Rating: Hard R
Spoilers: Through manga chapter 354.
Disclaimer: Kubo owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 3400 words.
Summary: After the fighting in Hueco Mundo is over, Ichigo goes to look for Ishida and finds something he did not expect.
Dedication: incognito ♥
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
Don't Make Me (Hold Your Hand)
Ichigo stared into the fire, his vision unfocussed. The fighting had been over for hours, but he still felt restless, uneasy. He'd tried pacing, but Rukia had yelled at him to stop it, so he had. He was too bone-weary to argue, and Rukia was Rukia: she'd kick him halfway around the desert if he tried to put his foot down.
All of them -- Ichigo, Rukia, Renji, Byakuya, Kenpachi, Captain Unohana, Lieutenant Kotetsu, Chad, Inoue, Ishida, and Hanatarō -- had agreed it would best to stay out in the open rather than occupying Las Noches. They may have beaten back the Exequias and the remaining Espada, but this was the Hollows' world, and surely many of them were just biding their time until the Shinigami invaders and their friends let down their guard. Ichigo figured some of his unease came from that: they were in enemy territory.
Is it really enemy territory for you, little king? the Hollow jeered somewhere deep in his mind. Ichigo scowled but didn't take his eyes from the fire. The flames danced, stirred by a wind he couldn't feel. The voice was not new, but its easy surfacing was. Since the battle against Ulquiorra, Ichigo could hear the Hollow constantly, not just in bankai. He hoped it was just this world. This world, which had awakened Chad's abilities so fully -- Ichigo shuddered, thinking of the smoking ruin that had once been Yammy.
He had never expected an easy ride, nor did he want to blame anyone -- he had made the choice to train with Urahara, and he would have made the same choice a thousand times over even if he had known beforehand what that training would turn him into. There had been no other way for him to attain his Shinigami powers while still alive. But he didn't want to live like this, not with that empty voice stealing his every thought. He wished Shinji or Hiyori were there -- they would know for sure. They had lived as Visoreds for a hundred years, and they seemed fine. Just fine. It had to be this world. Once he went back to Karakura Town, things would go back to normal. And with luck, he would never set foot in Hueco Mundo again.
Normal. Would things really go back to normal, after this? Ichigo glanced at Chad, who sat a few feet away, unmoving, staring into the flames just like Ichigo had been. What must be going through his mind right now? His power had quadrupled here, which meant it drew its source from here, and wasn't that a cheerful possibility? The devil's own strength, Kotetsu-san had called it, the power to obliterate. It wasn't fair to Chad. All he'd ever wanted was to protect everyone, just like Ichigo. And here they both were, feeling right at home in this shadowy landscape. Soul Society was supposed to be the world of the dead ones, but Ichigo had never felt like this there.
Inoue and Rukia were next to Chad, talking in low voices. Inoue had used up her remaining strength on healing Renji, who now sat next to Byakuya and tried not to look as weak as Ichigo knew he must have felt. Inoue's healing took a lot out of her, but it took even more out of the subject. Plus, they were all hungry -- the food Hanatarō had brought wouldn't be enough for long, and they had no idea when they'd get out of here. They had to ration. It would be really stupid if they died of starvation after managing to survive the Hollow hordes. But Inoue had a smile on her face, and Ichigo felt sure that for her at least, things would go back to normal back home. He was glad; that was why he'd come here in the first place. Inoue would be fine -- and so would Ishida, of course. He had his Quincy powers back; not only that, but he was stronger than ever before.
But after what had happened atop the dome of Las Noches, Ichigo doubted Ishida would ever speak to him again. He had talked to Ichigo when he'd first come back to himself -- he'd even been kind of reassuring, in his own way. But Ichigo knew that had only been for Inoue's benefit. Ishida had always mistrusted Ichigo, and instead of watching out for him like he'd vowed to, Ichigo had run him through with Zangetsu. He had no illusions on that front; he may have been in Hollow form at the time, but even in his Hollow form, he had kept his promise to protect Inoue. He hadn't kept his promise to watch Ishida's back.
Where was Ishida, anyway? Ichigo looked around the campfire to make sure he hadn't somehow missed him. "Hey, Hanatarō," he called, his voice somewhat hoarse.
Hanatarō looked up eagerly. "Yes?"
"You healed Ishida, right?"
"Yes, just... um... an hour ago? I think. "Hanatarō frowned and scratched his forehead with his index finger. "I don't remember exactly."
