Title: Perfume
Author: Jordanna Morgan (librarie@jordanna.net)
Archive Rights: Please request the author’s consent.
Rating/Warnings: As close to G as a vampire story can really get.
Characters: Yuki, Zero, Yori.
Summary: One of the lesser sacrifices Yuki makes for Zero.
Disclaimer: They’re not mine. I’m just playing with them.
Notes: In years of writing about vampires and other feral characters, I’ve thought far too much about how they might experience the world. This random little idea is based on that perspective.

 

Perfume

 

“You didn’t take much this time,” Yuki observed, just a little accusingly, as Zero raised his lips from the fresh bite on her neck. “Are you sure it was enough?”

Exhaling a deep breath, Zero brusquely pushed himself away from her, and did not meet her gaze. Gripped by shame and disgust at the inhuman need that compelled him to drink from her veins, it always took him a while to look at her afterward… and she couldn’t honestly say she minded that so much, because the lingering scarlet light in his eyes made her feel heartsick.

Zero never should have had to suffer this lonely torment that was slowly consuming his life, even as it drove him to hunger for the life within others.

“It’s fine,” he murmured from behind his hand, as he wiped the traces of her blood from his mouth. He grasped the knob of the supply-closet door and levered himself to his feet, looking eager for escape.

Yuki didn’t believe him for a moment. His cravings had been growing worse lately—a terrifying fact that was too dangerous to ignore or deny. Even now, he still moved like a trapped animal, twitchy and high-strung. He hadn’t taken enough to entirely calm the beast inside him, and Yuki worried about what he might do if someone pushed him too far in this state.

Still seated on the floor, she reached up to catch his hand in hers, and he turned a sharp, displeased gaze upon her. At least his eyes were once again their natural icy violet, instead of that awful blood-color.

“Don’t lie to me, Zero. What is it really? Is it… Does something bother you about the taste of my blood tonight?”

Her thoughts flew back to a passing encounter with Kaname, when the Night Class came from their dorm earlier. It was only a moment’s trivial conversation about the day, but Kaname’s voice and gaze never failed to affect her, and she knew Zero could always tell when…

“That’s not it.” Frowning, Zero twisted his hand out of her grip, but this time he stood still instead of trying to leave. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, visibly looking for words.

“It’s just—that perfume you’re wearing. I could taste it. And it’s…”

He faltered into silence, but there was a grimace on his face, and Yuki felt a sudden throb of conscience as she realized what he meant.

When he put his mouth on her neck to drink her blood, he must have found the taste of her perfume unpleasant. For that matter, even its scent may have been unbearably strong to him. Yuki was not the type to drench herself in the stuff; to the contrary, she was much more sparing with it than some of the girls. However, Zero’s perceptions were heightened by the vampire corruption within him, and growing more sensitive all the time. In keeping her careful watch on his self-control, she had seen the way his responses to sounds and smells were changing.

And yet, she had never even considered how the fragrances she used on her own skin might taste to him.

Ohhh,” Yuki stammered, and in spite of having just given her blood to Zero, a blush managed to rise in her cheeks. She stood and awkwardly met his gaze. “Well, I—”

“Forget it,” Zero muttered uncomfortably, jerking open the closet door. “It’s nothing.”

Then he was gone, his footsteps receding quickly down the hallway, and Yuki was left to stare after him in vexation.

Zero—!”

 

As Yuki walked slowly back to her dorm, she did a great deal of thinking… and she came to a decision.

Upon entering her room, she moved straight to her dresser. She proceeded to ransack it, gathering all her perfumes and lotions and piling them into a cardboard box. Sometimes she paused, gazing down wistfully at an ornate label or a beautifully shaped bottle; Headmaster Cross loved to spoil her at holidays, and many of the things that went into the box were imported and expensive. Yet she never faltered in her resolve.

As she was finishing, Yori walked into the room they shared, fresh and damp-haired from a shower. When she saw the full box sitting on Yuki’s otherwise nearly-cleared dresser, she lowered the towel from her hair and gave Yuki a quizzical look. “Hey, what are you up to?”

“Oh… Just a little spring cleaning.” Yuki smiled thinly and picked up the box. “I want you to take all this stuff, Yori. You can have whatever you want from it. And anything you don’t want, you can give away to the other girls.”

Yori gaped as Yuki pushed the box into her arms. “What brought this on?”

“Never mind that. I’ve just been thinking, and I’ve… decided there are more important things.”

