Title: The Beautiful Lie
Pairings: Urahara/Ichigo, Aizen/Ichigo
Warning: Spoilers for recent chapters, Character death, Yaoi-ness, Post-war fic, Violence
Description: Years after the painful end, the echoes of war still prove their influence, and Ichigo discovers a dead man in his kitchen.
Chapter Twenty-Five: Remorse
Kisuke breathes, closes his eyes, and listens to the sound of chemicals bubbling, glass tinkling, and the unmistakable noise of a laboratory in motion. Hachi isn’t as much a scientist as Kisuke himself, but the puttering around is enough to provide him with a fully stocked lab. One that he has so graciously allowed Kisuke to use. It feels a lot like coming home to Kisuke, who hasn’t touched beaker or Bunsen burner or strange chemical in months now.
At least here, he can focus on something potentially salvageable, rather than the shitstorm he’s allowed his life to become.
He doesn’t have anything particular in mind. He’s taken a look at some of Hachi’s ongoing experiments. Has even brainstormed with the Vizard over possible solutions of creating a gate for everyone to enter Soul Society. But Kisuke knows better. He wants to lose himself in scientific calculations, but he’d be a fool to attempt anything overly complicated in his current state of mind. He’s more likely to blow himself and the warehouse to pieces.
Kisuke fiddles around, poking listlessly at a few chemicals and letting other theories run rampant in his head. Whispers of guilt, however, remain prevalent. Stabbing him in the belly and clenching on his heart.
It’s been a couple days since Isshin arrived and threw everyone into chaos. A few days since Ichigo tossed him out, and Kisuke had known better than to argue. And Kisuke would have to be both blind and dumb to miss how everything was affecting his lover. More so than Kisuke’s own pain are the flashes he catches in Ichigo’s eyes when he manages a glimpse of him. What few there are.
Ichigo has been avoiding him with skills better employed by the Onmitsukidoh. Kisuke would know; he’d been one once.
He also knows what it is Ichigo wants from him. But Kisuke's not sure he has the courage to give it. Perhaps it shouldn't matter since Ichigo is already angry, but there's still a chance to salvage a friendship. If Kisuke spills the full truth now, maybe even that will whittle away into nothing.
He wonders if he's going to spend the rest of his life paying for those mistakes.
Kisuke sighs and turns the burner down to a lower setting. He's not paying enough attention, and this isn't his lab. It’d be rude to destroy Hachi's equipment.
He leans forward, elbows on the desk, and watches the liquid bubble slowly, like one of those lava lumps. He wants to focus, but all he can think about are the look on Ichigo's face and his biting words.
“You're not the man I thought you were, Kisuke. I didn't think you were the type to kick a man when he's down.”
“I never knew this part of you, and I don't know that I like it.”
Kisuke doesn't regret his words to Aizen. The traitorous bastard deserves every flinch, every spark of pain that he can cause. Kisuke hates that Ichigo doesn't understand. Ichigo doesn't have that vile need for revenge. Even now, he can't completely despise the Soul Society that's driven him from his home and family and tried to imprison him without just cause.
Kisuke will never understand why he's been made into the villain here.
“So this is where yer hidin’.”
A voice slides into the contemplative quiet of the laboratory, disturbing Kisuke from his muses. He glances over his shoulder to see Shinji striding inside, his face unreadable.
“Or should I say sulking.”
Kisuke turns back toward his experiment, idly watching the chemical bubble. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Shinji snorts, pulling up a stool next to Kisuke and sliding into it as though invited. He wisely makes no effort to touch any of the equipment in front of him.
“Liar,” he says and plants an elbow on the desktop, leaning his chin on his palm so that he can all but stare at Kisuke. “Yer sittin’ here wallowin’ in your own pity like there’s nothin’ ta be done about anythin’.”
“Is this an attempt to cheer me up?” the younger man asks crossly, cutting his eyes at the Vizard. “Because if so, you suck at it.”
“Why would I want ta cheer ya up? Ya hurt Ichigo. It’s only fair that ya hurt in return.” There’s a particularly nasty note to Shinji’s voice that makes something inside Kisuke’s belly twist uncomfortably.
Not only has he driven Ichigo away, he’s done the same for Shinji, too. Points to Kisuke for excelling in all matters of social interaction.
He turns away, sliding off the stool and pretending great interest in another one of the set-ups in the room. “Well, now that you’ve succeeded in making me feel worse I suppose you consider yourself victorious?”
