The World's Worst Rescuers
He looked back on his life, wondering how he could have gone from semi-normal high school student to a severely beaten, bleeding, broken over-glorified ghost (because that's all Soul Reapers really boiled down to) who was at the mercy of a monster who looked suspiciously like Ganon of Zelda fame.
I would give my left nut for a Master Sword right about now.
It was about that time Tesla, the boar-shaped Arrancar, decided to deliver the coup de grace and Ichigo realized what a lame last wish that had been. He should have wished for something like not-dying-messily-at-I'm-not-Ganon's-hands. Or something like Nel transforming into that kick ass sexy older woman to bail his ass out again. Or maybe Orihime randomly losing her top. Yeah, that wouldn't have been such a bad way to go out.
Fortunately for the substitute Soul Reaper, he didn't have to die with the shame of knowing his last thoughts had involved a video game. He would have spent his entire afterlife mourning how nerdy it was.
Instead, he was treated to the totally unexpected arrival of Zaraki Kenpachi, who looked just as lovably homicidal as Ichigo remembered him. Holding I-can't-believe-it's-not-Ganon back with one arm, he turned and grunted over his shoulder.
"Way to suck ass, kid."
"I think that's what this guy was just about to do." The Captain shot back, not missing a beat.
Yachiru Kusajishi, eternally perched on her Captain's shoulder like some sort of nightmarish fashion statement, piped in. "Would Icchy really taste like strawberries?"
"Dunno," Kenpachi grunted, deflecting another of Tesla's swipes. "I'm not into eating dudes. You'd have to ask Aysegawa about that."
If there was anything the least bit sane about the Eleventh Division, Ichigo might have been appalled at the Captain's candor with his child-Lieutenant. But, considering the source, he didn't much care. In a family where Saturday mornings were spent counting up the number of teeth they had beaten out of some poor sap's skull, coarse language was hardly a concern. Nothing short of a nuclear bomb could traumatize the girl. Hell, even then, she would probably laugh and say something to the effect of "shiny! I want to see that again!"
Yachiru had been considering the answer, before finally venturing, "So…Sparkles is a camel?" The mispronunciation of the word "cannibal" would have been adorable if not for the fact that Yachiru had probably eaten people before.
Kenpachi, half-distracted as he sawed off one of not-Ganon's tusks as a trophy, grunted a "yeah, sure, camels are okay. I think horses taste better though. Still, just throw an ass load of salt on something and I'll eat it."
"Just like that dog you ate, right?"
"'xactly," he smirked, hoisting his trophy up above his head while the barely breathing Tesla bemoaned the fact that he didn't have the Triforce of Power. Kenpachi took the opportunity to kick him in the throat for another lame Zelda joke.
Ichigo gaped. With the mention of camels, he'd been expecting a pun about humps. The revelation about the Eleventh Division's diet had been far from expected (or desired). He wished he's had the foresight to bring a vomit bag with him.
Deep within the bowels of the Las Noches fortress, Uryuu Ishida and Renji Abarai reached the conclusion that they, too, were boned. The Eighth Espada had been kicking their collective ass for the better part of an hour. They had done fairly well at first, but once he busted out his unsettling released form, he had wiped the floor with them…which wasn't such a stretch of the imagination, given Renji's hair.
Oh, sure, those two dopey Arrancar they'd found in the desert had shown up, and proven to be powerful fighters in their own right. But even they had failed to scratch the gloating Arrancar. He's just like Batman, Uryuu mused. As long as he can plan in advance, he's unbeatable.
Ichigo would have been relieved to know he wasn't the only one having lame thoughts in the face of impending doom.
As if doom wasn't bad enough, Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi waltzed into the room, looking every inch the world's most nightmarish mime. The Quincy boy seethed at the sight of him. It was bad enough he got a kick out of killing his grandfather. Mayuri had to go and mime himself up. Uryuu hated mimes. He had hated them ever since a tragic invisible box accident in the third grade.
Mayuri ignored the death glare he was getting to inspect the transformed Arrancar. "My, my…so this is the great Szayel Apollo Grantz?"
"Why, what ever do you mean?" The pink-haired man asked, looking thoroughly bemused.
