn't know I was a vampire, she thought . she thought I'd invited her to . "

"To what? What happened?"

"My parents . arranged a marriage for me with a girl, a human girl, the daughter of one of the most prominent human families in Transylvania. She thought she was coming to my manor to meet my family before we were wed. And then . " Takeshi shivered, burying his face in Haru's shoulder. The next bit came out in a choked whisper. "And then I killed her."

Haru patted Takeshi's shoulder awkwardly. What do you say to something like that? "So that's why you don't like your parents."

Takeshi huddled against Haru, still trembling, and the Hunter was somewhat distressed at seeing his lover like this, shaking from the horror of whatever memories had been forced upon him. "I . I don't wanna remember . "

"Didn't it . I mean, your emotion-thing . didn't it hurt?"

"You've got no idea,"

"But your parents! I mean, doesn't the emotion-thing affect your whole family? You told me that once."

"I lied."

"What?"

"No one in my family has ever felt an emotion not their own. Well, except my little brother, but they're 'training' him. I was too far gone by the time they'd realized what was wrong with me."

"You're shitting me. Don't they know?"

"Of course they do. It's not something we discuss."

"Why not? Can't they find a cure?"

"Perhaps, but they don't tell anyone outside the family. They're embarassed."

"Embarassed? Of you?"

"I'm a failure as a vampire. I feel too much. I refuse to kill unless I have to. I have morals," he spat. "And . " he trailed off.

"And?"

"I love."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Takeshi!" What appeared to be a smaller version of Haru's lover hurled himself at the vampire's midsection, hugging him fiercely.

"Shoyo," Takeshi said fondly, ruffling the kid's hair. "It's good to see you. How've they been treating you?"

The child maintained his grip on Takeshi's waist and looked up at him adoringly with huge crimson eyes. "Alright, I guess." His hair was considerably shorter than Takeshi's, and tied up into a high ponytail that bounced every time he moved. He was . well, the only word Haru could come up with was 'cute.' The kid was adorable, with round, rosy cheeks, large eyes and the most endearing grin Haru had ever seen. He was wearing odd clothes, something that looked like he'd just walked out of a Victorian romance novel. Haru had never seen a vampire dressed in traditional clothes since Takeshi typically wore leather and trenchcoats, and he wondered if it was some sort of special occasion, or if the kid dressed in velvet and brocaded silk on a daily basis. At least, Haru reflected, both of the vampires were warmer than he was; he was shivering in the cold Romanian air.

"This is my little brother, Shoyo," Takeshi said, wrapping an arm around the child's narrow shoulders. "The other family secret."

"Who're you?" Shoyo asked.

"Sho, this is Aizawa Haruhiko. He's my . uh, friend."

Shoyo narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Haru, and suddenly the Hunter could see the family resemblence. This was Takeshi as he should have been, Takeshi without the barriers and the snappish attitude. This was Takeshi before the forced murder of his fiancee. "If he's your friend," Shoyo said suspiciously, "why's he in love with you?" Well, he'd gotten a bit of his brother's distrust of humans.

"Shh! Shoyo, what d'you think you're doing?" Takeshi clasped his hand over the child's mouth. "Okay, okay! Yes, he's my lover. Please, please don't tell Mother and Father. Not yet."

Shoyo grinned evilly. "Takeshi's got a booooyyyyfrieeeend," he chanted. "Takeshi's got a-mmph!"

"What's my idiot brother got?"

Haru jumped about three feet in the air, whirling around to see who'd snuck up behind him.

He was tall, taller even than Takeshi, with glossy, honey-blonde hair that he'd wound into an intricate braid that trailed down his back. Fierce blue eyes glinted beneath chisled brows, and Haru felt those eyes analyzing him, sending shivers down his spine. He didn't like him. He was gorgeous, but Haru wanted nothing more than to get away from him.

"More sense than you have," Takeshi snapped back, giving Shoyo a warning look. "It's good to see you . brother."

Katsuyuki grinned and hugged Takeshi in a very rough, manly way. "How've you been, little brother?"

Takeshi's smile was somewhat strained. "I've been . well, it's been lonely."

"Yeah.I know. And I'm sorry I left you, but . " he shrugged. "When Father calls, you come, you know?"

"I didn't," Takeshi snarled, suddenly fierce. "I stayed. I didn't go running back to our father with my tail between my legs!"

"Hey, hey, I said I was sorry, didn't I? Calm down, 'Keshi."

"Don't call me that," Takeshi hissed, his eyes narrowing to crimson slits. "I'm not a child any more."

Haru cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Er . "

"Hey, who's this?" Katsuyuki had finally noticed Haru. "He's kinda cute-" He grabbed Haru's shoulder, drawing him a bit closer, and the Hunter tried to pull away, not liking the feral smile the vampire was giving him.

"Don't touch 'im." Takeshi's voice was deadly, and Haru realized that was the first time he'd ever heard his lover use bad grammer.

"I won't, I won't. I'm already promised to someone, remember?"

"Who's the lucky girl?" Takeshi asked sarcastically.

"Elaina Gjerison. You remember her?"

"From the last time I saw my dear family five years ago?" It was hard to miss the bitterness in his voice, but Katsuyuki seemed blissfully ignorant.

"Yeah. The blonde girl," he said happily.

"Of course. Blonde. Everyone in this fucking family's blonde."

"Takeshi!" Haru grabbed the vampire's shoulder. "Calm down, please! What's wrong with you?"

"He's hungry," Shoyo said. Those huge crimson eyes bored into Haru's, seeing far more than the Hunter was comfortable with. "But you know that, don't you?"

God, Haru thought. Does the kid know everything? He reddened slightly, remembering the things they'd done that weren't really . appropriate. He hoped that Shoyo wasn't psychic.

"What?" Katsuyaki glanced back and forth between Haru and Takeshi, confused.. "Oh. You brought your food. I guess that explains why you have a human with you?" Katsuyaki arched an eyebrow at Takeshi, awaiting confirmation.

Haru stared pointedly at Takeshi. Tell him, he willed his lover. Tell him you love me.

