Title: Parallax Redux

Pairings: Urahara/Aizen

Rating: M-ish

Warning: Angst, angst, angst. Heavy on the boylove. Character death mentioned. Spoilers for recent Turn Back the Pendulum chapters, but also possibly disregards some of it.

Words: 7139

Description: OneShot. The other side of the coin. Taking another look at the events in Parallax. This is a "could have been."

Okay, so this is going to have some of the same elements as Parallax, but some of the tiny details have been changed. It's sort of an AU to my AU, if that makes any sense, though I'll be keeping some of the events.


Urahara Kisuke liked to think of his time spent in the second division as something that gave him ample learning experience. There was something to be said about the skills of a ninja, and he was glad that he had managed to absorb that knowledge without trying. It gave him this amazing ability to blend into the darkness and creep through halls without making a sound, a much needed skill at the present moment. He couldn't afford to be caught.


Sousuke couldn't afford for him to be caught. After tonight, when the morning came with all its supposed brightness and heralding of new beginnings, there wouldn't be a second chance. Despite popular belief, there were some things he wasn't capable of doing. Nor was he willing to take the risk and test it.

The guards weren't much of a threat. He supposed that the old bastard didn't think anyone, except perhaps that poor Hinamori child, would be crazy enough to free Sousuke. All of his subordinates were either dead or hiding in Hueco Mundo. There was no one to care for his fate. No one but Kisuke alone.

He padded quietly down the mostly darkened hallways, moonlight pouring in through the occasional window and casting squarish beams of illumination on the wood floor. He carefully skirted around those, as if by stepping in them his presence would be immediately noted. Like some sort of child's game.

His concealing cloak wrapped tightly around him, keeping his reiatsu away from those that would be able to sense it, even with his control. He could feel it pulsing at the confining cloth, wanting freedom to seek out the other threads of spirit beings around him. Kisuke carefully reined it in, promising a release as soon as his business was done.

He mused as he slipped from shadow to shadow. His exile had been revoked at the end of the war, and here, he was about to have it reinstated, provided they caught him. Here, he was again, risking everything. And for the sake of something as romantic as love. It was so utterly foolish that one might mistake him for Kurosaki-kun.

Kisuke really didn't mind being so foolish.

This was his decision and his decision alone. He had resolved to drag no one into his choice, not even Yoruichi. She would probably be angry with him, but he wouldn't get the opportunity to feel the force of her fury. He would likely never see her again. Her or anyone else that he cared for.

All that mattered at the moment was Sousuke. She would understand. Kurosaki-kun probably wouldn't, though he just might. But Tessai wouldn't and neither would Ururu or Jinta. But that didn't really matter because Kisuke knew he had to do this. He couldn't just stand by and watch Sousuke paraded to the deepest, darkest dungeon in Soul Society. He had enough guilt on his conscience for being idle as Sousuke's powers were stripped from him.

Logically, Kisuke knew that he should probably despise Aizen Sousuke, should hate the man for everything he had done. To Kisuke. To the world. To poor, insane Hinamori-chan and to all of Soul Society. But love was a strange emotion, a strange device. It seemed he couldn't stop how his own heart beat.

That was not to say he wasn't a tad bit perturbed with his former lover. He could admit to feeling a bit used in the worst possible way. Hell, Kisuke wasn't even certain if he was going to be rescuing a lover or simply a man who had pretended to be one to suit his own purposes. Such was his foolishness. Some genius he was, throwing everything away for the sake of a man who had used him and was probably still using him in some twisted, manipulative way.

Still, there was a part of Kisuke that wanted to believe the Sousuke he knew wasn't mere illusion. That he had seen what was really there. After all, he had realized all those years ago that his lover wasn't the perfectly poised pretty-boy everyone suspected him to be. He had known that there was something brewing beneath the surface, something that spoke of deep and dark ambition. But he had dismissed it because his own goals weren't quite so pure, though his excuse was always the same. For the sake of science. Always for the sake of science.

A step in the silence.

Kisuke froze and shifted backwards, melding with the shadows. There was a curve ahead of him, a hall that he couldn't quite peer into. He waited with bated breath, swearing that his heartbeat was echoing in the corridor. But a pair of guardsmen passed by, talking to each other under their breaths. One softly laughed.

They hadn't noticed his presence.

