It was already night time, which was probably for the best. The less he could see, the fewer things to take in right now, the better. He was already consumed to the point of madness, it would not do to have something small, like a street lamp or ambling human, overwhelm him by its very existence.

Everything was different here. The air. The sounds, smells. The energy in the atmosphere was absent to the point of being unnerving. He finally understood why humans felt alone most of the time. Who wouldn't, without the thrum and pulse of living spirit energy filling their senses? He didn't know how humans survived this vast separateness.

He would learn, now. Something in him balked; as much as he thrived on new discoveries, he didn't know how to carry the weight of this one without it crushing him.

Coming across knowledge that should never have been discovered was how he got here in the first place. Fitting, he supposed. Back during the mad circus that had led to this point, hell his entire existence for that matter, he had never quite understood why new information produced such a frightened, frenetic reaction in people. He'd never found new knowledge to be anything other than deeply thrilling, a high his brilliant mind couldn't live without. Standing here as he was, now, in this place, as he fought to keep his thoughts from crashing together into insanity, he finally understood.

A distant, crisp part of his brain noted the searing difference between knowledge and understanding, and which one held the greater power.

His struggle was not going unnoticed. Seeing as she was never given to inane babbling ever, for any reason, her restless padding around the room belied her knowledge on some deep level that he needed a distraction right now to help keep this moment from conquering him.

"It's not that bad, really." That was a pure lie, but he let her tell it anyway. She was only trying to help. "With a little work, it's a very usable space. We can do a lot with this." She made another round of the room, running her fingers over the thin walls, the patchy furniture. "I hear humans have an aversion to delving underground, so that opens up lots of possibilities. We could make another…." She trailed off. It was so rare that she sounded awkward that he almost smiled. Almost.

It was his turn to make an effort. "Yes," he said softly, moderately impressed that his voice came out so steady. "Lots of possibilities." He couldn't continue; speaking meant thinking, and he was trying very hard not to do the latter.

She noticed. "Kisuke," she said, letting that warm steel he loved so much color her tone. "This world is as vast as the one we grew up in, and just as full of possibilities. Even if they are different ones." She was done being banal and he had to admit to himself that he was grateful. If there was one passion they shared, and they shared many, it was for truth ruthlessly acknowledged and accepted.

He nodded, speech still too dangerous at the moment. So was looking into the amber eyes he could feel boring into his head. Accepting truth was one thing, allowing a reaction to it, no matter how understandable, was another and far less acceptable. It simply wasn't logical. When his gaze remained averted, she slowly walked up to him. He tried very hard to ignore that it was her scent, her warmth that alerted him to her approach in the darkness, and not the shift in a reiatsu he could no longer feel. Smell and heat, but not sound. Never sound. His feline nymph would never be so careless.

Her hand on his foreign skin nearly undid him, but he shifted quickly to a stark analysis of the exact responsiveness of the pseudo-body, the one invention of his that had been ingeniously smuggled out with him. Her touch felt just right, the way it always did, but that shouldn't have surprised him. He never made anything that wasn't excellently crafted and this gigai was the finest ever made, replete with upgrades and specifications unique to him and carefully chosen to harbor more than a few surprises. Anyone else would not have even noticed they were in a fake body.

That it felt like a coffin around his fiercely burning soul was just another observation to be filed away.

"I'll visit as soon as I can, maybe tomorrow. I can bring you a few things from ho-" She broke off, moving away to hide her slip and heading towards the door. "I will bring some things to make you more comfortable."

"No," he replied, the soft agony in the word stopping her at the exit. He waited a minute, until he had gotten the croak out of his voice, before speaking again. Softer, but just as resolute. "No." He lifted his head, then, and looked at her.

His eyes were the same color. He knew they were, he'd designed them himself. He also knew that that would be small consolation to her right now, that meeting her gaze would show her everything going on inside him and burden her with the despair he was trying so hard to keep at bay. But that couldn't be helped. He couldn't stay here without filling his vision with her before she left. Their eyes locked, and he bore the flash of torment that crossed her face, the expression quickly controlled. Anger settled in, burying the pain.

"This will pass, Kisuke," she said firmly. "This is madness, and sooner or later they will see it."

Perhaps, but he didn't say that. He didn't need to. She knew her voice sounded thin, and with little else to do she shifted, dropping into the small black form she preferred in this world. With a quiet, if halting, purr, she disappeared into the shadows.

