Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. What else is new?
Summary: She never meant to consume them. He never meant to consume her. But sometimes, only violence can undo violence.
Pairings: Ichigo/Rukia, implied past Kaien/Rukia (if you squint super hard)
Author's Note: Written for the IchiRuki FC at BA in response to the Halloween themed event. This was actually entirely based on pikeish's drawing, Futility (check it out on DeviantArt), for the same event. It's been a long time since I've written, huh? That's what college life does to you. Hopefully, I'll be able to update my older stories soon.
is the taste of your lover
He gets the call at 10:17 am in the middle of math class.
It shouldn't mean much, this call, except it does. It means everything. It means a new job, a new play of the dice, a new night for hunting. He casually flips the phone's cover over in his lap, hidden beneath the creaky desk. The other end is silent, but this too, is routine. Ishida will never speak unless Ichigo says something first—it's an easy way to make sure that the wrong person isn't getting the information. He slips his backpack over his shoulder nonchalantly, and makes to stand up.
He waits for it. That question.
"Kurosaki, and just where do you think you're going?"
His teacher, Na—something or other (he can't remember, doesn't bother to remember) turns to look at him with a disapproving frown marring her otherwise young face. This is his 9th unexcused absence from class. Even a dimwit for a teacher would recognize that something wasn't quite right by now. The rest of the class waits in expectant silence for his answer. He can feel the weight of their gazes (heavy) on his back, trailing down his spinal column like skeletal fingers grazing vertebrae.
Switch on the shit-eating grin. Switch it on. "Ah, sorry Teach, I've gotta run. Family business, you know?" She actually doesn't, but it's never mattered before. "I'll catch up on the assignments and explain everything later."
She doesn't look convinced, but neither does she try to stop him when he strolls right out the classroom door. Some guy has the audacity to whisper Bullshit as he walks past. He cuts the idiot a side-glance, nothing more, just a glance, and doesn't look back to see what it's reduced him to.
It isn't until ten minutes later, leaning against the jacked up brick wall of some vandalized building, that he bothers to speak into the phone, cradling it against the spot between his neck and his shoulder. "Yo, Ishida. Details?"
The voice that comes back is slightly condescending and nasally in a way that is unique to the Detailer. "Kurosaki-kun, I really must insist on you creating some plausible excuses for when you have to leave class like this. Family business?" There's a dry cough on the other end of the line, borderline amused. "For a Hunter, I'd expect you to have better imagination."
"Shut up," but Ichigo says it fondly, nonetheless. "You can't be harping on my imagination when I've been missing literature class so damn much. Now get on with it. Stop trying to distract me from my job, because it really isn't working."
Ishida's sigh is long-suffering. Ichigo thinks he must be at his svelte apartment, leaning against that leather chair of his with his left hand pinching the bridge of his nose, like he always does when they're talking in person. "Demon. Female. Estimated age between one hundred and two hundred years. Small. Fast. We sent Chad last time to scout the situation out and possibly saves some lives, but he wasn't able to see anything happen. It took her ten minutes tops to get in and get out."
"Body count?" Ichigo asks this like he's asking how the weather is, or how the regional baseball team is doing this season. "Method?" This time, voice pitched slightly lower, anticipation peaking on the syllables. It's always about the method. Methods distinguish one demon from the next—they are calling cards of the supernatural world.
"Four in Karakura Town that we know of, something as high as fifteen in her previous city of residence. She got chased out by Tatsuki; that's how I was able to get the second figure. And her method of choice is something you'll really enjoy. I'll forward you the pictures of her last victim, I don't think I'll be able to describe it well enough."
"Tatsuki couldn't kill her?" Ichigo waits for the tap tap of Ishida's keyboard to stop. "You're joking. Ishida, there are only a handful of us Hunters in this area, and I'm not being egoistical when I say that Tatsuki and I are the best. Hell, Tatsuki kicked my ass back when we were little kids still in training. What do you mean by Tatsuki 'chased her out'?"
Ishida's voice is calm and collected. "I mean just that. Tatsuki was able to set up a barrier strong enough to prevent her from entering the city again after their fight progressed to the outskirts of Shibuya." There's a slight pause of reflection and a gentle 'hrm' that Ishida makes only when he's found some new, interesting piece of information. "Tatsuki says she's out of commission for at least a week. She didn't manage to land a hit on the demon, but she says to watch for the eyes and the heart."
