A/N: Rurouni Kenshin, Bleach, and the lyrics to "Hallelujah" don't belong to me. Slightly AU for both settings; Bleach spoilers galore if you don't know who Urahara used to be.
Maybe I've been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor,
I used to live alone before I knew you….
Urahara Kisuke had never been here before. He knew it.
Just as surely as he knew something in the scent of waxed wood, kendo armor, and warm herbs said sanctuary. Safe.
Not something he'd had much of, lately. Hadn't expected to have ever again, actually; he'd been looking at a one-way ticket to execution on Sokyouku Hill, before-
Or maybe he'd already been there.
Nope. Couldn't have been. I hurt too much to be dead.
Where he hurt was open to debate. It all blurred together; arms, legs, heart, back, shattered steel… oh gods, Benihime….
Cloth rustled softly beside him. "Forgive, Urahara-san. These dressings must be changed."
A voice he hadn't heard in years. But familiar. "Not… having the lady doctor do this, Himura-san?"
The rurouni chuckled. "No, Urahara-san. The last time Megumi-dono touched you… well, you did not have the strength to make the kidou truly dangerous, but the Blue Fire did startle her."
And Takani Megumi was still human, despite all these years around a wandering shinigami. All too vulnerable to the kind of blast a Hiten Mitsurugi master could shake off like rain. Yeah. That could be sticky. "Why do I get the feeling I'd rather be out cold?"
"Hmm. One suspects you would." Gentle hands helped him sit up, and a warm cup was pressed to his lips. From the bitter scent, it held more than tea. "Drink what you can."
"Ugh." The liquid went down, but he couldn't seem to swallow the bitterness. "Thought you were… better at healing kidou than this…."
"Yoruichi-dono warned us to be very small and silent." The first shredding pain, as blood-soaked cloth was peeled back. "One would have done so in any case. It is 1895, by Western reckoning, and our country has been… aggressive, across the sea in Korea." A hand brushed against sweat-soaked blond hair. "Not a good time to seem a foreigner."
"Say what?" Japan? Korea? "Our country"? It didn't make sense. Any of it.
Kenshin laughed softly. "You may look normal enough among the shinigami, Urahara-san, but here and now, you look even more foreign than this one."
Foreign? He didn't have to open his eyes to remember Kenshin's looks; short and slim, long red hair, wide violet eyes, a cross-shaped scar left by two desperate blades. Fairly tame, for a shinigami. "What's weird about how you look?"
"You're still feverish." A sword-callused hand pressed on his forehead. "One will explain it again later, Kisuke-kun."
Ow ow damn bastard I sound like a gods-damned eightieth district brat-
"Much later," Kenshin murmured, pressing cool, stinging damp against his whip-raw back. "Perhaps you should sleep again-"
Urahara managed to lift a hand, stopping that faint green glow of healing in its tracks. Blinked his eyes open. Tatami, shadows, a spray of flowers in an alcove… somebody's bedroom. And not in Soul Society. "Yoruichi?"
"Left. Many days ago." Kenshin's violet eyes were calm, but sympathetic to the worried shake of his patient's voice. "She said she had broken your trail, but she wished to be sure."
Urahara swallowed. "She's not coming back."
"Not for some time, no."
Calm. He was so damn calm. The elder shinigami saw red. "You don't know what she's up against!"
"I know." Kenshin looked down. "You are captains of the Gotei 13. Powers one could never hope to face. One is a mouse to your lions." Herb-scented hands held his own. "But those who search for the speared lion will not see the mouse in their own ceiling. And so this mouse says to you - have faith."
"Faith." The word was more bitter than the tea.
"One does have the strength to heal you. It will be slow - but you will be well again. In time."
"Was cracked. We have cared for her." A note of uncertainty crept into the soft voice. "My Nekomata says she will heal with you?"
Zanpakutou would. If it was just a crack. Urahara reached for the spirit of his Crimson Princess. Pain echoed back, along with anger, outrage, and… relief?
'Nekomata has been… generous,' came the reluctant murmur.
Like her rurouni wielder. And he knew how his princess hated needing generosity. "Himura-san." Urahara drew a deep breath, refused to let it come out as a cough. "You have friends. Don't put them in danger."
"You are in our house, sheltered with this one's family," Kenshin said firmly. "A family this one would not have, if you had not aided us. Kaoru-dono believes the risk is worth it."
House. Family. The scents of an active dojo. Wait a minute… "You got married?"
Kenshin's smile was sun after hard rain. "My eldest, Kenji, is training with Hiko-san. But the others will want to meet you, when you are well enough."
Others? Himura Kenshin, rurouni, Hiten Mitsurugi master, and somewhat illegal shinigami, had children? More than one? Just when I thought the universe couldn't get any scarier.
