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To say Shinoa doesn't keep an eye on her teammates is laughable.

She's been spying on them from a comfortable distance since she met them, and every time she was in the same room she would observe each and every one subtly, or overtly with a thick layer of teasing to see what triggers a reaction. It's a habit that had been drilled into her from childhood.

Never trust anyone you don't know, her sister had said long ago, before she died. Listen and look. Watch from a distance, dig to the bottom and discover who they really are, to make sure that those who are supposed to be guarding your back will not stick a knife in it.

Watching her friends made it easier to understand their motives when it came to a fight, which buttons to press, what to do to motivate them or force them to listen.

She knows that with a little bit of crude teasing, Mitsuba can go from a perfectly placid conversation to an indignant blushing mess, a short-fused temper spitting out rants strewn with curses, and a giant axe threatening to smash whoever dared to spark her ire.

Yoichi is very easy going, but lacks a whole lot of self confidence. However, he naturally gives out a very calming aura, which is often vital in pacifying others when it comes to stressful situations.

Kimizuki is a firebrand of his own kind, quick tongued and abrasive, motivated now by the revelation that his sister lives and that he must save her, and he's unflinchingly loyal to those who can help him in his quest to rescue her. Shinoa can respect that kind of drive, the desperation to save a loved one. 

Yuuichirou actually, has the same motivation, to protect the people he has named family. She's studied him most intently from the moment she first saw him.

Back then he was closed off, angry and full of a burning hatred for the vampires that ruined his life. He was reckless and hard-headed, but he was so haunted. Guren had once told her that he'd often wake up screaming the name of some girlfriend he watched die, and she felt the distant pangs of sadness for him, knowing that he'd watched someone so close get murdered by vampires.

He'd been pushy and determined to take the fight to them, to exact vengeance for the murders of the people he called his family, of the girl he cared so much about. It's a desolation that Shinoa can't quite understand, never having had that kind of connection before, and she tries to sympathize with him on that regard. It must have been incredibly heart rending to be forced to abandon one's family as they died.

To Yuu, his idea of family doesn't include blood, but the ties of friendship that bind people together. And growing up, he'd made himself a pact to protect those he considered his family, but found difficulty in forming those bonds as a young adult - unable to stand the risk of losing them all over again. But he did try once he realised that he was not alone in his quest to save those who need saving.

The lost, the lonely, the vulnerable... So long as Yuu can protect them, he would place them under his umbrella and shield them from the rain. Heck, he would give them the whole umbrella and walk in the rain himself. He would throw his whole being into saving people, without a care about his own safety.

Because of this, he's decided to create a new family of his team, to help them just as he needs their help. He may not have been able to save his old family, but he'd pour himself into the position of protector for this one.

Shinoa finds herself admiring him for that, the absolute purity of his need to protect. Just from watching him evolve as a person in the months she's known him, he's grown on her in kind. As a result, without even trying he is weaselling his way into her heart faster than she could stop him, and she almost feels as though she doesn't want to stop it.

He's handsome, he's strong, and he's undyingly loyal, and her heart flutters when he directs a smile towards her. He makes her feel needed among the team, like she's important, and that's likely the crux of the reason for her affection for him. Nobody has ever made her feel needed before. Her family had all but made her feel worthless, but Yuu's influence makes her feel the complete opposite.

She doesn't want to let him in, but it, as well as Yuu himself, is unavoidable.

He's foolhardy, but damaged. Despite his brash behaviour and ridiculous recklessness regarding his own life, he'll smile in place of his pain to make sure his friends are not worried about him. It's a dangerous ability to have, as she also knows that his smile hides a darkness that even she couldn't imagine.

She knows he'd grown up rough, a childhood spoiled by traumas so horrendous that he can only speak about it in jilted half-sentences before he gives up. They all had traumatic pasts - they were all experimented on as children, their parents either dead or considered non-figures after the apocalypse, and they were all abused, broken and lonely.

They'd all had a greatly traumatic experience though their lives; Kimizuki's sister was afflicted with the apocalypse virus, Yoichi had watched his sister die and Mitsuba had her squad die around her. Shinoa was all but an outcast of her blood-family for being a failed experiment, especially after her prodigal sister's death. Yuuichirou had lost his entire cultivated family right before his eyes - the one he had only realised was such on the day of their deaths - and it scarred him deeply.

After hearing about his desperate aim for revenge against the vampires, Shinoa couldn't help but take a peek at his history to learn more about him. It's a highly illegal thing to do, but it's not beyond her power as a member of the prestigious Hiragi family.

To her dismay there is very little to find, as everything before his enlistment is undocumented. Such an anomaly of a personal file is unheard of and it troubles her, but also makes her more curious.

So far, all she has about his past is what Guren had filled her in on previously, as well as whatever comes out of his mouth in small, angry spurts, and the venom he spews when it comes to the vampires who kept him as a prisoner when he was a child.

She knows he'd spent years in captivity, a slave who escaped from death at the cost of everything he ever cared about, and he is haunted by it, but he's trying to move on from that with nothing but strength of will alone. He's a mystery, and it's drawing her in so deeply that she can't help but look at him on the surface and hope that he's as genuine as he appears.

And she knows he is, because when he was confronted with a fragment of his past, the very embodiment of his grief, a member of his previous family he said in that moment he'd felt that he'd abandoned to die, Shinoa could feel nothing but cold shock as she watched devastated tears stream down Yuu's face. Her heart threatened break for him as she watched his expression crumble from his characteristic hard-headed determination to an unfamiliar look of crushing despair.

One name scraped out of his throat as he'd stared, struck, at the ghost of his family, a child thought dead and now grown, as though he would disappear into the shadows of his imagination should he take his eyes away even to blink.

Is it really you... Mikaela? 

It is you...

Mika, I'm so sorry! I abandoned you!

Yuu's distraught voice echoes quietly in her head, the image of his moss green eyes wide with shock, longing and anguish coming to the forefront of her mind. The phantom sound of his words are drenched in desperate hope, as though he wishes to blot out the trauma that separated the two of them as children, and run over to embrace him.

Quickly the image shifts, and the very picture of Yuu's sorrow is the unruly blond hair, sky blue eyes and pale face of Mikaela, angelic in name and appearance, staring just as broken-heartedly back - clad in the stark white of a vampire's uniform.

This is whose name he's been screaming in his sleep, she'd thought at the time. The person he made a promise of revenge for. His family.

All this time, she'd thought Mika was a girl he'd lost when he left his family behind, one that he'd had a close bond with or possibly a crush on.

She really didn't have any other reason not to think that, as Mika is typically a girl's name, and Yuu hadn't really bothered to correct her much when she'd made mention of it, brushing off her teasing with little more than defensive snark. He may have mentioned the mystery Mika's gender only once, but Shinoa hadn't really cared to listen to it at the time during her teasing.

