Disclaimer: Needless to say Tite Kubo owns Bleach and everything related to it. He can own this story as well for all I care as long as he makes these two be together.
All of a sudden, the blue light exploded into tiny particles leaving way to an identical copy of the captain of the sixth division, to another Byakuya, dressed in a blue uniform, similar to the one he was wearing. He was identical to his own person, except for its own eyes, the colour of amethyst burning brightly with love towards the still menacing and yet frozen figure of Ichigo. His disturbing gaze then fell on Byakuya.
"Ichigo is mine, but he is yours as well, in a way no one will ever be able to contest. The question is, Byakuya Kuchiki, are your strong enough and do you love enough to save him? Can you save him? And most importantly, can you handle the truth about your own soul?"
"That you had loved this boy from the moment you settled his eyes on him. That you wanted to ruin him so that no one can have him except you?" His own face sneered back at him. "Do you know why I bonded with him through you? Are you ready to accept the truth?"
Byakuya looked at his newly born alter ego and thought for a moment that it was strange to see himself like that. For one thing, those amethyst eyes were gentle each time they fell on Ichigo's tensed figure. His whole complexion completely changed from just one glimpse towards the boy. The boy. The man. There was a freedom in that expression that Byakuya had never allowed himself to have before and he envied the voice, Hogyoukou or whatever it was for this.
"What truth are you talking about? I feel like we are going in circles." He answered carefully keeping his voice devoid of any emotion.
"Should we start with the first meeting?" His alter ego spoke carefully, his strange eyes fixing upon Byakuya's face. His fingers trembled reverently when they touched Ichigo's frozen in time cheek.
"Don't touch him!" Byakuya sneered and his own face laughed mockingly back at him.
"Or what? Have you laid claim on him? You think that just because of a few kisses and a few petting sessions you are all of a sudden the master of this exquisite soul? Do you think that just because you suddenly confessed to him and picked up the courage to transform everything that you are allowed to speak about him like that?" The amethyst eyes narrowed down in disapproval. "How long did it take to hide the fact that you cared about this boy more than you would have cared to admit?"
"I do not believe that I have to explain myself to you or to anybody else what I feel or how I behave towards-" That stranger's hand suddenly clutched tightly at his throat pressing down cutting off all the air. His eyes were full of enmity as they looked down at his suffocating form.
"You will have to explain to me. You will have to convince me beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love this man, that he is your everything else, because it is within my power to save him or bring him with me forever. I would rather take him with me than let him in the shadows of the likes of you."
"What are you doing?" Dark points clouded his vision as it was getting harder and harder to breathe. He wanted to cast a spell but his spiritual energy seemed reduced to zero and there was no means by which he could make that steely hand dislodging from his throat.
"I am doing what someone should have done a long time ago." His other self pushed him away from Ichigo and let him breathe which Byakuya did, his insides boiling with anger that he was being taught as a child all over again the basic rules of combat like don't approach your enemy if you didn't know his weaker points.
"When you first saw this boy, you wanted to kill him." His other self accused and his words were blown away in the waste land that surrounded them. "You wanted to purge his whole existence from the world and beyond. You were going to let him bleed to death because there was never going to be anyone that touched your heart more than him and you would have rather seen him dead than come back to life again. Suffer the torment of not being loved like it happened with Hisana, suffer your fear that you were never going to be enough for one person. Wow, that Hisana must have done a real number on you."
"This is not about me." The captain replied his harsh eyes pinning down his adversary.
"Well, this is where you are wrong, Byakuya Kuchiki. This is most definitely about you as well." His other self, the form the voice has taken, was looking with disgust at him. "Why Ichigo chose you to give his heart away to you is beyond me. There is nothing left in the obscurity of your soul. Your are an empty shell of a too aged soul."
