Title: Whatever It Takes
Warning: boykisses, fluff, OOCness, angst
Part Three - Ichigo
When Ichigo slips back into his shared apartment with Uryuu, it's past nine in the morning. Uryuu, he knows, is at class and Renji safely back in Seireitei. There's no chance of running into either. Which is for the best, since Ichigo plans to pack what few belongings are of any importance to him and beat a hasty exit. He's simply not ready to face another round of convincing and reminders.
They'll ask him to stay; Ichigo knows he won't be able to say no despite needing to. It's better, safer, wiser. He knows what he's doing. It's for the best.
He tells himself this over and over as he creeps through an apartment that still feels like home, but manages to sound foreign and alone all the same. This apartment is as much his as it is Uryuu's – as much as it is Renji's home away from Seireitei. Only not so much anymore. Ichigo's not going to be returning.
It's a bit cowardly, to slip in when no one's home and erase himself from their future, but it's the only thing Ichigo can think to do. For once, rushing in headfirst and hoping he'll figure out what to do isn't the best course of action.
And if there's a part of him that doesn't want to leave, Ichigo squashes it down mercilessly. They can't make each other happy. All they do is fight, and Ichigo knows that he's the cause of it. Because he's too busy wandering from Living World to Seireitei, undecided. Ichigo doesn't know if he'll ever decide.
He can't sleep at night in Seireitei without thinking of all the lost souls in Karakura, all the Hollow threats that could emerge. Or his family and friends, still living, who might miss him. Or worse, a war he can't forget and would rather never have to face again.
He can't rest easy in Uryuu's bed, or even his own, in Karakura because he knows how hard it is in Seireitei right now. How the Shinigami are still teetering on the edge of destruction after Aizen's betrayal and subsequent war. How much they need him.
Ichigo's so damn tired of fighting. But it's all he knows; it's all he can do. He can't stand aside if there's something to be done and he can't just ignore the part of him that's Shinigami. Or the part that's Hollow. Or the part that's something else entirely.
Grimacing, in the midst of shoving clothing and random bits and pieces of his life intertwined with Uryuu's into a bag, Ichigo pauses to rub at his sternum. Sometimes, it aches. Times like this, it aches. Ichigo doesn't regret this particular choice; it was necessary. But it can be a bit annoying at times.
Ichigo sighs and stuffs a few framed photographs into his duffel. Uryuu has extra copies of them and he doubts that the Quincy will be upset that Ichigo took them. It would be wiser for Ichigo to leave them behind as the reminder will only hurt, but he can't bring himself to do it. They are the last thing to be packed, and Ichigo slides the zipper shut, throwing the strap over his shoulder.
The duffel is surprisingly light. He never quite fully moved into this room, did he? No. Ichigo's stuff is spread all across the two worlds. Some stuff has taken up residence in Renji's quarters in Seireitei. The majority of it remains in his bedroom at the Kurosaki household. Urahara-san is holding some important pieces. And the rest has always been here. But not anymore.
The apartment remains quiet as Ichigo adjusts the duffel and heads for the door, one last thought occurring to him. He pauses in the hallway and pulls out his keyring, jangling noisily. He works at the metal ring, forcing the key to this apartment off. There's a dull clink as the silver metal hits the countertop in the kitchen, gleaming oddly in the morning light streaming through the kitchen window.
He never even got to taste his lasagna. Ichigo doesn't know why such a random, arbitrary thought strikes him as important. It just does.
His exit from the apartment is uneventful, the door clicking shut behind him with another, quieter snick to let him know the lock has moved into place. A part of him is disappointed that Renji and Uryuu hadn't been there to try. Other parts are grateful he had been spared the drama.
Ichigo's chest aches again; he absentmindedly rubs at it. Nothing to be done for it now. He's made his choice. This is the way things have to be.
Ichigo heads home, which he clarifies to be the Kurosaki house in Karakura, with its adjoining clinic. His sisters will be glad to see him, and even old Goat-Face will probably greet him with a flying kick or two. None of his family would be home at this time of day, but Ichigo knows they won't mind his return.
