I'm Not A Hero

Happy New Year guys and girls and sorry that this is not what you were expecting. Unfortunately right now I'm quite simply bored and need something to make me want to write again. Hopefully this helps a bit with me lack of motivation at the moment. AU from Episode 39

Warning: There will be hints of romance in the future, but other than saying there will be no yaoi or yuri, I'm not going to say much else on who it is with.

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach

"Normal Speech"

'Inner Speech/Thoughts'

"Kido/Zanpakuto/Quincy Techniques"

"Zanpakuto Speech"

"Hollow Speech"

XXX

I am the hatred to your love, the anger to your joy, the cruelty to your kindness.

They greet you with cheers and condemn me to Hell.

And yet at the end of the day…you and I…are one and the same.

XXX

Chapter 1: Instinct Knows Best

August 5th

Hollow Ichigo scowled down at the broken blade in his hands, the sword shaking in his hands slightly as his fingers tightened around the hilt of the blade and he grit his teeth in frustration. It seemed that Zangetsu had felt that Ichigo was ready to wield his powers again and had sent him back to face Kenpachi, but he wasn't so sure. Throughout their fight, Ichigo had looked at him with fear and distrust, feelings that sickened him. If that attitude didn't change…then when he finally matured enough to offer his powers, he would be rejected and left to wallow in the deepest recesses of his soul yet again.

"Are you ready to return?" Zangetsu asked him, drawing the hollow's attention away from the broken blade.

"Your plan will fail Zangetsu," he murmured, causing the spirit to raise an eyebrow at him curiously. "If we follow it as it is now, we will not be able to protect him to the best of our abilities."

"Accepting you will test him, to determine whether he can see past the monster in his soul, to do what must be done to win."

"And I'm telling you that he will not accept me, not even when he lies moments away from death with the safety of his…'friends' on the line."

"What would you do then? Deny what you are and offer to help him? To go against your very nature and nurture his growth? Or do you intend to turn him into a monster like yourself?" he asked curiously, seeing the hollow shake his head.

"Neither. He will still make the choice, but I would have him make an informed choice. He is…half the man he should be, just as you and I are only half of what we once were. Watch over him for now Zangetsu…for I will make him whole again," the hollow said ominously, his body disintegrating into black dust and returning to Zangetsu's cloak.

XXX

August 6th

Ichigo's limbs shook as he stood with Byakuya Kuchiki within Senbonzakura's Senkei, a pitch black arena surrounded by a revolving wall of blades, his eyes wide with fear as the Sixth Division Captain slowly raised his blade up high, preparing to finish him off.

'I won't…I won't die here dammit!' he shouted inwardly, struggling to get his uncooperative limbs to do something, anything. 'Move dammit! Move. Just fucking move!' he shouted, just as Byakuya swung his blade down, his death mere inches away.

"Tch, your pathetic you know that," a familiar voice cackled, just as time seemed to slow and come to a complete stop. Looking past the frozen Captain, Ichigo could see the bleached-white version of himself step out from behind his opponent. "Here I find you yet again about to lose to a guy, despite you having a fucking awesome sword. Tell me again 'partner', have you forgotten our last conversation already?"

"Forgotten? What are you doing here in the first place?! Where's Zangetsu?!"

"Tch, you really are an idiot 'partner'. What did you have to do, to get that Bankai you're using?" the hollow asked with a smirk, while Ichigo's eyes lit up with comprehension. "At least you're not a complete idiot, but yes you guessed right. He needs time to recover after you beat him, so that's why I get to talk to you for now."

"Talk? About what?"

"Let's start with what you're doing shaking in fear against Byakuya Kuchiki. He's already told you that he's not the one that's gotten stronger; you've just gotten weaker…why is that?"

"My limbs…they feel like the life's being slowly crushed out of them, what do I do to stop it?"

"Why are you asking me 'partner'? Shouldn't you be asking the guy that gave you this power?" his hollow asked him with a quirked eyebrow, enjoying the look of frustration he got in return.

"But you just said that Zangetsu needs to recover! How the hell am I supposed to ask him then?!"