It was bizarre that the moment she laid eyes on the seemingly resurrected Mika of Yuu's nightmares, the boy she hadn't ever expected to stand before them, his strange beauty struck her in a way she never expected. After all, with those foreign looks, he was prettier than most girls that Shinoa had ever seen.

A feeling she could only describe as jealousy clung to the edges of the shock she had felt at Yuu's reaction to his presence, as well as Yu's incredible reluctance to fight him.

But she could see Mikaela was less averse than Yuu to fight, which was entirely understandable, given that the silver-haired Noble vampire was whispering poison into his ears the whole time they stared at one another. Even through all of it, Yuu couldn't take his eyes off of Mika, and vice versa.

Shinoa could see that they were bound together in some important way that she couldn't figure out, that they would do absolutely anything to reach one another given the chance. Again, it was understandable considering one of them was supposed to be dead, and they had four years of separation to catch up on. So she wasn't exactly surprised when the both of them disappeared from the battleground soon after.

When Yuu had reappeared, he was completely out of control and had attacked Shinoa, but Mikaela had jumped in between them and used his own body as a shield to try and halt him, crying out for his friend to please stop, trying to protect the both of them.

He'd even taken a sword through the torso for her - admittedly not entirely for her sake - but the appreciation for the act still stood.

From there, after Yuu had collapsed, and Shinoa could only cradle him in her arms as she tried to process what in the hell just happened, the thought dimly occurred to her that there were still vampires nearby. She became aware that Mikaela and the Noble were standing several yards away; far enough that she could hear them talk but not understand their speech, and they were keeping a relatively safe distance from the humans.

When Shinoa had glanced up at them numbly, after the rollercoaster of terror she'd just experienced, Mikaela was glaring at her squad as they surrounded Yuu, standing as though the sword that had pierced his back and though his chest roughly five minutes before had done less than scratch him; grit teeth exposing sharp fangs as the silver-haired vampire spoke lowly to him with a smile that could only be considered evil in nature.

The vampire with Mikaela attempted to grab at his cloak to draw him away for their retreat, only to find his arm shoved off and words she could tell were pure venom spewed at him as the boy turned away. When he tried again and received the same result, Mikaela was quickly seized by the neck by the Noble, who shoved him back far enough that he lost balance on his feet, causing his hands to fly up and grasp the arm holding him captive. The Noble had to have been strong, lifting Mikaela high off the ground and hauling him closer to utter something else.

She can clearly remember the way Mikaela's pale hair shifted in the sunset during the violent action, falling around the back of his neck in haphazard platinum blond waves, as he attempted to turn his head and pull away from the fingers digging into the sides of his neck. His thin hands gripped the wrist of the taller vampire, who was still grinning at him sadistically.

They'd made brief eye contact in that moment, and she could almost feel the frustration and sadness emanating from him in that one short glance, before he was jostled as the other vampire leapt into the air with Mikaela still in his hold.

He didn't want to go.

He wanted to stay for Yuu.

She was left with the image of the large red blotch on the back of Mikaela's otherwise flawlessly white uniform as he was forcibly taken back to wherever the hell they came from.

That was the first time she'd seen Mikaela and from there her need to understand him simmered alongside the concern she held for Yuu. They came hand in hand; her budding feelings for Yuuichirou and the curiosity over who Mikaela was to him, and the two thoughts couldn't be separated.

The desire to discover more about Mikaela increased the more that Yuu spoke of him when he awoke from his week-long coma, when tears of joy clashing with tears of horror streamed down his face and he couldn't help but smile at the knowledge that Mika, his most precious person in the world, was alive. Even if he was a vampire, it didn't matter - Mika was alive and so Yuuichirou was happy. Shinoa was glad that she could see Yuuichirou smile so easily after that.

After the harrowing experience of their reunion in Shinjuku, she watched Yuu dive into his research, the desperate studying into ways to reverse vampirism to prove just how committed Yuu was to rescuing his friend from the enemy. Even though he was basically illiterate and couldn't read a lot of the words in the books, he tried so hard to understand them that she couldn't not be amazed at it.

Shinoa admired Yuuichirou for his unshakeable drive so much, she felt tendrils of her heart reaching out to him, as if wanting to soothe the ache of his fervid but fruitless search for information in his quest to reclaim Mikaela from vampiric clutches. It felt as though his singular focus on Mikaela was admirable, but couldn't help the prickly vines of envy that coiled tightly inside her chest and spelled out Mikaela's name.

After the rest of the team had witnessed the fact that he was really alive, Mikaela often came up in conversation, but Yuu would always say something really nice about him and talk about how much happier he was to find out about Mikaela's unlikely survival.

Yuuichirou would go on to say how brave and smart he was, how upbeat and kind, as well as how selfless he was in their last moments together four years before, when they both believed he was going to die. His proclamations went so far as to say even to Guren that he would do absolutely anything to get him back, even at the cost of himself.

But Shinoa could see deeper than that. Yuu's shoulders had been weighted with immense grief before, the burden of survivor's guilt had bowed his head as he'd felt he'd left Mikaela all alone as he supposedly lay dying. And now the weight had lifted with the knowledge that Mikaela had survived somehow, and it allowed him to finally breathe like he hadn't been able before.

Yuu's smiles came more naturally, and his laughs became more genuine. His whole personality had almost inverted after his coma, his anger and derisive attitude towards the others had all but vanished after his revelation that Mikaela still walked among the living.

Well, kind of.

Due to the understanding that Mikaela had become one of the hated vampires, Yuu's focus on killing them had shifted aside; deliberately making room for the idea that he will return Mikaela to his side one way or the other, vampire or not. He was absolutely convinced that they could one day reunite and be their own family once more, and that he just needed to see him again to prove it.

Shinoa didn't realise how soon that would be, and pitied Yuu for being unconscious for when they met him again.

The second time she'd encountered Mikaela, he was storming through the ranks of the JIDA soldiers as though they were little more than block towers, easily knocked over and forgotten.

He was a hurricane, graceful and acrobatic, flipping over people and parrying and dodging as many swings from sharpened swords as he could. He smoothly skirted around people and knocked them aside if they got too close, even outmanoeuvred the commanders, but not once did he land a fatal blow on anyone.

He was incredibly fast, agile and strong, driven by a distinct and urgent need to reunite with his long-lost family. When he found himself overwhelmed, knocked down and injured, he picked himself back up and kept going, even if he was slowing down due to the damage to himself, and it became harder to dodge the blades flying at him.

Still, he brushed off the slashes and stab wounds that sliced his pure white uniform and stained it crimson, ignoring his injuries in his fervour to break through the lines.

He's my FAMILY!

As he approached the final line of defence for Yuu, all Shinoa could hear was the genuine desperation in his voice, a single focus in his mind and tunnel vision in full effect. 

He was the very depiction of avenging angel, parrying Mitsuba's gear and swiping her aside as though her attack was little more than the buzz of an insect. And when Shinoa clashed with him, he never once even looked at her, shoving her out of the way without a so much as a thought about her.