He waited for them to pass. And then, he waited a few moments more, until he felt it was safe to begin again. He was getting close to where they were keeping Sousuke. He couldn't make a mistake now.

Moments passed where he detected no other being, and Kisuke started forward, his steps the barest wisp over the floor. He had foregone his favorite geta for the sake of stealth. There was something to be said of a Shinigami's waraji. And though he hated the straw footwear, it was significantly quieter than his metal-lined geta.

At the next intersection, he turned left and pressed himself against the wall. Here, the corridor opened up into a large room with a cell to one side that housed Sousuke. And plenty of guards standing in front of it. As if a man with no reiatsu to speak of could actually pose a threat.

Kisuke counted ten as he swept his gaze around the room. He estimated a grand total of thirty seconds to dispatch the whole bunch and prayed that the element of surprise would prevent them from reacting logically. Shinigami were known to be rather foolish when taken by storm, standing with their thumbs up their asses until someone smarter gave them explicit instructions.

With quieter-than-a-whisper motions, he dropped his hand to the few Urahara Specials he had brought along. He waited the space of two breaths and then darted into the room. Two guards were taken out with quick blows to the abdomen, sharp fists that drove the air from their bodies and sent them crumpling to the ground in instant unconsciousness.

Kisuke didn't stop to make sure they were down for the count. He was already rushing towards the next guard, idly tossing out one of his carefully crafted sleeping darts with another hand. He never expected that target practice with shuriken would be much use outside of the second, but now, he was glad for them. Two hit home with a true aim, and neither Shinigami could utter a word before they were slumping to the ground.

His new opponent lifted a sword and made a clumsy, unprepared strike. Kisuke ducked under it, swept out a foot, and knocked him to the ground in one easy move. A quick but non-lethal blow to the head put that one out of commission.

Fifteen seconds. He was making good time.

The other guards were still in a stunned stupefaction, though a few wise ones were reaching for their weapons. None thought to call for help. Kisuke was glad for their stupidity as he darted in their midst, uncaring that he was one man against five.

A waraji-clad foot to the belly of one Shinigami was followed by the flick of his wrist, deploying another soporific-covered dart. His senses, though dimmed thanks to the cloak, screamed at him. Kisuke flipped backwards and avoided the heavy slash aimed for his back. Rude and dishonorable swine.

Benihime was drawn in an instant, the reiatsu concealer helping to soften the breadth of her reiatsu as well. But he couldn't keep her unsheathed for long, or he would lose control and alert everyone of his presence. Kisuke couldn't have that.

Twenty-two seconds. He could still fit his estimation.

He parried the next strike and slipped in under the Shinigami's guard. Benihime's hilt crashed into his belly, sending him flying backwards and into the wall. His head struck with a dull crack, and he sunk to the floor, sword skittering out of reach. Pathetic. Kisuke would be ashamed of himself if these guards had been designated for him. It only proved how little Soul Society now expected of Aizen Sousuke.

Kisuke whirled, Benihime singing in his grasp and swung the flat of his blade at the guard poised to his side. It struck the side of his head and sent him sprawling across the floor. The blow reverberated up his arm, but the lack of blood ensured that the guard would at least live. Kisuke hadn't wanted unnecessary slaughter. He had only come to claim what was his.

The last useless guard seemed the most intelligent of the lot. Even as Kisuke whirled, he caught sight of the Hell Butterfly leaving the man's fingertips. In a flash, he was darting across the room, zanpakutou cleaving the messenger neatly in two. He couldn't afford to be discovered. He mourned the loss of his unintended victim but didn't linger on the thought, already whirling on the guard with half-a-brain.

This man put up a better fight than their others, and their blades kissed with several ringing scrapes of metal on metal. Kisuke winced at the sound but pressed forward nonetheless. He had decades on the young man, after all. He couldn't be defeated.

Sure enough, there was a stumble on the outstretched legs of one of his comrades no less, and the man faltered to regain his balance. Kisuke took it to his advantage, slamming Benihime's hilt into his forehead. Dark eyes rolled into the Shinigami's forehead as he lost consciousness, falling first to his knees and then slumping to the ground.

Thirty-three seconds. Damn.

With a barely audible curse, Kisuke hastily returned Benihime to her sheath and knelt to examine the semi-intelligent guard's pockets. As he expected, the keys to Sousuke's cell and shackles were within. With a quiet jangle, he emerged victorious and crept to the door. It unlocked with a quiet snick, and Kisuke stepped into the cell.