It's just a band-aid really. Something to put over the wound until Ichigo figures out where he's going to go from here. But Urahara-san will ask too many questions and there's no way Ichigo's going to hole up in Seireitei either. He supposes if he is absolutely desperate, he can hunt down Chad and bunk with him, but he won't bother Chad right now. This is something Ichigo needs to take care of himself.
Ichigo can't remember the last time he stayed in his childhood bedroom. He's been bouncing more between Urahara-san's and Uryuu's apartment lately…
Funny how quick that went from "their" apartment to "Uryuu's" apartment. Strange how his mind works. Ichigo hates that the thought echoes so hollowly inside of him.
His bedroom will be dusty; the sheets will need to be changed, unless Yuzu's been doing it in his absence. He'll have to open a window, air out the room, stare blankly into an unoccupied closet that'll never be occupied again.
Ichigo fights away creeping memories and digs his house key out of his pocket, letting himself into a silent home. Yuzu and Karin would be at school, the old man in the clinic. He'll have a few hours to himself before the noise starts in. Yuzu complaining he's too thin. Karin teasing him about never growing out of his angsty, teenage stage. Goat-Face meeting him with a flying attack he calls a hug.
Trudging up stairs that creak in all the familiar faces, Ichigo is struck with a surge of nostalgia. Not only for his family, but for Uryuu and Renji as well. He can't remember who started it, but he remembers where. Here, of course, after Aizen's war, when they were all struggling to pull themselves together after counting their losses – too many, too much, just not good enough.
He pushes open the door to his bedroom, letting his shoulder sag so that the strap can slide off it. The duffel hits the floor with a dull thump as Ichigo reaches over and slaps the light on with his free hand. The ceiling fan starts spinning lazily; it really does smell dusty and unused in here.
"You're a coward."
Ichigo stiffens and turns at the familiar voice, finding Uryuu sitting on his bed, looking perfectly composed, his face unreadable.
Ichigo works his jaw. "How so?" he asks, even though he knows the reason why. He won't even ask what Uryuu is doing here. Ichigo can guess pretty easily.
He steps further into the room, nudging the duffel aside with his foot so that it's out of the doorway, making it easier to close his door if necessary.
Uryuu looks at him, the gleam of his glasses making it difficult to read his eyes. "For all that you rush into battle, you're always the first to run when it comes to us."
"By us, do you mean myself and you, or are you including Renji in that?"
A hand lifts, pressing to the nosepiece on his glasses, adjusting them. "I deserved that," Uryuu admits, a first in Ichigo's estimation. "However, I was referring to both Renji and myself." He looks up at Ichigo, jaw set with familiar stubbornness. "Your first reaction is always to run."
"That should tell you something, shouldn't it?" Ichigo says, and folds his arms over his chest. He stands in the middle of his room, watching Uryuu who remains seated, a part of him hating that it's come to this.
He already feels himself wavering and Uryuu's hardly said anything.
The voice comes from behind him. Ichigo doesn't have to turn and look to know that Renji is the one in the doorway. A sneak attack then. They have planned for this. Renji blocking the only exit, Uryuu sitting in front of him, both knowing full well Ichigo isn't going to throw himself out the window or fight his way to freedom. This had to have been Uryuu's idea.
Ichigo's eyebrow twitches, a mixture of annoyance and resignation. "That for as often as we fight, it's obviously not working."
Renji snorts, and there's the sound of a heavy footstep as he moves further into the room and becomes less a shadow in the doorway. "That's just yer excuse."
"Really? I didn't know I needed one," Ichigo says and half-turns, one eye on Uryuu, the other on Renji, unable to escape the feeling that he's trapped between the two of them.
"People fight. It's common knowledge, Kurosaki," Uryuu says, and the old mattress creaks beneath him as he shifts on the bed. "And people tend to kiss and make up."
Ichigo sighs, shoulders slumping. "Yeah, well, maybe I'm tired of fighting," he says, even though the word maybe isn't part of the equation, but the word definitely is.
