Also thanks to sophiap for her comment that Shunsui wasn't really *there* in the first two chapters. I started wondering why... and this is what came up.
Title: Rescue - Part 1
Arc: Twin Souls
Word Count: 3267
Summary: Shunsui's side adventures come to a head.
Disclaimer: I don't own or make money off of Bleach. It's all fictional. Really.
It was the last night of the month and Jyuushiro couldn't help noticing that Shunsui was restless. After studies or his track time, Shunsui usually bathed and napped or invited him out for a drink. This time, the big man was pacing their room, more like a caged tiger than the lazy cat he usually seemed.
Finally, after the footsteps jarred his concentration on his writing for the third time, Jyuushiro looked up at Shunsui. "What's up?"
Shunsui whirled at the words. "Why would anything be up?"
"Because you are."
Shunsui laughed. "It's all for love of you," he singsonged. At Jyuurhiro's eyeroll, he ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "Yes. Something is up, someone told me something and... and I... I don't know if I can handle it on my own."
"Tell me about it?"
Shunsiu looked at Jyuushiro, "I... I trust you with my life, with my honor, even, but... I just have to show you. I can't... can't just tell you...."
"You need to see me react to what's there, yourself?" Jyuushiro asked quietly.
Shunsui nodded. "Yes."
Jyuushiro sighed. He belted on his zanpakuto.
Shunsui blinked, "How did you know I'd ask you to do that?"
"You're actually being serious for once." Jyuushiro grinned, "That usually means I'm likely to get hurt. Give me a minute, I want to get a few things."
Shunsui sighed, "Just not too long, okay?"
Shunsui led him out of the city at night, onto dark roads and then into a quiet forest and up a hill. The night air was cold and Jyuushiro was glad for both the extra layers he'd put on. Shunsui carried a shuttered lantern that he only let shine at the feet on the path. When firelight flickered through the darkness, and Shunsui put out the lamp and gave Jyuushiro the sign to stay very quiet. The two of them worked their slow way up to the crest of the hill while masking their reiatsu.
Jyuushiro hated not being able to feel where his roommate was by their reiatsu. He picked his slow way up the dark hill side, and had to rely on the small rustles of cloth, warmth of proximity, and what little sight he could get from the halo of light coming over the hill from the bonfire below.
Then they crested the hill.
The first thing Jyuushiro saw was two shivering kids, roped together by their hands, ducking back as a big man raised his fist.
Jyuushiro's hand was on his sword and his weight and center were already accelerating forward when Shunsui tackled him from the side.
Jyuushiro's logical brain finally caught up and ran through the list of the guards, the adults by the kids, the weapons being held on helpless ones... he hit the ground as silently as he could, knowing that any noise would ruin any chance of a surprise.
Shunsui breathed into his ear, "And they think I'm the impulsive one..."
"There are kids," Jyuushiro whispered in anguish.
"Dirty slum kids," Shunsui murmured, "No one would care..."
Jyuushiro bucked against Shunsui's weight, angrier than he could even say.
"Tie it down," Shunsui snapped in a harsh whisper, "Can't have them know we're here."
Jyuushiro hastily yanked his reiatsu back in close and growled, "Why the fuck did you bring me if we're going to walk away?" The last came out with more anguish than he wanted.
"Because, stupid me, I had to figure out if you could care for kids that weren't from some noble family. I know you care about me, but I'm one of those clean, noble, upright..."
Jyuushiro elbowed Shunsui, and Shunsui had the decency to grunt softly at the force of it.
Shunsui rubbed the spot. "You really think the two of us could take them? There's also a pen of Hollows on the far side, four guards set at a perimeter all around the place, and at least four more guards in the cave itself, with the hostages."
"And it looks like one crossbowman up by the light," Jyuushiro sighed. "There's a platform up there." Then his ears caught up, "Hollows? Penned Hollows?"
"They feed the... captives to them at the end of the month if their families don't pay up," Shunsui's tone was as light as thistledown.