"That way," Chad said without looking up from the fire. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder at a rocky ridge.
"I hope the Quincy boy is all right," Captain Unohana said. "He seemed a little perturbed after Yamada-kun healed him."
"Ishida doesn't like Shinigami," Ichigo explained. "He probably only let Hanatarō heal him because he didn't want to over-work Inoue. I'll bring him back."
Maybe it wasn't too late to apologise. And he'd rather do that in private; there were things a man had to face alone. Things like admitting to a friend that he was a fuck-up.
"I'll help you look for him, Kurosaki-kun," Inoue said, beginning to get to her feet as well.
But Byakuya, of all people, spoke up. "Sit down, human girl," he said in that flat tone that Ichigo had come to recognise as one of extreme annoyance. "I do not intend for you to be out of my sight until they reopen the Garganta and you're back where you belong."
"I'm sorry." Inoue sat back down, flushing.
Next to her, Rukia looked somewhat abashed as well; Ichigo had no idea why. Girls were weird. He walked off, grateful that for once, Byakuya's orders and his wishes coincided.
I still hate that guy, the Hollow remarked conversationally. I would have fucking murdered him if you'd only let me. Teach him to be an arrogant little prick.
Glowering, Ichigo realised belatedly he couldn't be alone -- not with Ishida, not with anyone. Not as long as that pasty-faced asshole was running free in his brain.
Still, he made straight towards the ridge Chad had pointed out, wondering how to at least convince Ishida to join them by the fire. Telling him that Inoue wanted to see him would work, and it wouldn't be a lie, would it? Inoue had wanted to come look for Ishida. Yeah, that was the ticket. Ishida would come if Inoue called; Ichigo was sure of that. He'd come here, after all.
He found Ishida sitting in the sand behind the rocks, leaning on the ridge, his head tilted upwards, his eyes closed. Ichigo took Zangetsu off his back and leaned him gently against the rocks. Then he sat down next to Ishida. "Hey."
"What do you want, Kurosaki?"
"Come back with me," Ichigo said. He'd meant to apologise, but the words had stuck in his throat. "Inoue's worried about you."
"I won't sit together with a bunch of Shinigami," Ishida said quietly. "I promised my father--"
"Fuck that noise," Ichigo said. "What's your dad, some kind of unfeeling monster? Would he rather see you die alone? This is the Hollow world, in case you missed the memo, and going off alone is bad for your health. Besides, Inoue and Chad aren't Shinigami. You can... I dunno. Pretend they're the only ones there?"
"You don't get it," Ishida said. "I swore to him I would no longer associate with Shinigami if he helped me get my powers back. I only came with you because--"
"Yeah, whatever, I've heard your excuse," Ichigo exploded. "You've damn well been associating with Shinigami -- what do you think Renji and Rukia are?" Ishida's eyes took on a pained look, and Ichigo felt guilty. "You can't keep every promise you make, Ishida."
Making excuses for yourself before you even try to apologise? That's my boy, the Hollow cackled.
"I'm sorry," Ichigo blurted, just to spite that hateful voice.
Ishida gave him a wary glance. "For what?"
"For what I did to you," Ichigo mumbled, staring at the rip on Ishida's shirt. "That wasn't supposed to happen."
"That wasn't you," Ishida said, his tone sharp. "And even if it had been, so what? We're enemies. I expect that kind of thing from you."
Enraged, Ichigo lunged forward and grabbed Ishida by the front of his cape. "How can you say that?" he demanded. "How? After everything-- you--" But words had deserted him; all he felt was blind fury. Part of him wanted to just give up; to stalk off and leave Ishida to his own devices. But a much larger part wanted to make Ishida admit, once and for all, that they weren't really enemies. Ishida was scowling and attempting to pry Ichigo's hands away, but Ichigo straddled his legs and pushed him against the rock.
"I'm going to sit here until you admit we haven't been enemies since we went to Soul Society together," he informed Ishida, whose face had turned pink. "I am not your enemy. I don't give a shit what your father told you."
"Get off me, Kurosaki," Ishida said in a low voice. "You don't--"
"What? I don't what? I don't understand?" Ichigo growled, leaning closer. Ishida's breath skated across his cheek, warm despite his icy glare. "I do understand. Understand that you're too fucking stubborn for your own good. Why don't you admit--"
Ishida leaned forward sharply, and Ichigo forgot what he was saying; it would've been impossible to talk with Ishida's tongue in his mouth, anyway. Ishida's tongue is in my mouth, he thought dazedly, and he was kissing Ishida back though his mind still tried to work out what was happening. He could have easily pulled away, stopped. But he didn't want to; this felt good. It was that simple. Reasons could wait.
Ichigo was suddenly aware that he was still half-naked since the fight against Ulquiorra; Inoue had offered to restore his clothes, but he'd refused -- she'd needed her strength. Ishida's hands were on him, sweaty palms and strong fingers on his back, against his sides, up and up over his chest, blunt nails scraping against his nipples. Weren't they about to fight just a moment ago? Now he was hard, and it was not one of those everyday boners, either; those usually went away on their own unless he had time to take care of them. This one, though... this one meant business.
Make him touch you, the Hollow commanded. Was it Ichigo's imagination or was the voice more... tremulous than before? Make him touch you right now. MAKE HIM GRAB YOUR COCK, YOU, YOU--
The Hollow was going out of control faster than Ichigo. That was a first. Will you leave? Will you leave me alone if I do?
Anything you want. Anything you fucking want, you shit, just... make him--
"Touch me," Ichigo breathed into Ishida's mouth. "Can you--"
Ishida made a noise in the back of his throat, a kind of choked-back moan, and reached into Ichigo's torn hakama, breaking the kiss, turning his head aside. Ichigo grabbed his chin and forced him around, kissed him. His fingers fanned out against Ishida's jaw, thumb stroking Ishida's cheek, all on pure instinct, as if he'd always known how to do this, as though it were in his blood.
Ishida ripped his loincloth away, and Ichigo was so startled he sprang back from the kiss. "Holy shit, how did you--"
"Damned Shinigami," Ishida murmured. "Even your underwear is ridiculous." His mouth was red and wet; Ichigo leaned in to kiss him again. The Hollow yammered insanely. Ishida's fingers wrapped around his cock, and Ichigo felt at once exalted and vulnerable; his blood was on fire; his mouth was producing sounds independent of his brain. Ishida bucked upwards, and Ichigo reached down with his free hand, cupping Ishida through his clothes, pressing down as hard as he dared.
Ishida gave a soft cry and threw his head back. It struck the rocks, but he didn't seem to notice. His face contorted as if in pain, but his eyes flew open, and Ichigo saw in them a need so deep it scared him. He thought he felt Ishida's cock pulse, but he was too lost in their locked gaze to notice much else -- at least until Ishida's grip on his cock became steady again. Ichigo bit back a moan and shut his eyes tightly.
"Kuro-- saki," Ishida gasped. "Look at me."
Ichigo obeyed him without thinking. Right now, he'd do just about anything Ishida asked him to. He leaned forward, but Ishida turned aside.
"Just look at me," he panted. "If you lose it -- the others... Your reiatsu..."
Ichigo, who had quite forgotten all about the others, felt a burst of panic bloom in his chest. Then Ishida's hand moved faster, and a much more potent burst of pleasure drowned out all else, all but Ishida's eyes. Midnight-blue, Ichigo thought absurdly, and his mind stopped working after that. Somewhere deep in him, the Hollow was having an even better time than he was -- if its ragged, triumphant screams were any indication.
Ichigo came back to himself slowly, first bracing himself against the rocks, then getting off Ishida, who immediately moved aside and started wiping his hand fastidiously with a handkerchief.
You'll do that again, the Hollow said. I can't, so you will. For me.
Ichigo took a deep, cleansing breath. If I do it every day, will you stop trying to take over? It was stupid, he knew; the Hollow could take over and then go on to fuck anything it damn well wanted, couldn't it?
I will, the Hollow said.
Ichigo recoiled. Say what?
I can't feel like that without you, the Hollow replied sullenly. I don't have a heart.
Ishida began to rummage in his pack, probably to avoid looking at Ichigo. How he'd managed to hold on to that thing through all the fighting, Ichigo would never know.
Do we have a deal? the Hollow asked. Its voice was pained, making it sound like a little boy asking his recalcitrant mother for an extra after-dinner treat. Who would have thought? His inner beast had found something it liked better than fighting.
I'll do anything if you'll stay out of my fucking head.
No girls, the Hollow warned. They're too soft.
Too soft, Ichigo agreed absentmindedly, though part of him wondered if the Hollow had ever taken a real good look into Rukia's eyes. He stared at Ishida's bowed head, taking in the stubborn angle of his chin, the rigid set of his shoulders. Ishida had no outward softness in him. Do I have your word? he asked the Hollow.
