Red Wound, White Goodbye
(I did it; I sort of killed my OTP (IshiHime break up?) in this fic--part of the healing process. I also have about 100 more pages of Bleach fic yet to come... oy gevalt. I'm not done, I guess).
Post 686 fic, main pairing RenIshi. IchiRuki implied. IshiHime angst. Warnings: yaoi or homosexuality, adultery, use of imagination to look past canon ending. Complaints can be sent to pearlclutchersanon dot org.
The drawing accompanying this fic is a detail from an art made for me by Orin (she went private with her art now, I believe) in 2007 for another RenIshi, “Of My Own Free Will.” The art has nothing to do with this fic, but I’m very fond of it, as I am of this pairing, which I’ve been writing since I began to read Bleach circa 2004/05.
“It’s over,” Renji told Uryuu in the pub.
“What? The marriage?” For an entire hour, Uryuu had been sitting with his evening’s first glass of expensive whiskey. He had poured glass after glass of the bottle for Renji, who didn’t seem drunk, merely melancholy.
“The marriage, my pride,” Renji shot back the last of his drink. “All over this July 15th. The moment Rukia remembered oh today is Ichigo’s birthday, and they looked into one another’s eyes. If you’d been there, you’d have seen it. Heh, not like we never saw them eye-fuck like that before.”
Uryuu was silent. He picked up his glass and put it down. He considered the cold edamame. No appetite. He had eaten less than Renji this evening. He picked up his drink again and told himself it should be thrown out. The ice had long ago melted, but the whiskey would still burn if he sipped it, so he sipped.
“You could’ve done your Quincy speed surf over to the party in seconds flat,” Renji went on. “You weren’t there on purpose, weren’t you?”
“Inoue-san,” Uryuu said without hesitation.
“Yeah, tell me how that’s going.”
What was there to say? Inoue Orihime had always been his friend and confidante. He led a busy life as a cardiac surgeon and hospital administrator; he made himself busier than he needed to be. For Inoue-san, however, he found time. He tried to avoid her; all she had to do was ask him to come by. Too often she wanted to talk about how distant and sad Kurosaki was becoming.
Kurosaki’s bad mood had been on a steady decline for ten years; then, after seeing Kuchiki-san this past July 15th and after some long conversation between the two in the kitchen that all the friends had noticed and talked about, Kurosaki’s mood lifted like some ancient curse; Kuchiki-san came to visit Kurosaki more, sometimes with Abarai, then more frequently alone—was it weekly now? The meetings raised eyebrows, and Inoue-san had been sent into a frenzy of worry.
“She’s not holding up very well,” Uryuu said. “She’s stronger than people think, but Kurosaki is her husband and he’s not acting very husband-like to her now.”
“You have feelings for her,” Renji held out his glass, and Uryuu poured what was left of the whiskey into it.
“She’s my friend,” Uryuu said. “I want her to be happy.”
“Kampai!” Renji down the whiskey. “Let’s pay up and get out of here. You’re a goddamn liar, Ishida. You always have been.”
Back at Uryuu’s apartment, Renji kicked off his gigai, pulled off his tabi, unraveled his braid, and asked Uryuu if he had anything else to drink.
“Sweet sake.” Uryuu opened a kitchen cabinet. “The nurses are always giving me gifts. I don’t like to drink. You don’t need to drink anymore yourself, Abarai. Let alone mix whiskey and this stuff.”
“My reiatsu can handle it.” Renji plopped on a kitchen seat. “I would’ve thought someone like you would have a larger place. You live like a monk. Where does your money go?”
“Investments in the hospital.” Uryuu shrugged. “Personal investments.”
“You planning for a family? Tell me you don’t want a family. Isn’t that what all successful humans strive for? Career and wife and children.”
Uryuu had been filling the sake cup for Renji, and he put down the bottle with unnecessary force on the table.
“Woah, hit a nerve,” Renji said.
Uryuu took a cup from the shelf for himself.
“You remind me of Rukia when she gets angry and doesn’t want to talk about it. She was like that for ten whole years after her big fight with Ichigo.”