Sousuke was kneeling on the floor in a perfect seiza, gaze locked on the wall where there should have been a barred window were this any other prison. But they were far underground here, and there was no moon or even a glimpse of one to serve as comfort. There was only an impenetrable black.

He hadn't turned at the sound of disturbance behind him.

He saw Sousuke, unguarded for the first time in decades, and it nearly took his breath away. He looked so much less like the ruler of Hueco Mundo and more like the lover Kisuke had known a century or so ago. And he felt guilty because in that moment he was glad Sousuke had been stripped of his powers. It made him more human, more touchable. And far, far from the god he had wished to become. It made him Kisuke's again, and for that, he was such a selfish being.

He resolved to never tell Sousuke he had had such thoughts. The other man would likely never forgive him.

Kisuke slipped quietly to Sousuke's back and unlocked the cuffs before sliding around to the front. He knew that in the darkness Sousuke couldn't see his face, and he tugged the hood back enough to grant him a glimpse. So long as he wore the hood, it didn't matter how much he revealed. He still had the concealment of his reiatsu.

Brown eyes blinked slowly and shifted to him before widening in surprise. "Kisuke?" Sousuke exclaimed softly, and his voice was both hoarse and weak. "What are you doing here?"

He met the gaze evenly, glad for the tousled hair without a drop of gel in it. "I let them take your Shinigami abilities," he explained in a quiet whisper. "But I won't let them take your life."

Sousuke wetted dry lips with a nearly parched tongue, and Kisuke was ashamedly drawn by the action. "I admit that I am surprised you do not want to take my life for yourself," he responded, and there was no hint of apology in his words.

"Soul Society's refusal to see the truth only proves their idiocy," he said in answer because he really couldn't find reason to place the fault entirely with the man in front of him.

It didn't mean that he forgave his former lover, however. It just meant that he understood to a certain extent. His intelligence had long ago pieced together all the little nuances that had contrived Sousuke's plot more than a decade ago.

A Soul Society not looking for an excuse would have seen the circumstances, would have investigated just a bit more. They wouldn't have been so hasty to jump to conclusions. If they hadn't been so bent on rules and regulations and orders, they might have actually seen the truth behind the carefully crafted lies. Or perhaps that was Kisuke expecting too much of his fellow Shinigami and superiors.

So, no, he couldn't really blame Aizen Sousuke entirely. Was it Sousuke's fault that he could easily capitalize on their corruption? Or was that evidence enough for the reason behind his betrayal?

Kisuke wasn't sure. But he did know that Soul Society and Chamber 46 were as much to blame for his exile as Sousuke. And that realization was enough to bleed away the hate, which never really stood a chance anyway, and turn it into a tired sort of resignation.

Or perhaps he was just looking for a reason to trust the man he loved again. The heart was such a fickle and yet blindly devoted, foolish little organ.

Sousuke blinked at him with none of his usual grace and calculated understanding. "This is treason, Kisuke," he murmured, voice a brush of softness against the dangerous quiet of his cell. "They'll execute you for this." The hint of concern and perhaps even fear for his life just cemented Kisuke's resolve.

"Not if they can't find me," he responded cheekily, a shadow of his cocky grin sliding onto his lips. One hand dove into his pocket, wrapping around a loosely wrapped bundle. "Here, put these on."

Fabric fell aside to reveal glasses, near replicas of the same sort Aizen Sousuke, Shinigami captain of the fifth division used to wear. Kisuke had utterly refused to bring along the contacts Aizen Sousuke, lord and master of Hueco Mundo, had relied upon.

Sousuke took them without another word, sliding the wide frames onto his face where they belonged. They glinted faintly in the flickering torchlight.

"My, don't you look handsome," Kisuke commented. And for a moment there, he caught a flash of their old ways, their old teasing and banter.

It filled him with nostalgia, and he followed up that moment by cupping Sousuke's face with his suddenly cold fingers and bringing their lips together. Rather than pull away, he felt Sousuke grab his arms, preventing him from moving. The kiss was both familiar and foreign to him. After all, there was a good century between them now.

Even so, it was all Kisuke could have asked for. He had missed this man, not even the knowledge of what had separated them making it easy to forget.

It ended all too quickly for his liking but with rationality considering their location.

