upright cast

Encore (1/5)

He doesn’t even feel the impact. There’s a shriek of metal-on-metal, a scream, a car suddenly jumping the curb in front of him.

Then there’s only darkness.


The sky is still blue.

Ichigo blinks, and wonders why that surprises him. Surely, a blue sky exists everywhere, even—

Even here.

Which is not where he had been before.

It’s somewhere different.

Carefully, Ichigo sits up and takes in the sight of a familiar field, with trees in the distance. He’s been here once, right after the first trip to Soul Society, when Inoue had come to tell him that Rukia was missing, and he had known where to look. The house that’s just as odd as he remembers still stands in the distance—and, squatting a few feet from him in the grass, is a familiar face that he hasn’t seen since that day.

Shiba Kukaku stares at him for a long moment, an unreadable expression on her face. Ichigo stares back, wondering why the fireworks expert—who he remembers as being loud, violent, and having a strong enough left hook to put Yammy to shame—looks almost… unsettled. He doesn’t say anything, though, keeping his peace as she surveys him. For some reason, he’s tired, more than he’s ever been, and can’t help but suspect that being in Soul Society like this—when he had been in his human form, without using a Senkaimon, and knowing without a doubt that the car accident had killed him—is the cause.

And then Kukaku sighs and straightens, rising to her feet and offering him a hand up. “From the lack of company I take it this isn’t another one of Yoruichi’s harebrained schemes. Did something happen?”

Ichigo hesitates for a moment before accepting the proffered hand. “I…died.” It feels odd to say it out loud, but he knows it’s true. Unlike what the majority of the Gotei 13 seems to think, he isn’t stupid. He can certainly be reckless sometimes, when someone he cares about is in danger, but he isn’t dumb. Drawing connections is simple enough. The only surprise is that now, here, he feels the stirrings of power around him that he’s missed for so long, and the comforting weight of Zangetsu on his back. Dying, it seems, had been enough to return his powers. Even the Hollow is back, simmering in his mind just below the surface. And for the life—or death—of him, Ichigo can’t bring himself to find it anything but comforting.

Kukaku sighs again, pulling him to his feet, and nods. “I thought it was something like that.” Then she pauses again and scrutinizes his face for a moment, something in her expression turning wistful. “You…really do look like him.”

Ichigo blinks at that, not understanding, and shoots her a look. He had noticed a similar reaction in others, particularly Ukitake and Byakuya, when he faced them, but he’s never pressed them for an answer. But Kukaku notices, and gives him a small, weary smile. “My older brother, Kaien. The one the Kuchiki girl killed.”

There’s no malice in her voice, no bitterness, and Ichigo wonders at how strong she is to push all of that aside. He had never managed it, and even now, he blames himself for his mother’s death.

Maybe someday, he thinks a touch ironically, he can be as strong as her.

“Is there a relation?” he asks after a second, half dryly and half curiously. His father’s death at Aizen’s hand meant that the old man had never had gotten around to explaining his connection to Soul Society, so for all Ichigo knows, Kukaku could be his aunt. He just barely holds back a shudder. As if there aren’t enough violent women around him already.

Seeming to guess his thoughts, Kukaku grins at him, squeezing his hand just a little tighter than she needs to. “Heh. That scares you, little boy? Shouldn’t, though. We Shibas are a good bunch—mostly. And widespread! Or we used to be.” She turns, not letting go of his hand, and drags him back towards her crazy house. “You might be a cousin, for all I know. Never did keep a good enough track of the branch families, while they existed. Oh, well.” Throwing open the door, she yanks him down the stairs, calling, “Oi, Ganju! We’ve got a guest!”

Her brother leans around a door, and his eyes widened at the sight of Ichigo there, dressed not in shinigami robes, but a simple autumn-brown yukata, Zangetsu across his back. He takes one step forward, looking confused. “Kurosaki? What are you…?” Then he pauses, frowns, and opens his mouth again—

—Only to be cut off by his sister’s foot slamming into his face.

Despite himself, Ichigo winces. Yeah, he can see the family resemblance there, if she and his father are related.

“Move it, dumbass!” Kukaku bellows, hauling Ichigo past the sprawled form of her sibling and into the room he’d just left. “He’s a guest, and he just died! He needs comforting! Now get your ass to the kitchen and make some food! I’m hungry!” With that, she slides the shoji door shut, tosses Ichigo in front of the table, and drops on the other side to face him. Planting her left arm on the table, she glares at him and demands, “Well? What happened? If you’re gonna cry, do it now, while I’m feeling charitable!”

Pushing himself upright, Ichigo casts her a half-wary, half-bemused look, and then settles himself correctly. “Cry? What the h—why would I cry?”

She raises an eyebrow at him. “You just died.”

He raises one in return, wondering what it is she wants him to say. “I know. I’m not an idiot. But it’s not like everything ended, right? I’m here. My family’s already here, too. And…”

And what? He suddenly can’t think of anything. Isn’t he supposed to be fighting someone? Rescuing someone? Doing something? But instead of a driving urge to move, he feels relaxed. Peaceful. At ease, even, without the fate of Soul Society and the world of the living riding on his back, without the grief that’s been tearing at him for over two years now. And, as much as he loves combat, and fighting, he doesn’t want to go back to that pressure. Even with his powers back, he doesn’t want to immediately plunge back into conflict. And somehow, he can guess that conflict is what would occur, if he walked up to the gates of the Seireitei and informed them that he was no longer a resident of the living world.

He has to bite back a groan, because it’s just occurring to him that it had not been the insane, power-obsessed, would-be god who had taken him out. It had been a car. Renji is going to laugh his ass off.

Yet another reason not to immediately present himself in Seireitei.

Kukaku, with a perceptiveness that belies her usual loud personality, seems to guess what he’s thinking again. She leans over and flicks him on the forehead, then brings her fist down hard on the top of his head. While he tries to clear the ringing from his ears, she snorts and comments, “You know, there’s nothing holding you back now, boy. You’re dead. That means no more responsibilities. Sure, you have the power to be a shinigami, and you want to protect people—”

Ichigo doesn’t question how, again, she knows exactly what he’s thinking. It’s more than likely he’ll regret knowing, should he ask.

“—but you don’t have to march right up the Gotei 13 and let them take you in. You’re different than you were before the war; they probably wouldn’t even know what to do with you. So why don’t you stay here for a bit? Ground yourself, think about your options? I’ll even help you get that pig-sticker down to a normal sealed-size.” She nods towards Zangetsu, which is settled awkwardly across Ichigo’s shoulders and nearly digging into the bamboo floor. “You don’t have to be yourself, either, if you don’t want to. There are enough bastard sons floating around, and you look enough like a Shiba that I can claim you as a cousin and adopt you into the family. Might make for a nice change of pace, huh?”

Ichigo looks at her in surprise for a second, then shifts his gaze past her left shoulder as he considers. Go to Seireitei, and back to being a hero of a war he had never wanted to fight? Or stay here amidst the peaceful insanity that is the Shiba house, as a Shiba himself, and take his time learning something, not for the sake of saving the world, but for himself?

It isn’t much of a choice, really.

“Thank you,” he tells Kukaku with a quick bow. “I’d be honored.”

And Kukaku smiles, satisfied, and bellows at Ganju to hurry up with the food.

Ichigo quickly comes to the realization that training with Kukaku is akin to throwing oneself headfirst at a jet engine and hoping to come out on the other side with the ability to fly.

Not that it isn’t effective—within the first two weeks of lessons, he’s able to suppress and contain his reiatsu enough to seal Zangetsu into a normal shikai state (though it fails if he loses his temper), and to hide a few feet from a shinigami patrol without being detected (so long as he’s careful and almost completely focused on hiding his power, which is inconvenient, as it leaves him struggling in a real fight).

It is even, at times, enjoyable. Ichigo has always been the older brother in his family, and Kukaku is like the older sister he’s never had, gruffly affectionate, tauntingly supportive, and with a core—somewhere deep, deep, deep inside—of kindness and caring that’s unlike anything he’s experienced before. She pushes him hard, harder than even Urahara or old man Zangetsu, but for no other reason than because she can do it and he can survive it. There’s no world to save, no friend to rescue, and Ichigo can focus solely on becoming strong for himself, instead of someone else.

