Warning: Boyxboy implications, nothing explicit.
Spoilers: This happens right after the Soul Society arc and spoils thoroughly.
Word Count: 3871
Summary: Kira cracks. Hisagi-fukutaicho goes after his once kohai and works out some measure of peace for the Third's fukutaicho, with swords, of course.
Prompt: Purity, from calmingeffects, for silverharmony's birthday, she's the manager of the shuukira community.
Thanks: Thanks to calmingeffects for a quick beta'ing. Thanks incandescens for bouncing lots of motivational ideas for the intervention for Kira's sake and sanity checking the result. Also thanks to stark_black for sanity checking the fights.
Disclaimer: I don't own or make money off of Bleach. It's all fictional. Really.
The Untamed Hog filled to bursting with shinigami. It was loud, boisterous, and busy. Hinamori-chan had gotten out of Fourth Division's hospital and everyone wanted to celebrate.
Matsumoto brought Kyouraku-taicho on her arm, and so, graciously, the drunken captain joined in the festivities. Ikkaku and Yumichika, Renji, Shuuhei, Kira, and Iba had all come to drink to Momo's health. They were happily doing their best to forget.
Hinamori-chan giggled and blushed at all the attention. And she didn't even try to keep up with the prodigious amounts that Shuuhei, Matsumoto, and Shunsui all inhaled as a matter of course, but she got pinker and pinker. After one particularly vigorous "Kampai!" Momo started to slide under the table.
Shunsui, who was nearest, deftly and gently caught her. He hauled her into his lap. He was careful not to grab her inappropriately. While he would cheerfully grope any woman who had the ability to slap him silly or dodge, he did draw the line at drunken girls who couldn't defend themselves.
Matsumoto watched him from Momo's other side and nodded. "Don't want her in the peanuts, do we?"
That was when a fiery killing intent flooded over them all and brought Shunsui to sobriety far faster than he appreciated.
Shunsui followed the focus as if it were a compass. It was coming, of all people, from blond Kira Izuru. The intent was so strong, so pure, his companions gaped wide-mouthed at him.
"Get... get away from her, taisho," Kira demanded, even though he was slurring drunk. Or was that because he was so drunk?
"No," Shunsui said equally firm. "She's perfectly safe here."
Kira's eyes hardened and his hand moved. There was the click and hiss of steel and a glimpse of Kira's blade, and then Hisagi Shuuhei had his hand on the back of the neck of Kira's kimono. Kira struggled, pulled, and cloth ripped. Suddenly there was a shocked silence through the bar as everyone saw the cuts, the marks all over Kira's upper body. Kira just snarled and tried to get at Shunsui and away from Shuuhei.
Momo stirred in Kyouraku's gentle grip. "Kira, no... don't cut me..." she whispered, still half passed out.
Kira's intent blew out like a candle in the wind. He cried out, stumbled, and fled out the door of the bar. It was Shuuhei that looked at Shunsui.
Shunsui nodded, "Follow your kohai, Hasagi-kun. Looks like he has reason to need help trusting captains."
Shuuhei ran off after his fellow vice-captain.
Shunsui met Matsumoto's eyes. "You were right, Rangiku. I sorry that you were right, that no one else saw until now."
Matsumoto nodded and sighed, "I just hope it's in time."
Everyone else just gaped at them. Momo sleepily murmured in Shunsui's arms and snuggled in like a kitten. He grinned suddenly, and gently patted her hair. "It'll be all right, Hinamori-chan. It will be all right."
Izuru ran away. He was drunk. He was angry. He hurt badly from being reminded that he'd drawn his sword on Momo when she most vulnerable. He also ached. He couldn't quite think. The ache mixed with the fog of alcohol, and he was very sure he couldn't face all the people he'd seen and met with and drank with for so long. None of them had been able to see him for what he was for so long, he was sure they didn't want to see him now, after seeing... that.
But someone was following him. He staggered through a few shunpo steps, but the reiatsu of the person following him remained, silent and relentless, padding as quietly as a hunter through the night.
Stop, Izuru, if you stop, I can stop him with just a few blows. No one can escape the weight of humility.
No, Wabisuke, I cannot raise you against other shinigami again. Ever again.
As you wish.
But finally, his knees were shaking, he was breathless and nearly about to throw up. Izuru had to stop. He put his back to the wall and let that dangerous reiatsu catch up. It stopped a bit out of his eyesight, limited by the lamplight in the alley. It prowled, pacing, back and forth at the edge of his perceptions and, finally, when Izuru thought he couldn't take any more, it came forward.
"Shuuhei?" Izuru asked incredulously. "Is that you?"
"Yes," Shuuhei said quietly. "Kira-kohai... what's wrong?"
