Tite Kubo owns Bleach. And I'm forever thankful to even be a fan of such a master! Xoxoxo
A/N This story takes place after the end of the Thousand Years of Blood arc, which as of July 2013 has not been completed, so please keep that in mind while you are reading.
Thank you for reading and reviewing.
This story is dedicated to and inspired by user Jace2pt4, my real life Yumichika.
n., v. dreamed dreamt, dream•ing, n.
1. a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep.
3. an involuntary vision occurring to a person when awake.
7. something of unreal or striking beauty, charm, or excellence.
10. to conceive of something in a very remote way (usu. fol. by of):
12. to imagine as possible; fancy; conceive.
14. dream up, to form in the imagination; devise.
15. most desirable; ideal:
"I don't wanna do this shit anymore, but I can't stop. I don't sleep without the pills. And if I don't sleep, I can't see. Even the face… I can't remember it when I'm awake. Can you believe that shit?" Ikkaku Madarame paused for a moment, taking a drag from his cigarette. "Fairy tales are shit. No amount of love can bring back the dead."
"I'm confused." Yumichika Ayasegawa spoke calmly, his voice crisp and light. "Drugs are ugly, why would you take them? Smoking is decidedly unbeautiful as well." Yumichika waved his arm in front of his face pointedly. "When did you start smoking?"
"Life is ugly, Yumichika." Ikkaku spat, sitting back in his chair and propping his legs on the wrought iron café table.
"Oh?" Yumichika questioned, arching a perfectly maintained brow. "Even with me around?"
Ikkaku scowled incredulously at Yumichika before putting out his cigarette in the ash tray. Yumichika shrugged noncommittally before changing the subject. "Who are you looking for anyway? Who can't you see?"
"It doesn't matter." Ikkaku replied shortly.
"Well, obviously it's upsetting you…" Yumichika countered, a smile splaying his lips. "And here I thought my friends were your friends…"
"You don't have any friends." Ikkaku sneered, downing the rest of his whiskey, the ice cubes clinking noisily at the bottom of the glass. Ikkaku stood up, tearing his jacket off the back of his chair and throwing it over his shoulders. "You're not him, you're not even close…"
"Excuse me? Ikkaku? Ikkaku!" Yumichika's purple eyes filled with panic. His form pixelated and in the next moment he disappeared along with the café.
Ikkaku sat up, pulling the electrolodes off of his head and chest angrily, another failure under his belt. He swung his legs over the rigid cot and dropped to the floor, grabbing the nearby carafe of water and drinking from it directly. He guzzled loudly, the water spilling down his neck and chest unchecked.
"Why'd you pull out, Madarame? You were only three minutes in." Akon called over the loud speaker.
"It was just wrong. He was all wrong." Ikkaku replied inscrutably. He pulled on his haori and sat back down on the cot. He knew the drill by now, procedure had to be followed whether he liked it or not.
The door buzzed open and several of the thirteenth division's finest came bustling in. They didn't speak or ask permission, they simply moved and poked and prodded his body anyway the felt necessary. He honestly didn't even notice the needles anymore.
Akon followed shortly after, his pencil scratching across his clipboard incessantly. He looked at Ikkaku humorlessly, a cigarette dangeling out of the corner of his mouth. "What went wrong this time? Hair, eyes, skin, pronunciation of I-ka-ku?"
"No," Ikkaku answered lamely. He didn't have a good reason, to be honest. "He just wasn't right."
Akon exhaled heavily, sitting next to Ikkaku and dropping his clipboard down to his side. "You know, Madarame-taicho, you're one of the three shinigami that has been able to connect at all. You shouldn't be so hard on yourself when you fail."
"The Eleventh Division doesn't make excuses for failure. My Captain would be -"
"Your Captain is dead. That Quincy bastard killed him. You have to accept that or this program will not work." Akon slid back down to the floor and resumed his assault on his clipboard. "Now, what went wrong, Madarame?"
"I don't know. I got there, to some weird cafe… like Parisian or something… I was sitting there smoking. I don't smoke. It was just wrong. I don't know if it was my fault or if … I don't know. Maybe you're influencing me with those cancer sticks of yours."
"Hmmmm." Akon murmured with interest, continuing to puff on his cigarette without abatement. "I wonder about that."
"You're done." Ikkaku demanded, it wasn't a question. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Ah, yes, tomorrow." Akon agreed. "Tomorrow we can try Zaraki if you'd like, instead…"
"That'd be great. All his copies wanna do is fight me, I can understand that." Ikkaku grinned at the thought. Yeah, Kenpachi Zaraki was the easy one to face.
Ikkaku walked back to his division slowly, not bothering to use flash step. There was nothing to do once he got there anyway. His hand fell on Hozukimaru, his zanpakuto, and he tightly gripped it in his hand for a long moment, unwilling to let anything else slip away from him. The vulnerable feeling soon passed and he continued on his way.
He wasn't entirely surprised to find Renji Abarai waiting for him at the barracks, but that didn't make him happy either. Ikkaku groaned and crossed his arms over his chest in annoyance. "Whaddaya want, Red? Come to fight?"
"Ha, you couldn't handle me." Renji teased, standing up and offering his hand in a handshake. He bit down on his lip in thought before adjusting his own haori self-consciously. "Anything?"
"Another failure." Ikkaku mumbled, sitting down at the table. He gestured, instantly being brought a large steaming plate and bowl of sake. "I think this time it was Akon's fault."
"Huh?" Renji asked, a dumbfounded expression crossing his face. "How so?"
"Well, it wasn't my projection of Yumichika that was off, it was me."
"You? How's that possible?"