Eventually, he'd removed all obstacles in his path to reach Yuu, almost at the cost of himself, and the prickles of jealousy scratched at her chest harder as she watched him clutch Yuu's unconscious body to himself like he meant everything to him, which he very likely did. But the feelings of envy were quickly countered by a swell of respect for him, as she knew he must have suffered greatly to come this far.


He fought through an entire army to reach Yuuichirou, proving that despite being a vampire, his bond with Yuu was unbroken. He was so gentle with Yuu, like he cherished him above all else, and even though he was unconscious she knew Yuu would have felt the same. They needed one another. Despite being blood-soaked and dirty, they were both so beautiful.


Shinoa decided then and there that she'd protect him as well and help him to escape, even if she was envious of him. Because Yuu needed Mika back and he would be upset if Mikaela died again.


Besides, she did owe him one for defending her against a berserk Yuu last time, and taking a sword through the chest isn't something that's easily repayable.


So she let him run away with Yuu in an effort to protect him - a sentiment shared by the both of them.


She'd noticed later that Mika had blue eyes then, because when the two of them returned to the squad at the airport they'd changed to the blood red she'd associated with all other vampires. Startled by this new development, she'd thrown a glance at Yuu's neck, but couldn't see anything above his collar. She then almost smacked herself for not thinking about their accelerated healing as cursed gear users.


She didn't know where the blood came from to transform Mikaela from incomplete to true vampire, but she knew, she knew that Yuuichirou would have been the one to give it to him.


She hadn't had much time to think about the how's and why's, thanks to Guren, Kureto and the Seraph, but...


Anyway.


Now, as she sits beside a campfire with her squad near the warehouse on the beach that they are using as a temporary hideout, having nowhere to go after recently defecting from the JIDA a couple weeks ago, Shinoa notices the vampire is very purposefully avoiding sitting with them. He's been keeping his distance for a couple of days, now.


Instead, he leans against the wall of the old wood slatted warehouse close by with his arms folded over his chest, watching the waves crash against the shore with a look on his face that suggests he is deep in thought. He stands so still, the only movement being that of the wind carding through his hair and shifting the loose material of his cloak.


Shinoa has a good view of the left of his slim profile from here, the side of his pale face and the fall of his light blond hair around his neck, with one leg bent and foot pressed against the wall in a semi-relaxed pose. She supposes it's slightly more of a defensive version of the action, given the distance he's put between himself and the squad, but it's still less than the anger and disdain he's shown them before.


At least he isn't glaring at them anymore.


He won't speak to the rest of the team, besides Yuu, unless spoken to, and even then it is quiet and clipped. So far, he's never so much as smiled in their company, not even at his best friend. To be honest, she kind of understands why he is this way. He doesn't know any of them, can't trust any of them. And she gets it, really.


Don't trust anyone you don't know.


The words forever echo in her ears with her sister's voice, and she can tell Mikaela lives by those words too.


All the trauma he'd experienced with Yuu and then whatever he'd been though after he'd been presumed dead with the vampires would turn him away from trusting anyone.

The forced vampirism and brainwashing that the other bloodsuckers likely inflicted on Mikaela would certainly not have been pleasant, and the constant target on his back by the JIDA, as well as non-military humans and now other vampires would definitely cause him to be incredibly uncomfortable around other people.


Every villager they've met gives him a wide berth, despite everyone telling them that he's harmless.


Relatively, that is.


It doesn't matter though.


Even if he abandoned the white battle uniform of the vampire order, his physical characteristics would give him away as a vampire in a heartbeat and people would fear him regardless.


As it stands, he keeps the squad at arms length at all times, the only exception being Yuu, who has absolutely no qualms about personal space with the blond. Besides, nobody has really had the guts to approach him alone, anyway, aside from Yuuichirou of course.

However, in an effort to make him seem more approachable, the black-haired boy is often seen with an arm thrown around Mikaela's shoulders or a hand on him, trying to encourage him to loosen up - which doesn't often go well.


It's hard to look at because Yuu is constantly smiling and joking around while Mikaela remains completely straight-faced and taciturn, and the black haired boy can't help but gripe that Mikaela won't kid around with him anymore.


He's complained to Shinoa before that when they were kids, they were the complete opposite, in that Yuu was the serious one and Mikaela was the one who was constantly upbeat and smiling despite dire circumstances. Yuu had often gushed that Mikaela was the one who plastered a smile on his face as he carried all of their burdens, and now that they've been reunited, their positions and outlooks on life have dramatically flipped.


It's very difficult to understand, looking at them as they are now, but because of the vehemence Yuu employs to his words whenever he talks about it, it's also very hard not to believe.


The two are practically inseparable, understandably, but it's uplifting in a way. Because despite his condition as a vampire, and despite all their training to kill said creatures, Yuu stubbornly aims to remove the uneasiness people have about Mikaela. That's what she likes about Yuu so much - his willingness to just accept people as is.


Besides, the moment he'd realised Mikaela was a vampire, all his posturing and proclaiming his desire to kill them had all but vanished. It is very conspicuous as to his undying loyalty to his family that he's willing to forget everything about his hatred for the creatures and freely offer safety and protection for the other boy, who just as fervently offers it back, despite hating humans as well as himself as a vampire.


Yuu's constant attempts to integrate him into the group in an effort to make him feel better about his position in life often fail, and Shinoa can see why, even if Yuuichirou can't. Still, for Yuu's sake, the team tries on his behalf, even if the action appears wasted on him.


Her attempts to talk to Mikaela often falter, as he does not seem the least bit interested to engage in any form of small talk, and Yoichi's friendly attitudes towards him result in little more than a blank stare at the boy. Mitsuba doesn't really know what to do about his uncooperative behaviour and thus cannot speak to him, and Kimizuki sometimes tries as well, but similarly is rebuffed by short, uninterested replies. Narumi doesn't bother trying because the pain of losing half his team to vampires is far too fresh to consider it.


And Shinoa gets that, she really does.


The team and Mika are from two very different worlds, trained and conditioned to hate one another, and the change of orientation is so startling that it's hard to bridge the gap between them.


The real answer to his reluctance to integrate with them obvious though.


He doesn't really want to know them, is constantly looking for a way to get away from them, but can't leave without Yuu - the very last thing he has in this world - who absolutely refuses to go anywhere without the squad. Despite Mikaela's frosty attitude towards the rest of his new family, the black-haired boy stubbornly continues to be the shackle that binds him here.


While the team sits around the fire eating some rations that they'd raided from the nearby abandoned neighbourhood, Shinoa can't help but steal some cursory glances at Mikaela as she chews on a granola bar.


Normally he sticks around Yuu, quietly sitting next to him in the group or simply being close to him, but for the past few days he's seemed... almost edgy about something, often straying from the group and actively avoiding them when possible. He's been glaring at things harder than usual, but that's not exactly a new development, and it's only getting worse.


