Characters: Ukitake, Kyouraku, Starrk
Prompt: Ink, by theablackthorn
Rating/Warnings: PG, None
Summary: Ukitake is grinding Ink, and Starrk wants a little permanence.
Author's Note: This is for theablackthorn's birthday. She asked for these three and "Ink". I do not own Bleach or its characters. I do not make money from these writings.
Starrk heard a low grinding sound coming from Ukitake's office in the barracks of the 13th Division. Curious as to the cause, Starrk poked his head into the room and found Lilynette and the two little boy-aspects of Sōgyo no Kotowari all piled together on the silk cushions in the corner of the office. They were snoring: the late afternoon heat, huge lunch, and a long game of "Catch the Devil" had finally caught up to all of them.
"Peaceful like that, aren't they?" Ukitake commented, as he continued to make circular motions with a black stick over a stone.
"Yes. Yes, they finally are, and now I'm contemplating joining them. They look awfully comfortable," Starrk mused, thinking of the rampaging wake of chaos that usually followed the children about the barracks of the 13th Division. "What are you doing in your moment of peace?"
"Paperwork," Ukitake said ruefully. "It never stops in the Divisions, and while the Thirds are good about routine, I deal with anything out of the ordinary. And having both of you transfer in so quickly from the Academy has been something of a challenge."
"Sorry?" Starrk asked, not sure if that was a problem or not. Since he and Lilynette had come to Soul Society after being cleansed, the familiarity they both felt for both Ukitake and Kyouraku had drawn them to the two Captains they'd faced in the fake Karakura Town.
"It's not something to worry about." Ukitake's long, slender fingers continued their circles. "The maze of rules and regulations make an appropriate training ground for some of the traps high-level Hollows create as a matter-of-course."
Starrk searched the serene features, and found humor crinkling the corners of those green eyes. He quirked a grin back, "Better you than me, compadre, better you than me."
Ukitake chuckled, but the stick remained in motion. "Now. What may I do for you?"
"What is that?" Starrk asked, curiosity winning.
"This?" Ukitake looked taken aback, his hand pausing, lifting the stick from the liquid. "I forgot, the Academy now uses those new-fangled writing instruments. Do you mean to tell me you've never rubbed an ink stick for ink?"
Starrk raised one eyebrow at what might have been an unintended rude joke, but Ukitake's eyes were clear. Kyouraku would have purred something about helping the white-haired captain with his rubbing, but Starrk knelt by Ukitake's side, so he was eyelevel with the action. "Yes. I've never done that. Show me?"
"Here, take it like this." Ukitake handed over the dry end.
Starrk took it and held very still while Ukitake moved to kneel behind Starrk, warm chest pressed against Starrk's back, slender hand wrapping about his own. Ukitake's fingers felt so cool, and hard calluses pressed against Starrk's hold on the stick. Starrk was never quite sure if the slender Captain of the 13th meant to be so enticing, so he simply took it on face value rather than implication.
"We'll hold it upright so that the entire surface contacts the stone." Ukitake's soothing, low voice spoke near Starrk's ear.
"The ink stone, it's what contains the water." Starrk admired the calm and patience in the explanation, surrounding him like the silk of Ukitake's Captain's robes and the scent of peony soap, and he could see why Kyouraku enjoyed making time to be with the man. "It's made of stone, carefully smoothed but not polished so that the surface can rub away particles of the stick to make ink. Here... in circles... circles make for the smoothest ink and doesn't chip away chunks that can't be used for writing."
The motions mesmerized Starrk, and he could now feel the faint vibration of the ink grinding against the stone. Darkness bloomed in the water, spread, and thickened.
"What's it made of?" Starrk asked. The blackness seemed impenetrable but alive in a way Barragan's blackness had never been.
"Pine soot and a special glue that dissolves in water, but will dry permanent. It's nearly a type of lacquer, which dries hard and won't bleed if wetted again. You know how to write, yes?"
"Oh, of course," Starrk said blithely. Reading and writing had been new puzzles, a part of this life, but the whole idea that he could make pictures on the paper that would always be there fascinated him. Memory had always been such a tricky thing for him as a Hollow, pieces and chunks of his past lost to time and pain and hungers he hadn't wanted to remember. With writing, Starrk could remember, and that was important to him.
"Have you done so with a brush?" Ukitake asked patiently.
"No. It's mostly been with pens and pencils. I like pens better, as you can erase pencil." There didn't seem much point to writing you could erase, to Starrk's way of thinking. Why do it at all if it was going to go away?
"Then you may like this even better. What would you like to write?"
"Coyote Starrk and Lilynette Gingerback joined the Gotei 13 on this day. Can you put in the date, Ukitake-san?"
"We can put it in together, Starrk. Here..." Ukitake's hand closed about Starrk's, and Starrk was fascinated by the graceful dip and glide of the brush. The marks flowed from one to the next like blocks into strikes, blood from wounds, or breath through lungs. He loved watching the marks grow under their hands. The sounds of his name and then Lilynette's made a neat string of symbols. He sounded them out as they wrote.
It ended with the numbers of the day, month, and year according to the Soul Society calendar. Starrk could read those easily. He reached forward and touched the words. Ink came off the paper onto his fingertips.
"Oh, you've smeared it." Ukitake sounded mildly distressed.
"It's still there," Starrk said with both assurance and wonder. "We're still here. Here, let me."
"Certainly." Ukitake relinquished the brush to Starrk's hand, and Starrk missed the slender Captain's warmth as he withdrew to kneel behind his desk.