"Don't know and not sure if I care." Ikkaku spoke around a mouthful of umani stew. "I thought that this would be a reward. I thought it would make life better. But seeing him… it just fucking sucks, Renji."
"I told Kira he was dead today," Renji confessed, rubbing his hands over his arms. "I've never done that before. It was awful. He just cried and cried and cried. And I felt bad, I couldn't just disconnect."
"You can just disconnect." Ikkaku argued, swallowing a hot mouthful quickly and taking a cool drink of sake. He stuck out his tongue, eyeing the sore with disdain.
"It feels rude." Renji answered lamely, tapping his fingers against the table. "I mean I brought him there, I should at least give him time to… you know… do stuff…"
"Renji, man, buddy, pal," Ikkaku exclaimed with a boisterous laugh. "They aren't real. They are nothing but pixels and code infused with artificial spiritual pressure. They cannot exist outside of the Scape. It ain't really Izuru… or anyone else for that matter…"
"I don't know what I think anymore. I've had my head messed with too many times." Renji stood up from the bench, taking a step backward. "That's actually why I'm here, Ikkaku. I saw him. He was there, in the crowd. I couldn't speak to him, but I saw him."
"What? Who? What do you mean?" Ikkaku dropped his spoon and swiveled on the bench to face Renji.
"Yumichika." Renji's voice came out in a whisper. "Akon called a gag order, but I had to tell you."
"Where? When?" Ikkaku pressed, an odd feeling inflating his chest.
"This morning, when I connected to the Scape. I was with Kira, we were in Soul Academy, Kido class to be specific…"
"And he was there? Are you sure? Are you mistaken? Has anyone extra ever shown up in your Scape sessions before?" Ikkaku continued, without taking a breath.
"I know it was him, yellow feathers, braid down one side of his head… couldn't be many other people." Renji insisted. "I just needed to tell you, you can't say anything."
"What?" Ikkaku asked, his mind racing.
"You cannot tell anyone what I just told you…" Renji repeated firmly.
"Okay, I won't, thanks for telling me." Ikkaku paused for a moment, deep in thought. "If you see him again, you'll try talking to him right?"
"I promise." Renji assured him with a nod. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Hahahahaha!" Kenpachi Zaraki barked in laughter, his irises merely pin pricks in his wide eyes. "This is fun!"
"Yeah?" Ikkaku panted heavily, parrying Kenpachi's blow with his sheath. Ikkaku grinned contentedly, releasing a steady stream of red spiritual pressure. "You like losin', Taicho?"
"I didn't know you told jokes," Kenpachi taunted, his zanpakuto slicing the flesh of Ikkaku's arm. "Neither of us has even pulled out our shikai…"
Ikkaku frowned as blood spurted from his arm; he hadn't realized he'd been hit. In Scape there was no pain or sensation of any kind, and it left a certain something to be desired when fighting. Ikkaku lunged forward, throwing his sword to his uninjured left hand and the sheath to his right. It was something he had never received enough credit for, not many could fight so seamlessly with both hands.
"Stop thinkin' and start fightin'!" Kenpachi ordered, the pure ecstasy in his gruff voice literally sending chills down his spine.
"Extend, Hozukimaru!" Ikkaku shouted at his zanpakuto, slamming the hilt into his sheath. The zanpakuto morphed instantly into a Yari, or spear.
Kenpachi roared in laughter, "Bad move, you know your little stick breaks too easy."
He was correct of course. Ikkaku's yari was able to viciously strike but was itself, too flimsy against more powerful blows. Kenpachi's zanpakuto struck in one fell swoop, severing Hozukimari in half. Ikkaku cursed loudly before signaling his defeat.
"Tch…You finish that quick, eh?" Kenpachi complained as he slightly lifted the corner of his eyepatch in gesture. "I didn't even get to release."
Ikkaku paused for a minute, fighting the urge to laugh. Kenpachi probably wouldn't find the innuendo as hilarious as he had. He cleared his throat, but wasn't able to wipe the grin off his face. "Sorry, Taicho. You'll just have to… release… by yourself…"
"Eh, Taicho. I can assist you with your release, if you'd like…" Yumichika offered, appearing out of nowhere. He adjusted the white sash on his shoulder before pulling his orange turtleneck down slightly. He winked at Ikkaku, a smile tugging his lips. "If Ikkaku is unwilling…"
"What are you doing here?" Ikkaku demanded, rushing over to Yumichika. He reached out to touch his face, but stopped suddenly. "You shouldn't be here."
"Huh?" A look of confusion crossed Kenpachi's face. "I'm still Captain here, aren't I?"
"I was speaking to Yumichika, Taicho," Ikkaku clarified.
"Eh?" Kenpachi turned to look at Ikkaku head on, tilting his head to the side thoughtfully. "You lose too much blood or somethin'?"
"You should use clotting balm on your arm, Ikkaku." Yumichika instructed, gesturing to the hilt of Ikkaku's zanpakuto.
"I'll be fine. It was nothing." Ikkaku replied, looking from Yumichika to Kenpachi quizzically. "You worry too much."
Kenpachi made a face and shook his head, muttering under his breath. "Come, Yachiru. Let's go."
Ikkaku's breath caught in his throat as he began to panic. Kenpachi turned around slowly, evaluating his surroundings for the first time. His eyes narrowed and he scratched his cheek contemplatively. "She must've gone to get candy, Taicho." Ikkaku quickly lied.
"Now that you mention it," Yumichika began deliberately. "Where is the entire division?"
"She wouldn't just walk off," Kenpachi deliberated, mostly to himself.
"Taicho! Wait!" Ikkaku yelled, cursing loudly as Kenpachi's form began to pixelate. "Hold on!"
"What the fuck is going on?" Kenpachi asked, his brow furrowed, illustrating his deep confusion.
