Arc: Twin Souls
Word Count: 4060
Summary: Ukitake and Kyouraku try to finish off something Kyouraku found. They get help, of a sort.
Disclaimer: I don't own or make money off of Bleach. It's all fictional. Really.
Find Part 1 here.
Jyuushiro woke knowing that he absolutely had to get up.
But his body wasn't cooperating. Something grated when he tried to move his right leg, and the pain nearly made him pass out again.
He opened his eyes, and saw two small creatures jumping and harrying a Hollow. They were carrying a sword. His zanpakuto. He could feel it in an unexplainable part of himself, the small, hard, desperate hands on the steel of his own will.
Everything came back to his dazed brain. He looked behind him: the ten foot tall, log-pole pen wall was caved in behind him. He'd jumped into the pen and sliced into the head and mask of the nearest Hollow in text book manner, from behind. The bellow and dust of its death had alerted the other three.
He'd just charged the next nearest one, raising his reiatsu to put as much power as he could behind a frontal blow. It had worked. But his blade had gotten stuck in the mask for just long enough for the third of the Hollows to come up and bat him clear across the pen and into the wall.
Maybe he should have waited for Shunsui to finish the outposts, he thought as he pulled himself, painfully, into a half sitting position. Just because this had been the plan didn't mean it couldn't have changed...
The only good thing about all this was that the... uhm... rest had rested his lungs as well. He wasn't as close to a coughing fit as he'd been when he first jumped in the pen.
He shook his dazed head. Obviously the kids had come to help him. And it wasn't like he was in any shape to use the blade himself. He watched as, suddenly, the two small bodies dove together from above the Hollow. He saw a flicker of movement from the fourth Hollow in the corner behind them. But his attention was fully on all four hands on the hilt. They were trying to use their combined weights behind the blow. He narrowed his eyes and threw his will in with theirs. Suddenly he saw the ghosts of the two fish, the bright one behind the dark girl, the dark fish by the light-haired boy and he felt them push, too. The kids gave a high shout as the blade went right through the mask of the Hollow, piercing it through.
Immediately after the strike, he took one deep breath to center himself, and he put his hands out. "Oh rulers. He who is crowned with the name of man wears a mask of blood and flesh, and has ten-thousand fluttering wings. With truth and moderation, lightly scratch your nails against the wall of a dream that knows no sin!" His hand flared blue lightning and he shouted, "Destructive Art 33: Blue Fire, Crash Down!"
The lightning ball flew right by the kids and into the face of the fourth Hollow as it wound up to smash the kids. The ball only knocked it back, but the kids were warned, and it might...
The flare of Shunsui's reiatsu suddenly shone like a comet through the night. The Hollow turned to meet this bigger, new threat, and there was a big crack as Shunsui's zanpakuto cut right through the mask and head of the Hollow.
It fell to dust. Shunsui looked around. He paused at the sight of the two kids on a different pile of dust. He held his hand out for Jyuushiro's sword. The two kids handed it over. Jyuushiro closed his eyes at the feeling of the big, warm, calloused hand closing over the wrapped hilt, holding it with practiced ease. He opened them again to see Shunsui catch sight of where he sprawled against the logs.
Shunsui ran over to him. Jyuushiro looked up and said contritely, "Sorry. I should have waited for you."
The look on Shunsui's face was priceless.
"You're damned right you should have waited," he finally said. "Sometimes there are good reasons to... hesitate."
Jyuushiro winced. "You're right."
"And who are you?" Shunsui asked the two kids who were now tailing him.
"They saved me," Jyuushiro said softly.
"And stole your zanpakuto," Shunsui said and carefully handed it back to Jyuushiro, hilt first.
Jyuushiro sighed softly as he took his sword back. In his own hands again... and he sheathed it. He looked up at the kids.
They looked back. "Had to," the boy said. "Can't kill a Hollow without one."
"And we couldn't get in your way," pointed out the girl.
"You knew that how?" Jyuushiro asked gently.
"Well, your reiatsu..." the girl blinked suddenly and put her hands over her mouth.
"I'll repeat my companion's question. Who are you two?" Jyuushiro asked, honestly curious now.
"Busted..." the boy murmured.
The girl punched the boy in the arm. Then she sighed and gave an extremely slight bow to the two of them. "I am Shihouin Yoruichi."
