Greetings readers. It's been quite a while since I last put words to page for the fun of it. Hopefully this will prove to be something that you all will enjoy, just a thought that popped into my head that I decided to run with.

It will be AU, slightly ahead of the timeline as far as 315, but other than that I don't want to disclose too much. May or may not focus on several different characters depending on how far this idea takes me, and how many chapters I'm inspired to write.

I am a manga reader, but I'm more comfortable writing in as little Japanese as possible. Hope you manga fans can bear with me on that.

Can't think of anything else to bore you guys with beforehand so without further ado…

&

A relieved sigh passed through dry lips as she finally allowed her spiritual pressure to seep away from her fingertips. Rocking back on numb legs her palms splayed out across cold stone behind her as her head rolled, listless, across tense shoulders. The parts of her body that were not numbed from lack of circulation ached, consistently demanding rest, and threatened to sap her focus and concentration. Every movement burned a white-hot trail across abused muscles, the loudest complaints easily coming from her arms and shoulders. Even worse was the incessant throbbing that stitched her left side with every breath.

She endured the pain silently, and without complaint. Her own suffering seemed moot when compared to the girl stretched out before her. The left side of her face was grotesquely puckered and blistered, unnaturally red and distended. The damage extended down her neck and into the folds of her black uniform, and even marred the exposed skin of her left hand. Despite the terrible burns her chest was slowly rising and falling, and the soft whistle of her breathing brought a wan smile to the face of her caregiver. It had been two hours since the treatment began, but she was finally out of danger.

"Good girl." She murmured, the words a tired whisper as she gently brushed two slender fingers along her patients unblemished right cheek. "Just like that."

"Lieutenant Kotetsu?" She lifted her gaze to the young man that finished sinking to his knees at her side, gratefully accepting the cup he offered with both hands.

She nearly moaned as the heat eased through her palms and loosened some of the tension, "Thank you Hanataro." She lifted the cup and breathed deeply, ignoring the sharp pain from bruised ribs as she allowed the aroma to relax her. "It smells divine."

"Are your ribs still bothering you?" He asked. "It's quieted down for a moment, I could tend to them if you want."

She desperately wanted to say yes, but her lips turned up in a grimace and one eye shut tightly. She had shifted the wrong way and a fresh pain shot up her left side. Yet when the discomfort passed and she turned a critical gaze to Hanataro, she couldn't help but notice the bruises under his eyes, and the pallor in his cheeks. "Neither of us has the strength to waste on superficial injuries. Take the opportunity to wash up and get some rest Hanataro."

"But…" He tried to protest, but her gentle smile and the slow swaying of her braids stopped him. "Yes ma'am. Please enjoy the tea before you leave."

He missed the frown that marred her features as he climbed to his feet. It was an unwelcome reminder, and completely ruined her mood. She returned her gaze to the girl before her. Yes, she had managed to stabilize her, and she was no longer in danger of dying, but she was far from healthy.

She would need much more attention from skilled healers if they ever hoped to repair the burns. Isane would have preferred to continue working with the girl, but the same sense of duty and responsibility that forced her to turn away Hanataro stayed her hand. Given enough time, the burned victim would recover on her own. She would no longer be beautiful, but she would live. There were just far too many casualties in danger of dying, and Squad 4 was already stretched to the breaking point.

What Isane found most frustrating, even beyond the lack of proper supplies and rest for her medical staff, and even beyond the war itself, was her Bankai training.

The Captain-Commander himself had given the order. "We find ourselves in dangerous times. Now, more than ever, Soul Society requires your strength to defeat our enemies. Formidable as you all are now, you must grow stronger still." Isane shuddered, his voice just as potent in her memory as it was that day. "Effective immediately, all Lieutenants and acting Lieutenants will undertake Bankai training."

As if the Captain-Commander's presence and voice weren't intimidating enough, he had opened his eyes, slowly, and methodically he held the gaze of each lieutenant in turn. Isane had been standing at stiff attention with wide surprised eyes when he finally focused on her. The weight of his stare forced the breath from her lungs, and her knees threatened to buckle.

