Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach or Greek Mythology, but I do own this plot. See below the story for my Author's Notes as usual.
Eros and Psyche
-Don't look at me-
"Is that all ya have for me?" Gin's voice is lazy and the words languish in air.
She clenches her hands, bowing until her forehead touches the grimy floor in complete submission. The coins rest on the rickety table, gleaming dully with the setting of the sun through the cracked window. "I couldn't get more." She protests, lilac eyes closing with something close to desperation and then burning with the fires of hatred for the man in front of her.
He leans forward in his seat, eyes slitting like a serpent before the kill. Pale and spider-like fingers tip her chin up in a fake gesture of affection and kindness. The bruise blossoming on her skin underneath his rough grip is all that shows the scene is not what it should be. His voice is throaty and raspy and invasive next to her ear and she shudders, disgusted by the feel of having him so close to her.
"Do better next time then. I hate being disappointed." His tongue ghosts lightly over the rim of her ear before he chuckles, low and menacing. "You'll have to pay differently if you can't get enough."
The shadows rise along the walls and she bites back a whimper of protest. Resisting will only end in a longer time spent in his presence. That, she cannot afford. "I…I understand." She refuses to meet his gaze, focusing instead on his smooth forehead and the straw colored hair.
"Good. I love it when ya don't bother to struggle. Now look at me." His lips curve into a satisfied smile, slow and slick like oil on the surface of the ocean. It taints the atmosphere and burns her.
She refuses silently, keeping her gaze steady at the window behind him and the freedom it promises her.
"Rukia." He pronounces her name slowly, all tongue and teeth and flashing smiles. She hates it when he calls her like that, as if they're even remotely close. His hands drift down to her slender neck where they lock in a grip strong enough to kill. "Look at me."
She bites her lip, drawing a small bead of blood and nearly screams as he applies more pressure. She can't breathe and the world is spinning in whirlpools of black and Technicolor. She gives in, as she has always done, and focuses her eyes on his barely visible gaze. And as always, he manages to make her feel like dirt, like worthless material barely worth keeping, like a slave just by looking at her. His grip loosens to the point where she can draw in tiny, struggling gasps of air.
"I've always loved your eyes, Rukia-chan. They're so expressive." Predatory. "It makes me wonder what other emotions they can express."
She prays to a God she's never known, to a deity somewhere in the clouds beyond her vision. She prays and swallows around the lump in her throat. She's sure he can feel her frantic heartbeat, so much like prey before a predator. She's sure he can feel her panic and her terror. She's sure and like all the times before in her life, there's no one to save her from him. Not this time. Not last time. Not ever.
He lets her go though, allowing her pathetic body to collapse on the floor in a mess of relief and adrenaline. "Go get Renji. I got some stuff ta talk ta him about. You ain't the only one who's behind on payin'."
She's gone before he can even bat an eyelash.
"What do you have for me?" His voice is calm and precise, never for one moment wasting a single syllable. Gray, nearly black, eyes stare impassively at the latest stock numbers, resting briefly on the bright green arrow symbolizing a rise in price for his company. Satisfaction, a long time ago, would've curved his lips into a smile.
But a long time ago is not now. He turns away instead, focusing his intense and commanding gaze on the unruffled secretary. "We're up by nearly three dollars since yesterday. Your ingenious idea to combine hybrid vehicle engines with oxygen gas exhaust has propelled the corporation to the top of today's gainers." Nanao takes a moment to scratch out a number on her paper before shutting the giant records book closed again. "It's an honor to work for you, sir."
He waves off her praise with a curt dismissive gesture. "Child's play. Today's meeting regarding expansion into China's pollution factor and hazardous waste will be more important. The Board will finally reach a decision on whether to finance the complete environmental overhaul or not today. If the answer is affirmative, then they will expect us to take the lead in those efforts."
The clip of his shined shoes on polished tiles is strangely satisfying, almost as if reassuring him that he is going forward to a better future. The streets of Tokyo are busy as he steps out through the glass doors of Eco Corp. The clock tells him he is five minutes ahead of schedule and a quick glance to the street where his ride is supposed to be waiting tells him that he won't be going anywhere for those five minutes.
How droll. Wasting time.
