Dislaimer: I do not own Bleach

Note: This was not what I was originally going to write next. I was originally going to write something happy, in another fandom. But then life turned depressing, and my writing turned depressing with it. There's a severe angst warning in effect here. Severe. That being said, there's always the possibility of me bringing this out of the dark and into the light...

The Heart is Treacherous in Many Ways


Wagon wheels screeched a metallic sing-song as they slid across the pavement, with Jinta complaining every step of the way. "Ururu, you're getting too heavy." Or, "Damn, these wheels need oiling." Or, "Why does the manager need all these new shelves anyway?" And on and on he warbled. Finally Tessai, who was flanking the boy, said, "Stop whining, Jinta. We need more storage. Half the merchandise is sitting piled up on the shop floor." Tessai paused to hoist the pallet of broken down cardboard boxes beneath his arm; he moved them to sit across his shoulder instead. Jinta kept scowling as he reluctantly yanked the wagon filled with dense wooden shelves forward. Ururu, by silent contrast, sat on top of the heavy slats, fingers idly twirling a roll of packing tape, staring off into space. The pavement below their feet had turned a sickly orange beneath the rapidly setting sun. Tessai figured they would make it back to the shop just in time for twilight.

"Hey, when's freeloader coming back, anyway?" asked Jinta.

"Don't know," answered Tessai. Tessai knew that, despite the fact that Jinta always insisted on calling him 'freeloader,' the boy was fond of the Shinigami named Abarai Renji. He knew that he secretly looked forward to his visits.

"Eh, I don't see why Kurosaki gets to use that room now, anyhow." Jinta prattled on. "I mean, doesn't he have his own room at home? Doesn't he? And why is he and that other boy always hanging around in there now anyway?"

"Shh. Jinta, stop talking. You're giving me a headache." Tessai mumbled. He wished the boy would give all the incessant questions a rest. Mostly because he didn't want to address the actual reason why Kurosaki and that dark-haired Quincy boy were now always 'hanging out' in Renji's old room. Because the kid was far too young to understand such things...

In mutual silence, they rounded a corner that was currently occupied by an abandoned convenience store. Chaotic flashes of burning orange reflected in the empty shop glass windows, brighter than brightest sunlight. Tessai froze. In the distance, there were dark billowing clouds of smoke wrapped within twirling ribbons of bright yellow flame. Oh, no! Fear stabbed at his heart, swiftly, unexpectedly, like an assassin's knife, and he dropped the cardboard boxes to the ground and ran forward. Jinta, upon seeing the smoky columns and Tessai's distress, yelled, "Holy shit!" and ran after him.

The shop was a hellish inferno. Tessai's heart thudded like a bass drum as he neared the tower of rippling flames. Jinta appeared beside him, the combination of approaching dusk and roaring fire making his shadow dance wildly behind him. "What the hell happened?" he screeched over the chorus of crackling heat. Pieces of timber collapsed and fell. Tessai said nothing. He shielded his eyes and neared the blaze, the intense light of the flames flickering like a strobe light over his broad, bare arms in the descending twilight. The heat was intolerable. He wouldn't even make it to the front door. Kisuke, what happened? Where are you? Tessai's heart continued to pound in his ears, beating like the sound of distant thunder. Why is this happening again? Why? Tessai's mind flashed back briefly, back several years to another fire: To another scene just like this one, with the lingering 'A' at the end of the sign reading 'Urahara Shop' detaching and falling like a burning star to the ground. To another night just like this one...

He couldn't go inside the shop. The place was too far gone. Please don't be inside, Kisuke, Tessai mentally pleaded. As he turned from the front entrance, his heel stumbled over something on the ground. Tessai froze, staring at the object by his foot. Light rippled over the insignia in rolling waves of yellow flame, highlighting the etched symbols. With a trembling hand, Tessai reached down and picked up the discarded object. Seeing the troubled look on his face, Jinta asked, "What? What is it?"

Tessai clutched the insignia in his hand, but said nothing. Kurosaki's Shinigami representative badge. Despite it being hot to the touch, Tessai felt an icy coldness sweep through his limbs, a counterpoint to the scorching flames. A numbing fear was freezing Tessai's insides, a fear of something that had happened several years ago. A fear that history was repeating itself.

The way that history always repeated itself...

End Prologue