“Yer not a martyr, so stop actin’ like one. I gave ya a chance, remember?” Shinji questions, and though Kisuke can’t see him, he knows that the man is rolling his eyes. “It’s not my fault ya waited too long. And playing this ‘woe is me’ game isn’t gonna make Ichigo forgive ya any quicker.”
“You say that as if his forgiveness will come eventually.” Kisuke’s hands flatten against the desktop. He looks down on them, watches his fingers as they flex against the grainy wood.
“It might. If ya took yer head outta yer ass long enough ta properly apologize and give him the explanations he’s owed.”
Heat soaks into his cheeks. Kisuke is glad that Shinji can’t see his face because he knows that Shinji’s right. Only, Kisuke doesn’t want to admit that.
“Yer being selfish, Kisuke.”
“I know,” he replies quietly and closes his eyes, rubbing his fingers against the rough wood in an attempt to ground himself. “I know that. I’m a selfish bastard. I don’t even need you to say it.”
There’s a screech as Shinji pushes the stool back, a rustle of fabric as he rises to his feet. “Admittin’ ya have a problem is always the first step.”
Kisuke whirls, pinning the Vizard with a firm glare. “This isn’t a joke, Shinji.”
“Did it sound like one?” He arches a brow. “ ‘Cause I sure as hell don’t think it is either. Between ya and Isshin, I can’t tell which one’s breaking him more. When he’s already been abandoned by Soul Society and forced ta go on the run, ya two are only making things worse. If I wasn’t convinced that it’s better this way, I’d have thrown both of ya out on your asses already.”
Kisuke works his jaw. “Leaving plenty of room for Aizen, I imagine.”
“And now, yer just being petty,” Shinji retorts with a roll of his eyes. One hand gestures vaguely. “Sou-chan’s evil incarnate; yes, we all know that. But tell ya what, Kisuke, ya ain’t lookin’ too pristine right now either. At least, Sou-chan’s honest with himself, which is more than you can say.”
“Honest enough to destroy the lives of hundreds of innocent people in his selfish pursuit of godhood,” Kisuke snaps, arms folding across his chest. “Oh yeah, Aizen’s the perfect picture of what I should strive to be.”
Shinji stares at him, unmoved. “And yer just pissed ‘cause Sou-chan stole yer boyfriend. Admit it. Ya wouldn’t hate him half as much if it weren’t fer how close he and Ichigo are getting.”
Kisuke bites back a bitter retort. He knows that Shinji’s right. Yet again. Yeah, he hates Aizen because of the past, but he has to admit that the present isn’t soothing over those bitter feelings either. Aizen strides in like he isn’t a murderer and ruins the life Ichigo was struggling to rebuild. Then, he has the gall to act pathetic about losing his own damn war. Worse, he’s now working his magic on Ichigo, convincing him that storming Soul Society and taking the throne is the only choice Ichigo has.
Is Kisuke so wrong for thinking it might not be the best course of action? He’d been there, by Ichigo’s side, for all of the war. He’s seen the affect it had, the blood and the pain and the nightmares and the grief. He knows how much Ichigo hated fighting, hated the whole idea of war. And Aizen wants to throw Ichigo back into it just because he lost the first time and Aizen can’t stand that failure.
“Admit it?” Kisuke repeats, barely refraining from a snarl. “Is that what you want me to do? Then fine. I admit it. Aizen's not worth Ichigo's time and attention, but he's getting it anyway. It's like someone's rewarding him for all the shit he's done, and I can't stand it.”
The jealousy sits so heavy in his belly Kisuke's certain he's going to have to vomit to get it out. He can't stand that Aizen is taking the place that should be Kisuke's. And worse, Kisuke knows that he can only blame himself for leaving that vacancy.
“Well, I appreciate yer honesty,” Shinji drawls as he straightens, unfolding his arms from his chest. “Now if only ya can share that with Ichigo, ya might actually get somewhere.”
Kisuke snorts. “You don't actually believe that,” he mutters, whirling back toward the lingering experiment. He can't even remember what he'd been puttering around with; a new form of Soul Candy, is it? “I still don't understand why you don't hate Aizen yourself. Why you've been best buddies with him since the day we left the house.”
