New fic, AU, meaning that I've taken large liberties with the characters but still hopefully presented them in a believable light. Some characters will be out of character from how we know them in the manga – but then again hey, this is AU; anything's possible :-D

Every chapter I'll also be posting relevant cultural notes, if any appear in the chapter. There's only one for this chapter: "onee-san" is a suffix that means "elder sister" and it is a respectful way to refer to a relatively young woman older than oneself.

This fic is rated R (or M, or whatever) because of language, violence, and sensuality. If any of the aforementioned offends you, please do not read.

Review if you like. No flames, please.

Chapter 1

Slight and insubstantial, she would glide through the night like she belonged among that in which she hunted; like a wisp of memory, so faint was her trace that you could only imagine she had been right next to you.

And in all honesty, she preferred it that way. Never seen, only felt.

Very few ever saw her and lived to tell about it, and she rarely slowed enough for herself to be seen anyway. But this night – this night – her mind was on more than just the thought of her last meal.

That boy… she thought, mind whirling with questions as she alighted upon the top of a telephone pole, I can't believe it's him, but everything I saw…that boy…who was he?

Stymied by thoughts that were quick to burden her pace home, Rukia failed to notice the form that suddenly shot at her from the right – she finally took notice when the creature was just a breath away, arms instantly flying to protect her heart as she was forcefully tackled. They nearly rolled over in the air, with she struggling to right herself when her balance was so disoriented.

Only when the spine of the other's wing was jammed somewhat painfully in her stomach did Rukia realize just who was at her.

"Hitsugaya! You asshole, get off me!"

"Tsk, tsk, what a mouth. You'd better watch your tongue around your elders, Rukia-chan," the other replied with a sly leer, disentangling himself, and then wheeling gracefully away from her swipe at him. "You ought to thank me, actually. If I was a hunter you'd be dead. At least I opened your eyes before a passing hunter could get a shot at you."

"Get the hell away from me," Rukia replied, reaching down to dust her skirt as both she and Hitsugaya extended their wings to come to the ground. "And how many times do I have to tell you – it's Rukia-onee-san to you, brat," she said as she continued to dust at herself, though there was no visible filth to be seen.

"Aw, I'm hurt, Rukia-chan…I'm not that dirty."

"The hell you aren't; I know where you hunt."

"So? No one misses my prey," Hitsugaya laughed as he spread his wings out to their full extent, a modest twenty-five feet, which nearly spread out to both houses on opposite sides of the street they were on. "I don't know about you, Rukia-chan, always sparing your victims when you know that humanity has already condemned them a fate equal to death. Or actually, society has. You're a fucking vampire. We don't belong of society so why should I – or even you – care?"

"My reasons, idiot, are not and will never be any of your concern."

She told him that as coldly as she could as she finally stopped with her dusting, in the hopes that he'd leave her alone. There was enough on her mind tonight without the addition of one arrogant elder into the mixture. "And enough of the chit-chat, Hitsugaya; what the hell are you doing here?"

"Oo, someone's feeling forceful," he taunted. "But why are you asking me why I'm here? These are my grounds. I should be asking you that."

Now that he mentioned it, Rukia did vaguely recall that she was in a section of Akasaka she normally cared not to hunt. In such a sleazy part of town, packed with bars and nightclubs every block, the only people around were either drunkards...or, worse, pervert assholes.

Of course, just because she didn't like those particular aspects of prey didn't mean other reveled in it – such as the pint-sized idiot in front of her.

"Sorry," Rukia said curtly, "didn't realize."

"Obviously so, if I could actually tackle you like I did just a few moments earlier."

"Don't let it go to your head, asshole. I was just thinking."

"Ah hah…so there's more to you tonight then you're letting on."

"I stand by my previous statement," Rukia said as she turned to go. Her wings rustled in the slight breeze as she prepared to run in order to gain some momentum.

"Where are you going, Rukia-chan?"

"Shut up and leave me."

Hitsugaya shrugged nonchalantly at her glare, aimed directly at him, with some of her mind will backing the gaze. His leathery wings cast a shadow beyond hers in the lamplight as he stretched them over his head…large, powerful, and just as immense. Rukia watched, unimpressed.