Byakuya swallowed hard, hearing the echoes of his own being crushed inside. Long ago, he received a similar lesson about emotions but at the time, it was the other way around. At that moment, he had been taught to purge all emotions from his heart, to reign his anger and reserve outbursts for someone else. Later on still, Hisana gave him another hard lesson, her lack of true love for him making him swallow full spoons of love words that were bound to be killed before being set free and let her hear them. If it was something that Byakuya Kuchiki has been taught consistently in his life was that his real emotions never mattered. Especially if they were his.
"It is true."
The other being appeared surprised by the acknowledgement floating in the air.
"What is true?" He was being coaxed into speaking about this but his eyes fell on Ichigo's form and even at a distance, he felt like gravitating around the young man, his entire being attracted o that mass of incredible spiritual energy and feelings and emotions. So many of them they felt like en endless ocean.
"I wanted him dead." He could mutter this, with Ichigo unable to hear him, with this boundless wasteland around them, a desert so much like his soul, and with his harshest enemy looking down upon him. "And I could not have cared less about his spiritual energy and how incredible and complex it was or about how such a silly boy was almost defeating my lieutenant. I wanted him dead because he stirred something inside of me which at the time I thought eradicated from my soul."
"Did you hear that, Ichigo?!" The shadow glanced back at the sudden blinking form of the young shinigami, although the orange brat had eyes just for Byakuya. The older man swallowed hard.
"You wanted me dead." The orange light finally whispered and Byakuya shuddered under the burden of the truth spilling out at last.
"Yes. The street lamps cast a gloomy light over your body but there was still such elegance in your moves, even though you didn't know your zanpaktou very well, even though your power was spilling at the edges as a leaking war machine. You were by far the most beautiful thing that I have seen in my whole existence and I wanted nothing more than to destroy you."
"Because I was convinced that my soul was dead, Ichigo Kurosaki. My soul was dead and I would not admit any attempt to revive it. I made sure that I would not look at Abarai as more than a silly and ridiculous weapon. I made certain that Rukia was cared for but I rejected her very attempts at being true siblings. There are certain people in this universe that wanted to remain dead, Kurosaki, that wanted nothing more than to be cast in the shadow of oblivion, never to emerge again. One of those people was me. And there you were," sudden anger drips with each word, "respecting Abarai although he was your opponent threatening to take Rukia from you, taking care of my sister who would have sacrificed for you in a heartbeat and I hated your very existence within a second from meeting you."
Byakuya stood in front of Ichigo ramrod, ready to bolt and yet feeling that this was the only time that he would be able to admit the truth to himself and to the man that was standing in front of him looking like his whole world was collapsing. His fury became even more fiery.
"What gave you the right to come into my life, defeat me and then insist on treating me on such familiar terms? What gave you the right to insist on protecting everyone and come back to Soul Society time and time again, annoying me, making sure that I was more humane than ever?" Byakuya's knuckles were white due to the sheer force with which he was holding the hilt of the sword. "You with your damn bright orange hair and your eyes and your words, insisting, always insisting."
"Couldn't I ask the same thing?" Ichigo sounded like he drank a shot of broken glass. "Couldn't I ask why did you come after me when everything was said and done? Why did you have to insist of my lodging to be made at your house?" Brown eyes looked shattered. "Why do you insist to see something beautiful inside of me when there isn't?"
Anger turned to outrage. How could such a beautiful soul like Ichigo not see its own light? Forgoing the presence of his alter ego, Byakuya took a few steps until he stood right in front of Ichigo.
"This is what infuriates me the most about you, Kurosaki Ichigo. Your stubbornness into seeing the worst in yourself. Here is what I know about you: you are stubborn and you are brave. You care too much about other people but have no respect for your own being. You love with your whole heart. Your family is crucial and your friends are vital and even the worst scum is worthy of your attention, because you see the best in people. You love me," the lump in his throat barely let him speak, but he was adamant in carrying on, "although I had hurt you time and time again and disregarded your help and your friendship."
He reached with a trembling hand for the young man's cheek.
"But you know what I am absolute sure of, Kurosaki?" Byakuya smiled. "You are not a monster."
