Title: Solitary Serenade
Pairings: Urahara/Aizen (past)
Rating: T
Warning: Spoilers, Yaoi
Words: 2,137
Description: After Aizen's betrayal, two former lovers meet on neutral ground to catch up on old times. An offer is made.

It was unlike him to fidget. Nevertheless, he couldn't stop his hands from constantly shifting the position of the items on the tray in front of him. The porcelain clinked as he slid it across the finely crafted metal. It was a constant noise, a soothing noise.

It was the last thing he wanted to hear. But the silence was far too loud.

He had sent Ururu and Jinta away with Tessai on some errand, not wanting their presence for this meeting. It was a secret, a private affair between him and his guest. He needed no prying eyes, even if Tessai was privy to most, if not all, of his secrets. Still, there were some things a man, or in his case former captain, needed to keep to himself.

Mistakes, perhaps. Or regrets.

Either way, they were his to keep, and Urahara Kisuke planned to keep it that way. At least for the moment.

His ears were craned, however, his senses raised to high alert, waiting for the first sign, the slightest indication that his visitor had arrived. It was a struggle to keep his heart from beating too rapidly. He didn't want to admit to himself how much he was anticipating this meeting.

Then, he felt the barest tingle across the edge of his carefully expanded reiatsu. It was the same feeling of the sky splitting open, literally tearing apart to create passage between the living world and Hueco Mundo. It was the sensation of a rip in the dimensional fabric, a Garganta. Urahara didn't even need to look to know who it was.

Taking a deep breath, he picked up the tray and took it into the sitting room, laying it carefully on the table in the center. He had no sooner set out the cups then a noise from the doorway caused him to lift his head, finding Aizen Sousuke standing there, his own reiatsu tightly contained. The former captain had always been the best at it, after all.

Aizen was dressed in his new regalia, all trappings of his life as a member of the Gotei 13 missing from his wardrobe. In fact, the coloring was a complete opposite, all whites and slim angles rather than the billowing black of the Shinigami.

Urahara was certain it was intentional.

For a moment, their eyes met, and Urahara had the brief, wavering thought that he didn't think he could do this. It would simply be too hard; it had been far too long. He didn't know if he could separate then from now. Not when he had been the one to leave.

But then, Aizen was the first to speak.


Urahara found it in himself to breathe again. He plastered his usual smile on his face.

"Sousuke, come on in. I'm just setting out the tea."

"Thank you for the invitation." Aizen stepped inside, sliding the door shut behind him, and seated himself at the low table, directly across from his host.

The shop owner watched his companion from beneath the brim of his hat as he poured their tea, the sound of the liquid sloshing into the cup the only noise to pierce the heavy silence. He looked at Aizen, and he saw the same man who had betrayed Soul Society, who had faked his own death, turned his vice-captain on her little brother, and made fools out of them all. He saw a man who used to be his dearest friend, one of the kindest men a person could ever meet. He saw someone he wasn't even certain he ever knew at all.

Except, none of that mattered right now. This meeting, this chance to talk to one another, was on neutral ground, a neutral discussion. It was a time where Aizen wasn't a man trying to become god and Urahara wasn't part of the group determined to stop him. No, right now, they were simply Kisuke and Sousuke as they had been so many years ago.

Afterwards, they could return to being adversaries, to trying to outsmart one another and somehow find a way to win. But for now... now, they were simply friends.

"You are the only one here?" Sousuke asked, the question entirely a formality since Kisuke was certain that the other man was fully capable of sensing the truth.

And just like that, it began. The same duel of words that seemed to define their conversations.

Kisuke nodded, picking up his cup from the tray and contemplating it. "I assume you didn't bring any of your... minions?"

A smile quirked at the corner of Sousuke's lips. "They are otherwise occupied."

'Probably out creating mayhem and distracting Kurosaki-kun and the others,' Kisuke thought to himself, finally sipping at his tea. He barely held back a grimace, his skills lacking in brewing it seemed. The offering of it had been a mere formality anyway.

"And Gin-chan?" the shop owner continued, changing the subject aloud to distract his own wayward thoughts.

In the back of his mind, he could still see the slim and silver-haired male, always hanging onto his captain's words, always eager for that one hint of praise. Back then, he had never thought anything of it, but now, Kisuke wondered if there might have been something he missed.

"I am proud of him as always," Sousuke responded, sounding sincere as one finger slid along the curve of his cup. "He has well exceeded my expectations."

"From his desire to please, I am sure."

"There is that."

A moment of silence, Kisuke carefully choosing his plan of attack in this game of witty barbs and quick returns. He felt vastly out of practice. It had been so long since he had encountered a worthy opponent. This was something he had most definitely missed.

"And Kaname-chan?"

The amusement in Sousuke's expression was clear for him to see. "I am surprised you would ask."

"Sheer politeness," he responded just as quickly, a shrug lifting his shoulders. He paused, thinking of the blind man, and a smirk tugged his lips. "He's such a stick-in-the-mud and always has been. I don't see why, Sousuke – or how for that matter – you would want his help."

Sousuke inclined his head, dark eyes mercifully guarded. "They say the blind can see the truth better than anyone."

