Official Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. I mean, I doown bleach, but not the ghost killing, bankaiwielding one, you know? I do 'own' the characters of Vincent Marko, Christine Anderson, and Tayuya however. No copycats, alright?


by Sizdothyx

The cafeteria bustled with life, waiters running around and customers chatting vigorously all around him. It was times such as these that he truly hated being outside in the city, with all the trends and people he didn't know. He smiled under his unshaven beard, which he had grown on a whim (and she hated because it tingled). Perhaps hewasmore agoraphobic than he cared to admit.

One point to Christine, he mused silently as he picked the beer bottle and brought to his pale lips (which she loved to nibble on) and drunk. That done, he glanced around for the fiery mane that belonged to her (and he thought that, when coupled with the ceiling and on top of him, was the most perfect sight known to him in all his twenty years). Speaking of which, she had stood him up today, and it was getting annoying; the waiters had already asked him thrice to leave the table if no one was coming so that other customers could sit down and enjoy their drinks, but he had politely declined such 'offers'. And the two unanswered phone calls, coupled with her lateness made it even more difficult for him to smile at the men and respond with "just wait a bit, okay?" Alright, so he was nervous; she had arranged the meeting, stood him up (something that occurred rarely), and had not called to inform him.

He drunk from his beer, glanced around suspiciously and, satisfied, snapped his lighter awake and inhaled the precious smoke deeply. "Ah, that's better." He told himself, enjoying the deep scent of tobacco.

"Vince? You know I hate that." he heard from behind him, coming as a deep feminine voice he loved. He turned to savor the perfect body he had come to grown inch by inch, clad in a dark mini skirt and a black shirt, which coupled with her crimson hair and deep red lipstick elevated her to his own personal goddess. God, he loved that woman.

"Sorry." He apologized with a genuine smile, not being able to help being caught in the act and enjoying that she was there. He extinguished the cigarette as she took her sit opposite of him, the active part of his brain not realizing that she hadn't bent down to kiss him as she did, lost as it was in the act. Before he could devote himself to her completely, she asked for a beer and a tequila shot.

"Tequila shot?" he confirmed after the boy who was serving had left. "Feeling naughty today?" She grinned softly in response, her light blue eyes twinkling in the innuendo; but not in a happy way, he noticed. More like an angry one. He decided to push that information to the back of his mind – for now. "So, you wanted to see me?"

She was saved from answering from the bell, or to be more accurate, the slam of a bottle and a small glass with the amber liquid. She muttered something like 'thanks' to the boy, paid him and as he was ushered away, she shot her head back and the tequila into her orifice. An act that aroused him – perhaps she could repeat that later, when they were alone. He could show her his gratitude for the act then. His reverie was broken by her speaking, perfect pearly teeth shining a bit under the bar's lights. "Look, Vince. It's not easy for me, just so that you know, okay?" He was taken aback, flabbergasted. No other response than blinking was made, but she continued; it was easier if she just let it out. "Look, honey, I tried, I really did." Mechanically, she pulled her hair in a braid and tied them together, as if forbidding him to think how much he liked her hair free on his pillows when they were laid on his bed.

So surprised as he was, he did not realize what it was that that she was saying.

"I tried so much, Vincent. I struggled for us. I love you, but…" She sighed, her full lips parting in a silent sob. It was good that they were in public, for she would be crying now. He could read it all in her, knowing her better than even her parents and family did. He knew about her tattoo, the little dragon she kept low on her waist, just above her left buttock. He knew about how she was a little in love with Meg Ryan, he knew about how she loved the old Star Wars films, he knew about how she was all about pleasing her partner in bed when really aroused and not necessarily drunk.

"Christine." He tried, but it came out croaked. Absorbed as she was in her own thoughts, she probably did not even hear him. He cursed his insecurity at times like these; if not for it, he would have sat next to her, taken her in his arms and promised that he would change, he would explain how he loved her too damn much, how she could not do this to them, how he had earned the right to decide as well. But he was a coward like that, and he let her continue.

"Vince, we share nothing in common…" That was a low blow to his pride, blaming them both when all she had to do was blame him and only him. The beer bottle in his left hand felt warm like piss. Right then, he was sure it tasted like it as well. "…Anymore." She finished, derailing his train of thoughts. The finality to that last word was deadly, as if she was not planning to ever even seeing him again. He closed his eyes, holding tears and memories back. He reminisced the days where he consoled her from the furious demands of her father, who saw the rebellion in his daughter as something that needed to be quenched. How he had dared take their friendship to a new level, when he stared lovingly in her red, puffy from the crying eyes and lowered his mouth to hers, holding her close and away from all the terrors around her. He remembered how they turned from friends to lovers to soul mates. He remembered the first time they had made love, drunk with alcohol and arousal and need.

He had to bring two fingers to his eyes to keep himself in check now, the memories of happiness unbearable against the sudden relentless revelation that he would lose her.

He recalled how she told him that she loved him under the wild rain. He remembered her naked form in his bed, her natural red hair hugging her, shielding her from the nightmares. How she had smiled disapprovingly like a hen mother at one of his shocking jokes in a formal table, and how the two had laughed at the silence that had fallen amidst them after he had finished the joke. He remembered a kaleidoscope of her and only her, the sacrifices he had made and the sacrifices he would do just to be with herShe was speaking again now. "Vincent, I love you too damn much but, if we continue like this… We'll just hurt each other." He remembered how he had promised to her that he would never hurt her… And realized that he loved her too much to want anything else but comply with her wishes.

He opened his eyes and gazed at her two cerulean orbs, before gulping the sudden sob down. "I understand." He said cryptically, not taking a clear place on the whole ordeal.

She beamed at him, taking his statement as something else entirely, but still what Vincent had wanted her to hear. "I'm glad. I don't want you hurt, you know. Not now, not ever. You're a great guy, our time together was wonderful. I want you to know-" He could not listen to her anymore. His left hand released the beer bottle immediately in fear of crushing it.

Four years. Four fucking years they had been together, and all that was for nothing? It was all for nothing?

Vincent aptly cut her off, the fury he felt barely contained. "Christine, it's alright!" He lowered his voice and continued. "I get it already, how we share nothing in common. I love you, you love me, but we'll just hurt each other. Okay, I understand that." He was subconsciously mocking her now, but he could not bother then. "It's okay, baby, I understand that. We have nothing in common." He nodded swiftly, then got off his chain and wore his jacket, which rested on the chair next to him. "Have a nice time, honey. You deserve one. Goodbye." He was out of the shop before his clouded mind registered it, walking down the dark New York City streets absent mindedly, puffing away on the things she hated so much. "They're coffin nails, Vince." She would use to say, bribing him to put it off with exciting nuzzles to his neck.