"Listen, Taicho, Yumichika, don't panic." Ikkaku instructed his hands gesturing wildly in front of him.
"I'm not panicking." Yumichika replied with a smile. "I don't want worry lines."
"Yumichika?" Kenpachi nearly shouted. "It's only me and you. What's wrong with your head, Madarame? Where's Yachiru? Where are we? This isn't the Division…" Kenpachi continued, his form rippeling. He looked down, a sudden realization hitting him. His eyes went wide with fear and Ikkaku sighed sadly. Kenpachi's image disappeared along with everything else.
Ikkaku went to pull the electrodes off, his hand brushing across his bare chest. He looked down to find there were no electrodes; he must still be in Scape. He blinked in the darkness, panic beginning to creep into his heart.
"Where are we, Ikkaku?" Yumichika's concerned voice rang out clearly.
"Yumichika? Are you still there?" Ikkaku demanded, the hair on his arms rising. There was no light now that Kenpachi had disappeared, no ground, no ceiling, no walls. Nothing but blackness enveloped him.
"Of course," Yumichika breathed, his hand searching for Ikkaku's in the darkness. "I'll always stay with you."
Ikkaku jumped, an involuntary gasp escaping his lips. He smiled as Yumichika's hand stroked his. It was warm. "That's a sweet lie…"
"What do you mean?" Yumichika laughed fretfully, his hand gripping onto Ikkaku more tightly.
"You're dead, Yumichika." Ikkaku regretted it the moment the words left his lips. He expected the hand to let go of him and he certainly expected tears and yelling.
Yumichika's lips brushed against his softly, his breath heating his lips. Ikkaku smiled, licking his dry lips quickly before Yumichika's mouth was on his. The kiss was short and sweet, the very way Ikkaku preferred them. You will experience no physical sensation while you are in Scape. Ikkaku swallowed a lump in his throat. This wasn't real. This was just a mirage, a delusion bewildering his brain into trusting the impractical. "I may be dead," Yumichika whispered, his hands smoothing over Ikkaku's neck and shoulders intimately. "But I am no liar, Ikkaku…"
Ikkaku sat up with a pained cry, nearly rolling off the cot. He stumbled, caught in the cords of the electrodes and cursed, dropping to his knees powerlessly. He could vaguely hear Akon's voice over the loud speaker but the words were lost on him. Several shinigami helped him to his feet and he sat down obediently.
"Ikkaku, what the heck happened?" Akon demanded, extinguishing his cigarette under his shoe. "Why are you yelling? You're covered in sweat. You're heart rate is elevated. You're blood pressure is skyrocketing."
"He bit me," Ikkaku answered after a long silence. Ikkaku ran his hand over the small love mark on his neck. "It surprised me, is all."
"Zaraki bit you?" Akon's eyes conveyed the absolute incredulity he felt. "Your brain is unable to deliver pain messages while you're in Scape. You couldn't have felt pain."
"No, Taicho didn't bite me." Ikkaku corrected, shaking his head in contempt of that
ludicrous suggestion. "Yumichika bit me. He was kissing me, and touching me, and then he bit me. And it stung a bit."
Akon eyed Ikkaku's neck wordlessly before reaching into his lab coat and pulling out two cigarettes. He turned his head to the side, his assistant lighting the sticks without instruction. He sucked deeply on them both, holding in the smoke before releasing through his nose. "You have a mark there."
"Yeah," Ikkaku replied lamely.
"It was there before you connected… obviously, right?" Akon questioned.
"I don't think it was." Ikkaku answered. "I'm certain it wasn't."
"You probably hurt yourself during the fall." Akon rationalized.
"In the shape of a mouth?" Ikkaku arched a thin brow.
"Odd coincidence?" Akon suggested, his dual cigarettes moving with his lips as he spoke.
"Sergei Lukyaneko once said, 'I can't see the line between deliberate intention and coincidence'…" Nemu Kurotsuchi interjected, her small voice incongruously catching everyone's attention. "I must agree with him."
"Lieutenant," Akon pulled the cigarettes from his mouth in surprise, nodding toward her in awkward reverence. "Always a pleasure to have you oversee my study."
"Madarame-sama, Kurotsuchi-sama would like to run a full body evaluation at once." Nemu continued, ignoring Akon entirely. "He promised to take no more than two liters of blood."
"Eek! Fuck that." Ikkaku squirmed uncomfortably under her steely gaze. "I already give you leeches blood once every three weeks. I ain't doing more than that."
"He predicted you would refuse the blood portion and he is prepared to compromise. He will run the full body scan without blood work if you will stay overnight." Nemu offered, her face never showing any surprise, irritation or disappointment.
"Okay. I accept." Ikkaku agreed halfheartedly. Mayuri Kurotsuchi was the absolute last person he wanted to be around. He had never forgotten the 13th Division Captain's desire to torture him for information on Ichigo Kurosaki. Everything about the man made him sweat and clench.
"Go ahead and lie back down, Madarame-sama. You'll need to be connected to Scape for this evaluation." Nemu instructed.
"Will I be Drawing Zaraki or Yumichika?" Ikkaku asked hopefully.
"Neither, we want you to Draw Kisuke Urahara," Nemu answered. A large murmur spread throughout the room and Akon nearly inhaled his cigarettes.
"But Madarame didn't really know Urahara, it would be impossible for him to Draw an accurate image." Akon explained quickly.
"We have a solution to that problem. He's on his way here as we speak." Nemu answered quietly.
"Who here could know him well? One of the old timers?" Akon questioned skeptically.
