Part 1

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.

Rating: T

Warnings: Slightly AU from the Hueco Mundo Arc. Spoilers for Chapters 314...more like ignoring anything past that all together... Yaoi.

Characters: Stark, Lilinette, Yumichika

The shuffled footsteps stumbling over loose stone and broken metal rang out into the open air. He kept his eyes focused on the ground, more interested in the destruction of the landscape and bodies than the boring sky. If he stared at that boring nightscape instead of the dark wine color the blood turned the sand he would fall asleep before he even got back to Las Noches.

His footsteps came to a slow end as he stared down at a particularly vicious scene. It wasn't gory, but the number of casualties seemed staggering. Amongst the scattering of white arrancar there lay two shinigami.

"Stark?" Lilinette stopped beside him as she noticed he was gazing at the scene.

"How could two shinigami take down so many of ours?" He wondered absently halfway to himself, stepping into the dead and studying an arrancar body.

"Perhaps there were more?" Lilinette suggested to him, following him closely.

"Perhaps," the blue eyed espada repeated, scanning the blood spray on the ground. He paused as he squatted close to the ground to study one of the fallen enemies. "These shinigami would leave their comrades? That doesn't strike me as something they would do. They're much too noble to leave their fallen here to die. There were only two."

Lilinette frowned at his words, slightly confused. "You respect them, Stark?"

"You'd be an idiot not to," Stark replied, stepping over the dead shinigami. "They fight to the death and they fight for a reason. I admire that."

Lilinette was silent as she watched her master pause over the other shinigami's body, studying it intently. She wasn't sure how to answer his statement. Was it right to respect the shinigami? Aizen didn't seem to think they were worth much attention.

Her eyes widened as the shinigami Stark was looking at moaned. She rushed to his side to stare in wonder at the black clothed figure.

"Is it still alive?" She asked, watching ask Stark pushed the young man up into a sitting position. "Are you going to kill it?"

Stark didn't answer her immediately. To Lilinette's surprise he carefully hoisted it over his shoulder and motioned for her to come with him as he used sonido to return to Las Noches.

Yumichika kept his eyes closed, refusing to wake up. He could feel the softness of pillows or cushions under him and would have thought that maybe he was in some kind of heaven or perhaps he'd already been reborn in the human world again. He idly entertained the thought that you could retain your last life's thoughts for a time as an infant, but scratched that thought the moment he moved his right arm. A dull pain emanated from it and something told him he must've injured it in some way.

A noise to his left alerted him that he wasn't alone and he turned his head to the side to look at whatever was there. It appeared that a young girl was intently staring at him. The noise he had heard was a gasp of surprise from her. Yumichika took in her odd white outfit and the remaining bone on her head. He instantly surmised she was in fact an arrancar.

"Stark!" she called out to someone, scampering back from Yumichika. "It's awake."

Yumichika didn't move as a brown-haired man walked over and studied him calmly. Stark turned to the girl and she quickly moved forward with a tray of bandages and medicine. Yumichika frowned and pushed himself up into a sitting position that he instantly regretted. Apparently he'd injured his side as well.

"Stop that," the dark haired man said, reaching down to push him back onto the green cushions. "If you open your wounds I'm not going to try to stop the bleeding again, shinigami. Took too much of my damn time already."

"You're an arrancar," Yumichika said, watching the man circumspectly. He was confused by the man's actions. They were supposed to be enemies, but yet... "Why are you helping me?"

"You were injured," Stark replied with all obviousness.

"That's not a good enough reason," Yumichika replied blatantly. "I need a better one or else I'll be forced to kill you."

"Even if you had your zanpakuto, I doubt you'd be able to," Lilinette said, kneeling at his side to unravel the bandages on his arm. "Please hold still."

Yumichika winced as he breathed in deeply. "Where is my zanpakuto?"

"It's safe," was Stark's uncomplicated reply. "You don't have any need for it here."

Yumichika nodded. It wasn't worth it to try to resist. He could feel the huge differences in their spiritual pressure. This man was very powerful, possibly even stronger than most of the captains in the seireitei. Yumichika turned to inspect how heavily damaged his arm was, nearly wincing at the angry green and purple bruise on his shoulder. The rest of his arm was worse. He could tell just from looking at it that it would be no use to him in battle for some time.

