Title: Farewell, My Lovely

Characters: Shihouin Yoruichi/Soi Fong, slight Kisuke/Yoruichi

Prompt: #3: Ends

Rating: PG-13 for language

Summary: Kisuke returns from a funeral at Soul Society on Yoruichi's behalf.

Author's Notes: Set after the Arrancar War ends.

The owner of the Urahara Shoten heaved a sigh as he walked back inside his delapidated shop, locking the entrance shut behind him with one of the many keys he kept on a loop around his waist. Setting his trademark striped hat carelessly atop one of the shelved boxes lining the aisles Urahara continued through to the rear, slipping high-toed geta off his feet upon reaching the raised wood that led to his rather cramped home. He shook his black coat slightly, just enough to get the few raindrops he'd been unable to escape off him; glancing outside he was a bit relieved to see that the worst had yet to arrive.

"I'm back," he called to the dark building, unsure of who'd answer. Instead of a verbal response he caught the back of a familiar mane of black hair in the kitchen, its owner giving a slight wave but not turning around to acknowledge him. He wandered into the room, where Yoruichi was sitting at the small table with her back to him, a bottle of her favorite milk half-drained and a cup resting idly in her hand.

Kisuke wanted to berate her for drinking it so soon after he bought it-- in hopes of raising her spirits at least a little bit-- but decided against it. It was expensive, but at least it might raise her spirits a bit.

"...So... Where's Ururu and Jinta?"

"Tessai sent them to bed an hour ago."

The former Captain bit his lip lightly at the sudden, almost prepared answer he'd been given. Part of him wanted to just get to bed, avoid her for the rest of the day-- even, he considered darkly, the rest of his life-- but something else in him also knew that he couldn't avoid this, that she'd bring it up eventually.

"Oh, uh...Yama-jii talked to me afterwards-- said that I was free to come back for 'our efforts in the war...' and that since Second Division's open now and you've got enough experience, that you could just pick up the...Captain's...spot."

He could almost feel Yoruichi tense, almost sense her anger filling the room, but thankfully she didn't speak-- just drained her cup and poured more milk inside. He felt stupid for bringing it up. She hadn't said so, but he could tell she wouldn't be going back to Soul Society anyway. Not ever again.

"How was it?"

"Not much different than you'd expect... flowers, farewells, people in tears...all that," Kisuke answered as nonchalantly as he could.

"...And her?"

If Yoruichi could have heard her own voice, he was certain that she wouldn't have recognized it-- it maintained the pretense of indifference but underlying it was an all-too real layer of dread, of hesitation.

"Well... there wasn't really that much to bury, so... they cremated a few of her personal belongings. Same for the others who weren't afraid to die with a pretty corpse," he finished with an edge of bitterness. When Yoruichi didn't so much as flinch at his comment the ex-Shinigami bent down, craning his head to see his friend's face. He tried not to gasp, if only from the shock of seeing her in any state of dishevelment.

"Oh...I must look like hell, don't I?" Yoruichi whispered a bit sadly, the left side of her mouth cricking into a rather forced grin. Kisuke wasn't sure what to say-- there were dark bags under her eyes (which were a bit red and unfocused), and coupled with the sheer look of exhaustion on her features and the unkempt state of her normally well-groomed hair-- but of course to him she never seemed anything less than gorgeous. Seeing Yoruichi like this, over her though... it was a bit disquieting, he had to admit. "So...not even a grave, then."

"Well, apparently they're commemorating a statue in honor of everyone who's fallen in the course of the War. As a Captain she'll be right at the top of the--"


It took Yoruichi a moment to realize she'd yelled so furiously that Urahara had stepped back, that the hand encircling her glass of milk had gripped it so hard that there was now a slender fissure running down the face of the cup. She opened her mouth, intending to speak, but all she did was sigh and finish her drink in a single swig, her unoccupied palm now serving as a rest for her forehead.

"...I'm going to bed," the former princess muttered as she lifted herself up, grabbing the mostly-finished bottle of milk and tossing it unceremoniously into the small refrigerator.

"Wait," the blonde shopkeeper uttered as she passed him, making her halt impatiently in her tracks. He knew he was pushing his luck, that all she wanted right now was to curl up in bed and try to sleep everything away...but he didn't think he had the heart to sleep in the same room with what he had now anyway. "She had a will, and... well, it's not much, but I was asked to give this to you on her behalf."

Yoruichi felt her breath catch in her chest, her heart pound faster as she automatically, if a little fearfully, opened her palm. Somehow she'd known what was going into her hand when she'd felt the touch of cool silver, light in her palm; a pair of perfect metal rings. She tried to close her fingers around the last fragment of the girl that remained, tried to walk away without letting her mask fall. But as she held the rings tighter she felt her eyes itch, her breathing go shallow, felt the sobs wrack her whole body at once as she slumped to the floor, clutching her face as if it would keep the tears in.

"K-Kisuke, I..." she whispered, still trying so hard to keep herself from surrendering to her weeping that it stung at Urahara's heart just a bit, "...I-i-it's my fault... Oh God, it's all my f-fault..."

"Yoruichi-san," her friend said quietly as he made to put a hand on her shoulder, but restrained himself, "...Don't say that. She MADE that choice all on her own. And if you have to blame someone...don't forget I'm the one who got you out of there."

It was true. She HAD insisted she'd stay behind, had given him the rarest of respectful nods as she told him to get the bleeding Yoruichi as far away as he could. Even now he remembered the far-off look in the Second Division Captain's silver eyes. She had known that she wouldn't survive; Yoruichi, who'd struggled to get back as soon as she was coherent, must have felt it too. It had killed him to refuse to let her return because of those golden irises, filled with a fear that he'd never seen in her before. After the sky had lit up in the direction the Captain and her Vastrode enemy had been standing, Yoruichi had stopped fighting. There wasn't a point anymore.

"It...i-it IS my fault. If I'd have told her--"

"Yoruichi, STOP. She's gone." For a moment the once-proud Correction Corps Commander calmed, struggling to breathe air back into her lungs. But once she'd done so she finished her question.

"...If I'd t-told her... do you think she wouldn't have stayed?"

"No I don't, Yoruichi," Kisuke admitted after a moment. "...I think that she would have still done it. That girl, she... I don't think she ever needed you to love her back for her to do what she did. She WANTED to protect you, and she died doing that. So don't feel like it was your fault. S-she would have done it for you again if she could. I know it."

"But I..."

"I know...how you feel about her. And I know you must be hurting right now. But I PROMISE you that she died without any regrets."

Knowing that Kisuke was right-- as he so often was-- didn't help, didn't numb the ache in her heart that she knew she'd have to live with for the rest of her life. But when he finally placed a tentative hand on her shoulder Yoruichi took it, grateful for the small bit of comfort as her uncontrolled weeping echoed throughout the room.

He'd been the only one to hear her last words as he left, an unconscious Yoruichi draped over his shoulder.

Take care of her. I'll come back for you if you don't.

He wasn't sure now that he could do that, but he'd be damned if he gave up.