Shinjitsu No Uta (Song of Truth):

Byakuya/Ichigo

Iorekbyrnison

It was a common thought in the Seretei that Captains Byakuya Kuchiki and Ichigo Kurosaki were as different as night and day. Most shinigami would scoff if anyone person said otherwise, or at least with an eccentric bunch such as the Gotei 13, declare fatal revenge for bringing such rumors into the world.

The fact was, however, few people, even those who counted the two captains as friends, did not know much about the stoic noble and his orange haired colleague. There was a time long ago that the two Byakuya, still heartsick over the death of his wife Hisana, and Ichigo, too focused on saving the ones around him while neglecting himself, hated each other fiercely. Ichigo could not forgive a man who was willing to execute his own sister because of some outdated, misinformed law and Byakuya saw Ichigo for what he was: a loud, brash, over confident, lawless being who shot down traditions like a one hundred gun firing squad.

Yet war changed people. That was a grim and tragic fact. Nobody escaped the carnage that eclipsed Aizen's winter war; not the townspeople of Karakura or the wayward souls of the Seretei. Ichigo saw too many friends shot down, sliced open, or burned to death to keep the human side of himself alive. As Aizen's forces grew and Ichigo's family, some blood some not, diminished the perpetual frown upon his lips only deepened and the crease between thin, orange eyebrows only sharpened. When it finally came, death was a release, a letting go of all of the terrible attachments and ascending through the heavens, the cleansing of his soul, before his shinigami form materialized in front of the gates of the Seretei. Though his sins and bonds were laid atop his shoulders once more, the small reprieve was enough to give the man a sense of clarity. He was dead. There were still people left behind, still people he needed to protect. With resolve Aizen's war continued, but hope was regained and the momentum against the former captain proved too fast and furious for his evil to contain. Aizen, in the end, went down the slowest and most painful of all, courtesy of Ichigo Kurosaki.

Even back then Byakuya felt some admiration for the man who bested him in the defense of Rukia. The noble's only excuse at the time was the entrapments wrapped around his soul or rather Hisana's memory clinging desperately to his own self-hatred. Nothing, not his Bankai, nor the promises he once made to his dead wife could shake him from that God forsaken path his feet tread until Ichigo Kurosaki, ryoka at large, swooped down cocky and determined to save Rukia from her undeserved fate. Ichigo literally beat the clarity into him before Aizen's plot was even revealed. Even then, lying there on the battlefield as Captain Unohana tended to his wounds, Byakuya knew the feral strawberry was something special, an asset that the Seretei could not afford to ostracize, but he could not voice those thoughts nor could he imagine that Ichigo was more important to him than he would ever be to the Seretei by huge leaps and bounds. At that time Ichigo Kurosaki's position and usefulness in the soul society was a scandal at best and bordering treason to any friendly parties at worst.

Ichigo proved his worth though time after time. When other shinigami thought the battle impossible Ichigo fought on heedless of the wounds littering his body. He refused to allow his friends to perish before him and when they did he took it worst of all. Ichigo was the completely wrong and right type of person to be a soldier. He was feral enough, brutal enough, to slash his enemies down in large swaths of blood, but too sympathetic to the emotions around him.

It was during the war that their camaraderie began. Obviously it wasn't a relationship like any other. There was no joking around, no deep discussions. Ichigo and Byakuya respected each other as warriors first and then as partners. When the battlefield grew silent, though it rarely did, the captains could find solace in each other's company because both knew exactly what the other needed. The death of their friends, partners, and later, for Ichigo anyway, family was met without tears, without screams and shouts as Ichigo was once prone to. Their deaths were met with contemplative silence celebrating the life of those gone and the memories, the intangible things they left behind.

Rukia died a mere month before the final battle with Aizen. Truthfully she probably should have died long before. While skilled Rukia just wasn't built for heavy combat and it was only through numbers that people like she and Orihime lived from day to day. Aizen dealt with the Kuchiki personally, severing her head from her shoulders forever freezing a look of pain and shock onto her delicate features. That day as Rukia's sliced black tresses fluttered through the air Byakuya knew nothing but rage and a deep, deep encompassing sadness that was failed promises and broken hopes. Of course Ichigo was no better. The orange headed shinigami did not even pause to think about the ramifications of allowing his hollow control of his body. Together Captain Kuchiki and Ichigo completely decimated a large fraction of Aizen's forces including four of the former captain's numbered Espada.

It was a bitter day when Ichigo finally arrested his body away from his greedy hollow's clutches. Even then as the shinigami of the Seretei celebrated the largest gain in the winter war and the first trickling awed mentions of the "demon pair" surfaced, Ichigo and Byakuya stood side by side before Rukia's burial mound. Nothing was said. Nothing was done. The two stood there for what seemed like centuries while their ties to Rukia shattered and unraveled into loose, tattered strings, searching desperately for something to cling to, and then weaving themselves together like a braid, connecting the strawberry and the noble in a way that nothing but pain could. Rukia's soul was now beyond their reach, recycled into the great cauldron of life and in danger of being reborn into a world where Aizen ruled absolutely. The one once most precious to them was no longer by their side because, while Ichigo was able to reform after his own mortal death, Rukia was a soul already and did not have that privilege.

They knew each other then. They knew each other far better than they knew their second seats or sometimes perhaps their own Zanpakuto. Ichigo learned that sometimes Byakuya went out at night to sit by Hisana's grave and speak to her about the world though there wasn't much good news. Byakuya knew that the thing Ichigo missed most about his life was his family. He missed Isshin's brash and loud tomfoolery, Karin's stoic but loving persona, Yuzu's cheerful position as homemaker, and sometimes even Kon's high pitched sleepy mumbling in the dark of the night before Ichigo completely gave up on remaining in the human world. There was nothing left for him there anyway.