Ganju, too, quickly becomes like family—although Ichigo is certain he’s more the idiot cousin kept locked in the attic than anyone really close. They spar together when Kukaku is busy with whatever it is she really does (another thing Ichigo is certain he’ll regret knowing), and as he had when Ichigo was struggling with the spirit orb on his first trip to the Seireitei, the boar-rider often steps in to help Ichigo with some of the finer points of control and reiatsu manipulation. Ganju even helps him master the beginning steps towards kido, much more quickly than Kukaku had expected.

For the first time in a very long while, Ichigo is learning, and training, and advancing just because he can, and he can’t remember being so content at any time since his mother’s death. He pushes aside everything that he had been before—all the anger, all the surliness, all thoughts of weakness and strength and power and death—and Shiba Kei becomes the newly accepted youngest son of the Shiba Clan. And it’s a change that he welcomes, shedding his old being like a set of worn clothes, and donning a new personal to go with his new life. Kei—the name chosen by Kukaku, who had wistfully remarked that it was what Kaien had been planning to name his son, and left Ichigo with the distinct feeling that he had been played—is polite, and respectful, and likes to play jokes. He smiles and laughs, and does not worry about worlds or gods or anything but surviving his sister’s training.

And Ichigo is, for the first time in years, really, truly happy.

It’s seven months to the day since he first came to live with them when Kukaku storms through the doorway of the dojo, interrupting Ichigo and Ganju’s sparring session. They both turn to look at her—

—Only to be smacked in the head with the bottle and scrub brush, respectively, that she hurls at them.

This is hardly the first time that kind of thing has happened. Indeed, it’s almost a daily occurrence, so Ichigo grabs the bottled before it can hit the floor and Ganju peels the brush off his face, and they only grumble a little bit as they glare at her with all the wounded male pride they can muster.

Kukaku just smirks at them—and, specifically, at Ichigo. “There ya go, carrot-top! One dousing with that and your hair will look all-natural again! You’ll fit right in with the rest of us!”

Ichigo transfers his glare from her to the bottle of black hair dye he holds, and then scowls at her even more deeply.

“What the hell! Why the hell would I want to dye my hair?”

The woman looks supremely unimpressed. “‘Cause you’re going to enroll in the Spiritual Arts Academy. I’ve got nothing left to teach you, since you’ve got all the basics down, and the teachers at the school can help you go further than I ever could. I’m not a shinigami, halfwit! And with your hair dyed, you’ll look just like Kaien. No one will doubt you’re a Shiba. I’ll get the paperwork out of the way, and you’ll be free to go through the Academy just like every other shinigami admitted to the Gotei 13. No special favors, no war hero, just you.” She grins. “So get dyeing.”

It would take a much stronger—or less sane—man to argue with Shiba Kukaku. So, with the obligatory grumbling and cursing, Ichigo gets dyeing, and realizes about halfway through that the whole idea doesn’t really sound so bad.

“You’ve got your sword?”

“Yes, nee-san.”

“And your uniforms?”

“Yes, nee-san.”

“And your kido books?”

“Yes, nee-san.”

“And enough yukatas? I can always bring you more if—”

Yes, nee-san.”

The one armed woman smacks the dark-haired boy who stands with her in the head. “Shut up, brat! If this is what I get for worrying, I’ll make sure not to in the future!”

Several of the families standing with them before the Academy gates stifle snorts. Ichigo narrows his eyes at the vicious female monster posing as his sister and rubs the back of his much-abused head. She’s been “worrying,” as she calls it—though, in truth, it’s far closer to nagging—ever since they left the house that morning. Ichigo still isn’t certain why he couldn’t just go alone—after all, he isn’t a kid, and he’s already passed the entrance exam with ease. But Kukaku had said that family seeing him off was expected, especially since he was coming from a noble house—even if it is fallen, which she never seems to give a damn about.

Seeing the near-scowl that crosses his face, Kukaku leans in with frightening good cheer, her grin one hair shy of terrifying. “Come on, Kei-chan, smile! You’ll do the Shiba Clan proud, won’t you? Hmm? Kei-chan?”

Under the circumstances, Ichigo feels that it is quite acceptable to stage a tactical retreat. Taking several steps away from the madwoman to whom he’s claiming blood ties—and oh, how he’s starting to wish that he had just enrolled as a nameless spirit from Rukongai—he moves safely out of reach. That had been Kukaku’s way of subtly reminding him not to scowl in order to keep from being recognized, which is something they’ve been working on for weeks now—mostly her leaping on him whenever he lets his expression slip into something Ichigo would have worn, instead of what Kei would wear, and stretching his cheeks or doing some equally demeaning and emasculating thing until he can force a neutral expression.

He’s become nearly as good at neutral as Byakuya, he suspects—though with Kukaku’s form of motivation, he expects that anyone would.

“Damn it, you crazy woman! Don’t call me that!” he snaps, though he does rearrange his face into something that doesn’t resemble a glower quite so much.

Kukaku just grins at him, as she often does. “Oh, the little one’s all grown up, eh? Well, Kei, I hope you’re ready to leave the nest and all that. Got any last words before I push you out and let you fly?”

“More like push me out and drop a stone around my neck,” Ichigo mutters, but straightens his shoulders and offers her a brief, challenging smile. “Why bother? You’ll be back in a year to see me graduate anyway, and I’ll come visit once in a while, to make sure you haven’t drowned Ganju in the bath.”

She waves her hand at that, wrinkling her nose. “Hell no! It’d be too smelly.” Then her expression softens, and she reaches out and drags Ichigo into a gruff, one-armed hug. “Take care, otouto,” she murmurs in his ear. “Even if you aren’t a Shiba, you’re still my little brother. Make us proud, got that?” Releasing him, she takes a step back, then waves and turns away. “And make sure you come back home once in a while! You’re already a twig, and cafeteria food won’t help! We’ll have to stuff you every chance we get, so you don’t blow away in the wind!”

Ichigo rolls his eyes at her retreating back, but it’s fond. Kukaku may just be posing as his sibling, but in reality, she’s his sister in every way that matters. And now he has three sisters to look out for, even if the newest one would kick his ass for thinking that she needs “looking after.”

It feels good, feels right to don the shinigami black once more, after a year and some-odd weeks in a student’s white and blue. Ichigo spends a long moment staring into the mirror in his dormitory room, wondering at the changes. He’s gotten used to seeing black hair in place of orange, a calm expression where a scowl used to be, but sometimes it still jars him to remember that he’s not Kurosaki Ichigo anymore, not in the ways that count. He’s Shiba Kei, branch member adopted into the main Shiba family by virtue of Kukaku’s kindness to an orphaned bastard child.

Ichigo never used to lie, even to himself. Now the lies have become his entire life, quite literally.

He slings Zangetsu across his back, a normal long sword rather than a huge cleaver—if nothing else, this whole charade has taught him the control he never managed while he was alive—because old habits die hard, and he’s more comfortable with the blade there than in the more normal position at his side. Enough shinigami wear their zanpakuto the same way that it shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows, even in a formal situation like this.

Which, of course, brings his thoughts right back to what he’s been trying to avoid thinking about. This is going to be a circus, regardless of the assurances he’s gotten from his instructors and—

“You like you’re about face your execution, Kei. Lighten up, or the audience might get the wrong impression.”

Kuchiki Eiji, part-time therapist and full-time Jiminy Cricket. Of course.

Ichigo bites back the sharp comment he wants to make and instead growls, “I don’t understand why they have to have the captains choose their recruits right then in front of a damned crowd. It’s—”

“An acknowledgement of the skills and capabilities of the new graduates to have captains present their bids for service before the graduation audience, even before the entrance test for the Gotei 13 proper. Also for the most part a complete formality, because such decisions are generally made between the captain and the recruit well ahead of time, and only the very lowest-ranking students—which you are not, Mr. Prodigy—leave it up to chance. Now calm down before I start getting nervous by proxy, okay?” The young noble rolls over on his futon to give Ichigo a long, assessing stare that reminds Ichigo just who his cousin is, Eiji’s usual demeanor aside.

