Disclaimer: Hello, my name is vicioux. It's been three days since I last put up a disclaimer saying I don't own Bleach.
I guess this puts me past the denial stage…
Listening to: Tori Amos – 'Raining Blood'. The Slayer original is awesome (even Kerry King says so!), but this one has an extra special place in my heart and is infinitely creepier, so it's in.
She wasn't supposed to be able to dream.
At least, she was fairly sure her father would never have bothered to give her that ability and, given that she was a created soul rather than a naturally occurring one, she hardly expected to have such a human trait.
The sky was the deep grey-purple of a bruise, faint flickers of lightening sparking in the distance. Shivering, she walked forward. She knew where she was now. She'd seen this place so many nights in her dreams, but it had haunted her just as much during her waking hours.
Hueco Mundo – the world of the malevolent dead.
She knew this in every fibre of her being, not matter how few landmarks were present in the featureless desert to guide her. She knew this just as she knew the reason for the way the sand felt under her bare feet, unusually wet and sticky. And she knew, just like she did every night when she dreamed this, that she would look down before she could stop herself and be faced with the horror once more.
Slowly, unwillingly, her gaze trailed to where she stood and she fought to keep down the bile rising in her throat.
The vast sands were soaked in blood. The world ran red, puddles forming in depressions and rivers streaming down channels in the ground. She was no stranger to blood; that wasn't what had her shaking where she stood.
It was the bodies.
Everywhere she looked were the black-clad forms of her fellow shinigami, each of them lying broken and bleeding, their hands clutching their zanpakuto in a manner that she could only find bitterly pointless. Hundreds of faces, some she didn't know and others – well, those were the worst.
Rangiku Matsumoto was at her feet, her throat torn out and her pink scarf soaked with gore. She shivered, staring at the woman who had been one of the first people to be kind to her, and immediately looked away, only to be greeted with the sight of Nanao Ise's battered corpse. A sob escaped her lips as she took in the sight of her mentor lying there in the pool of blood that served for ground, one of the dead woman's hands stretched out toward the body of her captain and fiancée, Shunsui Kyouraku. His wide, dead eyes were fixed on the woman he loved, but there was no more expression in that typically animated gaze.
The sobbing came thick and fast as she backed away from her dead friends, only to bump into more solid, dead flesh. Or so she thought. A feeble gasp came from whoever was at her feet and, once more, she looked down against her will.
There on the sand was Captain Jyuushiro Ukitake, the blood soaked into his white hair and spilling from his mouth. With a faint groan, hazel eyes flickered open, hazily glancing about until they fixed on her, and his mouth worked as he tried to speak. He was, however, interrupted.
"Well, if it isn't my failed experiment. What a surprise. I'd call it a pleasant one, but that would obviously be a lie."
Shaking, she looked up into the black and white painted face leering at her. "Mayuri-sama. You're supposed to be dead."
He threw his head back and laughed. "I should know better than to expect more from you. Still, at least this way your idiocy can amuse me anew each time."
"You're supposed to be dead", she reasserted. "He - " She wheeled around to find the pale captain at her feet reaching for his blood-drenched sword.
Mayuri Kurotsuchi's sneer widened. "Ah yes, the noble captain. Jyuushiro Ukitake killed me. Well, as much of me as he could." Walking toward his prey, the ex-captain kicked the sword away from his grasp, drawing his own in the process. "But you, useless creature, are me. I put my own spirit into you and gave you life. Everything you are, every last little thing, is a part of me. You cannot escape it."
Her mouth dry, she forced the words out. "I'm not you. I'm not a traitor or a murderer or - "
"Oh please", he broke in. "Who do you think is responsible for all this?" Planting a foot on Jyuushiro's chest as he struggled to sit up, Mayuri forced him back down; his amber eyes cold and his zanpakuto tip directly above the other man's heart.
"No", she whispered, her hands going up to stop him. "I won't - "
She stared at the hands she had stretched out in front of her, the palms soaked in the same blood as her comrades. Drawing in an unsteady breath, she gasped out between tears, "I – No, I didn't. I wouldn't."
"We are one and the same", the man who had been her captain and father remarked casually, giving her a derisive glance. "Though that hardly casts a flattering reflection on me, you might as well just accept that." He raised his weapon, ready to strike, and in that brief reprieve the hazel eyes of his victim, clouded with pain, found her own.
