The Highwayman

Chapter One: Night Visitor

By: IMBSA

IMBSA: Going back and listening to old CDs of mine has been a rather inspiring experience. And since my Bleach!Muse has tied up the other Muses and threatened to kill them if I don't write this, I suppose I have to. :sigh: This is a fic inspired by the poem/song "The Highwayman," poem by Alfred Noyes, set to music by Loreena McKennitt. Look 'em up. Now you literary purists who know the poem already might whine about the cutting/adding of scenes, but hey, I claim artistic license. Or something. So blah to you.

Disclaimer: "Take me with you/On this journey/Where the boundaries of time are now tossed/In cathedrals of the forest/In the words of the tongues now lost"

IMBSA: Alrighty, this fic is AU. Completely. I kept the names so you're not confused who's who, forgetting for an instant that the setting is 1700s America (or thereabouts). Those of frail heart and mind, y'all might wan to leave. This is filed under "Angst" for a reason. You literary purists know what I'm talkin' 'bout. Just as a fair warning (again). Also, I don't care about the historical accuracy (or lack thereof) in this. It's meant for entertainment. So please don't review trying to correct me. No flames either; they'll be given to Karin and Jinta to play some painful ball games with. Sorry if I get anyone out of character; I try my best, and my knowledge is from the 27 eps I've watched and second hand spoilers from AMVs and my friends. Enjoy.

"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

"Dammit!"

The curse was the only human sound on the windswept moor as a single rider attempted to guide his black horse using only his knees and hang onto both hat and reigns with his two hands. He was unlucky on both counts. Every time he got the reigns in a manageable position, the wind's seeking fingers made their way under his tri-corn hat and tried to yank it from his head, sending his upper body jerkily after the cloth sailing away from him.

His horse, however, was patient, waiting as his impetuous rider stopped to right himself. After one such pause, the man patted his steed's neck, sheepishly saying, "Sorry 'bout this, Zangetsu. Midnight's not too good a time to be about ridin', is it?" He looked up at the full moon, brown eyes glittering in its light when it wasn't blocked by the storm gathering clouds. He sat at the crest of the hill, gazing down at a modest, but comfortable-looking inn nestled in the slight valley. A small smirk tugged at his lips and he tilted back his hat to face into the breeze that threatened to become a gust.

He was dressed as a casual young man of the age, dark velvet coat binding a cream cloth shirt (which, to his distaste, had a rather lot of lace at the neck), and expensive brown breeches some noble's brat was missing. His black boots shone up to his knee, also property of the first son of some prominent family he'd heard of, but could never remember. He looked for all the world like a young lad off for a bit of hunting.

Albeit, in the dead of night, and alone.

Zangetsu snorted, as if to say, "Could we get a move on?"

The man laughed at his horse's impatience. "I'm goin', I'm goin'." He nudged the horse into a walk and muttered, "The night is still young, you know." He had barely spoken when the wind blew again, causing him to hiss and grab at his hat yet another time, the stretch lifting his coat high enough to reveal his two pistols, holstered at his hips and the dark metal of the rapier sheathed safely at his left side.

Seeing that he was only a few yards from the inn, which was covered from stable to house, he kicked Zangetsu into a faster pace, riding at the new speed until they were under the relative shelter of the awning. Sighing in satisfaction, he slid the hat from his head and into his lap, revealing a shock of bright orange hair, reasoning that recognition would have a small chance of happening. Who else but an idiot would be out on such a cold, inhospitable night?

Thinking that he might get lucky and that someone might be downstairs, he rapped lightly on the shuttered window. But there was no answering light from inside. Cursing how cold the night was, he nudged Zangetsu forward, to go around to the back of the house, keeping as close to the walls as he dared while in the saddle.

There was one lit window on the second story, as he knew there would be. It was opened only a little and allowed for the tiniest amount of air. It was enough for him. Glancing furtively around first, he looked up at the glass and whistled quietly. He frowned when there was no response. "Hey!" he whisper-yelled as loud as he thought he could get away with. "Rukia!"

He was rewarded when a silhouette came to the window, pushing both curtain and window aside, beautiful pale face pinched with the smallest hint of annoyance, eyes so purple that they were almost black searching for the cause of the call. When the girl—young woman, really—saw the figure below, the displeased expression faltered, and her eyes grew brighter. "Ichigo…." She answered her name with his, smirk replacing irritation as they entered the verbal games they always found themselves playing. "Come to see if I was getting cold feet?"

