Okay, I just had a really crazy idea for a fic, so just go with it. I hope you enjoy this one, though I doubt it'll be one of my best. It probably won't be that long... we'll just have to see where it leads me =)
The pitch of night has settled over Karakura in a blanket that effectively snuffs out any sound, it's too quiet. A form in a black shihakusho and hakama jumps from the trees and stands in mid-air above the park swallowed in shadows, sighing tiredly as his many sleepless nights finally settle on his shoulders. Shoulder that already hold too much burden. Ichigo Kurosaki rarely has time to sleep, living his human life during the day and patrolling in his Shinigami form at night. It's been this way since the end of the war, for four years he's been overworked when there's no work to be found. After defeating Aizen, those of Seireitei placed even more expectation upon his shoulders… and Ichigo isn't one to disappoint, no matter the cost. At nineteen, he's yet to even think about dating and has had to push away so many people that tried to attract him that the regret is beginning to outweigh his sense of responsibility.
*Ya need somethin' ta do, aibou? * Shiro's voice wonders innocently enough from the orangette's mindscape. *I can come out an' play wit ya. *
"Not now," he sighs as he rubs at his tired eyes. "I need to get home and sleep."
*Want me ta take over? I'll be a good boy. *
"… Yeah. I can't do this anymore."
A figure that appears his inverted twin materializes beside him, hands clasped behind his back as his golden eyes within black sclera gaze at him curiously. Shiro has been able to separate himself for a long time now. The orangette had lost his powers after the fight with Aizen, but not in the way they thought he would. Shiro was practically ejected into Hueco Mundo, taking their power with him, and laid waste to a good number of Hollows as he joyously made his way back to his aibou. Upon their meeting, the orangette none the wiser as he lost his ability to see spirits, Shiro had tackled him in a tight hug and found himself back in the other's mindscape. He really didn't know what he had until he lost it, so empty without his orange haired warden that it felt he had lost a sibling instead. That's exactly how they've explained their relationship since then, as brothers instead of enemies. Ever since that meeting, Ichigo's power was forced back tenfold and Shiro has been a separate entity that prefers staying within the mental world of Karakura.
"Ya okay?" he asks.
"I think so… just tired."
"Ya need ta stay home an' sleep taday," the snowy haired male frowns. "This ain't good fer ya, aibou. Yer gonna get sick. I can take care a things here while ya recuperate, just get the sleep ya need. Maybe go out an' find someone fer tonight."
"Shiro, I don't have time for that," Ichigo mutters bitterly. "Seireitei is too random when it comes to what meetings they want me to attend and I'm not getting any help… I just can't. Maybe someday… after I'm a permanent residence in Seireitei."
Shiro flinches at the thought, yet says nothing more. The minute Ichigo heads off, Shiro growls in annoyance. He doesn't like how miserable Ichigo seems, he had so much more fire before and during the war… the snowy copy is sorely missing the days they spent hours beating one another down both physically and verbally. With a huff at the lingering feel of overprotectiveness he's yet to get used to concerning the other, Shiro darts off into the night.
The next morning Ichigo is still soundly asleep when Shiro gets in, barely managing a quick fade out before Rukia and Renji burst into the room. They practically dog pile on the orangette, startling him awake as he struggles beneath them. He's still half asleep when they back off, panic evident in his sleep fogged eyes.
"Oops, sorry," Renji murmurs. "Thought you had patrol last night."
"I did," he frowns. "I got home early."
"Well, we have some serious news for you!" Rukia states excitedly. "Kisuke and Yorouchi are finally getting married!"
"You heard me, I'm not repeating myself."
"… They were dating?"
"Pft, only since before they defected. You couldn't tell?"
"Rukia, he couldn't even tell Orihime liked him more than friends until last year," Renji points out. "He's not exactly the brightest crayon in the box when it comes to emotions like that."
"Shut up! I'm not that bad!"
