CULTURAL NOTE: Tennin are the Japanese equivalent to angels or faeries. They're beautiful creatures usually wearing colored robes and ornate jewelry. A lot of times, their kimonos are made of feathers due to the fact that they can fly. It was believed that the tennin lived on top of mountains, which prompted pilgrimages to find them at the summit.
Fall of an angel...
You can see the fall...
When you're feeling high
When you kiss the earth
Angel of your mind I'm
Flowing through you
As oceans collide
From the moon grows the sun
I'm wasting my breath
With no name and no one
Silence of the sound
And the color of the night
And the sound from the thought
And the thought from light
-Rain One, Cirque du Soleil
When he first saw her crouched in the middle of the bridge during a downpour, he'd thought she was a tennin who had somehow found her way off of the mountaintops and into Karakura town. She'd appeared almost luminescent against the shadows surrounding her, a pale figure clothed in white and bathed in the glow of a streetlamp just over her head. The rain loved her, though to judge by the shivers running down her spine she didn't love it in return.
She was soaked through with it, the moisture molding her white robe to her back and shoulders, emphasizing the fragile state she was in. Droplets clung to her dark hair, reminding him a little of black lacquer or very fine silk. Urahara Kisuke tilted his head to the side and frowned as he looked the figure over again. Hmm... perhaps she wasn't a tennin after all. Unless she'd somehow lost her feathered kimono, preventing her from returning to her mountain home.
No, he didn't really think she was one of those mythical women. He just appreciated the poetry of the moment, so to speak. It didn't take a genius to figure out she was a Soul Reaper, just knowledge of the world of spirits. He frowned as she remained unmoving, hunched forward and hugging her knees with her eyes tightly closed. He wasn't sure if the water running down her cheeks were raindrops or tears. He took another step closer, moving slowly so as not to startle her. She remained just as still as before, as if frozen to that one spot of light.
Tentatively, he released a bit of reiatsu into the air, very gently poking at her own energy to determine what sort of condition she was in. His frown deepened when he felt the erratic, uneven pulses coming from her steadily. It reminded him a little of how a butterfly would flap and flitter from one side of the container to the other as it searched for a way out of the glass prison. Soon enough, those desperate flutters would slow and still, the jar on the lid preventing fresh air to get to it. Unless the lid was removed, it would eventually suffocate and die, leaving behind a pretty corpse.
She still hadn't sensed his presence, which told him that her wavering reiatsu was beginning to slip into the final stages. The tennin that he'd mistaken her for couldn't survive off their mountaintops for very longer. Neither could a Soul Reaper without a gigai. Kisuke slipped one hand inside his shirt and removed the small pouch that he carried with him at all times. If he were to open it, one would see a tiny bead inside, no larger than a marble and easily more beautiful than any pearl could hope to be.
This tiny, seemingly insignificant thing was the reason why he found himself walking the night shroud streets during a downpour. The Hogyoku was being searched for with renewed vigor, and it wouldn't be long before the hunters figured out where exactly he was hiding it. Ideally, it needed to be destroyed... but even he couldn't figure out how to do it. Pathetic, really, that he'd made the thing and still didn't know how to break it. The only way he knew to keep it from being discovered was to hide it. Eventually, the container he'd chosen for hiding it in would make it deteriorate and then... it wouldn't exist. The only problem was finding a soul to activate the gigai he'd created for its hiding place.
And now, as luck would have it, here was his opportunity. A Soul Reaper nearing a death so permanent that there would be no coming back. Kisuke continued walking to the hunched figure, his geta clacking more loudly in an attempt to gain her attention. Still nothing. Whatever had happened to strip her of her abilities had certainly rattled her good. She didn't glance up until he was standing over her, courteously holding his umbrella over her head rather than his own.
Pale eyes, a shade that bordered between blue-grey and violet, flashed open and stared in surprise up at him. Kisuke donned his most innocent smile and said, "Hello. It looks like you could use a little help."
Thin brows drew down over those moonlit eyes, which hardened suspiciously as she looked him over. She wasn't stupid, this one. She wouldn't simply accept his aid without questioning it. In a way, it made the task of convincing her more challenging... but in another, he was rather pleased at her caution. It meant she wasn't the type to take needless risks, which also meant that the Hogyoku wouldn't be in danger. Perhaps she was a tennin after all, coming down to make his dearest wish come true.
"Who... who are you?" she demanded, one hand curling into a fist as a defiant spark lit her eyes. So... there was still some fire left in her, eh? How absolutely wonderful! He'd been concerned that perhaps whatever had happened to put her in this condition had stripped her entirely of the will to continue on. This was one of those occasions where he was very happy to be wrong.
"A friend," Kisuke answered, crouching down so that they were on the same level. He'd ready somewhere that when confronting a frightened child, it was best to lower ones self to their plane of view. He kept his voice quiet, friendly without being suspiciously so, and his smile casual. "As it so happens... I have a gigai you can use. If you're interested, that is?"
Before she could even think to hide it, a flare of hope crossed her delicate features before the suspicion returned more certainly than before. He'd caught her interest, that was obvious, but he'd unfortunately made her more wary as well. If only he had more time... "Your name," she insisted, leaning away from him slightly in preparation for a fight or flight scenario.