"Of course not," he replied, smirk of his own tugging at his lips. "I stalk you enough to know if you are."

Rukia leaned against the sill, letting Ichigo see that she was dressed in a white nightgown and had been in the midst of plaiting her dark hair. "True enough," she conceded. "But if I were very clever, you'd never know if I had a change of mind."

"Well, I'll just be thankful that you're not 'very clever.'" Rukia raised her eyebrows at his comment.

"And whose idea was it to elope?"

"Yours, which proves my point!"

"As opposed to your genius, which proposed you asking Byakuya for my hand outright!"

"But I don't just want your hand," Ichigo responded slyly.

Rukia turned a hint of pink, sighing at her defeat. "At least tell me you haven't forgotten the plan?"

He snorted. "'Course not. I ain't stupid." At Rukia's coolly disbelieving gaze, he sighed and raised his hands, ticking off points as he said them. "I get us some money. Come back here. Don't get caught. Ride off with you into the sunset." He paused. "Anything I'm missing?"

"How about the part that troops might be waiting for you and give chase?" She pointed out, incredulous that he had forgotten. "I'm not getting this inn burned down for you."

"Oh yeah…." He shrugged. "I shake 'em off. Come back here. Ride off with you into the moonlight." He grinned up at her. "That better?"

Rukia half-smiled down at him, shaking her head. "You're such an idiot." She murmured, but in a way that took all bite from the words.

"You're the one running off with me, leaving the only respectable family you have." His face turned serious as he tried to gauge her reaction. "We'll be all alone."

Rukia gazed at her nails, as if unconcerned by the weighty prospect. "I'll have you." She whispered.

Ichigo swallowed and nodded. "For what it's worth."

Rukia contemplated this, and nodded too. "Hopefully you're an idiot who keeps his promises." She answered, expression trying to end the heavy moment.

"I swear I'll come, though Hell itself stood in my way," Ichigo answered, smile on his face and sincerity ringing in every word.

Knowing how true that claim was, Rukia smiled. "Don't say that." She responded, coy expression on her face. "My brother's Hell enough himself." She jerked her head at the window next to hers. Ichigo shuddered, having been on the receiving end of Byakuya's wrath once. He had no desire to repeat the experience.

"Which is why we're hauling ass to get out." He muttered.

"I thought that was for the troops." Rukia reminded him sweetly.

"Aw, quit skewing my logic." He shivered, suddenly remembering how cold it was. "'S freezing out here, and I'll need to be going soon." He gazed longingly at her room, where, no doubt, there was surely a fire and the company of a warm body inside.

Reading his glance correctly, Rukia went pink again. "This time tomorrow." She promised.

He sighed, defeated. "Just one kiss?" He begged. After a moment's hesitation, she nodded, leaning as far as she could out of the window without being in danger of falling. He, for his part, stood in the stirrups, but despite his height and that of the horse, couldn't put his lips to hers. He reached out and stretched, even extending his arm, but could only brush his fingertips lightly against her cheek. He glared at the house. "Dammit." He cursed.

Rukia watched with amusement as he struggled. "Who's short now?" She jibed. Finally, though, she laughed and said, "Here." Ichigo looked up to see what she was about to do. She reached up and combed her hands through her half-braided hair and threw the long cascade over the sill. "It's the best you're gonna get," she teased.

The light breeze caught the strands and the raven locks danced on the wind. Ichigo stood again and kissed the hair that played across his face, breathing in the sweet scent that graced it. After a few moments, Rukia pulled her windswept hair back up, murmuring a quick goodbye and tossing him a kiss.

He kissed the air back and watched as she leaned back into her room, shutting the window to the night. Smiling, he tugged at Zangetsu's reigns and they sped off, back across the moor and its lone road.

Rukia stood at the window, purple eyes almost black tracking their movements until they were put of sight.

""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

IMBSA: Due to my longwinded-ness, I'm stretching this out into chapters. Apologies for general suckage because I just suck at life. Please R &R. Constructive criticism is always appreciated. And those of you waiting for another chapter of my other fics….I'm sorry. For all intents and purposes, I'm still dead. And my parents still have my stuff for those fics, so I can't write for any of them. Sorry. Oh, by the by, in case you don't know, a "highwayman" is a robber who specializes attacking people on the roads. It was a while before I realized this. Hopefully I made it clear.

Please don't hurt me!