Izuru didn't mean to open his mouth at all, but then everything started spilling out at the honorific. "Hisagi-senpai. Everything. Everyone. Me most of all. You all still call me Kira, don't you? I miss... the pain... and the comfort, my taicho. I wanted to protect people, you know? Protect my division from... him. Protect Momo from them. Protect... so many. But I've done nothing. Nothing but threaten the very ones I should be most careful with. Nothing but ache for something dreadful."
The tears he was crying surprised him. Why was he crying? He had no right to cry. He was the one who had failed.
"Dreadful?" Shuuhei moved in closer. "Those wounds weren't that fresh. You're healing. Were they from... Ichimaru?"
"Yes." Izuru's voice cracked and he whispered. "I... I was... I wanted him to pay attention to me, not... not to the rest of the division. I paid for it, but I did my best."
"You protected the division from what Ichimaru would have done to any of those he wanted for a toy, by being his...?" Shuuhei's deep voice hesitated.
"... his vice-captain." Izuru finished the sentence his own way. "I... I tried. I think it worked. I'm... hard to break, he said." Izuru's voice dropped to a whisper, "Or at least I was. I think, near the end, he liked that I was broken, that I would do anything he wanted. And now... now I can't get out of my head the fact that I want pain, want someone to hurt me and use me." He felt himself blush hot at just being able to say that.
"Those are two different things, you know that, don't you?" Shuuhei moved just a little closer, and Izuru wanted, so badly, to lean into the taller man. Those dark eyes were studying him, and Izuru wondered if it was like studying a bug, something repulsive and wiggling. But Shuuhei's expression was still, neutral, quiet and listening in a way Izuru had never seen before.
"Diff... different? What?" Izuru was bewildered, but mesmerized by that intense gaze.
"Pain and hurt. They're two different things. Pain is a sensation. Like arousal, like a caress, like a tongue tip just on the rim of your ear, it's just another sensation that the body can give your heart, your brain. Hurt is damage, sometimes physical, sometimes emotional; but hurt takes away from your heart, your soul, or your body, leaves it less than it was. Pain can be applied without hurt. Or even if it might hurt your body, it can feed your soul." Shuuhei spoke those words of near poetry in his even voice.
Izuru felt dizzy listening to those suggestions made in that deep voice, at those dazzling words. "What? How?"
Shuuhei gave Izuru a quiet chuckle. "How about I show you? Tomorrow? Our divisions could meet in practice bouts. Just a quick tree competition, with you and I doing teaching bouts with our shinigami, and then end with a duel between you and me."
"Fight? Fight you? I vowed I'd never raise Wabisuke against another shinigami again," Izuru said.
"Practice bouts, Izuru-kohai, we'll do practice bouts with bogu and shinai, not live blades. Just testing our sword skill, not soul powers." Shuuhei's voice should have been laughing, but it wasn't.
There was a promise under the words, under the use of his given name, that made Izuru tremble quietly. Sword work. That was safe, that was like breathing. Fighting under the boundaries of kendo, that might even be fun. It had been a very long time since Izuru had been able to fight for fun.
"Yes. Okay. A... kind of weekend competition? Just for fun." Izuru wasn't quite sure how that was an answer to all the terrible things he'd said, but it was something solid he could hang onto. That and the fact that of all his friends, Shuuhei hadn't just let him run away again.
"Right. Just for fun," Shuuhei said quietly.
Izuru nodded, fuzzily. "Uhm... I'm never going to remember this, am I?"
"Can I help you back to your quarters?" Shuuhei asked.
"Please," Izuru said, and felt Shuuhei's muscular shoulders under his arm. He leaned against that strength and passed out.
Izuru found the note the next morning, when he woke with the sun. It sat demurely by Wabisuke, which sat in his stand, sheathed and ready. He groaned quietly when he realized that Shuuhei must have undressed him, even put away his zanpakutou, but he got up anyway. He got his hangover kido worked out, got plenty to drink, and then headed to the Third Division's cafeteria.
Folks were starting to shuffle in. He ate his breakfast with more appetite than he'd expected. He found himself looking forward to the preparation as much as the combat itself.
During the morning briefing of the division, Izuru got up and announced the mini-tournament with Ninth Division. It was met with enthusiasm and mutters of "Those pacifists will be a pushover." He grinned. It might be an even better fight than he'd thought, if his guys were underestimating them to start.
Everyone left their shoes outside the dojo. When they entered, they bowed. Shuuhei and the Ninth came trickling in as well. At 10, they got all the names and rankings together. Shuuhei and Izuru organized all the ladders with a bit of kitbizing from the various Seats on the relative rankings of the folks within their squads. Since the Divisions were so clearly defined by rankings, it was easy to do.