How could she do this to him? How? Why? Damn it, he loved her! She knew that, realized it every time they were together. Fuck. He had spent four years of loving affection and jovial tribute, and all that for nothing. All that so they could hurt each other on a whim, Vincent probably making her feel more bad than she had made him. At least she hadn't gone all out, aiming for his heartache.

"Fuck!" He yelled, punching the wall to his right. "Fuck!" He stomped his foot on the uncaring pavement. "FUCK!" He slammed both his hands on said wall.

Vincent was not aware of how much time had passed, just that whatever tears he had had been shed and that his cigarette had been smoked to the filter's edge. He spat it away, disgusted, and wiped his eyes with his sleeve. "It's unfair, damn it." He did not know that breaking up could bring such painto a human body. Sure, he had spouses before Christine, three of them, actually, but they were literally old flames when he had broken up, and with them it was all about the sex and having a good time. Withher it was love and caring in either good or bad times. "…Fuck." He muttered, defeated, and exited the side street he had entered in order to wallow in self pity and anger for the world's unfairness…

…In order to have a quite literally flying car – an Opel Astra, he had noticed as a last thought, instead of seeing the so called 'glimpse of life' – crash on him, killing him instantly.

"Death God 13-8, come in." The woman scowled at the device which had stirred her out of the nap she was taking. "Death God 13-8, come in." It repeated, a silent scream in her mind, an impulse that was worse than the ache the need for smoking one had after a year long pack-a-day schedule. She groaned and picked the device up, bringing it next to her ear as she got off the ground and dusted her dark robes off. She seriously hated the little buggers and whoever had invited them. A telepathic cell phone with unlimited batteries and no-turnoff button meant that you were always on duty, and that you could never use the "I couldn't hear it beeping" excuse. Seriously, she hated the damn things. "Death God 13-8, Tayuya coming in. What is it already, for hollow's sake?" She said, not able to hold her annoyance and scowl back.

The person on the other side of the line either did not notice her 'get-done-with-it' tone or did not care. "A Hollow has been sighted in your general perimeter."

She rolled her eyes and turned her gaze on the general direction of the spiritual energy she felt. "Don't overstate the obvious now, genius-chan. It'll do you bad sooner or later."

"It is a Rank 3 Hollow with a type Alpha personality, 13-8." Tayuya's amber eyes squinted at the understanding of the – saint's, seeing as how he had the patience to deal with her so far – description of the Hollow. It was a Rank 3, which meant that it had a special power, and type: Alpha, which meant that…

She gasped. "It's attacking everything with a spiritual residue, and it's always hungry! Shit!" She channeled the energy residing in and out of her and used it to propel herself forward, towards the sound of sirens and mayhem echoing from the distance. Back on the roof where the woman clad in the black kimono had caught a shuteye, a cell phone lay discarded. "Hello? 13-8, are you there? 13-8, respond! Come in 13-8!" Tayuya's full lips split in a shit eating grin as she jumped from roof to roof. Leaving her cell phone behind had been no accident. Seriously, she hated the damn things.

The flick of flames sounded faded, like a mosquito's buzz. The panicked screams and various yelling did not reach him at all. There was a calling to God almighty, up in the heavens, but the rest had sounded slurred and seriously funny to him. He especially chuckled on their faces. Bug eyed, hands in front of their mouths, blocking the bile and holding the horror back, others looking away… He scowled at the bystanders' stupidity. Seriously, he was alright! Vincent failed to see why they were all so shocked. He had managed to see that the car was devoid of passengers, and he had - somehow – rolled away from the assaulting vehicle (he snorted; seriously, the whole ordeal of 'flying cars' was getting ridiculous. It must have been all the adrenaline pumping through his system). So why was the rush?

Groaning, not having realized how much he ached exactly, Vincent got off the pavement had he been laying on and walked towards the disaster. The Opel had been tossed around, shedding its doors and scattering broken glass all over the place. The various liquids in the engine ran freely on the cement, dousing it, but the fire that could have started had been already confronted by the New York's finest and fire brigade. Slowly, Vincent walked around the car's debris, chuckling in the process. He had been amazingly lucky to dodge that thing as it was – as he looked at the whole thing, and remembered the velocity it came at him with, he thought it humanly impossible to avoid imminent death… And yet here he was. He grinned and waved to the crowd around him. "I'm okay, safe and sound!" He yelled at them, to receive no response. They were probably too shocked, it seemed. He climbed on a nearby bench, and waved at them with his hands, elevating no reaction but a single sound; a rattle of chains, coming from… Vincent looked down.

Nothing had changed with him but this – there was a chain protruded from his chest, dangling harmlessly. It was three feet long, made of some steel alloy and seemed very durable. "What the fuck?" Vincent dared, and in a daze attempted to remove it from his chest, thinking it as the sole damage he had been dealt from the 'accident'. He pulled at it hard, but it did not even budge.

Was this why they were all screaming and shouting? Was it because he had a chain sticking through him? Looking around him, he saw that the media was now on scene, and a Japanese reporter declared that "one man was killed as, according to witnesses, a car came crashing down on him. As far, we think that this is a product of mass hysteria, but the fact remains as we are mourning the death of a really young man named Vincent Marko, according to the ID he had on him."

To Vincent, the world froze. "Come again?" He roared at her. "Here I am, you crazy broad! Alive!"

The ICU that was on scene had a body bag. Perhaps they had mixed a dead man with him and thought the body as him? He jumped off the bench and jogged at where they were loading the body bag on a loader. "Excuse me?" Vincent asked as he tapped one of the medics on the shoulder. The man ignored him, and Vincent did not try again – the doctor probably had a lot in his mind. Dodging medics as he went, Vincent approached the body bag as it was opened for a last inspection.

"Name: Vincent Marko, according to ID, age 21." The medic inspecting stated. "He's clearly dead, and had been gone long before we arrived on the scene – I'd say eleven or twelve minutes earlier."

The field medic next to him scratched the back of his balding scalp. "Shit. It's always a shame when young people die."

"Yeah, I know. Come on, let's wrap him up and take him to the morgue." Vincent walked around them and glared at the body bag, intent on giving the medics a piece of his mind and explaining how they had done a mix-up when he glanced on the burned body in the bag.

It was him.

The left side of Vincent's face was burned, his eye a sickly faded white mirroring the right, azure one on expression and shock. His black beard had been singed along with the 'meat', for lack of better word, that used to be his face. His unruly, short black hair had been burnt almost entirely. The skin had turned blistered, another time immaculate and then reduced to charcoal. His ear was gone. His toned body, neither excessively built nor incredibly thin had been burned beyond recognition along with the clothes he wore, black pants and a muscle t-shirt.