Kisuke threaded his fingers through loose brown hair, a devilish grin more like his own on his face. "Now come on, we can't get caught here."

He rose to his feet, watching as Sousuke followed the motion. His was less steady, however, legs a little wobbly beneath him. But Sousuke attempted to stand straight and proud, eyes never leaving Kisuke's.

"Don't I get a cloak, too?"

"Wouldn't that be too suspicious?" the shopkeeper – or former rather – teased, but he still pulled the dark fabric out of seemingly nowhere. "Sorry, it's just a regular cloak, however," he continued and pulled it around Sousuke's shoulders.

Something flashed in brown eyes, a hint of anger and sorrow mixed together, but he kept it to himself and merely inclined his head. "Where do you think you're going to hide, Kisuke?"

He paused in the midst of tying the knot. "Far away," he answered quietly, forcing movement back into his fingers. "And I'm doing this on my own, so don't worry. Yoruichi doesn't know. Ichigo doesn't know. No one does."

It appeared to be an acceptable answer. Sousuke nodded and attempted to take a step, but his weak legs buckled beneath him. He stumbled in an undignified fashion. Kisuke hurried to catch him.

"You're still weak from the severing," he commented in what he hoped wasn't a clinical manner, sliding an arm around his former lover's waist to help steady him. "But I couldn't wait for you to recover. Not even I can sneak into those dungeons."

Sousuke didn't thank him, and Kisuke didn't expect him to. He was doing this of his own choice, after all. And besides, when had something like that been necessary between them? Oh, perhaps he would want an apology in the future, but Kisuke wasn't holding his breath for one. He doubted Sousuke regretted anything he had done, except perhaps for the loss his actions had resulted in.

Gin. Ulquiorra. His castle in Hueco Mundo. Everything that had mattered was now gone to him. Perhaps those were his regrets. But not his actions and most likely not his betrayals. Kisuke had faced that understanding before planning this insane attempt to free Sousuke. It hadn't swayed him away in the slightest.

A few hesitant steps forward, and they worked out moving together. Kisuke ignored the fallen forms of the guards he had defeated and slowly led Sousuke out of his cell. It was slow going, but gradually, it became easier for Sousuke to walk on his own. And then, they were moving quickly, fleeing the scene of the crime. Sousuke followed him without second thought or question, his body wrapped in shadows as much as Kisuke's was.

They escaped without encountering a single enemy, skillfully blending into the harsh inkiness of the dark night.

Several years passed, in which they spent flitting from location to location, never once settling for fear of being found. The threat of pursuit was a constant, looking presence in the back of their minds. The two of them let a decade pass before they felt it was safe enough to make somewhere their home. And that was only when they no longer had the urge to spend every waking moment looking over their shoulders.

They chose Rukongai. The twentieth district to be more precise. Far enough from Seireitei that they wouldn't be easily discovered and just before the districts became too unsavory and dangerous. It wasn't that they couldn't protect themselves, more that they didn't want to be party to a disturbance that would attract the attention of the Shinigami.

Experience taught them that certain changes were to be made. They altered their appearance. Kisuke grew out his hair; Sousuke styled his differently. Gone were the clunky, squarish glasses to be replaced with something thinner and round, something to bring out the brown of his eyes. Kisuke's favorite hat disappeared, banished to the depths of their closet, and he shaved off his much-beloved whiskers. The sacrifices he made. Names were changed, except for in the privacy of their bedroom, where they were only whispered to one another.

They set up shop in a quiet section of the district, Sousuke manning the small cafe while Kisuke organized the bookstore. It was a peaceful life, and they grew to know their neighbors, pleasant enough to be thought of as normal but not close enough to trust. The two men played their parts perfectly, blending in without seeming too flawless.

Pure luck or perhaps it was fate thrust them into the path of one lost little girl, her bright green eyes an uncomfortably familiar shade. Yet, the feel of burgeoning reiatsu was not to be pushed aside either. It was obvious there was no one to care for the child, and from the moment he laid eyes on her, Kisuke felt a longing for Jinta and Ururu and Kurosaki-kun again. All just kids to him, ones that he had helped raise in one way or another.

Yet, it had been Sousuke to make the first move, perhaps inspired by the shade of her eyes, his own memories cropping up. She stopped crying when Sousuke took her hand, and from then, it was just natural that they adopt her. That they give her a name when no one else had bothered to do so before. Souheki, they called her. And she was their jewel, their precious thing.