“I'd explain it ta ya, if I thought you'd actually listen,” Shinji says, moving back toward the door as though he's done his deed for the day now that he's scolded Kisuke and added more salt to open wounds. “But ya hate Aizen, and you'll never listen to the truth about him. Hatred's only poisoning ya. It's a pity ya can't see it.”
Before Kisuke can even think of a proper retort, Shinji sweeps from the room with all the self-righteous swagger of a man who thinks he knows everything. And that's one more thing that Aizen has stolen from him, Kisuke thinks. Shinji had once been his friend, his companion in hatred. But somehow, even that's changed.
Closing his eyes, Kisuke seethes, tries to breathe in and out as his hands clench and unclench. His own memories seek to rise to the surface, battering at the barriers he'd pushed them behind; those same walls crumble under the pressure. He wants to think that it isn't fair, but that's a childish thought better saved for childish men.
Even years after his defeat, Aizen is still managing to destroy Kisuke's life. How ironic is that?
Kisuke gives up on Hachi's laboratory after the second day of watching liquids burble to no calming effect. He avoids the training room below because that’s where Ichigo spends most of his time, and it's become obvious that Ichigo wants nothing to do with him. The least Kisuke can do is respect that wish.
He spends most of his time in either the sun room or the bedroom he is forced to share with Isshin. As luck would have it, the both of them have managed to mostly avoid each other and sleep in a stony silence at night. It’s uncomfortable, and Kisuke longs for the familiarity of sharing a bed with Ichigo, especially when the nightmares return. But he keeps such thoughts to himself.
He doesn't deserve that comfort.
Today, Kisuke has found himself the lone occupant of their shared room. One that smells faintly of dust and disuse since it was the last guest room and hadn't been opened in quite some time. Kisuke can't tell if he hates the musty odor or is glad that it doesn't carry a lingering scent of Ichigo.
He has pen and paper in hand with the intention of writing several letters, mostly to those he knows he can trust in Seireitei. The Shinigami have a strange blind spot when it comes to written correspondence, so Kisuke doesn't fear that they'll be intercepted. He knows Ichigo's making plans to raze Soul Society soon. Kisuke's determined that he’ll have all the support he needs once he gets there.
The words won't come, however, not even to Yoruichi. So Kisuke sits and stares with Shinji's accusations ringing in the back of his mind and Ichigo's disappointment more heartbreaking than anything else.
“Moping again, I see.”
Kisuke closes his eyes briefly, searching inside himself for a well of patience that he knows exists. “Please don't start, Isshin. I have no mood for one of your fits,” he says as he sets pen and paper aside.
Isshin stands in the doorway, filling it up with his very presence in a manner that Kisuke knows is meant to intimidate. It doesn’t work, however.
“Are you expecting me to feel sorry for you, is that it?” He sneers, a look that twists his features into something ugly and unkind.
Kisuke is on his feet before he can convince himself to not be riled. Isshin has an uncanny way of getting under his skin, much like Aizen in fact. And wouldn't Isshin be thrilled to realize that?
“I don't expect anything from you,” the blond hisses. “Except for you to leave me alone.” There's a tremble in his limbs, but it's not out of fear, and Kisuke swallows it back. “You've made your point, Isshin. Just leave me to regret keeping my promise to you in peace.”
The former Shinigami's face mottles with shades of red, and Kisuke can practically see the steam pouring from his ears. He takes a step forward, one that might be menacing to anyone who doesn't know better. Kisuke won't like hurting Isshin – Ichigo wouldn't approve… mostly. But he's not going to stand here and get pummeled either. His eyes flick to Benihime, not that he needs her to take Isshin down.
Isshin knows just as well as Kisuke that they aren’t evenly matched. But Kisuke's had a century in the living world to learn new skills, while Isshin's been pretending to be human.
“I trusted you,” his one-time friend growls, eyes dark and dangerous. “I trusted you with my son, fully believing that you wouldn't harm him, but when I'm not looking, you crawl into his bed. And yet, you dare regret making that promise to me.”
“I'm not the one who lied to him for years,” Kisuke practically spits the words. “I held my tongue because you asked me to, and the whole time he thought he was a monster. A monster, Isshin! Your own goddamned son! All because you were too cowardly to tell him the truth.” His reiatsu lashes around him, and Kisuke struggles to reel it in. “You attack me because I haven't told him the whole story and neglect to look at your own mistakes.”
One hand slashes through the air. “This and that are two different matters,” Isshin counters, his voice growing loud enough that it echoes in the room. “But you...” He shakes his head violently. “He's my son!”