He sat in silence, allowing the girl to redress his wounds. The girl seemed to know what she was doing and the man didn't seem to care less. Yumichika closed his eyes and tried to relax his body.

"Your friend is dead."

Yumichika shot forward, ripping his arm away. He buckled over as the wound on his side broke open. The girl cried out in annoyance. Yumichika glared at the man and hiss through his teeth in pain. "You lie."

"He isn't lying," Lilinette said softly, for some reason feeling for the shinigami, but loyalty for her master's innocence told her to continue. "The man you were with wasn't breathing and there wasn't a trace of reiatsu coming from his body."

"Lilinette, let it be," Stark said, settling down on one of the cushions.

Emotion flitted across the shinigami's face and for a few seconds Stark thought he was going to cry, but he merely swallowed the bile that was in his throat and turned to the girl.

"Lilinette, was it?" Yumichika didn't wait for her to answer. "I'm afraid I've messed up your bandaging. If you please, I'd like for you to redo it. I don't want to have dirty bandages on me, it's disgusting."

"Uh," Lilinette looked a little confused by Yumichika's sudden submission. She looked to Stark in confusion, but he only shrugged.

"Could I possibly get my robes back?" the shinigami asked, checking the bandage job Lilinette just completed.

"They were ruined," Stark said matter-of-factly, finding himself slightly amused by the shinigami.

"Very well," Yumichika sat up straight as the small girl began to unravel the bloodstained bandages from around his stomach. "Be careful, I'm ticklish."

Lilinette paused, looking up at the shinigami, wondering if he was serious. The small smile on his lips told her he wasn't.

"What's your name, shinigami?" Stark asked, holding back a yawn.

"Ayasegawa Yumichika, fifth seat of the 11th division." Yumichika answered with a practiced smile. "And what about you? Does Aizen name his little creations?"

"Why you—" Lilinette smacked her hand against his side, making the shinigami gasp in pain.

"Stop that, Lilinette," Stark commanded, frowning at the girl. "Go to your quarters and get some rest."

"I can't leave you with him!" Lilinette frowned, looking worriedly at her master. "He might be dangerous!"

"He is unarmed, injured, and in mourning," Stark said, gazing up at the girl in apparent boredom. "There will be no battle here."

Lilinette hesitated, unsure of whether or not to follow his orders. She gave a slight sigh and bowed. "As you say, Sir."

Stark watched her exit before glancing at Yumichika. "You were close to your comrade. Mourn for him. I will not hold it against you."

"No," Yumichika shook his head, bobbed hair shaking with the motion. "We in the 11th division do not mourn. We rejoice that our dead were able to die a beautiful death in battle. Mourning only distracts us from our fight."

"That's a load of crock," Stark said, frowning at him. "I don't believe you, but I'm too tired to deal with it right now. Go to sleep, Yumichika."

Surprisingly the shinigami obeyed him, turning over on his uninjured side. Stark leaned over to settle a blanket over the still man. Yumichika grabbed his wrist to stop him.

"I want to know why you're helping me. The truth," after a moment of deliberation Yumichika added, "Please."

"Fine," Stark sighed, rubbing one of his eyes. "You were alone, alright? Dying alone has to be one of the worst experiences I can imagine."

"You should have left me there," Yumichika sighed, letting go of the man. "I would have rather died there than leave Ikkaku."

"I didn't think it was fair to let someone as skilled as you go to waste," Stark admitted. "You're the lone survivor. Someone's got to stay on their feet for your side."

"I'm sure my side is doing fine," Yumichika replied, closing his eyes as he settled into the cushions.

"They won't get this far," Stark said, settling down beside Yumichika, the call of sleep too much for him. Yumichika's back stiffened as he felt the espada's head hit the cushion beside his.

"What are you doing?"

"Sleeping or trying to at least," Stark answered wearily.

"Do it somewhere else."

"My room. My bed."

"I don't really think that—"

"We'll find him tomorrow," Stark sighed. "Give him a proper burial. I know things like that are important to shinigami."