Nevertheless, Ichigo—never one to be cowed, and certainly not after living with Shiba Kukaku for more than two years—grouches softly, “Why? It’s not like you’re going to be doing anything except sitting there.”

Eiji gives him a cheeky grin. “Yeah, because I’m smart and graduating normally, next winter, with a large class. You’re the supernaturally talented and powerful idiot who had to go and beat even your older brother’s record. Of course people are going to be interested, Kei. What did you think would happen?”

Not this, Ichigo wants to say, but he keeps it to himself and carefully pulls his black hair back into a tail. He’s kept it long, if only to keep his instructors from having a heart attack when he walks into their classes looking exactly like Shiba Kaien.

Clever fingers steal the ribbon before he can attempt to tie it up, and Eiji mutters, “Oh, give it here, you’re hopeless.”

After a year and change of dealing with Eiji’s hovering, Ichigo knows this fight is already a lost cause, so he surrenders gracefully and lets Eiji fiddle. As he does, the young noble asks carefully, “You accepted Byakuya-sama’s offer, didn’t you? Lieutenant of the Sixth?”

Ah, yes. That crowning moment of stupidity. Ichigo fights back a grimace and makes a sound that’s vaguely affirmative. Byakuya is probably the only person in the Gotei 13 who knows both who Ichigo is and who he was. Kukaku and Ganju know, by virtue of finding him when he first arrived after his death and then providing him with a cover story, but the Sixth’s captain guessed.

And if Byakuya, who never actually knew Ichigo all that well except as an opponent, was able to see through his façade as Shiba Kei with a glance, Ichigo doesn’t even want to contemplate what will happen with people like Rukia, Renji, and his damned father.

A hand closing over his shoulder brings his attention back to the boy behind him, and Ichigo glances up to meet his gaze in the mirror. Eiji’s eyes are a green-grey, rather than Byakuya’s steel-grey, but there’s a resolve and a certainty in them that makes their relation all the more obvious.

“Kei?” Eiji asks, and it’s soft, but there’s a world’s worth of meaning in that single word.

It’s a single, lonely syllable, a name that Ichigo was never born to wear, but a name he’s chosen nevertheless. To Ichigo, it’s a symbol of the choice he made in that green field with Kukaku standing over him. He’d turned his back on the past, left it behind in favor of an unknown future without the taint of grief and failure that had dragged Kurosaki Ichigo down for so long before his death. Shiba Kei was born in that moment, even though he remained nameless for several months afterwards. It’s with Kei’s soul, Kei’s eyes that Ichigo looks at himself in the pane of silvered glass.

It’s Shiba Kei who meets Eiji’s gaze and, with a resolve forged from grief and pain and loss, tempered with the happiness of this new life as a new man, it’s Shiba Kei who says “Yes. I accepted.”

And really, that’s all there is to say.

Renji was a lieutenant for a long time, and he knows that each of the eleven other sub-commanders has their own style of fighting. Kira holds back and lets the enemy hang themselves. Matsumoto pouts and flounces and then goes in for the kill while her opponent is distracted. Hisagi bides his time, using psychological attacks just as much as his ruthless physical ones. Yachiru, Omeada, Sasakibe, Nanao—they’ve all got their own way of fighting and winning.

But with all of them, every single one, he’s at least seen their shikai. Even Hisagi, who hates to use his, still brings it out sometimes in practice or in battle. Only the newest lieutenant, one Shiba Kei, who so easily took Renji’s former position in the Sixth, has never even drawn his damned sword.

It’s taken this long for Renji to even get the man to agree to a spar, and that was by sheer chance alone—Renji managed to corner Shiba while Captain Kuchiki was within hearing distance, and Byakuya had encouraged his new lieutenant to try his hand against his old one. Renji had felt fairly secure in his ability to wipe the training ground with Shiba’s face, given that Shiba was a green graduate and only a lieutenant, whereas Renji was the new captain of the Ninth.

Technically, it’s his own fault for forgetting that Shiba Kei managed to graduate the Academy in a year and five weeks, breaking his older brother’s record in the process. And granted, Shiba went from Academy student straight to lieutenant without a single step in between, handpicked by Kuchiki Byakuya himself for his abilities. Still, Renji had expected to face an inexperienced boy without many actual combat skills and an excess of book learning.

What he’s gotten is something quite different.

The arena is filled with choking red smoke, thick and obscuring, and although the day’s brisk breeze is already dispersing it, it’s enough to throw Renji off. He’s the type to dive right in to a fight, to strike the first blow and keep on hitting before his opponent can do more than block, but with this, he’s been effectively stymied. It’s incredibly difficult to hit what he can’t see, and he’s not good enough at kido to disperse the smoke without entirely diverting his attention from his opponent.

Then the soft scuff of a footstep, nearly inaudible, comes from behind him, and a low, calm voice intones, “Carriage of thunder. Bridge of a spinning wheel. With light, divide into six. Bakudo 61: Rikujōkōrō.”

Long experience in dueling Rukia, who’s absolutely infatuated with kido in all its forms, is the only thing that lets Renji avoid the bolts of golden light. He whirls to the other side of the ring, as fast as he’s capable of moving, and sends Zabimaru streaking towards the source of the spell. It’s instinct to expect the clash of metal on metal, because that’s how fights generally go with kido-focused opponents—opening kido, physical attack, hand to hand combat until someone gains an edge.

Instead, that same calm voice commands, “Bakudo 39: Enkosen.” There’s an arc of bright reiatsu from the midst of the fading smoke, and Zabimaru rebounds with a clang.

Renji’s beginning to understand just why Shiba went from graduate right to lieutenant. Calling up a kido is mental as much as it’s physical; that’s one of the reasons preforming it without an incantation takes more strength and skill. The chant gives time for the mind to build up the necessary reiatsu, to prepare. It makes consecutive kido attacks far harder, as the user has to mentally switch tracks and start all over again.

To be able to fire off two kido in the upper range, even if they are of the same type, one after another—and one without an incantation—means that Shiba Kei has a rather frightening grasp of the subject.

A sudden breeze sweeps away the last of the smoke even as Shiba’s barrier fades. He’s still entirely at ease, his expression in the same politely attentive lines that it has been since Renji met him, and he hasn’t so much as reached for the zanpakuto strapped across his back yet. Renji grits his teeth and sets his feet. He’s a captain now; no way in hell is he going to let a rookie lieutenant—his replacement rookie lieutenant—beat him.

A flicker of shunpo, too fast to track, and Shiba is gone. But Renji’s fought Kurosaki Ichigo in his bankai, knows what to expect when an opponent’s faster, and spins halfway to catch a sandaled foot against Zabimaru’s flat side. Shiba uses the zanpakuto like a springboard, even as Renji tries to knock him off balance, and tumbles neatly over in the air to land in a crouch. He’s up again in a second, foot lashing out, and Renji can see the barest hint of the basic academy hoho forms within each movement, but Shiba has streamlined them, tweaked them, turned them into something far closer to Shihoin Yoruichi’s deadly style. They’re not at quite that level yet, but there’s potential.

Shiba has potential, in just about everything Renji’s seen him do so far, and it really fucking grates. Shiba’s the perfect lieutenant, quiet and calm and forever composed, staying two steps behind his captain at all times, paperwork done and squads seen to and tea prepared, and it makes Renji feel like the brash, coarse Rukongai brat he’s tried so hard to leave behind.

Damn it, Renji snarls to himself, just barely blocking a kick to the knee because Shiba’s just too damned fast for him to hit. Like fighting freaking Ichigo all over again.