Wait. If Kenshin's son was with Hiko… "He's going to be the next master?"
"They all see spirits, but so far, his is the strongest ki," Kenshin nodded. "And he has the gift for the blade. It's early to tell for the younger ones, though." The rurouni gazed at him levelly. "So you see, Yoruichi-dono has seen you to the safest place she could find. There is always a low level of reiatsu here. And so far, we have passed unnoticed."
"She hears you call her -dono, she'll kick your ass," Urahara muttered. What was in that tea? He couldn't… quite… stay….
"Rest, Kisuke-kun." A green glow gently prodded him toward darkness. "Trust me."
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I learned to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you….
Sunlight looked different in this world.
Watching red- and black-haired youngsters tussle in the courtyard, Benihime cradled in his arms, Urahara rested sore bones - hell, sore everything - on the dojo engawa. Concealed in her shikomizue form, his zanpakutou grumbled in her sleep, slowly singing herself whole.
They didn't take her from me.
But they'd taken so much more.
Kurotsuchi's probably got my division by now. Sick bastard.
And there's nothing I can do about it….
A shift in the quiet beside him; an almost imperceptible flare of reiatsu. Damn, he's good.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
For a long second, Urahara actually considered it. This was Kenshin. Ex-assassin. Gaki hunter. Wandering shinigami. If there was one thing the man knew, it was keeping secrets.
Right. Tell him how you screwed up. What you created. What you can't destroy. If Soul Society finds out he knows that - they won't just kill him. They'll destroy him. And anyone he might have told.
Even the children.
A surprise and a half right there. Sure, Soul Society nobles passed down power to their children, the rare times those offspring were born. But to see even wisps of that same power in living children….
More than wisps. "You've sealed their powers?"
Kenshin accepted the change of subject with a nod. "Much as Hiko did for me during the Revolution. They can see spirits, but their reiatsu should remain concealed until they are old enough to defend themselves."
"Sometimes, that is all we can do."
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of song
With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah….
Your faith was strong, but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof….
"I hear the foreigners think black cats are bad luck."
One particular black cat gave a stretched leg one last lick, then rolled to four midnight paws. "Are you well, Kisuke?"
"Never better, Yoruichi-san," Urahara smiled, swinging off the ladder to the dojo roof.
"Liar." Gold eyes studied him in the night. "I know Himura's kidou education has been spotty, but I thought his healing was stronger than this. If he's been slacking-"
"He's fine," Urahara said forcefully. "He's at me every night he's not out hunting Hollows. Every day, too, half the time. He just…." Gray eyes slid away from gold. "Some wounds aren't meant to heal."
"Some wounds take time to heal." Silent feet padded over to him. "Give it time, Kisuke."
Nice try, Yoruichi. "It's been weeks." And I'm still weaker than half the kids here… human children, for the gods' sakes!
Well, mostly human. They were Kenshin's, after all.
"After that battle with Makoto, Himura was down most of a month," the cat said flatly. "And those were just physical wounds. Give yourself time, Kisuke. Give him time."
Urahara rolled his eyes, but reached out to scratch behind black ears. "Give the mouse time to haul in a lion. Sure."
Whiskers twitched. "You think he's a mouse, do you?"
"Hey, he said it." And you said it. "Maybe he'd make it as an unseated Fourth Division medic, but - yow!"
Yoruichi withdrew her claws from his thigh. "You should try catching a mouse sometime, Kisuke. It's a lot harder than it looks."
"Hard to catch, sure," Urahara admitted, rubbing his abused leg. "Able to put back together what twelve captains did their best to take apart? I doubt it."
"Ten," Yoruichi reminded him serenely. "Juushirou didn't lay a hand on you either."
Ten, twelve - what was the difference? He was broken inside. They both knew it.
"Don't you dare give up on me, Kisuke," Yoruichi said softly. "Who am I going to steal fish from, if you're not here anymore?"
For a second, he blinked. "That was you? That was our lunch!"
"And it was good, too."
Of course. What other cat was fast enough to steal trout out from under a Hiten Mitsurugi master's kitchen knives?
"You've come this far." Gold stared at him. "Just hang on a little longer."
"For you? Anything."
They both knew he was lying.
You say I took the name in vain
Well, I don't even know the name-
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
The bokken clattered to the dojo floor beside him. "Pick it up."
Urahara eyed the mother and swordswoman. She had to be kidding. "Look, Kamiya-san-"
"Kamiya-sensei, in here." Determined blue eyes bore into his as Kaoru waited, armored with nothing but chest wraps and indignation. "Pick it up."
"You know who I am." Really, he was being remarkably calm about this. What the hell did she think she was doing? "And you want me to fight you. With a wooden sword."