Was he the one sobbing at the horror? It couldn't have been, although he did feel his hand cover his mouth in shock and disgust. He was not the one wailing at the sight… then who was? He turned around and saw the one person that should not have seen this – Christine.

Vincent saw his life as a disgusting ball of slime, stolen by an insanely amused Grimm Reaper. He saw his birth, the first steps he had made at the bribing of his father keeping up a present for him, his mother smiling at the messy painting of a house he had made, the lullaby his dark skinned nanny sung him, punching a bully in the teeth, meeting up with Christine, kissing her for the first time, making love to her, enjoying his time with his friends, playing a video game and drinking beer… he saw everything up to his breaking up with the fiery haired angel in front of him who, in all regards, should have notseen him reduced to a pile of burnt meat and bones.

He realized suddenly that he had taken everything for granted. His life had been so carefree, so away from earthly problems that Vincent felt he'd fall on his knees and curse everything around him. He had always (more like, for the last three years) thought that he would marry Christine, have two kids – after all, bringing a life to this world seems so trivial until you actually hold your son or daughter in your hands – and then die happily in his bed at his 70-something years of life. Happy times, seeing as how Vincent had never thought he would die at the age of 21 and by the 'hands' of a flying car. If Vincent was in mild pain after waking up, right then his heart threatened to burst and grant him a second death and heart-clutching agony, no pun intended.

Christine had ran past him and joined the medics, screaming obscenities of how she was his girlfriend and that she needed to see him and how she loved him, oh God Vincent she loved you, she still does, she broke up with you for nothing and I love you too Christine baby, forever and ever. Slowly, the way someone would touch a newly born butterfly, Vincent reached for her and took her in his arms in the sheer mockery of hug. It lasted just a second, before the medic holding her pulled her aside for the body bag to be loaded in the ambulance, but it was still a hug and it seemed to calm his goddess down.

Laughter echoed all around the scene, loud enough to shatter windows and make Vincent hold his hands to his ears. It was sinister and vile, the deep insane chuckle of the Boogeyman having found his next victim. A 'Freddy was here' feeling rushed all over Vincent, making him scream in pain and raw agony. What was this thing? The crowd and Nicole next to him were oblivious to the laughter, and to the gigantic monster which had appeared next the crashed car, enveloped with shadows. It had roared its head back and was barking with laughter. "I found myself a new one, a tasty one, one so juicy sweet!" It hollered. "My only need is, to make him bleed, the juicy sweet!"

While the thing cackled with malice, Vincent lowered his hands and stared at them – the right one had blood on it. His eardrum had burst, and crimson blood was slowly poured its way down on his neck and jacket. Vincent wanted to curl into a ball and fade away – it was not because of what he thought as bad luck, the unjust ending of his life, the insecurities or his multiple mishaps. Nothing of those. Vincent wanted to curl into a ball and cry his eyes out for the perfect match all these did, the horror and the angst. It was an orchestra of absolute uncaring towards everything involving him. Such immense events for the one that was merely an observer, who just wanted to live happily ever after.

The creature did not possess a face – instead, its head was a gigantic, maw made of white porcelain, ornamented with dark blue markings and quills sprouting out of its scalp where hair would be in a normal man. With closer inspection, they looked like skeletal spears. Its body resembled a humanoid with ebony skin heavy set with muscles and brawn. The thing opened its face in half, the practical equivalent of opening its mouth and revealed a tongue of an unhealthy purple color and fangs that could compete with any sharks'.

"Look," Vincent yelled hysterically, trying to debate with the creature and hear his own self over his injured ear, "can you just leave me alone? Please?"

The thing-beast's grin seemed to widen. "Please it says, while it knows it will die! What an interesting toy!"

It was then that realization dawned upon him, much unlike the dark sky over him. It seemed like a mad scene from the anime Christine had him watch, but it seemed awfully real despite the creature, the chain dangling from his chest and the whole 'dead' deal. If this was the Afterlife, then there was not going to be a 'game over, insert coin' after the creature mauled him. There was not going to be anything, period. The dark grey beyond, the veil of nothingness, call it what you will, was suddenly amazingly terrifying to Vincent, and he intended to avoid it no matter what.

So, in a mixture of courage and utter horror, Vincent got off his feet - and ran for it.

The creature chuckled and licked its nonexistent lips. "It wants to play! It does, it does!" The beast hopped from one leg to the other in anticipation, before crouching and using incredibly muscular legs to jump over the people and cars Vincent had passed in the meantime and crashed barely ten feet away from him. "Run, little toy! Run!" With a guttural scream, Vincent turned on his heels and ran to the left, but the creature shot its hand forward and quite literally slapped him senseless, blowing him away like he was nothing. Vincent pivoted for five, maybe ten horrifying seconds before crash-landing on the roof of a parked car, shoulder-first.

"Ouch." He managed weakly.

The creature guffawed with the latest adjustments it had done to Vincent's course, almost doubling over. "It's endurable, too! Such a great, great toy it turns out to be!" Then, remembering something, it landed on all fours, its demeanor changing. "Shames I now have to eat, toy!" Vincent managed to get up, banishing the pain momentarily in favor of seeing the enemy make another insane jump at him. As his mind meekly nodded the slim chances of his survival, a dark figure appeared in front of the creature in its mid-flight, before cleaving at it with a sword. Blood splattered, a signal of the sword making a clean him (relatively speaking), and then the beast fell back on the ground, its flight ended abruptly. The dark figure landed only feet away from Vincent himself.

She was a fairly tall woman, who kept half of her brown hair up in a bun and the rest left aside to cascade down on her neck and shoulders. She was pale, although it could be blamed on the contrast her fair skin did with the black kimono she wore, which covered her full with the exception of a healthy bosom. She managed a glance at Vincent and he saw that her eyes were a noble emerald color. "You okay?" She yelled at him with a feminine yet brash voice. She held a four feet long katanain her delicate hands, which hands seemed to be muscled just enough for her to not lose her charm. Traditional white shocks and sandals adorned her feet.

"Wha-?" Vincent managed, when the woman apparently lost her interest and glared back at the creature, which had gotten up.

It growled beastly - the cheery behavior it showed earlier was discarded entirely. "Not amused, Shinigami.Not amused at all."

"I don't give a fuck at whether you get your chuckles or not, shithead. I'm here to take your sorry ass down!" Apparently, the warrior had chosen to take the creature head on, and have some fun while she was at it.

The beast slammed a hand on the ground, drawing further attention to it from the crowd who… seemed to look right past it. Vincent started putting the pieces together – the battle, along with himself and the two combatants were in the Afterlife or the Spirit Realm or whatever really, hence the reason of their ignoring him earlier. "Noble words, Shinigami…I'll make certain you realize how futile they are before you die." The two moved with deadly speed, the beauty and beast in all its literal sense. She slashed and cleaved, where it mauled and maimed. Chunks of the road its fists crashed onto scattered in the air and blood splattered on the ground. The two opponents landed back to their starting positions, no actual damage done despite the gashes the creature now possessed or the appearance of manhandling the woman now sported. It laughed once more. "This is interesting, yes. Care to try it yet again?"