Except that Ichigo is gone, dead and lost somewhere in the vastness of Soul Society, very likely without any of his memories, and the last spar Renji had with him before the war ended was the last spar anyone ever had with him. And now some noble brat comes swaggering in, just as fast as Seireitei’s vanished hero, better at kido and entirely subservient where Ichigo never was, and Renji can’t figure out whether he’s more outraged for himself and his former position or for his lost friend.

He grits his teeth, turns as Shiba lands again, and lets Zabimaru strike. The force behind it is very close to deadly, hardly something to be used in a friendly spar, but Shiba dodges it nevertheless. He ducks the second strike, leaps over the third, and then darts is as Zabimaru withdraws, taking advantage of the opening it affords.

But Renji learned long ago not to leave himself open in such a stupid way, and if Kurosaki Ichigo couldn’t manage to hit him like this, there’s no possibility of a green recruit managing it. Renji whirls around, Zabimaru flying again, and catches Shiba right across the chest in what would be a killing blow, were this not a practice match. Shiba cries out as he goes down, tumbling through the dust and then smoothly back to his feet, skidding slightly as he comes to a full stop. He stays half-crouched for a moment, breathing hard, and then pushes himself upright once more.

“Match, I believe,” he says, entirely unruffled by the loss. Yet another glaring difference from Kurosaki Ichigo. “Thank you, Captain Abarai.” With a quick bow, he steps away, then turns and strides back to his waiting captain. Byakuya walks away without waiting for Shiba to catch up, and the lieutenant falls into step behind him. They disappear into the winding streets, silent as ghosts, and leave Renji in the middle of the training ground.

There’s a long moment of thoughtful silence from the peanut gallery, and then Kira offers, “He’s good, for a new recruit.”

Renji gives a non-committal grunt in answer.

“Of course,” Hisagi chips in, entirely too amused, “you knew that before you challenged him. All of Seireitei knew that before you challenged him. We saw his record. What was this really about?”

“Hmm.” Kira hums softly, propping his chin up on his fist where he’s seated on top of the wall. “Shiba Kei does look remarkably like—”

“Shiba Kaien, the first to steal Rukia’s heart?”

“I was going to say Kurosaki Ichigo, the one to save her life, but I think they both fit here.”


“It must be.”

“Of course.”

Renji glares at the two men. “I hate you both,” he mutters petulantly, sliding Zabimaru away, and pretends he can’t hear it when Kira and Shuuhei both chuckle.

It took a very, very long time—and a great many practice sessions with Kukaku—before Kurosaki Ichigo was able to fight as Shiba Kei, and not like Ichigo pretending to be a different person. They’re exact opposites on the battlefield, or at least as opposite as Ichigo can make them. Rather than rushing in headlong, sword drawn and massive spiritual power brought to bear, Kei hangs back and uses kido, focuses on conserving strength wherever possible, and tries his best not to engage directly. Few people outside of his swordsmanship classes have ever even seen him draw his sword. And if they did, “Kurotsuki” would be far different from the Zangetsu they recall Ichigo wielding.

Ichigo leans his zanpakuto against the corner of his desk, tracing lightly over the white-wrapped hilt that’s all that remains to link this sealed state with the massive cleaver it can become. Zangetsu accepts the nickname well enough, even chose it himself, but it’s not his name. Nevertheless, for Ichigo’s sake, he’s willing to pretend. When Ichigo calls on him for shikai, he’s able to choke off enough of his massive reiatsu to leave Zangetsu a long, slim, black nodachi, similar to its bankai form. Even that Ichigo uses sparingly. It’s one of the reasons he’s forced himself to study kido tirelessly, memorizing spells and chants and theories.

Shiba Kei fights at a distance, or not at all.

There’s a stack of personnel reviews that Renji’s challenge dragged him away from, and they still need to be looked over, initialed, stamped, and sent on to Byakuya if they’re either outstanding or reporting a problem. Ichigo looks at them and strangles a sigh, rubbing his hands over his face. Sometimes, he really wonders why he didn’t stay some nameless Rukongai spirit for the rest of his afterlife. There sure as hell wouldn’t have been as much paperwork.

Then Byakuya steps through the door from the main building into Ichigo’s office, sliding the door shut behind him. Ichigo glances up, ready to offer a quick smile as his captain strides past into his own office, but instead, Byakuya pauses beside him.

“Your spar was…enlightening, Lieutenant Shiba,” he offers after a moment, coolly, but still more than he’s usually inclined to give up. “It is far different than what you were before.”

Ichigo gives in and really does sigh, raking a hand through the shoulder-length black hair, just a touch longer than Byakuya’s, that he hasn’t quite gotten around to putting back in a ponytail after his tumble through the dirt. “Yeah,” he says, a little wryly. “That’s the whole point of fighting that way.”

Byakuya accepts that with a faint incline of his head, grey eyes thoughtful. “You have become well-versed in kido. I had believed you had no talent for it.”

That’s the problem with being thought of as a rash, hotheaded idiot, Ichigo reflects, and that’s wry too. He knows himself, knows how he was even before Shiba Kei came into the picture, but he also knows that a lot of time people blew his character flaws way out of proportion, just because he acted oddly and had weird hair. “No one ever taught me before,” is all he says, though. “Rukia had to focus on the most basic stuff, like what a Hollow was, and then Urahara-san and Yoruichi-san both had specific things they were training me in. Learning under Kukaku and then going to the Academy was probably the best thing for me.”

There’s a long pause, careful and considering, and then Byakuya murmurs, “You have raw talent. It has always been so. Now…perhaps it can be refined.”

Without another word, he sweeps into his office and closes the door, signaling that he doesn’t wish to be disturbed. But Ichigo is frozen in shock, far too startled to do anything, because that…

That was a compliment, and not even a backhanded one, from Kuchiki Byakuya, the one captain Ichigo always thought would despise him unconditionally.

Broken Lives [Wonwoo Angst] Part 1

Genre: Angst

Summary: He left you without telling you why. For three years, you lived all alone, wondering where he disappeared to until one day, you save a child from a car accident. The pain from the accident hurt, but the truth why he left hurt more.

Part 2    Part 3

The streets were dimly lit, making the stars in the sky visible. Stopping your night stroll for a moment, you tilted your head and gazed at the millions of specks shining beautifully above. You missed it. You missed laying on the field of grass at the park and taking in the breathtaking view of what seemed like a black cloth scattered with silverdust. You missed him. You missed the one who was always there beside you, holding you tightly in his arms as you rested against his shoulder. Watching the stars was something you two did together, side by side, forgetting all troubles or problems and simply enjoying each other’s company under the night sky. But now, it was just you and the stars. The moon shone the brightest but you wondered how it could stand being all alone. It was the obvious odd one out and you realised how much it reminded you of yourself. Did you ever have another moon beside you way up there? Well, I used to have someone with me way down here. I guess we both lost them.

Smiling slightly, you found it funny how you were talking to the moon. It made you feel even lonelier than you already felt. After all, you wouldn’t be talking to it if he was still around. You wondered how he was doing without you. Was life better for him after he left you? It sure wasn’t better for you. Then again, he was the one who fell out of love. You had always loved him and without a doubt, you still did. Perhaps that was the reason why you let him go so easily. If he wouldn’t be happy with you, you’d rather him be happy with someone else.

“Ah, what am I doing really…I should be getting back home by now..” You muttered to yourself and continued your walk down the street. You could almost feel his hand holding yours, the familiar feeling from years ago which you couldn’t seem to forget.

“Myungsoo!” A shout came from behind you and you turned your head to find a small boy standing on the road, clutching a stuffed toy carrot in his hands. What is a little kid doing on the road? The shout came from a woman who was walking down the pavement, waving her hand to get the boy to get off the road. There are cars and it’s dangerous! What is she even doing? Walking? All of a sudden, you saw a dim light from afar and you found yourself on the road, holding the little boy in your arms. The light became brighter and soon, it blinded your eyes when you found yourself right next to it. Pushing the kid away from you with just enough force so as to hurt him as little as possible, you shut your eyes tight and dealt with the intense force that came in a split second, knocking you down instantly. You heard a shriek and felt immense pain, pain that you’ve never felt before. Am I going to die?  A certain liquid trickled down your head and your vision became a blur. It hurts so bad. Soon, the pain went away and the lights went out.

