AN: I am not sure where this came from, but it is keeping me from being able to focus on my textbook reading, so I am writing it to get it out of my head. Yes, yes. I am bizarre.

Warnings: Kenshin is a bit out of character here in the prologue. Everything is explained in the next part, so don't let this set-up determine the rest of the story for you.

**I have been coerced into continuing this as a multi-chapter story.**

Bargains

XX

It was one of those awkward things that whenever Kaoru told someone she worked in forensics, they automatically pictured her face cropped into a scene from CSI: Insert City Here. She now understood why so many medical students she knew in grad school got so disgruntled about all the medical show references.

Most of the time, her job involved a lot of measurements, paperwork, and writing in passive voice. And much of that time was spent alone, and often it was late at night.

Tonight was another such night.

She sighed, hair pulled up into a messy bun on top of her head. The good thing about working with skeletal material was that it smelled much better. Honestly, old bones reminded her of a dog kennel. These bones had been around for a little while, and in contrast to one of the cases she was on last week, it was a nice change of pace.

It had taken only a little bit of time to articulate the skeletal remains. The smaller bones, like the phalanges and the carpals had not been recovered, and that was pretty common. Vermin and scavengers often made off with those littler bits during decay.

Once everything was in place, she sat down on her stool, laying her tools out in front of her. Already she had made a handful of broad assessments from her first glance-over of the remains, and she made a face.

This person had been an abuse victim, she was certain. Those cases always did make her sad.

Grabbing her spreading calipers, she began to measure points on the cranium. She did not notice the clock turn to 11:11 PM.

"Oooh. That's an old one."

Kaoru exhaled softly, ignoring the voice in favor of finishing her measurement. It was only after she had written down the numbers that she looked up behind her.

He sat casually on the window seal, half of his body on the inside of the window, the other half on the outside, with the glass dividing his semi-transparent form. Bright gold eyes watched her curiously, framed by fiery red hair that seemed to not know what to do with itself.

"Really," Kaoru said, feigning interest in his input. "How old?"

He grinned, showing off sharp teeth. "No fun in telling you that. It's much more satisfying watching you solve one of my puzzles."

"They're not your puzzles. They're people," Kaoru replied in a manner that suggested they had had this exchange before. Multiple times.

"Not anymore," The entity replied cheerfully. "The idea of 'people' is so... transient. Subjective. ...Fickle."

Kaoru rolled her eyes, not taking his bait. Turning her back to him, she began to assess the skull, gloved fingers running over the features. There was little prognathism in the mandible, and a lack of an occipital crest suggested female...

"Oh, not rising to the bait?" The voice was beside her now, and Kaoru refused to give him the attention he wanted, pressing her lips in a thin line. Hm, were those striations in the tooth enamel or just staining from being outside...?

Beside her, the ghastly entity frowned, crossing his arms over his chest. His clothes were as transparent as the rest of him, blue jeans and a wrinkled, button down shirt in what might have been washed-out gray if he were in full manifestation. It was hard to tell. His hair waved about him like red tendrils of smoke, the tips fading away into nothing. He glanced around, like a child with no attention span, before moving around to the opposite side of the table.

Kaoru pointedly ignored him as he bent down to observe the remains on the table. "Oh, oh. I do remember this one for sure. She did not go quickly. Strong-willed was not a trait that suited her. Only made her suffer more."

So it was female. She would still go through the rest of the sexing techniques, but it was nice to have that affirmation. It was also only through conditioning that she did not think about what he was actually saying, either. "You're being very obnoxious tonight, Death."

"Tut, tut," The entity replied, baring his teeth at her again in a hyena's smile. "I am being helpful. You should learn the difference."

"You have not told me anything I either did not already know, or have an actual use for. Try harder," She quipped, grabbing her sliding calipers.

He frowned, straightening back up. "Fine. She was strangled."

Kaoru's eyes fell to the neck area. The hyoid bone had not been recovered, although that was not too uncommon due to its size. However, without it, it would be hard to argue that case in a report. It was the only bone that could sustain damage from strangulation. And putting that idea out there without evidence was a bad idea. "Need something with evidence."