Kisuke removed his hat, hoping that perhaps if she saw his face she wouldn't be so skittish. Settling onto his knees, he bowed at the waist while carefully avoiding eye contact. "Urahara Kisuke," he replied. "I'm a business man... of sorts."
"My merchandise isn't exactly human friendly. I cater mostly to those from the Soul Society." He took note of the sharp intake of her breath at the mention of that place and ventured a glance at her face through the unruly hair that never seemed to stay out of his eyes. She was staring at him again, her eyes as round as the moon above and filled with wonder.
"The... The Soul Society? How do you know that place?" she asked, her voice shaking as the threads of hope began to weave themselves through her once more.
Kisuke sat upright, his head tilting to the side inquiringly. "The same way you would, I imagine. By having been there."
"Who exactly are you? And be honest!"
"Ah... I'll be more than happy to answer your questions, miss. But wouldn't it be more comfortably done out of the rain and with some tea?" From the eager flicker that traced over her face, the idea of tea and a dry place was very appealing. He replaced his hat where it belonged and held his hand out to her. "Please... I'm not here to hurt you."
She still refused his offer, instead opting to stare at his hand as if it were a snake ready to strike. "How do I know you won't?" she asked slowly, leveling that hard, unyielding gaze on him.
"If I'd wanted you dead, all I'd have to do is wait around for your reiatsu to fade out completely," Kisuke replied patiently, purposely allowing a trace of coldness to enter his words. She stiffened visibly before her jaw set stubbornly. She was making it very clear that she wouldn't go down without a fight. Kisuke chuckled while flashing her the smile that usually got him forgiven by Yoruichi whenever he did something to anger her. "Fortunately for you, I have no intention of doing such a thing. The offer still stands, miss. Whether you accept the kindness of a stranger or not is entirely up to you. If you choose not to... I'll simply leave you here. So, what is it? Hot tea, a warm bed and a loaned gigai, or dying out in the rain, alone and cold?"
She hesitated briefly before slowly reaching out and placing her hand in his. It was almost shocking to his skin to feel how very cold she was. Her hand was incredibly small in his own, her fingers elegant but calloused from using the zanpaku-to regularly. She wasn't just a pretty porcelain package, this one. Anyone who underestimated her would regret it horribly, he could tell.
Kisuke adjusted his grip so that he held her wrist and she followed his example and turned her palm in against his own wrist. He stood first and, keeping their eyes locked, he hauled her to her feet. It wasn't a difficult task by any means. She was incredibly small, not reaching any higher than his shoulders. He was quick about catching her when she stumbled and fell forward, dropping the umbrella in order to keep her from falling completely.
"Damn it," she muttered irritably, her fingers curling into his coat tightly while her legs shook under her.
"It's that bad, is it?" he asked, speaking more into her hair and neck than to her. The scent of rain combined with the too familiar, but long forgotten, smell of a fellow Soul Reaper hit his senses and triggered a pang of nostalgia for a home he would never see again. He closed his eyes for a moment, regaining control of his memories quickly. Even after all these years, it still somehow managed to make his heart freeze.
"This... I've never felt like this before," she whispered, a bit of fear creeping through her voice.
Kisuke shushed her and, without asking her permission, lifted her into his arms. She made a protesting sound and squirmed a little, but he didn't put her down. Reaching down, which was truly awkward when carrying someone in both arms, he managed to pick the umbrella up and pass it over to her shaking hands. "If you would be so kind as to carry that? Not that an umbrella will do either of us any good since we're both soaked through."
A tiny smile touched her lips, there and gone so quick he thought perhaps he might have imagined it. Except, the amusement still lingering in her eyes told him it had been quite real. Kisuke smiled back as she obligingly held the umbrella over their heads. Being mindful of the woman in his arms as he began walking back to his shop, he said, "I haven't asked your name yet, have I?"
She shook her head against his shoulder, her body slowly beginning to relax against him. "No, you didn't."
"Ah. How rude of me. May I ask it now?"
"Rukia. Kuchiki Rukia."
Kisuke had to quickly readjust his arms to keep from dropping her. Kuchiki... As in, one of the four noble houses in the Seireitei. How had one from that prestigious line come to find herself near death and practically on his doorstep? Well... it certainly explained her determination and strength of will. He would ask Yoruichi later to look into the matter a little further... but only after he'd finished hiding the Hogyoku.
Because, even though he knew there was a very good chance that the head of the Kuchiki family would claim his head personally, he couldn't have asked for a better hiding place than one of their kind. There would be no change to the plan because of noble blood ties.
Author's Note: Well… that's chapter one! This is a gift fic for my dear friend Qualapec the She Wolf, but I do hope everyone else enjoys this as well. Expect updates every two weeks for this one, and thank you for reading. I'm also alerting readers for my Snapshot Series that I'm playing with a very different mindset on Urahara in this one. Don't worry, he's still a jolly perv... but I'm bringing out that serious, slightly darker side a little more for this one. And never fear, Yoruichi is STILL his main lady as far as I'm concerned. This pairing was just too much of a good crack fix to pass up.