Ichigo knows Tatsuki well enough to understand that in Tatsuki-language, out of commission for at least a week really means 'pummeled within an inch of her life.' He also knows that 'setting up a barrier' is really just 'last possible defense.' And that by setting up the temporary barrier, Tatsuki's intention was to send her demon straight to him to deal with.
And of course, knowing Tatsuki, her advice is as vague as ever. She's telling him to go in as blind as she did, knowing the basics through their Detailers, and figuring out the rest as they go.
"Give me the rest of the information through email, I'm heading back to my place now. For some reason, I feel like I'm not supposed to be bringing a firearm with me on this one."
The picture staring back at him in hi-res on his new computer (courtesy of Ishida) is grotesque in its simplicity. The victim's eyes are closed, the face relaxed, showing none of the stress that it really should on the verge of being killed by a demon. That part is strange, Ichigo decides. He's never met a victim of a demon who's died with a peaceful expression. The neck (usually a favorite for demons) is untouched.
He wishes the same could be said for the guy's chest.
The left side is completely fucked up. He can see incision marks around the gaping hole, marks from when a knife or some other blade had gone in with surgical precision, cutting away skin, tissues, muscle, lung to get at the prize. It isn't difficult at all to identify what the demon was after. The heart of the man is missing. There's a delicate, red handprint on the hipbone of the deceased—all thin fingers and small palm. It's an elegant mark on a very much coarse piece of art.
The sight hits him square in the ribs, catches his breath and squeezes it. He knows why that handprint is there. He knows where that heart is.
She leans over the dead body languidly, and plucks the cut heart from the confines of his chest with a grace that speaks of nobility. The blood runs fresh over the pale skin of her arm. It runs warm. She parts her mouth, reveals gleaming teeth—sharp to the touch, sharp to the sight, and sinks into the messy organ.
She feasts. And the blood is sweet, the tissue is bitter, the heart is completely necessary to consume. When she is done, she licks her lips dry (the crimson color is still there, it flushes her porcelain cheeks), and places her stained hand on the exposed hipbone of her last conquest.
It's a mark as much as it is a last, loving caress.
When the vision fades from his eyes, his temples are throbbing in agony. Forget calling card. This is a challenge, a subtle invitation. She wants him to come for her. Why else would she place a memory into a picture just for his sake? He waits for the pounding to subside a bit before closing the image and opening up Ishida's latest update.
The information is solid. She's attracted to the nightlife. She's a fan of costume parties. Her preferred victims are usually male, ages eighteen to twenty-four. There's no record of her last killing spree other than the current year, meaning she's either never killed before now (unlikely, considering the cleanliness of each death), or she kills in long cycles for reasons of her own. She has raven black hair, with a stray bang sweeping past one eye, and unnaturally pale skin. She carries no weapons.
Ichigo's eyebrows go up at the last tidbit of information. Demons that don't carry weapons are the worst to go up against, because it means they're of the rare type who inherit certain…abilities. Abilities that render the use of weapons obsolete in their case. He leans back in his chair and closes his eyes, mulling over Ishida's info.
He'll bring an edged weapon. Firearms are too easy for demons with abilities to manipulate. He learned that lesson early on, when some freak had completely reversed the direction of his bullet and scraped the surface of his left thigh with it.
Small, edged weapon. A dagger, perhaps. Something simple.
He doesn't want to give her any unnecessary advantages, after all.
Ichigo decides on an antique dagger purchased from Urahara's shop, in the end. He slides it into the sheath attached to the left side of his favorite, worn, baggy pair of pants. It feels odd to have a knife there, when normally, he goes hunting with the solid weight of a gun tucked snugly into the same area.
Yuzu picked the costume for him. He's supposed to be a cross between a well-bred Englishmen and a crass pirate of the European seas. The entire outfit is dark, charming in the right light, and menacing in the wrong one. He isn't looking to blend in this time. He wants her to see him, to go after him, to try to take him down.
He hasn't felt a thrill like this in a long time.
The club he eventually sidles into is a popular one, edgy in a way that only the more experimental clubbers really enjoy. It's Halloween, which means the entrance to the club is obscured by cobwebs that feel real to the touch, and spiders that crawl along the doorpost. Inside, the lighting is dim, casting a faint orange glow that rebounds off the peeling paint on the walls.