"You'll find out that Death Gods have more tricks up their sleeves, you little punce!" She said with bravado Vincent didn't know could exist. She glared back at him momentarily, and he wondered from where he still was on the car if she could listen to his thoughts or something similar. He would find out later that she was thinking something else entirely. Fuck, I can't complete the incantation of the Red Flame and cast it properly, she thought, glancing back at Vincent. If I docast the spell, the Hollow will charge straight ahead and possibly end up crashing that poor bastard under its weight and a wall. However, there is a slight possibility that he can dodge, giving me a rather good shot at taking the fucker down… "You," she addressed him for the second time, "are you athletic?"

"Pardon?" Vincent managed meekly.

"I said, are you athletic?"

Vincent nodded. "Yeah, I played football in high school."

She nodded back. "Good. Get ready to haul ass out of the way then." She turned back at her opponent, who seemed fixated at her. "That's the end of the road for you, you piece of shit! Oh ruler, mask of flesh and blood, all creations of the universe, fluttering of the wings, ye who bears the name of man!" She said loudly with a clear voice, clearly some sort of chanting. Vincent did not get what the so called 'Death God' was doing, but it seemed to be dangerous to the creature, who roared in defiance halfway of the chanting and charged forward, taking parts of the road with its long striding.

The woman held the katana in her left hand while the right did the casting motions and as the creature approached her hell-bent on taking her down, she jumped up and out of the way, hoping that Vincent would do the same. "Scorching heat and disorder evolve the transposition of the southern sea barrier.Shakkahou!" A bright ball of fire appeared in her hand, a product of her conjuring, and she shot it down on the beast's back.

It crashed on with a satisfying blast of fires.

Vincent had only come to realize what she meant earlier with 'get out of the way'. The creature had lost its balance with the last strike and was coming straight to him, ready to flatten him with its weight. With a cry of "shit" Vincent darted away from the car he stood on, tumbling as far away as his aching muscles allowed him to. He did not bother to ask how exactly she had conjured a fireball or how she was able to fly around like such a feat was common to her, it did not – could not – occur to him as it was. His wild spinning on the cold asphalt came to a stop, and a large crash later, the beast found itself smashed against a sports car. "That was not playing nice,Shinigami.I will have to discipline you."

"I'll have to chop your balls off and force feed you, you piece of shit, but I don't make a big deal out of it." She hissed back, and Vincent winced – the 'death god' had a really bad language and an even worse attitude. She readied her katana and waited to jump the creature once more.

It proved that she planned to jump the beast quite literally. With a warcry, the female warrior charged ahead and leapt off the ground, her Katanafollowing her momentum beautifully. The prone creature turned around and shot its left arm in a futile attempt to parry the strike. It was not enough.

With a satisfied exclamation, the woman cleaved through the beast's forearm and continued her assault through the chopped off member, straight to its chest. It was proved that the beast was far by done for, though, when it opened its maw and spat out a gigantic amount of light. Light that anything but a source of illumination, as the woman cried in pain and was shot away with amazing force, crashing on the ruthless ground with a humph. Every single one of her pores was smoking, and she did not appear to be breathing.

It was fortunate that the beast was more concentrated on its bloodied stump than the fallen woman, because Vincent defiled the cowardice he was feeling and made a run for her. He landed on his knees next to her body, and checked her neck for a pulse with his index and middle finger – she was still alive, but not breathing. Her pulse was weak, and she was faintly moaning in pain.

"Crap!" He cried out and did what he thought best; he lowered his head to her level, connecting their lips with any other feeling but passion and blew air into her lungs twice. It was not luck that he had known what to do in such a situation, having received first aid lessons back in college when he had been the sole witness to a car accident and been completely unable to help.

He pulled back, glared at the creature which was still grasping its former limb and crying out in pain, and started pumping at the center of her chest, ignoring every single male thought that crossed his mind – it was not the time. He pushed her chest rapidly and repeatedly, faster than once a second, counted up to thirty such motions and then blew into her. "Come on, come on!" Panic was rising in his own chest, as the woman remained still despite his efforts. Finally, right as the beast transformed its cries of pain into howls of anger and as he blew air inside her lungs for the third time, she coughed up and sat up, only to gasp and fall back. He swiftly caught her. "You okay?"

Her eyes were wide, her chest rising and falling quickly, the grasp she had on his shoulder tightened as she pushed him back and reached for her blade with her free arm. He fell back, his balance lost, and saw what she had panicked about; the creature was at the move again, screaming and salivating with clear schizophrenia. It was close then, barely thirty feet away, when…

"Tamago!" The woman yelled, grasping the hilt of the sword with her right arm and the blade's tip with her left. "Kurochi!"

The air around the two human beings – the crowd had moved back, thinking how a gas pipe had exploded or something similar; an idiot had even cried "It's Al-Qaeda!" – pressed down on them as it seemed to be drawn inside the blade. As the force became unbearable for Vincent, he managed to see through squinted eyes that she had stood up with defiance written in her handsome features, and that the katana'sblade was bathed in some sort of a black liquid, that resembled really watered down tar.

Her emerald eyes flashed with something else besides anger, something so ancient and gracious that Vincent just knewthat she was not of this world, and her blade shot forward at the beast's unprotected stomach. There was a slash of displaced wind, of torn flesh, and blood showering, and the beast cries faded away along with it, back to a world of shadow – it had exploded in otherworldly flames and disappeared without a trace.

"Psyche." She said, a timid smile on her face, before bringing her hand to her mouth and coughing up blood. "Oh, shit." She muttered, and her eyes rolled on the back of her head as she fell, unconscious. This time, Vincent did not have the reflexes to catch her. He was still worried as he got up only to kneel next to her.

"Death-lady, come on, wake up. Don't leave me hanging, please." He was aware of the hysteria crawling out of its hideous lair and into his voice, but he did not care; monsters, a chain hanging out of his chest, he was deadand she was the only one that could see him in a sea of faces that could not. Dante had begun his "Divine Comedy" with the words 'Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita' directly translating into 'In the middle of our lives' journey'. Vincent was far beyond that; the term living hell could not translate his feeling well enough; he was scared, simply put, and wanted for this all to end.

There was a cry of sheer anomaly in the existence behind him, as the beast reappeared; its drooling mouth was only a foot away from his neck when yet another cry echoed through the now emptied street. "Okiro, Benihime!" A blast of pure, crimson energy struck the beast – there were no remains, so Vincent turned, his vision hazed, to see at the energy's origin.

