Title: Battle of One
Series: The Beautiful Lie
Characters: Aizen Sousuke, Shihouin Yoruichi
Warnings: AU, Implied Slash
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. That honor belongs to Tite Kubo.
Summary: Years after the painful end, the echoes of war still prove their influence. Ichigo comes home to find a dead man in his kitchen.
Part of The Beautiful Lie by dracoqueen22.
He knows with the first breathy moan he hears exactly what they are doing. While he is a genius, it doesn’t take one to figure it. To see the way Urahara watches the boy with something very different from parental concern. His former colleague may live in complete and utter denial, but he cannot hide the gleam in his eyes. Nor how they follow Kurosaki-kun no matter where he is in the room. The entire house could fall down around their heads, and Sousuke doubts that Urahara would notice unless a piece of debris hit the boy first.
And as he stands in the hallway outside their door, where he followed after Urahara not content with how their argument ended, Sousuke feels the thrill of satisfaction that he has once more been proven correct. But it is followed by a slight flicker of unease as he listens to the boy groan and say Urahara’s name – his family name, no less – like it is a precious thing. Sousuke has to turn away when the man corrects him, when he actually has to tell his young lover to be more familiar.
The boy is young, little more than a child, and something a good deal like revulsion fills his belly at the thought that Urahara could be so utterly weak. So completely despicable to satiate his lusts at a time like this and under such circumstances. The boy has only just lost everything. Has only just be freed from prison and gods only know what manner of punishments and tortures. Urahara may think him subhuman, but Sousuke is not the only monster here. And he doesn’t mean Kurosaki-kun’s Hollow either.
Aizen Sousuke is many things. Murderer. Betrayer. Villain. But even this is beyond him. He may have lead Gin astray, may have incited him to kill and maim, but he never touched him beyond how a father or mentor should. Which is far more than he can say for Kurosaki-kun. Or for himself.
It is an abhorrent and wretched thing, and had he still his powers, he would give them the rudest interruption imaginable. But as he is now, he can do little more than straighten his back and force himself to stand there and be still. Now, is not the time to act without thinking. And truthfully, once Kurosaki-kun is thinking more clearly, once he understand who and what exactly now shares his bed and his body, he may be more willing to listen.
Sousuke has no doubt of the secrets still between them, Kurosaki-kun and his supposed teacher. The boy hasn’t the faintest clue about the truth of his family, most especially his father and what occupation Isshin used to perform, or the myriad of relatives he still has in Soul Society. No idea that the blood flowing through his veins is some of the purest Seireitei has to offer. That if Chamber 46 only knew just who exactly they were dealing with, that they would come before him on bended knees and beg forgiveness. That there would’ve been no farce of a trial, much less imprisonment. That they would’ve smartly looked away and pretended to know nothing.
But Kurosaki-kun doesn’t know. No one bothered to tell him. No one ever bothers to tell him anything. And as much as it would delight Sousuke to be the one who does, he knows that he won’t be believed. Not now. Not this early.
He has to allow this to play out on its own. To only give the barest nudges from the sidelines. Subtle hints and soft directions. A supple and gentle hand to lead them where he wants.
But that is for later. For tomorrow. For when Urahara Kisuke’s guilty eyes and reddening face do not meet his as the blond steps out into the hallway. Smelling of sweat and sex. Sin. The scent of Kurosaki-kun’s innocence mixed with the stench and look of a man who has just done something heinous and knows it.
Sousuke can’t resist the tongue-lashing that ensues. The following barbs that echo and strike all too accurately. And Urahara cringes like a kicked dog, like a man who realizes that he is little more than filth. His retorts are halfhearted at best, although a few do slither beneath his defenses. And only the lowest of the low would speak of the dead in such a manner, would dare mention Gin’s name after what he has just done. And even he seems to comprehend that before he slinks off with his tail between his legs.
He watches Urahara leave with satisfaction before allowing himself a weary sigh. He slips down the hallway and into his own room, the space they have so graciously allowed him, and slides the door shut behind him. He has already memorized the layout and does not even need the light from the window to find his futon and ease between the covers. He curls on his side as always, back to the far wall and facing the doorway. Glasses set just above his head and within easy reach. He won’t need them to fight, but it is still nice to have them there come morning.
Sousuke settles back into the futon. His nose still aches, but he puts the pain aside. Slowing his breathing into an almost meditative pattern. The same one he always used before entering his inner world. But it is also perfect for calming his ever working mind, for easing his way to unconsciousness. Especially these days. Alone and outnumbered as he is.