Leaving Yori to make an astonished and delighted inventory of the box’s contents, Yuki went out again. She snuck over to the boys’ dorm, and from their supplies she gathered the plainest, most lightly-scented soap and shampoo she could find. Then she went off to take a shower of her own, to scrub away the last traces of sweet floral perfumes from her skin.

 

In the morning, as always, Yuki and Zero oversaw the switchover from the Night Class to the Day Class.

If Zero smelled anything different about Yuki then, he didn’t show it; but then, they were outside in the fresh air, where there were surely many other scents to fill his awareness. Besides, they were so busy keeping the fangirls from the Day Class in line that it would have been difficult to pay much attention to anything else.

On the other hand, Kaname gave Yuki a curious look, as he and the other vampires filed past on their way to the Moon Dormitory. He went on without saying anything, but Yuki felt sure he must have noticed her lack of perfume. Perhaps it wasn’t so surprising, after all, that a Pureblood would have perceived it more quickly than a vampire who was once only human.

After the switchover, Yuki and Zero set off for class together, sharing a somber silence. It was always like this now. In these quiet moments, Yuki could think of nothing but what Zero had become and what horrors still awaited him, and Zero…

She couldn’t begin to imagine what he thought about.

Yuki walked slowly, and it pleased her that Zero kept pace with her. Even if they didn’t speak, he seemed to take some comfort in just being close to her. In a strange way, that hurt a little, but it made her glad too. The part of him that mattered was still so painfully human, so needful of something more than blood. As long as that was true, she would know he was still holding on.

By the time they were inside, moving through the halls, the rest of the Day Class students had long since passed them by. Yuki took one quick glance around, to make sure there was no one else in sight—and then she abruptly seized Zero’s long slim hand, yanking him toward the same supply closet they had used the night before.

“Come here.”

Taken by surprise, Zero balked slightly, glancing at the closet door and then frowning at her. “Yuki, what—?”

“I know you didn’t have enough last night, Zero. And I won’t stand for that.” Yuki tried to make her expression firm, but her voice was not as steady as she wished it would be. “I have to make sure you… stay alright.”

Zero huffed out a beleaguered sigh. “If you keep dragging me into closets, someone is going to see us—and then people will start talking.”

“Oh, stop.” She opened the closet door and found the light switch, all the while pulling hard at his hand. For someone so very thin, he could be astonishingly immovable when he wanted to be. “Don’t argue with me. Come on.”

For a moment more, Zero hesitated… and then, slowly, he stepped forward. The very fact that he gave in so easily now, not twelve hours after the last time, told Yuki things about his present state that she didn’t like to think about.

As he followed her into the closet, she closed the door behind him. Then she turned to lean back against it, staring up at him determinedly.

His face had… that look. The one that always came to him at this point, when he knew he was about to yield to his urges, and hated himself for it. Eyes full of shadows, pale lips pressed into a thin line. Dark, intent, yet vulnerable… and so unspeakably sad.

There was only the distance of a step between them, and he closed it. His hands clutched her upper arms as his weight pressed her to the door; physically subduing his prey, in helpless obedience to some animal instinct. Yuki knew he didn’t mean to be like that, but those impulses in him were only growing stronger. She hadn’t told him that sometimes, his forcefulness hurt her now.

And yet, this time, he was more gentle than he often had been recently. He shifted his lean frame so that his pressure didn’t hurt, and his grip on her arms was light, intended to do little more than steady her. His cheek brushed tenderly against her left temple, one heartbreakingly human gesture of affection, saying Thank you and I’m sorry in the only way he knew how to express himself just now… and then his head sank lower, his breath shivering across the small wounds her throat still bore from the previous night.

Yuki closed her eyes, braced for the sharpness of his fangs—only to feel him lean back slightly, almost letting go of her.

She glanced up at him. His eyes looked a little strange, their violet coolness heated with the first luminous tinge of blood-hunger, but not quite there yet. They focused on her with a gently quizzical expression, and she smiled as she understood.

“I got rid of it all,” she said softly. “All of my perfumes. Because… seeing that you get what you need is more important to me, and I… I don’t want this to be any worse for you than it already is.”

That first trace of dawning scarlet faded suddenly from his eyes, and in its place, unshed tears glistened in them. He gazed at her for a moment in wonder; then his forehead dropped onto her shoulder, as his hands slipped around to her back in a genuine embrace.

“Yuki,” he whispered brokenly.