"Yeah. Of course." Takeshi said easily, as if it was blatantly obvious. "Why else would I bring a human to a family gathering?"

"I dunno," Katsuyaki said, leaning toward Haru's neck. "Y'know, I'm a bit hungry. You mind if I . ?" He gestured to Haru's throat.

"Yes, I mind. Don't touch him. He's mine."

Katsuyaki backed off. "Of course, of course. Wouldn't dream of infringing on baby brother's territory."

"That's right. Territory," Haru said acidly, glaring at his lover. "That's all I am, right?"

"He's got an attitude, doesn't he?" Katsuyuki asked. He backhanded Haru casually, and the lack of emotion on his face told the Hunter that the blonde bore no particular ill will towards him, he was just used to pushing humans around. "Although he'd make a nice gift . for the wedding, you know? Clean him up a bit-he'd be gorgeous."

Haru clenched his fists so hard that his fingernails dug tiny crescent moons onto his palms, and narrowed his eyes at the blonde vampire, who was very obviously ignoring him. Like I'm not worthy of his time, Haru thought bitterly, wanting nothing more than to choke the arrogant little-

"I'll buy you something else. This one's mine."

"Fine, I just thought he'd provide entertainment. He is cute, for a human." Kastuyuki's fingers lingered a little too long on his cheek, and Haru snapped his teeth at the vampire.

"Ooh. Feisty."

"I'm going to take him inside, get my room cleaned up and all." Takeshi took Haru's arm and dragged him towards the door.

"Oh, the servants did that already," Katsuyuki called after them, again missing the sarcasm.

Haru knew he should pay attention to where they were going, in case he needed to find his way through these intricate corridors again. He didn't even manage to admire the craftsmanship of the carvings, or the wall hangings, or the crystal chandeliers. He was so blinded with rage, so furious at the man who walked beside him, who dared to drape a casual arm about his shoulders after what he'd done, the way he'd treated him! But he managed to keep his face impassive, managed to keep his temper on a short leash . at least until they'd gotten to Takeshi's room.

"Mmm . " Takeshi said, closing the door behind them, wrapping his arms around Haru's waist, nibbling at his ear. "God, this is going to be hell."

"Get the fuck away from me," Haru snarled, pushing the startled vampire off of him. "You complete bastard!" he yelled. "How could you?"

"How could I what?" Takeshi asked, mystified.

"Treat me like that! You asshole! I'm not your food! I'm nobody's toy!"

"Takeshi . "

"No! Get your hands off of me! Don't touch me!"

"Look, I'm sorry, just-"

"Just what? Do I mean that little to you?"

"No! I'm sorry Haru, I'm sorry! I just . I couldn't tell them, not yet! I .I just don't know how they're going to take this . it's starting to seem like a bad idea."

"Me?" Haru asked quietly, and the hurt in his voice, in his eyes, jerked at Takeshi's heart more than his anger had. "Being with me is a bad idea?"

"No," Takeshi said, pulling him close and stroking his hair. "No, love, that wasn't what I meant. I just don't know if we can tell them. I mean, they've probably arranged three marriages for me while I've been away . "

Haru clutched at Takeshi's shirt. "So go marry one of them," he hissed.

"I don't want to." Takeshi kissed Haru. "I want to be with you. Please, Haru, forgive me. I'm sorry." He brightened suddenly, and dug in his jacket pocket. "Look, I have something for you."

"For me?" Despite his anger, Haru was intrigued.

"I missed your birthday, didn't I?" Takeshi handed Haru a small black box, the sort jewlrey was kept in. "Here. Open it."

Haru flipped open the lid and gasped. "Oh, Takeshi . "

The ring was beautiful, wrought silver vines that wove around a glittering ruby and several small diamonds. Haru slid it on the ring finger of his left hand, Takeshi was pleased to note. It glimmered in the soft candlelight, matching precisely the deep crimson of Takeshi's eyes. "It . wow . I don't know what to say . "

Takeshi gave Haru an absolutely adorable puppy-dog look. "Just say you forgive me?"

Haru grinned, slightly embarassed by his earlier outburst. "Of course I do. Sorry."

Takeshi nodded solemnly. "Apology accepted."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Takeshi, it's wonderful to see you, dear!"

"Don't overdo it, Mother," Takeshi muttered into her ear as she made a show of hugging her son. "Please. You smell like flowers. Dead ones."

Mrs. Mekami smiled patronizingly at her son. "Come on now, Takeshi, darling, don't be like this."

Takeshi rolled his eyes, making certain that his mother couldn't see him. Shoyo snorted, trying unsuccessfully to suppress his laughter. "Don't be like what? I haven't seen you in five years, how am I supposed to act?" He shoved his hands into his pockets, assuming a typical angry-teen pose. "I barely even know you."

"Well," Mrs. Mekami said harshly, planting her hands on her hips and glaring sharply at Takeshi. "I'm certainly glad you're getting this out of your system before your brother's wedding."

"Out of my system?" Takeshi laughed. "Just as long as I don't throw a temper tantrum in front of anyone, right?"

"I'm glad you've finally learned," his mother snapped.

"Look, Takeshi," Katsuyuki pleaded, "can't you pretend you like us? Just this once? Come on, it's my wedding."

"Don't ask for much, do you?" Takeshi asked mildly. His brother gave him a pathetic sort of look.

"Please?"

"Ah . fine. Just stop looking at me like that. Stop it," he said, grabbing a paperweight off of his father's desk and chucking it at his brother's head.

Katsuyuki laughed and snatched it out of the air before it hit him. "You're always a ray of sunshine, you know that?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And where, you may ask, is Haru at this point? Haru is lost. Hopelessly, desperately lost.

"I should've paid attention," he berated himself as he turned yet another corner and began walking down a hallway identical to the one he'd just left. "But no. I was too busy being angry. Wonderful, Haru, let your emotions blind you."

"Who are you?"

Haru jumped into the air for the second time that day. "Aaugh!"