Shinoa is pondering as she sits, taking another bite of the bar and chewing it thoughtfully. Around her, the group is chatting about something, until there's a smattering of laughter, so Shinoa joins in with a giggle, even if she is barely listening. She's trying to figure out what his problem is, and she tunes back in when Yuu speaks.


"Man, I'm glad I met you guys." The smile on his face as captivating to her as ever. "Makes campfires so much more fun when you're with friends." Shinoa has to agree.


"Yeah," Mitsuba says, flicking her blonde bangs out of her eyes. "Defecting from the army kinda sucks, but at least having you guys around puts me in a better mood about it."


"Speaking of good moods, why is he so gloomy lately? Or rather, gloomier?" Kimizuki gripes, jerking his head in Mikaela's direction as he pokes at the fire with a stick. "I mean, I know he's a vampire, but would it kill him to at least talk to us once in a while? He knows he can sit with us, right?"


Yuu glances up at the pink haired boy. "Who, Mika?" He asks, craning his neck around to look at the blond. When he sees the way the other boy is staring out to sea and not paying any attention to them, Yuu deflates a little. Shinoa watches as he thinks for a moment for what to say and turns back. "He's... been through a lot."


"Yeah, we know that, dumbass," Kimizuki grunts, "What I mean is, why isn't he joining us? He can at least sit down, it's not like we're gonna bite." He thinks about his words for a second, amending with; "At least, not like he can, anyway."


It's Yoichi who titters a little at that.


"Now, now, maybe he just isn't feeling good," he says with a placid smile. "Perhaps he's hungry too? When did he eat last?"


This gives pause to the group. When did Mikaela eat last? Shinoa has never seen him drink blood ever, because Yuu had demanded that Mikaela would feed only off of him when necessary, and always took him away to somewhere private to do so. When she'd heard that, immediately she'd thought he was being heroic again, refusing to let anyone else suffer or get hurt, but analysing it afterwards resulted in a very different but hesitant answer.

It isn't just self-sacrifice on Yuu's part, is it? Maybe Mika was too special for Yuu to share? There has to be something else, and Shinoa is going to get to the bottom of it.


"I... don't know." Yuu admits, placing his hand on his chin. "I think it's been a few days. I told him to tell me when he needs blood, but he hasn't said anything. I guess I just... forgot about it." He turns his gaze to the vampire, brow furrowing in thought.

"You need to keep a schedule, Yuu," Mitsuba chimes in. "That way you won't forget next time. I don't know how often vampires need to eat, and if he's not telling you, you might have a problem figuring out when is a good time."


"Yeah, I'll keep that in mind. Thanks, Mitsuba."


"Just doing my duty," She fake salutes, and Shinoa can just see the wannabe in her trying to act cool about it. "Someone's gotta keep on top of you losers." Perfect.


"Oh, Mitsu," Shinoa gasps dramatically with a hand delicately pressing fingertips against her chest, "There are six of us here! You really want to get on top of all of us?! If that's the case, who would go first? Because I'm not a fan of sloppy seconds!"


The tease elicits exactly the response she predicts, and Mitsuba's face rockets into a bright red as her hands dig into the sand beneath her. As the seated team struggles to stifle their laughter, and Mitsuba reigns herself in so as not to release her weapon and smash it over Shinoa's head, Yuu is only half-hearted about the joviality of the situation, and constantly throws concerned looks at his best friend.

"Maybe we should invite him over?" Yoichi states, cutting through the laughter with his gentle lilt. "I mean, it's weird he's not sitting next to Yuu, even if he doesn't really talk to us."


Kimizuki shrugs, fixing his glasses over his nose. "Eh, you could try. But I doubt he'll agree to come over here."


"Hey, Mika!" Yoichi's voice calls, and those expressionless red eyes flick to him to stare through blond lashes, while his head does not entirely turn in their direction, and the corners of his lips pull downwards slightly. "Come sit with us, won't you?"


Mika's frown does not abate. If anything, his lips press together tighter. "No, thank you." His eyes turn back to the sea.


"Told ya," Kimizuki mutters, patting Yoichi on the shoulder, who deflates slightly. 

 

"You should come hang out with us, Mika," Yuuichirou says next, a smile playing on his lips as he pats a spot in the sand beside him. "I need my best buddy here with me!"


"What's the point?"


"The point?!" Mitsuba splutters indignantly, having calmed herself down after her earlier embarrassment. "The point is that we're a team! Teams are supposed to stick together, even if it's just to laze around in front of the fire! Aren't you even a little bit interested in that?

"No."

"Come on, man, don't be such a downer," Kimizuki says, exasperatedly. "This is a campfire. We're having fun here and we want you to join. Just come and sit down at least. Please?"


"I don't want to."


Shinoa calls next, without thinking. "It's alright, Mikaela, you have nothing to worry about, we're not gonna hurt you."


"I said no."


She sees the flash in his crimson eyes, as they cut towards her like a blade, and his arms tighten in their fold. She glances at Yuu, who hasn't taken his eyes off of Mikaela. His face has gone slack, and his eyes distant, as though the distant memory of Mika hurt is something painful. Perhaps she'd chosen the wrong thing to say?


Silence reigns for a few tense moments, as Mika drops his foot from the wall and ceases leaning against the building. He doesn't turn his body towards them, but angles his head in their direction as he speaks.


"I don't want to sit down. Not with you." His red eyes are cold and indifferent as they flick towards each member of the team.


And it's Narumi who talks next, surprising everyone.


"You're thirsty. Aren't you, vampire kid?" Yuu draws in a shocked breath at that. "That's why you don't wanna sit with us. You're craving blood, and you're afraid of what could happen. " Narumi's expression doesn't change as he talks, discarding the trash from his meal into the fire.


Mikaela hesitates as his eyes widen slightly, face going slack for a millisecond as his eyes follow the movement of Narumi's exposed wrist as he returns his arm to prop against his bent knee. It's a telling sign, giving him away to the group almost instantly.


When Mikaela snaps out of his brief surprise and opens his mouth to deny his claim, Narumi cuts him off with a wave. "Don't bother trying to hide it, I can tell just by looking at you. Has to be painful by now, isn't it?."


From her angle, Shinoa can see his jaw clench in frustration as he straightens to face the waves once more, his long white fangs just visible through the part of his lips, and his brows drawn together over his pale forehead. She can see his fingers flinch in their hold of his folded arms, and knows that Narumi must have hit the nail on the head for him to react so conspicuously.


"I don't know what you're talking about." Mikaela mutters, almost angrily.


"Now you're just lying to yourself."


"I'm fine."


"No you're not."


"Shut up."


"How much does it hurt right now?"


"Stop it!"


"Not until you admit it."


"I don't need to!" He looks so defensive, like a cornered mouse standing before a group of hungry cats. It seems like such an odd reverse, that he's a vampire being called out for being thirsty but unwilling to do anything about it.

It speaks miles about his own hatred for himself.