This will probably be the only opportunity for quite awhile to have a full and decent night’s slumber. Especially since they’ll wear each other out, and he won’t be forced to sleep with one eye open. Perhaps even both since Urahara is sharing the same house. That man has undoubtedly done worse than murdering people in their beds; he was a member of the Onmitsukidoh, after all. And no telling what Shihouin Yoruichi had him doing in his spare time either. A little espionage here, some unjust imprisonment there. All followed up by a bit of child molestation to even out his day. His parents must have been so proud.
Regardless of that, it is Sousuke who finds himself between the proverbial rock and hard place. One of his new housemates is a man who would gladly murder him in his sleep. Who would slit his throat and dump the body in a dark alley if he thought for a second that he could get away with it. And the other is boy who was so recently his enemy, who cut through his precious Espada like tissue paper and kept going. That isn’t even counting the fact that Sousuke had a hand in dismantling his entire life.
And yet, Kurosaki-kun isn’t his enemy anymore. At least, he doesn’t consider himself to be such. He hasn’t run Sousuke through yet. Didn’t turn him in the instant that he knew that the ex-captain was still alive. A possibility exists there. A chance to bring his plans and dreams into fruition. An opportunity to make it all – the pain and loss and crushing defeat – worth something.
So much lost… but if he can just persuade the boy, just make him see reason. Sousuke knows that he isn’t the only villain of this story. Soul Society has played that role all too well since long before he ever graced the world with his presence. What he is, be it monster or man, it is all due to the Shinigami, the nobles. He is of their own making. The reflection cast in their own image. He learned treachery and cruelty at the knees of his parents, the perfect picture of all that Seireitei stands for and everything he despises. So completely weak but in positions of power, ignorant and pretentious and all too consumed with appearance over substance, over truth.
He mourns the loss of Kyouraku Shunsui, but the day his father died is probably one of the happiest in his entire life. He can still recall going to his room afterwards and laughing into his covers until he cried. The only thing that could’ve have possibly made it better was if Sousuke did the deed himself, but his father was bested by illness. At least, that is what everyone believes. He still has his suspicions about that, but he truly can’t blame Retsu-san if she didn’t use the full extent of her abilities on the man. She knew just what sort he was, and his loss was no real loss at all. Least of all to his younger son.
Aizen Yoshio remains unmourned, and his wife was all too quick to shove her eldest into the spotlight and then to search out a new husband after he too died. Sousuke honestly doesn’t know what she, his mother, is doing these days, and he really doesn’t care. If he is truly fortunate, she is dead. Perhaps even killed to ensure her only living child would receive no help from her quarter. As if she would give it in the first place. She never helped Sousuke when he was younger, when he had truly needed her, and only gained interest in him as he rose through the ranks. The first and only time she ever thought to kiss his cheek was when he became a captain, and he made it very clear that he did not wish for a repeat performance. She may have given birth to him, but that didn’t really make her his family.
No, he doesn’t mourn her potential loss either. Such sentiment is saved for others. For Shunsui, who taught him zanjutsu with a wide and proud grin. Ulquiorra, the favorite of his Arrancar children and the most believing in him. Even Kaname, the blind man who saw more clearly than all the rest.
And Gin… the boy he watched become a man. Who was so different but so much like Sousuke himself that they did not even need words between them. Who knew him for what he was the moment their eyes initially met. Their first conversation was over the body of a dead man, which should’ve been an indicator of their relationship. But he was a bastard and a child predator besides, no real loss. The real gem had been the boy who ended him. The prodigy. The Rukongai trash who blasted through records that had lasted since the founding days of the academy, many of them not even surpassed by Hitsugaya. They, these records, are doubtless the only written account of him left in Soul Society. All else would’ve been destroyed either during or right after the war; erasing and rewriting their history is rather common place in Seireitei.
Gin exists solely in memory now. In the minds of those who once thought to call him friend, Matsumoto and Kira-kun. Perhaps Retsu-san and Zaraki Kenpachi. Within Sousuke’s own mind.
The image of him is still so clear, even as Sousuke drifts off to sleep. Silverish hair fluttering in the breeze, a stark contrast to the night sky behind him. Listening to him relate an amusing anecdote from his day. Face boyish and open as they sip from their cups. Always tea and never sake; neither of them have a taste for the latter. Gin because it reminded him too much of Rukongai. And Sousuke because it was and still possibly is his mother’s vice.