The two roll their eyes, disbelieving as Ichigo growls. It's more animalistic than normal, the two having noticed the slight changes within their friend after the return of his power. Ichigo has become just a tad more Hollow in action and a bit in physical appearance. They don't say anything, as Ichigo doesn't seem aware of it, yet it's painfully obvious to all that know him. His growls and purrs, his body is more feminine than is natural for a male human… he's been mistaken for a girl on several occasions because of it… and in his Shinigami form his amber eyes tend to glow gold and his red markings are tattooed around his left eye. He never takes the time to look at his reflection in that form, so he never notices it, but they think he's aware of at least that much. The group watches their friend sulk at their comment. It's no secret that he's completely dense where emotions are involved, sometimes he can't even figure out his own, but his friends shouldn't be rubbing it in his face.
"So anyway, you're invited to the wedding! He wants you to be best man, but you'll have to help patrol. A gathering with that much reiatsu in the living world will attract a lot of Hollows and we have to be ready."
"Oh goody… more patrolling."
"It's for a good cause."
He sighs and nods his agreement, getting the date and shooing the others away. Something isn't right, he knows that as he showers and dresses… there's a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach, one that foresees life altering actions coming his way like a wolf mauling its prey. He shakes it off, hoping it's nothing too serious, and heads out to start his day.
Ichigo hasn't moved out of his father's place, but the Shinigami have finally placed him on their payroll so he has a large sum of money saved up. It's not that he doesn't want a place of his own; it's just that it's illogical to pay for a home when he's in Seireitei five out of seven days of the week. Humming to himself, he strolls along the sidewalk and toward the mall. This is the only time he gets to socialize, as Shinigami life takes up so much of his time. He tried to keep up the guise of a normal life through college, but it was so hectic and tiring that he was forced to stop after the second term. The teen has always strived to get everything done and Shiro has constantly pointed out it's not healthy for him, even with the cut weight of schooling it's hard. The white haired demon is determined to find a suitable partner for Ichigo, as he's under the impression all Ichigo's stress related problems can be solved with a lover. It's not that Ichigo has problems finding anyone, far from it. His vibrant orange hair is a little shaggier now, his amber eyes tending to glow eerily when he's angered, and his body has kept its lithe shape through these few years… he's a serious catch from what others have told him. His sexuality isn't a problem either, as he's always known he leaned more toward men… he blames the overwhelming need to protect everyone, leaving himself open and vulnerable and forcing a disquieting need to find a protector himself. When it comes right down to it, his excuse has always been that things are too chaotic for a relationship.
"Ichigo!" Uryu calls. "You weren't at the club last night."
"I know… I couldn't go," he remarks as he joins his three friends.
"But why? I thought you liked the club."
"I do, but… I don't know," he sighs. "After waking up at that guy's house with a hangover… it's just safer if I didn't go. Besides, I still have to patrol."
"We told you we'd help," the raven frowns. "You should be allowed to enjoy your youth, too. Why won't you just let us take shifts?"
The question is one he's heard repeatedly and he's sorely tempted to give in… yet he doesn't want them getting hurt. He shakes his head, his scowl deep enough to end the conversation. Although it earns him quite a few glares in return and the feeling they'll eventually get their way if his sleep continues to suffer, Ichigo attempts to ignore it in favor of the news he's gotten.
"Did you hear Yorouchi and Kisuke are getting married?" he asks.
"No, are they really?" Orihime smiles. "Oh, I'm so happy for them!"
"How can anyone stand that woman enough to marry her?" Uryu frowns. "I feel sorry for the guy."
Chad says nothing, yet nods in agreement at the other's comment. Yorouchi seems far too aggressive for most men, yet she's always managed to blend perfectly with the blonde genius… her common sense counters his idiocy. Ichigo sits at the chair reserved for him, leaning back and looking around the food court.
"I have to patrol for the wedding, but I'm sure they'll let you guys attend as guests."
"And yet you have to work," Uryu scoffs. "What a surprise. No rest for the hero. You've been working twice as hard as before the war since Aizen's fall, haven't they even offered you a vacation?"
"I don't think they know what a vacation is," Ichigo mumbles. "It's fine, though. I have help enough, I can handle it."
"Your inner Hollow doesn't count," the Quincy frowns.
"Shiro is fine, he's not about to go all psycho… he got that out of his system in Hueco Mundo," Ichigo waves off. "There's more to it, but I swore on pain of torment that I'd never speak of it to anyone but Shiro… and only if he's drunk."