It took every ounce of discipline and will power in her body to avoid sagging to her knees in relief when he finally released her. She knew in her head that it couldn't have been more than a moment, but with the ache in her stomach and the ice squeezing her heart it had seemed a century.

She hadn't had the presence of mind to take in the reactions of her colleagues, but conferring with them later revealed that many had similar reactions. Even little Yachiru, the most infallibly positive of them, wasn't smiling.

It had been three months since Yamamoto had given the order, and none of them had achieved Bankai. Isane's sessions dragged on painfully for hours at a time, and Itegumo showed no mercy or kindness. Yet it wasn't the fact that she had yet to subdue her Zanpakto that frustrated her so much. It wasn't even her complete lack of any progress. Every minute she spent training was another minute she lost with her patients. Their lives depended on her skills and attention, and already at least five had died that she could have saved. Yet despite every protest and argument she levied to the Captain-Commander, his orders stood.

Her tea had long gone cold in her hands as her sad eyes surveyed the burned girl before her. She doubted that Captain Kuchiki would even be able to recognize her, his 11th seat, the only survivor of a vicious ambush.

Isane let out a deep sigh, eyes closed, and shoulders slumped before she finally resigned herself to climb to her aching feet. The only thing worse than her training sessions was being late.

&

"Good afternoon Captain Kurotsuchi." Isane had to fight to keep her voice civil as she forced her weary body to put one foot in front of the other after a short bow.

As usual, Mayuri Kurotsuchi had arrived before her, and he made no effort to hide the disdain in his golden eyes as his lips curled back into a sneer. "Spare me your insincere pleasantries girl. Hurry along now, the sooner we begin this ridiculous waste of my time, the sooner I can be rid of you."

"My apologies Captain." Isane came to a stop within arms reach, and wordlessly closed her eyes and lifted her arms away from her sides.

Mayuri began without further preamble. No matter how many times Isane was forced to submit herself to his examinations she could never get used to the sickening feel of his bony fingers prodding her body. The woman in her whimpered quietly in her mind as he moved over her shoulders and chest, disgusted and frightened that he would take advantage. Thankfully he never did, his touch was completely mechanical, devoid of any desire or warmth.

The healer in her observed that he was firm but not painful, flawlessly exerting enough pressure to diagnose every bruise and laceration without causing unnecessary discomfort. Of course that didn't stop the grimace from flashing across her face as he examined her bruised ribs.

"Clumsy girl." Mayuri chastised her, though not as venomously as he usually did, "Nearly as useless as Nemu."

Fire surged through her and Isane almost bit out a scathing retort, but forced it back. Antagonizing Mayuri Kurotsuchi on a good day was suicidal. Antagonizing him on a day when the Captain-Commander pulled him away from his research so he could baby sit a Lieutenant during her Bankai training? Well, he wouldn't be kind enough to just kill her.

He had finished with his prodding, and Isane braced herself for what would be coming next. His physical examinations made Isane ill, but what was coming was far worse. She promised herself every time that she would not cry out, but she disappointed herself again. She couldn't hold back the startled yelp as her eyes shot open and her body went painfully rigid.

Mayuri had spread his right hand between her breasts, the nail on his middle finger reaching her neck. The physical violation barely registered in her startled mind, but it was a small mercy. Mayuri's spiritual pressure enveloped every inch of her being in a painful vice grip. He refused to let her sink to her knees, and tears unwillingly began to roll lazily down Isane's cheeks as she desperately panted, trying to force air into her starving lungs, even as her abused ribs screamed in anguish.

As quickly as it started, it was over, and Isane dropped to her knees, and then landed on her right side. Mayuri paid her no mind as he turned away and pulled a syringe from inside his haori.

