windroars: (hitsugaya; megane taichou)
Wind ([personal profile] windroars) wrote2011-07-07 09:59 am

Fanfiction || Dead Man Walking 10

Title: Dead Man Walking
Fandom: Bleach
Main Character: Hitsugaya Toushirou/Shimizu Kouryuu
Rating: PG-13
Genre: General/Adventure/Suspense/Mystery
Warnings: Sporadic gore, language, author's inability to stay consistent with a single genre
Timeline: This story follows the manga's timeline. It takes place after the war with Aizen has begun.
Summary: Hitsugaya's disappearance left Seireitei with plenty of unanswered questions, but when a boy identical to the supposedly late taichou appears on Earth, to what lengths will everyone go to find out why? And when the answer does come, will it be too late?


~*~

"You're always on display
For everyone to watch and learn from
Don't you know by now
You can't turn back"

-Fences, Paramore


~*~

Chapter Ten

Baby, Don't Fear the Reaper

~*~


The next few days passed in abnormal regularity.

Kouryuu and Nyoko visited Urahara Shoten every day after school, although Kouryuu was allowed to take a day off of school due to his accident. The delinquent and his friends properly introduced themselves to Akane that day, and she got to thank them. She had been quite friendly with them actually, ever since they told her they were part of a club that specialized in the supernatural and intended to help Kouryuu with his ghost problem. The younger sibling was about 80 per cent certain that Akane was suspicious, but she hadn't said anything and so neither had he. Not when these people were offering lessons with that sword.

They were agitating, self-absorbed, and obsessed with this Hitsugaya guy, but they knew about ghosts, they told him about hollows, and they were giving him a way to defend himself. Next time, he wouldn't need Kurosaki to jump in and save him. He would tolerate them for that at the very least.

If he had to put up with one of them, had to trust one of them, though, it would most certainly be Matsumoto Rangiku. He could see it in every move she made. She was coddling him, sheltering him from the harsh truths the others spat out on an hourly basis. But even though the act itself annoyed him, he recognized that she was the only one willing to accept Kouryuu as himself. Not since Akane had anyone tried so hard to learn everything about him and accepted it all at face value; not since Akane had anyone tried so hard to make him feel at home. The effort she put into doing so was obvious.

When Akane wanted to speak with these people in depth, Matsumoto hastily volunteered, and no more than two days after they had met, the three of them were eating together at a restaurant table outside. Amidst enjoying several jokes at Kouryuu's expense, the two girls managed to quiet down long enough for Kouryuu to refer to the buxom woman as "Matsumoto." He had been a fool to expect things to stay quiet afterward.

"How cold, Kouryuu-kun! Being so formal with me in front of your sister!"

"Wha-? It's because we're in front of my sister!"

"No!" the woman insisted, leaning over the table to bang her fists on it, clattering their plates. "Call me Rangiku! Right now, we're equals, so we have to treat each other that way. Ran-gi-ku! Ran-gi-ku!"

He agreed in order to save his dinner from her pounding and chanting, but it wasn't until they were saying their goodbyes that he realized Hitsugaya must have used her surname because he was her captain. She was separating them. Hitsugaya was Hitsugaya, and Kouyruu was Kouryuu.

But Kouryuu wasn't so sure anymore.

With a resounding flop, he fell face first onto his bed, his knees just dangling over the edge.

Who was Kouryuu really, when Hitsugaya followed him wherever he went?

~*~


He opened his eyes to blinding white.

A white ceiling, white walls, white equipment.

Then a head of bubblegum pink hair.

By the time he determined it was too dark to be Kusajishi's, the head was gone.

"Ah, then he's awake."

Even before his vision fully cleared, Hitsugaya Toushirou felt his heart sink into his bowels. He could recognize that voice even with both ears cut clean off.

"Hello, Hitsugaya-kun."

"Aizen!"

Immediately, Hitsugaya tried to push himself up, but he didn't make it halfway before jerking back with a agonized hiss. Blood flowed anew from his stomach wound, and the pain brought his memory searing back.

That bastard Ichimaru had gutted him.

So why was he still alive?

"The way you scrunch your nose when you're confused is almost endearing, Hitsugaya-kun, but please, do try to follow. It is not as difficult to comprehend as you're making it out to be."

Hitsugaya knew the man was speaking like that only to further degrade him, but knowing didn't stop it from working. He snarled as Aizen walked into his line of vision, as calm and composed as ever. His smile, however, was noticeably less satisfied. It was tighter, impatient. Not like it had been on the battlefield.

"You have been healed to an extent, but not completely, as I'm sure you have realized," the would-be overlord continued smoothly. "I would like for you to participate in an experiment of mine. Unfortunately, this type of experiment does not require you to be in full health. Actually, it will run much more effectively if you are not."

"Of course," the small captain bit out, teeth clenched.

Aizen's expression turned playfully cynical as he raised a skeptical brow, and it was that moment that Hitsugaya lunged forward. He pushed past the pain, the warning signs that raged throughout his small body, the creak of whatever table he was on, and he grabbed hold of Aizen's hideous robes.