Jyuushiro took a big breath in and then slowly, very slowly let it out as he felt his body twist with the adrenaline that the statement brought. Shunsui tightened his grip. Jyuushiro whispered, "No... I'll... I'll be okay... I know what's at stake now and more of the odds."
Shunsui looked down at Jyuushiro, "How in all the nine hells did you get to be so pure? Lily white and shining, you look like a bit of soot would stain you, smudge you out; but it's all wrapped around a will of steel and a flame of a heart that can cleanse anything, even spilled blood..."
Jyuushiro gaped at his friend, "What? What does that have to do..." He shook his head to try and clear it, "... with anything?"
Shunsui shrugged, "I dunno. Hmmm... maybe I should have asked, 'How are we going to kill them all?'"
Jyuushiro eyed Shunsui warily and Shunsui just patiently looked back at him.
They both heard a scream of defiance and a thud of something hitting flesh.
"You take the whole perimeter. I'm going straight for the cave and the sharpshooter. Then kill the Hollows if we're not dead yet."
"THAT's a plan?!" Shunsui cried. The chaos by the cave was providing plenty of cover for raised voices.
Jyuushiro ticked off on his fingers, "You've got the endurance for the long run. I don't. I'm fast and accurate. You hesitate. You don't have to kill the perimeter, just disable them from being able to communicate. Send a butterfly and we'll have backup if we fail."
There were cries down in the valley, more thuds, and Jyuushiro flinched at each one.
"Butterfly? You trust them to actually care?"
Jyuushiro met Shunsui's eyes. "Yes. About us, if not them." Shunsui nodded at that.
Jyuushiro opened a pouch, one of the things he'd collected in that last minute. A black Hell butterfly lighted on Jyuushiro's fingertips. He told it their location relative to the city, "This is a request for combat backup from Ukitake Jyuushiro and Kyoraku Shunsui. It is an endangered hostage situation. There are four Hollows as well." He told it to fly to Abe-san in the security offices. It left. Shunsui took that time to get off Jyuushiro.
Jyuushiro took three shunpo steps as fast and as hard as he could. He never had enough time before his lungs closed down and he always had plenty of reiatsu, so he took to flash steps as a fish to water. He could do up to ten without straining too badly. When he got close to the bonfire by the cave, he got glimpses of what was going on.
Somehow, the girl and boy were the ones dealing those thudding blows on the guard. Even tied together and with their hands tied, they were... what the hell...
The girl leapt into the air and the boy braced both legs and helped swing her towards the guard by their joined wrists. She kicked the fat guard in the head so hard, his head snapped to the side with a sound that made Jyuushiro cringe.
She bent to pick up the guard's knife.
Jyuushiro heard the snap of a crossbow string. They probably couldn't have seen him, but her...
He pushed a shunpo step into a flat dive. He grabbed the girl and rolled forward wrapping his body around her in his arms. He heard the boy cry out as he was dragged alongside. He heard the thunk and quiver of the quarrel as it hit the ground where she had been.
His eyes met eyes that flickered gold from the bonfire. "Sniper," he murmured, and tumbled her to the side the boy was at.
Now that he'd been seen... Jyuushiro's target changed, and he leaped up to the sharpshooter's platform.
He chose to take the extra step so that he ended up five feet above the sharpshooter. His body flinched to the side before his brain even realized that the shooter was aiming right up at him. A line of fire bloomed along his cheek, even as he heard the whistle of the quarrel go by his ear.
Jyuushiro struck with all his killing intent.
Jyuushiro felt his blade cut through the whole upper torso of the man who had just almost killed him. He felt the initial impact, the snap of collar bones, the crack of shattered ribs, and the softer yield of tendon. He gave the trained extra snap to his wrists to get through the spine, not get stuck in it. He pulled through, using a sawing motion with the blade, along a rib, out the side.
What had been a man collapsed into two pieces.
Jyuushiro wiped his blade off on the jacket of the fallen man, and before his hands could start shaking, he leaped off the platform.