Kurosaki had told his friends what had gone down; Uryuu knew that Kurosaki had refused a position in the Gotei, that he saw Soul Society as corrupt, that he had put two and two together and come to an understanding of its history of injustice and how he felt powerless to change that. Kuchiki-san and Kurosaki had parted with angry words, not to speak again until ten years later when for some unknown reason, Abarai persuaded his family to make a visit to the Living World.
“Inoue-san?” asked Renji. “C’mon, you can tell me. It’s not like you’re cheating with her or anything. Like I’m pretty sure my wife is with Ichigo.”
“Really?” Uryuu’s voice was flat and skeptical. “That doesn’t sound like them.”
“Even if they’re not, she doesn’t sleep in our bed anymore. Her heart was never mine.” Renji spun his sake cup around in a full circle. “I was her best friend, and I was there for her when she needed me.”
Uryuu refilled their cups.
“Hey,” said Renji. “That’s who you are for Inoue, right? Is that why you’re mad? That you’re just a friend?”
Uryuu had eaten a half bowl of noodles at the pub, but he went looking around for snacks to ward off the effects of the sake. “Something like that,” he confessed. He tore open a bag of cookies.
When the bottle of sweet sake was emptied and the bag of cookies was eaten, Uryuu told the truth: “I always knew the relationship between me and Inoue-san was wrong. I’ve tried to avoid her. But … she’s my weakness, Abarai. I knew the day in Hueco Mundo when she asked me to bring her to watch Kurosaki fight, and we know what happened then. Ulquiorra was so glad to see her that he killed Kurosaki and then… it all ended with Kurosaki becoming a monster and nearly killing Inoue-san by throwing her on her head. He stabbed me and killed his opponent and it was….”
“Yeah, that was pretty fucked up,” Renji agreed, “but that wasn’t your fault.”
“It was because she asked me to do what I knew was wrong,” Uryuu insisted. “I took her up to a dangerous place because I couldn’t say no to her. She’s always used me …” Was his head spinning a little? “She still uses me to lift her up, metaphorically. I make her feel better. I’m there for her.”
“I’m sorry, man.”
Uryuu had to lie down. He announced that he wasn’t sick, just tired, and he walked, steadily but a little more slowly than a man who hadn’t had a few drinks, to his bed. He lay there and shut his eyes.
An unknown period of time passed, and Uryuu thought he was dreaming when he heard someone say: Remember when we all had one another’s backs? We thought it would always be like that. There was cold air over his body and then there wasn’t.
“Abarai, did you just take off my clothes?”
“Hung them up in your closet too.” There was a tall, long haired Shinigami wearing only fundoshi standing over Uryuu’s bed. “I’m a good wife. Didn’t want your expensive clothes all messed up. Put your glasses up.” He gestured to a far-away dresser. He didn’t have the good sense to put them on the drawer next to the bed? Oh Abarai. “And I covered you up in a blankie.”
Uryuu peeked under said blankie and saw that he didn’t have any underwear on.
“I don’t know what humans wear to bed.” Abarai shrugged.
When the Shinigami climbed into the narrow bed, and it was a single bed because Uryuu didn’t spend money on much except nice clothes. Uryuu closed his eyes again and didn’t expect to open them until morning, but Abarai kept talking. Intoxicated talk about friendship and old times. Remember those annoying Desert Brothers in Hueco Mundo? How Pesche, by looking like he was going to pull his penis out of his diaper, had freaked Szayel out of his homosexual mind and landed a hit on that freak eighth Espada. “Remember how that freak fondled your hair? He had more of a crush on me, though.”
“Naturally.” Uryuu didn’t open his eyes. “You’re more handsome.”
“I wouldn’t say so. Since you’ve grown up, I hear all the nurses faint left and right when you walk up and down the hospital hallways.”
“Yeah, they do.”