"Answer me, human." The man who had spoken spat the last word as if it was a curse, and to vampires it very well may have been. He grabbed Haru by the shirtfront. "What are you doing in my home, boy?"

"I-ah-I-don't kill me!" Haru took a step backward, trying to wrest his shirt free from his grip.

The man paused, arching an eyebrow at him. "Kill you? Why would I do that?" He grabbed a handful of Haru's hair, jerking him off his feet as the boy screamed in pain. "You'd be no fun if you were dead."

"Fun" Haru asked shrilly, standing on tiptoe to relieve some of the pressure on his scalp. "This isn't fun!"

"Not for you, human," the vampire hissed, grinning at the boy. "I'm enjoying it, however." He slammed Haru against the wall, and Haru yelped as the carved molding bit into the small of his back.

"Let me go!" Haru thrashed wildly, tossing his head from side to side, praying that someone would find him, find him and stop this psychopath from whatever he was planning. "Please, let me go!"

"I don't think so-what's this?"

The man had grabbed hold of Haru's wrist and was busy examining his hand. "Where did you get this?"

"That? Uh-" Haru tried without success to jerk his wrist away. "Um, Takeshi gave it to-"

"Gave it to you. My son gave this to you?"

"Your son?"

"Of course. My idiot son." The man shook his head. "A human. Of all the stupid things he's done, a human."

Haru narrowed one eye at the man, trying to find some sort of resemblence between him and Takeshi. He looked like Katsuyuki. He had the same blonde hair and ice-blue eyes, the same sort of build, but he had Takeshi's glare, the sort that could stop you in midsentence. He was dressed in the same sort of strange clothes that Shoyo and Katsuyuki had been wearing: full- sleeved white shirt with a velvet doublet over it and strange-looking ruffles on the high collar, black pants tucked into high leather boots, and a billowing black cloak fastened at his throat with an enormous ruby brooch.

"You . who are you?" Takeshi's father suddenly looked worn, tired, and he leaned wearily against the wall, releasing Haru.

"Uh . my name's Haruhiko. Aizawa Haruhiko."

Mr. Mekami blinked, an amused sort of smile gracing his features and making him look slightly less terrifying. "Aizawa? No kidding."

Haru tensed, ready to defend his family name, but the vampire said nothing more. "I . should be . going. D'you . mind?"

"What? Oh. Of course." He released Haru.

"Could you . please . tell . me . how . to . get . to . Takeshi . ?" Haru croaked, rubbing his throat where the fabric of his T-shirt had nearly strangled him.

"You're on the opposite side of the castle. There's no way you'll remember my directions long enough to actually make it there."

"So what, you're just going to let me wander around until I either find him or someone eats me?"

"No, amusing as that would be. I'll take you to him."

Haru shivered at the thought of having to spend another moment in the vampire's company, but he didn't much relish the thought of roaming the halls after dark. He was sure that Katsuyuki would happily kill him as long as Takeshi wasn't around. "Um, sure."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Look what I found."

Takeshi glanced up. "Haru! Where were you?"

Haru shook Mr. Mekami's hand from his shoulder. "Trying to find you."

Mrs. Mekami gave Haru a critical sort of look. "Who are you supposed to be?"

"I'm Haruhiko."

"Charmed, I'm sure." Haru wondered if she normally looked so disgusted, or if she just didn't like him

"She just doesn't like you," Shoyo said from his perch on the windowseat.

"That's getting really creepy, you know that?" Haru shook his head. "Are you sure he can't read my mind?" he asked Takeshi.

"Yes. I'm sure. Haru-kun . could you please go back to our room?"

"What?"

"Now. Just . go."

"I can't. I don't know my way around your house, it's too confusing."

"Shoyo," Takeshi said shortly. "Take him to my room. I need to talk to Mother and Father."

Shoyo didn't look surprised at all; Haru wondered briefly if the kid ever showed any sort of facial expression. None of them do, he thought. Even Takeshi, when he's around them.

"Takeshi, don't you think I should be here?"

"No."

Haru folded his arms over his chest. "Fine," he said loftily, stalking out of the room after Shoyo, trying to look dignified while attempting to keep up with the kid.

"What's so important that you can't have him here for it?" Katsuyuki asked, tossing the paperweight Takeshi had thrown at him from one hand to the other.

"Actually, you need to leave."

Katsuyuki dropped the paperweight, swearing at it as it smashed his foot. "What?"

"Out. Now."

Katsuyuki whirled and left, muttering to himself about his little brother being too arrogant for his own good. Takeshi sighed and massaged his temples; that was two people he'd managed to anger in the last five minutes. Of course, Katsuyuki never stayed mad long (his memory wasn't that good), and as for Haru . well, he could make it up to Haru.

"Oh, God," Mrs. Mekami groaned, sinking into a chair. "What did you do now, child?"

"I want to talk to you. About Haru-kun."

"The human boy? The scrawny-looking one?"

Takeshi clenched his teeth and tried not to glare at his mother. "Yes. The scrawny-looking one."

Mr. Mekami merely leaned back against his desk with a knowing half-smile on his face.

"I-I've got no idea how I'm supposed to say this."

"He's not just food, is he?" Mrs. Mekami watched her son with calm blue eyes. "There's another reason you brought him with you?"

"Yes."

"Well? Would you like to explain this, or do I have to guess?"

"I love him."

Mrs. Mekami hid her face in her hands. "A human. You know he's a human, right?"

"Of course I do."

"You fool. I thought I'd raised you better than this!" Mrs. Mekami shrieked at her son.

"You didn't raise me at all, Mother."

Mrs. Mekami gave a noise suspiciously close to a sob and her husband pulled her close to him. She buried her face in his shirt. "A human, Sayoshi, a human . "

"I know, Hitomo, I know."

"Why, Takeshi? Why him?"

Takeshi paused, one hand on the door, and half-turned to smile at his mother. "Isn't it obvious?"

"Apparently not."

"Because I love him, Mother."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"How'd they take it?"

Takeshi shook his head. "I should've know you'd be listening. Not well. I think they'd planned on marrying me off to some vampiress."

