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Aya-chan's screams blended with Sorena's, shattering through the corridor. Aya-chan's back was pressed to the door, that shook with Sorena's death struggles. The metal twisted and bent, light pouring through the opening in the door, but Lyn had enchanted it and Sorena could not pass through. When light filled the oubliette, what had been Sorena Capulet turned to dust, and the force that she hurled herself against the door scattered the ashes. Aya-chan stood, moving away from the door, and Sorena's ashes covered her. She tried to wipe them off, tears and blood streaking her face. Turning her into a vampire had not made Aya-chan into a killer, but making her brother a vampire had, and she made her innocent wife her accomplice.



Haru stepped forward and reached out to tug her hands away gently. He used a handkerchief to tenderly wipe away the mess of tears, blood, and ash on his wife's face. Demon magic incinerated the now incriminating cloth as he dropped it to draw her into his arms.

Aya-chan fell into his arms. Her body shook with sobs. Sorena had been a monster in every sense, but... She clung to Haru, all her strength gone.

Haru held her tightly, one hand stroking her hair. He looked faintly pained and very concerned for Aya-chan. After a moment, he shifted his hold and lifted her into his arms, walking away from the distorted door.

Aya-chan let herself be carried. For a long time, she only wept. Then she said, "Ran?"

"Lyn is with him. We'll get you cleaned up and changed, then join them," Haru promised softly. He pressed his lips to her forehead. The demon held her close as he walked up and out.

"I'm sorry... I'm sorry..." Aya-chan apologized until her voice became too thick with tears. Then she gave herself completely away to sobbing.

Haru sang to her quietly as he slipped up through the house to their rooms. It wasn't in any language she spoke. He walked into the bathroom and settled on the edge of the tub, cradling her in his lap as he reached to turn the water on and adjust it.

Aya-chan crumpled against him, unable even to hold herself up.

'You need to help her pull herself together,' Schu thought into Haru's mind. 'She needs to become the leader of the House of Capulet, or we're all dead.' No one would overlook that Sorena's telepathic enforcer failed to warn her that one of her poor relations was going to kill her.

'I'm aware of that,' Haru replied with a mental sigh. Getting the ash off her and getting her warmed up from the shock chill could only help. He plugged the tub to let it fill and got up, setting Aya-chan on her feet and supporting her.

"Stand for me, love," he murmured coaxingly to her, nuzzling her cheek. "Let me get these clothes off you."

Aya-chan was shivering as she stood. "I don't want this. I don't want to be this. I don't want to be a killer." Then her eyes snapped open all the way and she seemed suddenly alert. "Let's hurry. Ran is awake. We won't be able to hide that Sorena is dead, so we may as well call the Princess to us." Sariel was a friend, but she had duties as Princess. Aya-chan didn't know what would happen.

Haru's touch was warm and gentle as he undressed her. A small crinkle formed between his eyebrows despite suppressing his frown at the sudden change. Suspiciously sudden.

"I can contact Sariel while you're in the bath," he offered, fingers brushing over her arms.

Aya-chan drew in a shaky breath. She shook her head. "Schu can do it. Don't leave me." She wiped her face with the back of her hand and stepped into the bath.

***

The knock on Kakyou's door was careful and polite. Crawford. Kakyou smiled. The man was a servant, but he was also a seerer like Kakyou. The two had become something almost like friends. Kakyou opened the door to his private rooms. "Yes?"

Crawford had a piece of paper on a tray. "Sir, I have a private message for you. I am to give it to you and await your response. May I come in?"

Kakyou had not heard from Aya all night, and that was unlike his husband. Kakyou stepped aside to let Crawford enter. The main room of his chambers was arranged like a study. The deep purple curtains were drawn over the shutters. The gas lamps gave off an eerie light. Kakyou did not need much light. Kakyou took the paper off the tray. The parchment was blank. Kakyou looked questioning at Crawford, and Kakyou's cat eyes reflected in the half-light.

Crawford sighed. "Sir, please don't ask how I know this, but I have news about your husband." He and Aya married in secret in a forbidden ceremony. No one but Father Farfarello and the two of them were supposed to know. "Sorena Capulet suspected his involvement with you and had him turned into a vampire. Lady Aya murdered Sorena in revenge."

Kakyou didn't usually question how Crawford knew things. He was sure the man had sources beyond his Gift. They weren't any of Kakyou's business.

This was Kakyou's business but he had bigger concerns. The blank paper crumpled as Kakyou's hand tightened around it. If Aya was a vampire, Kakyou could never touch him again.

"When...?" The single word was choked and rough, full of pain.

"Last night. This morning. Lady Sorena's death is still unknown." Crawford looked at Kakyou sympathetically. He was bold enough to reach out to put a comforting hand on Kakyou's arm. "...sir?"

The look Kakyou gave Crawford was quietly grateful for it. He was trembling just a little.

"I'm glad she's dead," Kakyou said, his tone vicious in a way that came from pure pain.

"Yes." Crawford tried for a vision to see if more aftection would be a good strategy. When the vision didn't come, he moved to pull Kakyou into a hug anyway.

"Yes." Crawford tried for a vision to see if more aftection would be a good strategy. When the vision didn't come, he moved to pull Kakyou into a hug anyway.