“And yet, you haven't bothered to act like a father to him,” Kisuke retorts as the anger settles cold and deadly in his stomach.
Shinji might be willing to dance around, but Kisuke won't. Not anymore.
“Ichigo is right, Isshin. He could’ve used your help.” He takes a step forward, shortening the space between them so he can lower his voice to an accusing hiss. “You're so proud of your daughters, but you’ve never once told me how much you are of him. Why is it now he's your son? You’re only his dad when it suits you!”
Isshin looks positively apoplectic. His eyes are eerily dark, and his face is a crimson shade that can't conceal his fury. He goes quiet, too, and Kisuke knows they've gone past the point of civility.
“You took advantage of him,” he retorts. As always, bull-rushing over the fact that some of the blame is his own. “He trusted you, and you abused that.”
Kisuke feels sick. But only because the implications of Isshin's accusations are trying to tarnish something that he considers precious.
“It's not like that at all. How perverted to you think I am?” he can’t help but ask, fury faded to shock. “This is a recent development.”
“Recent as in, Yoruichi left for Seireitei, and you needed something to ease that itch, right?” Isshin sneers, his own reiatsu rising and sitting around him like a hawk ready to strike sharp and with claws. “Using him like a replacement for how long? Months? Years?”
Kisuke straightens so sharply it feels as if someone has inserted a metal rod into his spine, blistering cold metal that sears his innards and turns them to ice.
“Yes, for years,” he hisses. “If by this, you mean helping him. Being a friend and a support the way his father should’ve been. “
“You're not his father!”
“Thank heavens for that!” the blond shouts, an echo to Isshin's roar that makes his throat hurt but loud enough to make his friend pause and blink at him. “Because if I was his father, I'd be the same man who lied to him. Who watched him stumble around in the dark and did nothing.” His voice drops lower, so low he isn't sure Isshin will be able to hear him. “Who blames Ichigo for a death he couldn’t have prevented.”
It's Isshin's turn to take a step back. To pale so quickly it's hard to imagine he was ever flushed with anger in the first place.
“That's bullshit, Isshin. I've been a friend of the family too long for you to lie to me,” Kisuke says. His breath is sharp and erratic. “Masaki's death wasn’t his fault. You can't blame him for that forever. He was just a child!”
“He's still a child.”
Kisuke snorts, rolling his eyes no matter how childish the action may seem. “One who fought in a war and saved thousands of lives, as well as taking them. Not like you’d know since you couldn't bother to be there. You couldn't even bother to ask, either me or him what was happening. If he hadn't come home, you wouldn't have known whether he lived or died.” He rakes a ragged hand through his hair.
Talk of the war takes Kisuke back as well, but he pushes through the memories anyway.
“Do you know how many times your son has nearly died?” Kisuke demands, his insides clenching as his mind decides to give him several sick reminders.
Byakuya looming over him, a final gift he says. To die as a human, lying in the wet streets with his blood mingling with the rain. Discarded as though he’s nothing more than trash.
The sharp tines of Zabimaru ripping through his shoulder, tearing away meat and sinew, blood splashing and turning everything a scarlet shade. Kisuke hadn't been there, but he's seen the scars. He's touched the jagged mark left behind. He can't even imagine the kind of pain Ichigo suffered. He thanks whatever deity who’ll listen that the Hollow's mask dulled the blow.
The scarless region of his chest where Ulquiorra had blasted him with a cero, straight through, seemingly killing him if not for his Hollow's ability. Another time when Kisuke hadn't been there. When he'd only heard the story from a terrified Inoue and could only imagine the horror that Ichigo must’ve faced.
And countless other injuries, not fatal, but disastrous all the same. Cuts and slashes and punctures and broken bones and scraped skin and pain after pain after pain...
“Because I can remember each and every one of them,” Kisuke goes on.
He’s sick to his stomach, likely as pale as Isshin is now. His hands are cold and sweaty at his sides, and he rubs them against his pants.
“Do you know how many enemies he's killed? I know that, too.” His voice is barely louder than a whisper. “Did you even know that he cried after his first kill? You're right, Isshin. He’s just a kid.”
Kisuke lifts his gaze. Isshin appears stricken, stunned into place. But it needs to be said.
“So tell me again that you're his father.”
Isshin swallows thickly, the motion noticeable even from the distance between them. He’s silent for a few heartbeats. His eyes look old. Like he’s on the cusp and just needs one more little push. But he balks at the knife’s edge.