Groggy. You head pounded and your whole body ached. Why did you feel as if half your body was wrapped up? Gradually opening your eyes, you tried to adjust to the light as your hand lifted up to support yourself. Shit. With one movement, you felt a sharp pain shoot through your left arm which caused you to fall back onto the bed. So I can’t move my left arm. Gritting your teeth, you lifted your right arm and surprisingly, it didn’t hurt at all. Gripping the bar beside your bed, you slowly got up and frowned when you felt something heavy on your right thigh and something even heavier on your left. Having sat completely upright, you saw the cast on your arm and two heads resting peacefully on your lap. You were shocked but you decided to stay still just in case you woke them up. Who in the world are they? Why is there a man and a boy sleeping at my bedside? All you knew was that you were in the hospital with your left arm, right leg and forehead wrapped up with bandages. Right, the accident. Light was pouring in from the window, making it clear that it was daytime. Crap, it’s the next day? Sighing, you closed your eyes and leant against the bedframe. The weight on your left leg seemed familiar, as if you remembered it from somewhere. Has anyone ever rested on my…oh gosh. 

Your eyes shot open, and you stared at the man’s sleeping figure, his hair, his shoulders, his hands…those hands…you knew it. A ring. You noticed an unfamiliar ring on the familiar hand, your eyes then shifted to the sleeping boy. “Myungsoo!” The voice that called out from behind you the previous night rang in your head and you finally pieced everything together. So Wonwoo has a family now. And your heart broke into a million pieces.

This was the first time you’ve seen him in 3 years since he left you. He didn’t tell you why he left. One day, you woke up and he was just gone but now you knew why. Myungsoo was definitely older than 4, you could tell by his speech and his size. To confirm it, there was a bag with a kindergarten’s logo on it which had the name ‘Jeon Myungsoo’ on it. So Myungsoo was born while we were still dating. Jeon Wonwoo. How could you do this to me?

Using your right hand, you pushed Wonwoo off your lap and gently shifted Myungsoo’s head from your lap onto the bed. Wonwoo stirred in his sleep but didn’t wake, making you remember how he was a heavy sleeper. Getting off the bed was a challenge, having an arm and leg down but it wasn’t impossible to plonk yourself onto the wheelchair waiting for you beside your bed. You were broken, your heart was shattered and hatred and disappointment filled you. All the ‘I Love You’s, all the kisses and hugs, all the dates were all fake. Somewhere out there while you were loving Wonwoo with all your heart and believing that he was yours, he had a child.

You wheeled yourself to the lounge area in the hospital where the entire wall was made of glass. Brick by brick, your walls came tumbling down. You didn’t care who saw you crying, you didn’t care whether people would judge. You just broke down. The sobs weren’t loud. In fact, they were silent ones, but the soft cries were always the worst. Wonwoo killed your trust, your self-esteem, your happiness. There were so many explanations for why he left but you had never thought that it was because he had a family out there.

Suddenly, you felt a strong pair of arms around you. You knew very well who they belonged to and you didn’t want that pair of filthy arms to touch you. “Get off me.” Managing to choke out those three words, you looked at the window where you could see Wonwoo’s reflection.


“Fine. You don’t want to leave, then explain to me. Explain to me how Myungsoo can be older than four and be your son when you left me only three years ago. Tell me who’s the lady that I saw, strolling towards her son who was on the freaking road and probably not even caring whether he was in danger or not.” Wonwoo’s hands fell to his sides as he looked away, too ashamed to face you.

“I…Myungsoo…Wait what did you say? There was a lady who was walking when Myungsoo was on the road?” He asked, tone sounding uneasy as if he didn’t really want to hear the truth. So even he is surprised how his wife can be so nonchalant about her own son in the middle of the road.

“________ I-I know you hate me and I’m a liar-”

“Then leave me alone. I don’t want to see you, I don’t want to be reminded about how I’ve had to live all alone for the past three years without an explanation, I don’t want to be reminded how much I’ve missed watching the stars with you. Wonwoo, I don’t want to be reminded how you are married with a wife and child.” Closing your eyes, you held in as much tears as you could and took a deep breath to calm yourself down.

“You left me so easily. I’m sure staying away isn’t that hard.” Turning your wheelchair, you held the glass for support. Seeing you struggling, Wonwoo held the handle on your wheelchair and helped you turn completely around and you could tell because moving around wasn’t normally so easy.

“You made me feel pathetic when you left me.” Reaching behind you, you pushed away his hands. Your left arm hurt a little from that slight movement and you cringed. Seeing this, his hands automatically reached out for you again but your glare which was full of resentment and hate stopped him from doing so.

“Don’t make me feel worse. I can live without you.” Placing your right hand firmly on the wheel, you gave it a push away from Wonwoo and continued the tiring movement until you were completely out of sight. You were gone from my life. You can’t just come back when you want to.

Entering the room, you saw Myungsoo sitting on the bed with a colouring book in his hands. Seeing him reminded him of what Wonwoo did to you but you couldn’t help but smile at how much he resembled the man you loved so much. What puzzled you was the fact that Myungsoo stayed overnight, sleeping in such an uncomfortable position. Why didn’t he go back home? Myungsoo saw you and hopped off the bed.

“Myungsoo, I’ll ask you a question okay?” You smiled and Myungsoo nodded his head cutely, taking a seat in front of you. “Why did you sleep overnight here? Didn’t Daddy or Mummy bring you back home? You must have been quite scared after almost being hit by that car.” Scanning him for any injuries, you heaved a sigh of relief when you spotted no wounds. He’s alright. That’s good.

“I wanted to follow Daddy to stay with you. Well, Mummy was supposed to bring me back but she didn’t come.” Myungsoo pouted and you stopped yourself from cursing out loud. His mother didn’t even come? What is she even doing? Is she some crazy busy woman with absolutely no time to spare?

“Then wouldn’t Daddy have sent you back?”

“Daddy said that Mummy would come. He held your hand while I played with some toys and fell asleep. It was very late. Mummy didn’t come and Daddy looked really comfy so I slept too.” Myungsoo grinned sheepishly and you ruffled his hair.

“Daddy looked comfy?”

“Yeah! At home, Daddy sleeps on the hard sofa while Mummy takes the big bed. I don’t know why but Daddy looks like he doesn’t sleep well.” Then, Myungsoo said something that made your eyes grow wide.

“I hate Mummy.”

Wonwoo stood there, looking out of the window. Your words sounded full of anger, full of disdain and he knew that he deserved it. You left me so easily. I’m sure staying away isn’t that hard. All he could think about was you for the past three years and leaving you wasn’t easy at all. Staying away was even harder. Wonwoo would visit your usual places in the hopes of seeing you again but would leave almost immediately, thinking that he had no right to even see you or speak to you again. He was sure that you hated him and he just confirmed it. You made me feel pathetic when you left me. Wonwoo’s heart broke when those words left your lips. All he thought about when he left was preventing you from ever finding out about his child which was so selfish. He made a mistake and he left you in the hopes of his sin never being revealed. But leaving you made you feel worthless as if you were a liability which even your boyfriend couldn’t handle. No. Wonwoo didn’t feel that you were a burden. In fact, you were the most precious person to him in the entire world. But that was why he couldn’t bear to see the person that he loved so much finding out that all along, he was a cheating liar.

Wonwoo always wondered whether he did the right thing. Should he have confessed? But he would have to leave you sooner or later. Myungsoo was his responsibility and he couldn’t have his own child being fatherless. Although Minah was the last person he wanted to be with, Myungsoo was innocent and Wonwoo truly loved him. At first, Minah seemed like a thoughtful and loving person but when they got married, she started showing her true colours. She cared about nobody but herself, going out and leaving Myungsoo at home alone, forgetting to pick him up from Kindergarten, scolding them for every little thing that they did but there was no going back. He already married her.