"How would you know?" Ichigo brushed away the hand holding him and stepped back, looking sharply at the man he loved. "You really think I am not a monster?" Waives of reiatsu abruptly came into existence surrounding the both of them while the voice was simple watching the display. The young face was covered by a mask the likes of which Byakuya has never seen before. Although he had fought with his hallow form on that cursed hill, he had not been there when Ichigo battled Ulquiora and he couldn't have known Ichigo's eventual form when in complete surrender to his hallow powers.
"Look at me now and tell me that I am no monster." The distorted voice hissed, his zanpaktou ready to strike. He roared a cried of despair. "This is me; this is what I have always been and you dare to stand there with your self-righteousness and tell me all of that? How dare you?"
"You are not a monster." Byakuya said in an authoritative voice.
"Shut up!" The blade fell heavily, with a certain cruelty on his zanpaktou and its power sent Byakuya a couple of inches away. Yellow eyes stared at him in disdain. "Is this monstrous enough for you?"
"Hardly." Byakuya stroke back. "I have fought many monsters and I am afraid you are not one of them, Kurosaki, you are hardly worthy of such a name."
"I will show you monster." Unexpectedly, Ichigo chose to attack with cero born out from the place between his horns. Byakuya barely had time to use a powerful Kido spell to protect himself but even so, the ray burnt his clothes and flesh, a twisted smell lingering in the air.
"Oh, this is becoming very interesting." The voice smiled wickedly.
"You are not a monster." Byakuya asserted again, while trying to catch his breath.
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" Each onslaught was more powerful than the previous, more cruel and twisted and each time Byakuya managed to protect himself against them, he still suffered, the wounds opening like bloody effigies claiming the body for Ichigo. It was not long before he realized that if he was continuing like this, without attacking back, Ichigo was going to kill him or at least wounding him to the point where there wouldn't be any point of return for the both of them.
The next cero was met with sakura petals. The hallow grinned insanely.
"This is what I am talking about. You finally started to pay attention, Kuchiki."
"Hardly. I merely needed to step back a little just so I can tell you that you should stop acting like a spoilt brat. You are no monster. Get it through your thick skull once and for all."
Ichigo lashed out entirely forgoing the usage of cero, his zanpaktou striking like a viper but met with equal strength and stubbornness by Byakuya. Their fight was vicious and no amount of reiatsu was spared. There was a visceral pain cutting into them even though their swords were crushing against each other with the force of sworn enemies. But there was a certain mastery of the zanpaktou that Ichigo still didn't possessed but which came easy to Byakuya after more than a hundred years of conflicts and training.
His sword pierced almost unwillingly precious flesh and the hallow form of his beloved crashed on his knees in front of the captain. The silence was deafening, enclosing upon them like solid walls of pain and resentment. For one moment, it seemed to Byakuya that he had killed all that was precious to him, but then, the hallow sighed and its mask began to crumble in a deluge of broken pieces, sweat, tears and blood.
The captain removed the sword as gently as he could and then collapsed in front of Ichigo not daring to touch him yet. He looked down at the man he loved who was breathing harshly and his ancient experience on the battle field convinced him that it was not a wound that could have endangered that precious life.
"You are not a monster."
"Don't say that. I just showed you-"
"Another side of you." Byakuya smiled lovingly. "You are not a monster for monsters do not crave anything else except power and blood and see no one else in their hearts except their own person. You are no monster for there is so much love in your wild soul that you could light up the universe for a millennium and it still would last for another one. You are no monster for you never fail to see the good in me, the true monster maybe. You are not a monster, Ichigo, for you would rather damn yourself to an eternity of no identity and ultimate destruction than hurt anyone. These are not the actions of a monster. These are the actions of a man that knows how to love and protect and fight for whatever he holds dear. You are no monster and you will never be."