"Ooh, like this?" Her eyes almost crossed when ghostly fingers shoved something right in front of her nose. She stared at the bone, recognizing it as the hyoid, and also noting the crack running through it.

Just the evidence she would need.

She reached up to pluck it out of his fingers when he jumped back, grinning. "What do I get in return?"

Of course. He never truly gave help without a price. Though, she was certain that all the old sayings about making deals with death did not involve situations like these. After a prolonged silence where he stared at her expectantly, she finally sighed, crossing her arms over her lab coat. "What do you want?"

The grin that spread across his features was very vulpine in nature, and she could have sworn his teeth looked even sharper than normal. "A date."

"I...what?" Kaoru stared hard at him, clearly not expecting such a request. The usual request involved her soul, did it not?

Bright eyes watched her like a predator, and the piece of evidence she needed dangled from one of his fingers. Was that little bit really worth dealing with this creature she had come to know as Death himself? She could always leave the report inconclusive, or perhaps might find evidence otherwise to support the cause of death...

And yet, the scientist in her, the explorer in her was curious. She knew very little about this creature that habitually showed up to watch her work, that dropped hints and clues about her cases, that seemed to be so fascinated with her work...

Arching a brow, she pinned him with a look. "Just one date?"

"Just one," He echoed, his expression softening into something a little less chaotic.

"Fine. Deal," Kaoru sighed, offering her hand out. The creature known as Death grinned again, giddy like a child. Leaning over the table, he placed the bone in her hand, and cool tingles spread up her arm where his fingers ghosted through hers. It would be an awkward date if he could not actually touch her.

Actually, wait, that might be better. After all, if he were a real person, he would be a creep. A very pretty creep, though.

Focusing her thoughts, she eyed the bone now in her gloved palm. The fracture was definitely like she would expect to see in a strangulation victim. Amazing it had not been destroyed...

Her eyes narrowed.

"Where was this when the recovery team found the remains?"

Death had preoccupied himself with staring at the screen saver on her computer, and at her prompt, slowly tipped his head to back look at her, doing so in a way that was unnatural and impossible until he was staring at her upside down. Slowly, he smiled.

She glared at him, "You hid the bone, didn't you?"

His eyes crinkled at the corners, sharp teeth glittering in under the fluorescent light. He made no effort to turn around and look at her naturally. "It's more fun this way."

"You manipulated the case to get me to agree to a date with you," Kaoru stated flatly. "Are you that desperate?"

He laughed. "Opportunistic."

"Why me?"

His response was to shrug and roll his head back into the position it naturally should have been in. "That would require another deal."

"Hell no." Was Kaoru's immediate response.

Laughter, again, was his. "We'll see."

Scowling, Kaoru turned her attention back to her case, tagging the new bone and moving on with the rest of her assessment. She had just reached for her pencil when tingles spread out from her neck down her spine, and she shivered, jumping. Whipping her head up, she glared at Death who stood behind her, his fingers ghosting—quite literally—along her neck. Grinning, he pulled his hand away. "Saturday, 6 PM. I know you're free then."

"What, are you stalking me?" She could not shake the lingering sensation away, as much as she tried.

"Maybe." He shoved his hands in his pockets. "I'll pick you up."

She arched a brow, but he offered no more. Amusement still on his features, he glanced at the clock. "Ah, I overstayed my welcome. I'll see you Saturday, Kaoru."

She paused at that. He rarely called her by her real name, despite it being on her nametag. "Hey... what do you want me to call you? I can't just call you Death while we're out."

Pausing at the window, one foot stuck through it, he turned back to look at her with a thoughtful expression. "Oh... Kenshin is fine."

And with that, he walked through the window into the night.

If that was not creepy enough, the reminder that Kaoru's lab was on the eighth story certainly was.

Staring at the window, Kaoru tested his name out on her lips.

"Kenshin."

XX

AN: Yeah, I write strange things. Hopefully I did not throw too much jargon out there that it subtracts from the story. I can get carried away sometimes. I have some ideas where I might take this, but I'm leaving it alone for now as I have other things to work on. I just could not get this idea out of my head this evening.

Thoughts?

-Rainfelt