Suddenly, a thought struck Wonwoo’s head and he whipped out his phone, dialling Minah’s number. As usual, he waited for quite some time before Minah picked up the call. She was probably out there, doing her own things, spending his money.

“What is it?” Minah answered rudely, like how she normally did.

“Why didn’t you come to bring Myungsoo back home? I woke up to find him sleeping in an awkward position on _________’s lap!”

“Oh, it was quite late. Besides, you were there right? You could have brought him back home.” That was what he expected. ‘You could have’. That was what Minah always justified herself with. He could have done it, so why would she? “And I have something to ask you. Why did you spend the night there?”

Wonwoo rolled his eyes and replied, mimicking the sarcastic tone that Minah was using towards him. “Because _________ got into the accident because you didn’t take care of Myungsoo properly.”

“Excuse me, I was calling for Myungsoo to get back on the pavement but he didn’t listen-”

“A car was driving towards him for goodness sake! And you…called for him? What would calling do huh? Magically stop the car from driving or enable Myungsoo to fly out of danger?” His tone was rising higher as his blood boiled at the thought of his wife thinking that she already tried her best to protect Myungsoo.

“I shouted for him to get off the road Wonwoo-”

“_________ ran onto the road and risked her life to save our son. What you did was nothing!” He spat. Minah scoffed and his fist clenched when she did.

“_________ risked her life to save our son? So what? I’ve brought our son up from the very beginning. I gave birth to him. Without her, our son might have died but without me, our son wouldn’t even exist.” Wonwoo was shocked. How could she come up with such ridiculous statements to justify herself? Minah thought that she was the best mother in the world, the best wife?

“You brought up our son? What bullshit. You’re never around. The number of times Myungsoo had to wait for hours at the kindergarten because you don’t show up. The number of times you left him all alone at home-”

“Well, you’re never around either!” She shouted and Wonwoo ended the call. Throwing his phone onto a sofa, Wonwoo ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. Disgusting, irresponsible-

“Daddy?” Wonwoo froze when he heard the soft voice of his dear son from behind him. Myungsoo sounded so frightened and so scared, his voice reminding him of all the other times he walked into a fight. Turning around slowly, he saw Myungsoo wrapping his arms around your neck tightly, face pale as if he recalled a scary nightmare which was partly true. He was recalling the times when Wonwoo fought with Mina at home. Your right arm held Myungsoo’s hand tightly, letting him know that he was safe as long as you were around. The past half an hour had been spent talking with Myungsoo in the hospital room. The little boy told you all the stories of him walking in on Minah shouting ‘mean words’ at Wonwoo, what you guessed was a child’s definition of vulgarities. Myungsoo told you how Wonwoo never had the chance to speak, being cut off by his unreasonable wife before he could even say a word. From all that he told you about, you knew for sure that his home was a crappy environment for a small kid to live in and your heart ached at the thought of him having to go through something like this at such a young age. Wonwoo. You were concerned for him too. No matter how many times you told yourself that you would get over him and that he didn’t matter to you any longer, you knew that you were just kidding yourself. You loved him. You always did.

“M-myungsoo…” Wonwoo felt like he was the biggest failure in the world, the worst boyfriend, now the worst father. Every single time, he would tell himself that he wouldn’t let Myungsoo see him fighting with Minah ever again but history would repeat itself and it just did. He noticed the way his son held onto you tightly, feeling much more secure knowing that you were there to protect him, just like how you did when the accident occurred. He saw how your hand wrapped around Myungsoo’s tightly, assuring him that there was nothing to be afraid about. He saw how his son buried his face in your shirt cutely, the way he said ‘Daddy’ with so much concern and worry. He loved his son. He saw how selfless you were, caring for his child despite having dated him before. He loved you.

“Daddy is angry…” Myungsoo whispered in your ear and although it was meant to be a whisper, Wonwoo heard it loud and clear.

“Daddy isn’t angry at you, Myungsoo. Don’t be afraid. Daddy loves you.” You assure him as you give him a bright smile.

“I know that. Daddy is angry at Mummy. I’m angry at Mummy too.” Again, Wonwoo heard this and his heart sank. I can’t even give him a proper home.

“What did you promise me?” Giving Myungsoo a knowing look, you asked him and his lips curved upwards into a smile. Wonwoo stood there, amazed at how well the both of you got along with each other. A promise? What could Myungsoo promise ________?

“That I’ll support Daddy all the way! Together, we can defeat Mummy for sure!”

“No no no Myungsoo! You’re not supposed to defeat Mummy! Mummy isn’t a bad guy, she just doesn’t know how to express her love for you. Daddy needs you as his strength, as someone whom he can confide in. You’re the one that makes Daddy happy. You’re a very important person.”

“Yeah! You promised me something too!” Myungsoo looked at you and you pinched his nose. Wonwoo watched as you handed Myungsoo a piece of paper. Receiving it, Myungsoo beamed at you and unlatched himself from you. Walking to Wonwoo, he held his father’s hand which made you smile. Father and son standing side by side was such a lovely sight. If only Wonwoo had married someone better. 

“Okay Myungsoo! You better go back home now and get some rest!” Nodding his head, Myungsoo waved goodbye as you turned your wheelchair around to go back to the hospital room.

“_________.” Wonwoo called your name and you sighed. Ignoring him, you continued pushing the wheel but you stopped suddenly.

“Wonwoo. Let me go.” Why did he want to make life so hard for you? You were trying so hard to forget about him but there he was, reminding you just how much you couldn’t let him go.

“I need to talk with you, _________. Please, just-”

“Your son. Your son is so precious and I can’t bear to see him get hurt but you? I hate you Wonwoo. You’re the last person I want to see, the last person I want to talk to so please go away.”

“I’m trying, _________. I still love you, I always have. I miss you and it hurts me to know that you dislike me so much-”

“You love me? You feel…hurt? Newsflash Wonwoo! You had a child while you dated me, left me for a horrible woman and I am the one feeling hurt. I am the one who cried all night and thought about you all day.”

“I left because I didn’t want to continue being with you because I felt guilty that I was lying!”

Remembering that Myungsoo was standing there, you held a hand up to stop Wonwoo from talking. “Myungsoo sees you and her fighting all the time. I don’t want him to see us fighting too.” Wonwoo was surprised at how you thought about his son’s feelings even as you were in an argument, something that Minah would never do. Something that he himself didn’t do. “Go to him, bring him back home and let him rest well. Stop wasting your breath on someone whom you’ve already lost.” And with that, you pushed the wheel, bringing yourself further and further away from him with each push. If only I hadn’t stopped to see the stars. Then I wouldn’t be here today. But then if you hadn’t, Myungsoo might have been knocked down. If only Wonwoo’s wife was someone better. Then leaving me would have been worth it. Then I would at least know that he’s happy. But it still broke you, the fact that he chose someone else over you. If only I hadn’t met him. But meeting him was the best thing that happened to you in your entire life. If only I didn’t love him. But you did.

Woah, this is the longest thing I’ve ever written…idek, I have a lot of feels for Wonwoo these days…should I write a part 2 where the thing you gave Myungsoo will be revealed? Hahahha….besides, Minah has to be dealt with and more angst has to be done…Like usual, feel free to give comments and requests are allowed! Have a lovely day guys~

- Admin Clef

Paralysis (part two)

Imagine that Legolas is afraid of centipedes, and you have to kill one for him because he’s too scared to do it himself

[Part one (Cataplexy) can be found here.]

Word count: 1208

Characters: reader (insert), Legolas

Warning/s: phobias, insect squishing, mega-fluff

Oh, bliss. Sweet, pure, refreshing bliss. Nothing but your favourite things in the world. Sleep. Food. Occasional laughter. Legolas.

It seemed he was on the same wavelength.

“No meetings,” he murmured. His breath tickled your neck where his head was nestled. “No talk of war, of kingdoms, of duties…” With every item on the list, his warm lips found another spot on your skin to cherish.

“Just you,” you breathed, eyes on the forest canopy, losing count of the different shades of green.

“And you.” His lips found yours, before pulling away with a smile. His blue eyes glittered. “No spiders.”