"Now, now, Akon-kun, I hardly qualify as an old timer." Shinji Hirako complained, brushing his blonde bangs from his left eye. He eyed Akon menacingly before turning his attention to Ikkaku with a grin. "I'll connect to Scape and help ya Draw 'im."
"Good, 'cause I just remember that he had a funny hat." Ikkaku admitted with a laugh.
"Oh yes, that God awful hat. He only wore it to contain his overwhelming spiritual pressure. It was so powerful it would knock humans into comas." Shinji's eyes belied his words, a wicked grin on his face. "But at least he didn't dress himself in feathers or anything. Now that would be embarrassing."
"Touché, Hirako, touché." Ikkaku muttered in defeat. He felt the urge to apologize for his rudeness but in the end he remained quiet. "I've never connected with another person before, will it be different?"
"Hirako and Abarai have done it successfully three times now." Akon replied. "They had no difficulties and the reports indicated it is easier on the heart."
"It feels a little less like dying when two people do it," Shinji explained after a moment of thought.
"Well that's promising." Ikkaku muttered.
"Let's get the ball rollin'," Shinji insisted. "I left Hinamori with a stack of paperwork the size of Hitsugaya."
"Okay, I understand the theory of Hirako helping me Draw, but I don't understand why I am going to talk to some guy I don't know. What will that do?" Ikkaku shook his head skeptically.
"Because he created Scape, dumbass." Shinji replied with a wide grin. "He's the nucleus, the DNA, the crux, the fucking user's manual."
"You've got scary friends," Ikkaku commented, shaking his head.
"You've got no idea," Shinji smiled unnervingly.
In a matter of minutes they were side by side, both hooked to multiple machines whirring noisily. Ikkaku inhaled a deep breath, he was nervous this time, though he'd never admit it. He'd always had courage to go through with it before because the notion of Zaraki and Yumichika on the other side, but not this time. Ikkaku stared at the ceiling, moving his head side to side uncomfortably. Would a pillow be too much to ask, he thought with a frown.
"Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five…" Akon counted down over the intercom. Ikkaku felt Shinji grasp his hand and he snorted his disapproval. Shinji's hand remained on his nonetheless and within the next moment they were connecting to Scape. "Four, three, two, one. They've connected."
Ikkaku groaned, his body convulsing forcefully, his eyes rolling to the back of his head. The laboratory was gone and Ikkaku sat up, leaving his convulsing body on the table before that too disappeared. He looked around the emptiness until Shinji came into view.
When Shinji appeared so did the jazz club. Ikkaku looked around the smoke filled room and smiled, "So you're into this sorta thing?"
"Only when the music's good." Shinji corrected, adjusting the collar of his suit jacket. He looked sharp, his blonde hair, worn asymmetrical and short in real life, pulled into a sleek, low pony tail. "You're underdressed, Madarame."
Ikkaku shook his head, pulling at the tie at his neck uncomfortably. "Why do you hafta Draw on me? I look like a fool."
"Anyone who refuses to wear socks will never be allowed to pick the scenery." Shinji eyed Ikkaku with assessment. "Ya look damn near suitable."
"Come on, Hirako, let's get this over with." Ikkaku called out over the lurid jazz music bursting through the club. He climbed into a booth in the corner and looked around suspiciously, his hands still fumbling unsuccessfully with his tie.
"Okay, I'll Draw him, you bring him here with the intent of a conversation. Got it?" Shinji instructed, closing his eyes and rubbing at his temples.
"Ohayo gozaimasu!" Kisuke Urahara chimed happily, jumping into the booth across from Shinji and Ikkaku. "The music's a little loud for a chat, don't ya think, Hirako-san?"
"That was fast." Ikkaku replied with a shrug, taking a sip from the whiskey that materialized in front of him.
"So what do you wanna know?" Urahara asked quickly, fanning himself and looking around the club in interest. "Surely you already know why, how and when I invented Scape."
"Yeah, I know. It was supposed to retrieve the stolen bankai from the Quincy, though I didn't know you invented it. I thought you died before it started." Ikkaku answered tediously. "It was a failure anyway. But that's not why I'm here."
"He's been using Scape for about eight months now, Kisuke." Shinji explained, taking a sip from his steaming cappuccino.
"Ah, I see, Madarame-san, so you've had your first ephemeral spiritual experience?" Urahara asked, his voice dripping with curiosity.
"Uh…?" Ikkaku stammered unsurely.
"He means that you've had your first physical, tangible sensation." Shinji explained with a grin.
"Big words are the surest sign of overcompensation," Yumichika taunted, his dark violet eyes glimmering. Ikkaku jumped in surprise, looking at Yumichika in silence.
"Feathers!" Shinji cried out, spilling a little of his coffee as he hurriedly set down his cup. "Did you Draw him Ikkaku?"
"No." Ikkaku replied honestly.
"Have I missed something?" Urahara arched a pale brow in confusion. "Are we playing a game?"
"This is why we came, Kisuke." Shinji explained gesturing to Yumichika. "This guy keeps showing up in the damndest places…"
"Who?" Urahara asked with an unsure smile. "It's only the two of you and me."
"Zaraki couldn't see him either!" Ikkaku shouted. He didn't understand the complexities of Scape, Hell, he could barely comprehend his own paperwork, but he knew this was important.
"I told you, nobody ever listens to me." Yumichika complained, brushing his hands over his braid, lips pursed.
"Ah, Ayasegawa-san, right?" Urahara spoke thoughtfully looking from Shinji to Ikkaku intensely. "And he's here now?"
"Right beside ya, plain as day," Shinji replied, chewing on his finger.
"I'm hardly plain, horse mouth." Yumichika complained with a devastated sneer.
"You walked into that," Ikkaku shrugged as Shinji turned to him in astonishment.