"Kid, don't fool yourself. If you ignore your need to drink blood, you know what will happen, right?" Mikaela says nothing in response to that. "You'll become so desperate for it that you'll attack someone. I heard the pain is intense enough to drive a vampire crazy. And if you don't drink for long enough, you turn into a demon."


"I don't need you to tell me that!" He hisses back, in an effort to end the conversation, but Narumi continues anyway.


"We don't want that to happen. We're just trying to help you, so you need to let us know when you have to eat, alright?"


"I'm telling you, I don't need your-!"


"Mika!" Yuuichirou's yell cuts across the empty beach. At the sound of his name, the blond's voice dies in his throat and his red eyes widen in shock and turn to him instantly. Yuu climbs to his feet and stares the vampire dead in the eye. Shinoa can see the brief frustration in his posture as he stands, walking towards Mika with a purposeful stride, talking as he goes.

"I'm sorry. I didn't realise before, but now I do. No wonder you've been so tetchy lately. That's my fault, I'd forgotten about it."


Yuu heaves out a sigh as he walks, twisting back to look at the group for a moment. "Just give us a sec, guys."


Politely, the rest of the squad does, turning back to give them the privacy of their own conversation, but Shinoa doesn't. She keeps watching and listening discretely.

He stops before the blond with a hand on his hip, and Mika leans away, cowing back against the warehouse in a defeated slouch as if Yuu is an angry parent before a chastised child.

"I did tell you to inform me when you needed blood. You know I can help you with that, right?"


"I... know, Yuu-chan."


"And you are thirsty, right?"


"...A little." There's a faint pink on his face now, and it strikes Shinoa as odd, that he submits so easily to Yuuichirou's questions but was so antagonistic towards the others. That he can almost bow to Yuuichirou immediately, but everyone else doesn't even deserve a second look. It looks like... guilt, her mind supplies helpfully. He can't lie about something like that to Yuuichirou.


Or... is it something else?


But that's a thought she doesn't really want to entertain.


"You know you can drink mine, if you need it."


The pink on Mikaela's face intensifies with a grimace, and he bows his head in an attempt to hide it, eyes obscured by his blond locks. His hand slowly rises to press his palm against his forehead, as though the thin span of his wrist will hide enough of his face to ensure he can disappear, while Yuu slides a hand onto his shoulder.


It's like he's embarrassed or something. Shinoa thinks it's adorable, in a bizarre way, even if she pities him for his unwanted need for blood.


By this point, everyone else in the group is talking amongst themselves quietly about a different matter, to give them some semblance of privacy, but she knows that they're still listening intently. She keeps her ears open for the two boy's voices over the chattering around her.


"What's the matter? Are you shy or something?" Yuu's voice is low, leaning in close enough to almost be pressing his forehead against the back of Mikaela's hand.


"No, I just don't want to." But his face remains hidden, and Yuu's own expression becomes sympathetic.


"I know you don't want to, Mika, but it's been too long since you fed last. You're going to eat whether you want to or not."


The vampire says nothing, sliding his hand from his forehead down to press his fingers over his mouth in a gesture of childish resistance. Yuu's frown pulls at the corners of his lips, as the hand on Mika's shoulder tightens its grip against the black and white fabric.


"C'mon, Mika, don't do this." He says, voice almost a whine. "Take your hand away from your mouth. I promise it won't even hurt me!"


The fingers press tighter against his skin, and his head bows even more with a shake of his head. Yuu clicks his tongue at the stubborn display, quickly abandoning his playful demeanour for a serious one. He angles his head down to make direct eye contact with the blond, his face deadly serious.


"Mikaela Hyakuya," Yuu's voice is hard, and Shinoa has never heard it like that, even if she's not meant to be hearing it right now. "Do not play this game with me. You are going to eat."


He straightens as he reaches up and tugs at Mikaela's wrist in an attempt to dislodge his hand from his face, with little luck.


With a frustrated sigh, he tries the next tactic. "Do I need to cut myself again?"


Mika's head shoots up, eyes wide, as his hand pulls a tiny ways away to hover before his face so that he may speak and Shinoa feels the same surprise well up inside, but she restrains her facial expression to perfect neutrality, as she pretends to pay attention to the others.

"What?"


"What do you mean, 'what'? You need blood, Mika. Nobody here cares about you being a vampire. But if you're not going to take care of yourself, then I will. If I have to cut myself to make you drink, then I'll do that too."


It's starkly obvious that there's an internal conflict warring inside of Mikaela right now. He glares at the front of Yuu's military jacket, weighing his options carefully. She knows he doesn't want Yuu to hurt himself, but she also has a feeling that he knows he won't be able to restrain himself if exposed to fresh blood. It's a little gross to think about, but she's never considered the idea of survival in that way before.


It takes a few moments of Yuu simply watching Mikaela think, brushing his thumb idly over the material covering Mikaela's shoulder in a soothing gesture. The blond finally concedes and slackens his arm so that it may fall by his side.


"No, I don't want you to cut yourself." He says, defeated. "I'll do it."


Yuu smiles softly at that, and a tiny surge of annoyance strikes her heart, because it's not aimed at any of Yuu's human friends. She squashes the feeling, however. Now isn't the time.


"Okay then, so you're going to bite me like last time? That's fine. Where do you wanna go with this, arm or neck? Neck is probably best." As Yuu reaches his free hand up to undo his collar, and Shinoa almost makes a lascivious comment about it, but Mika's hand shoots up to grab his wrist.


"Not here!" He blurts, gritting his teeth. He can't meet the other boy's eyes, and Yuu looks confused for a brief moment. "I..."


"What is it?"


"I can't do it here. Not in front of..." His gaze flicks vaguely towards them, and Yuu's head whirls back towards the group, who are barely passably able to pretend as though they aren't attentive to the exchange. And Shinoa can't make sense of it, but Yuu's face softens in some kind of understanding, as he turns back to the vampire, his hand slides down Mikaela's shoulder to his bicep. The pink has still not dissipated from the blond's face, and from what Shinoa can see, he appears to be somewhat self-conscious about his hunger.

It's not as if the blush is about Yuu... right?


"Why not here?"


"I don't want them to see..."


"Seriously, these guys don't care. They're not even paying attention."


"Yuu-chan..." He says it as a low growl.


"Okay, Mika. We'll go somewhere else." It's meant to sound exasperated, but comes out gentler than anything she'd ever heard spouted from his mouth.


The prickles of jealousy have strengthened into thorns within her, as she watches Yuu grasp the vampire's arm and pull him away from the warehouse. Mikaela follows almost reluctantly, as though the offer is the opposite of what he wants, but within his best interest to obey.

How fortunate for him to have someone so giving like Yuu, though, Shinoa can only think bitterly. At this point, she can't help it. But she counters it with the thought that, this is just how Yuu is. And Mika needs his help. All he needs is blood, and Yuu is going to give it to him.


"Alright, come on." Yuu states to the other boy, before turning to the group with a wave. "We'll be a few minutes, guys, Mika's gotta eat."