When Uryuu opened his eyes, Abarai was propped on one elbow, staring at him. “You’ve always reminded me of Rukia. That dignified thing. That looks delicate but can really kick your ass kinda thing.” Abarai leaned forward so that his long hair fell over his face. How could hair be so red? Red like fall apples—what was the kind? The bright wine-red ones that tasted better if you didn’t wait for them to ripen too much. “The way Ichigo always seemed to make a big deal about you both,” Abarai went on. “I don’t know why, but Ichigo loved to argue, fuss over, just be around you and Rukia. Me, I guess he just forgot about me.”
“How can you say that?”
“I don’t know.” The long hair covered Abarai’s face completely as his head bowed. “I feel it in my heart like he’s not there anymore.”
Uryuu didn’t know what to say or do, but he understood. Things weren’t the same with all the friends anymore; ten years had flung their hearts apart, but was it true that Kurosaki wasn’t there anymore for Abarai?
Uryuu felt himself touching Abarai on his bare shoulder. “I’m here,” Uryuu said. “And it’s not true that Kurosaki isn’t. He’s just going through so much right now.”
“It might be years.”
“What do you mean?”
“When one man goes off with another man’s wife, how long after that can everyone be friends again?”
“I see.” Uryuu had not removed his hand from Abarai’s shoulder. He wanted to hold him to some sense of purpose. Until that day when everyone could be friends again. The man really needed a break. If only Abarai didn’t have to return to Soul Society and his Shinigami duties where he would see Kuchiki-san on a regular basis, if only the two didn’t have a child together….
“I’m so ashamed,” said the lieutenant of the 6th division, the Shinigami who had mastered two forms of ban kai and trained in the Royal Realm. “I need the pain to stop.”
There was a long silence. Finally, Uryuu confessed that whenever he was in pain, he accepted it as part of his fate and forged on. He himself felt ashamed of his words and how he had said them made it sound like he was often in pain; then he wondered if that might be true. Had pain become so much a part of his living and breathing that he took it for granted?
“Forging on? Pfft. You and your Quincy talk. You don’t know what it’s like to lose a woman,” Abarai went on. “Ever even been with a woman, Ishida? You’re a grown man.”
“No,” Uryuu said. “I’ve ….” He didn’t care who knew. “I’ve never known a woman sexually if that’s what you mean.”
Fair question. People assumed it of Uryuu all the time. “No,” he said.
“I was with a man before,” Abarai offered, and somehow Uryuu wasn’t surprised. “Not a man actually. We were both boys in the Rukongai. He’s long dead. There was another after him. He’s been dead too for years and years. Rukia was like a star in the sky in those days, beyond my reach, no matter how close we were as friends.”
It was not only peculiar but blasphemous that the name “Rukia” had only seconds ago passed Abarai’s lips when Abarai’s face came closer, and those very lips kissed Uryuu’s mouth.
“You’re so beautiful,” Abarai whispered.
He covered Uryuu’s body with his, a heavy warmth under the light blanket, and kissed Uryuu gently again, on the lips, on the cheek, on the earlobe; his tongue flickered inside Uryuu’s ear, the sensation astonishingly arousing. “I can promise it won’t hurt,” Abarai whispered into the same ear. His hands were in Uryuu’s hair now, massaging his scalp with large expert hands. You’ve done this with Kuchiki-san. It didn’t matter. The pain was being blotted out.
“Are you ok?”
“Yes,” Uryuu breathed. It was his wicked consent.
When their lips met again, Uryuu’s jaw relaxed and his mouth opened. Years of longing were filled up and set floating down a dark river. It was strange to feel less than a partner to Abarai, someone not at his level, but it was a relief somehow; Abarai was strong, coaxing, and all Uryuu had to do was follow Abarai’s every move. Here was Uryuu, kissing a tender throat, laving on the Adam’s apple as it moved up and down, and palming naked shoulders. An absolute beginner, absolutely not innocent.
“No pain, no pain,” Abarai kept insisting in a hoarse whisper. His large hand was at Uryuu’s crotch now, caressing as if there were all the time in the world. Uryuu undid Abarai’s fundoshi with no trouble at all, and the two men pressed against one another, the sweet forgetfulness of sex starting with a rhythm like slow rolling waves. Dark waters, deeper kisses.