A man sat on the other side of the street, his most prominent features being twin wooden sandals and a green and white striped bucket hat sitting comfortably on his head. He was blonde, his unruly hair long up to the neckline and his unshaven chin. His eyes were dark, a product of the hat's shade cast upon them. He wore an Irish green coat and buggy pants, while what seemed to be his weapon of choice was a blade that could hide into the cane he held with his relaxed arm. Grinning widely, he sheathed the sword and walked towards the fallen couple. "Tayuya-chan. It seems that you're quite the mess."

"Fuck off, you damn Sandal-Hat." Vincent found "Tayuya's" nickname for the man fitting. At least, he hopedit was her nickname for him; it would be terrible for someone to be named in such a way. "Where have you been all this time I've been fighting? The battle was practically next to your house!"

The man seemed to beam at her curses. "Why, I was finishing a wonderful device of mine, Tayuya-chan. I could not be bothered with simple things."

She spat at him, still in Vincent's arms. "Bastard."

He clucked his tongue. "Seriously, a lady shouldn't have such a language." His face fell in sadness. "Not when you're about to die. Tayuya, you're bleeding from your old wound – it has reopened from the Hollow's Cero." Vincent noticed, quite startled, that her back was drenched in slowly pooling blood.

She glared at him, her lips red with blood. "Can't you do anything?"

"I can't save you, no." He deadpanned. "But I can preserve you."


As the unknown man knelt next to her lying form, Vincent noticed that he looked straight at him before patting Tayuya on the shoulder. "Him."He told her, in what Vincent recognized to be some Asiatic language which he did not understand. Tayuya, taking the hint, continued the conversation in Japanese, giving the turned uninterested Vincent the opportunity to look around for Christine. Nothing – she had left, along with a more than a few bystanders and the ambulance, while the police and firemen tried to understand what had just happened around them. "I can save you, Tayuya. Help you continue existing, or rather the next best thing. Feeling up to it?"

She rolled her eyes in mockery. "Oh, I don't know, you still have the time to take me to a hospital…"

"Tayuya, answer me." He insisted, putting pressure on her shoulder.

"Yes. I want you to save me."

He smiled, then turned back to glance at the flabbergasted Vincent next to him. "Hey, can you put her down gently and don't move no matter what?"

"Alright." He replied, doing as told. "What's happening?"

"What's happening is… What's your name again?" Both Tayuya and 'Sandal-Hat' turned to look at him at that point.

Vincent scratched the back of his head. "Marko… Vincent Marko."

"Ok. Vincent-san! What you and I are about to do is save young Tayuya-chan from an otherwise certain death; is that okay with you?"

He looked down on her staring. Her emerald eyes were glinting, her lips red with blood but full, her brown hair a dark spread like a halo around her head. "Yes; I'll do anything – she saved my live, I owe her this."

Sandal-Hat smirked. "Promise?"

"I swear." Vincent retorted.

"Very well then." He turned his speech back to Japanese. "Tayuya, I intend to use Way of the Soul; 96 – Essence Transfer. Do you understand what that is?"

"I don't think that's right for him, Sandal-Hat."

The man chuckled and took a strand of her hair away from her face. "I know, but Yoruichi-san will skin me alive if I don't do my best to keep you alive, you know? Look, we have no time for all these – just tell him what you think is important to know and do whatever I tell you."

"Vincent-san." Tayuya said, and he nodded in response. "I want you to know that what he and I are going to do is going to hurt you, something that is not our intention. What I can guarantee you is that you will not be the same after this, but that no bad shall come out of it. That's as far as I can elaborate, I'm afraid."

"It's alright, Tayuya." He rolled her name out of his mouth was ease; he found that it was not difficult to say it. "As I said, I'm still, well, as alive as I can get because of you. It's the least I can do."

"Thanks. I really hope you won't regret those words."

"Tayuya, we're running out of time. I need you to infuse him with your blood and reiatsu, and do so fast."

She sighed, knowing that there was only one way to do this. As Sandal-Hat started a complex chanting in a language not even she understood, she beckoned for Vincent to come closer. He did so obediently, sitting on his knees. "Can you kiss me?"

Vincent's eyes widened – he just hadto do a double take. "What?"

"I'm dying, Vincent – can I at least feel loved one last time?"

Vincent stuttered, but did not get a clear response. As Sandal-Hat ended a verse of the chant, he yelled at him quite frustrated. "Vincent-san, will you kiss the hot chick already?! It's quite essential, believe it or not!" That got Vincent going – even in death, a man's pride is too much. While he held no grudge towards homosexuals, he did not want to pass as one, neither alive nor dead. So, he slowly bent closer to her face and closed her lips with his in a sweet kiss that made her break in tears. Slowly, under Sandal-Hat's focused chanting, Vincent felt invigorated, his strength renewed. In his mouth, Tayuya's coppery blood filled his taste buds. He pulled back, and stared at her tear-welled eyes, captivated. "It's time – stab him through the base of his soul chain with your Zanpakuto."



"I'm sorry." She offered Vincent… Right as she pierced his heart with her sword, killing him instantly.

"What's this, hmm? A little fly walking right in the spider's web? Welcome, little fly, welcome. I can tell you that sooner or later, you and I will have quite the chat.Just look forward to it, and don't you dare forget!"
"You're looking good, Vincent-san!" The words made no sense at the beginning – they were slurred at the edges, pathetic drivel of a madman. Slowly, the drugged senses remembered their potential and absorbed the information as it should have been instead of how it was, instantly snapping him awake.

"What the fuck?!" Marko screamed as the totality of not knowing where he was slapped him silly. On a chair next to the bed he currently lay on, Sandal-Hat beamed at him, his right arm resting on his sword-cane, while the left one was offering Vincent a drink.

"Here, take this; it is bourbon." Vincent glanced around. He was in a small room with a wooden floor, Japanese decorations on the walls, which appeared to be made of paper, and Sandal-Hat himself. That was not what bugged Vincent, but rather the foreign clothes he wore; a black kimono which had seen really better days. It was burdened on the edges, torn and somewhat dirty with age. Lying right next to his head was a familiar sword, but he decided to figure out where he had seen it later.

He brought himself to a sitting position, pulled his legs close to his torso and took Sandal-Hat's generous offer of a heavy in alcohol drink. "Where am I?"

"You're still in New York." The green-clad man scratched his chin. "What do you remember from last night?"

Vincent thought it over, his mood worsening as he did so. "…A monster, a woman in a kimono similar to the one I'm wearing…" His eyes widened before they turned to glare at Sandal-Hat, fury barely contained in them. "Getting stabbed?!" He patted his chest for a wound, but the man next to him waved his concerns off with a dismissive gesture of his free hand.

