It's so strange that my absolute fave couple of Bleach is Ichigo/Rukia, but the first fanfic I post on Bleach is NOT about them. Weird. But I think I've determined to do all the overlooked couples of Bleach and I really want to do one with Hitsugaya, because I love the chibi...but I can't decide if he's gonna be with Matsumoto or Hinamori cuz I love them both...and I definitely have Ishida/Inoue and Byakuya/Ukitake fics planned somewhere...
Anyway, no one really knows for sure if Urahara and Yoruichi are blood related, so just pretend that they aren't in this story, okay? Kind of like how people view Byakuya and Rukia as being related, but they really aren't by blood.
Oh ya, I forgot how Urahara refers to Ichigo and Rukia, and I was too lazy to look it up so it stands how it is ;-p
Review if you like. No flames, please.
She heard him come quietly across the room, stopping just a foot from her. He was no longer a shinigami; he could not longer move so silently as she had become accustomed to in previous centuries. But he still moved quietly, nonetheless.
"Is it almost done?" she asked tonelessly.
"Of course," he replied, seriously for once. "I know the importance of this occasion."
There was silence between them, though not disquieting – just understanding.
"...Kuchiki Rukia cannot die."
"Kuchiki Rukia cannot die," Yoruichi repeated solemnly, as though sealing a pact between them, the same air of formality that could normally be found in her actions surrounding the words. "And you know I will see it so."
The night was quiet with little breeze, and what wind existed was barely enough to rustle the leaves in neighboring trees. She could see the stars from the nearby window. Yoruichi liked quiet and associated it with peace, but such complete silence could be as peaceful as it could be unnervingly empty.
"Oh, and when you're there, be sure not to let Kurosaki-kun die, eh?" She could hear the happy-go-lucky lilt slipping back into his voice, and detested the sudden escape of seriousness that had pervaded their conversation before. "He's important you know, and if there's anyone who stands a chance of rescuing Rukia, it'd be that orange-haired menace. He's even stronger than me, I can tell! If anything, I bet he'd be another to achieve bankai in under-"
"Kisuke, shut up."
"Why, Yoruichi, I'm miffed! I thought we were old friends! Don't you want your dear old friend's opinion?"
"I don't give a cat's ass about being old friends," she told him, rather roughly, as she sat on a crate in his storeroom. The place smelled musty, but at least it was private. She had thought he'd come to find her soon enough. "We're 'family members' to your workers and 'old friends' to everyone else, but I will kill you myself if you term us 'old friends' one more time. Just try it, Kisuke, I dare you."
"Yoruichi," he sighed, "what else am I supposed to call us?"
"I don't know. Try..." she paused, "ex-lovers."
"We haven't been lovers for years."
"Does that really matter? We couldn't ever go back to being 'old friends' and you know it."
"It doesn't change the present."
"You're right. It doesn't." It might have sounded a ridiculous statement, but the undercurrent of sarcasm in her voice did not go missed.
"...what's brought all this on, Yoruichi? It's not just Kuchiki Rukia, is it?"
She said nothing.
"...I thought you hated Soul Society."
"...that's why, at first, I couldn't believe you were willing to return so easily. Because you might have to stop being a cat."
"I would have never returned to that place if I didn't have to," she said harshly, before her voice softened, "...not after what they did to you."
"What, Yoruichi, do you still hold that against Soul Society? My banishment was for valid reasons, I admit even now, and to hold it against them for so long is folly. I still see no reason for you to have disappeared the same year I was exiled to this human earth. And after so many years, you're returning to Soul Society...what will people make of you then?"
"Do you think I care what people will think?" she stood and turned to him heatedly. "I don't care, and that's the point...but I just cannot stand aside and watch Soul Society be destroyed by him."
"You're contradicting yourself, Yoruichi. You hate Soul Society but yet can't see it destroyed?" he laughed softly.
"I hate Soul Society for what they did to you," she turned away from him again. "You're brilliant, Kisuke. A genius. Just toying around with new mechanics didn't mean they had to hand you a punishment worse than death for us shinigami." She paused for a fleeting moment, silence settling like fog. Then came her voice, softly carrying like the nonexistent wind, very much unlike her usual nature: "But above everything else, I still love that place at the same time. It's my home. Is that so wrong, Kisuke? To love something and hate it so much all at once?"
"You've always been a paradox," Urahara replied to her back. "And I just think you really love Soul Society, but for some absurd reason you won't accept your place back there. You have some crazy notion that by abstaining from that place you're honoring me like some like I'm some kind of a god. A god that I'm not."
"You aren't a god. You're my best friend."
"I'm not your best friend," he said softly, dangerously. "I'm your ex-lover."
"Why did you want to talk to me, Yoruichi?"
"What makes you think I wanted anything at all?"
"Yoruichi, over the centuries I have known you, you have never played coy. Stop acting childish and tell me now." His statement was not haughty, just direct, and she breathed out a light breath at the notice of his teasing long vanished. He had always known the appropriate times for each of his many faces.
"Ah...I might have known this was about him."
"It's not in the way that you think...I'm not worried about his power; I'm sure that will come with his maturity. But haven't you seen it, Kisuke? How alike they are to us?" She turned to him again, and saw by the look on his face that he had, indeed, noticed the scant similarities.
"You were exiled and I followed you...Kuchiki Rukia was taken back and Ichigo will follow her, simply because that's the path he's chosen...will it be the same path as me?"
"It will be only be if he chooses it that way," Urahara replied guardedly.
"Yes, but..." Yoruichi looked off to the side, "you can...see it...between them. We were the same, almost exactly, and look how we ended up. You the brilliant has-been, and I the suspected-dead shinigami. That's all we are. Do you really want that to be all they are too?"