The furniture is gothic, from the swaying, black chandeliers hanging from the ceiling to the rigid, bare frames of the gargoyle chairs placed in front of a warm fireplace. To his right, a couple dressed as Frankenstein and a minx of a devil are sliding bodies against one another. Her skirt rides up enough for him to see more than he really wants to.
There's no shame tonight. And for some reason, everyone here is an exhibitionist.
The mirror to his right, set on a counter, flickers for a second. Just enough for him to see a girl dressed in similar dark shades with a single oleander woven into her hair pass by. This is her. His instinct screams, but when he looks at the mirror again, she's gone.
Someone brushes past him, the soft skin of fingerpads trailing teasingly on his lips. He knows it's her again. He knows she's using her speed to mindfuck with him. He's surprised to find that he doesn't give a damn about it, either. She's the touch on his arm, the whisper of steel as she fingers the knife at his side, the wind that whips his cloak in an otherwise still atmosphere.
"Stop playing around." He doesn't expect her to listen, but she does.
The next time he blinks, she's over by the dark hallway, violet eyes glimmering by candlelight. She raises a black, lace-covered arm and beckons. He follows her, heartbeat thudding in his ears.
Too late, he remembers Tatsuki's warning to watch for the eyes.
She guides him down the winding corridor to an empty room with large windows half-covered by lush, sweeping curtains of a copper red. A bright candle set within a glass cage is the only source of light. But it's enough for him to see her—all of her. Her dress is a Victorian style one, cut short so that the end of it brushes slightly against the middle part of her thighs. She's wearing matching lace patterns on her arms and legs, black swirling designs too intricate to be manufactured. She has her hood up now, the mahogany cloak barely concealing her telltale horns as a demon (fooling non-Hunters into thinking it's part of the costume, part of the fun), and leaving only her burning, violet gaze to look at.
He isn't fooled. But he can't look away either. His hand won't move to take out the dagger by his side.
She laughs. The sound seems to swallow the entire room. "Well. Well, well, well…I didn't expect a Hunter to be after me so soon." She gracefully slides the hood from her head, and his gaze is caught on the fully blossomed oleander carefully placed in her inky hair. How fitting. "Let's have some fun."
Suddenly, he can move again. He shoots a venomous look in her direction, and she replies with a smirk. Her ability is to control. Ichigo is less than thrilled with this piece of information. Controlling is a strong ability, an abnormal ability even in the realm of demons. Her bearing, her stature, the way she walks and moves like there will never be any obstructions to her path—she's a noble among demons. A queen among monsters.
He deftly unsheathes the knife from its place clasped to his belt, and twirls it. He can't look at her in the eyes. If he does, he's dead. He focuses on the delicate point of her chin instead, feels for the currents in the air, and shifts. He ends up behind her, one arm over her neck to hold her, the other hand with the dagger lifted against her cheek. He means to cut through the fine skin there, to cut all the way down to the bone and then some. To cut so that she'll never be able to regenerate that part again, so that no mortal will ever want to look her in the face again, and will never fall to her powers.
The knife stops at a shallow cut. She directs his actions without even turning around, forcing the knife to curve here in a cut, to connect with that line there. When she's done making him mark her skin with the blade, she disappears from his hold like water. He lifts his eyes and sees she's carved a heart for itself onto her face. He watches still, as she raises her fingers to smear the blood from the cut onto her lips. He can't look away—doesn't know how to look away.
"Ichigo," he finds himself saying hollowly.
She rewards him with an amused chuckle. "Fine, I'll humor you, then. Let's play at these wonderful games that humans do. My name is Kuchiki Rukia," she pauses to dip into a low curtsy. His eyes follow her as she goes down, the gentle dip of her waist and the shift of her slim legs as they move back into standing position. "Pleasure to meet you, Ichigo."
The way she says his name, he is convinced, should be a sin. It's like a calling, like some disastrous siren calling right before he smashes his head into the rocks that she sits upon, right before he crushes his spine against the unforgiving angles in his attempt to reach her.
He swallows with some difficulty, and tries to focus on the job at hand. "Stop fucking with me, and let's have a proper fight. I'm the Hunter of Karakura Town," he closes his eyes briefly and calls upon years of concentration to calm himself. When he opens his them again, his voice is steady—determined. He knows his irises are glowing amber to match her violet. "And you're the demon that I will kill, that I must kill."
She tilts her head to the side in acknowledgment, and opens her arms as if in waiting. "Then come, Hunter. Let's see the best that you can do."