"'The heir to Shihouin.'" the boy said in a voice that imitated the strident tones of some major-domo.
Shunsui automatically went to his knees, head to the ground. Jyuushiro tried sitting up, but nearly passed out again.
"No!" she cried, and knelt by Jyuushiro, "Don't. I hate... this is so stupid!!"
Shunsui looked up and sighed and sat back on his heels, "I hate seeing young ladies in distress."
Jyuushiro asked, dizzily, "What the... what are you doing out here? They weren't holding you hostage or something, were they?"
The girl snorted, "They weren't that stupid. Though if big mouth here hadn't mouthed off at the guard, we'd have laid low until the rescue corps came for me."
The boy blushed, "But he was being mean to you." Shunsui shouldn't have been grinning at that, but he was, and the boy gave him a conspiratorial wink as well. Jyuushiro rolled his eyes.
"Okay... then who is Big Mouth here?" Shunsui asked.
The boy gave a small bow, low enough to be about on the same rank as Jyuushiro, "Urahara Kisuke, her highness' unofficial playmate. She sneaks out, we play, we sneak her back in, usually before her parents wake up. But..." he gave a wave at the brightening East horizon. "I'm afraid we're blown this time. Can you take me with you when her bodyguards come? I just need a ride back to the Academy, I can find home from there. Dad teaches there."
Shunsui shook his head as if a fly had just bitten him. "You were playing out here?"
"Uhm... well, we didn't know they were all here... we just needed an open space," the boy said.
The girl rolled her eyes, "Kisuke-kun was going to test something. He set stuff up, and while he was occupied with that, one of those goons just came up behind Kisuke-kun and knocked him out while I was wandering around looking at... well... flowers and trees. By the time I'd figured out what was going on, they threatened to kill him unless I got tied with him. So..." she shrugged, "I did. Figured it would buy us both the time needed for the rescue group or someone else to come."
"Please," she asked, "take him with you?"
Shunsui sighed, "I cannot refuse the request of any beautiful woman. You..." He pointed at Kisuke, "on my back. I don't want to lose you in the crowd that's going to appear."
Shunsui dropped to one knee, and peeled off the two outer, quilted layers of his kimonos. The boy hopped up against Shunsui's back, and Shunsui pulled the layers back on over the boy. "There."
"Thank you..." She let the thanks linger with a social implication far too old for her years.
Shunsui bowed with Kisuke on his back, not too low this time, "Kyouraku Shunsui at your service, ma'am."
Jyuushiro watched, bemused, and when those gold eyes turned toward him, he bowed his head as best as he was able, "I am Ukitake Jyuushiro."
"First or second year?" she asked.
"Second," they chorused.
"I want to go there, someday," she said wistfully.
Jyuushiro remembered the small hands on his blade, "You'll have no trouble getting in, Shihouin-sama."
The girl flinched a little at the honorific.
There were shouts from the clearing and the cave. "Backup," Shunsui said and ran towards the sounds, "Oi!!"
Jyuushiro watched Yoruichi, and watched as her carriage straightened and stiffened, her face grew still. Suddenly black-clad bodies appeared all around them and after dropping to their knees, kowtowed and then swept her up and shunpo'ed away as a group. Jyuushiro marveled at that level of coordination.
Just as suddenly, the whole group reappeared. Yoruichi was flushed, but her voice was even. "I want to stay with him. Get the palanquin to help with carrying him back. I'd like some privacy right now. Leave the required guard."
She was now wearing many layers of shining robes. At least she didn't look so cold anymore, Jyuushiro thought.
"Aye, Shihouin-sama." They poofed away again... and disappeared into the black and gray of the not-quite morning.
She sighed and sat on a smashed piece of log wall by his side, rumpling and probably snagging priceless silks.
"Tired?" Jyuushiro asked, companionably, "I'm pretty exhausted."
"Yes," she said softly. "I'm tired. But... they're going to watch me even more closely, now." Her slender back slumped.
She stiffened again as Abe-san and his small force came over the hill. Then came a monster of a palanquin and a small crowd of other people including Nakamura Kiyoko and Sato Saburou. Saburou was looking harried and pale. His hands were covered in blood. Kiyoko was joking with one of the troopers, but her face stilled when she saw Jyuushiro. When he grinned wryly at her, she grinned back and shook her head.