"Ah, well, what can you do." Katsuyuki shrugged. "You knew they'd be mad, didn't you?"

"Were they mad when you told them you were engaged?"

"Well, no, but Elaina's one of us. And you're not engaged, are you?"

"And female." Takeshi ignored hir brother's question.

"I don't think that's the problem. They don't care that he's a guy, they just care that he's not one of us. That can be fixed easily, though."

"Hunh?" Takeshi stared at his brother blankly.

"I mean, he loves you, right? He wouldn't mind-"

"No," Takeshi said firmly, realizing what he was saying at last. "Absolutely not. I will not turn him."

Katsuyuki shook his head. "He's going to die."

"I know."

"You're willing to watch your lover die? Knowing that you're going to live for hundreds, maybe thousands of years? You're insane."

"Maybe. But at least he won't have to live like this."

"It's not that bad."

"Not that bad? Not for you. You don't seem to have a problem killing completely innocent people."

"Why should I? It's them or me. There's not much of an option."

"You never regretted it? You never thought that maybe it was wrong?"

"Surviving? That's not wrong."

"You don't have to kill them."

"Nah. But it's fun."

"You're sick."

"Yeah."

"At least you're honest."

Katsuyuki grinned.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Hey," Takeshi said, flopping down on the bed next to Haru. "Did you get anything to eat?"

"Yeah, your little brother fed me. He's kind of scary."

"He just likes playing with new people. Don't worry, he'll get more normal once he gets used to you."

"Ah. That's nice to know."

"You're not mad at me?"

"Nah. Wasn't your fault anyways. It's your parents, right? You don't like them."

"Yeah. I want to go back to Japan, but it's going to be at least three days before we get out of here."

"Might as well enjoy it while we can," Haru said, snuggling closer to Takeshi. The vampire smiled tiredly.

"Yes. I suppose."

Haru held out his hand, admiring the way his ring caught the firelight. "Hey, what's the deal with this ring? Your dad seemed pretty upset that you gave it to me."

"He saw it?" Takeshi groaned and covered his eyes with one hand. "Great."

"Was he not supposed to?" Haru asked, completely confused. "Why not?"

"Ah, forget it. It's not important."

"Seemed pretty important to me."

"Just forget it. Go to sleep."

Haru glanced at his watch. It was after midnight, no wonder he was tired. "Just tell me what's so important about this ring!"

"No. Go to sleep."

"Takeshiiiii . "

"Sleep. Now."

Haru snorted. "Don't I at least get a goodnight kiss?"

Takeshi smiled and nibbled at Haru's lower lip. "Mmm . you'll get more than that, babe."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Hey. Wake up, Haru-chan."

"Go 'way. Wanna sleep."

"Come on, it's time for breakfast."

"Food?" Haru poked his head out from under the blankets and Takeshi bit his lip in a futile attempt not to laugh. Haru's hair was sticking up in every direction possible (and some that weren't possible) and his wide, blue eyes shone with the anticipation of food.

"You need to take a bath first."

"I took one last night."

"Yes," Takeshi said, gathering Haru into his arms and nuzzling the back of his neck. "But you smell like sex, and vampires have very sensitive noses."

Haru blushed.

"It won't be that bad," Takeshi said. "Come on. I'll take one with you."

"But won't I still smell like . that?"

"I solemnly swear I won't touch you. I won't even look at you, how about that?"

"Aww," Haru pouted, looking up at his lover with big, sad eyes. "Am I that ugly?"

"Perish the thought," Takeshi said dramatically, picking him up and carrying him to the bathroom. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up."

"Don't you people have showers?"

"Nope. Tradition and all that."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

An hour later Haru and Takeshi arrived downstairs, freshly washed and-still- smelling like sex. Katsuyuki raised his eyebrows at Shoyo as Haru passed, flashing the boy a suggestive grin.

Shoyo snorted into his toast and wound up getting jam on his nose. "D'you think they--?" he asked Katsuyuki, giggling.

"Can't you tell? Look at them, I've never seen Takeshi so protective of anyone before. The human must be good in bed." They both lapsed into very mature gales of laughter.

"What are you talking about?"

"Agh! Elaina! I, uh, I didn't hear you come in!"

"Obviously," she said, smiling at her fiancee. She was a sweet, good- natured vampiress, and she shied from the more violent methods of obtaining blood; she preferred hers donated. She was pretty, golden-haired and slim- waisted, with a long, elegant body and a kind, smiling face. "Is that little boy your brother's lover?"

"I doubt he'd appreciate being called little, but yes, that's him."

"Oh, he's adorable! They look wonderful together." She sighed happily.

Katsuyuki gave Elaina a strange look. "Sure," he agreed.

"They're so sweet! You don't think he's cute?"

"Well, yeah, if I was into that-"

"Seemed into him yesterday," Shoyo said conversationally, and resumed eating his toast.

Katsuyuki smacked his brother on the back of the head. "Don't bring that up!"

Elaina smiled to herself and watched her fiancee argue with his little brother as she calmly buttered a bit of bread. She knew Katsuyuki loved her, and she wasn't the type to get upset over casual flirting.

"Takeshi?" Haru said, pulling out a chair. "I thought vampires didn't eat."

"We don't have to, but it's enjoyable."

"Oh." That made sense.

"You're not having . that eat at the table with us, are you?"

"Good morning, Mother," Takeshi said, rolling his eyes.

"I mean it, I don't want it eating with us."

"Pardon me, madam," Haru said, standing up. "I've never even met you. All I've done is love your son, so please, don't act as if I'm a-"

"Shut your new toy up before I have to do it for you," Mrs. Mekami snapped, shaking out her cloth napkin and placing it primly on her lap.

Haru's cheeks reddened and he sat, staring at his hands.

"Don't take it personally," Katsuyuki said, reaching over Haru to spear a sausage. "She's bitchy when she wakes up."

"Yeah, I noticed."

"Gotta give you credit, though." Katsuyuki waved the uneaten half of his sausage at Haru. "You've got balls. No one ever stands up to her. Not even Father."

"That's nice to know. She wouldn't really hurt me, would she?"

"Nah. At least I don't think so." Needless to say, this wasn't entirely comforting. Katsuyuki chewed thoughtfully on his meal. "You think she'd actually-"

"Hey, could we talk about something else?" Takeshi snapped, sliding an arm around Haru's shoulders.

"And don't touch him at the table! We're trying to eat!" Everyone ignored Mrs. Mekami.

"Geez, Takeshi, you'd think getting laid last night would have improved your mood," Katsuyuki said sulkily.

He winced when the saltshaker hit him in the eye.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Argh," Haru grunted, tugging at his collar. "I can't breathe."

"Stop moving," Takeshi said, pinning the cuff of the shirt he'd given Haru. "I don't want to stab you."

"Ouch!"

"I told you not to move."

"Why do I have to wear all this? I mean, your parents already hate me, I don't think dressing like them is going to help."

"You're going to be introduced to the rest of my family."

"I've already met them."

"You've met my brothers. I still have . let's see . six aunts and their husbands, three uncles and their wives, eighteen cousins, God only knows how many second cousins, grandparents, great-grandparents-"

"I get it, I get it," Haru said hastily. "Must be awful having family that doesn't die."

"Yes, well," Takeshi mumbled through a mouthful of pins. "I'm almost done, don't start moving now. There."

Haru self-consciously smoothed the front of his shirt. "How's it look?"

Takeshi took him by the shoulders and spun him around to face the mirror. "See for yourself."

"Oh . "

A few well-placed stitches and a load of pins had managed to fit Takeshi's clothes to Haru's slim frame. A black velvet jacket embriodered with a gold dragon across the chest covered nearly all of his snowy white shirt, save for the ruffs at the end of the sleeves that fell nearly to his fingertips. Deep crimson breeches were tucked into the tops of polished black leather boots that reached Haru's knees. The jewel pinned at the base of his throat was identical in quality and colour to the ruby set in the ring Haru wore, and it winked softly in the candlelight.

"Here." Takeshi swung a great black cloak about Haru's narrow shoulders and fastened it with silver clasps set with diamonds.

"Takeshi, this is too . I can't wear this."

"You don't have an option, I'm afraid. Katsuyuki's wedding is tomorrow, and these are the smallest clothes I have."

"No, I mean, they're so fancy. What if I ruin them?"

"Haru, look around. We can afford it, trust me."

"Yeah," Haru said, glancing at the golden candle brackets, the crystal chandelier, the antique furniture. "I guess you can."

He fiddled nervously with a gold button. "But . I look . "

"You look fine. Stop worrying. Now take those off so I can give them to the seamstress to sew."

Haru stripped out of the clothes quickly, glad to be back in his old jeans and shirt. Takeshi gathered up the clothes and started towards the door. "Hey, lock the door behind me, alright?"

"What?"

"Lock the door. Don't let anyone in."

"Why?"

"I'd think that was obvious. Katsuyuki's been watching you a little too closely."

"Ah, I don't think he'd-"

"Don't underestimate him. He's not nearly as stupid as he acts, and he gets what he wants."

"Alright, alright. I get it."

"Good."

Haru closed the door behind Takeshi, closed it and locked it just as he'd been instructed. He thought Takeshi was being a bit paranoid, but he appreciated the sentiment all the same.

He waited for a good hour and a half, but Takeshi didn't come back. It's a big castle, he reminded himself. It takes a long time to get from one end to the other.

Still, he was bored. Very, very bored. Takeshi didn't have any books written in Japanese, and he hadn't seen so much as a T.V. since he'd arrived here. There was nothing, absolutely NOTHING to do here.

So, he decided to go for a walk. Not the best of ideas, but it was something to do. He grabbed his jacket and threw it over his shoulder; it got cold in this castle.

"Ooh . " Haru said, running an admiring hand over the silver-embossed breastplate of a suit of armour. He wondered exactly how much money Takeshi's family had, considering that their house alone muct have been worth millions, and that was without the furnishings.

"Yeah, you're marrying rich."

Haru started. "Katsu-I mean, uh, Mekami-sama?"

"Please. Mekami-sama is my father. Call me Katsu."

"Katsu-kun."

Katsuyuki grinned; the boy really did have a cute smile. "There ya go."

"I'm not marrying Takeshi," Haru laughed, turning back to the armour.

"Why not?"

Haru gave him a look as if he'd just sprouted a third arm. "Because we're guys?"

"And?"

"And . that's it."

"Well that's a stupid reason."

"Pardon me?" Haru put his hands on his hips and stared at Katsuyuki.

"Don't know much about vampires, do you?"

"Well, I mean, I don't know much about your rules and stuff-"

"So that'd be a no?"

"Uh . yeah."

"I'm kind of surprised Takeshi hasn't asked you yet. I mean, you've got the ring and everything . "

"Look, did you want something?"

Katsu took a step toward him, still with that same bizarre grin on his face; that was a very open-ended question Haru had just asked. "I wanted to talk to you."

"I gathered as much."

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm attending your wedding. I'd think that was a bit obvious."

"No, I mean what are you doing here with my brother?"

Haru raised an eyebrow. "I'll tell you when you're older."

Katsuyuki laughed. And a good sense of humour, too. He was definitely beginning to see why Takeshi liked him. "Your entire family line has been dedicated to the destruction of my kind for centuries. How could you let yourself get involved with one of us?"

Haru backed up a bit; Katsu was getting uncomfortably close. "I wasn't thinking about that. I mean, I don't care that he's a vampire."

"That's pretty accepting. Your lover drinks human blood, and you don't care?"

"Not really. I told him he could, after all. I figure I owe it to him."

Katsu laid a hand on Haru's shoulder. "Someone as cute as you? You don't owe him anything. Just being with him-he should be grateful."

"He is."

"You sure about that?"

"Well-"

"You don't sound all that certain."

"I-well-he loves me."

"Does he?"

"Of course he does," Haru snapped, trying to sidestep Katsuyuki. "Don't you dare try to tell me-"

"I'm not."

"Well then, what are you trying to do?"

"To be frank? Get you in bed."

Haru blinked, absorbing what Katsu had said. "At least you're honest."

Katsu stepped a little closer until he was practically pressed up against Haru. "I'm always honest."

"Then answer me this," Haru said, staring Katsuyuki down. "Why me? You've got a gorgeous fiancee, why screw that up?"

"She knows. She's the one who told me to go find you."

"Vampires. You're all mental."

"She knows me. She knows I love her. You . I'm just curious about you. You're different."

"You mean I'm a man?"

"Not yet," Katsu grinned, snaking an arm around Haru's waist. "But you will be."

"Okay," Haru said, pushing Katsu away. "Get off of me. Now."

"I don't think so." Katsu grabbed him by the shoulders and kissed him.

"Mmph!"

He couldn't breathe, he couldn't think, Katsu was stronger than he looked. Probably a vampire thing . superhuman strength and all that. Stop, he thought. Please, just stop.

Katsu's hand slid up his T-shirt, his slender fingers toying with Haru's nipple. He slammed the Hunter against the wall, kissing him hungrily and pinning him with sheer weight as his free hand fumbled at the button of Haru's jeans.

"Stop it!" Haru cried when Katsuyuki finally broke away for air. "Let me go!"

"Not a chance."

He half-carried half-dragged Haru into a room just off the hallway. He waved an impatient hand at the candles and they burst into flame, casting a dim light on the bedroom.

Kastu threw him bodily on the bed, causing Haru to yelp as his skull struck the headboard with a crack. Katsu wasted no time in ridding Haru of his clothing. "You're gorgeous, you know that, human?" Katsu asked, allowing his tongue to roam over Haru's chest.

Haru only managed a terrified whimper as he writhed and twisted, trying to escape, wanting nothing more than to get away from him.

Impatient with the boy's struggling, Katsu made another motion with his hand and Haru found his wrists bound together, completely immobilized. He turned his head to see what was keeping them from moving, but Katsu grabbed his chin and kissed him again, forcing his tongue into the boy's mouth.

"God, you taste so good," he moaned, resting his cheek on Haru's throat, listening to the pulse beat in his jugular and feeling the familiar rush of adrenaline at the thought of blood.

"Please . don't . "

"Time was past when you had a choice about this, human. Takeshi needs to teach you your place."

Haru winced at the sound of his lover's name. "He'll kill you."

"I highly doubt that." Katsu shed his clothes quickly and crawled back onto the bed, straddling Haru. "In fact, I doubt he'll ever know."

"Why . ?"

"Can you imagine how he'd feel if he found out you slept with his brother? That would kill him, and I know you don't want that."

"I don't want you!"

"He won't be able to touch you without thinking about what I did to you. The mere sight of you will disgust him. No one wants used goods, boy."

"I'm not-"

"Not yet."

Haru screamed as Katsuyuki slammed into him, every muscle in his small body going rigid with pain. No preparation, nothing . just that agonizing thrust .

Haru keened, arching his spine, clawing desperately at Katsuyuki's back. He felt the vampire's blood flowing over his fingertips, but that didn't really seem to penetrate Katsu's lust-crazed mind.

Katsu rocked back, relishing the clench of the soft walls around him, and drove back in, deeper this time, sending sparks dancing behind Haru's tightly shut eyes. "Nnn-Katsu, stop-hnn! Augh! No, God no, Katsu!"

"That's right," Katsu hissed. "Say my name, love, say it."

"Katsu!" The name tore itself from his troat like the desperate howl of an animal. "Katsu-nng-stop-"

The vampire drove into him over and over until Haru's throat was raw; crimson and semen streaked the sheets and the inside of the boy's thighs. Katsu paused then, and Haru relaxed slightly, thinking it was over, but the vampire merely licked the blood from his legs, flashing the boy a satisfied smile.

"Please . " Haru groaned, shivering. "Please . let me go . "

"That didn't work before, and it won't now."

"What else do you want from me?" Tears wound trails down the boy's sweat- soaked cheeks and dripped onto the pillow.

"I want you."

"You . you just had me," Haru whispered.

"You misunderstand my intentions. You didn't seem to be enjoying yourself much. I want to fix that."

"No. Oh, hell no," Haru gasped as Katsu took him in his mouth and the boy's eyes widened in panic. "Katsu . stop . ah!" Katsuyuki did something with his tongue and Haru's back arced off the bed, his hands winding themselves in the vampire's long hair.

Haru's cheeks burned with shame as he found himself thrusting into that wet heat, his body conveniently ignoring everything his brain was telling it. Katsu couldn't hide a smile at the reluctant lust glazing Haru's eyes, dimming their angry fire into a plea for completion.

No . no, what was he doing?

"Ah! Katsu, oh, oh, oh God, Katsu . "

And then the heat was gone, the vampire had stopped. Haru wailed and thrashed, searching for something to fill a sudden emptiness.

"Is something wrong?"

"Go to hell! Aahn!"

Katsu laughed. "Not the answer I was looking for, lovely." His hands resumed their grip on his hips, fingertips brushing teasingly at straining flesh. Haru sobbed, twisting his needy body into Katsu's touch.

"I thought you didn't want me?"

"No-please! Oh, oh, please!"

"What's the matter?"

"Please, I-I need to finish it! Pleeeaaase . "

"Tell me exactly what you want."

"Touch me, keep touching me, please!"

Katsu complied.

Fire blinded his vision and coursed through his veins as he arched and moaned and whimpered for Katsu to do something, to help him, because the heat was mounting and he didn't know how much longer he could stand it before it killed him. He was burning alive, loving every moment of it, and he hated himself for wanting this so badly.

Katsu gagged slightly as Haru released, but it didn't take long for him to regain his composure. "See?" he said hoarsely. "That wasn't so bad, now was it?" He smiled as the horror of what he'd just done spread across Haru's face.

He grabbed Haru's shoulder then, pulling him to a sitting position and sinking his fangs into Haru's neck. He sucked and lapped at the wound, rumbling deep in his chest like the satisfied purr of an overlarge cat. Something was wrong, Haru thought dimly, it wasn't like when Takeshi drank from him, it hurt. Badly.

Since Katsuyuki was a relatively well-fed vampire, it didn't take long for him to satisfy his thirst. Haru sagged in Katsu's arms, scarcely able to move and hardly capable of rational thought. He barely registered Katsu slitting his own wrist with his fangs and pressing the wound to Haru's lips, urging him to drink.

Haru gulped weakly as Katsu's blood filled his mouth and found the taste not repulsive, but rather nice.

He glanced up wearily, dimly recognizing the figure in the doorway as Takeshi, but he couldn't hear him, it was like a thick pane of glass separated them. He collapsed into Takeshi's waiting arms and everything went black. The last thing he heard was his lover's voice.

"Katsu . oh God, Katsu. What have you done?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I'm getting worried."

"Nngh."

"Takeshi hasn't left his room for three days."

"Nngh."

"He's worried about Haru, isn't he?"

"Nngh."

"Is that all you can say?"

Katsu glared at Elaina from underneath his pillow. "What the hell do you want me to say?"

"I want something a little more explicit than 'Nngh'! You postpone our wedding and lock yourself in your room and you won't talk to me! I'm supposed to be your fiancee, you're supposed to trust me!"

"I don't trust myself!" Katsu roared, hurling the pillow to the ground and sitting bolt upright on his bed. "How can you ask me to trust you?"

She looked like he'd just slapped her. "I-I was only trying to help."

"I know," he growled, burying his face in his hands. "I'm sorry."

"What happened?"

"We've been over this. I can't tell you."

"Can't or won't?"

"Both."

"You turned Haru, didn't you?"

Katsuyuki froze. "How did you-"

"I've known you for a long time, Katsu."

"Then you know about-"

"Yes."

"And you still want to marry me? Even after this?"

"Katsu, I love you. Of course I want to marry you."

"I hope to God that's not a mistake."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Takeshi?" Shoyo opened the door, peering into the gloom. "Takeshi, it's so dark in here. How can you see?"

He put the tray he was carrying down on the dresser and crossed the room, drawing back the heavy curtains and letting in the cold winter sunlight.

Takeshi made no move save to squint his eyes against the glare. He was seated in a chair by the bed, holding Haru's hand and stroking it gently as the boy thrashed and cried out in the throes of his dreams. Though his lips moved, he made no sound, and his eyes were blank, staring straight ahead at nothing.

"Takeshi," Shoyo said, shaking his brother's shoulder. "Takeshi, please eat something. Look, I've got a fresh B positive here for you."

Takeshi didn't so much as adknowledge his prescence.

"Takeshi-"

"Leave him alone. He can't hear you anyways."

"Katsuyuki!" Shoyo jumped as his brother entered. "He's going to get sick if he keeps starving himself. I don't think he even sleeps at night."

"I know."

"Why?"

"All he sees is the one he loves in pain, and he can't do anything to stop it. He's watching Haru being slowly transformed into the very thing he himself loathes, and there's nothing he can do."

"Love sucks."

Katsu cast his little brother an amused glance. "Wait until you find someone you want to spend your life with. I'll be rubbing it in your face." He ruffled Shoyo's hair.

"Kat . su . "

"Takeshi?" Katsu knelt by his brother's side. "Keshi, what's the matter?"

Takeshi turned an eerily calm face to him and reached out with his free hand to touch Katsu's cheek lightly. "You . "

"What is it? What's wrong?"

Takeshi's claws slashed bloody streaks across Katsuyuki's face and the elder vampire cried out, pressing his palm to his cheek to staunch the flow of blood.

"You bastard." Takeshi's face remained inpassive as he grabbed hold of his brother's braid and jerked on it until Kastu screamed. "How could you?"

"I-I'm sorry, Keshi!"

"Sorry isn't good enough." Takeshi dropped Haru's hand and slapped his brother across the face. "You . you, of all people . my own brother . "

"Keshi, I know it was wrong, and I'm sorry! It just . the bloodlust . I couldn't control myself!"

"You can't keep using that excuse forever." Katsuyuki had never heard his little brother's voice so cold, so detatched. "Get out of my sight. If I see you in here again, I'll kill you."

Katsu scrambled for the door, not doubting a word of what Takeshi had said. "I'm so sorry-"

"Get out!" Takeshi roared, half-rising from his chair. "Out!"

Katsu bolted.

"Takeshi?"

The black-haired vampire whirled around. "Haru-chan," he whispered, as if afraid that the voice had not been his lover's. He clutched Haru's hand. "What is it? Can I get you anything?"

"Cold," Haru rasped wearily, his glazed eyes half-closing. "Thirsty. Water."

"Love, that's not what you're thirsty for."

"I . want . water. Please."

"Here," Shoyo offered, holding out a silver cup.

Haru gulped at the clear liquid, but it didn't dispel the dryness in his mouth. "More?"

"No matter how much you drink, it won't make a difference." Takeshi intertwined his fingers with Haru's. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry?" Haru asked weakly. "Why?" He propped himself up on his elbows. "What happened to me?"

"Oh, Haru," Takeshi sighed, closing his crimson eyes. "You're one of us now."

"No," Haru whispered. "No."

"Yes. Katsuyuki-"

"He turned me, didn't he?"

"Yes."

"Oh, God." Haru covered his eyes with his hand. "Oh, God. I'm a vampire."

"It's not that bad," Shoyo said.

"Not for us," Takeshi said. "We've lived a very short time. I'm only seventeen, and you're only nine. By the time we reach our first century-" he shook his head. "Isn't it ironic that the only thing immortal creatures desire is death?"

Haru winced. "I-I don't-I don't wanna be a vampire."

"I know, love. I'm so sorry I wasn't there to protect you."

"Katsu, he-he-"

"Raped you. I know."

"Why?"