When Abarai started to jack off Uryuu in earnest, faster, without a break, Uryuu opened his mouth as If to scream but no sound came out. He spread his arms wide across the bed as if crucified there, and then Abarai stopped, just like that. Stopped. No. Yes. Lips around the tip of his penis, a flickering of the tongue under the frenulum like that amazing sensation Uryuu had felt in his ear earlier. Uryuu heard himself go ahhhhhh and then the warm lips moved up and down the length of him, once, twice, it was too much. Uryuu’s hips lifted slightly off the bed and his head tossed to one side; he was distraught by what was happening and that it was happening inside Abarai’s mouth. He shivered, and it was done. The pleasure left him, and the night itself opened like a wound. What had he allowed to happen?
Abarai kissed him on the forehead, and Uryuu’s guilt abated. There was the matter of reciprocation.
“Abarai,” Uryuu commanded, his voice still breathless. “Get up. On your knees.”
The Shinigami smiled. The blanket had already been tossed to the floor. “Like this?” He knelt on the mattress without sitting on it, his thighs straight, his erection dripping. Uryuu grabbed him by the upper thighs and began to suck him off.
“Nice view of your ass,” Abarai said.
Uryuu flushed. What he was doing, what Abarai was saying; it was all insane yet for some reason, it felt easy and safe. Abarai’s large hand sweeping through his hair, stroke after stroke. He had more stamina than Uryuu did; Uryuu was determined to make him orgasm. He sucked instinctively, hollowing his cheeks as he sped his lips up and down. Abarai growled deep in his throat. Uryuu became half-hard again at the sound. Then Abarai yanked on Uryuu’s hair so hard, it hurt, and warm semen filled Uryuu’s mouth, slid down his throat. Abarai finished with a hard grunt; Uryuu rose to his own knees and felt unsteady, grabbing onto Abarai’s arms. He was ready for a deep kiss; he pressed his erection against Abarai’s thigh; he needed more.
“Ok, ok. We’ve got all night. I have to get back to work at dawn,” the Shinigami said.
“I … I don’t know where I’m supposed to go,” Uryuu said. After this, where? Where?
Abarai hugged him. “Shut up.” He held Uryuu, like a best buddy for that moment and not a lover. Then he dropped him to the bed and kissed his mouth. “You’re all right when you loosen up a bit, y’know? Always knew you had it in you.”
A wound. A sense of loss even though here was a wonderful friend holding him like he’d never allowed another person to hold him. The night could only last so long. “Kuchiki-san,” Uryuu whispered. “What about her?”
“I told you. It’s over. I was never meant to be with her.”
Uryuu looked from Abarai’s eyes to the dark ceiling. Abarai had promised there would be no pain.
“You told me yourself as well,” his friend continued. “You and Inoue aren’t good either.”
“Yeah.” A sigh that became heavy breathing because Uryuu was feeling waves of lust flowing over his body. “I need to tell her whatever we have—and I’m not sure what that is—it’s not working out.”
The rest of the night was pleasure interrupted by pain, although the pleasure washed over most emotions. At dawn, when Abarai left, Uryuu felt a little dizzy and glad, even as he wondered when he would see Abarai again.
He poured milk and took Tylenol for his mild headache and checked his phone. There was a message from Inoue-san of course.
Please please. Come over. Catastrophe. Ichigo is leaving me. Need to talk. Need you. Please.
Ishida Ryuuken was none too pleased when his son called to say he’d be late again for work.
“The young lady again? She’ll never learn to stand on her own if you keep coddling her.” There was a pause, and Uryuu could hear his father inhale nicotine as if to exhale his next words with deadly effect: “You could also man up and marry her, you know. It’s what you want to do.”
“No, it isn’t.” Relief washed over Uryuu as he finally spoke the words. “I’m going to see her today and make sure there’s no more coddling, no more teasing, no more …” A long sigh. “I won’t be late for work again, Father.”
He hung up.
