Rating: R -- for hard battle and yaoi-style consequences
Spoils: Parts of Soul Society arc with Byakuya's bankai capabilities.
Warnings: As usual, the battle turned... harder on me than I expected. It's a little bloody. Boy on boy kiss, too.
Summary: After Aizen has fallen, the Gotei 13 sends a few captains out to clean up... and one finds something other than just the trash and debris.
Disclaimer: I don't own or make money off of Bleach. The guys enjoying whatever they're enjoying in this fic are adults under California Law. It's all fictional... really.
Author's Note: This is part of a fan-exchange with xshelaghx. She drew me a really, really lovely pencil sketch of Jyuushiro as her part, a very long time ago. I'd been hoping Ulquiorra would show his released sword before NOW, but no luck. I had to rewrite this four times, but I think it's good now. Unbeta'ed so all mistakes are my own...
It had been three days since Las Noches had fallen to the Vizards, the youngsters, and the backup Captains. Three days since Aizen-sama had died, the sun had gone out, the clouds had disappeared, and the rocks and sand had gone back to shadows amid bloody light. Three days Ulquiorra had skulked amid the shadows, his strength draining into the thirsty sands from the wounds he'd taken, even as his own purpose had drained away without Aizen-sama.
It would soon end. A sharp, cold, impossible fragrance seeped out in the blood-lit desert, moving toward him.
Smaller Hollows burst from cover as the presence walked steadily closer, unlucky escapees from the fortress, perhaps. A seething sea of improbable pink hissed through the air, and Hollows burst into dust all about him.
Perhaps this one could do him the same service. It might be good to finally rest, ease the ache of the hunger and weakness that gnawed constantly at him, had gnawed him since his other death.
But this one would have to prove themselves something better than mere trash.
Ulquiorra drew his sword. Without wasting an instant, he threw first a ceros blast and then himself around the corner.
The blast was batted back, nearly as fast as he'd thrown it, and he narrowly avoided being hit by it.
A thousand-thousand edges gleamed pink and hissed as they threw themselves at him. There was no time to think, only enough to decide. He pushed more power into his step, ignoring the attack completely. He pushed all his energies into a slash at the slender, black-haired man, whose silver eyes didn't even flicker as the petals flowed in the way, the pinging of hundreds of steel edges against Ulquiorra's steel. The sheer volume of them denied his strike.
Petals from the initial attack blew around Ulquiorra himself, sliding against the iron of his skin, tiny edges that sliced right through his clothing, but made no mark on the bone of his mask. A hundred tiny slivers of cold steel, that slid right across his skin because the intent behind them wasn't enough to cut through Ulquiorra's reiatsu levels, even as drained as he was.
He drove the point of his sword down into and through the irritating cloud, he followed his sword. Ulquiorra heightened his speed on the run and brought both hands to the hilt to bring more power to bear on his strike. Again, the petals danced in the way, hundreds split on the edge of his intent and his steel, but there were more. Ulquiorra followed through, whipping about, and then going in again.
Full speed, this time, and he loosed a slash that the petals only partially blocked from his tormentor's back. Blood flew in a beautiful arc from the slash in the white coat, and the captain turned, his hands suddenly in play, pulling the petals in a flood toward Ulquiorra.
A single Gotei captain, without the Vizards or his connection or children, should have offered no resistance to the Fourth Espada when even the first of the Vizards was afraid of him.
But this captain was resisting.
As Ulquiorra cut through this cloud he felt the nature, the intent behind the petals had changed. Not anger, not fear now that the man had been cut. There was something else, deeper, more solid. It took Ulquiorra's breath away when the memory of Aizen-sama's surety, his conviction that his was the one true way filled Ulquiorra's head. That strength. It couldn't be...
And a thousand reflecting blades of adherence to duty cut Ulquiorra in his moment of doubt.
He parried the ones from around his face, his eyes and throat, reacting with instinct, but he felt the other blades nearly flay him alive, sinking in deep into his older wounds, causing him to stumble. He still didn't cry out, wouldn't cry out.
Instead, he released his sword, "San Gabriel, toca!"
And the petals tumbled in the blast of sound, of wind, as Ulquiorra's helm closed and he felt the bone plate mail enclose him, the petals now pinging off like blades thrown against a wall. He charged, point first with his now slimmer, faster blade, and was rewarded with the shock of a strike, the initial resistance of skin and a crack of bone, and then the slow sliding sink of his blade within the others flesh. He heard a grunted cry as he jerked his weight to the right as he ran through. There was the touch of warm runnels of blood on his hands, droplets on his skin.
His mind caught up with what his eyes had seen. His strike had been off to the side of the heart. He had not killed his opponent.
Ulquiorra turned and used the blast of wind, of sound against his enemy, The cherry blossoms sent hurtling toward him shattered, shredded, and, finally, the figure under his attack was shredded as well. Blood dripped from dark hair, long fingers, a cut above the dark-lashed eyes flowed crimson to highlight the smallest of smiles as a narrow tongue swept out to taste his own blood.
Then the other said, "Shuukei, Hakuteiken."
Power roared around him.
Ulquiorra pulled back and faced the other slender figure. Both of them were tattered, both bloody and unbowed. They took their stances, feet shifted, and then they charged each other, blades raised.
In the last instant of the mutual strike, Ulquiorra hesitated; and a blade as white as his own dead skin slashed through his bone mail, opening him up like a crab cracked along its own carapace, cutting through all his right shoulder muscles and across his chest muscles so that he couldn't raise even his arms, much less his sword.
But it hadn't cleansed him, hadn't taken his head from his shoulders or split his helmet like the shell of a nut. The realization of that fact hit him nearly as hard as his knees hit the sand, his blood spraying in an arc, startling him with is redness against the white of his own skin and clothing.