"Relax; you're in no danger whatsoever."

"This was all true? Not a dream? I saw magic, monsters, and a chain in my chest… What the hell is going on?" Vincent asked.

Sandal-Hat sighed. "You're now a Shinigami." Strangely, Vincent realized that the foreign word was an exact translation for the words Death God in Japanese. He brushed that thought aside and nodded tentatively. "None of what you saw yesterday, approximately twenty-four hours ago was a dream or a hallucination of yours; it was all real. Tayuya died in flesh and blood, only to get reborn in spirit."

The two men locked eyes, before Sandal-Hat continued with a serious voice. "When she kissed you, she gave you her blood and spiritual energy, her essence, so to speak. A strange way to do so, but perhaps she wanted to remember what it felt like to be a woman before she faded away. Now, the monster she fought yesterday is called a-" Vincent cut him off. "…Hollow."

Sandal-Hat's eyebrows rose in surprise, but he said nothing. Vincent continued. "You're called… Ura-ha-ra." The strange name rolled off the Death God's tongue with difficulty. "What you told her as she lay dying was that you intended to cast something called the Essence Transfer. I am supposed to be fighting monsters such as these Hollow along with other Shinigami.I…" Vincent downed the bourbon in the glass with three heavy gulps. "How do I know all these things?"

"Because of Tayuya." Urahara replied after a thoughtful moment. "She is slowly being reborn inside of you. Her powers and knowledge will slowly become yours. That sword behind you was hers, but now it's bound to you."

"You…" Vincent's fury doubled over, and he reached for the katanabehind him with one hand as he sent the emptied glass flying to the other side of the room, where it crashed. "You turned me into some sort of demon?!" he yelled, realizing that he did not care for making no sense.

With an ease that Urahara found to be disturbing – the Essence Transfer was not supposed to synchronize the host with his tenant that fast in bodily matters - Vincent unsheathed the weapon and charged at the green clad man, who sidestepped before leaping away from the cleave Vincent originated for his head. "Please don't do this, Vincent-san. I'd hate to have to restrain you."

"Fuck off!" Vincent howled, before slashing vertically at Urahara, who dodged promptly with an annoyed scowl in his face.

"Look, just put the Zanpakuto-"Urahara ducked under the repetition of Vincent's attack, "-down, then we can go have some-" A sidestep to the left prevented Vincent from skewering the man, who was getting really annoyed, "-tea. I could also have Ururu-" He dodged an upward assault at his groin, "-bake some muffins or some chocolate brownies, wouldn't you like-" Urahara's brown eyes flashed dangerously as his patience came to an end, "that's it!" He yelled, and before Vincent knew it, he had crashed through one of the room's walls and onto another, cement one. Despite having his breath knocked out of him, despite having been manhandled with enough strength for the cement to complain under his weight with slow, deep rumbles, Vincent was painfully aware that Urahara had moved faster than he could see and that he had sent him flying away with only aslap.

The force and momentum that kept Vincent up disappeared, and he unstuck from the wall, falling promptly on the ground with a grunt. In front of him, Urahara glared with a fierce scowl as he held the now unsheathed sword's tip on Vincent's neck. "Listen to me, you idiot. So far I've tolerated your pompous attitude justbecause a very good friend of mine resides inside your soul. Now, if my estimation of your age is correct, you're eight hundred and sixty four years too young to even thinkof fucking with me. So my point is this; you'll shut up and behave yourself before I chop your balls off. Am I clear?"

Vincent managed a choked "crystal" in response.

"Good. Now listen up. Your swordsmanship is the worst I've seen in ages. Your unarmed combat and Demon Art skills is nonexistent. With yourreiatsuand missing restraint in it, you'll be the perfect bait andvictim to the first of the Hollow that come your way, no matter their actual strength. So, what weare going to do is train you, for far more reasons that your survival. There is not going to be any giving up or complaining, or your personal tutors will have their way with you – unpleasantly. Do you have any objections?"


"No?" Urahara confirmed, before removing the blade from Vincent's neck. "Brilliant. After you're trained well enough, I'll help you contact Tayuya and deal with the alien sensations and memories you'll slowly gain. Currently, she is residing within your Soul Chain, or rather; she isyour soul chain. And since you're now a Shinigamiinstead of a common ghost, she's welled up inside your soul." From his crawling on the ground, Vincent coughed up something that Urahara did not quite understand. "Pardon?" He asked with his normal, cheery voice.

"I said, you're right, Urahara. I'm just a normal person, a kid. Sure, there are bigger fish out there than I will ever be. But I died, man. I died before I even had a chance to get past C in the alphabet of life. It's too much for me, like it or not; Death Gods, Hollow, you and Tayuya… I don't know shit anymore. All I wanted was to be with her, you know? Get a good job, have a kid or two, and then die in my sleep. I didn't sign up for this, true, but I guess that like it or not isn't gonna change anything." Vincent got up. "All I'm saying is, if this Shinigami thing is my new life, I'm gonna take it serious."

Urahara smiled. It was a quite different smile from the goofy ones he put on earlier. This one had something different inside it, something like pride. Perhaps he could relate. "That's good to hear, Vincent-san. I'll help you with your new life, as you put it. Now, do you have any questions?"

So there they were, looking at each other with newfound respect. Vincent sighed, and pointed at his kimono. "Why are my robes tattered?"

"They are tattered because they originally belonged to Tayuya-chan."

Vincent nodded. "Gotcha. Okay."

"No problem with women's clothing, I see?" Urahara taunted with a wide grin on his face. "Okay, this is the plan. These," as if on queue, three more persons walked inside the room from a sliding door they opened, "are going to be your instructors for a while, so I guess it's better for you to get to know them as soon as possible." Urahara gestured at a really young, timid girl. She looked to be in her adolescence, and was blushing furiously under Vincent's scrutiny. She had black hair caught in twin ponytails at the left and right of her skull and a long lock of said hair was falling between her intense black eyes. "This little lady here is Ururu Tsumugiya. She will be training you in various fields that your body cannot yet comprehend." The girl bowed, and Urahara moved on with a goofy grin on his face, pointing at a large, muscular man who wore an apron. He had a large mustache and a unique (for a man of his apparent age, seeming at least in his forties) Rasta hairstyle. "Meet Tessai Tsukabishi. He will be training you in Demon Arts, that is, spell casting."

"Hi." Vincent offered, and the man simply nodded back in recognition.

"Last but not least," Urahara said gesturing at a boy on his twelve years old, who sported amazingly bright, spiky red hair and a gigantic mace that Vincent's latest addition of memories recognized as a Tetsubo."This is Jinta Hanakari, Vincent-san. He will be responsible for augmenting your body's speed."

Vincent was not able to stifle a chuckle. "And how, pray tell, is he going to do that?"