"You mean you didn't receive the newsletter?" He saw that Szayel obviously hadn't. "The Guild of Mad Science has considered you for membership! It's a very exclusive club. Any raving lunatic worth his weight in tin foil hats and doomsday devices would be lucky to join us."
"You're with the Guild!?" The Espada squealed in delight, clasping his spindly hands together. "I've been applying for ages!"
"Oh, you know you can never trust Hollow Express," the Soul Reaper sighed dramatically. "Everything's all well and fine until they find a nice, juicy soul wandering around, then it's 'just one little bite and I'm back to work' and another and another…well, you can see why we Reapers are so dreadfully busy."
"Too true," Szayel nodded sagaciously.
Renji and Uryuu could only watch in abject terror as their greatest fear came to pass.
Rukia Kukichi decided she didn't really like blood. It was sticky. Even if someone came along to drag her out of this place, they would have a damned hell of a time getting her up off the floor. Nothing short of an epic spatula could pick her up at this point. She didn't think she would be able to live with the indignity of it all.
Of course, she wouldn't be alive much longer if those two numbskulls didn't do something about her. She'd lost track of how long the Seventh Espada had been having a staring contest with her older brother. She'd been overjoyed to see him, but quickly found her patience wearing thin as the two struggled to see who could look more broodingly handsome. Neither was willing to give so much as a pensive, dashing inch.
Rukia went back to mentally designing giant-sized cooking utensils.
"You are a fool of the greatest caliber," the Arrancar rumbled darkly. He and his team had arrived to seize the wounded Yasutora "Chad" Sado, whose Hollow-based powers were of much interest. However, before they could cart him off to Szayel's lab, the elite Exequias team found themselves face to face with Captain Retsu Unohana and her Lieutenant, Isane Kotetsu. "A pair of women are no match for the great Exequias team of Las Noches!"
"Now, now," Unohana soothed. "Don't be difficult. I'm just here to pick Chad up from soccer practice."
The leader didn't quite know how to respond to that. "Come again…?"
"I'm sorry, but Chad doesn't have permission to spend the night," she murmured sweetly. And then, to prove her point, she turned to address the wounded youth. "No cookies or TV for a week!"
"Uh…could you help me?" He rasped. "I'm kind of bleeding all over myself here."
"Awww, does baby have a booboo?"
Isane began to wonder if her Captain was completely insane.
"…but if you used the phosphates, the patient would inevitably lose consciousness," Mayuri critiqued his newfound friend's hypothesis.
"I don't see how that's a bad thing." Szayel pouted.
"Your victim—I mean, subject, wouldn't be awake to scream and beg for mercy."
"Hmm…I do so love basking in the sound of agony." His eyes grew wide and dreamy; fantasizing at all the horrible things they would do to the two young men.
"We all do, dear friend. We all do."
On the other side of the room, the Soul Reaper and the Quincy made a suicide pact.
"No, no, no" Nnoitra Jigura, the Fifth Espada, grunted in annoyance. "You have to use more wrist." To illustrate the point, he snatched Ichigo from Kenpachi and promptly punched him in the mouth.
"My way's always worked fine," Kenpachi illustrated his point by giving Ichigo another black eye.
It was hard to imagine, but the two mortal enemies were bonding over the hobby they shared in common, which was making Ichigo's life a living hell. They had each gone through the finer points of stabbing, and had now moved on to bare-handed beatings.
Ichigo tried to protest, beyond his swelling, bleeding mouth, but the two told him to shut up. It was then they decided to swap ideas on torture. Ichigo could only groan.
"Best nine out of seventeen?" Renji looked up sheepishly.
"No, Renji," Uryuu crossed his arms in finality. "I beat you in rock-paper-scissors several times now, even though the original agreement was two out of three. I get to die first."
Chad couldn't quite believe his eyes. The entire Exequias team, which had been slaughtered in a matter of seconds at the Captain's hands, was now in perfect health. What's more, they were all crowded around her, obediently eating her homemade chicken soup. They didn't actually need to eat the food for sustenance, but they did need to eat it if they wanted to stay alive. All too vividly did they remember how quickly and mercilessly Unohana cut them down once she decided to "scold" them.