"You understand that Scape is simply a computer coded doorway built using artificially created spiritual pressure, enabling the user to Draw or replicate an image in their mind….?" Urahara explained quickly looking between Shinji and Ikkaku with concern. "Unless you have in fact brought something into being with Draw, it cannot exist. Look around. There is no crowd, no bartender, nothing…"
"That being said," Urahara's gray eyes sparked dangerously. "I created Scape so that the shinigami robbed of their bankai could enter Scape, reanimate the zanpakuto and reclaim their stolen ability."
"Which didn't work," Ikkaku repeated. "You were out-scienced by creepy Kurotsuchi."
"Ha!" Urahara laughed, throwing his fan over his mouth. "I died serving the very people who banished me. I think I have bigger problems."
"It doesn't matter that Scape failed in its original purpose." Shinji interjected. "It enables us to speak with the dead."
"No," Urahara corrected, his voice growing serious. "The most fundamental rule of Soul Socitey is what? That a soul never dies."
"Yeah, people die horrible deaths, and God knows how long later get sent back to do it all over again…" Ikkaku muttered.
"Exactly, Madarame-san," Urahara breathed. "So where does that put Ayasegawa-san? Can you really speak to the dead?"
"Why can't you see Yumichika?" Ikkaku leaned forward, his face mere inches from Urahara's. "You can see this glass right, this room?"
"I can see everything you Draw." Urahara sat back against the bench with a satisfied smile. "What the fuck do you think that means, then?"
"We're disconnecting, Ikkaku, right now." Shinji instructed, his face pulled tight with worry. "I've made a mistake in my Draw."
"What?" Ikkaku snapped in surprise. "What do you mean?"
"Just disconnect!" Shinji entire room pixelated and warped. Yumichika looked around in panic, his eyes wide. He reached out for Ikkaku, his fingers digging painfully into his forearm.
Kisuke Urahara covered his face with his fan, his body fluctuating rapidly. "Madarame-san, disconnect before you find something truly terrible…"
Ikkaku sat up with a curse and furiously ripped at the electrodes. He punched the machines beside him, the beeping was impossible to ignore. He stood up and pulled on his Captain's haori, turning to watch Shinji as he began to move around.
"Why did you disconnect?" Ikkaku demanded pushing Shinji back to the cot as he moved to stand.
"Hands off," Shinji tucked a strand of hair behind his ear with a frown. "I ain't done anything to ya."
"He was trying to tell me something!" Ikkaku roared.
"Now, listen, ya fool," Shinji swung his long legs over the side of the cot and stood gracefully. "Kisuke Urahara was a genius, and I owe him my life, we all do, but he could be a real scary guy… He's not worth talking to when he's like that."
"What was he trying to tell me?" Ikkaku demanded. "You know something!"
"Ha!" Shinji laughed humorlessly. "I don't know shit! I sit here just like you, every day, trying to figure out what they even want from me. We tried getting back the bankai, we tried communicating with the ex-Captain Commander… Why are we still here, Ikkaku? Because we're selfish. All three of us have more regrets than anyone. We are here as a self-prescribed punishment."
"Urahara had more to tell us." Ikkaku replied simply.
"How did Yumichika die?" Shinji asked suddenly. "Did you get him killed? Did he die for you?"
"He died fighting." Ikkaku muttered.
"Well, that in there was not Urahara. That was a brainchild of mine. An idea I had from some random memory, that didn't even have to be true. He was getting angry. He was gonna start challenging us. He was gonna fight and he was gonna win… Why? Because I made him that way. I'm angry he's dead. I'm angry that he sacrificed so much to the very place that despised him… And I wish he had won. Damn it, he was so strong, so smart. How could he lose? He lost and I hate it." Shinji's words flew from him rapidly, taking almost no time to breathe. "You need to think about Yumichika's actions. Why are you making him this way? It's over. Accept that so you can release him from whatever it is he's feeling…"
"I didn't Draw him." Ikkaku replied softly.
"Yes, you did." Shinji replied firmly. "The only way into Scape is to connect or be Drawn. And only you, me, and Renji can Draw."
"What happened, guys?" Akon interrupted. "Did you meet up with Kisuke Urahara?"
"Fuck you, Akon, I'm going home." Ikkaku snapped.
"What? But you said you'd spend the night…?" Akon called out.
"Oh, will ya just shut up, Akon." Shinji added, brushing past the scientist without another word.
"Taicho is going to kill me," Akon groaned, dropping the clipboard to his side.
"Hey, Pachinko-head!" Lieutenant Yachiru Kusajishi called out cheerily. She wiped at the chocolate stain around her mouth before shrugging in defeat with a smile. "How ya do? Was he happy? Did you lose terribly like normal?!"
"He was great." Ikkaku answered plainly. He didn't really feel like going into every little detail about the Captain's and his exchange right now.
"Did he have lots and lots of fun?" Yachiru continued unabated. "Did ya bleed all over the place?"
"He's dead, Yachiru." Ikkaku let his hand trail over her pink hair, patting her head in a sympathetic gesture. "He's not happy or sad or anything…"
"Ken-chan…" Yachiru replied simply. But Ikkaku understood, he understood completely the loss that she felt. It was an unbearable absence in their lives. Could anyone properly explain why the 11th Divison was made up of one-on-one melee fighters, yet the top four seated officers had partners?
"I'm hitting the hay, Yachiru." Ikkaku called over his shoulder.
He woke before sun rise. Stretching and yawning until he realized he was tangled in something. He let out a small cry, rolling off his bed and striking a fighting pose. An electrode pulled at the skin of his head before snapping off with a comical sound. He looked up into the face of several 12th Division shinigamis and cursed. "You dipshits are in my house now?"
"Third Seat Akon? He's awake."