In that manner, the three of them lived, always just the three of them.

Decades past where they weren't disturbed, where they didn't see a single Shinigami. Gradually, the two men began to relax, though not entirely. They spoke of permanence ever so carefully and began to rebuild their lives. Or to be more precise, Kisuke tried, while Sousuke was content to follow his lead.

The past with all its grandeur and failure continued to hang like a stale odor between them. And while Kisuke somehow managed to be his cheerful, arguably optimistic self, Sousuke drew further and further inside.

Some days, Kisuke found him like this. More often than not. Sitting in a comfortable chair, the back covered by a knit blanket that kind Tanaka-san next door had given them, and staring out the window with all its many passing residents. Dark eyes saw something only Sousuke could see, and Kisuke always did his best to ignore the stabs of loneliness that shot through him when he caught that look.

He was only thinking; Kisuke knew that much. But it couldn't have been just thought. It was also regret. It was pain and sadness. It was his lover wondering how he could have failed so spectacularly. It was Sousuke missing the power he used to wield.

He hated seeing Sousuke like that because it made him feel powerless as well. There was nothing he could do for that sort of agony, his Sousuke too intelligent for something like a display of affection to banish the pain. And Kisuke couldn't bring back Sousuke's power, not like he had for Kurosaki-kun. Sousuke had already been a Vizard, had already pushed past that limit. There was nothing Kisuke with all his scientific genius could do for him, and that hurt even more.

It was the type of thing that made him wonder how different things might have been if he hadn't been so blind. If he had noticed all the signs Sousuke had sent his direction of the plans he had concocted. If he should have left earlier and taken Sousuke with him. But then, he knew that Sousuke wouldn't have gone either way. He had his ambitions as much as Kisuke did.

In the outer room, Kisuke could hear Souheki playing quietly. Her soft voice hummed as she scratched in her coloring book with crayons. She would be occupied for the time being.

He stepped into the room, moving from his vantage point of the doorway, and stepped silently behind Sousuke. His arms wrapped around his lover from behind, ignoring the stiffness of the wood chair that was between them and the soft comfort of the yarn.

"Come back," was all Kisuke said because he knew that Sousuke would know what he meant.

It was painful. A battle that he couldn't draw his sword to win. And while he wasn't like Kurosaki-kun, who barged in with zanpakutou blazing and forcing a victory where it seemed impossible, Kisuke desperately wanted that simplicity. This was a war his words wouldn't win, where his intelligence had failed him again and again. And that was painful. Even now, Soul Society was having its revenge.

"It's not like I can go anywhere," came the response, not but a second later as Sousuke leaned back into the embrace, proving that he wasn't cold or distant. Just sometimes not there.

Kisuke hummed in his throat and dipped his head to the side, pressing a kiss to the warm throat in front of him. "Do you miss it that much?"

Silence greeted the question. Sousuke never replied, no matter how much he asked. He supposed it was because Sousuke assumed the truth would hurt him, the knowledge that his emotions simply weren't enough. Not that his silence spared anything. Kisuke already knew the answer.

He grabbed Sousuke's hand, stroking fingers over his palm. He asked what he knew would be painful, at least the answer for himself.

"Would you have rathered I left you there?"

Brown eyes flickered to him, and they were partially dead with only a flicker of the original Sousuke within them. "That would have been the ultimate defeat. I could not have abided by that."

There was no mention of what he would have left behind. He said nothing of those that cared for him. Kisuke didn't really expect that of his lover. He wondered if it was too selfish of him to have wished for it, however.

Kisuke didn't dare ask any more questions.

With a final press of his lips to the pulse of Sousuke's wrist, he drew back. "I'll bring some tea," he assured his lover, the strange need to escape from the looming emotions building up inside of him.

"I don't wish to be poisoned," Sousuke returned with a hint of his old humor. He rose from his sitting position and padded past Kisuke, heading towards the small kitchen that came with the equally small house. "I'll begin dinner as well."

"Thank you." His gratitude was given to his lover's back and partially acknowledged.

Kisuke felt a pang at the sight, something that clenched and tugged painfully. But it was better than losing Sousuke forever, better than the alternative. Sousuke only needed more time, a few decades or more. And then, everything would slowly ease.