"Where are you going?" Mitsuba asks, leaning back on an arm and twisting her torso slightly to see them.


"Not far. Just around the other side of the warehouse."


"Okay," Yoichi cheers with a kind smile pinned to his round face. "Keep an eye out!"


"Sure."


"Whatever," Kimizuki mutters. "Just don't take too long." There is no real fire in his words, merely concern. Shinoa can feel that he isn't as troubled by the situation as he maybe ought to be, to be disregarding a vampire feeding off of one of their teammates, and she feels the same... mostly. She's not really that troubled by Mika, but she doesn't want to admit that he's a threat to her feelings. Doesn't want to admit her jealousy at the closeness those two share.


She justifies their constant proximity and behaviours from their horrendous upbringings to their separation, and finally to their tragic reunion, but she knows there's something more to it. So she squashes those feelings down as much as she can, painting a pleasant smile on her face with a giggle.


"Don't make too much noise, boys. You might make Mitsuba's panties swim." Everyone's eyes turn to the blonde, who goes bright red.


"OH THAT IS IT!" She yells through grit teeth, her face painted a bright crimson as she rocks to her knees, leans closer to Shinoa and points an enraged finger at the lilac-haired girl. "ONE OF THESE DAYS, I'LL GET YOU, SHINOA!!"


With a groan from Kimizuki, the rest of the team bursts out in laughter, aside from Mikaela, who looks disgusted. The rosiness of his cheeks has not quite abated, and he turns a glare at Yuu with red eyed frustration as his mouth forms a sentence anyone with eyes could read. She can't hear the heated whisper over the noise, but she can see the movement of his lips as he speaks it.


That's so gross.


Yuu turns to him with the jovial smile still on his face, and it morphs into something smaller, gentler and reserved.


"I know. C'mon Mika, let's go."


Shinoa keeps her own smile on her face, even as her eyes trace the way Yuu's hand slides further down Mika's arm to catch at the base of his wrist and tug him along. She can feel fury twist her insides as though the brambles of envy are taking hold of her stomach, and she shouldn't be so jealous, but she is. Once again, the vampire follows obediently, and Shinoa's eyes remain glued to their almost joined hands.


When they disappear around the corner of the dilapidated warehouse, Shinoa waits a few moments and joins in on some idle chatter before putting on a huge fake yawn and stretching her arms above her head.

She wants to see them, wants to see what's so embarrassing for Mika about feeding that it paints his face a delicate pink when asked. But she also wants to see how close the two of them really are behind closed doors, if their behaviours outside are an indication for anything.


It's not jealousy, but curiosity... isn't it?


"Well, I'm tired guys. I'm gonna go change out of my uniform, but I'll be back in a few minutes." She says with a hopefully believable strain in her voice. It seems to work, because she gets a thumbs up from Narumi, a smile and a nod from Yoichi and a grunt from Kimizuki.


"Shinoa," Mitsuba beckons her over with a semi-serious face, and she seriously considers ignoring it, but leans towards her anyway. Mitsuba cups her hand around Shinoa's ear and whispers quietly, "I know you want to spy on them. Maybe you shouldn't. He's only feeding, nothing else."


Shock suffuses though her at the claim, and internally she cannot deny it, but she quickly paints a lecherous grin on her face and turns it around in defense.


"I don't know what you're talking about, Mitsuba. Maybe you're the one that wants to watch. I was just going to change my clothes." She lilts quietly, almost nose to nose with her now. "Perhaps you should peek in on them? Maybe you'll see something hot that really will make your panties swim. God, you really are a pervert, Mitsu." She hides a giggle with her gloved hand, and stands up without looking at her friend's cherry red race.


"Shinoa-!" Mitsuba starts, but aborts her yell as Shinoa brushes herself off from the sand and walks away with a wave and a lewd smirk.
"Relax, I'll be back later." She walks with an unhurried pace while in full view of the squad, but the moment she is out of vision, she breaks into a run, keeping her steps as quiet as possible.


Entering into the warehouse, she quickly steps towards the ladder leading to a platform that stands over their sleeping area and climbs it as quietly as she can, making her way towards the multi-panelled window. There's a smaller shed a little ways from the broken window, and she can see the two boys leaning against the other building in full view.


Outside is bathed in the light of the moon, so she can clearly see the white of Mika's outfit, as well as the moonlit outline of Yuu's military coat, and it's dark enough in here that either of them look up they shouldn't be able to see her, unless vampiric night-vision is a thing. It's the perfect position to see their faces, too.


Shinoa perches herself close to the window and listens hard, crowing silently to herself in victory as she catches the sound of their voices drifting through the cracks and missing panels in the structure. She peeks though an unbroken pane of glass and watches their every move. So far, they're standing close, and it appears that nothing has happened yet.


"...orry, Mika, I really did forget about it." Yuu's voice sounds, and she watches his hand reach up towards collar. "We were so busy lately, it just slipped my mind." Mikaela's hand shoots up to clasp onto Yuu's to halt his fingers.


"No, I neglected to tell you. It's fine." The words are supposed to be placating, but it gets a rise out of Yuu anyway.


"It's not fine!" the black haired boy says loudly, curling his fingers back around Mika's. "It's unforgivable! You're my best friend, and I let you go hungry! I'm so sorry about that."


"You have nothing to be sorry about!" Mika grits out before Yuu's even finished talking, head bowing. Yuu's eyes shoot to his vampire friend, verdant green trained on the pale face of his companion in confusion.


"What do you mean?"


"I told you last time, I've swallowed my thirst for years. It's a force of habit from before we reunited and I'm so used to it that I didn't think about it either."


"How long have you been doing it?"


"Since I was turned. So just after you left. Just after..." He trails off, eyes dropping to the ground.


The frown on the blond's face is reflective of his internal misery, and Yuu's face is pinched with sympathy, before morphing into exasperation. Their hands are still linked, and from this distance, Shinoa can see the tension in the grip. They're talking about their past, the unspeakable trauma, and she suddenly feels horrible to be eavesdropping on this, but she can't leave. Not yet.


"You know I don't blame you, right?"


"You should. I got everyone killed." The vampire's voice is flat and Yuu's eyes widen like saucers. "I came up with that stupid escape plan and our family got murdered right in front of us. If I hadn't been so blind..." He grits his teeth and stops when Yuu's hand reaches up and grips Mika's chin, turning his face and leaning in closely. Shinoa feels her own eyes dilate, and her mouth slacken in shock. This is so intimate, and she doesn't know anything else to call it.


"Hey," his voice is low, almost too low to hear. "You didn't know that was going to happen."


"I should have known there was the possibility. I should have seen it-!"


"You were twelve years old! How could you have predicted that anything like that was going to happen? You were trying to save us. It's alright, Mika."


"No, it isn't. I should have died!"