"I'm going to hunt you with my mace, bitch!"

Vincent blinked. Apparently, kids this age and time were really badmouthed. "Your mace, huh? That'll be fun." Vincent mocked the boy.

"Actually, Vincent-san," Urahara butted in, "Jinta's mace weighs over two hundred kilograms, and he can dash through fifty meters within four point two seconds."

Vincent's blue eyes widened. "…You're kidding, right?"

"Afraid not, Vincent-dono." Tessai spoke for the first time, right as Jinta prepared to initiate a hunt.

Vincent gulped and started running. "Crap!"

"So, how do you think he is going to do?" She asked as she gulped down the contents of her porcelain sake cup.

Urahara smiled. "He'll be fine, I just know it. He's stubborn, just like her, he's turning out to like the things he's doing – again, just like her – and is a mean sword user, despite what I told to spite him earlier."

"So you think we ought to contact the Soul Society?"

Urahara tossed his hat on a chair nearby; his green coat followed as he sat next to her. "No, let them stew for a while. They just lost Tayuya. If Vincent appears before he brings his own reiatsulevels over hers, they'll start questioning him and, knowing some of the hard-asses out there, they will give him trouble."

As they sat next to each other, she rested her head on his shoulder. "Hmm, you're probably right. So, what is the brat doing now?"

"Trying to save his ass from Jinta's wrath. He's doing fairly well so far."

She chuckled, and the melodic sound filled the room with bliss. He hugged her with one arm, as he reached for his own cup of rice wine. "I'm sorry that I could not do anything else to save her."

"You did well, little ronin.At least I know that my friend is still alive somewhere."

He smiled genuinely. "Thanks. Good news is, if Vincent appears to be a good student, soon you'll be able to talk to her in person."

She nuzzled at his neck. "Who knows?" She asked rhetorically, her own way of changing the subject or introducing a new one. "Which reminds me, I was contacted by himthe other day."

Urahara's eyes widened. "What does he say?"

She shrugged as she put the cup down. Slowly, she hugged him at the waist and kept close. "He's afraid that our suspicions of yet another traitor are very true."

He grunted. "Then we'll need to pull him back. We've lost enough of our own as it is."

"We can't; he's already pulled back, rummaging through whatever he can dig up. Contacting him now will kill him."

"Can't you contact him in disguise?"

She punched him playfully on the back. "Sure, if you want me killed as well, I'll go talk to him. "

Urahara grinned at the morbid joke. "I love you." As she pulled his head down for a kiss she replied with the exact same words. And, as their kiss evolved into a fevered act of passion that ended with both of them sleeping hugged close to each other, both of them escaped the usual nightmares.

"Hey, what are you doing? I'm gonna kill you! Get me out of here, you sonuvah bitch!"

Vincent grinned under his beard. "Not in a million years, kiddo. Now shut up and hope that they'll find you fast enough – Way of Concealment 33: Utter Silence." The closet that Vincent had locked Jinta in signed brightly with spiritual energy, and then the sound of the boy's banging on the door stopped abruptly. Vincent patted the closet in sympathy and walked away, jumping on the top of the wall surrounding Urahara's shop and over the busy roads ahead of him. Jinta remained inside the closet, fuming, completely unaware that a sole person had seen the scene… And she had done nothing about it.

Ururu smiled happily as she sung a merry song about dancing rats. Jinta had been bullying her – again – and then Vincent-san had appeared and had locked him inside the closet, before securing that he would not be found. He had winked at her, and then he had left. Ururu liked Vincent-san. He was kind with her.

The air around Vincent was whistling as his powerful leaps carried him over New York City. It was as busy as always, he noted as he landed amidst a company of teenagers who never realized that he was there. Urahara had warned him that normal people could not see his ethereal form, but that a few with excess spiritual energy were exceptions to this rule. Currently, he chose to disregard such a possibility completely, and dashed through the streets instead of the normal pathways – the one Tayuya's memories gave away as the buildings' roofs. In truth, Vincent would have taken that way was he not uncertain of what would happen should his next jump miss the roof and let him fall. Sure, his 'new' body could sustain a lot of damage (which gave Jinta more than his occasional giggles as he pounded Vincent into oblivion), as well as pressure (the fact that he was running faster than a Olympics runner and yet, not getting tired, was more than enough testament to him). It still freaked him out, however. Not even Jinta's promises of pain scared him this much.

It was a good thing that Mr. Tessai was very good in the healing arts – thanks to him, Vincent had done a very good progress in Demon Arts in the three months that had passed since his 'death'. Despite what Urahara had told and taught him, so far he had not spoken with Tayuya. Memories of her own lifetime visited him, and he got the feeling of 'Déjà vu' with things he, Vincent, was completely unfamiliar with, such as cherry blossoms, but the femaleShinigamithat had saved him once still had not contacted him. He felt her around him, but was not able to define where exactly she was, like Urahara told him to do.

Vincent put the thoughts of Tayuya away – he was planning on visiting another woman in his life that day, if not to contact her through a written message, then at least see how she was faring. With a disheveled landing, Vincent was in the rooftop directly opposite of the one she occupied. He looked around him, sensing no spiritual energy around him – he was still safe from Urahara's wrath – and sat on the edge, his legs dangling over the roof's protective railing. He looked at the window opposite of him, the one that looked at Christine's house. He was overwhelmed with a sense of dread as it was – sure, he had trained so hard that his otherwise simply toned body was now built and heavy with muscles, but that meant nothing when the 'afterlife' decided to visit the real one. Damn it, Vince, please don't let this be a mistake. You've seen many movies where the ghost of a beloved one pays a visit to his old girlfriend.

He focused on her appearing through the kitchen door. He smiled as he saw her walk inside the living room, holding one glass of scotch in each hand. Why two glasses of scotch? The answer was given to him in the visage of his best friend – former best friend, he berated himself – reaching for the glass intended for him. He opened his mouth and said something that reminded Vincent that stalking was just not the same without audio feedback. My humor's slowly going to hell. Vincent thought morbidly as he cast "Way of Surveillance 9: Clairaudience." It allowed Vincent to listen at a specific place he focused at – namely, Christine's living room.

"…miss him, Jack? Of course I still miss him. We had been together for over four years!" She sat on the couch, while Jack was sitting on an armchair. Vincent smiled bitter-sweetly at Christine's declaration. He had not been forgotten.

Jack, who was a blond man with brown eyes and quite the average body, smiled and patted her gently on the shoulder. "Sorry," he offered.

"It's okay. You know, I still love him very much, I don't think I'll ever stop, actually. But I won't visit him again; not with his stuck up mother looking at me like I was a broad he had a one-night stand with!" Vincent chuckled. His mother, Evelyn, was quite the bitch when she just didn't like someone. In that case, Evelyn had hated Christine right off the bat and made no secret out of it.