He gives it everything. He gives her everything. Every single dirty trick in the book, every single move he's ever been taught, everything. She knows it all, dodges it all. By the end of his attack, she's suffered only a small scratch on her left arm. The tides shift; they turn.
She paralyzes him with her stare and walks close (too close). She steals the dagger from his grip and uses it to ceremoniously cut away at his shirt. She is precise. The tip of the blade always comes close to his skin, but never actually digs into it. He wishes she'd stop teasing him, wishes she'd just cut him open, eat his heart already like she's done with all the ones before.
But she doesn't. Once his shirt is in tatters, she gives the knife back to him.
And now is when he bleeds. That dark purple burn in her eyes lifts his hand and commands it to draw a thin line of red across his chest. It bleeds sluggishly. She frowns. He knows she's been meaning to cut his left side, but he won't let her. He fights her for control. So she tries again, the flames in her eyes increasing. He puts the last of his spirit into diverting her. He doesn't know that his amber gaze is now inhumanly bright, bursting to the seam with his latent power. The knife struggles mid-air before landing violently to cut across the bridge of his nose, this time a little deeper than the one on his chest. The wound is raw and biting.
She pushes him to the ground, ducks under the arm holding the knife. Like this, they could almost pass for lovers. His mouth twitches into an amused smirk at that thought. They're the furthest things from lovers. He doesn't have any strength left, so he looks straight into her intent gaze, catches her midway with his eyes. Her skirt rides up around her waist, and he spies the obvious corner of a knife sheathed to the garter of her stockings.
"Detailer said you didn't carry weapons," he manages to say.
She smiles and reaches back to slide the fine blade from its place. "He was right. This isn't a weapon to be used against people. It's one that's used against demons."
He doesn't hide his surprise.
She switches the dagger in his hold for her own. "Go on," she whispers. "Go on. You know what I want you to do, what you want yourself to do."
He brings it down to her chest, slices the pure skin away to the heart. She doesn't make a sound of pain, just watches him with trembling arms supporting herself above him and teeth biting into paling lips. "I'm not going to be the same again," he murmurs. He thinks he's trying to get her to change her mind.
She manages a weak smile for him. "You remind me…of someone special. He used to be a Hunter. I…was driven mad by others of my kind, nobles who wished to consume the Kuchiki House. When I came to my senses fifty years later, it was the taste of his heart on my tongue that burned the strongest."
He thinks he understands. She wants someone's heart to erase that bitter taste from her mouth, if just for a little while. The taste of consuming that one piece of your lover you loved the most.
"Go on," she urges him again when he pauses, the knife to his side and his hands cupped as if in prayer. "If you take this, if you do this, you'll gain my abilities. Protect your town with this."
He holds her heart in his hands, afraid to rip it out. It pulses, steady. "And you? What about you, Rukia?"
"I'll grow a new one. I'll become a new person." The words are reassuring, even though he knows he shouldn't care.
She kisses him as he pulls her heart out. The taste of it on his lips is phantom compared to the sticky sweetness of her heart as he devours it—hating himself every second for doing it.
When he stands up, his wounds are already fading, the product of her blood mixing with his. He stands over her limp body, and bends down to carry her in his arms. In pseudo-death, she's beautiful.
He kisses her on the forehead in thanks for this new power.
When she wakes again, he knows they'll meet once more.
They do meet.
Fifty-one years later.
Ichigo is the same as before, her blood bringing his aging process to a grinding halt. She, in her eternal youth as a demon, looks no different than that night so long ago.
They stand in a cemetery, yards apart.
"Is it bitter?" He asks, hands in his pockets, gaze tilted towards the night sky.
"Good," he says, and means it too. "Come with me."
The silence is long. When he finally turns to look at her, he sees that immortal gaze once more. And like before, he can't look away.
"Why?" She asks, finally. Her fingers are clasped around the handle of a knife that he recognizes as his own—that rusty relic of years past.
"To pay back the bastards who drove you mad," he says, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. He doesn't tell her that he still has her dagger, tucked safely between his shirt and his skin, in that area closest to his heart.
She doesn't move. She doesn't respond either.
He extends a hand towards her, and looks at the delicate tip of her chin like the first time he saw her. He's afraid of what he'll find in her lilac eyes.
When the careful, light weight of her hand settles into his palm, he interlaces their fingers together.