"Then no more fightin'," Renji says, as though it's that simple. "Me 'n Uryuu… we've agreed. No more fighting. There's no reason to disagree."
Ichigo snorts. "You've said that before. I'm supposed to believe that it makes a difference now?" He shakes his head, exasperation mixing with hurt and churning with anger, all becoming a heavy knot in his belly. "Tell me another one."
Uryuu frowns, eyebrow twitching. "You're being purposefully difficult, aren't you?" he says, hands sliding over his thighs, smoothing down the fabric of his carefully pressed slacks.
"Am I?" Ichigo demands, a touch aggressive, feeling his reaitsu rise and surround him like a thin cloak of power. "I told you I was done. You're the ones that showed up here as though I wanted you to."
"'Cause ya did," Renji's soft baritone echoes behind him, full of belief and determination, as if he's so sure he's right, there's no way he could be wrong. "Otherwise ya would've kicked my ass out of your way and left the both of us hanging here."
Ichigo's still sorely tempted to do just that, only the urge is fading rapidly. "It's not going to work," he says sharply, eyes darting between the two men. "I can't be some kind of… of glue or tape or whatever it is that you two think holds us together. I'm not going to."
"You won't have to," Uryuu says slowly, not quite pleading. Uryuu will never bring himself to beg or plead; it's not in his nature. He'll just say something as though that's the way it is and everyone else should listen to him because Uryuu knows best.
Renji won't beg either. He'll demand or he'll cajole. He'll distract Ichigo with fiery kisses and chase away tension with an ill-timed joke. But he won't beg.
The three of them, they all have their pride. They wear it like a mantle. Can't even tear it down for one another. Too stubborn, too full of themselves. And they really think it'll work out?
"You say that now but later you'll want me to choose," Ichigo snarls, hand whipping through the air in a vague gesture. "I can't – no, I won't. I'd rather be alone than choose."
Uryuu's on his feet now, but he doesn't look or sound angry. Instead, his voice is soft, as though he's suddenly come to an understanding. "No one's saying that."
Ichigo freezes, turning slowly toward Uryuu, feeling as though his bones and muscles creak with the motion. He stares. "We need you, Ichigo. Soul Society needs you," Ichigo mocks, his lips twisting into a nasty sneer. "They're only going to betray you. Go back to school. This is your home here."
It doesn't take a genius to know Ichigo's quoting both of them, at one time or another. He may have the words wrong verbatim, but the implication is the same. Their arguments can easily be summed up as such.
"We only said those things as advice," Renji protests, sounding guilty.
Ichigo snorts. "Advice that'll benefit one of you over the other," he hisses, and runs a hand raggedly through his hair. Too many arguments and discussions running through his head. Advice, they say, advice that tugs him in one direction over another, and only succeeds in confusing him.
"I can't do this," Ichigo adds, fingers scraping at his scalp, free hand forming a fist. "I can't be everywhere. I'm just one person."
I can't split myself between you. I can't be the bridge in a set of pairings. It's supposed to go all the way around, like a circle, a loop, not a triangle that doesn't connect at the base.
I want you both, not one over the other.
I'm not stupid enough to call it love. I won't be trite and say I can't live without either of you because I was planning to try. I don't know what this is; I don't know why it's something I want so badly. I just know that it hurts when I'm alone and all that I have to ease the pain is your kisses and your touch and the sound of both of your voices when you whisper in my ear.
He's breathing heavily, and he knows he's acting just a bit crazy, but the past collides with the present, coloring his future in expectations. He wants to scream, to shout until his lungs give out. There are too many expectations weighing him down, past and present. He's never strong enough, never fast enough to be everywhere, can't even save one person, can't even make his own lovers happy…
Warmth suddenly encloses Ichigo from behind, stopping his awkward pacing, arms wrapping around a body that won't stop trembling for reasons he can't fathom. The arms are thin, but wiry with muscle, an archer's arms. And then Renji is in front of him, his palms cupping Ichigo's face as he pulls Ichigo in for a kiss. A brief brush of their lips before the kiss deepens.
And Ichigo, for the life of him, can't find a reason to fight his way free.