"Waal, boy, least this time it's an honest battle wound," she said, half laughing as she came up.
He didn't contradict her. "I can't move my right leg," he offered, instead.
"Tsk," she said and gently undid his hakama on that side. She peeled back layers of hakama and kimono underneath. Jyuushiro cried out when her hands probed and he felt things move in his thigh. "Shush... shush..." she said softly, "Ahh... damn." She looked up at the men around them, "I need two of you."
"Is it going to put him out?" Abe-san asked.
"Hopefully," she said with a cheerful chirp that made Jyuushiro very uneasy.
"I need to talk with him, first," Abe-san said, firmly. "Kyouraku-kun's told us about his investigation and his part in it, but I need to know what happened with Ukitake-kun for the records for the trial."
Kiyoko threw up her hands, "Okay, go for it."
Then all eyes swung to Jyuushiro, who succinctly gave the sequence of his attacks. He didn't actually describe what the kids had done, just left it out of what he could of it.
But when he got to the crossbowman, Abe-san knelt down next to him, "He nicked you?"
"Yeah. Here." Jyuushiro touched his cheek and winced as he realized the blood had run all the way down the side of his face.
Then Abe-san reached forward and rubbed his finger against Jyuushiro's chin, and, just like the girl had, he tasted the blood.
"Why are you doing that?" Jyuushiro asked, disturbed.
"To see if the bolt was poisoned," Abe-san said, "It's not. We'd have had to get you back fast, otherwise."
"Poisoned." Jyuushiro clamped his jaw as his body shook for a moment. "I hadn't... thought of that."
"At least you took care of him, properly," one of the troopers with Abe-san said. "One blow, even. Neat work."
Jyuushiro shook his head, "No... it was... I didn't know what else to do. I didn't want to kill him, but I was too stupid to figure out a good way to disable him and keep him out of the way and still deal with the rest of the guards. He was too dangerous. He really knew what he was doing." Remembering how nearly the bolt had missed, and then the killing, his shaking got that much worse.
Abe shook his head, "That everyone could be that stupid." He caught Jyuushiro's eyes, "You did the right thing. The hard thing, but you did it. Got it?"
Jyuushiro nodded. "Got it, sir."
"It'll still come up at their trial, but there's plenty here that will vouch for the need."
"Thank you, sir."
Kiyoko sighed, "Y'all done, now?"
"Yes, Nakamura-san," Abe said. He levered himself back to his feet. "What do you need again?"
"I need someone to find a stick. I need one man to sit on him and one man to pull his leg so we can get the ends of the bone to line up. Then I'll set it. He'll still need to stay off it for the trip back, but tha' monster palanquin should work just dandy." She turned towards Jyuushiro. "This is gonna hurt like hell, but it'll stabilize you for the trip. It'll fix the ends, so they can't scramble the inside of your leg."
Jyuushiro sighed, "Wouldn't want that."
"No, sir," she said with a twinkle. She handed Jyuushiro the stick, "Between the teeth, you know the drill."
Jyuushiro rolled his eyes, put the stick between his teeth and lay back and saw Shunsui looking down at him, with the blond boy looking over his shoulder. Shunsui shook his head, and then addressed Kiyoko, "You want someone sitting on his..."
"Hips, I think, anchor that end of his leg. You kin go face to face with him if you don't wanna watch me... uhm... move things around."
Shunsui let the boy off his shoulders, first. Then Shunsui sat down, legs on either side of Jyuushiro's hips, hard weight right on, oh gods, thought Jyuushiro. Shunsui smiled innocently down at Jyuushiro. Jyuushiro wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh, or cry, or curse, or gods bless the damned distraction Shunsui was providing... and they started pulling on his leg. Jyuushiro grabbed Shunsui's hand and that hard, calloused hand gripped his own back, and he concentrated on that contact and not screaming too loudly when it felt like they were going to just rip his leg right off.
He blacked out, mercifully, right when he felt the grinding of his bones going back together.
When Jyuushiro came to for the second time that night, he sighed, "I'd hate to make a habit of this."
"Ah, Ukitake-san, you are awake?" said a very soft voice.