The blow fell –
And Nemu Kurotsuchi woke up screaming.
It had begun the night they announced that the war wasn't over.
There was a certain symmetry, almost a little logic to that, but it was little comfort, Nemu thought as she slipped into her kitchen to splash water on her face, leaning against the sink. All she really knew was that every night her sleep was interrupted by the same nightmare and, while slumber wasn't always a necessity for her, it was hardly a state of affairs that she was comfortable with. She wasn't sure which was worse, seeing the bodies of people she cared about or having to face her father and the facts he put forward to her, but both parts of the dream were haunting her and she tired of it.
It wasn't as though she hadn't tried to find a cure. She'd given up sleeping for as long as she was able, she'd taken pills dispensed by a concerned Captain Retsu Unohana, and she'd even let her own captain try his hand at helping her. She had figured that the one person who could outwit her father in her conscious world could also do the same in her unconscious, but even Kisuke Urahara had nothing more to offer her than a recommendation that she analyse her dream and attempt to decipher its meaning.
That was painfully obvious, and not at all helpful. Her father had been a constant and often cruel presence in her life, at least, until he'd betrayed the Gotei Thirteen and had been killed in battle. His assertion that they were one and the same was based in fact. She was a part of him – it was a part of his own soul that had given her life and it would make sense that they shared certain traits. Nemu may have chosen not to follow him, but even she could not explain why she had made that decision. This knowledge, while useful, was hardly likely to stop the nightmares.
Nemu had considered the people who appeared in her dream. They varied from night to night. Sometimes it was her best friend, Momo Hinamori who lay dead, sometimes Yachiru and her behemoth adopted father whose corpses she had to take in. Once she'd almost tripped over Nel and her partner, Ulquiorra, and had actually given in to the urge to expel the contents of her stomach. There was always blood, though, and always one body who followed her in the dreams. Her father's killer, the man who had announced Mayuri Kurotsuchi's betrayal to the Soul Society, was always present and under her father's sword, and that was the part of the dream she didn't understand.
Why was Jyuushiro Ukitake, of all people, a constant presence in her nightmare?
It was the question she had kept coming back to, and it remained just as unanswered as when she had first posed it. Nemu could easily understand her father's preoccupation with him, but her own? Did she harbour any ill will toward the captain for what he had done? She had searched her feelings repeatedly, but she knew the answer was no. She may have felt lost and disconnected at the death of her father, but never grieved. He had not been a man to inspire affection. She had followed him out of fear, not love, and his death had left her something she had never been before – free. No, she certainly didn't hold her father's death against anyone, let alone Captain Ukitake. Indeed, he was one of the few people who treated her like a normal soul. Most of the Gotei Thirteen were wary around her, the daughter of a madman and traitor, though she could hardly blame them. He had always been kind to her, without that edge of pity that accompanied the kindness of so many others, especially when he'd brought the news of her father's defection. He had even argued for her right to take to the battle with everyone else, though he'd been overruled and she had been stationed with healers. The rest of her colleagues hadn't trusted her, and she couldn't help but agree with them.
She still didn't know if she trusted herself.
Still, Nemu was not her father, not a traitor. She had even more to fight for this time around – the friends she had found, like Momo, Yachiru, Nel, Nanao and Rangiku, her captain, Kisuke Urahara, who had shown her that, with her father and creator gone, she actually enjoyed her job, and his lover, Lady Yoruichi Shihoun, who was always in and out of the office and happy to talk about her deranged noble cousins to keep Nemu entertained. There were more reasons than she could ever have dreamed of to fight for the Soul Society, so why these dreams appeared now had her at a loss.
Perhaps it is just the threat of war that unsettles me so. Mayuri-sama is dead and gone – he can't hurt me anymore. These dreams are nothing but the product of old fears, and I should give them the attention they deserve – none.
Peering through the kitchen window, she could see the first signs of dawn on the horizon, and sighed.
I may as well get ready for work. I did promise Lady Yoruichi to get in early and make sure that my captain didn't singe his eyebrows off again with any early morning experiments.
A faint smile on her face, Nemu prepared for the epic task of keeping Captain Kisuke Urahara out of trouble for the day, pushing all thoughts of her father, the coming war and Jyuushiro Ukitake out of her head.
A start – I have made one. Let me know what y'all think.