LKakyou was pulled easily. He leaned into Crawford, shoulders shaking. Crying because even if he was glad she was dead, Aya-chan had killed someone. Crying because he would either infect Aya with his curse, or never touch him again.

Crawford gently stroked Kakyou's hair. His tone was respectful and without judgement. "Right now, your husband and those who love him are in danger. Find strength for them. If you can do anything to help, now would be the time."

Kakyou swallowed hard and nodded. He lifted his head a little, rubbing at his eyes. "I think I can. I know you've already done a great deal..." Too much for his place with the family, and even if the golden eyes looking at Crawford were wet and pained, it was still clear he knew that, "but can you take some messages for me in the near future?"


"Yes," Crawford answered simply. His smile was small but seemed warm. He still held Kakyou in his arms.

"Thank you," Kakyou replied just as simply. He laid a hand on Crawford's arm and squeezed gratefully. After a long moment, he moved to draw back. "I should make a start on determining the contents of those messages."

"Would you like me to stay?"

"Will it be more convenient for you to stay or come back later?" By which he actually meant more safe.

"I don't know, but I would like to stay." Crawford paused for a moment as if thinking. "Maybe you could mark before I go... As if we were lovers."

Kakyou flushed a vivid red at the suggestion. It was a good cover, and he could include in his letter to Aya and Aya-chan that it was only that, in case rumour reached them, but it was still embarrassing to think of people speculating.

"Stay, then. I don't, um, know about your idea but I'll consider it," he managed, stumbling a little.

Crawford's smile didn't waver. "Whatever you think is for the best, sir."

Kakyou made a small, vaguely amused sound at the incongruity of Crawford calling him sir after suggesting they let people think they were lovers.

"I'll try to be quick." He moved to sit on his bed, picking up a leather bound journal and opening it to a blank page. After a bit of thought, he wrote a short list of names; the people he could assume would be trouble based on what he knew of them. After that was done, he laid down on the bed.

"May I lie next to you?" Crawford asked lightly.

Kakyou looked surprised and a little confused by the request, but he nodded slightly. "If you want to. I don't mind."

Crawford nodded. Without a word, he took off his shoes and moved to lie beside Kakyou.

Kakyou closed his eyes and entered his dream. He reached out and gathered what information he could about who was dangerous to Aya-chan. He didn't fool himself that he'd found everyone.

When he woke, he reached for the book, adding a few new names and putting check marks by some old ones. Then he looked at Crawford, eyes quietly considering and curious.

Crawford glanced from the book to Kakyou. He liked looking at Kakyou and let some of that show.

Surprise and confusion flared again before Kakyou looked away. He reached into one of his bedside drawers for loose paper and started writing letters with his journal as the surface.

"I usually try not to pry, but I can't help wondering where you fit into this," he murmured softly as he wrote.

"Would you believe me if I told you that I am still figuring that out? Sir, I have an excellent memory and it might be wise to write down as little as possible."

"Perhaps," Kakyou said, not specifying if that was a reply to the question or the suggestion. He tore the paper in front of him to pieces he'd burn when he got up and started briefer notes, more proof Crawford came from him than anything, before reopening the book to show Crawford the list of names. He pointed to several of them. "These to John Webster, with my request that he inconvenience them at least half as much as he does me." Then several more. "These to my husband and his sister, with my love and concern."

"Perhaps," Kakyou said, not specifying if that was a reply to the question or the suggestion. He tore the paper in front of him to pieces he'd burn when he got up and started briefer notes, more proof Crawford came from him than anything, before reopening the book to show Crawford the list of names. He pointed to several of them. "These to John Webster, with my request that he inconvenience them at least half as much as he does me." Then several more. "These to my husband and his sister, with my love and concern."

"I understand, sir," Crawford said with a nod. "As you wish."

"...I have an alternative suggestion to explain your lingering," Kakyou added after a moment, closing the book again and folding the notes. "It's not a secret that I don't always eat as I should. If you're marked that way, the likely assumption is that I've been erratic again and needed blood." He reached to touch Crawford's wrist lightly over the vein.

Crawford pulled back the sleeve of his jacket, removed his cufflink, and offered his wrist. It should not have been intimate, but Crawford always wore a suit, so somehow it was. "Our ideas are not mutually exclusive, sir."

Kakyou blushed again, the color not as vivid as it would be on a human but clear. He couldn't help remembering the taste of Aya's blood on his tongue, the feel of Aya's body warm and solid against his. No, not at all mutually exclusive.

"But not automatically inclusive," he said after clearing his throat. He took Crawford's wrist gently and sank his fangs in. The sharp flash of pain faded quickly; Kakyou wasn't a person who enjoyed causing pain. It melted away into a warm feeling, a sense of ease, comfort, and safety, tinged with gentle pleasure.

He didn't take much. He had eaten at least a bit earlier and this was about the appearance, not the fact.

Crawford gasped, pressing close, and reaching to stroke Kakyou's hair with his free hand.

Kakyou purred faintly at the stroking. He licked gently over the bite to stop the bleeding before drawing back from it. He'd deliberately bitten high on the wrist so part of the bite would show when the cuff tugged back a little. And anyone with a nose for it would smell the blood traces.

He gave a little humming sound, soft and pleasant, as he swallowed the last of the blood.


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