Leaving him alone in the dark. It was the kindest thing she could have done for him, given the circumstances.


He would not cry. That was just not an option. The gigai performed admirably; though the eyes burned and even moistened once in a while, tears did not fall. He discovered that even a pseudo jaw could hurt if it was clenched too long. Not that it had to; he had infinite control over this body, what it could or could not do, what it did or did not feel. But the throbbing helped focus him, and the feelings such pain was distracting him from were the ones he didn't have the option of controlling. When the raw ache wasn't enough and the trembling started in his limbs, he finally moved, drifting through the tiny, run-down shack and heading for the front door. His human form was confining enough, and he wanted to get outside and breathe for a moment.

He didn't know how long he stood on the porch, didn't even notice he was peering intently at the stars as if his stare alone could peel away the dimensional layers between this world and the other, when quiet words broke him out of his reverie.

"Funny meeting you here."

He'd been expecting the visitor, so he wasn't surprised. Despite everything, Kisuke felt a tiny smile ghosting his lips. "You found me pretty quickly. I'm impressed; this gigai was designed to be utterly untraceable. Unless you had help." Finally tearing his eyes from the heavens he could no longer call home, he managed a small, wry grin. "A little bird told you, perhaps?"

"She can do that, too?" Mock surprise covered Isshin's face before it softened into quiet amusement. "You know she wouldn't have left you here without someone to keep an eye on you."

"She didn't have a choice, my friend." Kisuke's voice was barely audible, but the mirth fading from the energy around them told him that he'd been heard.

"Bah. Choice is overrated; no one can see the future, or control consequences." Isshin's voice took on a sadly wry edge, with just a hint of absolution. "And even geniuses make mistakes." Isshin joined him on the porch, hands in his pockets, and they both stared at the burning points of light above them for a while. A shift, a quiet scraping sound, and presently smoke was drifting lazily in front of them. Long moments passed in silence, broken only by the quiet puffing of Isshin's cigarette and the random sounds of a human world asleep. "You'll be okay. The first night is the hardest."

Kisuke absorbed that information, hoping to high heaven it was even slightly true. "Are you trying to tell me it gets easier?" he mused softly.

"No," Isshin replied. "I wouldn't say that." Another languid puff. "But it does get better. Sooner or later, it will get better." The pinpoint of light that was the tip of his cigarette dropped to the ground like a tiny falling star, only to disappear completely to the scuff of Isshin's boot. "We'll find you a nice woman, maybe some ankle-biters to keep things interesting." Isshin shoved his hands in his pockets, stared to amble off the porch. "It helps."

As if any human woman stood a chance at catching his eye. That part of him had been claimed centuries ago, and Isshin damn well knew that. Kids, though...he'd always had a fondness for them, had hoped to have some of his own one day, despite the vast unlikelihood of true-births in the afterworld. He wondered if a gigai could be made that could support a burgeoning human life…. "Yeah, sure. Sounds like fun." He forced a tiny smile to his face, noticing as Kurosaki started crossing the courtyard that the barest hint of light was beginning to emerge. Dawn was approaching. "Isshin."

The man stopped, turning as the sky behind him started to lighten to the deepest of blues. "Hm?"

"Thank you."

The man just smiled, turned and walked away, whistling an overly-cheerful tune as he disappeared around the corner.

Leaving Kisuke standing alone on the run-down porch of the dreary shanty, staring into the empty courtyard as the human world slowly came to life around him. When the sun finally broke over the tops of the buildings around him, he moved back inside, away from the encroaching heat of the day. Padding into the middle of the largest room, he paused, considering the floor thoughtfully. The shoddy planking came up easily enough, and underneath was nothing more than cool, hard-packed dirt, untouched for however long the building had stood over it. He picked at the clay, prying up a few small clumps and crumbling them between his fingers.

Lots of possibilities...

Maybe Isshin was right, maybe this would get better with time. Or Yoruichi; it was possible, albeit infinitely unlikely, that this would pass. Either way, he was here now, and what must be must be dealt with. Standing around and doing nothing was pointless, and if there was one thing Urahara Kisuke had ever failed at completely it was self-pity.

And so he stood, wondering where he could find tools and noting absently that if this new world was going to be so hot he would need to get himself a hat, and began working out contingency plans for his new life.

Geniuses make mistakes...he thought ruefully, but at least they are not above redemption...