"Ah! Good morning, Madarame-san." Akon gazed down at Ikkaku with a victorious smirk. "I hope you slept well…"
" . . ?" Ikkaku spoke through gritted teeth.
"You agreed that we could monitor you overnight and you left the lab, so I improvised." Akon gestured to the assortment of machines shoved into the cramped space.
"I hate your entire division." Ikkaku pulled the remaining electrodes off his body, letting the cords fall to the floor. He attempted to sidestep around Akon, all the shinigamis bumping together in the tightly packed room. Ikkaku groaned, standing on his futon in defeat and crossing his arms. "Well, can you leave so I can?"
"Certainly," Akon gestured a withdrawal to the other scientists in the room. "Let's clear out of Madarame-taicho's room…"
"And put that damn cigarette out, Akon!" Ikkaku demanded, waving his hand in front of his face in discomfort.
"I quit smoking for three days a few years back, ya know…" Akon pulled the cigarette from his mouth, his tongue licking his lips hungrily. "I ended up punching four people, breaking two jaw bones and three noses. I promised everyone back then that I would never quit again."
"Great, don't care." Ikkaku replied shortly. His dark eyes darted around the room before settling back on Akon. "Eh, by the way, find anything interesting or… something?"
"Not really." Akon looked over his clipboard quickly. "Your dreams are average, neither too scary nor sexually natured…"
"Huh?" Ikkaku's brows knit together furiously, the vein in his forehead twitching. "You can tell what I dream about, asshole?"
"Of course, no emotion is actually capable with a chemical reaction in your brain allowing it. Love is a chemical, desire is a chemical, fear, my good Sir, is only a chemical reaction."
"Science ruins everything for you, doesn't it?" Ikkaku watched as several machines were wheeled out of his room.
"Look, the only change worth noting was your sudden increase in blood pressure," Akon resumed his worship of his clipboard. "It spiked to unhealthy measurements three times last night. That's bad, especially when you are at rest…"
"Blood pressure?" Ikkaku repeated the foreign word with his eyes narrowed. "That means I'm strong right?"
"Oh, well, spiritual pressure and blood pressure are completely different…" Akon fought the urge to laugh. "Too low blood pressure and your blood doesn't flow, too high and it beats the walls of your veins…"
"Oh my God, I don't care." Ikkaku's eyes widened, a smirk splaying his lips. "Not at all."
"Fine, I didn't expect you to." Akon muttered, his cigarette moving with his lips. "Just be on time today for once."
"I know." Akon and Ikkaku shared a meaningful look, each man sizing up the other. "What was Urahara like?"
The question surprised Ikkaku and he stood in thoughtful silence for a minute or so before answering. "He was eccentric. You could tell he was crazy strong though, I wouldn't have minded fighting him but Shinji was too big a coward… I guess I was surprised. I expected him to be smaller."
"Hmm." Akon mumbled, forcing himself to remain passive about the subject. "Did you glean anything useful off of him?"
"I don't know. He was trying to tell me something, but Hirako-dipshit-san stopped him before he could…"
"Hirako-san disconnected?" Akon asked in surprise.
"Yeah. He said Urahara was going get violent." Ikkaku answered.
"Well, that is certainly possible. It seems to be one of Shinji's hang-ups. No matter who he Draws in the end they end up trying to kill him. I can only theorize he's projecting Aizen's betrayal on all of his relationships and…"
"I absolutely do not care." Ikkaku smirked widely and Akon laughed.
"Of course not, sorry." Akon shook his head and grinned. It was unexpected from the somber man and Ikkaku couldn't help but think it was beautiful. He cleared his throat and looked away from him quickly. "I'll see ya later, Ikkaku."
"Sure, sure." Ikkaku stood waiting for the 12th's shinigamis to leave before getting dressed. He stood over his wash basin, scrubbing his face and neck when a bizarre sensation hit him in the chest.
He dropped to the floor, pulling his feet under his knees and inhaled slowly. He closed his eyes with a sigh. This wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last. No matter what Akon said, no matter the evidence he had to back it up, love was not simply a chemical reaction. There was no way a chemical reaction could break him. It had to be more.
After a few seconds the pain subsided and he climbed back to his feet. He cursed his own weakness before pulling on his haori. "I don't deserve this." He realized that as much as he wanted to be speaking about the haori, he meant so much more with his words.
It wasn't long until the day was winding down. He scowled at the enormous stacks of paperwork on his desk. He hadn't done a single one since becoming Captain, though to be fair Yumichika and he had been the one to do Zaraki-taicho's. He was fully capable, just entirely too lazy.
Ikkaku eyed the clock the disdain, he was already fifteen minutes late to the lab. He dragged himself to his feet and left his office behind giving a small wave to Yachiru as he passed her at the lake. She raised a large catfish over her head in victory before returning the wave. "Tell Ken-chan 'Hi" for me, Pachinko!"
"Yo, Renji." Ikkaku called out after the large red-headed captain.
Renji turned, rolling his shoulders back irritably. "Hey, Ikkaku…"
"What's up?" Ikkaku asked with a frown. "Kira crying on you again?"
"Nah, man." Renji replied dismissively. "He didn't show today. I tried three times before I switched targets."
"User failure?" Ikkaku teased.
"I don't know. I don't think so…" Renji replied thoughtfully. "I could Draw that one guy just fine."
"One guy?" Ikkaku's curiosity took hold and he smirked crookedly. "What one guy?"
"Ya know, I can Draw a lot more people than you can." Renji snapped defensively.
"Like who? Kira, Ichimaru, Matsumoto… who else?" Ikkaku pressed.
"You wouldn't know him, 'cause you weren't there…" Renji muttered.