“He's my son,” Isshin insists, and he says it like he wants to believe. “That's all that matters.”
But to Kisuke, it sounds so very weak.
He turns, facing Isshin fully. “Really? Then what's the name of his zanpakutou? What does his bankai look like? What's the shape of the scar on his right shoulder?” he demands and bites his cheek just to control himself. “You don't know any of that. You don't know him!”
“And I suppose you do?”
Isshin is starting to be belligerent again. Like no matter what Kisuke says or does, he'll never admit that any of this is even partially his fault. It's like he'd rather see his son broken and disappointed than admit he might’ve been wrong. Such stubbornness has always been one of his failings, but it’s never cost him so much as right now.
“Oh, get over yourself, Isshin!” Kisuke snaps. His hands fist at his sides as he forces himself not to hit a man he’s been friends with for decades, if not centuries. “It’s both of us. We both hurt Ichigo, and we’re both to blame! Grow up and get over it!”
He sucks in a breath, air strangely thick in the tense atmosphere. And frankly, he’s surprised no one’s come to investigate.
“It doesn’t matter if you hate me or blame or think this is all my fault,” Kisuke continues, his heart thudding angrily in his chest, reiatsu coiling around him like a restless serpent. “Ichigo is the one who’s suffering. That’s all that should matter to you!”
Isshin draws up short, head cocked to the side. He takes in a deep breath, and by the time he’s finished, an odd light enters his eyes. One that Kisuke isn’t sure he’s seen before. Not quite like the day Ichigo was born but damn close to it. Like he can’t believe this is happening and doesn’t have a clue what to do.
“Tell me about Yoruichi,” he says suddenly. So fucking unexpectedly.
Kisuke can’t believe his ears. “Isshin, for all the--”
“I’m serious this time.” There’s a strange note to his voice, something hushed and disbelieving. “Tell me about Yoruichi.”
Despite himself, Kisuke forces his fingers to unclench. “What do you want me to say?” He turns away to rub trembling fingers over his aching forehead. “She’s in Soul Society. I’m here. And if she came up to me today, saying she’s been in love with me the whole time, it wouldn’t mean a damn thing to me.”
Isshin stares at him. “You’re thing with Ichigo is all but destroyed with little chance of reconciliation, and you’d still tell her to hit the road?”
Feeling tired beyond mortal means, Kisuke forces a glare Isshin’s direction. “People change, Isshin. It happens all the fucking time. Except I’m the stupid one who didn’t change when it actually mattered.”
Isshin shakes his head, turning to pace the room, looking like he has trouble processing this information. Not that it’s surprising. Kisuke has lusted and mooned after Yoruichi for longer than even he can remember. Isshin knows that; he’s witnessed it firsthand.
“You’d choose to be alone rather than accept something you’ve always wanted?”
“No longer want,” Kisuke corrects. “And yes. Why is that so difficult to understand? When we were kids, you thought Hikifune was the center of your universe. That certainly isn’t true anymore, is it? So why can’t my heart shift, too?”
Isshin just looks at him, all hostility gone. There’s an intensity to his gaze that makes the blond uncomfortable.
“Are you… are you in love with my son?”
His mouth goes dry. “It sounds so juvenile when you say it like that.”
“Just answer the question.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Kisuke shakes his head, gaze shifting up to the pale ceiling and watching the fan turn lazily. “I hurt him, Isshin. You’re not supposed to do that to the people you love.”
It’s all but an admission, and it’s all that Isshin’s going to get. If there’s anyone who deserves that confession first, it’s Ichigo. Not his father.
He supposes in the long run that Isshin’s right. Kisuke’s no good for Ichigo. He deserves someone better, someone not Kisuke. Isshin’s right; Shinji’s right. And Aizen’s standing in his corner, gloating with his own victory, content to use Ichigo to the very end.
Isshin sighs heavily. When Kisuke looks, he sees the other man rubbing his forehead.
“It’s the ones we love who we hurt the most,” he mutters, sounding just as defeated. “My son already hates me. I don’t need to destroy a century-old friendship as well.”
“Ichigo doesn’t hate you,” Kisuke corrects and feels his shoulders sag with tangible relief. “He’s angry and hurt and lashing out, and you have to admit, you were making a very good target of yourself.”