That's when Jyuushiro realized that the world wasn't moving just because he was dizzy. The world swayed with a gentle rhythm. He looked around and saw that right next to his side was a small throne, and in it was Yoruichi. The palanquin was surrounded by eight men holding it up and a few more people holding up lights for those that carried it.
"Yes, I think so," Jyuushiro said. Experimentally, he pulled himself up to a sitting position and gingerly moved his right leg. He sighed when it moved and didn't feel like it was going to fall off. It was still sore, though.
"No jumping, long-distance walking, or standing for a long time until you get another healing session in," said Shunsui's voice off to the side. "Kiyoko said it's just stabilized with what they could do, not healed." There was soft snoring coming from the same direction: the boy must be asleep.
"Thank you... Kyouraku-san," Jyuushiro said, tiredly, just too aware of all the ears and eyes around them to use the familiar term of address. But then he was suddenly aware of Shunsui's hurt and sudden doubt through his reiatsu. "Oh, gods," he said and put the heels of his hands on his eyes. Jyuushiro reached out with his reiatsu and gently wrapped a tendril of it around Shunsui in apology and he felt his roommate relax again.
The slender, tiny enrobed body slipped from the throne and knelt by his side. "Now you know how I feel all the time," she said, wryly. "These are my honored retainers: they are as discreet as the grave, or they know that they will soon be in one."
There were a few chuckles around them. "Aye, Shihouin-sama," murmured a few.
"Would you be so kind as to lie down again, Ukitake-san?" Yoruichi asked. "I wouldn't want your friend to be upset with me for letting you get injured again."
That kind of diction coming from a little girl rattled Jyuushiro, but he lay down again on the pad set up on the platform. A small, cool hand slipped into his hand and he gently clasped it, realizing she had nearly as many callouses as he had but in different places. He closed his eyes and tried to collect himself. Shunsui's reiatsu smoothed out as well through the tendrils he'd entwined with Jyuushiro's. Jyuushiro sighed, "Thank you, Shihouin-sama."
"You are very formal with everyone, aren't you, Ukitake-kun?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah," said Shunsui's voice in the darkness, "Jyuushiro has a stick up his ass, but he means well by it."
Jyuushiro was very impressed that none of the retainers even cracked a grin, much less a snicker. Maybe they could just talk... "Language, Shunsui..."
"See?" Shunsui's glee in getting to say that warmed Jyuushiro unexpectedly.
There was a delightful giggle from the girl next to him. "I see. I'm glad you can... relax a bit." Then her tone changed, wistful, "Ukitake-san, could you find it in your heart to call me Yoruichi-chan?"
The tone of her voice made him think very hard about honorifics and the level of address that might match both what she was asking and not make him out to be a complete ass. His head hurt, but he finally said, "Yes, perhaps... if you would please call me Shiro-kun instead of Ukitake-san."
The slender hands pressed gently against his. "I would really like that, Shiro-kun."
"Then it would be my pleasure, Yoruichi-chan," he said quietly. Then, greatly daring, "Can you visit the Academy sometime, Yoruichi-chan?" he asked. In the gradually growing light, he saw Shunsui's gaze swing towards him, wondering.
"Sometimes. Yes." Her voice firmed on the affirmative.
"Shunsui, here, knows some of the most amazing flowering trees in the area. Shiba-kun has a beautiful garden that he cares for along with his uncles. Kyuu-kun knows of a mountain waterfall with a pond that is perfect for swimming in. I have a few cousins that would love to play. And I found some koi in one of the school ponds that love to get fed cooked rice... would you want to see those with me?"
"The... entourage would have to come along."
"Well, if they're as thoroughly discreet as they are at this moment, I'd have no objections, whatsoever. Maybe we could all play a few games of tag?" Jyuushiro grinned as he heard at least one groan.
"Oh! I'd love that. I accept your invitation, Shiro-kun. That sounds like a lot of fun."
"Good, then it's a plan," Jyuushiro said.
He lay back and watched black sky turn that deep, impossible shade of blue, even as it remained black on the western edge. The silver sky in the east shone and then glowed deeper, edging the world in gold and pinks as the sun's edge gradually crept up and shone.
"How beautiful," Yoruichi said.
"Yes," he said. And then he looked at her, and the light touched purple hair and eyes of gold that were filled with wonder. "Very beautiful indeed." She saw him looking at her and she laughed and blushed pink, but turned back to the wonder of the sun beginning the new day.
