Follow-up to At Rest and Moment. Ichigo muses over his relationship with Byakuya, and how it started. Ichigo/Byakuya.
by: eternalsailorsolarwind AKA youkai_girl
Disclaimer: Bleach and all of its characters are owned by Tite Kubo, his Japanese publishes, and Viz. Not by me, unfortunately. I just write fanfics for grins and giggles.
A/N: This is a follow-up to my earlier fics, At Rest and Moment. Tangerine_haze over on LiveJournal wanted to know how Byakuya and Ichigo got together, which made me wonder just how they managed it. And this is the result. Ichigo muses over his relationship with Byakuya, and how it started. Ichigo/Byakuya.
It took Ichigo a long time to realize the seed of his relationship with Byakuya had been planted the first time the two of them had met. At the time, the small mercy of not being given the finishing blow both infuriated and humiliated him. Having survived that which did not kill him, he made Kuchiki Byakuya his nemesis, his ultimate enemy. Their second meeting allowed him to get some of his own back from the noble, showing the aloof captain that he'd grown considerably in the few weeks since their last encounter. But it was their third meeting which allowed the seed to take root.
Their battle on Sokyoku Hill defined them, in a way. They were equals, though poles apart. Ichigo may have been the winner of that battle, but the way in which he won left a sour taste in his mouth. Even though they managed to reach an uneasy truce following the revelation of Aizen's treachery and defection from Soul Society - mostly because of Rukia - both of them went out of their way to push each other's buttons. Ichigo deliberately used the noble's given name, refusing to show him the respect that his family name or rank in the Gotei 13 gave him. He ground his teeth at sniffs and glances of disapproval, along with pointedly polite remarks to anyone around how poor Ichigo was – at just about everything.
Somehow, even with the rocky soil of equal disdain and dislike, the seed sprouted. Over the course of shared battles, the mutual contempt eased and began to be replaced with a measure of respect. They could each admit that the other man was a strong warrior, and there was more than once where there was no choice but to fight back-to-back in order to stay alive. With the easing of their cold war against each other, a thaw set in; finally allowing each to see the good points in the other. The sprout grew as Byakuya allowed him to see the man behind the mask of nobility, and Ichigo began to show the Soul Reaper the respect he deserved. They even discovered that they actually liked each other.
While their relationship grew warmer and friendlier, the blossoming into a romantic relationship (it was still difficult for either of them to say the word “love,” even now) might never have occurred had Ichigo not nearly died right in front of Byakuya. Not in the midst of battle, either, but on the street in Karakura, the two of them going to meet Rukia for lunch. A car accident caused a shard of metal to shear off from the guardrail, striking Ichigo and impaling him in the chest.
It had been Byakuya who had held him together, both literally and figuratively, until the ambulance arrived. In all of his battles, for all of his earlier wounds, this was one of the most painful. For that fragment had pierced a lung and lodged near his heart, making it torture to breathe. The shinigami had somehow known what to do, trying to allow as little air as possible escape around the shard, his hands becoming soaked with the blood of his one-time enemy.
Ichigo had fought the urge to leave his body, knowing that if he did, he would most likely never return to it. There was no fear of the afterlife, as he knew exactly what to expect. Merely the fear of leaving his family and friends; causing them the same pain the loss of his mother had caused him all those years ago. He nearly lost his battle, however, even with the sounds of sirens in his ears. His hemorrhaging body began to fail, and only the words that the captain said in his ear grounded him long enough to be saved.
“Will you leave me as well, Ichigo? Must I lose everyone I care for to death?”
Hearing those words caused him to grit his teeth and hold on to consciousness, his hand reaching out for the one part of the long-haired man he could find, and gave a weak squeeze to show he'd heard. When the EMTs arrived a minute later, he finally passed out, losing himself to the darkness.
When he'd awoken in the hospital, he found the captain waiting for him. “You survived,” Byakuya said, looking approving. “I expected no less.”
Smiling wryly, he'd answered, “If it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't have.”
They talked for a bit, the shinigami bringing him up to speed on not only the war, but on his treatment. Finally, still weak, he began to flag, eyes heavy. As the captain stood to go, he stopped him, grabbing the edge of the white haori. Eyes drifting shut, he whispered, “Not leaving...I always stick....”
It took him months to fully recover. Even with some of Tessai's disgusting medications (some of which actually worked), it took a long time. He wasn't allowed to leave his body for half that time, and even then, he had to take it easy. Most of that time was spent persuading Byakuya that he had meant what he said, and that he wasn't trying to pursue a deeper relationship with him only out of gratitude. Finally, in frustration, he reached out, grabbing the Soul Reaper's robes, yanked him close and kissed him. “Do you get it now, Byakuya? It's not 'cause you saved my life.”
It was that kiss which finally allowed their relationship to bear fruit. Ichigo poured his long-denied hungers and passion into it; throwing his whole being into that one kiss, like everything else he did. It was his one hope that Byakuya would realize the truth about his feelings, and accept that there was no pity, no need to show gratitude for saving his life. He just wanted the noble; nothing more, nothing less, and that kiss proved it.
It was that kiss that broke through the walls that the taichou had erected against him. Against discovering that he could not care for the older man. Ichigo knew from the way that Byakuya returned that kiss – like a starving man at a banquet – that this would only be the first kiss of many.
Neither of them would have ever believed that the seed sown the day they first met would reap such an unlikely – but welcome – harvest.