"Well, I assume, then, you're going home."

"It's almost dawn," she said.

"Right…" he drawled, " if that explains everything."

She turned away again.

"But while I'm here, I may as well tell you that the hunters are on your trail. It's all because you spared that last human idiot prey of yours. The other elders, especially Urahara, think that the hunters are figuring out how to track an aura. You never know these days, Rukia-chan, with all their advanced pyro-weaponry…so many newborns are being killed, and if the hunters have your aura – you're as good as dead."

"I've already been dead for years," she replied in a bored tone, turning away again. Without another word, and without even running momentum, she thrust herself into the air, flapping madly for altitude, as she flew away from Hitsugaya and his prying questions.

And Hitsugaya watched her go, rolling his eyes in very human-like fashion, before running down the street and disappearing into the sky. Soon, the place had melted back into quiet. It was if they had never existed.

There were times when Hitsugaya was unsure if he liked being a kid or if he detested the restrictions it always placed on him. Sure, he always could get easy prey – but then again, he liked enjoying human life too, and it was kind of hard when people believed your bedtime to be 9:30 p.m. – rather than the 6:00 a.m. it really was.

He flew to his own home quickly. As he drew closer, he saw that the lights were on, making the apartment stand out from its darker counterparts. There was a slight figure at the door, back turned.

Landing on the balcony, his feet had barely touched ground when the balcony door slid open and Hinamori stepped out. She had probably been waiting up for him (though she'd never admit she worried about him to his face).

Her hair was down from its usual bun and she was clothed in her long pajamas with a hairbrush in her hands. "Hitsugaya-kun!" she exclaimed happily. "I didn't expect you to return so early. It's only 4:00."

Sighing, he gave her a small smile before stepping indoors. She followed.

"Is something wrong?"

He sighed again. "No…I just ran into Rukia earlier."


"The hunters are learning to track us down, and she still keeps being the stubborn idiot she always is, not caring if the hunters can track her, can already know her aura…if this keeps up they'll really kill her one day!"

"Oh really? And it thought that your exact words to me last week were "Do you think I care about her? Feh, she's too insignificant." Right, Hitsugaya-kun?"

"I don't care about her. It's just that if she gets killed, it'll be more hassle for me."

Hinamori smiled gently. "…you're really too kind for your own good, Hitsugaya-kun," she said, brushing her dark hair in the mirror. "And I wish that you and Kuchiki-san would stop fighting. It's unbecoming of vampires of your ranks, you know." It was a not a rebuke; she was smiling.

"She's always the one, not me."

"And I thought the elders were supposed to be wise." She smiled, putting the brush down, and turned to fiddle with a flower arrangement on the nearby table. He was amused at her purposeful lack of enthusiasm on the subject. She knew he'd always been a child genius and was smarter – and wiser – than adults three times his age.

Hitsugaya stood watching her for a moment. Then he walked over and embraced her from behind, skimming his lips down the side of her neck in a soft gesture, as impulsive as it was affectionate.

"H – Hitsugaya-kun…"

He turned her around and kissed her, the kind of kiss he knew from experience would make her knees weak.

It worked.

"Sh – Shiro-chan…"

He laughed quietly. "Been a while since I last heard that."

"Been a while since you last kissed me like that," she responded to him in a whisper.

He pulled her close once more before releasing her, going to change for bed. "Rukia should just be careful," he said, as he pulled the bathroom door closed. "Momo, you know and like her; it's just your kind of thing to knock some kind of sense into her the next time you meet." She smiled prettily at the compliment, unusually rare from him.

He closed the bathroom door.

The apartment she called her current home was decidedly average upon first sight; however, she cared little for the place, it was more a matter of what inhabited it.

Several years ago, Rukia had moved her place of residence from Ikebukuro to this relatively middle-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Akasaka, liking its priority to Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ginza, all of which were popular vampire hotspots.

Her quarters was a small studio at best; however, it was homey – and aside from the fact that it came equipped with motion sensors (courtesy of Urahara, that idiot with a fascination for human mechanics), the room also contained a grand four-canopy bed, a computer, a TV, and several comfy couches and sofas. No one from the outside would know how the wooden floor shone with polish, how the white walls, once dirty, had been painstakingly cleaned so she could hang beautiful paintings. And like her own hidden identity, that was the way she wanted it.