"No," he said, staring at the patterns on the sand, as his released form melted away at the extent of his injuries. "You're supposed to kill me, you stupid human trash."
"I should wipe you from the face of this benighted sand for insulting me," the captain said, calmly, whipping his white blade with his right arm to get the blood off it. His left hand now pressed to his chest. The ghostly glow of spirit particles came flowing from the landscape all around them.
The captain relaxed, the halo of light about him subsiding, the white blade turning back into ordinary steel. He pulled his hand from his chest, and when he took a deep breath there was no sound from the opening. Still, blood dripped onto the sand, flowing from all his wounds, across the tattered white and disappearing into the shredded black of his hakama only to reappear again on the sand where it flowed into and blended with Ulquiorra's blood. Ulquiorra thought it odd that their blood was so much the same when so much else was different.
"Then do it," Ulquiorra said quietly. "I won't stop you, now."
"Exactly, which is why I will not do so. Especially given my orders to bring you back alive, if possible."
Ulquiorra looked up, startled. "Alive? Why?"
The Captain's eyes narrowed. "Because it was decided that it would be more... humane... to keep all of you Arrancar as you are, if you will submit to the needs of Soul Society."
"Submit..." Ulquiorra said, his voice as flat as the land around them. "Submit to experimentation, to having my being pulled inside out again? To great needs that break on the wheel of time?"
"No." The assurance behind the answer stopped Ulquiorra, made his will falter, hesitate as it had during the fight. "Your vows and responsibilities would be the same as ours: to protect and maintain the safety of Soul Society."
Ulquiorra asked, "What makes you think I would take that vow? Keep that promise?"
"Because of all the Arrancar, you kept faith to your duties to Aizen even after he fell." The pewter eyes met Ulquiorra's eyes. "You protected Orihime-chan when you could. You did not kill the idiot child even when you had him at your mercy. Those actions or inactions speak more of you than, perhaps, you know."
Ulquiorra sighed, his hand clenched. A ceros bloomed there. "And if I refuse?"
"Then I will kill you."
"You." Ulquiorra shook his head. "You aren't strong enough. Your inaction, not killing me when you should have tells me more than, perhaps, you know as well."
Ulquiorra loosed the ceros. The time spent talking had given him enough room to heal the tendons across his shoulders and chest, so he grasped San Gabriel and focused all his pain, his loss of Aizen's strength and solidity, into a two-handed strike that should just tear through the merely human shinigami.
His blow was blocked, barely, with a scream of steel on steel; but the sheer force of it knocked the beautiful captain back. Another, and the captain slid back, but his balance was more sure. Another, that Ulquiorra had to scream to deliver. When the blow was solidly caught again, the captain made his move.
His left hand snaked into Ulquiorra's hair and gripped tight right at his scalp. Battle heated lips bent to Ulquiorra's and pressed hard, tongue striking into the parting for breath for the fight, and then pressed in deep.
Ulquiorra, shaking with the adrenaline of his attack, kissed back just as hard. His breath already fast and hard, only deepened. Rather than pulling away from the grip in his hair, he set his own leg behind the knee of the bigger man and pushed even as he tossed San Gabriel to the sand to the side.
His enemy tumbled with Ulquiorra on top, Senbonzakura between them, still in blocking position, the edge of the blade cut into him, but he was too busy kissing, pulling apart the bloody robes between him and the man beneath him. The hand pulled itself from his ragged hair, and then pushed firmly against his wounded side. Ulquiorra groaned at the pain, at the arousal that the pain fired to life, and in the moment he shifted, the blade was taken from between them and laid more carefully to the side.
Ulquiorra lost no chance, pushing the bigger man onto his back when his attention was more on the sword than on himself. He followed through with a kiss of his own, hard and frantic, and the others lips took everything he gave and returned it in full.
"Who are you?" he whispered against those lips as he finally allowed himself to tremble as much from blood loss as anything else.
"I am Kuchiki Byakuya, Captain of the Sixth Division," Kuchiki-san said far too calmly, looking up at Ulquiorra. Kuchiki-san reached up to brush the hair from Ulquiorra's eyes, and then to bury his fingers again against Ulquiorra's scalp, using his hair to hold him as the captain kissed him hard.
Ulquiorra ground against Kuchiki-san and was rewarded with both a gasp and evidence of exactly what had saved his life.
"And I am Ulquiorra Schiffer, former Fourth Espada," he said with his composure intact even as his reality cracked. His hands unsheathed the pale hardness of the captain underneath him as quickly as they could, roughly ripping cut cloth when it got in the way.
"Former?" Kuchiki-san asked, even as his hands burned against Ulquiorra's cuts, pulling off what shreds the slender Espada still had on. The hands clad in red-splattered white hand guards moved up and then hesitated at the hole of his missing heart.
Ulquiorra put his bloody hand on Kuchiki-san's and deliberately brought those fingers within the hole that marked all the things he'd tried so hard to hold onto after death, all the things that were torn from him, and all the loves and desires that would never to be his again. The cry he gave as his body arched at the touch was as much of the intense pain of past regrets as it was pleasure at the warmth now filling his hollow, his hunger. Kuchiki-san's left hand held Ulquiorra's narrow hip, even as Ulquiorra now clung to the bigger man's frame.
"Yes..." Ulquiorra finally said when he could get his breath again. "I think you've... told me enough to... convince me, Kuchiki-san."
Kuchiki-san laughed a low laugh as he pulled off his hand guards. "And here I was hoping for a few more arguments..."
His warm human hand slid in, filling Ulquiorra's emptiness, and the former Fourth Espada hoped as well.