Jyuushiro managed the short walk through the dorm to their room. The palanquin had dropped them off by the door to the dorm. Curious students had ogled the procession as it made its stately way away with a wave of the Yoruichi's hand.
Jyuushiro made a nest on his own futon of the quilts, and motioned Shunsui over so that Jyuushiro could carefully lift the boy from Shunsui's back. Shunsui had to take the limp boy back in order to lay him into the nest, though, as Jyuushiro's leg could not support the motion.
"You're sleeping with me?" Shunsui asked with a raised eyebrow.
"If you're okay with it. I don't think I can molest you with this." Jyuushiro indicated the stiffening leg.
"Too bad," Shunsui said lightly, "I guess I can't molest you, either, with that."
They stripped and got in. Jyuushiro yelped as cold toes landed on his calves, but he really couldn't turn around with that leg. He grabbed a bit behind him with his cold hands, and got a yelp as well before he found an arm and pulled it over his side, around him.
"You... sat on me," Jyuushiro said, as if that justified the cold hand.
"You said I hesitate," Shunsui said, pulled him closer. Jyuushiro yielded to the pull and snuggled up close to Shunsui's warmth.
Jyuushiro gradually stopped shivering, "You didn't with the Hollow."
"They would have died and then you would have died, if I had," Shunsui said against Jyuushiro's hair. Then, slower, "But... you were right, too, that was what made it so galling. I did hesitate with someone else, but I didn't think I had to kill him the way you had to with yours."
Jyuushiro shuddered quietly at that and burrowed closer. "That was the hardest thing I've ever done, I think," he said.
"But you did it."
"Yeah... I think... like you, I had to."
"Like me..." Shunsui said slowly and then nodded against Jyuushiro's hair again.
Jyuushiro drowsed, near sleep when Shunsui suddenly said, "Are you sure you know what you're doing with Shihouin-sama, Jyuushiro? She's awfully young to be..." Shunsui hesitated.
"She is very young, isn't she?" Jyuushiro said quietly. "She's a girl, a child. She should be playing with flowers, dolls, painting, writing, laughing with friends, not having to choose if she has to kill someone or not."
"But you had to kill someone."
"But I'm trained to."
"She probably is, too," Shunsui said soberly.
Jyuushiro sighed. "Yes. But to have to make those choices when... when she might not even know why... that's just too hard for me to just..."
"... stand by and let it happen, hm." Shunsui said wearily.
Jyuushiro nodded. "I guess it is that."
"Thank you," Shunsui said, "I cursed you, too, but... really... I should thank you."
"For deciding. For just charging ahead. I couldn't have done it alone."
Jyuushiro thought, and his tired brain slipped him poetry, "Oh. Does this have to do with that question you asked me when you had me pinned?"
"What?" Shunsui sounded bewildered.
"That... shining and burning stuff... and how could I be so pure..." Jyuushiro sighed, "I didn't get it, at all, but I think I'm starting to figure out why you asked. But... I don't know the answer, either." This was hard going, Jyuushiro realized he didn't usually talk about himself this way. It was all coming out chopped up, but Shunsui deserved some kind of answer. "Some of it... some of it is that I always feel like my time is so damned short... I'm not going to last forever against anything... some of it... I guess I just have to believe whatever I do will make a difference. The rest..." Jyuushiro just shrugged.
"You believe," Shunsui said.
"Yeah. I guess I do. So you're very welcome, Shunsui. I'm glad you trusted me enough to show me what was going on. I am honored."
"But you still should have waited for me, before attacking the Hollows," Shunsui said, his tone light.
"Yup." Jyuushiro laughed, "I will repeat after you. I should have waited for you before attacking the Hollows."
Shunsui snorted and hugged Jyuushiro tight. "I'm just glad you're still here," he said softly and Jyuushiro felt him shiver once, hard, before relaxing into their shared warmth and falling asleep. Jyuushiro followed his friend gladly.
incandescens for betaing and extremely good proofreading. sophiap's comment on the second chapter about a mostly missing Shunsui prompted this story, pretty much. shadowgirl1605's Midnight Meeting helped me figure out that the kids weren't just any kids.
Thank you, so much.