There was no fighting the tremor that ran through you.

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better late than never

pairing: saeran/reader
notes: did a fic trade with @kirachama and @zentherainbowunicorn! (both v v lovely people and wonderful writers.) my prompts were ’discounted advent calendars’ and ’a slippery patch of ice.’

When Saeran asked you to stay over with him at his brother’s house for the holidays, you were thrilled.

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

I'm sorry I'm so obsessed, but...Naruto/reverse!Kurama platonic soulmates. Grown Naruto following Kurama around and laughing his ass off exactly as Kurama thought he would. And being flabbergasted at Kurama sleeping with Zabuza & getting it on with Kakashi.

Oops Naruto/reverse!Kurama platonic soulmate anon. To clarify, #29 because it’d be hilarious if Naruto was the ghost he was terrified of. 

Ooooh, this is fun! Thank you for being obsessed! ^-^

Kurama drags a hand through his hair as he staggers upright, casting a glance back at the bed. Kakashi is nothing but an unmoving lump under the blankets, only the very top of his silver hair visible, and Kurama has to roll his eyes. It’s not like he did all the work last night, lazy bastard.

Deciding that coffee sounds like just about the best thing right now, Kurama staggers out of the room and shuts the door behind him, then turns and yelps, finding himself nose-to-nose with the ghost of his best friend.

“Sage damn it, Naruto,” he hisses, taking a quick glance down the hall to make sure none of the kids are up. “Could you stop fucking sneaking up on me?”

“Can you stop sleeping with my teacher?” Naruto hisses back, flailing his arms. “First Zabuza and now Kakashi? Kurama, it’s weird!” The last sentence is nearly a wail.

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

“We,” Kurama says slowly and clearly, because he adores Naruto but the kid is as thick as a damned brick, “are platonic soulmates. I know Sakura gave you the talk about that, and I know you had sex with Sasuke multiple times while I was present, so how the fuck is this any weirder?”

Naruto’s face contorts into an expression of horror. “You were watching us? Kurama!”

For about twenty seconds, Kurama just stares flatly at his idiot of a soulmate. Then, taking a breath, he closes his eyes, counts to ten, and says, “Naruto. I was sealed inside of you. Where the hell else was I supposed to be?”

This time, the face Naruto makes is definitely more in line with him as a genin, forced to eat vegetables, rather that the nearly forty-year-old veteran of two wars that he actually is. “That doesn’t mean you had to watch!”

Kurama rolls his eyes again. “Idiot. If I had to put up with front row seats while you and the Uchiha screwed every time you had ten minutes alone, you can put up with me spending one night with Zabuza. And Kakashi is a long-term thing, so fucking get used to it. You don’t even have to stick around while we’re screwing. You know that, right?”

“But I know what you’re doing!” Naruto protests, though when Kurama growls he raises his hands. “Okay, okay, fine, but that’s my body you’re wearing and it’s still creepy.

If Kurama could touch him, he’d thump Naruto’s head against the wall a few times to try and rattle some sense loose. As it is, he has to content himself with another very obvious eye-roll as he walks right through the man, heading for the kitchen.

Naruto squawks in loud offense, and Kurama hides a grin.


The series is as follows :

Mama Scully’s Party …. MorningUnderwearsMapsNachosFoul BallPromisesStayPhone CallsFlannel InterruptionAwakeningFriendly CompromisesScrabbleApart …  A Long WeekLightningMissing YouInterimStuffWaitingGoingHandsUnsteadyFearFastSlowRegardlessInto the DarkLightSurfboardsCurbsShowersBordersCanyonsSoakedIce CreamNever HappenedDeep SouthAlmostBlue-Suede ShoesUnwelcomeRemarkableStarsDoorbellsM&MsKneesHome


The next morning really should have been awkward. It should have been quiet and stunted and embarrassing and downright pathetic.

Instead, Scully kneed Mulder in the balls.

Totally on accident of course, but it happened.

In a half-dream, Scully was chasing some bad guy who looked an awful lot like Pat Sajak when Alex Trebek took her on from the side. Sajak got away but Scully had the wherewithal to grab Trebek by the shoulders once she scrambled up and place patella against testicle in a decidedly forceful manner.

Mulder curled immediately, having been woken from some pleasant dream about working in the M&M factory. “What the fuck?!?”

Scully was awake instantaneously, knowing Mulder’s swearing anywhere, “oh, my God … shit … oh, my God, I’m sorry!” Sitting back on her heels, hand over her mouth, she watched Mulder rock back and forth, hands cupping himself, agony etched on his face. Once he slowed his groaning, she tentatively reached forward, touching his arm, “do you want me to go see if we have any ice? Maybe I can get you one of the pudding cups? It’ll be cold at least.”

Opening one eye in her direction, “I am not putting a pudding cup on my balls.”

All she could give him was a tight-lipped smile, eyebrows scrunched in sympathy, “I didn’t mean the actual pudding. I meant just while it’s in the cup.”

He cut her off, “yes, I realize you didn’t mean spreading chocolate pudding all over my parts.” Opening the other eye finally, he stopped looking like he was dying, “why the hell did you knee me? What kind of dream were you having?”

For all she’d done to him, it was the idea of telling him her dream that had her going red, “um, well, I, uh, I probably shouldn’t have watched ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘Jeopardy’ while waiting for lab results last night. In the dream, I was chasing Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek blindsided me but I took Trebek down by,” indicating Mulder’s groin, “well, you were on the receiving end of my solution to that one.”

With the pain subsiding, he removed his hands, pulling himself upright, cast now hanging off the edge of the bed, “no more game shows for you, young lady.”

Scully put her hand on his knee, squeezing it lightly then patting it, “you have no idea how sorry I am.”

Crooking his finger in her direction so she’d lean forward, he kissed her, “it’s fine. I wasn’t going to be using them in the next few days anyway.”

“Are they that bad?”

Mulder reached for his crutches, twisting then grimacing, “you did a number on ‘em. I’ll be walking funny for a little while so no making jokes at my expense.”

“I would never.” Watching him swing his way to the bathroom, “if I make breakfast, can we call it even?”

The look he shot her over his shoulder made her grin.


Another gorgeous day presented itself to them and taking advantage of it, Scully first dragged down two chairs, then Mulder, helping him as far as he could go before she told him to wait. Setting up the chairs at the edge of the waves, she held Mulder as she undid his boot, then carefully helped him lower his foot into the sand, cold waves lapping at his toes.

He dropping his head back against the chair, looking up at her, “this feels so good, you have no idea.”

“I thought it might.” Sitting down next to him, “figured you might want to be able to say you were in two oceans as well.”

“Three, Scully. Three oceans.”

“I’m not having that conversation again.” Wiggling her own toes in the water, “I wish it was warm enough and you could swim.”

Reaching over, he found her hand, wrapping it securely in his, “this is perfect. Thank you.”

They were quiet for a few minutes, roasting in the midday sun before, “I hate to bring it up but we should probably start thinking about when we want to head home.”

“How does never sound? We could just stay here. We’re only 5-6 hours away from Maggie and the guys and the rest of your family. I can make it up to my mother in a day if I push it. I say we plunk it down and buy some electric blankets for the winter.”

Mirthless chuckle abounding, “I’m serious, Mulder. We’ve been gone, what, almost … six weeks? We might be still employed if we beg Skinner.”

“Maybe we should quit. I can write books and be a P.I. and you can be one, too or you can be the resident genius body cutter-upper and cruise the coast in search of the sharpest scalpel and the weirdest death.” One look at her raised eyebrow made him smile, “yeah, I know. We’d need a house first.”

This time, her chuckle was real, “maybe we just keep renting this place. It’s a good size for us. Needs a few things but I think we could do it.”

Mulder eyed her, half-distracted by her tousled-hair, tanned, relaxed demeanor of one who should never have to do anything but sit on a beach all day and be naked all night, “You like this place that much?”

“Are you kidding? I love it. We’re hidden but still in town. It’s small but there’s enough room for you to get away from me when you’re annoying. What’s not to love?”