Then everyone got their bogu and started strapping in. Izuru knelt and let the tare rest on his lap, spreading the flaps of the leg and groin protector. He pulled it up against his body and got the ties wrapped around his waist. He tied them under the front flap. The dou came next, the chest protector's straps ran around the waist, crossed his back, and then tied up at the shoulder in that special knot that would make it one-handed work to get it off afterward.
Izuru found comfort in the quick, simple work, ingrained into his fingers and body nearly as deeply as the fighting itself. His equipment smelled of himself, the padding within the shell fit his body like a second skin. He picked up his men and kote in his right hand and took them to the field he was assigned. His zanshin relaxed, started taking in all the reiatsus, the moods of the people around him, their motions, their positions. Izuru felt aware, awake in a way he hadn't for a very long time. Everyone was calm, serious, and readying themselves. He breathed deeply.
Shuuhei walked over. Izuru found that he could, in this environment, just look the bigger man in the eye and grin.
"How are you doing, now, Kira?" Shuuhei asked.
"Better, Hisagi. Much better. Thank you," Izuru said quietly.
"You aren't afraid of getting hurt in the fights?" This time the amusement was evident in Shuuhei's voice.
Izuru laughed. "No."
"But you'll probably get hit a few times."
Izuru blinked, wondering what Shuuhei was getting at. "Of course, but it's just shinai."
"They can still bruise, and when splintered will bite. When someone strikes full force on the helmet, it's not nothing. And, of course, you've probably had your hands go numb when someone got a good hit on your hands before, right?" Shuuhei was watching the other shinigami, not Izuru as he spoke, so Izuru couldn't read him at all.
"Of course, but that kind of pain..." Izuru slowed as he heard what he was saying. "That kind of pain is nothing in a good fight. It just makes it more fun, all the more motivation to get my opponent back, a way to gauge strength."
Shuuhei looked at Izuru when Izuru's voice had slowed. He smiled a smile that touched his dark eyes. "Right. I look forward to our fight." He gave Izuru a small bow. Izuru bowed back, thoughts running like a wind through his mind.
A few hours later, Izuru was dripping with sweat, nursing a huge bruise on his right thigh, and happier than he'd been in weeks.
The first several teaching bouts had been good. The fighting style of the Ninth was different enough that he'd had to keep on his toes. But he'd taught them to be far more careful of where their limbs were relative to their centers.
Izuru realized that by fighting with Wabisuke in released form, that he had turned into a precision hit fighter. He was far more comfortable then most kendoka with hitting the hands, the knees, and with blocking another weapon with his own. Most edges couldn't handle a full-blown block, so most kendoka would try to dodge the blow entirely. With Wabisuke's powers, he found that he actually sought out deflecting positions, moving away his opponent's strike by using their own power against them. With the powers, those instances would have disabled his opponents quickly. As it was, when he'd deflected the initial blow, he was close enough to make killing ripostes when any other kendoka would have been out of reach.
But there were reasons his was an unconventional style, and Ninth's Third seat nearly eliminated him in the next to last round of play because of it. She'd been watching him as he fought the others. Izuru, on the other hand, had spent his rest periods watching Shuuhei, so he had no real idea what she could do when they first faced each other and bowed.
"Onegaishimasu!" They both said. They moved their shinai from their right hip to their left. They bowed, they drew, and then began.
She was flexible, fast, and it was obvious after even the first half minute of their bout that she'd learned a lot from Shuuhei. That utter directness, purity of intent in motion, that hard focus were all there. Izuru's breath caught even as he had to dodge an attack that had no angle of deflection. There was very little slop in how she worked, no overreaching, no easy targets for his usual strikes.
Izuru tried it anyway, a quick strike to the hands. She pulled her hands back, up over her head, elbows wide for a good view of him. She gained an attack stance even as she got her hand out of the way of his attack. When he hesitated in going past her right side, she kiai'ed and struck yelling, "Tare!"
He tried to get his shinai around, but he was off-balance. All his effort did was plant the very hip she was striking. He knew it was going to bruise as soon as she hit, but he kept going, this time, whirling to ready.
Bouts were two hits out of three. She now had one. He remembered that she'd been watching him, so instead of doing his usual tactics, he went for the direct strike for the throat. It was another unusual target, but the protective mask had a throat guard for a reason. He struck fast, direct, and she was watching her perimeter so closely she didn't protect her center correctly. "Tsuki!" He stopped just as the hit counted, no use harming her. The judge waved in the point.
They were even.
Izuru was panting, not panicking, but thinking. He was trying too hard, attacking when he should be letting her attack. She came at him. From center she swung to his right, and he blocked her to his outside. He tried his riposte, and that got him into trouble, because he'd blocked her to a position of advantage. Her sword swung towards his head faster than his was reaching up, after his block, to her gut.
Izuru flung himself into a roll to the left, using reflexes from real fights. And in the midst of the roll he saw the opportunity and whacked her on the right knee with his shinai. "Gedan." He didn't say it with much conviction from his ridiculous position on the ground.