"You idiot," Renji says, his words harsh but his tone soft, almost unbelieving, spoken between kisses. "Why didn't you say anything?"
Uryuu's hands are stroking Ichigo's chest and abdomen, a motion more comforting than sexual, his back warm against Ichigo's. "I'm sorry. We're sorry."
There's a thickness in the back of Ichigo's throat that he refuses to acknowledge. "There was nothing to tell," he lies, and is surprised when neither of them calls him on it.
How was he supposed to tell them? Something Ichigo can't put into words? The past is the past, and Ichigo can't forget it. He doesn't think anyone can forget Aizen's war. Ichigo's not the only one with nightmares. He'd be arrogant to think he's the only one struggling.
"We don't care, ya know," Renji adds, drawing back to look Ichigo in the eye, the strange amber shade darker with a show of emotion. "We just want ya to be with us. It doesn't matter where ya decide to go."
Uryuu is oddly silent, for once, as though he's allowing Renji to be the mouth for the both of them. Another oddity.
"I'm always going to be straddling both worlds," Ichigo says, surprising himself with the hoarseness of his voice. It feels like he's been screaming for hours. "I can't just choose."
"No one says you have to," Renji replies and kisses him again, as though it's enough, this kiss. As though it makes everything okay.
It doesn't, but it feels nice, feels right, and Ichigo lets himself fall into it anyway. Renji, for all his aggressive behavior, is a surprisingly delicate kisser. He knows the perfect methods to slowly coax Ichigo's mouth open, his tongue sliding inside and tangling with Ichigo's, warm and wet.
"You always have to make things so difficult," Uryuu adds, his voice a warm whisper against the back of Ichigo's neck, tickling the shorter hairs there. The sound of it, low and warm, makes Ichigo shiver. "We want you."
We… the sound of it echoes in Ichigo's ear. He likes the sound of it. We, not just I, but we. Renji and Uryuu together, making an effort. It's nothing new; it's a tactic they've used time and time again before. Ichigo's weak in the face of it now as he's always been. It feels different now, but then it's always before.
Ichigo's not stupid. He finds himself wavering nonetheless. The prospect of cold sheets and flooding nightmares and missing warm welcome afternoon kisses isn't appealing to him. He'll even miss the nagging and the fighting and the way Uryuu and Renji bicker over his head as though he's not there sometimes.
Who's he trying to fake?
Ichigo can't speak; Renji's tongue is too busy plunging into his mouth, making him senseless. Not that it matters. Ichigo's never been good with words anyway. He's always preferred to let his actions speak for themselves.
His hand rises, seemingly of its own accord, and one tangles in Renji's hair. His fingers pluck out the tight tie, letting waves of crimson fall over Renji's shoulders before Ichigo buries his fingers in that thick mane. His grip keeps Renji from moving away as Ichigo deepens the kiss, sucking on Renji's tongue, loving the low growling noises emerging from the Shinigami's throat.
Ichigo's other hand drops to cover one of Uryuu's, not wanting the Quincy to think he'd been forgotten. Ichigo grips and squeezes, moves Uryuu's hand further down until it covers Ichigo's groin where he's already half-hard. How can he not be when surrounded and enclosed by Uryuu and Renji?
Ichigo's hips shift, pressing backward against Uryuu's and feeling an answering hardness in Uryuu's slacks. And then he rocks forward, a growing arousal resting against his hipbone despite the layers of Renji's hakama.
Sex is hardly the cure for their relationship. But it's a start. It's a band aid. It's what Ichigo wants, what he needs, what they all need, he thinks.
So he doesn't think. He just closes his eyes and allows himself this weakness, surrendering to sensation and warmth and a feeling of closeness that he doesn't think he'll ever be able to duplicate with anyone else ever again.
a/n: And that's the end folks.
Okay, to be honest, there's a fourth part, all smut, that can be found on my livejournal or personal website (both links in my profile) if you're of age and interested. But the plotty bits are ended here.
I do hope you enjoyed. And as always, feedback is welcome and appreciated. Thanks for reading!