If only Gin could see him now. He would laugh at the absurdity of the situation if he were here. If he could even laugh anymore. Kurosaki-kun would already be eating out of his hand. Gin always could be charming and friendly when he wished it. The light and shadows both. Bright but with darkness within. Unashamed to be himself and not what was expected.
He closes his eyes and can still see Gin’s smile. Still hear his voice. The bright and cheerfully mocking tones. The way Sousuke would always find ready-made tea on his desk and knew without a doubt who was responsible. He still remembers the boy forever trailing behind in his shadow, so content to be there and nowhere else.
Still recalls the sight of his blood on the sand and how it took forever for him to fall. Life in slow motion. The look of determination mixed with regret on Kuchiki Byakuya’s arrogant face as his blade strikes true. The fact that Sousuke’s name is the last thing Gin ever says. Not begging but apologizing. Sad for his failure and wishing he could’ve done better.
If there is anything Sousuke regrets, anything he has ever regretted, it is this. The loss of this boy. And the fact that where he has gone, Sousuke can never follow. It makes him hollow inside. The ache worse even than the void left by Kyouka Suigetsu. Echoing and empty within.
And there is moisture on his face, in his eyes, but he refuses to let anything resembling tears fall. Sousuke has not cried since he was a boy, since the last time bruises dotted his flesh. He’d honestly forgotten how.
Yet now, in this place of all places, he finally starts to remember.
They come for her while she’s in the bath. Barging in with demands, only to bluster and blush their way straight back out. It would be funny it things weren’t so damn serious, and Yoruichi can only sigh and slip into her clothing, her plans for the day now wrecked. But that thought crumbles away as she listens to their furious and heated tirade. And learns much to her unending chagrin that not only has Ichigo escaped from Seireitei, that he had been imprisoned in the first place. Something that she hadn’t even realized.
She must be slipping in her old age. Either that or she is just too distracted these days. Too busy getting the Onmitsukidoh back into shape now that Soifon is gone. After all, it is her responsibility, and there is no way in seven hells that she is about to let that idiot now in command of the second keep it.
But surely, Ukitake had kept him from a jail cell, right? They were only supposed to be asking Ichigo to join the Gotei 13 again, weren’t they? That was what her second had told her, but it looks like he was either misinformed or had outright lied. And either way, heads will roll. If not from her than at least from Ichigo’s many friends. Byakuya. Hitsugaya. Zaraki and all the rest.
And Yoruichi soon learns that all her previous notions are most certainly incorrect. Ichigo isn’t – wasn’t – here for a friendly chat. He was here to be charged and sentenced. A Vizard, a criminal. And now, a believed traitor. Consorting with Aizen? Even a complete moron could see that one is a lie. The only thing Ichigo would be willing do with Aizen would be to stab him repeatedly.
But it isn’t exactly like she can ask him about it. He’s gone. Vanished into the night like a wisp of smoke. So completely evaporated that they don’t even begin to know where to look for him.
Yoruichi, however, knows that Kisuke is involved. After all, when is he not? When these days can Ichigo be mentioned without Kisuke the quick addendum? Added on automatic and without conscious thought. He might not have freed Ichigo himself, but he’s the reason they can’t find anything. And she’s willing to bet her entire fortune that when they finally think to go to the shouten that it won’t even be there. Just as thoroughly disappeared as its owner.
Yoruichi only wishes that she could be there with them. That she isn’t stuck here in Soul Society, for once living up to her responsibilities. But how can she not? How can she not do this for everyone who survived the war? How can she not do it for Soifon? For her memory if nothing else? How could she allow it all to fall apart after Soifon worked so hard to get it this far?
If there is ever a reason she feels guilt in her life of carefree nonchalance and adventure, it is that. Leaving Soifon behind. Missing so much of her life and not even caring that she did until her return. Saving Kisuke and the others was the right thing to do, and Soifon never would’ve understood why she was willing to risk so much for them, but she still wishes that things could’ve turned out differently. That she had bothered to do her job earlier and had caught on to Aizen and his schemes.