"'Oh, come on! Why you hiding it?" Ikkaku demanded with a chuckle. "Who could it possibly be?"
"An Espada." Renji admitted, a blush staining his tanned cheeks.
"Whoa! You Draw Espadas? So you can fight, eh?" Ikkaku reasoned. "Which one? Primera? Nah, how about the one that pwned Ichigo? What was his name… something weird…"
"Eh, I Draw Szayel Aporro Granz. Kurotsuchi-taicho specifically requested it…" Renji paled, swallowing audibly.
"Huh? Which number was he? Was that the one that started plucking organs from you and glasses Quincy?"
"Octava and yes… he isn't exactly fun to Draw either…" Renji shuddered. "He is twice as creepy as he was originally and it's all my own fault."
"You and Shinji have real issues." Ikkaku crossed his arms and shook his head.
"Go on if you're so good then." Renji taunted. "Quit wasting time out here and go show me how it's done."
"I will!" Ikkaku called over his shoulder before bursting through the 12th Division's doors.
"Madarame-sama." Nemu Kurotsuchi spoke suddenly from beside him. "Follow me."
Ikkaku undressed his top half and climbed onto the cot, lying on his back. He stared up at the ceiling and waited impatiently as the scientists began to attach him to various machines. He was mildly surprised not to see Akon but in the end, he didn't care enough to ask.
"Ready, Madarame-sama?" Nemu asked, continuing without waiting for an answer. "Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one and he has connected."
Ikkaku felt the familiar strain on his body before he stepped off the cot, leaving his physical body behind. No room formed and he sat down in the emptiness. He closed his eyes and folded his legs beneath him. He sat, mediating peacefully, his mind completely empty. He refused to Draw anything this time. If he was subconsciously Drawing Yumichika wherever he went he would simply turn off his subconscious.
Several minutes of nothingness felt like hours. Ikkaku sighed in disappointment, opening his eyes. He looked around at the empty Scape and nearly shouted when Yumichika came into focus beside him. "What the hell? Where did you come from?"
"I didn't want to interrupt your meditation," Yumchika answered simply. "I figured you were chatting with Hozukimaru or something…"
"How long have you been sitting there?" Ikkaku asked reservedly.
"I sat down after you did." Yumichika replied with a smile.
"I didn't Draw you." Ikkaku stated simply, eyeing the slighter man with a scowl.
"No." Yumichika agreed, tucking his braid behind his ear.
"Then why are you here?" Ikkaku continued suspiciously.
"Do I need a reason to want to be with you?" Yumichika shot back, his violet eyes piercing into Ikkaku.
"You're dead." Ikkaku barked. "You died almost a year ago."
"Well, I'm here now." Yumichika snipped, crossing his arms. "You'd think you'd be happy."
"I'm mad at you, asshole." Ikkaku shouted, the veins on his neck pulsing forcefully. "You died!"
"Well clearly, I couldn't help it." Yumichika countered, rolling his eyes.
"Hisagi told me, Yumichika. He told me years ago what you can do. But you're crazy to think I didn't know about your shikai before that…" Ikkaku reached for Yumichika's arm and grabbed onto him firmly. "I know everything about you…"
"You knew?" Yumichika spoke with surprise. "And you never called me out on it? You hate kido types."
"I hate smug, pretentious assholes. I don't hate you." Ikkaku explained quickly.
"Thank you…" Yumichika's large eyes widened beautifully.
"Don't thank me. It's too late now." Ikkaku snapped.
"No, it's not." Yumichika breathed. "It's never too late to understand one another."
"Is that why you keep showing up? You're mad at me for… for denying your whole ability?" Ikkaku swallowed a lump in his throat, remembering his and Shinji's conversation. He realized that this was it. He needed to let Yumichika know he accepted him.
"I'm not mad at you!" Yumichika laughed, a dainty sound. "How ugly would that be? No, I'm just waiting for you, is all."
"Huh?" Ikkaku's brow scrunched together in confusion. "Whaddaya mean?"
"Don't worry about it, Ikkaku," Yumichika whispered, his hands smoothing over the creases of Ikkaku's eyes. "It'll give you wrinkles…"
Ikkaku woke with a gasp, a terrible pain shooting from his chest to his toes. His eyes blurred in and out of focus and he slapped at the machines weakly. He took in a ragged breath, beginning to wheeze. He tried to sit up, falling back to the cot with a cry.
"Akon! Akon, quick!"
"Lieutenant, it's off the charts!"
"Unplug him now! Disconnect him, damn it!" Akon ordered, at last coming into view. He threw his clipboard to another shinigami and extinguished his cigarette beneath his shoe. He rolled up the sleeves of his lab coat and dropped his head down to Ikkaku's chest.
"What…?" Ikkaku sputtered weakly, a strange taste filling his mouth.
"Ikkaku!" Yumichika screamed, his beautiful face scraped up and stained with his own blood.
Ikkaku blinked, clearing his eyes. He looked back up at Akon and shook his head. "What… is happening…?"
"Please do not speak, Madarame." Akon instructed, squeezing Ikkaku's hand firmly. "Fourth Division personnel, now!"
"I can see him." Ikkaku breathed. He lifted his hand and reached out, his fingers going clear through the image of Yumichika. Ikkaku coughed, shaking his head adamantly. "He's right there, Akon… I can see him…"
Ikkaku looked up in confusion at the strange shinigami above him. With each passing moment Yumichika's form deteriorated. Ikkaku pushed the 4th Division shinigami away forcefully, letting out a scream as the pain returned tenfold. Yumichika smiled sadly and reached out for Ikkaku.
"Ikkaku, let them heal you!" Akon demanded. "Your heart is going to give out."