There were now four guards chasing the blond boy. It was like an insane game of tag, but with four "Its" with swords and knives. A fifth was already on the ground, the girl crouched over him, her eyes flat as she held the knife. Jyuushiro ran over to her and closed his hand around her wrist. "Don't... please. We need to arrest them, not kill all of them..."
She shook her head, pushed dark hair back from her eyes. Her eyes became more human, filled with... relief? "Yes," she said and then disappeared into a shunpo step again. She appeared and tripped one of the other guards, but the man rolled and was instantly back on his feet.
Jyuushiro attacked from behind, but with his yelled kiai, the man whirled. The girl grabbed at the guard's ankles, and he toppled. Jyuushiro cracked him on the head with the butt of the hilt of his word and the man stayed down.
One of the men chasing the boy saw Jyuushiro and charged him. Jyuushiro let him come at him. He then stepped towards the man, cutting across the threatening sword with his own. He knocked it away far enough he could swing the back of his sword at the other man's temple. It met with a thunk and the man dropped.
With just two left, the boy suddenly turned on the guard closest to catching him. He ran right at the guard and head-butted him in the groin. Jyuushiro winced in sympathy as the man just folded up, coughing in pain.
The last one pulled up short.
"How many more of you are there?" Jyuushiro barked while the man still looked off-center.
The guard hesitated and then bolted away into the forest. Jyuushiro sighed, flash stepped, and brought the man down with a quick clip to the jaw. He carried him back to where the other guards were and dumped him there.
"That was the last one, mister," the blond boy said. His eyes were deeply shaded by his hair even when he looked up at Jyuushiro.
Jyuushiro nodded. He took a shunpo step towards the Hollows' pen. He stopped, panting quietly, when he felt both the kids following him.
They stopped and looked up at him. Neither of them were even breathing hard, and the girl had to have taken at least as many flash steps as Jyuushiro had. He rethought his initial approach and, instead of ordering them to just stop and stay out of danger, he said, "Please keep the guards secured? I don't want to worry about the guards getting loose and attacking me from behind..."
They both looked taken aback and then the girl nodded. The boy's eyes narrowed. "You mean you don't want us in your way."
"If you like," Jyuushiro agreed pleasantly. "I haven't trained with either of you and I have trouble working in tandem with surprises."
"Don't we all," the girl muttered.
The boy blushed. "Aw... okay, mister. We'll tie 'em up with the rope from the other guys. Anyone we should look out for?"
"There should be a big man, dark hair, scruffy chin, in the same clothing I have on, coming in shortly. Just point him on in my direction?"
"Wait," the girl said in a voice that brooked no dissent.
Jyuushiro looked at her. She beckoned him down towards her, and when he knelt on one knee, she flicked the tip of a finger along the blood at his cheek and... bizarrely... tasted it. Then she nodded, "You're okay. We'll do as you ask."
The two kids took shunpo steps back to the clearing. Who were they? They didn't look much older than nine or ten... Jyuushiro shook his head. He had other things to worry about first, like the fact that his lungs were starting to tighten.
Shunsui wasn't worried at all.
He was terrified, angry, frustrated, mildly jealous, and busy. But he wasn't worried. Oh... and add freaked out to the list of emotions he was feeling.
Ever since he knocked Jyuushiro onto the ground, his zanpakuto had started talking to him. He couldn't always hear exactly what it was saying, but its tone echoed the other emotions running through him so well it was eerie. He was trying to stay on top of himself as well as that ranting, howling, questioning voice and it was hard. He'd let it take over when Jyuushiro had turned out to be far more than he'd expected, and he regretted doing that. Jyuushiro had looked at him as if he were some kind of freak until he'd gotten a handle on it.
Luckily, another part of his mind noted that the running was easy. The punishment running at school had worked wonders on his endurance in the last few weeks. He wasn't even breathing hard when he hit the first outpost.
There was only one man there. Who put sentries only one apiece? Cheap and stupid, damnit. But the man there was trained. Oh good. A fair fight was easier in a way, he didn't have be that much better to get around a flailing newbie and not hurt them too badly.