He paused for a bit, absorbing her answer, before replying: "...Kurosaki-kun and Kuchiki Rukia are both exceptional, with Kurosaki-kun's talents deriving from his sheer spiritual prowess and Rukia's from – well, of course, we all know about Hisana."
"...they won't end up the same as us, Yoruichi."
Silence overcame them again.
"Why what? Why won't they end up the same?"
"...why aren't we lovers any more?" Yoruichi asked him quietly – but not in a pleading tone, or one beseeching sympathy; rather, it sounded like a simple question, meaning exactly as how it was posed, no hidden strings beneath the surface. Her eyes flickered to the ground before returning to his face.
Urahara thought for a long, long while before he answered. She didn't interrupt him, letting the silence fall. "...Yoruichi...it wasn't just any one thing. Your heart and mind were too unstable to accept me...and even now, you can't accept the fact that you really do love Soul Society...it's just as bad as your denial dealing with the fact that I'll probably never return there. Ever."
"Don't say that, Kisuke. After Yamamoto's fallen, they'll allow you back."
"Oh, Yoruichi..." he sighed. "However...that wasn't the only reason, while we're on the subject. I thought that...perhaps, if you didn't have me, you'd go back to Soul Society. Why should I have dragged you down here with me when there was so much better that you could've had, all those years ago? It wasn't fair to you. That time, I had to give you the chance to go back without excess emotional baggage."
"And that was it?" She couldn't believe her ears. "How many times did I tell you not to make any of my decisions for me?" she hissed lowly at him, "Did you honestly think that simply because we broke our relationship off I would just leave you here like I no longer cared?"
"I..." he shrugged, "well, it's what I'd hoped."
"God, I don't believe you, Kisuke! You should've known that I wouldn't leave! You should've known that I wouldn't have wanted to go back without you! Did you think that all those times I said 'I love you,' I was only lying?"
"I've believed everything you've ever said. And since you've been asking me so many questions tonight, it's only fair that I get to ask you at least one, hm, Yoruichi-chan?"
"...all right, so answer me this: I broke off our century-old relationship, with full intent that you would return to Soul Society in anger and with a broken heart, but return nonetheless. However, you surprised me. You stayed. You cried and berated me and threatened me with all the curses you knew, but I still broke it off, but you still stayed. My question is this."
Yoruichi couldn't stand to look in his eyes at that moment – they were too open, too bare, and while she couldn't hear it in his voice, his eyes gave away all the conflicting emotions that she could easily read on the surface. She looked at the ground. An unfamiliar feeling she hadn't felt in years was slowly building in her throat.
"Because...Kisuke..." she said softly, "even if you made like you didn't want me any more, I was practically the only legal connection you had to Soul Society then. I couldn't leave you helpless."
"I've fared well enough over the years."
"I know," she said softly.
"Why are you worrying so much?"
"I don't know."
"You always worry too much."
"I loved you."
"I didn't know that."
"No. You never said it."
And that was true, she could see on his face, Urahara had never realized before now that he'd never told her once that he loved her, even countless centuries before.
"Well...I did love you all that time."
"And you loved me."
"I love you," she acknowledged.
"Don't use the present tense, Yoruichi. The present tense is too ambiguous for us to be certain of what it implies."
"Are you asking me to speak in past tense?" Her eyes fell from his gaze.
Yoruichi felt as if a mutual understanding had crept up between them at last, after so many years of being separated by reinforced emotional barriers. He had never allowed her so completely in his heart; hers had always been too open. It was as if he'd expected everything that ever came his way, and took it in stride, without being overly dramatic or pondering all the endless what-ifs. It had always been she to take the brunt of it, feeling as though she was the one being handed punishment rather than him. Because whatever Urahara took reflected on her. She made sure of it. She loved him.
And being so very convinced of all that she knew was enough to last her through the years, through human development, through switches in Soul Society routine, through all the years of pretending she was only his friend and had never even fathomed anything more.
Really, though, when it all came down to his one night...it was worth it.
Sensing the end to their conversation, she began walking towards him, her eyes following the ground, and as she drew level with his shoulders she paused. They were shoulder to shoulder, facing opposite directions, he having not moved at all. And then it was their hands reaching out for the other in the darkness, in the musty staleness of the room, neither having signaled or done a thing, just reading each other so easily, reaching out and grasping it so surely and strongly that it was as if the moment had released all barriers between heart and mind and memory...
It was all she could do at this moment. She was going back to Soul Society. Without him.
But he squeezed her hand, and in less than a second it was all okay. Everything was going to be okay.
They didn't look at each other as others might have; just their hands were enough. But as she started walking again, the tip of her ponytail had almost brushed past his silhouette before he said: "...thank you."
She paused in her step to acknowledge it, that being enough to honor his gratitude, before she swept out of the room like a shadow and into the awaiting night.
And Urahara, left alone, smiled.
The next day, it was back to being what they always were: "friends," two people who practically didn't know each other, he the mysterious Soul Society enigma and she the weird black cat that could talk. He explained about the door he'd constructed that would take the group to Soul Society, adding some precautions, before it was time to go.
He was just Urahara, and she was just a cat. That was all, for the moment.
But when it was all over and Soul Society saved and Ichigo and Rukia together again, as they were meant to be, she would return to him – alive and well, no worse for the wear, and the two of them would be able to go back to the lives and personalities they'd crafted so carefully for themselves. But Yoruichi truly believed that her idle life wouldn't last forever.
Someday, she'd come back to him. In every way possible.