“Well, I wasn’t the only one,” Isshin inserts with a snort. “He’s pretty pissed at both of us.” He lowers his hand, releasing another sigh. “Masaki wouldn’t be happy with me either. She could hold a grudge like no one else. Ichigo’s a lot like her.”
A small smile cares curl Kisuke’s lips. “He always has been,” the shopkeeper says, thinking of the Kurosaki matriarch fondly. Masaki had been the glue that held their family together.
“And just like Masaki, Ichigo is forgiving,” Isshin adds.
He closes the distance between them then. But Isshin hesitates a fraction of a second, one in which Kisuke almost thinks he’s about to be sucker punched, before clapping a companionable hand on his shoulder instead.
“I won’t say that I’m rooting for you. I still don’t approve of you trying to date my son.” Isshin punctuates his words with a pointed squeeze that makes Kisuke’s bones creak. “But if you can at least salvage your friendship with him, I’ll approve of that.”
Kisuke doesn't return the manly affection but doesn't flinch either. He simply waits for Isshin's hand to slide away of its own accord before he speaks. He could say something nasty, but he doesn't want to prolong the tension. There's been enough of it in the warehouse already.
“If that's the best I can get, I'll live with it,” Kisuke says, the brittle smile that touches his lips ready to be broken. “I've no intentions of abandoning him, however. So long as he'll have me.”
Isshin snorts and turns away, tugging distractedly at the remains of his haori slung over his shoulder. “I'd expect nothing less.”
It isn't much, but it's a start Kisuke supposes. It's better than fighting with both his lover and friend all at the same time. It's better than Isshin hating him and making things even more difficult than they ought to be. Kisuke's still sore about Isshin showing up at the worst possible moment, but he supposes he can't blame him for having bad timing. He's been notorious about that his entire life.
Isshin departs a few moments later, muttering something about finding Shinji and asking some questions. Kisuke lets him go with no small amount of relief.
“Nice to see you two finally getting along.”
Kisuke whirls to face the doorway, surprise clawing into his throat.
He’s leaning against the jamb, arms crossed defensively over his chest. He looks tired, like he’s not sleeping well again. Dark circles line his eyes, and Kisuke feels a stab of guilt, knowing he’s the cause of part of it.
The blond takes a step toward the door. “You--”
Ichigo shakes his head, stepping into the room. “I just got here if that’s what you were going to ask,” he says and edges around Kisuke, as though trying to examine him from all angles. “I see that you and Goat-Face are friends again.”
Feeling off balance, Kisuke nods and tries to keep his eyes on Ichigo. There are a lot of things he should be saying, but he doesn’t know how to voice them.
“Friends might be a stretch, but at least he’s not attacking me anymore.”
Ichigo makes a noise. “I’m surprised you got him to see reason.”
Kisuke can barely hold back his sigh of relief. Ichigo really hadn’t heard much of the conversation, thank goodness. There were things said that Kisuke would rather Ichigo hear directly rather than second-hand or by overhearing.
“Frankly, I am too. Your father’s always been a stubborn goat.”
Lips twitching, Ichigo pauses near the window. “I know,” he says, and his head tilts as he glances at Kisuke pointedly.
The shopkeeper swallows and turns away, too much the coward to look Ichigo in the eye. “He’s your father. He loves you. He’s just an idiot who doesn’t know how to show it sometimes.”
“Yeah? And what’s your excuse?”
Kisuke flinches. That one hurt, but Kisuke also knows he deserves it.
“I never claimed to have one,” he says and falls quiet, unsure where to go from here.
All he knows is that there’s a tight feeling in his chest, a rising nausea in his belly, and the silence between them hurts. It feels heavy and final, and Kisuke doesn’t know what to say about it.
Shinji’s words echo in the back of his mind like a chastisement. Kisuke knows what Ichigo wants from him; he doesn’t know what he can give. Why is he hesitating? He’s probably just the coward everyone thinks he is.
He turns to look, eyes searching Ichigo’s expression, carefully guarded. And damn but Kisuke hates that, hates seeing this man so closed to him.
“Ichigo… are we over?”
The question is hesitant, but Kisuke has to know. Is there anything left to salvage, or would it be like spitting on a burning building? Utterly pointless.
“Were we ever together in the first place?”
That feels like a blow to the midsection. If there is ever a time he regrets his inability to find the perfect words, it’s now. Kisuke is speechless, unsure how to respond to that kind of statement.