She wasn't done with them yet. "Who wants to hear a bed time story?"
The Arrancar all exchanged nervous looks before excitedly agreeing that, yes; they all wanted to hear a bed time story. The alternative was a fate worse than death: Being killed and revived on a whim, as many times as it took for them to listen to "mommy dearest."
"Now, if you're really serious about joining the illustrious Guild—and I hope you are— then we're going to need a few things from you first."
"Such as?" Szayel queried.
"For starters, you have to meet a quota for number of crimes against humanity perpetrated each week."
"What's the starting rate on that?"
"For you? I'd say about nine."
"Psshaw! I can manage that in a weekend!"
"Excellent." Mayuri flipped to the next page in the brochure. "We'll also need a down payment of orphans."
"Some of them will be used for that, yes, but most will go toward our Sunday buffet."
Zomari was weak. He had blinked. He had lost. He had admitted that his angst was less beautiful than Byakuya's, making him unworthy of an expressionless face. Byakuya would have smirked. But such a thing was beneath him. I do not emote.
"Seeing as how you won…are we going to fight now?"
"Why ever would we do that?" Byakuya sounded genuinely mystified.
"I'm trying to kill your sister, in case you forgot."
"Oh, well, then…carry on."
"WHAT!?" Rukia exploded. She had to be hallucinating. Yes, it was the blood loss. It was making her mind do strange things.
"You really don't care if I chop her head off?" Zomari was equally stupefied.
"Go right ahead." Byakuya returned, not missing a beat.
Several seconds passed before Zomari shrugged and unsheathed his sword.
Rukia's eyes, already the size of saucers, now threatened to engulf her face. "WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU!? YOU'RE JUST GOING TO STAND BY WHILE HE KILLS ME! DO YOU HAVE AN EXECUTION FETISH OR SOMETHING!?!!?"
Zomari, morbidly interested, paused at this.
A pregnant silence followed. Eventually, Byakuya gave his answer.
"Yes, I do."
"What are the two of you doing?" Nemu Kurotsuchi, the mad Captain's beautiful artificial daughter, asked innocently. Renji and Uryuu looked up at her from the tangle of limbs they had become. The Reaper was trying to strangle the Quincy with his bandanna, while the bespectacled boy attempted to drive a spare sewing needle into his heart. Realizing they looked rather silly, the boys stopped.
Uryuu rolled his eyes at Renji's immaturity. So, he said the first thing that came to mind. "He started it!"
Nnoitra paused mid-sentence. Something was amiss.
Kenpachi grumbled in annoyance. "Why'd ya stop? I've never seen Chinese water torture actually work before."
He ignored the Captain, glancing around the endless sea of sand that surrounded them. Then it hit him. "Where is the Woman? And Nel? And that little thing on your shoulder?"
"Finally figured that one out, did ya?
Nnoitra paled visibly. "No, you didn't…"
"Her idea, not mine," Kenpachi threw his hands up in defense, although there more than a little pride in his voice. The distraction had worked like a charm. Of course, it wasn't entirely a distraction. Honestly, who didn't have fun kicking the shit out of Strawberry Boy?
Nnoitra couldn't hide the hurt in his voice. "But you…and Ichigo…and the blood…I THOUGHT WE HAD SOMETHING SPECIAL!"
"Oh, Gawd, don't get all dumped girlfriend on me."
"You know this means war."
Kenpachi smiled broadly. In Zaraki-talk, that meant "Party time."
"Are you mad at me?" Byakuya asked emotionlessly, carrying Rukia in his arms to the nearest exit.
Rukia said nothing, her face frozen in an unreadable mask.
"As I've said, it was a bluff. I got him to let his guard down."
She wasn't about to respond.
"I healed your wounds, didn't I?"
She remained silent. So did he. They were like that for some time. He marveled at her poker face.
Suddenly, and unexpectedly, he clutched her close to his chest. "Oh, Rukia, I'm so glad we could share this moment. You finally understand me. Being a silent bad-ass is not an easy road. It is full of cramps and bloating and fatigue. But you've finally crafted your own air of apathy. I'm so proud of you."
Rukia wondered if it was possible to un-adopt herself.