The lines didn't come out nearly as gracefully as it had with Ukitake's guidance, but Starrk liked that they were his line. So he drew the mountain and a person climbing it for "climb", the symbol for "up" that was always easy to remember as the little bit was above the flat of the earth, and the sign for Heavens always made him laugh at the idea of a man with his arms stretched out and that which cover any man even when he'd made himself big. The three-fold pain in the word Death sobered him. Once started on the first sentence, the rest started to come from him like water breaking through a dam.
The next thing Starrk knew, the light slanted further in the sky, and he had a sheaf of papers spread all about him, all filled and scattered like leaves from a tree. He gathered and ordered the pages, rereading what he'd done. The story wandered about, just as he and Lilynette always had, but now that it was down in black and white, it was real. Starrk looked up to find Ukitake with a pile of finished paperwork, watching him sort.
Once he was satisfied with the order, that the words told what needed to be said, Starrk handed the pages over to Ukitake, whose black eyebrows rose.
"You'd like me to read this?"
"Yes. The more people that know this story the less likely it will be forgotten." Starrk wondered where to put the brush now that he was done with it, and he fiddled with it until Ukitake took it away from him. He collapsed into a more comfortable lying position on the tatami and watched Ukitake's eyes scan the lines, flickering and following the words down the page.
"How big was the mountain of bones?" Ukitake asked, as if asking as calmly as if he were asking about the weather.
"Taller than we were," Starrk answered, rolling to lie on his back, hands under his head.
"Your powers were great enough that you must have eaten great many souls," Ukitake murmured, sounding absentminded, though from the taste of his intent reiatsu, the Captain was so deeply focused he didn't have the room for spoken words. Pages rustled and whispered.
A tread sounded on the boards outside, and Kyouraku's reiatsu rolled in far before the pink-clad man even opened the door. Starrk stayed on his back, watching the wooden ceiling of Ukitake's office. He had to close his eyes as the cool spring flood of the power of the Captain of the Eighth Division filled the room. Coyote Starrk's desert heart always leapt to flower in that refreshing presence, but he refused to allow himself the comfort.
"Hm. Lying down on the job already? Thought you'd give it at least a week of prompt and eager service, especially after Yamamoto and his teachers were through with you." The amusement was laced through an odd sort of tenderness Starrk had never known before Kyouraku, and it made him smile before he opened his eyes to see Kyouraku bent over him.
"He's been busy enough. Driving the Thirds to distraction with his display on the practice field," Ukitake murmured before he held out the sheaf of papers Starrk had worked over out to Kyouraku. "And he's been busy with this. I think you need to read it, too, Kyouraku."
"Mm. Yes. You should," Starrk said, closing his eyes again as Kyouraku sat down next to him.
The power pooled about Starrk, soothing him as thoroughly as the sound of paper on paper. Starrk breathed slowly, relaxing, trusting, and didn't startled when gentle fingers stroked into his curling hair.
"You've gone through a great deal."
Starrk couldn't read the deep voice, and the reiatsu about him flowed as quickly as ever, never stopping for someone to touch. So he opened his eyes to see the dark-haired Captain frowning over the papers. "Perhaps," Starrk ventured. "I don't know other people's stories, only ours. The other Arrancar..."
"Grimmjow has appeared, but most were lost to Hell, I believe," Ukitake's cool tones made Kyouraku glance up at his long-time friend.
"Good to know the boy made it," Starrk murmured.
"Quite the fighter. The Eleventh love him, and he seems to have quite the love affair with them, as well. I haven't seen Zaraki or Madarame so happy or bruised in years," Kyourkau's tone was bemused. Long fingers shuffled through the paper again. "You've beaten him, haven't you?"
Starrk nodded. "Of course. It took far too much energy, of course, but I did."
"You haven't shown that kind of fighting prowess here," Ukitake said, straight to the point, as he usually did.
Starrk felt a mild pang of remorse, but then shrugged. "No need to. No one here is going to eat me, and I gain nothing by killing in the Academy. The classes and tournaments..." He shrugged again and got a chuckle from Shunsui.
"Too much work?"
Starrk nodded. "And no real point to it."
"Other than honoring the other students with what you could teach them." Ukitake's voice was stern enough to make Starrk frown.
Kyouraku waved the papers under Ukitake's nose. "And what of this?"
Kyouraku chuckled and continued. "It's a personal account of a Vasto Lorde. Think of all that the students and teachers might learn of how such Hollows are made and unmade."
Green eyes met brown and Starrk wished he knew exactly what was communicated between the two. Ukitake gave a nod and Kyouraku's smile turned dangerously lazy and suddenly both gazes turned to Starrk.
"What?" Starrk asked, startled.
"Are you all right with us sharing this with the whole of the Academy?" Ukitake asked. "It might help us a great deal, and afterward, it could go into my archives."
"I have thousands' of years worth of accounts stored away in my library. I would be honored to place this there as well."
"You would?" Starrk's incredulity at his memories being important enough for Ukitake to communicate and keep made him sit up. "Why would you do that?"
"You wished to be remembered," Ukitake said briskly, as he stood up. "This would be the best way. Generations would know of you and Lilynette, of your lives and story, and how you became to be what you are."
"Generations?" The same feeling Starrk had gotten when he'd learned that the ink could outlast him came to him. They would exist, in some sense, forever, and Starrk wouldn't have to hold onto existence with the same fervor they had when they were Hollow.
"Yes. I'd like that," Starrk said. "I wouldn't have to do anything more would I?"
A shout of laughter from Kyouraku greeted his question. "No. You've done well enough. We'll pass this on as needed."
"Sometime... sometime could Lilynette and I see your archives, Ukitake-san?" Starrk asked hopefully. "I'd like to see memories that are thousands of years old."
"Certainly, Starrk-san." And Ukitake's even voice reassured Starrk of a type of continuity he'd only ever dreamed of having. Certainly."