It felt as if his insides were boiling, as if his torso had been wittled down to nothing but a thin pole sticking out of a stirring pot. Some part of his mind recognized that that was probably what had happened. Reduced to an ill-balanced spine surrounded by heated bodily fluid. But even as his own blood stained Aizen's pristine white clothing, Hitsugaya Toushirou refused to release his hold.

He couldn't hear his own breathing, but he felt Aizen's as the man leaned his head down to match Hitsugaya's deadly glare.

"What now?" he whispered as he stared down his test subject.

When Hitsugaya didn't answer, Aizen Sousuke laughed. It was bitter, superior, and utterly devastating.
What now? What a horrible question to ask. Hitsugaya couldn't have moved even if he wanted to. His entire weight was being supported by his enemy's tall, firm stance.

"You never did them any good," the cruel man intoned, making it clear that this was the end as his hand enclosed over both of Hitsugaya's. "But perhaps you may prove beneficial to me. Wouldn't that be wonderful? To finally be of use."

He squeezed, and Hitsugaya felt anew the torture of having bones crushed by that monster who looked like a man. He cringed in pain, choking on insults but unable to voice them.

Idly tossing the boy back onto the operating table, Aizen turned back to his scientist. "Close the wounds, but this time, do take care to keep him awake. I'll have the cell prepared in an hour's time. We cannot afford to drag our feet. Understand?"

Before he received an answer, he left.

The cell, Hitsugaya would come to realize, was a prison of more than simply walls or bars, but for now, all he could see were three broken fingers and blinding, blinding white.


~*~


Shimizu Kouryuu shot up in bed, breathing heavily and covered in a cold sweat. His alarm clock told him it was 4:30 in the morning.

He couldn't have gone back to sleep if he'd wanted.

~*~


When Akane opened the door to her brother's bedroom and found him not only out of bed but fully dressed and tying his shoes, she had to resist the urge to shout "intruder."

"Oh, hey," Kouryuu nodded as he looped the shoe lace and pulled tight.

"You're awake," the older sibling finally managed through her dumbfounded surprise.

"Yeah, had a weird dream. It's not a big deal."

"It's Saturday. And you're awake."

The boy grabbed his wallet off a dresser and stuffed it into his pocket. "Like I said, I just had this weird dream is all. It woke me up, and I have something I have to do today anyway, so it's fine."

"But you're awake."

"I didn't notice," he sighed in resignation before pushing past her and out the front door. "I've got my cell phone with me! If something comes up, just call."

Akane didn't move from his doorway even as she heard the front door slam. His room was cold, she realized, and a little damp.

Huh. Maybe hell really did freeze over.

~*~


For the first time since this nonsense began, Kouryuu approached Urahara Shoten without Nyoko by his side.

He didn't knock, pushing his way to the back with startling determination. When he finally discovered life in the building, it was one Kurosaki Ichigo speaking in hushed tones to Urahara Kisuke as they relaxed in the kitchen. For once, it sounded as if they were talking about something that didn't involve him, but even after just the few days during which he'd made himself a fixture in this shop, he'd come to understand that if they weren't talking about him, they were probably talking about that war. That was almost as bad.

Less than a week ago, he had never before seen a hollow, never seen a shinigami, only half believed in an afterlife when all the ghosts he'd seen had been mulling around right where they'd lived. Now he was harboring a dragon in his soul, learning how to hold a sword, and standing with only a door between him and a war taking place in another dimension.

"If you're just going to stand there, you might as well open the door. You'll be able to hear better that way," Urahara chimed, and Kouryuu could hear the smirk in his voice.

Grudgingly, he opened the door and scowled at the two expectant people at the kitchen table. "I wasn't eavesdropping. I just need to borrow the delinquent."

"Do you?"

Kouryuu took note that Urahara seemed genuinely intrigued. "Rangiku was drinking last night. It would take an asteroid crash landing at the foot of her futon to wake her up now. So I'm stuck with the leftovers."

"Oi, brat. I am not leftovers," the high schooler insisted, matching the boy's scowl as he stood up.

"Then you are a delinquent?" Urahara laughed. He followed suit, jumping to his feet to escort them out even as Ichigo moved to kick him forward. It didn't work, but Kouyruu had to admit it was a nice try. "You're so sensitive, Ichigo."

Was he actually fluttering his eyelashes?

Kouryuu didn't get the chance to ask before Kurosaki hauled him outside.

"So what do you want?" He let go of the kid's shoulder as Kouryuu pushed ahead. Without that frustrating salesman distracting him, Ichigo couldn't help but notice that his companion was acting pretty shaken up. He was usually quiet and blunt, but this went a step further. It was as if he was afraid to look anyone in the eye. "You okay?"

The yes-of-course-I-am-okay-I-just-talk-to-dead-people glare Kouryuu shot him, rife with sarcasm, was amusingly familiar.

"I just didn't get a lot of sleep last night. You're coming with me to the cemetery."

"There aren't enough dead guys at the shop for you?"