Ichigo learned that Byakuya sometimes missed Yoroichi's taunts now that the cat woman permanently resided in Urahara's shop tending to the man who became Aizen's first target in war. The shop keeper still merely laughed when people looked at him in pity. After all what's a leg or two when so many of their friends could only be claimed as corpses rather than invalids? Byakuya learned that Ichigo had few regrets when it came to being a shinigami. Though his position today was all a huge coincidence and his control in life was certainly lacking, the substitute shinigami cherished the time spent with friends fallen and otherwise. He did not blame fate, or higher powers, or even Rukia for getting him into the mess of being a shepard of souls. The purpose he'd gained by being a shinigami was not something he could throw away on a whim.

They both learned to hate the rain. Byakuya, one night explained to Ichigo that after Hisana died the rain poured for seven days straight as if the whole of Seretei was mourning her death. Ichigo relayed the feeling of sharp cold rain drops falling on his face the night his mother was killed. He remembered lying under his mother's body shocked and crying so hard it felt like the ground was shaking. Then his tears mixed with the rain and ever since his inner mind scape rained when his emotions went haywire.

It was only natural then that two people who knew some much about the inside of each other's soul would complete their knowledge by exploring the outside. Ichigo and Byakuya fell into each other because while their gentle exploration of memories and feelings was created over time, their desire to forget the world was something raw and hollow. At first sex was just a way to let go of the pain, to forget the war and death that surrounded them, but it became quickly apparent that the admiration and respect they'd held for each other all those years developed into passion and lust that crashed upon them like the waves of the ocean in a storm. Time was short. Now that Ichigo was a permanent shinigami should one of them perish in battle the other would have no chance of ever finding him in the swirling sea of souls queued for the living world. Their passion, their love grew from desperation but bloomed into something more profound.

Ichigo loved the way Byakuya's long hair felt against his skin. He loved releasing those black locks from the white Kenseikan and running his fingers through the silky ink like strands. Byakuya loved the building pressure that always formed in his groin as Ichigo pressed against him with wanton moans. He loved the red flush across his lover's defined cheekbones and the salty taste of Ichigo's tanned skin. Ichigo reveled in the slow burn that was Byakuya's member entering him, filling him up with something other than terrible memories and then pushing him over and over, in and out until the orange haired man knew nothing but the erratic pounding of hearts, his hands clutching broad pale shoulders, fingernails leaving raw, angry marks, and the slick sound of slapping, sweaty skin against skin.

They both loved the release, the blinding white sparks that flew behind closed eyelids and uncontrollable shouts of pleasure followed by the hazy afterglow when they lay sprawled in each other's arms mindless of the mess drying between them or the cooling sweat upon their tired bodies. Moments like those gave hope that maybe the Seretei wasn't the end, that the afterlife wasn't about protecting the living, and fighting wars that would continue to spark over and over because of simple human greed.

It was centuries later that people began to speculate on their relationship, though neither did much to hide it. Long after Aizen's war, after the numerous burials and rebirths of their friends, family, and comrades did the rumors even start about Byakuya Kuchiki, the head of the noble Kuchiki clan, and Ichigo Kurosaki, Captain of the fifth division. To the outsider a relationship between the two was absurd. Kuchiki was far too cold, too hardened by the loss of his wife and sister, too emotionally crippled to form a loving companionship with anyone. Kurosaki was far too brash, too focused on whipping his division into shape and patrolling Karakura where a new family consisting of a beautiful woman named Misaki, an eccentric older gentleman, and their two twin daughters, was setting up a small clinic in town.

It was the general consensus of the Seretei that if such a relationship did exist it was merely proof of the age old cliché that opposites attract. Little of the opinions of others mattered to the two captains. By then they were too entrenched in each other that they were practically one being. Long years of fighting together, training together, talking together, and loving together did little more than cement the intricate foundations they'd laid that day standing in front of Rukia's grave. Things like similarities and differences weren't something that either man cared for, after all what was the use of focusing on anything other than what was? It was only those who had already passed on, those lighter souls who were waiting for rebirth but still keeping an eye on the machinations of the Seretei that would ever know the whole truth.

Ichigo Kurosaki and Byakuya Kuchiki were far more similar than anyone could ever believe. Though they had entirely different outward personas, on the inside, where it truly mattered, they were the same. They were two men living day by day focused on wishes and promises of making the world better and protecting those precious to them. The essentials were all there if only hidden a bit deeper than most finite things. Had they met under different circumstances, had Ichigo merely followed fates plan and died the night of that fateful Hollow attack, had Rukia not given him the powers to become a shinigami, had Hisana not succumbed to her illness, had Byakuya not opened his heart when Ichigo beat him harshly into the dirt on top of the Sōkyoku Hill then certainly things could have been different, but surely two souls such as those would have eventually found each other to settle into completeness?

Ichigo and Byakuya were not different. They were two sides of the same coin, two men who relied on each other to live the life that had once been too full of too much pain and sadness. They were two men who, though they loved each other, could not fathom why or how their relationship transgressed from stoic avoidance to passionate love making. They still decided that it was better to focus on the present than to get lost in a past they would not be able to escape from.

The people of the Seretei could think what they wanted. Ichigo and Byakuya stopped caring about things like that centuries ago.

-AN: So yes I do know that I SHOULD be updating my Digimon fic right about now, but Koushirou proves harder to write than the rest of the digidestined. This fic came from nowhere. I mean it completely blindsided me because BLEACH is not really a fandom that I choose to write about. I'm excited to hear what you guys think about this because it's totally different from the things I usually write. So read and review!

Until the next time.