Unbeknownst to him, tears fell on his cheeks, washing away blood and sweat. Ichigo's back suddenly became wrecked with harsh and loud sobs tearing the last reign that he had upon his emotions. He collapsed on his hands like the broken man that he had become after the war and suddenly screamed. He screamed until he became hoarse and then screamed some more. Primal screams mixed with tears and Byakuya felt his heart break a little more. He gently reached for the wrecked form of his beloved and touched his beautiful orange locks, a halo of greatness.
"Let me hold you. Let me be with you, unworthy as I am. Let me be your anchor and let me be the arms to help you carry the burden of your power. I swear I won't disappoint you. I promise you they are sturdy and carry the whole universe if needed be, but I will never let go of you." Tearful brown eyes looked up at him and Byakuya felt breaking a little more. The sudden lump in his throat choked the last of his words. "I love you. I love you so much and my love for you is true, Ichigo Kurosaki. I see your light and you are no monster."
Ichigo crashed into him with such a strength that only people who believed not to be loved could possess. But Byakuya was ready and caught him as only a man in love could own. He felt Ichigo's tear on his shoulder and tightened his embrace, swearing to keep the promise. And then one small crystal drop followed by another and then another found their peace in the orange ocean of Ichigo's hair. His voice coarse from tears murmured soothing words, one of his hands caressing the bloodied back of the man he loved.
He did not acknowledge the time that had passed as they stood like that, a living statue of love and tears, both of them crying for the old wounds that would car and a new promising future. He only knew that when he looked up, his alter ego smiled kindly at him, glistening tears pouring on his shadowy cheeks.
"Now you understand." He murmured. Endless pain was deeply embedded within those amethyst eyes. "Even if I would live another thousands of years, I would not be able to do what you have done. Your love is pure, Byakuya Kuchiki and I am more than happy to release Ichigo to you." The man smiled woefully. "You don't know how much I wished I could be you. He is healed now and the wounds will disappear. Just as I will. Take care of him. He is precious to me too."
A gentle breeze surrounded them as the alter ego disappeared into a misty veil. He closed his eyes and tugged at Ichigo. He had a few promises to keep and he intended to keep them all.
When Byakuya opened his eyes, loving tearful chocolate eyes were looking back at him and he thought for a moment that he had never opened his eyes to anything more beautiful. He gently cupped Ichigo's smooth cheek and his thumb caressed the precious flesh as the younger man nuzzled it.
"Brother, did it work?" Rukia's concerned words like a cool summer rain and without letting go of Ichigo, he looked back at the people in the room, all of them exhausted.
"Yes, it worked." His voice cracked. "How long were we unconscious?"
"About three hours."
It felt like forever, Byakuya wanted to say but his eyes settled upon Ichigo and all his thoughts disappeared. "I would ask you kindly if you could vacate the room. I have some important matters to discuss with Ichigo."
For one moment everyone seemed ready to protest but Rukia shook her head and everyone left the room quickly kindly wishing all the best of health to Ichigo and asking to be informed when they could visit. Byakuya knew that there were many things to be explained, but at this moment all he cared about was this precious body in his arms.
"I wish I could be as eloquent as you, but I am not good with words, Byakuya, you know that." Ichigo smiled bashfully at him. "But I love you, and you are precious to me too."
"I know." Ichigo kissed his palm and Byakuya drew him closer. "I need to kiss you now."
"I thought you'd never ask."
Byakuya crashed his lips so hard that their teeth clanked against each other. His But his lips turned soothing as he delved into Ichigo's mouth, tasting everything, battling to own this man forever. His palm was open and firm against Ichigo's lower back, bringing that body closer to him so that they were one and the same. The sweetest moans come from Ichigo and Byakuya's last coherent thought was that this was pure heaven, in Ichigo's arms.
A/N: Thank you, thank you, thank. Thank you for your kind and more than generous words in reviews and messages, your prompts, your alerts and favourites. Thank you for still believing in my stories. Seriously, thank you. Apologies for any mistake left in this chapter. Not much now from this story. :)