"Katsu . has problems. His bloodlust is far, far too strong to be normal, and he can't really think when he's like that."

Haru shivered at the memory. "It's like he was another person. He was so friendly that afternoon, but-"

"Another person?" Takeshi looked intrigued.

"Yeah, why?"

"Oh, no reason," Takeshi lied, storing the thought in the back of his mind to examine later.

Haru curled into a tiny, miserable ball. "What now? I can't go home, not like this."

"I don't know," Takeshi said, pulling Haru to his chest. "I don't know what we do now."

"Takeshi?"

"What?"

"Does this mean-I mean, before-well, can I stay with you now?"

"Huh?"

"I mean," Haru blushed. "Forever?"

Takeshi smiled sadly. "Forever, love? That's an awfully long time."

"I want to spend it with you."

"I wouldn't have it any other way."

Haru grinned up at his lover, despite the tears that streamed down his cheeks. "Maybe this won't be so bad after all."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Uugh . " Haru moaned, massaging his throat. "I take that back. This sucks. I'm thirsty all the time."

Takeshi and Haru were sitting at the table in the great hall, waiting for the sevants to bring breakfast to the table. "Maybe if you'd just drink-"

"No," Haru snapped.

"Why not? We all do it, it's not like you really have a choice."

"It's too much like giving in."

"You'll die. Please, Haru, you're a fledgeling, you have to drink constantly, or you'll never live out the week." Takeshi pushed a cup toward him. "Just try it."

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't like the thought of people suffering so I can survive."

Takeshi sighed. "They're donors. None of them died."

"I know, but I doubt they were very willing."

Takeshi, frustrated, grabbed the boy by the shoulder and pulled him closer, forcing Haru's face towards his throat with a hand on the back of the boy's head. "Here."

"No," Haru protested weakly, wincing at each throb of his newly-aquired fangs. Takeshi's pulse was maddening, enthralling, hypnotizing.He drew his lips back, leaning towards Takeshi. "I don't want to . "

Takeshi winced as Haru's teeth sank into his neck. The boy hadn't developed his venom glands yet, and that warm, pleasant feeling typical of being fed on was noticibly absent. "Haru, you missed."

"Eh?" Haru asked, pulling his fangs out of Takeshi's flesh.

"Right here," Takehsi said, motioning to the spot next to the tendon where his pulse beat.

"Righ'. Shorry." He was having trouble talking past the elongated fangs, but soon found there wasn't any need for conversation as his teeth pierced neatly through his lover's skin, releasing a flood of warm crimson liquid that flowed into Haru's mouth. Haru moaned and sucked hungrily at the blood.

Takeshi could feel himself getting noticibly dizzy before Haru had finished. He estimated that Haru had drained a good two pints of blood, and without the venom, his cells would replicate slowly. He healed his wounds, sending a jolt of magic into his veins, hoping that would have the same effect as the venom.

"Oh, ew," Shoyo said. "Do you have to do that here? What's wrong with donated?"

Takeshi shrugged. "You know fledgelings."

"Yeah," Shoyo said wisely, a rather amusing statement since he was still technically a fledgeling himself.

Haru licked blood from his lips, eyes half-closed in contentment. "Mmm."

"You're going to have to get used to drinking donated blood," Takeshi said. "I'll run out eventually."

Haru sighed. "I know." He took a tentative sip from the silver cup. It wasn't bad, actually. A bit more metallic than Takeshi's, but overall quite nice.

Listen to me, Haru thought. I sound like I'm talking about vintage wine! This is human blood, for God's sake!

He glared at the cup, which seemed to have drained itself in his mental absence. He couldn't have drank that much that fast.

"You'll be thirsty for about a week. It gets better after that."

"Great."

"Hey, at least you have a constant supply here, right?"

"I guess."

"And you'll grow out of it much faster, since your body is nearly full- grown."

"What do you mean?"

"Normally we're fledgeling for about thirteen years, since that's when a vampire becomes an adult, but you should only have a year, maybe two, since you're nearly an adult by human standards."

"Oh."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Katsu, open the door. Please, Katsu!" Elaina pounded on the heavy oak door, pleading with her fiancee.

"Go away," Katsu whispered, burying his face in his hands. He was huddled in a corner of his room, curled up with his arms wrapped around his knees and the curtains drawn shut, leaving him in darkness. "Please . all of you, go away . "

/And what about me? Shall I go away, too?/

"No!" Katsu cried. "No, don't leave me!"

"Who are you talking to, Katsu?"

"Go away, Elaina!"

/Yes, Elaina, leave your lover to suffer alone./

You shut up.

/You want her to leave you alone, do you not? You lock her out, lock everyone out, and still expect them to care for you? You make yourself very hard to love, Katsuyuki./

I know that.

/You're very ungrateful. I gave you what you wanted, did I not? And you're still being so rude to me?/

What?

/The boy. You wanted him, I gave him to you./

You? You were the one who raped him? Who turned him?

/Don't be so quick to shift the blame, my dear. After all, I was only acting out your desires./

What the hell are you saying? You're never this direct.

/You wanted the boy for your own, and you wanted him turned to ensure that your brother didn't suffer when he died./

I didn't-

/Don't bother lying to me. I can see your thoughts, your innermost dreams./

I didn't want to rape Haru!

/Is that his name? No matter, he was only a human./

Takeshi loves him, and I-no, you. You screwed up.

/My, my. Nothing gets through to you, does it? Blissfully unaware, that's you. No, dear boy, you 'screwed up' as you so charmingly put it. I'm only a part of you./

I'm not crazy.

/No, you're mentally insane. Isn't that the politically correct term nowadays? I'm the other you, the part of you you're too scared of to face./

I'm not afraid of you.

/Perhaps not, but you're afraid of yourself./

.

/Nothing to say to that?/

.

/Very well. I'll leave you in peace, then. Adieu, until we meet again, my boy./

"Katsu, open the door. Please."

Katsu flinched and burrowed deeper into his arms. "Elaina, please leave me alone."

"Katsu-"

"I said leave me alone!"

There was no answering reply.