"You really are an idiot. Did Zangetsu tell you how to actually go Bankai? Did he actually tell you what you had to do, to go Bankai? Did he explain to you at all what your Bankai does?" Watching Ichigo think over his words, he pressed on. "He did no such thing. So that begs the question…how did you know what to do? It wasn't anything more than your natural instincts, those same instincts that have been helping you since you were born. Even now they scream out to you, but you ignore them now. You ignore that which wants to help you, that which will help you win!"

"I'm not ignoring them, because I can't hear them. I'm ignoring them, because they want me to show no mercy. They want me to kill Byakuya without a second thought and despite the fact that he's willing to kill her, Rukia will be sad if I killed him here."

"So you're going to let yourself be killed instead?!" his hollow shouted at him in outrage, causing Ichigo to wince from the volume and intent behind his tone. "Tell me, how would she feel if you died instead eh? Then her brother here kills her as well, but its okay, because you didn't kill her brother and cause her even more pain! What kind of fucked up logic is that?!"

"I…I…" Ichigo stuttered, before averting his eyes and looking at the ground as he gritted his teeth together in frustration. The stranger was right, he conceded. Urahara had drilled it into him that he needs to go for the kill when he attacks, but even then a small part of his subconscious held him back and even now that small part was working to stop him from doing more damage than was necessary. Unbidden images came to his mind, images of his sisters and father mourning his passing if he died here. Of the funerals that would be held if Orihime, Uryu and Chad died here, the broken friends and family that would be left behind, all because he was too soft, too scared to do what was needed. Looking back up at his hollow, he could see the smirk on his face again as he watched Ichigo's eyes become almost lifeless and empty.

"Good, you've found what I left behind to help you, don't waste it now." Without another word, his hollow disappeared and time slowly resumed.

XXX

'It's over now Boy,' Byakuya thought grimly as his blade descended on the motionless body of Ichigo Kurosaki. To his horrified surprise though, the teen's left hand shot out and wrapped itself around his sword, blood dripping from the appendage as the steel cut faintly into his flesh.

"What?" he asked dumbfounded as Ichigo turned to stare up at him, his eyes empty and lifeless. Before he could react any further, he gasped and doubled over as he was pulled forward, straight into Ichigo's knee, his ribs cracking under the tremendous force of the blow. A blinding pain soon followed after and he grit his teeth in agony and leapt back, his eyes locked on the gleaming black blade that had carved deep into his chest and shoulder.

"What happened to you Boy?" he asked slightly breathlessly, his attention back on the boy who stared at him emotionlessly. Not hearing an answer, he was stunned yet again as Ichigo vanished from his spot, reappearing behind him with barely a whisper. Calling a blade to his hand, he was barely in time to avoid a second slash that was aimed at his heart, deflecting it away in a shower of sparks and retaliating with a stab at Ichigo's ribs.

Leaning to the side, Ichigo hissed as the blade cut slightly into his side, his arm reaching down to wrap around Byakuya's elbow, before slamming his forehead into the noble's face with a sickening crunch, breaking his nose and disorientating him momentarily. Before Ichigo could capitalise though, the noble had the presence of mind to flash step as far away as possible, shaking his head to try and clear his daze. Hearing a faint tinkle of metal at his feet though, he looked down curiously, before gasping at the length of black chain that was wrapped around his ankle.

Yanking on the chain that was attached to the hilt of his blade, Ichigo hauled the noble across the ground, showing no reaction as his head bumped into the ground several times, before he slid to a stop in front of him. Slamming his foot down on Byakuya's right shoulder, he drove his blade into the soft flesh, eliciting a grunt of pain from him.

Pushing through the pain, Byakuya raised his left hand up to Ichigo, his palm acquiring a light blue glow. "Hado no.33, Sokatsui!" he chanted, causing a blue fireball to burst from his palm, striking Ichigo in his chest and tearing him and his blade away from Byakuya. As Ichigo struck the roof of the dome, the spell detonated, dropping him to the ground in a smoking heap.