"Thank you," Yumichika murmured. Stark laid his chin on his shoulder and nuzzled his cheek, chuckling at the shuddering breath Yumichika drew before curling himself up into a ball.

"Did he used to hold you like this?" Stark's arms snaked around the young man's waist, cupping his shinigami's body with his own. "He was your lover wasn't he?" Stark kept his arms locked around the thin shinigami as Yumichika tried to squirm away at the espada's words. "That's why you're being so docile. If he weren't dead I'm sure you'd be trying to rip me apart right now for touching you like this. It's sad to see you've lost your will to live. You wouldn't even fight back if I attacked you. No, I take that back. You'd give me the pretense that you're fighting to your fullest and then allow me to win more easily than it normally would have been. It's really a shame that someone as striking as you doesn't want to live." Stark loosened an arm, brushing Yumichika's hair away from his eyes and pushed himself up so he could meet the young shinigami's eyes. "I lied to you earlier, Yumichika. Living or not, I would have just passed you by if I hadn't seen your face. It was covered in dirt and blood, but I could see the potential under that crap. You looked too good to pass up. I didn't save you just out of sympathy. I saved you because I wanted you."

"Loosen your hold immediately," Yumichika hissed, pulling the arms far enough away from him to slip out of the espada's hold. Stark didn't try to resist and let his shinigami scamper to his feet, wobbling dangerously.

"Come back to bed, Yumichika," Stark called out, yawning loudly. "With those wounds you aren't strong enough to try to escape."

Yumichika threw a glare in the espada's direction and headed for the only door that led out of the room, from what he could see Stark wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. The moment his hand reached the doorknob, Stark's body appeared between the large wooden door and Yumichika, effectively stopping his exit. He pulled the shinigami's body into his, cradling his captive's body against his own.

"Let's not get too hasty," Stark murmured tiredly, stroking Yumichika's face comfortingly before placing a kiss on his forehead. "You made me go to the trouble of getting out of bed. The least you could do is stay still for the night."

"I want to leave," Yumichika replied simply, trying to ignore the man's actions as best he could. "I'd rather die by the hands of a hollow than stay here with you."

"You don't mean that," Stark said, leading Yumichika back to the large pile of cushions. "I promise you will come to no harm as long as you are with me." He sat down, pulling Yumichika down so he was kneeling in his lap. "I do not want to hear any more of this idiocy of you wanting to die. As long as you are here with me, you will abide by my rules. For you, the first rule is to not die. Understand?"

At Yumichika's hesitant nod, Stark gave a slight smile. He trailed his hands over his shinigami's bare shoulders, taking care not to settle his hand on the bruised one. He rested his right hand on his chest, closing his eyes as the shinigami's heart beat rhythmically against his palm.

Yumichika stayed silent as the minutes ticked by. The espada's hand seemed unnaturally cold compared to Ikkaku's pulsing warmth. Ikkaku's touch had never made his arms tingle or made shivers run down his spine. Yumichika kept his eyes on the espada, watching him as he withdrew his hand.

"Beautiful," Stark murmured and opened his eyes. He leaned forward, pressing his lips against Yumichika's, tasting his shinigami curiously. As the stubble on his chin scratched Yumichika's face another shiver ran down his back, this time having nothing to do with the cold.

Figuring that was enough for now, Stark pulled away and pushed Yumichika down into the cushions. He chuckled as the shinigami's body tensed. A quick look revealed wide violet eyes and an almost frightened expression. Stark positioned his body over the shinigami before gently lowering himself down and resting his head on Yumichika's chest, listening to his heartbeat.

"Don't worry, I won't do anything to you," Stark closed his eyes, trusting his body to keep the shinigami put. "Now let's go to sleep. I'm exhausted."

He closed his eyes, slowly settling his breathing to a realistic sleep-induced state, listening as his shinigami silently pulled in heavy breaths as he started mourning his lost lover, apparently certain the espada had fallen asleep. Stark forced himself to stay awake for a few more hours until his shinigami's breathing slowed and became even. Only when he was positive that Yumichika was finished crying, did he actually allow himself rest.

End Part 1.