"You did!" Mika's expression flattens to numb shock at that, and Shinoa practically echoes the emotion. "To me, I thought you were dead. Your arm was ripped off and you had a huge hole in your chest and I ran away from you while you were dying! I wasn't strong enough to carry you, and I left you all alone to bleed out, but I spent every single day regretting it. I closed my eyes at night and saw you dying, and I would wake up screaming."


"Yuu-chan..."


"You can't believe how happy I was to find out that you were alive! I didn't give two craps that you were a vampire, you were alive! That's why I vowed to become stronger." Yuu's words are impassioned, body animated with his voice as he expresses himself to Mika.


 "You were the beacon of my strength though all these years. All I thought about was avenging you, and now I don't have to do that. If I have to sacrifice a little bit of blood to keep you by my side, then so be it. Vampire or not you're still my family, Mika, and that's never going to change."


Yuu's hand slips from Mika's chin to his cheek as the vampire gazes at him with red eyes that are welling with tears that desperately want to fall, but stubbornly refuse to do so.


"I couldn't save you back then, but I know that I can help you now. One day, we'll find a way to turn you back into a human, but for now just trust me and let me help you. I care about you too much to let you be in pain."


Mika says nothing, eyes staring wide into Yuuichirou's. She hears a huff of breath from Yuu, as he pushes away from the wooden wall behind him to stand in front of Mika, displaying his back to Shinoa, and placing both his hands on the blond's cheeks to cradle it as though it's precious, and one of Mikaela's hands reaches up to grasp onto Yuu's wrist. Yuu leans in to press a gentle kiss to Mikaela's forehead before he leans his own against it, the light and dark strands of their hair intermingling as they're trapped between the two. Shinoa feels warmth rising inside of her at the display.


"I'm not letting you die on me, Mika. We still have so much to do together, and nothing will tear us apart ever again. I'm never going to leave you alone again."


There's a beat of silence as they simply stand in proximity to one another, and Shinoa can see the white of Yuu's gloved thumb stroking across Mikaela's cheek. The warm feeling inside her coils, desperate to watch more.


"Now, Mika," Yuuichirou's voice lowers to almost a command. "How thirsty are you, really?" He changes the subject, sliding a hand around to the back of Mikaela's head, while the other reaches again for his collar. "If you need to drink, just do it. I don't mind."


When he finally gets the buttons undone, he yanks the material down, tilting his head and exposing the tanned expanse of his neck. Mikaela's eyes lock onto the vulnerable flesh, and he looks so conflicted, as though he cannot decide whether he wants to give in or run far away. With what looks like incredible restraint, Mikaela turns his crimson gaze back to Yuu's face and presses his lips together tightly, shaking his head as he does so.


"Mika, come on. I know you need to."


"No, Yuu-chan-"


"Come on. Don't tell me you really are shy now."


The hand on his head looks like it's trying to draw Mikaela's face closer to his exposed neck, and when he resists by leaning back, Yuu moves his own body closer, basically pinning the vampire to the shed, while Mikaela's free hand rushes up to press against Yuu's chest with an audible gasp to forestall the movement.


They're body to body now, and slowly, ever so slowly, the vines in her chest shift from jealousy to something else. She can feel something coil in her belly as she watches how close their faces really are, practically sharing breath now, and she doesn't know what it is but it isn't envy. It's hot like anger, but stirs her insides differently.


"You are shy, aren't you? You're blushing." Shinoa called it.

"Yuu-chan, I can't..."


"You can and you have. I know you don't like it, but it's just blood. I got plenty of it, and you need it to survive. Just take some." The hesitance continues as Mikaela turns his eyes away, pressing his lips together once again.


"I just... I feel like I've become everything you've come to hate."


"Huh? What do you mean by that?" Mika looks at him with a mildly saddened expression.


"You hated vampires, Yuu-chan, so much so that you entered a military division specifically designed to kill them. What's more is that you hated being livestock so much, and refused to give your blood to a vampire. And now that I'm one of those monsters, I'm forcing you to do it all over again. It's just not fair."


Yuu's indignation to that comment is expected before it even comes out of his mouth.


"That's not true, and you know it! You'll never be a monster to me. You may be a vampire now, Mika, but you're nothing like those bastards who tortured us as kids. Besides, you're not forcing me give you my blood. If anything, I'm the one forcing you to drink it." Yuu's voice cuts into a laugh, and Mikaela's eyes skip to the side with an embarrassed glare.


"Now, I'm not letting you go hungry." His voice leaves no room for arguments. "If you don't drink, I'll just cut myself and make you."
Shinoa can see the tremble in Mikaela's shoulders and the tension in his jaw as he contends with his vampiric nature. He pants shakily with the restraint, battling hard against himself as his fingers curl into the material of Yuu's black military jacket.


"Mika, don't make me-"


"Fine."


With this acceptance, Mikaela forcibly relaxes himself with small sigh, eyes dropping downwards towards the slope of Yuuichirou's throat, bitter reluctance almost seeping out of his pores. His face is still so pink that it's almost adorable. Shinoa can't tell why, but it's gotten warmer somehow, and she almost feels the need to take her own jacket off.


Just as his mouth hovers over the promise of blood, there's a moment of hesitation before the bite, and the vampire jolts at the sound of his name.


"Mika. Please live for me... I need you."


A sound akin to a sob reaches Shinoa's ears as the blond's mouth finally opens and makes contact against Yuu's neck. There's a small grunt as the sharp points of his fangs pierce skin, and Yuu's hand that isn't tangled in Mikaela's hair plants itself against the wall over his shoulder.


Mikaela's hands slide around the black-haired boy's torso to press on the back of his shoulders as an embrace as he feeds, while Yuu's head tilts back, relaxing his neck to make it easier with a long and shaky exhale. She can't see his face, but she can almost bet his eyes are closed. He's practically leaning into Mikaela, almost pressing the vampire's body against the building with his own.


Shinoa can't quite feel the brambles of jealousy anymore, as they are countered by the absolute shock of the situation. as her eyes remain wide and mouth agape. She brings up a hand to cover her open mouth as her face is afire with a blush, and she can feel some kind of excitement chittering in her belly. She can't trust herself anymore, now that she can't identify this new feeling within her.


But...


Maybe she was slightly off about Mitsuba being the pervert between the two of them, because she finds herself unable to look away from their embrace.


It's strangely sensual.


She'd read romanticized stories about how vampires sometimes feed off of humans, but they were often disregarded since the general public knew of their violent and bloodthirsty nature. The usual reports of vampires were that they'd forcibly taken the blood from an unwilling human, often killing them in the act, but the stories told the opposite. A consensual and pleasurable act akin to passionate sexual intercourse between two different beings was what they described, and usually they were aimed at women who craved the intimacy they couldn't get from other humans.


And now, looking at it in person, she can see why such a thing would be so desirable.


Yuu's head tilts to press his cheek against Mikaela's pale hair, and his hand flexes to smooth down the unruly blond locks from the back of his head to his neck and repeats the motion with a satisfied sigh.