"I know you're injured," Kaoru shot back. "I know you're stuck in a physical body like the rest of us, and you hate it. I know you flinch even looking at Benihime, because you're supposed to be this all-powerful captain who can level mountains, but every time you try to flare your ki, it burns like acid."
True. All of it. Damn it.
"I know you feel helpless. This is our world, not yours. You don't feel like you belong here. You don't want to belong here." Her eyes softened. "But you are here. There are people who care about you. And this isn't Soul Society. Sometimes… sometimes you get a second chance." She raised her bokken to guard. "Or are you telling me a captain of Gotei 13 isn't brave enough to learn something he's never done before?"
"Ex-captain," he grumbled, reluctantly bending down for the bokken. Couldn't hurt to pick it up, after all. Just to put it back on the rack. "And just what, Kamiya-sensei, do you think I can learn from you?"
She moved in for the first strike; not fast, but fluid. "How to try again."
Wood cracked against wood; he felt the shock all the way through his healing shoulders.
Himura… I think I know why you love this woman.
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter what you heard
The holy or the broken, Hallelujah….
"Picture a midnight circle in your mind." Kenshin's voice was focused. Quiet. "Then, dive into it."
"Kid stuff," Urahara muttered.
The rurouni chuckled softly. "Then why are you sweating, Kisuke-kun?"
Damn. The blue light glowing above his palm vanished with a pop. "No good."
"You held it a second longer this time."
"One second. One." He blew out a frustrated breath. "This is first-year stuff!"
"And this is your first year in this world, is it not?" Violet eyes were unmoved. "With only your own power to work from. No reishi. No supporting reiatsu from your classmates, or instructors. Only a power that has already been deeply injured, and is still healing." A slight shift of red-clad shoulders. "Try again."
"I could get to hate you."
Kenshin gave him a sunny smile. "I said that to Shishou, many times."
"This is revenge for the luggage, isn't it."
The smile flickered amber in violet eyes. "You may think so if you wish, Kisuke-kun. Again."
He held it two seconds longer, this time.
Well, maybe there's a God above
But all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you….
A neighborhood's worth of trees crashed to earth.
"Thank the kami for shunpou."
"Same thing for you, by now." Sheathing Benihime, Urahara looked about the wreckage of what had been Kenshin's usual practice grounds outside Tokyo's city limits. "Um… somehow, I think your neighbors are going to notice this one."
And it's no complaint you hear tonight
It's not some pilgrim who's seen the light-
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah….
Silent as a shadow, Kenshin moved through the little store, automatically marking exits, weak spots, and the best lines of sight for a fight. "Small."
"Eh… it'll be bigger once I'm done with it." Pushing back his green-striped hat, Urahara surveyed his new premises with proprietary pride. "First shipment from the other side should be coming through tonight."
Kenshin nodded once, weighing that. "And your contacts will not inform on you?"
Urahara shook his head, still feeling a twinge of betrayal. Let it go. Focus on the future. "I'm exiled, in disgrace, and supposedly powerless. Apparently that's enough for the Chamber of 46."
Which was disturbing in and of itself. He'd broken the law, and escaped. They shouldn't be willing to settle for anything less than his complete destruction.
Something's wrong in Seireitei….
But he couldn't do anything about it from here. Not yet.
"Come by tomorrow," Urahara went on casually. "Think I might have something interesting for you."
"One couldn't afford-"
"Your badge does register bounties, Himura-san." I should know. I set it up that way. Unless they've hacked that account… no. If they had, they'd have landed on the dojo months ago. "You can afford this."
With a bow, Kenshin turned to head for the dojo, and home. Hesitated, just before the shop curtain. "Urahara-san. Will you be… all right?"
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march….
Just a mouse, to Seireitei's lions.
A mouse, who'd helped him forge a shattered soul back together.
"Yeah," Urahara said quietly. "I think I will."
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah….
The shop curtain blew in the wind, and Kenshin was gone.
For a few minutes, all was quiet. Then a shy hand pushed back heavy cloth, followed by two wide-eyed young children and their harried mother, all staring in awe at the shelves of candy.
Urahara grinned, eyeing his first victims - er, customers - of the day. "Hello!" He waved his fan. "Welcome to Urahara Shoten!"
Bokken - wooden sword.
Engawa - veranda.
Kidou - "Demon arts"; shinigami spells.
Owari - end.
Reishi - spirit particles.
Reiatsu - spiritual energy.
Rurouni - "wandering swordsman".
Shikomizue - "prepared cane"; sword-cane.
Shinigami - "death god"; they protect ghosts and send them to the next world, Soul
Shishou - master; old sword-form term.
Shunpou - "flash steps".
Sokyouku - a massive execution device in Soul Society.
Zanpakutou - "soul-cutter"; shinigami sword.