"Don't worry about it; I don't think anyone will hate you for such a thing – well, except for his mother."

"Ha-ha," she shot at him, "very funny, Jack." He sipped at the whiskey cheekily while she continued.

"Well, it's been exactly three months since the accident, and even then… It's as if Evelyn blames me for her son's death, honestly!"

"Speaking of which, I mean the accident part, did they ever discover what the hell had gone so very wrong?" Jack asked, and she shook her head.

"They still have no idea. Vincent's dead, and all he gets is a nice shadowy place in a cemetery instead of even a darn explanation as towhy or the how.Slacking fuckers." Vincent is not dead, my love. On the contrary, he's more alive than ever before. The grim Death God thought.

"Look, let's drink to his resting and speak highly of him. Just because life has to move on means squat; we still have to remember him." Jack raised his glass, and Christine clanged her own glass against his. "To Vincent." They spoke in unison, and instead of honor, Vincent felt jealous dread. This situation had 'hitting on the hot widow' written all over it.

"I loved him so very much." Christine said. "He always wanted to please me, you know. In good or bad, in illness or bed, it was all about me – he drove me around, lessened his smoking…" She smiled fondly at the memories. "He was so undeserving of such a shitty ending. What was I thinking, breaking up with him? I think that," she pouted bitterly, "I think that, if I hadn't broken up with him he would still be alive. Oh God, he'd still be…" Her voice cracked, and Jack had instantly got off his seat and sat next to her, hugging her closely, soothingly. Mother fucker! Vincent cursed, the tension in him urging him to smash the window and bust Jack's face. "God!" She bellowed. "I just wanted a break! I did not want to never see him again!" Tears fell from her eyes and onto his shirt, but Jack didn't seem to care.

"That's it, baby, just let it all out."

"I'm, I'm pregnant, Jack – it's his child." To Vincent, time had frozen still. He was dizzy with amazement. She was pregnant… and he was the father? But then… He would not be around. His child, his and Christine's child…

"Don't worry, Christine. Don't worry – I will take care of both of you." She looked at Jack with whole new look. It seemed that he was her hero. "I have loved you for quite a while, Christine. It will be my honor, as Vincent's friend… I love you, I want to be with you. I will take care of his child. You won't have to worry anymore."

"…What?" She asked, flabbergasted.

"I'm serious. I love you, and if you let me, I will take care of you and your child forever." He leant in for a kiss as she cried Jack's name, and she responded with what seemed like lust.

"NO!" Vincent screamed, but along with not being able to see him, they could not hear him. They could not hear him cry out in pain and misery as everything was taken from him – again. It started to rain so fittingly. It would wash his tears away. He dispelled the Demon Art and looked away from the two giving pleasure to each other. He looked away from a life that would righteously be his. He looked away from Jack carrying Christine away and into the bedroom. "No!" He cried again, but this time it was not with surprise but anguish.

He suddenly felt a woman's arms hug him across his chest, and a healthy bosom press against his back as the musky smell of the rain and pine trees invaded his senses. Momentarily, he gave into his arousal before looking back to see Tayuya's handsome features. She had appeared, clad in her own immaculate Shinigamikimono. It was true that Vincent wore a male, tattered version of her own kimono, but he wore boots and leather gloves along with it. "Tayuya…?" he asked, and she smiled as she tightened her hug against him.

"No talk."

"What are you doing here?" He asked. His senses were all registering haze and just that, but it was not the sudden reunion with a very feminine presence that did that.

"Just tell me what happened." She responded tackily.

Despite himself, Vincent felt his face beginning to grow red with humiliation. "Christine… chose to move on. She had her reasons, with me being dead and she being all alone, caught up with my horrible mother and dealing with guilt, but it still hurts."

"It's not your fault, Vince. If it's any comfort, she's probably in the same haze you're in right now. It's just that she can't deal with it, she can't possibly understand." She said shoothingly.

"And you do?" he asked, anger creeping in his voice. Did Tayuya think she could understand him? Was she going to go on about how she felt the same?

"Not entirely, no." She replied. "But I've been dealt such blows in the past, I know what it feels like to hurt. Christine doesn't know what it feels like for us-"

Whattheyfelt? He and Tayuya had nothing alike. "Don't pretend to be like me, Tayuya. You're not me. Don't pretend to understand!" He expected an apology of her, or at least an admission of error, but all he got was anger, burning and scorching. She broke off the hug and punched him straight in the face so hard that he almost fell from where he sat on the edge of the roof. She held him straight from the shoulder, and he was certain that she did so to spit at him, not out of concern.

"Give me a break, you asshole! You think you're the only one that knows how to hide your feelings? You think you're the only one who can pretend not to care? You don't think all of us feel that way sometimes, knowing that the next thing we'll do could be our last, or-" her anger collapsed a broken sob. "Or that you could wake up one day and find that you're dead?" Hell,he thought, and guilt struck him like a thunderbolt. As he tried to form a request for forgiveness, she continued. "I didn't mean to hurt you – I was only trying to make you feel better, you dickhead."

"Tayuya," Vincent said, hopping off the railing and extending his hand uncertainly to touch her shoulder, "I'm… sorry. I wasn't thinking."

She managed a smile. "It's okay."

"It's just that… I find her willing to forget about me so easily, so steadily. It hurts, you know? I feel like I've wasted my time. No one wants to find out something like this."

"Oh, Vincent." Tayuya said, and then she was next to him, wrapping her arms around him and resting her head on his shoulder. For a moment, none of them said anything, and then she laughed. "We're both messed up, huh?"

"I guess we are." he replied, smiling. He allowed himself to hug her back this time, feeling that he understood her better. Despite his inner protestations, he could not deny that she felt wonderful in his arms.

"Vincent," she whispered. Then her mouth was moving against his own and their hands were at work.

She was smiling when they broke apart and got their clothes back on. She did so peculiarly, conjuring a new kimono with a thought. "Vince, you'll never be alone from now on. That, I can guarantee." She winked playfully. "I am your Soul Cutter, your Zanpakuto,remember?"

He slowly got up and helped her to her feet, his discarded clothes rustling under them as he picked them up. "Tayuya, for what it's worth, thank you. Your perseverance or not, you helped me survive too." Her wet hair followed a whistle of air that was not there, before she disappeared with a carefree tap of her finger on her nose. Her words echoed in his head as he moved aside from his former life and into his new one.

And I will continue to do so. Wait and see.

…I don't know where what you just read came from. Criticism is much appreciated. As long as it doesn't kick my ass for not updating Crossing Over, or rather, Tales of Finality: Memories. I changed the name because I intend to write some one-shots or similar stories about the merged universe. That's all. Happy new year.