Yes. And the Hollow's voice fizzed out, not just to a darkling spark like before; to nothing.
The silence went on. Inside it, Ichigo's ideas about the facts of life kept on quietly rearranging themselves. Truth was, he wouldn't have wanted this to be a one-time thing even without the Hollow. No wonder he'd never been interested in girls -- he'd thought he was, but that had been in his head, not his heart. He was expected to get all flustered about tits and other girl-parts, so he would, but had he ever really cared? No.
Ishida stopped rooting around in his pack. "Here, put this on," he said, handing Ichigo a folded pile of white cloth: a spare cape. Ichigo took it and threw it around his shoulders. It didn't even reach his bellybutton, but Ishida seemed satisfied. "At least now you look half-decent."
Ichigo glanced at him. "Were you jealous that everyone could see my nipples, or something?"
"I hate you," Ishida muttered without conviction.
He doesn't really, the Hollow told him.
Ichigo's smile faded. I don't need you to tell me that. You made a promise.
We're not outta the woods yet, little king.
But just then, a Garganta yawned at them not too far off; it would have been right above the fire. Two shapes emerged through it -- from this distance, Ichigo couldn't tell if they were friends or foes. He rose unsteadily, clasping the cape at his neck with one hand and tugging Zangetsu up with the other.
Hiyori's voice rolled across the sky. "Where is that good-for nothing Ichigo? I wasn't done with him, you know, so I'm taking him back."
"Damn that woman," Ichigo mumbled, but he was grinning.
"You guys can come too," Shinji's voice added. "Those Soul Society pukes in Karakura Town could sure use some help, inept as they are."
There was an angry roar from Renji, but Ichigo stopped paying attention. He turned to Ishida. "You coming?"
Ishida pushed his glasses up his nose. "I still don't know who those guys are, but I suppose they don't count as Shinigami any more than Urahara-san does." He got to his feet and brushed sand from his pants.
Ichigo gaped at him. "You still on about that? Stop being ridiculous; let's go. Don't make me hold your hand."
Ishida snorted. "Like you would really do that."
Ichigo reached for his hand, and Ishida jerked it away with a look of horror. "Fine, whatever. Grow a sense of humour, Shinigami."
"Just start walking," Ichigo said, grinning. Inoue had spotted them and was waving frantically.
As they made their way through the Severing World, his heart grew lighter. Next to him, Ishida wasn't trying to show off his fancy footholds; he stared grimly at the light they all rushed towards. Every now and again he'd glance sideways at Ichigo, as if to make sure he was still there. It made Ichigo feel kind of warm.
And when they reached the empty skies above Karakura Town, Ichigo felt like he could float on forever like this. He had left the land of the dead. Be seeing you, little king, the Hollow whispered, disappearing.
"Oi, Ichigo!" Renji hollered from above. "There's some Class C Hollows over there with yer name on 'em. Try not to get killed while I go take care of the Espada."
Before Ichigo could retort, Renji vanished. Ichigo felt it then -- three monstrous sources of reiatsu, all in different directions. He could tell there were more than three fighters, but the battle was probably so fierce that the reiatsu all blended together. His normal life would have to wait a little longer.
He stopped next to Ishida, who was staring at the empty town with an expression of dire alarm, and put his arm around Ishida's shoulders. Ishida tried to throw him off, but Ichigo was stronger.
"I owe you one," he murmured into Ishida's ear.
"For what?" Ishida asked, clearly forgetting all about trying to get out of Ichigo's hold.
"I'll tell you later," Ichigo promised. "But thanks, even so."
The sun glinted off Ishida's glasses. "I'll think of a way you can return the favour."
"I was hoping you'd say that."
Ishida's smile was tentative and fleeting, but it was enough: enough to cause a tremulous stir in Ichigo's chest, evoking a vivid memory of what the two of them were doing not ten minutes ago. Enough to know that his life would not go back to normal precisely the way he'd envisioned it -- not as long as Ishida was around. He wouldn't mind that kind of not-normal, though. He wouldn't mind it at all.
"Let's go kick some ass," he said.
"You're a dork, Kurosaki," Ishida replied, but then he reached into his pocket and brought out a giant safety pin, with which he fastened Ichigo's borrowed Quincy cape. "Don't lose it."
And Ichigo didn't.