"Emotional?" Chad guesses.
"Oh yeah... more than even I can stomach," the orangette snorts derisively.
The group sits around for a long while before Ichigo's friends eventually convince him to go clubbing with them. Though he's through with school, the money from Seireitei more than enough to live comfortably within his world, nighttime socializing has never been a highlight of the orangette's life. He's not able to hold his liquor, those eager to sway his steel control spiking his drinks through the night, and he was lucky both he and his 'abductor' for the night passed out before he did something he'd regret... not that it would be losing his virginity, he lost that when he had that brief time of a normal human life without Shiro. When he's out at night, Shiro patrols and Ichigo loses his only defense against assholes meaning to use him in the worst ways. His friends don't understand this and constantly press him to go out with them, yet Ichigo hates feel vulnerable without his inner demon protecting him… it's all the protection he's ever known, all he could count on.
The night is quiet, the air still and cool as Ichigo walks down the sidewalk and toward the club. Shiro is darting around the area, keeping one eye on Ichigo's reiatsu in case it fluctuates with ill emotion and the other on the town. He knows Ichigo's nervous, he hates the feeling that knots his stomach in concern, yet the teen would beat the shit out of him if he shirked his duties. The beat from the music thumps loudly, seeming to draw Ichigo's heart from his chest as it slams against his ribcage. He can feel the eyes upon him, their gaze making his skin crawl as he passes them as indifferently as possible. Uryu and Orihime are sitting at the bar with Tatsuki, the dark haired woman laughing with Chad as she waits for Ichigo. He's the only partner she likes to dance with, as he's practically born with music in his veins. Years of moving so fluidly on the battlefield have leaked into his movements all together, making his dancing something to behold. If he's not fighting in Seireitei, the dance floor gives him his adrenaline high. He's not there two minutes before she's forcefully dragging him onto the dance floor, the heat rising considerably within the throng of moving bodies. Tatsuki starts up a beat and sways into him, Ichigo catching on rapidly before they're moving like water over the floor. Everything else is gone, it's just them, and Ichigo can hear nothing but the music beat through his body. For just a moment, everything bothering him washes away and he enjoys himself.
"I'm thirsty," Tatsuki comments over the pounding bass after five songs. "Let's take a break."
He nods and follows her toward the bar, the rest of their group joining with them almost thoughtlessly. Ichigo takes the drink handed to him by Uryu and sips at it, smiling in thanks as he sits down. The lights are flashing and hypnotic, his weariness catching up to him as his eyes slowly droop. He could sleep right there, music be damned, and Ichigo is beginning to think now is a good time to leave. He says goodbye to his friends and heads out, his limbs feeling sore and weighted down as sleep tugs at him. Shiro is at his side in an instant, merging with him and instantly taking over his body. That's all the orangette remembers before he blacks out and sleep claims his surrendering mind.
The next morning he wakes in his bed and Shiro is twirling around in his desk chair, the snowy teen trying not to make too much noise as he guards his aibou. Ichigo yawns and stretches in an almost feline fashion, the Hollow smirking. The orangette doesn't know it, but his Hollow form has slowly changed with his massive power surge… he's more feline now. Shiro worked long and hard in Hueco Mundo to alter their Hollow form, he never was fond of the lizard-like form they started with… with the more feline one, they've gained speed and agility. He watches soundlessly as Ichigo gets up and gets ready, pocketing Kon's soul pill just in case. Today is the wedding and he'll need to be on high alert.
"Ya ready fer this shit, aibou?" Shiro wonders.
"Yeah, as ready as I'll ever be," the orangette sighs. "You better tuck yourself away, you know the Shinigami don't like you much."
"Pft, like I care. They just gotta understand yer mine ta take care a… not that they do shit ta keep ya safe anyway."
"I don't need to be taken care of."
The scowl leaves no room for arguments, yet Shiro does so anyway by sticking out his blue tongue. Ichigo does so back, chuckling lightly as the grinning demon fades away. He'd never admit it to the other, but Shiro's presence within his mind draws on a more secure feeling than anything ever has.