Kouryuu's pace sped up. "Yesterday, you were talking about how souls become hollows. If you perform konsou on a soul, it won't happen, right?"

"Right," Ichigo conceded. "You know a soul that's been wandering around the cemetery?"

Kouryuu only rolled his eyes. Ichigo took that as a yes. Good thing he had the badge with him then.

"Whatever stupid shinigami is in charge of this area obviously never noticed her. It's not like she really wanders around. She's always at the cemetery. Probably because she figured that was the first place anyone would look, not the last."

Kurosaki Ichigo vaguely wondered if Kouryuu was trying to insult him. He'd have to have a talk with that afro-guy later, tell him to check the cemeteries more often. Apparently not everyone just hung around wherever they died. Sometimes they went looking for something.

He actually liked the sound of that. In a detached sort of way.

They walked the rest of the path in silence, each mulling over their own thoughts. Through the entrance they trotted, Ichigo right on Kouryuu's heels. Past a funeral taking place. Over the maze of graves. Finally, they approached a small, ornate bench. Surrounding it was an assortment of smaller graves, nothing but horizontal plaques nestled in the earth.

Upon the bench itself, however, sat a pensive woman. She was pretty, Ichigo noted with surprise. Probably in her early thirties with long, dark hair, an oval face, thoughtful eyes, her legs crossed below the knees as she peered down at the graves.

When she noticed them approaching, she smiled wide, getting up to meet Kouryuu halfway.

"I knew you couldn't stay away long. You never quit, do you?" But after her initial greeting, she seemed to realize something was up. She looked down and realized what it was. "No daffodil?"

"Not today," Kouryuu shrugged the question away. "I have something better."

He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb as Kurosaki activated the badge Ukitake had given him and rushed forward in his shinigami garb, Zangetsu set conspicuously against his back. The woman was stunned, unable to move for several seconds, and Ichigo took the opportunity to step up beside the two of them, letting his arm rest casually at his shoulder, fingers wrapped loosely around his zanpakutou's hilt.

She continued to stare for some time, caught somewhere in between fear and intrigue, before her eyes suddenly lit up, and she turned back to Kouryuu. Some sort of silent conversation passed between them as she looked down at him questioningly, and he nodded with a small, contented smile. She quickly turned back to Ichigo.

"So you're my ever-elusive guardian angel, hm?" She offered the substitute shinigami a sly grin as she tapped her chin and analyzed him up and down. "It sure took you long enough. It explains a lot though. Fortune always comes to me a few months late."

"S-Sorry," the redhead muttered, not sure what else to say. It wasn't his fault, dammit, but when she said it like that...

"Well, I forgive you. But on one condition."

Ichigo blinked stupidly before nodding once.

The woman wrapped an around around Kouryuu's shoulders and tugged him tight against her side. "Since you're here to ferry me away, you have to take my place and keep Kouryuu company while he waits."

"O-Oi!" the younger of the boys protested. He tried to pull himself out of her hold, but she refused to yield.

"You have to promise me."

Kurosaki Ichigo smiled. "It's a deal. Now hold still. It won't hurt. Promise."

~*~


"Even if you said yes, you don't have to actually do it," Kouryuu insisted. He'd been complaining the whole way back, and now that they were nearly there, he'd seemed to redouble his efforts.

"Oh, come on. I saw that flower you left behind the day we found you. You were going to leave it at a grave, right?"

"That has nothing to do with-"

"You're obviously waiting for a ghost. That's why you hang out at the cemetery. So I might as well go with you so I can exorcise any we find."

He was so proud of himself when the little brat didn't have an argument that he didn't notice the kid suddenly stop at the door. Ichigo nearly ran into him, giving him an odd look before lifting his gaze to see Shihouin Yoruichi standing in front of them. Her arms were crossed over her chest, and her expression was grim. Golden eyes narrowed as Ichigo stared dumbly.

"Yoruichi! When did you-?"

"Not now. You need to see something."

The foreign beauty grabbed him by the collar and dragged him bodily into the house. A few curses and a hard yank later, he was finally free. He was also in a crowded room with the television playing.

"What the hell? What's this all about?" he demanded, immediately swivelling to face Urahara Kisuke.

But it wasn't Urahara who answered. It was Rangiku. "Kouryuu told me that he'd never heard the name 'Hitsugaya Toushirou' before."

"Yeah, so?"

She only gestured toward the television.

The picture was riddled with intermittent static, but it was still clear enough to make out the basic details. It must have been a security camera or something similar situated in the corner of an large white room. There were two men standing awkwardly near the door and one who was crouched down next to a young boy.

Ichigo recognized who it was instantly. Kouryuu. And suddenly he realized why everyone in the room was so tense.

It was at that moment that Kouryuu peeked around the corner, about to make a dry remark about being left behind. Unlike Kurosaki, his attention was immediately captured by the television and the boy on the screen who was scrunched into a tight ball, repeating a desperate mantra.

"Hitsugaya. Hitsugaya. Hitsugaya. Hitsugaya. Hitsugaya. Hitsugaya. Hitsugaya."

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