Thoughts of that boy had left her in the few moments with Hitsugaya, but as Rukia fluttered down to her balcony, her mind couldn't help but return to him.

He was young – so young to be a vampire hunter – but obviously, if he was one at all, then he had to be good. Rukia hadn't let on to Hitsugaya, but she'd very nearly been killed earlier that night, when she had let her guard down momentarily when finding someone to feed upon.

Yes…that had been one of her few mistakes.

Rukia never liked to kill her victims. It had been a side effect of one of the events of her turning, abhorred by other vampires who lusted for blood and lived only for the terror of their victims, or the snap of their neck, or the pounding pulse of their life as it drained from them in a soft red river. It was unusual for someone of her standing to be so thoroughly against those practices, but no one ever dared question her.

Therefore, the lone girl walking down a street lacking lamplight, late at night, had seemed like perfect prey.

A little too perfect.

One does not stop to think of caution should they be the predator; it is never until the predator tastes fear that it learns to be wary.

And that was why Rukia never gave a second thought to check her surroundings, simply soaring down and stepping out from the corner after she'd retracted her wings. The girl had been so nice – a little guarded, but polite – and getting close to her had been child's play.

She set the girl's mind at ease, lulling her into contentment with just the will of her eyes, before gently biting down at her wrist. The blood flowed and she sucked at it. This girl was young and healthy and that meant her blood was in pristine condition.

And yet, if it hadn't been for the slight click of metal on metal – in this case, a gun barrel sliding into place – Rukia would have been killed in that very next instant.

Apprehension had immediately dawned. Trusting her instincts, Rukia whirled away from the girl without even bothering to slow the bleeding from her wrist, taking flight – before a shot rang out and the concrete of the building next to her exploded in boulder-sized chunks.

She'd soared up, determined to get away from the gun, before she saw another hunter taking careful aim at her from the rooftop. And so, she had to make a swift midair turn along the side of the building so that the shot would go shallow. And it did, but it was so close that it actually whizzed through a few of her hairs.

Her first would-be shooter had jumped out of a deserted car and was now running after her, along with three others in his wake. His hunter's hood had slipped in the rush, and, with all the chaos on the scene, he probably hadn't even realize it was down.

And that was when she saw his face.

It had shocked her; her wings had spread to slow down before she even realized it, and then had to hurridly gain some speed back by diving. Whatever he'd shot seemed to take some time to load, for he was busy trying to run and load at the same time. But at least she could fly away when he was trying to gather his weapons.

No such luck. He'd given up with the big gun and gone for smaller ones at his side, strapped to his belt, as he let off a few rounds at her that she somehow miraculously ducked.

The other hunters had disappeared. It didn't bode well.

Rukia had been beating her wings desperately, gaining more and more speed as she tried to avoid barriers – like protruding signs – while also trying to run away from the hunters. The one hunter still after her, though, was persistent. And even after so many blocks, she could tell by the force of his breath that he still wasn't winded.

Ducking around buildings would probably bring her a couple seconds of lost visibility to the trailing hunter. She counted on those, and made a sharp turn around an eight-story business office before dropping into a stairway. She hardly made notice that it led down to a nightclub. Actually, it was a good thing that the stairs extended far down; the shadows were deep and she melted easily into them, watching as her hunter ran past. His eyes were on the sky.

Because he was looking up, he couldn't tell that there was someone who was observing his every move. But Rukia did. She watched him move, the lope of his run, noticed his guns and a small, rectangular white walkie-talkie with a blinking light that went off in the most bizarre shades of red to blue to green to orange. Rukia knew that it was their communication devices, and that the signals went straight back to hunters' main base – the whereabouts of which were unknown.

And after he had disappeared, it was a full five minutes before more hunters ran by, and another full twenty minutes before Rukia dared move from her spot. In escaping, she didn't see her hunter again.

It couldn't really be him, though, could it? Rukia asked herself as she slid open the balcony door to her apartment. He died. There's no way. No fucking way.

Her eyes turned dark.

There's no way that orange-haired hunter could be that bastard...Kaien.