"How many times must I tell you? Draining your spiritual pressure so severely makes measuring your progress impossible." Mayuri had an array of jars in front of him, and he was methodically drawing specific amounts into the syringe.

Isane was still gasping for breath and wincing against the pain in her ribs, but choked out, "My patients would die if I didn't!" Mayuri chose to ignore her outburst, and she took another deep breath, "Besides…isn't that…exactly why…Yamamoto assigned you to my training?" She was forced to take another deep breath, "So that no matter how hard I have to push myself to heal. No matter how tired I am…you can shoot that poison in me!"

It was his left hand this time. Isane's outburst was abruptly cut off with a horrible gag as an impossibly strong grip closed her windpipe. Isane briefly felt weightless as the air rushed past her ears. Her head and back met the unyielding cold sekki sekki stone of the wall with a resounding crack and her arms flopped listlessly at her sides. She continued to gag as her feet futilely tried to find purchase. Her height was the only thing that prevented Kurotsuchi from lifting her completely into the air.

His golden eyes blazed with fury, "Every session you fail to complete this training is another insult woman." His grip tightened, "So while I am here spending my precious time and resources on you, your insolence will not be tolerated."

In a coughing fit Isane slid to the floor as her hands cradled her abused throat, her legs folded beneath her. "Poison?" Mayuri spat the word. "How dare you child! When the day comes that I poison you, I promise you, you'll know it!"

He finally turned away from her and finished preparing the syringe. "Stop making that awful noise and prepare yourself. I won't be gentle this time."

Fear ripping through her Isane sucked in a deep breath and hurried to obey the order. Experience taught her that when he was this agitated he would go out of his way to make the injection as uncomfortable as possible. She knew that she looked utterly defeated and miserable as she loosened her robes and lowered them off of her neck.

His left hand viciously tilted her head forward but she suppressed the whimper that begged to crawl from her throat. This was by far the worst part. "Such an ungrateful brat you are." She felt the tip of the syringe settle over the tract mark directly above the gap between her second and third vertebrae. "It takes days and precious scarce resources to make this medicine." Then the pinch as the needle pierced flesh. "Poison?" He scoffed again, "Insulting." The burn as the needle descended. His grip tightened uncomfortably on her scalp, but Isane didn't complain, it was meant to prevent her from suddenly jerking and breaking the needle off in her flesh.

He depressed the plunger without warning, and withdrew the syringe swiftly. He dropped to his knees behind her and wrapped his free arm securely around her shoulders. He barely had time to secure his grip before the most horrible keening wail erupted past Isane's lips, and the convulsions started. She struggled against him with all of her might, but as always he held fast, preventing her from breaking her neck or smashing her skull open. Her spirit energy flared violently, unnaturally stimulated and running white hot inside her body. The lactic acid deposits in her muscles were seared away, cells rapidly divided to replace damaged tissues, but by far the most uncomfortable side effect was to her nervous system. Briefly augmented to process information thousands of times more efficiently, she was able to feel each of the millions of dead cells as they were torn away and devoured in the fire of her spirit energy.

As always the fire died abruptly, leaving no pain behind but the memory of it. Mayuri released her, slowly lowering her head to rest on the ground before climbing back to his feet. It was the closest thing to compassion he ever showed her.

He stepped swiftly to the door of the small room and stopped, keeping his back to her as he spoke, "Five minutes to compose yourself girl. You don't want to know what I'll do to you if you exceed it."

He was gone, and she was alone. She didn't ache anymore, and her breathing didn't hurt. Her exhaustion was gone, and her spiritual pressure surged to its peak. She felt like she had just stepped under a warm shower after weeks in cold mud.

She couldn't recall a single time in her life she wanted to cry more than this moment, but the tears refused to fall, another side effect. "Oh Captain…" Isane sobbed "I miss you so much."

&

Well there it is. Not a bad start I think.

If I decide to continue, it will not be a mayuri/isane ship if that's what y'all are thinking. Even I'm not that cruel to her.

Kindly let me know what you think.