Everything suddenly clicked in Ikkaku's understanding. He didn't have much strength left so he would have to work fast. He closed his eyes and before he could second guess himself he connected to Scape. There was a moment of intense pain and then everything dissolved. He slid off the cot, his body moving with him.
The room was Drawn quickly, morphing into the green knolls where he had first met Yumichika Ayasegawa over a century ago. He followed the calming sound of running water and found Yumichika by the river. "Yo, Yumichika."
"Hey, Ikkaku." Yumichika called out, wringing his long black hair free of excess water. He pulled his kimono more tightly over his wet skin and flashed a shy smile.
"I understand now." Ikkaku called out to the other side of the river where Yumichika stood. "I understand what's happening."
"I know." Yumichika answered simply. Ikkaku stepped forward quickly, pausing only as Yumichika shook his head, raising his hand in a halting gesture. "If you cross the river, it's your end…"
"I know." Ikkaku smirked. "I'm not afraid to die, Yumichika."
"You can go back. I'll wait for you, no matter how long you take. I will wait right here until we can go back together." Yumichika promised.
"Would you believe me if I told you it's not even fun to fight without you around?" Ikkaku showed no hesitation as he continued forward, stepping into the river.
"Wait, Ikkaku…" Yumichika gasped as the water rose to Ikkaku's waist. "Going back together doesn't guarantee that we'll find each other right away. It could be years… we could find other people…"
"It doesn't matter." Ikkaku affirmed. "I will find you, even if I have to search the rest of my next life. And I will always love you…"
"I love you too," Yumichika called out, extending his hand to Ikkaku. "But are you willing to die, right this moment, with all of these uncertainties. You can survive this, Ikkaku!"
"No." Ikkaku explained, grabbing Yumichika's offered hand. "Even if I survive, I've become incompatible with Scape. I won't be able to see you again. It's now or never, Yumi."
Yumichika pulled Ikkaku from the river, wrapping his arms around his wet body. They embraced tightly, their lips touching for the briefest of moments. Ikkaku smiled into the kiss and Yumichika sighed softly, his eyes closing.
Ikkaku took Yumichika's hand in his and squeezed. "What now?"
"I don't know, Ikkaku." Yumichika admitted. "This is your dream after all."
"Can we stay here?" Ikkaku asked, pulling Yumichika into the grass beside him.
"I've been staying here." Yumichika replied thoughtfully. "Sometimes other people show up, but they don't stay long."
"Kira?" Ikkaku guessed.
"Yes." Yumichika answered simply, pulling a blade of grass and using it to tickle Ikkaku's chest.
"What is this place anyway? What is Scape?" Ikkaku mused, swatting lazily at the grass in Yumichika's hand. "Is this real? Or is this the last random brain firings as I die?"
"Does it matter?" Yumichika retorted, his lips brushing against Ikkaku's chin. "Does it have to be real to be beautiful?"
"No." Ikkaku agreed, throwing his arm under his head and pulling Yumichika closer with the other. "Either way, I'm happy."
"Me too." Yumichika breathed, his hand rubbing small circles over Ikkaku's muscled chest. "Me too."
"Why'd you do it anyway?" Ikkaku whispered, his breath coming in short bursts. "You could've used your full power and lived."
"Why did you hide your bankai from Zaraki-taicho?" Yumichika countered. "Sometimes it's more important to stay with someone than it is to survive alone."
"I can't believe you two. You both went down fighting. You and Zaraki died a glorious death and here I am, having a heart attack." Ikkaku complained, his energy draining from him bit by bit. He could just fall asleep right there, just a short little nap.
"Was my death beautiful?" Yumichika wondered, his fingertips dancing along Ikkaku's forearm. "Did my body… Did I…?"
"You fought Bazz-B, the Quincy with stupid hair. Do you remember?" Ikkaku asked curiously.
"Not really." Yumichika snuggled up against Ikkaku with a sigh. "I guess it doesn't matter anymore."
"You fought well." Ikkaku exhaled jaggedly. "I was proud."
"Were you there?" Yumichika asked, tilting his head to better see Ikkaku.
"Yes." Ikkaku's hold jolted as he began to nod off. He struggled to sit up more before lying back down on the ground in surrender.
"I'm glad." Yumichika confessed wrapping his arms more tightly around Ikkaku. "We died together after all… Did you hold me? Did you hold me like this?"
"You were in my lap. You didn't look dead. You looked beautiful and cold. I remember little things, like how your braid came undone. I remember how you had a smudge of ash under your eye. I wiped it off with my finger. I remember everything. It was the worst day of my life…" Ikkaku let it all out in one long breath. "But it's over now and I'm glad."
"That was a lovely story." Yumichika's large violet eyes searched his face. "But now you're tired, you should rest."
"I'm afraid." Ikkaku admitted hoarsely. "If I fall asleep, will I wake up? Will you be here?"
Yumichika kissed Ikkaku's lips, silencing him before brushing his finger against Ikkaku's mouth. He smiled warmly and let out a small laugh. "You worry too much. Just let go."
"Just let go. I'll catch you…" Yumichika promised. "No matter what."
"But if you're just a figment of my imagination then I-"
"If you're happy it doesn't matter." Yumichika climbed on top of Ikkaku, straddling him. He smoothed his hands down Ikkaku's head in a calming manner. "Sleep now."
"I love you, Yumichika."
"I love you, Ikkaku…" Yumichika planted one last kiss on Ikkaku's lips. "Sayonara, until we meet again."
re•al•i•ty (riˈæl ɪ ti)
n., pl. -ties.
1. the state or quality of being real.
2. resemblance to what is real.
a. something that exists independently of ideas concerning it.
b. something that exists independently of all other things and from which all other things derive.