Later that night, after dinner was wrapped and put away, the dishes were drying and Souheki was deep into sleep, Kisuke lay down with his lover. He curled up to Sousuke's warmth and like so many evenings before kissed him goodnight. Only this time, Sousuke responded and captured his lips with something gentle and warm, tasting faintly of the sake they had with their meal.

It slid into bare skin and the taste of sweat from there, breaths coming in sharp pants and the scent of sex on the air. Sousuke loomed over him, every bit the lord he had once been with bangs drifting into his eyes, and Kisuke fell under his touch. He closed his eyes and bathed in sensation, lapped up every moist kiss pressed to his throat and every press of no-longer-calloused fingers across his skin.

He tangled his fingers in choppy, longer than usual brown hair and gasped into the darkness, eyes catching faint streams of moonlight from the high window. And then, he shuttered his lips and simply enjoyed Sousuke's touch. It was so familiar and yet one-hundred years foreign.

It was fingers getting reacquainted with his skin and the taste of Sousuke on his lips. It was the slight burn of being stretched and the slick slide of an unscented oil. It was the feel of Sousuke pressing into him, and the welcome, familiar warmth of Sousuke moving inside of him. It was sweet ecstasy dancing across his skin and through his body.

Kisuke gave as good as he got, his mouth finding the bare skin in front of him and laving it with marks. Blotches of red that would stay for days. Teeth impressions that would fade with the morning, but their pain still lingering. He shifted his hips to meet each deep thrust and bit down on overly-loud groans so that they wouldn't wake Souheki.

Their mouths met again, and tongues battled for dominance, wet and hungry kisses that were more sloppy than full of finesse. Fingers pressed into his skin, holding him down then pulling him back. It was nothing but pleasure and everything he wanted.

Afterwards, Kisuke curled up next to his lover, listening to his deep and even breathing, and imagined that things were indeed getting better. Their bodies cooled, sweat clinging to them, and the heavy musk of sex lingered in the air. He contemplated getting up, finding something to clean them with before collapsing back into bed. But the welcome ache in his muscles and the comfort of his position left him grounded to the futon.

He wanted nothing more than to lie next to Sousuke, no matter what mess would await him in the morning. He could handle a little discomfort just to bask in this moment a bit longer. It was quiet outside. And peaceful. The sun would rise in another six hours, and then, not long after that, they would both be awake to prepare the cafe for opening. It was such a normal, happy life. And Kisuke wanted to hold onto it forever.

He should have known better than to believe in such optimism.

As the old saying went, "All good things must come to an end." It was true that Soul Society had been quiet for too long. Kisuke should have known better than to dare and hope that they had forgotten, that the others had decided to leave them alone since they hadn't been plotting anything dangerous. But he had been foolish.

Kurosaki-kun's visit had been a pleasant surprise. And one look into those eyes and Kisuke had known he could trust his former student. Ichigo would never say a word about his discovery; he would let them live in peace.

Unfortunately, the next Shinigami who stumbled upon their shop was not so understanding or loyal. Kisuke didn't know who it was, probably some nameless nobody. He had never even seen the man who eventually spelled their doom. That nobody hadn't even been there long, but it was enough to identify Seireitei's two most wanted criminals and report back to his captain. By pure bad luck, it had been Kuchiki Byakuya, known for being the least likely to break or bend the rules.

Kisuke felt them coming only when they were twenty steps from his doorstep, they had been hiding their reiatsu so well. The nameless Shinigami had brought reinforcements, captain-class reinforcements. One or two perhaps, they might have stood a chance against. But Seireitei wasn't going to let them slip through their fingers. Chamber 46 had sent four. Four. It was utterly ridiculous.

He lost all sense of politeness, dropping his tray to the ground and darting to the back, where patient Sousuke was teaching Souheki some of the easier kanji. Bursting into the room, he must have looked the part of a madman, fear written into his face. He swallowed thickly over rising nausea, and somehow without him saying a word, Sousuke understood.

He rose to his feet, gathered Souheki into his arms, and then thrust her Kisuke's direction. He took their daughter with confusion, tucking the poor, bewildered girl close to him.


His lover shook his head, already moving to the door where he peered through the crack. Even Kisuke could see the flashes of white and black, the flutter of a captain's haori. He didn't see a shock of orange hair, and for that, he was grateful. But the number six was far too bright and obvious.