Shinji had tried to tell her several times, tried to say that he thought there was something wrong with the quiet and thoughtful man who was his lieutenant. But Shinji wasn’t and still isn’t the most reliable or believable of people, and Aizen was Kyouraku Shunsui’s nephew, the closest he’d ever come to a son of his own. Unohana was his mentor and sponsor to the academy, and Ukitake was forever singing his onetime third-seat’s praises. Aizen was probably the only reason the fifth division hadn’t drowned in unfinished paperwork and unpaid bills, and the members of the division had always preferred him to their captain. It wasn’t hard to see why Shinji might be a twinge jealous at all the attention or why he might be trying to see something that wasn’t there.
And Yoruichi herself had been too busy causing mischief. Too busy with her flings and search for excitement to do her job properly. She knows now and can even admit it to herself that she let her position get to her head. She was a Shihouin, young and beautiful, powerful. Stronger than anyone for her family going back at least four generations. With servants to see to all her needs and people like Soifon able and willing to fulfill her every whim. She just didn’t have the time or energy to do something as tedious and boring as her job. And if it hadn’t been for Kisuke and later Soifon, the second division would’ve fallen down around her head.
But now, she’s lost them both. One to death. To her own failure to be strong enough, to push Soifon hard enough. The other to her own disregard. To her own careless nature.
Kisuke was her best friend, still is. Her only real friend for a very long time. He’d always been there when she needed him the most. Always the thoughtful and supporting shoulder to lean on when she wanted nothing more than to tear her hair out in frustration at the sheer stupidity of Soul Society in general and the Shihouin in particular. Always the guiding hand to keep her on track.
She’d honestly once thought to marry him. If only because he was her best friend and understood her and would never demand that she act or be anything than what she is. If only because he would never use the position to his advantage or in a grab for power. That he would truly care for her all his days and that she wouldn’t have a marriage of convenience like her parents. That he would respect her and her opinions, even when he thought she was crazy. That he’d never seen the Shihouin but only Yoruichi. That she’d never have to give him up, never have to give up her lifetime of adventure. Never have to become a proper lady and a dutiful and dull wife.
That and it would’ve given her relatives ulcers just thinking about it. The thought that she’d marry the bastard child of a married noble woman and her lieutenant lover, who was from Rukongai to boot. That his inventions would undoubtedly burn or blow up half their manor at least twice a month. That he didn’t care for position or formality. Only competence. Only ability and talent and loyalty.
But… But she couldn’t do that to him. Couldn’t do that to herself. Couldn’t give him the hope that she’d ever settle down. That she’d be able to love him like he loved her.
And love her he did. Yoruichi knows that he did. Still does. That he’d loved her from the very first game of tag and had continued to do so through all her antics and various flings. That he is nothing if not constant and faithful, even when she’d promised him nothing but friendship.
Which is why she’d finally had to let him go. Why she’d gone back to Soul Society without him. She couldn’t keep doing this. Couldn’t keep stringing him along. Making him want what he could never have. What she could never give. And somehow still be okay with that.
It isn’t fair to him. None of it is fair. Life isn’t fair.
And maybe some small part of her was just simply ready to move on. Perhaps she had just wanted to go home. Even if only for a little while. Maybe she’d wanted to see what she had missed during her century of absence.
Or maybe… just maybe, Yoruichi had finally seen what was there all along. Had realized that her actions have an effect on the people around her. That she isn’t the center of the universe. That the longer she stays the less chance Kisuke has of noticing what is right under his nose.
And that’s why she’s here now and not off with them. Not off with Kisuke and Ichigo, Isshin’s boy who isn’t a boy at all anymore. It’s the least she can do for them, for Kisuke who has put up with her all these years and asked for nothing in return. The least she can do is make the path between them and those chasing after nothing short of a gauntlet. Those two deserve their freedom, their chance together, and if she manages to stick it to Chamber 46 in the process all the better.
She may be somewhat lazy and lackadaisical in some things, but no one can ever accuse her of being disloyal or stupid. Yoruichi smells something rotten in Seireitei, and that thing is Chamber 46. It was all a set-up. Pure and simple. And it takes her less than a minute into their story to realize that. They want Ichigo under control, and if he won’t willingly submit and join up, this is the easiest way to do it. Yet, it seems to have done nothing but backfire on them. Not only is he out of reach, he’ll now be gunning for them where he wasn’t before. Content to let sleeping dogs lie and simply live his life.
They should’ve just left well enough alone. Left him alone. But now, they’re going to get a lesson in humility. One that will be painful and embarrassing and all that much more gratifying.
Yoruichi can’t wait.