But the judge waved in the point. And the Third seat laughed and pulled off her helmet, laces in her fist. She gave him a small, calloused hand up. "Nice reflexes, Kira-fukutaicho," she said.
Izuru shook his head, pulled off his own steel-barred mask. He ran his hand through his bangs, trying to get them out of his face, "Thanks, I think. You had me dead to rights, though. That'll teach me to look past my opponent."
She smirked as she said, "Yeah, well, Hisagi-fukutaicho is certainly worth looking at. I did have you, I thought, but it was educational to see how you got out of that. Thank you for the fight."
Izuru bowed back. "Thank you for the fight, Third. It was a good one."
She laughed again. "But I really want to see you take on my fukutaicho, this is going to be a treat."
Izuru blushed. "What, you want to see me beaten that badly?"
She looked suddenly surprised. "What? No way. Use those reflexes, Kira-fukutaicho, I'm pretty sure my fukutaicho won't let you get away without them. That's what's going to be so cool."
She was right.
After the moment Shuuhei and he bowed across the field and drew, there was no time for planning, no time for the thought he'd taken with the other shinigami, even the Third. Shuuhei pressed Izuru for every ounce of his strength, speed, and reflex. Neither of them called their shots, they wouldn't have in the field, and they weren't teaching anymore.
The only thing missing was the hiss and clang of steel. Instead it was the snap bang of bamboo, and the crackle of splintering as they met, blocked, struck, harder and harder. Shuuhei's directness, cat quickness, and strength played against Izuru's yielding, turning style that snapped back like an adder after each turn. Both of them a match for the other when it wore down to the raw power and reaction of the two men's fighting souls.
Izuru lost himself in the fight. Lost his thoughts, his pain, the ache of that missing part of himself. He no longer had the room for those things against the purity of the power that pounded at him, looking for any and every crack in him, in his focus. He poured his heart out in the striving, meeting each blow, letting muscle memory meet what his eyes could just glimpse developing. He blocked and whirled and struck at every opening that he felt might be there. Most of which disappeared as soon as he'd used them, but it was enough to just strive.
When the judge first blew the whistle for the end of the five minute bout, both men ignored it. But when the judge walked towards the two combatants, extending his reiatsu, the two whirled as one reflex. The judge stopped and everyone was impressed when he didn't take a step backward. Then both Shuuhei and Izuru took a deep breath and stopped. They bowed to the judge and bowed to each other, the deep bow of respectful opponents.
Then they were both startled as a roar went up from their Divisions. The men and women watching as eagerly as wolves, suddenly burst up out of their seiza positions and came to thump them on the back and congratulate them on an extraordinary fight.
Dozens of hands helped Izuru take off his gear. They hovered for a while, exclaiming over the fight.
When he was finally able to, Izuru took Shuuhei aside. "Uhm... I hate to ask this, but... what was the score?"
Shuuhei started laughing and couldn't stop.
Izuru felt himself blush again, and he rolled his eyes. He went looking for the judge, "Uhm... sorry, sir, but what was the score?"
The judge blinked up at him. "You didn't know? You won."
Izuru felt Shuuhei, still laughing, lean against his back as he tried to absorb what the judge said. "I... I won?"
"Yes. One of your stop hits clearly hit Hisagi-fukutaicho on the kote, his hands. There were no other clear, clean hits that we could see." The judge smiled up at him. "You fought very, very well, Kira-fukutaicho, an example to us all."
Shuuhei was... he was giggling and leaning hard on Izuru from behind. The sensation of that lean, hard, sweating body pressed up against his ass and back was turning Izuru on so hard that he was aching with it. He blessed the fact that martial arts hakama were loose and comfortable. It suddenly occurred to him that his body was in pain, but this was nothing like... nothing like Gin. He ached, hurt from head to toe from how hard he'd worked himself, but with that pain was that level of euphoria that he'd always only associated with Gin's torture sessions. He was also feeling great about how he'd fought. So this was what Shuuhei meant?
Izuru moved just a bit, arching back against Shuuhei. He was rewarded by a low gasp and just enough of a hint of the hardness he wanted to find. He grinned. The judge's eyebrow raised. Izuru met the look calmly. "Thank you, sir. I appreciate your judgment of the bout, and your help in our Divisions' exercises."
"Hai," Shuuhei said, sounding just a little breathless. "My thanks as well. I think it's been quite... successful."
The judge bowed to the two of them, and they bowed back. Together, the two fukutaicho dispersed their divisions to their regular weekend duties. Then, still together, they went to Izuru's quarters, his private bath and bedroom. There Shuuhei showed Izuru just how good it could be to have someone that understood his need for pain, but who would never hurt him.