"What the hell, Rukia?" Renji's voice is abrasive and friendly and a welcome relief to her ears after Gin's latest session. His hands are large and the remnant of some innocent person's wallet is poking awkwardly out of his baggy cargo pants.
She doesn't respond at first, tugging harder on his hand as she weaves through the throng of busy people. "It's Gin. He says you're behind on payments and you know what that means. Hurry up, dammit. We can't be late." Her voice is a steady crescendo to anxiety and her eyes are wide open and visibly scared, almost panicked.
"He touched you, didn't he? That's why you're freaking out all over the place. Rukia, Rukia." Angry. possessive. "Rukia, answer me!"
She doesn't look at him when she answers in a quiet affirmative, but she can feel his hand tighten almost painfully around hers. She understands his concern. Out of all of them, out of all of Gin's little thieves, she's the only female. She still doesn't understand why he even bothers with her for she is far from being pretty. Malnutrition and bruises from Gin's violent fits decorate her slight frame. From what Renji tells her, she was dropped off by some woman too cowardly to show her own face.
But that is neither here nor there and her only priority is to get Renji there in time so he won't be beaten, so he won't feel the touch of the whip against his already lacerated skin. It's the best she can do for him as a childhood friend. It's the only thing she can do for him.
It's not until she hears Renji's shout of warnings that she realizes she's slammed headlong into someone.
There's a distinctly painful throb to his chest that wasn't there before.
He blinks slowly, deliberately, and narrows his eyes as he catches the source of the disturbance and the impromptu collision. Another street member, someone too dependent to get out there and work hard for themselves. Further back, he sees a vividly red-haired teen gesture frantically.
"Get off me." He's irritated at the teen still glued to his body, surprised at the small frame, and only slightly apologetic as he realizes that his assaulter is a petite female. He shoves her off of him and watches with confusion as she backs away murmuring soft apologies.
"I'm sorry." Her head is bent, but he can see the lackluster gleam to her hair and the clothing as it hangs too loosely off of her frame. "I wasn't watching where I was going." Her voice is nice, he thinks almost unconsciously. It reminds him of lilies floating in a pond, drifting but strong in their destination.
When she lifts her head to make a final apology, he is struck to the quick.
Eyes the color of deep lavender.
For a minute, Byakuya forgets the world.
She's embarrassed and flustered and all too aware that the handsome stranger is staring at her with poorly concealed disgust. She apologizes for running into him, for not seeing the objects in front of her, for everything that she can possibly apologize about. The words run headlong into each other, until she's all too aware that he probably can't hear her and that Gin is still waiting in his lair for Renji.
When they lock eyes, she gets none of the disgust or the fear she feels around the serpentine man whose hold seems eternally far-reaching. His eyes are a cold and unforgiving slate gray, opaque so as to nearly appear obsidian black. Merciless, she thinks. But there is something human about his irises, something that speaks to her.
And then Renji is behind her, panting and damn near yelling in her ear. He picks her up ungracefully and she feels only the wind on her flushed face as they pass the stranger by.
"What the hell were you thinking? You moron." He sounds harried and harassed and rushed.
She shakes off the lethargic feeling around her and promptly pinches his ear as revenge. "Shut up. I ran into the man. I apologized. And now Gin is going to kick your ass and I'm not going to get dinner for the third time this week. Can't you run any faster?" She's screaming, she knows, but it's to cover up her memories of that split-second encounter and to mask her fear of going back to the den.
"Ouch! You bitch, that actually hurts!"
"Quit whining, you girly boy!"
But the third voice stops them cold and strips her of all bravado.
"Heya, Rukia-chan. Renji. Ya guys are late."
Slits for eyes, a strangling feeling. She breathes and suffocates on the air.
-Don't…don't look at me. Please-
Author's Notes:This was originally supposed to be named as Stealing Love, but I changed my mind after several weeks of contemplation. As you can tell, this is Alternate Universe, and Rukia is not quite as scrappy as she should probably be. But keep in mind her reaction to Gin's presence during the first Arc of Bleach and I think you'll understand why. Consider this a prologue for all the things to come. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this first chapter as much I enjoyed writing it. Reviews always make me happy!