He watched as Sousuke's fingers curled around the edge of the door, so tight that his knuckles were bloodless. "Go," Sousuke ordered, voice sharp with a whole bevy of emotions that Kisuke didn't have time to identify. "Take Souheki and run."

One hand dropped to finger the sword hanging at his side. It was just a normal blade that Kisuke had carefully crafted for his lover's use. It had a well-honed edge and was strong enough to withstand nearly any strike. But it wasn't a zanpakutou. And Sousuke had no reiatsu.

He heard the order, but he didn't want to obey it. Leave Sousuke behind? To the proverbial wolves?

Hardly! He was the only one who could effectively fend them off!

"I'm not--"

"You are," Sousuke interrupted.

Kisuke had to look again to be sure that his Sousuke was standing before him and not another man.

That tone was so unfamiliar and yet still memorable. This was Aizen Sousuke of the fifth division; this was Aizen Sousuke of Hueco Mundo, lord and master. It wasn't a suggestion or a request. It was a command.

Fingers were pointing their direction, to the door they hid behind. The searching Shinigami turned their gazes and found the target. Time slipped through their fingers.

Sousuke turned to look at him, and there was more than command in his eyes. There was an honest plea that he do as he was told because he wasn't going to live through it again. Whatever it was.

"Take Souheki and run," he repeated, one hand already drawing his sword. "I'll hold them off here."

He didn't say, "I'll join you later."

Kisuke wasn't even sure if it was supposed to be implied. He thought of handing Benihime over, letting part of his soul defend the man he loved. But he also knew he would need her to protect Souheki. And Sousuke probably wouldn't have accepted her either. Between the pair of them, Souheki always did come first.

"Aizen Sousuke. Urahara Kisuke," their names rumbled through the door, one of the captain's calling for them. "You are under arrest. Come quietly… or we will be required to use force." The sound of zanpakutou sliding from sheaths accompanied the request, making it sound more like a demand.

They really, really wanted to use force.

Kisuke swallowed thickly and wished he had something brilliant to say. Some sort of perfect, romantic words. A smile flitted onto his lips, but it was full of neither cheer nor humor. It couldn't even manage a smidgen of reassurance.

"We'll be waiting," was all he managed to say.

Their eyes met, whole novels of conversation passing between them. And then, Kisuke was gone, flitting out the back door and hearing it slam behind him. The Shinigami shouldn't have known it was there, but two were waiting anyway. Just vice-captains, serving as look outs. One was a face he recognized, but he pretended he didn't. Benihime was in his grasp in an instant.

He attacked before they could, using their surprise to his advantage. He apologized internally for Souheki's small whimper of fear, they way her fingers clutched onto his shirt. One went down in a messy spray of blood, not that it was a fatal wound. The other was driven backwards, and Kisuke sprang forward in that instant.

There was a shout. The uninjured one was going to follow, and he heard the clash of swords. He chanced a glance over his shoulder. Sousuke had engaged the other vice-captain and smoke billowed out from the door he had just exited. A fire to confuse their enemies, how utterly brilliant of him.

And then, Kisuke returned his attention to the path in front of him, ducking around the crowded walkways and slowly but surely heading away. Where, he wasn't sure, and it didn't matter so long as it put distance between he and his pursuers.

He ignored the looks other residents were giving him or the strain of his muscles. He had only one thought on his mind. To escape. To make sure that Souheki was safe. And in a corner of his heart, he worried for Sousuke.

Kisuke swore he still could hear the sound of clashing zanpakutou, even though he was a fair distance away. If anyone tried to give chase, they were unable to given Sousuke's distraction. Only a few followed after him, and they were easily evaded. Especially for a former ninja. Clutching Souheki closely in his arms, he put an extra sprint into his step.

He had to get free, for her sake, if none other. Who knew what Soul Society would do to her, even if she was an innocent child? They would claim she was tainted, he was certain. That perhaps he and Sousuke had been planting ideas for world domination into her head. Kisuke didn't even want to contemplate what they would do to his daughter.

Suddenly, a gasp tore itself from Kisuke's lips as a rending pain ripped through his body. His legs buckled beneath him and dropped to one knee, grabbing his chest with his free hand.

It hurt. By Kami, it hurt. Pure agony, searing and deep.


Tears sprang unbidden to his eyes before he could stop them, nearly obscuring his vision before he even entirely realized what was happening. "No..." The denial felt torn from his throat.

Souheki's fingers tightened in his, worry filling her voice. "Papa?"