"So long as it is not hidden behind justice," Kisuke countered, his old distaste for Tousen slipping into his tone. He had never been fond of the man and had the feeling it had been mutual.

The look his former lover gave him was steadying, almost disbelieving. "You used to believe in justice."

"I still do. Just not his brand."

There was a pause in the conversation.

Sousuke regarded him thoughtfully before he continued, "For your curiosity, Kaname is doing fine as well." He finally took a sip of his own tea and actually managed to hide his distaste for the horrible brew.

Kisuke barely held back his scoff. "It's a burden off my shoulders to hear that," he replied sarcastically.

Instead of another sharp barb, however, the former fifth division captain smiled. And for all that Kisuke could tell, it seemed genuine, like the Sousuke he used to know. It caught him off guard, and immediately, Kisuke threw up all his barriers, locking away the openness that he was belatedly realizing he had allowed. It had been too easy to slip back into their old banter, far easier than he expected. Yet, he couldn't be sure anymore if anything from back then was real or not. Or if anything now was. He didn't want to be made a fool.

But a part of him desperately wanted to believe.

His reaction must have shown in his expression. Or perhaps Sousuke had noticed the subtle tightening of his muscles.

"Don't do that," his guest said quietly, Kisuke daring to think that maybe his tone held a hint of hurt. "Nothing's changed."

The shop owner's stare was just as even, just as guarded, gleaming from the depths of his hat. "Everything's changed," he remarked with some bitterness. "Don't try to tell me that it hasn't."

"I'm exactly as I have always been, Kisuke," Sousuke countered slowly, his voice somewhat chastising. But even then, a shiver raced down his companion's spine at the familiar lilt of his name. "I can't be blamed for people misinterpreting what they see."

A mirthless laugh escaped Kisuke's lips. "I don't think I've ever really known you at all," he replied, tone just as biting, just as accusing. "But then, I think I like you better this way."

Silence fell, heavy and sharp, almost palpable. Like the tart bitterness of blood spilt on a battleground or the undeniable weight of a regret left unvoiced.

But it was Sousuke to break it.

"I miss you," he murmured, eyes gleaming with something nameless.

Kisuke froze at the words, hand pausing midway to his lips, where he had been intending to force himself to swallow a bit more of the atrocious tea. He lifted his gaze to his companion, since it had been mercifully hidden by his hat, and was suddenly glad he had that barrier, that protection. It was starting to ache just a bit too much.

He hadn't intended for this meeting to be about the past, about what they had before. He wasn't sure what it was supposed to be about, but a part of him had hoped that "back then" would be avoided. Apparently, he had been wrong. Those old feelings were still there, no matter how much he tried to convince himself they weren't, and as long as either of them breathed, they would continue to exist.

They would not be forgotten. Not by distance or actions. Never.

"Liar," Kisuke countered without missing a beat, his voice carrying the barest suggestion of a rasp. He finally finished his earlier motion, taking a drink of his tea.

How could he even begin to believe Sousuke? The man had fooled everyone for so long. He would be arrogant if he thought that he was the only one spared from the illusion.

Yet, Sousuke continued. And if he were fazed by Kisuke's accusation, he didn't show it. Kisuke hated him in that moment for always proving unflappable. But as always, the hate all too quickly passed. Replaced by something he was forever unwilling to name.

"Why didn't you try to contact me afterwards?" the traitor asked, referring to the event so many years ago that eternally deemed Kisuke as an outcast from Soul Society. "Did you honestly think I would turn you in?"

Kisuke didn't even blink. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"Why didn't you ask me to come with you?"

"Would you have gone?"


Having expected another question, another accusation hidden in query, Kisuke was stunned into silence. Speechless for once in his life. That frank answer, provided without a single ounce of hesitation, was not what he was prepared for.

Dead silence swept around them so quickly that he could have heard a pin drop from a mile away. In another room, a clock ticked loudly, counting down the seconds.

Sousuke rose to his feet after calmly setting his cup back down on the table. "Tea was wonderful," he commented, his voice not showing anything as he brushed nonexistent wrinkles from his hakama.

'Liar,' Kisuke thought. 'It was awful, and you know it.'

But the words were stuck inside of him, heavy on his tongue. His mouth refused to work.

His body moved on automatic. Kisuke stood, knowing it was only proper to show his guest to the door. He stepped around the table, and Sousuke met him halfway. He found himself looking into dark brown eyes before his former lover leaned to the side, his lips poised at his ear.

"You're always welcome to join me, Kisuke," Sousuke murmured and pulled away, his lips brushing ever-so-faintly across the other man's cheek, hair ghosting over his skin.

Grayish-green eyes widened, and he was again stunned. He didn't even register his companion leaving, letting himself out. On the edge of his senses, he felt a Garganta opening, swallowing his former lover. And then, there was silence again, except for the steady tick-tock.

He unconsciously sat back down at the table, staring at the dirty dishes. His tongue loosened then. And the question he meant to ask, had wanted to ask, finally managed to spill from his lips.

It was a bare whisper.

"Did you ever really love me?"

But there was no one around to hear it.

a/n: There's something so incredibly alluring about pairing two men who are both vastly intelligent. They would so work together. I think. It's beginning to become my OTP. Maybe we'll see more, maybe not. Thanks for reading! Leave a review before you go!