Shunsui liked fighting. His body reveled in it. He liked it enough that it scared him a little. Jyuushiro was right about the fact that he always hesitated in killing situations, he was always pulling back, just that last hit. Shunsui didn't like being seen the way Jyuushiro saw him, but... that didn't make it less true.
He charged in and his logical brain just sat back and watched. He felt all the blows, the blocks, and the darting strikes. He enjoyed the way his eyes, ears, even skin dictated the hard, fast, free motions of arms, legs, elbows, knees, and his whole center of balance. The logical part of his brain could just sit back and look for patterns and ways to break the opponent's patterns, while the rest of him just did what came naturally.
Ah... the guard's block to the right was a bit too high. Shunsui faked a straight stab to the man's right shoulder, and just as the other man started to block up, he dropped the tip of his blade and took the man in the thigh. He ran by, shouldn't have cut a vein on the outside, and as he whirled to face his opponent again, he simply brought the back of his sword into the side of the man's skull, trying to stun him without cutting him.
It worked. The man dropped like a poled ox. Good, no vein cut. It was bleeding, but no spurting. Shunsui ripped the sleeves off the man's outer kimono. He bandaged up the guard's leg and tied his hands together and was off to the next perimeter guard.
The running gave him more damned time to think... and he thought about the six weeks' worth of work, all blown at once. He'd first been drinking with the worst of the worst in the taverns around the edge of town. He'd heard about murders, robberies, things that chilled the blood, but even those guys wouldn't sit or talk or drink with some guys in the back corner of the Blind Drunk. Curiosity and weird rumors about captive Hollows had lured him on. He'd taken weeks to get familiar with them, and eventually found the whole horrible kidnapping scheme. It had then taken just as long to find the actual hideout, only to realize he couldn't do anything about it alone.
He'd almost done it anyway. He hadn't had any reason not to throw his life at something he might do some good at, until he'd been dragged into the tribunal.
The delay allowed Boss Hayate time to entrench himself even further. The site had more guards than Shunsui had expected.
He came on another guard. This one was far less skilled. Shunsui put away his blade. It groaned softly as it was sheathed and ran a chill up his spine.
Shunsui's hand to hand skills handled the guy easily. He tied up another unconscious body before sprinting to where the next should be posted.
Shunsui cursed when he couldn't find anyone at that site.
"Huh?" came from behind a tree, and a guy with his pants down peered around the tree, just in time to receive a kick to the solar plexus.
"Sorry," half-laughed Shunsui as he bound and gagged that one.
Last one... and again a run where he could think while his body pumped through the motions.
There was a part of him that was jealous of Jyuushiro's ability just decide and follow through on what was right. His friend's lightning quick judgment of the situation awed him and it angered him at the same time, because he hadn't been able to decide.
And Jyuushiro was the one that had taken the central attack. The key part of it all. "Glory hog," he said, even as he really didn't believe it. The logic behind the assignments Jyuushiro had made was pretty clear. But part of him ached and cried and moaned; oh... that was the zanpakuto, for the lost opportunity to be the hero instead of just the clean up man running thither and yon to keep the outposts from notifying the Boss.
Just as he confronted a very well-trained fourth and probably last outpost, the one nearest the compound, he felt Jyuushiro's reiatsu flare high.
Shunsui drew a blade that screamed with his own disappointment. They attacked together, he and the sword: they cut right through the other man's blade, and stopped just short of his heart.
"I can't," Shunsui whispered, even as the man fell. Shunsui pulled the blade out with a yank, whipping it through the air to get most of the blood off of it. He wiped the rest on the fallen man's sleeve, and sheathed the grumbling blade. He tossed the man over his shoulder, he couldn't leave him to die out here.
He started towards the main compound, sure it was going to be all secured by the time he got there, when he felt Jyuushiro's reiatsu collapse in on itself. Blown out rather than fading...
Shunsui cursed his legs, cursed the weight of the man, cursed Shiba-sama for not having been able to pound more shunpo into a reluctant student, and flashed away in an awkward, huge shunpo step.