The substitute Shinigami arrives just as Kisuke is setting up the backyard. There's a gazebo and flowers, strings of lights, folding chairs set up in rows… it looks just like a party. Yorouchi is fixing the food with Unohana and the other women of Seireitei, however Ichigo is the only male that thought to come early and help. He blames it on curiosity and his submissive tendencies.
"Hey, Hat-and-Clogs," he greets. "What are you doing?"
"I'm placing the Kido spell on the ground here."
"Kido spell? What do you need that for?"
"It's Seireitei tradition," the blonde shopkeeper grins. "This is a binding Kido, but not like the kind Rukia used on you… this one is special. It binds two souls together for an elongated period of time, depending on the compatibility of the two souls."
"Cool, how does it work?"
"Well, we draw this interesting little design on the ground here," Kisuke starts. "After that, two people drop in their blood and the Kido is activated."
"That neat… anything you need me to do?"
The preparations are relatively smooth, the guests arriving close to the time given, and Ichigo seats everyone while Yorouchi gets dressed. Once things are started, the orangette is standing in the best man's spot with Kon's soul pill in hand. He's not taking any chances here, this is his mentor's wedding and it's a very important day… and Yorouchi would kill him if it didn't go off perfectly. The soft music played by Nemu fills the air, soothing his frazzled nerves as everyone starts to walk down the short aisle. Yorouchi comes after everyone else, Tessai leading her. The teen smiles softly, images of a time he'll never have creeping through his mind. He brushes off the depression and focuses on his duty, never one to feel sorry for himself even if it's justified. He had heard not all the guests were there, which confuses him to say the least, yet figured they couldn't make it. Just as Yamamoto starts reading the vows, simply to merge Seireitei tradition with human, Ichigo catches the sound of a tear and looks above them to see a Gargantua opening. He pops the pill into his mouth, his soul separating with his body as Kon looks around a bit lost. Ichigo leaps just as the first Hollow walks out, the orangette's eyes widening at the sight of them.
"Grimmjow," he hisses.
"If it isn't my favorite punching bag!" the feline grins widely. "What a way to welcome me back."
He darts forward, the two meeting in the middle. Ichigo's sword is caught by Grimmjow's hand, yet the teal haired male's claws aren't blocked at all. The surprise hit swipes across the teen's stomach, drawing a pained gasp from his lips as he draws his sword deep across the other's palm. Their blood drips down, those below just watching in mild curiosity as the two clash repeatedly and viciously. Onto the twining black lines, so thin and delicate, the beads of crimson lay. The lines glow faintly, the light pulsing around to travel the design, and then a bright searchlight shoots heavenward. Ichigo and Grimmjow are engulfed in blinding warmth, the two crying out in a mixture of surprise and pain. The light seems to worm its way into every pore within their skin, traveling through their bodies like a million bugs crawling all over them, and a searing pain wraps around their hands.
Once it's over, the light blinks out and two bodies fall to the ground below. The other Espada step out of the Gargantua, the one at the front watching the exchange lazily before dropping to the ground with the rest. He brushes a hand through wavy brown hair and sighs, humming a moment to himself and turning to Yamamoto.
"Quite the flashy lightshow for something as simple as a mating mark."
"It's not a mating mark, Stark," the old man sighs. "It's a binding Kido."
"Same difference, different timeline," a lanky raven haired man scoffs. "So, how pissed to you think that orange haired bitch will be?"
"We're trying not to think about that part," Yorouchi remarks with a sheepish grin. "Anyway, welcome to the living world! I hope these two idiots don't ruin things for you."
The Espada look over to Ichigo and Grimmjow, shaking their heads a bit. Thankfully, they thought to bind those two together… it's okay if they beat the fuck out of one another if they belong to each other. They debate what to do next. Yorouchi pulls off her wedding dress in favor of the body suit she wore beneath it, Kisuke and the Shinigami clearing away the wedding decorations and leaving the food for the reception. After a moment, the violet haired female gets a wicked idea and looks down at the two fallen males… this is gonna be fun!
It's so easy to write some of the things we do concerning Seireitei... they're so predictable ;p Anyway, I hope you enjoyed that. More of this chapter will be explained in the next one!