"That bastard," Kisuke cursed under his breath, grinding his teeth as a mixture of furious anger and consuming sorrow filled his entire being. "That fucking bastard."

He knew what the raw rending inside of him was. The sudden emptiness that made tears fall without even knowing that he wept. Even if he wanted to do so, he couldn't stop them. The pain was simply too great.

Sousuke was gone, and knowing his lover, it would have been by his own hand before letting any of the Shinigami take his life.

A small hand settled on his face, touching the wetness gathered on his cheeks. "Papa, what's wrong?" Bright green eyes regarded him with concern.

He couldn't answer her. All Kisuke could do was pull his – their – daughter into his arms and try to control the sudden emotions coursing through him. The backlash of the forced breaking of their bond was a pain both physical and emotional, making his bones ache as if they had been pummeled with stones. Benihime's mournful cry rocked through his entire body, making it a bigger struggle to pull himself together.

Kisuke knew that Soul Society wouldn't be satisfied with just Sousuke's death. Not when Kisuke had made fools of them all by escaping with him, stealing Aizen Sousuke right from under their noses. They would be sure to hunt him down, and if death wasn't in his future, a much worse fate was for certain. And Kisuke wasn't going to give them that opportunity.

Forcing strength into legs he didn't have, Kisuke rose to his feet, gathered Souheki in his arms and silently whispered an apology. The quick flits of shunpo would likely make her nauseous, but he had no choice. He had to get away. He didn't dare fight with her so close. No matter how much he wanted to draw Benihime and bathe her in Shinigami blood.

He heard the shouts of pursuit and forced himself to ignore them. He concentrated only on protecting Souheki and making their escape. He avoided the pain in his limbs, the fatigue tearing at his muscles. They had been idle for far too long.

They were happy. They had been harming no one, plotting no evil deed. What right did Soul Society have to destroy that? Why couldn't' they have left well enough alone?

Clutching his daughter – their – daughter to his chest, Kisuke fled into the night, fighting down the tears that threatened to obscure his vision and affect his ability to think. He felt utterly empty, as though a part of him had been ripped from his soul and set aflame.

He fled to the outer reaches of Rukongai, to the bare places where there was little civilization, if being on the rim of the eightieth district even counted as civilization. There, he hid among the ruffians, among the dregs of the afterlife. It was hell, and it was dangerous. And everyday, he had to be on alert for his life and for Souheki's.

She constantly asked about her father. Kisuke couldn't even answer her, the pain too fresh, too raw for him.

He cursed Seireitei with his entire being, for forcing him to this position. The Shinigami never ventured this far into Rukongai, refusing to tread near the most dangerous district. They left them to their own devices, so he was safe only from their searches. It didn't make him feel a whit better.

This was their justice, their way. It didn't matter that he and Sousuke had done nothing after their escape. They were still branded by prior actions. And now, Sousuke was gone, and Kisuke was left with Souheki to care for by himself with the hollow feeling in his chest.

Tucked into the embrace of one of scraggly trees of the district, senses on alert for anything dangerous heading their way, Kisuke found the bitterness all consuming. Souheki was asleep in his lap, though it was a fitful rest. His little girl was plagued by nightmares, and there was nothing he could do to reassure her. He imagined she saw her father's death, though she only could have felt it. Or that she saw their own deaths at the hands of the many dangerous beasts that lurked in Zaraki.

Exhausted and hungry, filled with sorrow, Kisuke felt his resolve beginning to harden. The determination slowly seeped in and ideas filtered through, where he had once never considered them. It wasn't as if he had any further to fall. Sousuke would be rather proud of him, he thought.

Masks and Vizard and traitors from within. It wouldn't be that difficult to find help.

Kisuke felt a smile flit onto his lips. They would learn, and he would show them. They would pay for taking Sousuke from him, for seeking a justice they no longer needed. Benihime sung in agreement at his side, craving the blood his revenge would bring. And he couldn't help the small, dark chuckle that slipped past his lips. It was dry and cracked, bleeding on the edges and full of every ounce of bitterness.

As night fell on Rukongai, Kisuke thought about his beautiful daughter, an orange-haired boy, and a man who had been right all along. And he began to plot.

a/n: Ah, it tugs at the heartstrings, doesn't it? I hope you liked!

Also, this here is a oneshot. Thanks! I look forward to your comments!