He thought he caused her to suffer, but she knew better. These sacrifices she made for his sake were so very small: a little blood, a little pain, a little bit of her feminine vanities. It was he who was truly suffering, in the very deepest depths of his soul—and if she could do anything at all to make it better, to keep him beside her for another day, she would gladly have given up so much more.

She clasped her hands at the small of his back and squeezed his ribs, just a little.

“Don’t stop,” she said quietly. “I know you need this now.”

In response, a small tremor passed through Zero’s frame, and his hands slid up her back to hold her more firmly. He turned his head, leaning in close to her neck. Once more she felt the soft tickle of his breath on her skin… and then the warm twitch of his tongue.

Yuki had grown accustomed to his habit of licking before the bite. This buildup was primal, unsettling, yet somehow so delicate and tentative. She accepted it because she knew that already at this point in the act, it wasn’t really Zero at all; it was only the irresistible compulsions within him. Once he let go, his human will was subdued until the beast sated its hunger, and she hated to think of how horrible it must have felt to give himself up to it. To know he had to give up his humanity for these brief, wretched moments, if he was to delay even slightly the inevitable day when he would lose himself forever.

This time, though, he nuzzled and lapped at her throat with an unusual alacrity. He seemed to be indulging in the taste of her skin, now that it was not made bitter by artificial scents. There was a strange tenderness in the contact, and she wondered if even the human part of him could have felt something more than sorrow just then. She hoped he might—even though she wasn’t really sure what she wanted him to feel.

She was so lulled by those first attentions that his bite, when it came, was more shocking than usual. Her eyes widened as she flinched against him, and she gasped softly, hands tightening at his back. Then the initial stab of pain faded into a dull, throbbing ache, soothed by the warmth of his mouth and her own flowing blood, and she closed her eyes and listened to the sound of him gulping needfully. It was an awful sound, a thing that sickened her in the beginning, but now… it reassured her. Because it meant Zero would live a little longer. It meant he had once more chosen to live, by accepting what he needed from her. When he believed his survival could bring only pain to himself and others, she knew she could never take that choice for granted.

With a small sigh, Yuki leaned her head back against the door. It was a strange feeling, being bled this way: not exactly lightheadedness, but a warm, hazy sensation, and an odd flutter in her chest as her heart worked harder to circulate her blood. But it wasn’t so terrible. Not really.

Not if it kept Zero safe.

In that state of disconnected drifting, the time always felt long, but in reality it took less than a minute for Zero to satisfy his hunger. After he was finished, as always, he turned away from her; hiding as best he could that terrible moment when he recovered his fragile humanity, when he realized all over again the vileness of what he had just done. To Yuki, the worst part of this now-routine ordeal was not the pain of the bite, but the sadness of watching him despise himself for something that wasn’t his fault.

She had learned painfully that nothing she could say at this point was welcome. All Zero wanted was distance, a few moments to reassemble his mask of normality. He wasn’t really alright, he would never be alright, but he had to keep pretending for as long as his mind and heart could hold out… and while he knew she understood the truth, her pretending she believed the lie was one of the few things that gave him comfort. So she waited, let him find himself again, find his way back from those deepest levels of his private hell, until he decided he felt human enough to face her.

At last he straightened, dragged the back of his hand across his mouth, vented a sigh of weary disgust. Then he turned slowly to face her. His eyes were violet again, and now there was an awkward kind of warmth in them.

He stretched out his left hand to her. Sometimes he would touch the fang-marks on her neck afterward, as if to silently apologize, or to assure himself that he hadn’t hurt her too badly; but this time his fingers slid gently across the pulse in the unpunctured right side of her throat.

“Thank you,” he said softly, and Yuki knew he wasn’t referring to her blood. He meant the perfume, and her simple understanding.

A part of her wanted to cry for the fact that such a little thing meant so much to him… but she gave him a crooked smile instead, lifting her chin somewhat haughtily.

“Well, if I’m going to let you keep biting me, I want you to do the job right in the first place, stupid. I can’t have you coming back for seconds like this all the time, you know.”

She was gratified when a trace of color crept into Zero’s pale cheeks, and he looked away, flustered. He needed that little bit of flippant teasing, the casual dismissal of their shared pain. They both needed it. Even if it had begun to feel increasingly forced, it was still her way of giving him permission to go on pretending—until the next time.

Until he needed her again.

“Come on now.” With one hand Yuki reached for the doorknob, while her other hand seized Zero’s wrist; squeezing gently, and then giving a firm tug. “We’d better not be late for class.”


© 2011 Jordanna Morgan