At the Kurosaki home, Inoue-san answered the door. She had been crying. There was no one else home. Karin and Yuzu were at university; Kurosaki’s father had accepted a position at Karakura Hospital in pediatric administration, and the Kurosaki clinic had shut down. Kurosaki was never home anymore.
“He’s with Kuchiki-san,” Inoue-san explained right away. “He’s decided to accept a position in the Gotei. She convinced him he can be of importance there now. She … she gave him back his courage like she always does.”
Uryuu didn’t wait to be invited in; he made his way to the kitchen where he and his old friend usually sat to discuss Kurosaki, where Inoue-san served cupcakes or milk-bread. “You knew this was coming,” he said.
She cried. He gave her his handkerchief as he did too often.
“Kazui will want to be with his dad soon.” She was the most distraught he had ever seen her. “It’s plain to me now, even though I knew it before. Kazui is a Shinigami too, and his lifespan is longer than mine. Ichigo and Kazui will outlive me, and it’s true—they don’t belong here. They belong in Soul Society. I’m… I’m going to be alone.”
There were no cupcakes on the table, no plates, no cups of juice or tea when she lay her head on it and sobbed as if her heart would never be consoled.
Uryuu waited. It must have been ten minutes before the sobs became softer, and she lifted her head, looking at him with a confused expression. He knew she had expected him to touch her.
She had been rejecting reality for years, rejecting him even as she called on him for attention and validation, for too long. Did she really expect him to throw his arms around a married woman when she was this vulnerable? Then he flushed, catching himself in his hypocrisy as he recalled last night with Kuchiki-san’s husband.
“You… you…” she sniffled and rubbed her nose with his handkerchief. “You are a Quincy, and your lifespan is long too. I’m going to be so alone. But when you’re here, I feel less alone. You’re the one who….”
Uryuu shifted in his chair. “I need to tell you something.”
She shut her eyes. “Me first.” She covered her lower face with the handkerchief and made quite the effort not to blow her nose, but she did it. It was not a loud noise; it was very much an Inoue Orihime snorfle before a serious statement, and she went on. “You’ve always been the one who’s been here for me. I don’t think I’ve ever realized the extent of my feelings for you.”
That wasn’t what he expected her to say.
She went further. “I don’t know how else to put it. I’ve been feeling so much today, and in the end, I only know that I love you.”
I only know that I love you.
Wait. Uryuu recognized the line. Not a couple weeks ago, he and Inoue-san had watched a movie, as they occasionally did together, to pass the time, to ignore the grief of daily existence. The movie had been Gone with the Wind. She wouldn’t be re-enacting the scene subconsciously, would she?
I only know that I love you.
No woman had spoken such words to him. Eyelashes teary as Vivien Leigh’s in the scene, a chin just as beautiful when it trembled.
He could not resist the opportunity.
“If you love me,” Uryuu said. “That is your misfortune.” He knew he was no Clark Gable, but there was nothing better that could be said.
“Huh?” She stopped sniffling altogether.
“I need to find my own way in this world,” Uryuu said. “And make my own peace with everything that’s happened. I can’t do that with you.”
“But I thought— “
He rose from his chair. “It’s for the best if you do the same. You’re stronger than everyone thinks you are. You’re stronger than even you yourself know.”
He started towards the door and had made it few steps away when she called “Ishida-kun!” She flung herself after him, her long hair and long skirt billowing, and she caught his arm with both hands. “You can’t leave me. You can’t.”
If Uryuu could erase his love for her, he would. The best he could do was let go his anger, let go his sense of having been used, remember that his grandfather had taught him to have compassion for all beings at their most vulnerable, that Ishida Souken had said strongest moments often followed weakest ones. He knew that last night with Abarai was still smarting like a red wound, even as his friend had given him courage to gain this moment. And this moment felt cleansing, like a white goodbye.
“I’m sorry, Inoue-san.” He pulled his arm gently away. She was looking at him with honest love and sadness. “I have to go.”
He opened the door and stepped into the late morning, the sun bright and all things possible.
PS--"Of My Own Free Will" is here: http://bleachness.livejournal.com/45813.html