Faintly she can hear the sounds of Mikaela drinking, his quiet and muffled gasps as he reflexively swallows the flow of blood that trickles down his throat. She can't see his eyes anymore, as they're closed and hidden behind his blond hair, but she can see his mouth, his lips sealed against Yuu's skin so that he doesn't make a mess of the both of them.


He's being exceptionally careful and drinking slow, to ensure he doesn't draw out too much at once and hurt his partner in this act.
In the open air, Yuu moans quietly, which spurs Mikaela to echo a smaller, muffled response to it into the crook of his neck a couple seconds later, and it sparks a serious flare of heat within Shinoa as she hears it.


Immoral pleasure is what the act of feeding is said to feel like by people who survived being fed upon. So it must feel extremely gratifying for the both of them to engage in such an act. This is most likely the reason why Yuu decided that he'd be the one to give his blood and definitely the reason why Mikaela didn't want to feed in front of everyone earlier, because what they're doing is practically pornographic.


This should be wrong.


It shouldn't be such an erotic sight, given each of their histories with vampires, but it is.


It only lasts a few minutes before Mikaela tries to pull away, but Yuu leans in with his retreat, pressing the blond's head against the wall and keeping Mikaela's mouth locked onto his throat. The blond's knees bend as he is pushed back against the wooden barrier, and those red eyes shoot open with a surprised grunt as they stare outward, unable to turn and look at who he is feeding from.


His hands lift away from Yuu's back as if he means to shove him off, but realises that he can't do it without hurting him, so they hover over the black material of his jacket. Yuu's hand drops from the wall to wrap around Mikaela's torso and he plants his hand in the small of his spine, pressing them closer together.


"Ah, ah ah. You're not done yet." Yuu admonishes quietly. "You're still hungry, I know you are. You haven't had enough and we're not leaving until you're finished. Don't worry about me, Mika. I'll be fine, just keep drinking. I'll let you know if I get lightheaded."


The white gloved hands hesitantly return to Yuu's back, pressing flat against his crisp uniform. Blond brows furrow as he tries to glare, but with seemingly no one around to focus on, he settles for trailing his eyes along the wall of the warehouse they use as a sleeping refuge. As those crimson eyes look upwards, Shinoa has to duck away as they sweep across the windows.


She can't tell if he'd spotted her, and can't risk another peek if he's still looking. So she scuttles back down the ladder, deciding she's done spying for now.


That was... weirdly hot.


Shinoa struggles to tame her blush, as she takes her hair out of its braids and sifts though her belongings for a set of casual clothing that will be comfortable to sleep in later. Dressing quickly, she rushes to the door and checks her appearance in an attempt to look unruffled before walking back. Once she can feel the heat in her cheeks dissipate, she schools her face into neutrality once again and she slowly paces her way back over to the group.


As she retakes her place next to Mitsuba, they welcome her back happily and nobody comments on how long she's been absent. They don't bat an eye towards her, and Mitsuba doesn't look at her any differently. She doesn't even ask about what she saw happen between the two boys. Because she likely believes in their privacy, and doesn't want to join in on their secrets like Shinoa did.


It's no matter really, because as she sits down, she notices that everyone is chatting about their academy days and joins in with a little story of her own, a useless little bit of information from before the team got together.


With some lewd teasing about Yoichi's training with cursed gear, she watches the boy's face turn bright pink, as Narumi barks out a laugh. It's companionable to be in their presence, and it makes a small wave of happiness swell inside her. A thought occurs to her when she's finished speaking and someone else takes up to tell another little anecdote.


The feeling that overtook the jealousy, it isn't anger.


She's never felt it before. Never needed to. It isn't even a bad feeling, and it's like a desire she's never experienced in her life.


It makes her feel hot on the inside, and while she still feels a little low that Yuu seemingly has his eyes on someone else to make them feel needed and wanted like they had for her, it is a drive that is decidedly different with Mikaela.


They'd known each other for longer, relied on one another for survival as children. They're closer than anyone Shinoa has ever seen in her life, even despite the years of separation and pain. Yuuichirou and Mikaela are inseparable in everything, and she thinks she can understand why.
It's like they were made for one another.


And as the two boys finally emerge from their hidden place, having finished what they'd gone there to do, returning to a chorus of 'hey's and 'welcome back's, she watches as Mikaela actually takes a seat next to Yuu amid the group. They look like nothing just happened, as Yuu's collar is done back up and all evidence of their activity has been cleaned away. They sit close together, which is nothing really new, but the atmosphere around the vampire is noticeably different.


"So, you feeling better, vampire kid?" Narumi's voice cuts through her thoughts, and she watches as red eyes jump to him in surprise.


"...Yes, thank you." Comes the quiet reply. He's definitely feeling better after what Shinoa has seen, and for that, she's grateful. He's more handsome when he's not glaring at everything.


"That's good. Told you that you needed to feed. We all get grumpy when we're hungry." The brown haired man gusts out with a shrug, before pointing a serious finger at the vampire. "Next time, don't hide. Alright?"


"Okay."


Yuu turns his impossibly green eyes to the blond next to him, a warm grin playing on his mouth as he slings an arm around Mikaela's shoulders. She watches the vampire's mouth twitch into a miniscule smile at the action. She can't really tell in this light, but she thinks she can see a light blush colouring the both of their cheeks, and that's okay.


Sure, she is still slightly jealous of him, but the feeling isn't as strong against him as she first thought.


He may not like them, can't really trust them, but at least he still has one thing in the world he can believe in. The last fragment of his humanity that he can't ever let go, just as he is the last fragment of Yuu's past that can never be taken away or replaced. Mikaela is Yuuichirou's source of strength, his driving force and his reason for living. Mikaela went through hell of near death and vampiric torture just for the chance to see Yuu again.

 

They're bound together with a force stronger than the links of family. And the feeling that she couldn't identify before becomes clear.


It's love.


She's loved Yuu for such a long time, but his heart had been promised to someone else way before they even met. When Mikaela had been dead to his knowledge, Yuu had closed himself off, built unscaleable walls around him so that he may never have felt the pain of losing someone so dear to him ever again. Shinoa thought she'd had a chance to chisel down those walls, to slot herself into the position that she hadn't known Mikaela had occupied.


But when he was found out to be alive, that Yuu's most precious person remained among the living, even as a vampire, she was edged out by the determination in Yuu's soul to get him back. For Mikaela's sake, Yuu had abandoned his hatred for vampires, going so far as to thank them for saving Mikaela's life, for bringing them back together. And that was a strength of character she couldn't help but admire deeply, even at the expense of her own feelings.


The two boys who had lost everything, even each other briefly, were finally reunited after they'd both been through hell. Nothing could take the other away from the forefront of their hearts.


Shinoa will never get between them. She'll never want to, no matter how strongly she feels about Yuu. Because of this, as she watches them look at each other with an affection that can't be faked or hidden.


And Shinoa is okay with that.


Because if Yuu is happy, then she could be as well.


XxX