Chad and Isane found themselves navigating the halls of Las Noches. With all the fights he'd had, he was more than a little disoriented. Isane had relied on her Captain for directions. Still, it was a lot better than what lay behind them.
"Say," he broke the silence. "Thanks a lot for getting me out of there. I don't think I could have taken much more."
"Don't mention it," she smiled back. "I was almost tempted to drag the Arrancar out of there, too, but we needed someone to distract her. Between us and them, I'll let them take one for the team."
Chad was about to respond when they heard a voice coming down the hall from behind them.
"Don't tell me you two snuck out after curfew!" The voice was full of disgustingly happy joy and mock-outrage. "I'll have to give you two a time out!"
They broke into a run.
"I can't believe you're whoring me out like this," Uryuu shot Renji a withering glare.
"So, you'd rather let the freak shows poke and prod you with God knows what than bang a hot chick who's totally into you?" Renji looked at him skeptically. "I guess it's true what they say about you and Ichi-"
"Don't you dare!" The Quincy shot back. He would have drawn his bow, but his position made things a bit awkward. He and Renji were slung over Nemu's shoulders and she was moving along at breakneck speeds. Under most circumstances, they might have complained about being treated like damsels in distress. Mayuri and Szayel debating the pros and cons of barbed, piping hot anal thermometers was not "most" circumstances.
All three parties remained silent for some time. It was Nemu who spoke next. "I recall that our deal was to extract the two of you in exchange for fornicating with the Quincy, however…" The barest hint of a blush spread across her cheeks. "I was wondering if anyone would be averse to the notion of Lieutenant Abarai joining us."
The boys looked at each other.
Uryuu was about to give a hearty "Of course I would be averse to the notion!" but Renji beat him to the punch.
"Eh, why the hell not? I haven't had a good threesome in a while."
"Wuzzat?" Kenpachi leaned down, holding his ear above Ichigo's mouth. "Did ya say you want me to change your IV and your catheter bag?"
Ichigo most certainly did not want those two things switched, but Kenpachi was a bastard. With Ichigo in a full body cast, who was to say what he did and did not want? Was it his fault if he misunderstood "NOOOOOO!" as "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"
"Okay, whatever you want, buddy. But don't say I didn't warn you," he said in mock-concern. He really was a bad actor, though, grinning ear-to-ear the whole time.
The Captain watched Ichigo squirm for a moment before sauntering off to terrorize more of the hospitalized. He decided to pay a visit to the women's side of the hospital. He had a sudden urge to go rattle that Kukichi girl's cage, especially after the stories of sibling bonding that her brother had been circulating since their return. Suffice to say she was less than amused. So many fun things had come out of Hueco Mundo.
His little venture had been loads of fun, but nothing ever lasts. Eventually, the order had come down to retreat and he had reluctantly obeyed. Everyone had their proper charge. They'd even saved that busty chick who was hot for Ichigo while they were at it, not to mention a girl who was really a babe in disguise. (Yachiru had been upset about that. She began babbling about how she had wanted some robots in disguise instead. He would have to stop buying her those Transformers toys.)
He also got a pen pal out of it. He and Nnoitra had promised to conspire on how best to make life unpleasant for those around them. Nnoit would love hearing about the catheter swap.
Back in the room they shared with Ichigo, Renji and Uryuu did everything in their power not to make eye contact.
"I didn't know you swung that way." Renji finally said.
"Coulda fooled me."
The Quincy bristled at the insinuation, but didn't have time to protest. He spotted Captain Unohana striding into the medical wing.
"Have any of you boys seen Chad? He needs a stern talking-to," her voice was sweeter than honey. It terrified all three of them. They sheepishly told her that, no, they did not know where he had gone.
Behind the curtains, a young man asked, "Is it safe to come out now?"
Before any of them could so much as blink, Unohana was standing at the doorway again. "Oh, now you boys shouldn't have done that! Momma's going to have to give you all a time-out!"
No one knew exactly why Room 104 erupted into a chorus of inarticulate screams, sobs, and pleas for mercy at exactly 2:32 PM. But the members of the Fourth Division had a pretty good idea. They ignored the horrible sounds and thanked their gods that it wasn't them.