Struggling to his feet, Byakuya watched dispassionately as Ichigo also stirred, before slowly rising up to his feet. "You continue to surprise me Ichigo Kurosaki," he murmured softly, watching as a bit of life returned to Ichigo's eyes and the teen smirked at him again.

"I'll take that as a compliment Byakuya," he muttered, feeling the haze of bloodlust lift from him, leaving him haggard once again.

Before either of them could say much more to one another though, they both stiffened as they felt several new presences appear on the hill with them. Watching as the dome faded away along with the wall of blades, Ichigo heard Byakuya gasp at the figures in front of him, while his own eyes widened at seeing Rukia and Renji back again.

"Ah, how unfortunate. I was hoping that the ryoka boy and Captain Kuchiki would have already been finished before we arrived," a kind, gentle voice said, causing Ichigo to turn to face it.

"Captain…Aizen…" Byakuya murmured in disbelief, his expression mirrored by Renji and Rukia. "What have you done?"

"Ah well, that would be quite the story to tell," Aizen said with a smirk. "Sadly I have no time to tell it."

XXX

Minutes passed and for Byakuya Kuchiki, his mind was racing at a million miles a second as he tried to reconcile everything that Isane Kotetsu had just informed them of. Aizen had massacred Central 46 and was responsible for his sister's execution. Aizen who was supposed to be dead, who didn't seem the least bit concerned at the full extent of the accusations.

The moment Lieutenant Kotetsu had finished speaking and his Lieutenant had confronted Aizen about her accusations, he watched stunned as the man was attacked, barely avoiding a fatal blow, his sister still in his hands. The sight of a friend's blood proved enough to trigger another episode from Ichigo, as the ryoka charged off in a frenzied rage at the traitor Captain. Watching as blow, after blow was rained down on the traitor, he could dimly hear Rukia gasp as Aizen effortlessly flash stepped past him, his blade sparkling in a dazzling fashion, before two cuts burst from Ichigo's back in a crimson spray and the young teen collapsed face first.

"Ichigo!" she screamed, before falling silent as Renji set her feet down gently on the ground. "Renji?" she asked curiously, falling back as he placed himself squarely in front of her.

"Captain…" Renji said softly, his eyes locked firmly on Aizen, unwavering.

Nodding his head almost imperceptibly, Byakuya flash stepped towards the pair, drawing his blade and holding it out in front of him.

"This cannot continue Aizen. What you've done, it goes against everything the Gotei 13 stand for," he spoke in his cold tone.

"Ah Byakuya-kun you seemed to be of the opinion that I care for the Gotei 13, but the you couldn't be further from the truth. But come now, you were about to kill your sister too. All I ask is that you step aside and allow me to follow through with such an act," Aizen said in a condescending tone, never losing the smirk on his face.

"I will not allow you to harm another member of the Kuchiki Clan."

"Very well then," Aizen replied with a sigh. "It seems I need to dispose of you all then." And without further fanfare, the man vanished as Byakuya called Senbonzakura to his aid.

XXX

Within Ichigo's inner world, Hollow Ichigo grimaced as Byakuya, Renji and soon after Komamura, were cut down with ease. Lost in his thoughts as he continued to watch the events outside, he barely took notice of the figure behind him, until they coughed and his ears perked up at the sound.

"Welcome back Zangetsu," he called out half-heartedly, not bothering to turn around. "You've missed out on quite a bit."

"What have you done?" the spirit asked slowly, watching his counterpart stiffen at his stern tone.

"I have merely restored what should have been there in the first place. I have taken the hate, the cruelty, every negative trait that was buried deep within his soul, I took and gave it a place in his heart," the hollow murmured as he turned around to face Zangetsu. "Say what you will, but he will become stronger at a much faster rate like this, than if we went along with your plan. And now I will not be confined to the deepest depths of his soul, but live where I want to.

XXX

A short introduction to this idea. Now just a couple of important points.

1 – This is not a merge/strike-a-deal/confront/accept Hollow Ichigo story. What I want goes beyond those ideas and I will explore that later on.

2 – The explanation of what happened during his fight with Byakuya will come later.

That's all for now, see ya.