Behind him, Ichigo exhales. “Things… happened. Did either one of us ever really sit down and decide on it? No. But--”
“That doesn’t make it any less valid,” Kisuke inserts and chews on his bottom lip, a nervous habit he thought he abandoned years ago. “It was more to me than just friends helping each other through a rough time.”
“You lied to me,” Ichigo says softly, but there’s a hard edge to his words that makes Kisuke flinch out of shame. “No, you concealed the truth, which is the same thing. You had to have known what would happen when it came out, and you still wouldn’t tell me.”
Kisuke swallows again. “It wasn’t my secret to tell.”
“So you keep saying.”
The Vizard turns away from the window, a sharp movement toward the door, though he pauses halfway there.
“I don’t know,” Ichigo mutters. “I don’t know what to say. Can you call something over that never had a beginning? How the hell am I supposed to figure that out?”
Heart beating wildly in his chest, Kisuke dares take a step forward. “You could ask yourself if you wanted it to have a beginning. You could ask yourself if you want it to end.”
Ichigo works his jaw. His eyes are accusing, a hint of gold bleeding into the edges.
“Why is Isshin so convinced you’re the worst possible choice in partner for me? What else don’t I know?”
And Kisuke’s throat closes on his words, his heart thumping in his chest, courage failing him.
‘He’ll understand,’ he tries to tell himself.
But he doesn’t know if he can believe it; Aizen’s accusations ring in the back of his head. And as much as Kisuke would hate to accord Aizen with anything even close to justification, he has to admit at least this much: this is Kisuke’s fault. He’s the one to blame.
“I thought you might do that,” Ichigo comments, voice heavy with his disappointment. He skirts around Kisuke to head for the door.
But the blond can’t let him leave like that. Not with this bitterness between them.
“I just…” Kisuke stalls, trying to find the words. Relieved when Ichigo pauses long enough to hear them. “Time. Just a little more time and--”
“And what? How much longer do you think I’m going to stand around and wait for you to find your resolve?” Ichigo demands with hands forming fists at his sides. His reiatsu is an unsteady swirl around his body, reflecting his distress.
Kisuke recognizes his own words being thrown at him; how can he not. He swallows over a growing lump in his throat. Ichigo’s right. It’s not fair for Kisuke to ask this of him. He should be on his knees apologizing, not asking for more time. Kisuke knows this. Yet, he’s still standing here, asking for more than he should.
“You’re right,” the ex-captain says, defeated. “I don’t have the right to ask that of you.”
“No, you don’t.” There’s weariness in his tone. “Maybe I’ll be in the mood to listen by the time you get your act together; maybe I won’t. I guess that’s the risk you want to take, huh?”
Ichigo leaves before Kisuke can respond, not that he has the words to say. Instead, he watches his lover go, explanations crowding at the back of his mind but refusing to form on his tongue.
You want to know why Isshin was so worried? I used to be the biggest whore this side of Seireitei. Man or woman, it didn’t matter. I just needed someone to fill the hole inside of me. I used people and threw them aside like garbage, but that’s not even the worst of my sins.
I was an assassin. You know that I was in the second division, but that’s not the extent of it. Seireitei is nothing but politics and deceit, backstabbing and upheaval. My hands were tools for the Onmitsukidoh, and I did what I was told. I killed, I tortured, I arrested people who hadn’t done anything wrong because they could have been dangerous somewhere down the line.
And still, that’s not even the worst of it.
Do you ever wonder how Aizen knew about the Hougyoku, where it came from? Do you think that he’s the one who came up with it? You’d be wrong. It was my idea, my creation, my research.
I may not have made the monster, but I created the thing that gave him power.
Kisuke closes his eyes, drawing in a shuddering breath. And Ichigo wonders why he can’t just tell him the truth. Tell him that the Kisuke he knows now is all but a lie compared to the one of the past.
He has to tell Ichigo the truth; Kisuke knows this. Ichigo deserves to know. It’s not like Kisuke has anything left to lose. If Ichigo hates him in the end, at least Kisuke can be comforted with the knowledge that he’s told the truth. It’s what he deserves anyway.
a/n: Next update will be an interlude courtesy of azardarkstar. And then after that, more chapters. Things are moving slowly, but they are moving. I promise. Now that my work on In Darkness Dwells is finished, I plan on focusing on The Beautiful Lie until it is complete. Wish me luck!
As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated.
As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated.