It's mid-semester break! Which means I have a week or so off to finish up an essay… and UPDATE. I'm going to try and squish at least another two in and make a sort of buffer between chapters so that my updates come just that bit more frequently for a while. Don't get your hopes up though, because my plans never go swimmingly. But still, if I accomplish this, I'm buying myself cookies in celebration.

Here, have another update on me.

The Invasion of the Strong, Stupid People

Two figures couldn't be seen walking through Soul Society. If they had been visible, then a passer-by may wonder why one was almost carrying the other, while another may just pass it off as two shinigami after a night of binge drinking. The truth was infinitely stranger. The elder of the pair had once been 2nd Division's Detention Unit and later Captain of the 12th Divisions Research and Development squad; he was now an exiled shinigami who owned a shop, and did secret dealing out of said shop, one of which involved carrying the second of the pair around like a sack of potatoes. The second of the pair had once been the youngest, most insubordinate state alchemist of another world; now he'd become an un-aging, not-quite-human R&D escapee who was pretending to be an Arrancar that was posing as a Vizard, allied with everyone ever and no-one all at once and was currently being carried like a sack of potatoes. As it was, neither of the two could actually be seen or sensed, so no other souls in Soul Society were aware that these individuals were here, let alone what they are. Ed was grateful for this, because he could easily pretend this bout of helplessness had never occurred, there being only one (unreliable) witness to it.

It took ten minutes to reach the outskirts of the city, what with Ed practically boneless in Kisuke's arms, but by that time Ed was mostly recovered awareness of his surroundings and could form coherent thought. This was probably due to something Kisuke did, because whatever those bastards had given him normally lasted longer, but Ed couldn't recall much more than blurred images of his escape. Ed wondered just how much he was going to owe Kisuke for this. He saw the illegal Senkaimon standing open in the distance and, knowing it was now (finally) safe to talk, he spoke.

"So what's the count now?" His words were slightly slurred, to his dismay, but Kisuke seemed not to notice.

"2 to 3. My way." I saved your life back there, you owe me.

"The hell it is." I know you knew beforehand, this could've been prevented. I owe you nothing.

"I have pictures." I could have left you.

"No you don't. I'd have noticed." No you couldn't. You need me.

"Would you, though?" I doubt you're that necessary.

"…prove it." Are you willing to risk it?

Kisuke pouts, and Ed relishes the victory until the older man's face clears, and Ed knows that their posturing is over, "Well, then I'll just have to embellish. A lot. And I'm shameless. You probably won't remember most of it. You could have done anything." Kisuke smirked as he sing-songed the last word.

"Then I'll just have to tell everyone about Yorouichi."

Checkmate, Ed thought as Kisuke's cheeks turned a faint pink, which was like a neon flag for the ex-spy, and now Ed knew he had him. They both knew that neither would act on the threats they gave, because they trusted each other not to, astounding as it was to the both of them. But he'd still won, and like all winners, he rubbed Kisuke's face in it a bit, "What's the matter, Uruhara? Thought you were shameless?"

Kisuke said nothing, which was even more telling. Ed, feeling he'd made his point sufficiently well, lapsed into a smug silence, leaving Kisuke to his own thoughts which were probably rather perverted things that Ed wanted to know nothing about. Ever.

Kisuke was, for once, not being perverted. Or plotting. He was reminiscing, which was slightly alarming and very stupid, given that they weren't exactly home safe yet. But Ed seemed to do that to people, make them reflect.

It had been almost immediately after their first contact with the Arrancar had been made, only a few weeks ago now. Really, it was rather anti-climactic for Kisuke's tastes (and Ed's for that matter, though Kisuke didn't know it at the time). He'd been minding his own business (not literally; for starters he was and would always be a nosey parker. More to the point, his business actually ran a lot smoother when he wasn't there, for some reason) when he'd felt just a slight sense of unease, as if his instincts weren't completely sure there was a threat.

The bell jangled as the door opened. What looked to be a boy of fifteen stepped through the door. Kisuke said looked because he knew quite well just how deceiving appearances could be. His gold hair was long, tied in a loose braid. His face was angular, and hinted at an age older than Kisuke had initially thought, but with his prominent cheekbones, full lips and faint tan on porcelain skin he had a effeminate look about him. If it hadn't have been for his obviously male figure- though slender, he was lithe and his muscle was clearly defined despite the too-large hoodie and jeans- he would have made the (fatal) mistake of calling him a woman; albeit a rather flat-chested one. As is sensing the slight to his, well, everything, the boy narrowed his eyes and looked around the shop sharply, searching, and landed on the pile of dishevelled looking magazines slightly to the right of the pile that Kisuke was currently behind. His eyes were gold, like Yuroichi's, but much larger and slanted upward at the corners. As the boy's eyes slid away Kisuke silently cursed himself for not recognising him sooner. It was the same arrancar that had stopped the large one- Yami- from mass destruction just a few short days ago. Kisuke was only mildly surprised that he was here. After their strange, silent exchange at that clearing, he figured it would only be a matter of time before they met again. More to the point was what this arrancar wanted him for.

In casual clothes, and with a slouch that is universal to sullen teenagers everywhere, the boy truly appeared to be just that; a boy, nothing more. It was disconcerting. Kisuke had to keep reminding himself that this was in fact an arrancar; dangerous and cunning and… not all that different to himself, now that he thought about it. And if his presence here was anything to go by he was here to form some sort of deal. Which it wasn't, Kisuke wasn't about to trust the creature that easily, but he revealed himself anyway. He wasn't going to get any more answers hiding behind a pile of pornographic magazines (which were actually Tessai's, but no one seemed to believe him when he said that). As he stepped out the arrancar's eyes snapped to his, his body tensing as if readying for a fight. Once he saw that it was Kisuke, however, he relaxed his posture which was… interesting. It could be just to show that he was not here to fight, or it could be a show of trust; whether in Kisuke himself (and his willingness to listen) or in the arrancar's own strength (which was more contempt for Kisuke than any sort of trust). Kisuke was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, because someone smart enough to get past his defences (not that many people were aware there were any defences for the shop) without alerting anyone was someone whose motives were worth listening to.

"Hi!" Kisuke said as he half skipped toward the arrancar. Mindless cheer was key; it always seemed to off-balance the psychotically violent ones. "And whatever can I do for one of Aizen's arrancar lackeys."

He'd been hoping for some sort of reaction; maybe a twitch of irritation, a glare, or an 'I'm not a lackey' speech. Anything but a raised eyebrow, a slight snort and, "I hear you're in the market for information."

The lack of retaliation was impressive. He even appeared amused. Huh. An arrancar that was not secretly insecure or nursing his delicate pride. But now that he'd started, Kisuke couldn't just stop very well now, could he?

"Ahh… you must be mistaken. A mere sexy shop owner like myself would never be privy to the goings on of the underground world." Kisuke demurred, which might have been more convincing if he hadn't smirked. Just because he was willing to listen didn't mean he was going to make it easy.

Another snort. "I'm sure," he said, in a tone that dripped sarcasm. Did he really have to show so much contempt for Kisuke's antics? Kisuke liked his antics, they were fun. Though they didn't seem to be working at all on this arrancar- maybe he was of the same standard as that Ulquiorra, stoic and serious? "But I'm willing to let you in on quite a few of Aizens plans, if you're willing to drop the pretence that you know nothing, and give me the information I need."

A turncoat arrancar? Was this some sort of misbegotten coup? If so, the boy would be dead in a week. But even so, this was an opportunity that Kisuke might not be able to afford to pass up, and if not, it was likely that they'd both feed each other false information and it would change nothing. But, if there was a chance…

"What would you like to know?" Play along, mindless cheer, trust me smile. Elric's eyebrows rose, as if in response to the thought.

"I'm looking for someone." He apparently noticed the slight tension in Kisuke's frame because he added dryly, "Not Ichigo. He's new to your little brigade of do-gooders. The one with that strange ability to deconstruct the energy of a Hollow…?"

Alphonse. Of course Aizen would want Alphonse. "Who are you?, "Kisuke countered, eyes narrowed.

"Edward Elric."

Well, that was easy. Simple name, very western, though Kisuke suspected Elric had never been west.

"Never heard of you." He tried to affect the same nonchalance his guest had.

"Never noticed me, you mean." Ooh, those were some very pretty alarm bells ringing in Kisuke's head. Low profile life or superspy? Something entirely (terrifyingly) new?

"And tell me Mr. Elric, why Aizen would stoop to asking little old me about a boy that I've only met a handful of times. What does he want with Alphonse?" Elric's eyes widened a fraction at the name.

Aha! A reaction. It had been almost immediately quashed, but Kisuke missed very little, and he'd been watching closely. This Edward Elric knew Alphonse, or at least knew of him.

"Aizen," Elric said with disgust, and Kisuke blinked. He made it sound like the name tasted of dirt and larks vomit. How did he do that? "Is not the one asking. I am."


Elric gave him an appraising look and Kisuke got the distinct impression that he was being measured for trustworthiness. By an arrancar. The irony was not lost on him. And it seemed that he measured up, which was even more ironic if you considered his role in rescuing the Vizards from Aizen a few decades ago. Elric closed his eyes and let out a deep, grounding breath.

"Alphonse is my brother."

Kisuke blinked. Stared. Blinked again. Edward, brother of the new member of Team Kurosaki, of course, Alphonse had told them his name, and that he was blond, short and had a-

Edward narrowed his eyes into a glare as if in response to his thoughts


Kisuke blinked once more, just in case, and then to clarify, "You're Alphonse's older brother."

Elric's jaw clenched, but his shoulders relaxed just slightly, and the paradoxical behaviour was something that Kisuke could not decipher the meaning of. Interesting.

"Yes," he said it quietly, like he was afraid of being heard; softly, like a confession.

It seemed like a very emotionally charged moment. Intense.

Kisuke grinned, "So where've you been for six months, Elric? Al-boy's been lookin' all over for ya."

Edward Elric, brother of Alphonse not-Rockbell Elric, winced. Ooh, a sore spot. Dereliction of brotherly duty making him feel guilty? Wait, guilt? Kisuke narrowed his eyes at Elric. And shame. The arancar was feeling guilty and ashamed. Why?

"I was under the impression that Arrancar's did not feel guilt. They have no heart."

Ed smirked, eyes sparkling, and Kisuke thought he might get whiplash from the mood-swing. Then he held out his arm, as if he were about to shake Kisuke's hand.

"Your impression would be correct, Uruhara Kisuke."

Kisuke raised a doubtful eyebrow, his eyes flickering between the hand and Elric's face. Slowly, he leant forward and took the boy's wrist, two fingers on his clear, distinct pulse.

Ba-dump, ba-dump.

Kisuke's other brow rose to join the first. That was… unexpected. Almost as unexpected as finding out Alphonse's brother was part of Aizen's evil arrancar army.

"Does Aizen know you're… human?"

Elric snorted again, this time with a definite hint of bitterness (Kisuke was in awe of Ed's expressive snorts; exactly how did one snort bitterly?) "I haven't aged in seven years. I'm not human, I'm not arrancar, I don't know what I am." He ran a hand through his hair before meeting Kisuke's eyes again, "I don't doubt Aizen suspects something, but I can be pretty discrete when I want to be." Ah, Kisuke thought. He too, was a bullshit artist, then. Kisuke had found a compatriot of his own profession.

"If you haven't been found out, what are you here for then? Surely you know that going to your brother will just put a target on his back."

Elric gave a regretful sigh, "Yeah." He seemed lost in thought a moment, but then Kisuke poked him. Elric glared, but got back on topic.

"I'm taking Aizen out, and…" he grimaced as he trailed off, "I need your help."

Take Aizen out? But that was Kisuke's Plan! Wait a minute, this man thought himself powerful enough to stop Aizen? Admittedly with Kisuke's help (and who wouldn't want his amazingly fantastic assistance?). But still. Kisuke thought he'd merely been dealing with a closet-vizard; one who had stumbled into Aizen's little posse and needed help getting out. He clearly needed to reassess the situation. Particularly the part about Alphonse's brother being maybe-not-quite human (what was Alphonse, then? Unless they weren't blood related, though they looked practically twins, and— get back to the point Kisuke).

"Take out Aizen, you say? Well, I must admit, you give a good argument and I can't deny that it would be equally useful to me to pool our resources and knowledge— if what you say is true." Kisuke paused, and saw Ed acknowledge the not-quite trust that he was being offered, "But I have to wonder what you want to achieve by doing this? I'm sure if you had stayed in Heuco Mundo you'd be safe, and Aizen may even retrieve Alphonse for you. As powerful as he is, Aizen would not pass up the chance to ally himself with someone with Alphonse's abilities. So, what do you get from Aizen's downfall? What are your goals." What kind of man are you?

"Become a world famous fashion photographer. Infiltrate the Japanese military in a bear suit. Have a really good cup of tea. Not necessarily in that order, though."

Kisuke blinked.

"I might have the tea first." Ed added, still remarkably deadpan.

"…er," Kisuke said.

Ed gave him an incredulous look, full of pity, "Shit, did you really think I was going to tell you?"

Kisuke blinked again, and laughed. He would like this challenge indeed.

A week later he received a postcard.

On the front was a picture of- of all things- Heuco Mundo. To the uninformed eye, it would just be a hand-drawn image of a starless night on the beach; in the bottom corner it had some obscure painters (probably forged) signature and the words Verona Holiday Resort superimposed over the top. Kisuke supposed Edward thought it was ironic.

On the back was a little anecdote about the wonderful holiday that read as follows:

It's serene out here, if a bit monotonous. I've been enjoying myself lately, talking to the staff is always entertaining, and they're always so helpful. It's unfortunate that we're right on the beach, though. Right now I'm listening to a dozen or so rough, loud surfers from my window. No doubt the drunkards think they're being clever, surfing at night. They're on the east sure, right outside the villa, and it looks likely that they'll be there well into the night. Alas, the invasion of strong, stupid people upon my life is something I cannot do a thing about. The authorities do not know what goes on here, and as I am soon to be leaving here, I find it too much work to be getting on with.

Kisuke was in awe that Ed could write so prettily, however rough the code was. He must have been in a hurry to get this down, so the 'surfers' must be on their way already.

Let the invasion of strong, stupid people commence, then.

(Kisuke rather thought that this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.)

A/N: I'm not entirely sure what this was. I'd like to know if this was half-way successful at least, because I think this was a bit brilliant for me, but usually what I think is brilliant is… definitely not?

Idk. Let me know how that code bit went, because that I know was poor, so if anyone has any better ideas for my future chapters, let me know please.