Contemplating for a moment or three, “how’s this? I’ll call up and book this place again for maybe … September? The water will be warm by then and my leg will be better and we can just surf the day away and swim and make love in the sand and christen the house like it should be.” Her mischievous expression and smirking cheeks made him laugh outright, his shoulders shaking, “too far away?”

Fake thinking for a few moments, “Much, much too far away. I was thinking a nice weekend in July.”

“I’ll call when we get back inside.”

“So, back to the original question. When should we head home?”

“Well, tomorrow’s Sunday and if we leave early enough maybe we can make it for Sunday dinner. Maggie would be happy.”

Dropping her head against the back of her chair, “I don’t want to leave, Mulder.”

As he reached across for her hand and squeezed it, “I don’t either.”


The rains moved in early evening, confining them to the house, which was fine for both. It gave them more time to lay in the shadowed bedroom, rain pounding on the windows, lightning flashing above while Mulder cuddled up behind her on the bed. Talking softly into her neck, “can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Are you nervous about us?”

“Nervous? You mean ‘cause we’re going to have wild, crazy sex in the near future and continue to have wild, crazy sex for as long as we both walk this Earth?”

Amused by her description, “well, yeah.”

She stopped to think while she figure-8’ed the knuckles of his hand on her belly, “no, actually, not really. Are you?”

Licking the scar on her spine, he then kissed it, sucking lightly, wondering if he could give her a small hickey without her killing him, “no and it’s a little unnerving. You’d think we’d be all worried about how we’ll work together after we get back and have finally seen each other sweaty and naked. I mean, by all rights and purposes, you should have freaked out at least once by now and I should have done something completely asinine to warrant an angry fight ending in slammed doors and a shiton of angst.”

“That was a really detailed answer, Mulder.”

Laughing into her skin, “maybe once we actually have the sex, we’ll have the meltdown but right now, I think that we’ll have the sex and it will be earth-movingly astonishing, then we’ll have some kind of breakfast and take showers and go to work and I’ll leer at you like always and you’ll sneak looks at my ass when I lean over the filing cabinet and then we’ll talk to Skinner and fill out paperwork then go back and have more of the sex.”

“I like how you call it ‘the sex’.”

Using his nose to push the strap of her tanktop over a little, he kissed her shoulder blade, “what do you think will happen?”

Lulled by his diatribe, she felt comfortable enough to yawn before answering, “well, I’m still going to argue with you, I’m still going to be my skeptical self, I’m still going to throw things at your head when you irritate me, I’m still going to demand to drive sometimes and I will most definitely be calling you names when necessary.”

As she said this, she snuggled back a little more, molded to him as he smiled, “how in the world have I kept my hands off you all these years?”

Slipping into a well-deserved nap, she shrugged, bumping his chin, “my accuracy with any type of firing weapon.”

“Yes. Now I remember.”

BSM #21 You have a cast on your leg, and fall in the shower, so he has to help you.

A/N: Watching This is us as I’m writing. Hope everyone has had a great Christmas! Message me what you got.

LOUIS (age 16): You cursed your brother as you finally got your pants past your cast. Your brother had convinced you to try his skateboard, stating that it was ‘easy peasy’. Of course, it wasn’t easy, and you fell off and broke your leg. How do you even break a leg from falling off a skateboard? You squealed as the cold water hit your skin, and for a second you forgot your cast, and jumped back to avoid the cold, and fell right on your ass. At first you just cursed some more, but you panicked when you realized you couldn’t get back up. You turned off the water, and sat on the white tiles of the bathroom for a bit. “LOUIS!” you suddenly screamed, having decided that it was his fault so he should help. “YEAH?!” he yelled back. “COME TO THE BATHROOM!” You heard his light footsteps as he ran down the hallway, and opened the door. He yelped when he saw your naked form, and quickly closed the door again. You sighed. “I need help. I fell, and now I can’t get up.” Louis made a weird noise, and then opened the door slightly. He squinted his eyes to the point where he could barely see, and walked with his hands out in front of him, so he wouldn’t bump into anything. You could tell he felt uncomfortable, and you couldn’t help but laugh. “Shut up. It’s awkward,” Louis told you, finally pulling you off the floor, and handing you a towel. “Chill bro,” was your only comment as you pushed him out of the room.

LIAM (age 14): You had broken your leg in PE (gym class) in school last week, and were now sporting a bright blue cast on your left leg. Liam was babying you like crazy, but to be honest, you didn’t mind. Not that you would ever tell him that. Liam had finally let you take a shower, though he didn’t like it when you left his sight. So with an eye roll and a reassuring in the form of: “How could I possibly hurt myself further?” you left to the bathroom. You brought your phone so you could listen to some music, and as soon as you had closed the door, you undressed. With a plastic-bag around your cast, you sang at the top of your voice. It ended abruptly when you turned to grab the shampoo, and somehow tripped yourself. Confused you looked around, and realized you were on the floor. You whimpered in pain as you realized you would get a huge bruise on your ass. That concern was quickly dismissed though, when you realized that you were kind of stuck on the floor. “God, not now,” you whispered, leaning your head back to rest on the wall of the shower. You reached for your phone, glad it had slid off counter and landed next to the shower. After making sure the screen wasn’t cracked, you quickly dialed Liam’s number. “What’s up?” he asked, clearly confused. A bit embarrassed and not looking forward to the awkwardness that was sure to erupt, you explained your situation. Liam hurriedly left the living room, and ran to the bathroom, before hesitation slightly. With a deep breath, he entered, and you were right about the awkwardness. He quickly helped you, and then left. You never talked about it again.

HARRY (age 15): You groaned, trying in yet another feeble attempt to rise to your feet. As your 7th attempt also failed, you plopped back on your bum, trying to force down your sense of panic. Harry was home, and if you yelled loud enough, he would probably hear you. But was it worth it? As a teenage girl, the last thing you wanted was for your brother to see you naked. And given your current situation, sitting on the floor of the shower, after you had fallen on your ass, it would be awkward if Harry had to help you. Because you had to admit, you were stuck on the floor. To anyone else it wouldn’t have been a problem, but the dark red cast covering your leg from your knee and all the way down to your ankle on your right leg, made it a huge problem. You could either stay here and wait for your mom to come home, in two hours, or you could fight through the embarrassment and ask Harry for help. With a defeated sigh, you declared that you couldn’t handle the cold feeling of the tiles another minute, yet along two hours, and yelled Harry’s name at the top of your lungs. You heard a crash downstairs, probably Harry breaking something. This clumsy trait ran in the family, and was the reason for your cast. “What is it?” he called back. You hurriedly, and mortified, told him what had happened, and you could hear him laugh. “Stop laughing doofus! I need help. I’m stuck on the floor.” Harry laughed even harder, and with an air of ease he walked into the bathroom, and helped you to your feet. He threw a towel at you, and walked out, still with a smirk on his lips. “You’re an arse!” you yelled after him. “You’re welcome!” was his only response.

ZAYN (age 14): “This can’t be happening,” you muttered out in the empty bathroom. Cursing at your own stupidity, you placed your hands on the wall, trying to pull yourself upright again. With a cast covering almost all of your left leg, that proved to be a difficult task. You were just done showering when you had slipped on a wet patch (a wet patch in a shower? What is that doing there?). Hope you got the sarcasm. Anyways, you couldn’t get up. You blew a strand of hair out of your eyes, too lazy to reach a hand up and remove it. You let your head fall forward, hanging awkwardly in the air, before heaving a sigh. Zayn was the only one home, you could hear him sing in the living room, and usually you loved hearing him sing, but right  now you wished your mom or at least one of your sisters were home. But it had to be Zayn. “What have I done to deserve this?” you asked the air again. Shaking your head, you called out your brothers name. “Just a second!” was his response. “It’s urgent,” you tried. “I’m there, like, soon.” You rolled your eyes. Soon enough, the door opened, and never had you seen Zayn with suck an expression as the one he wore when his eyes landed on you. He blushed, and if you weren’t mortified yourself, you would’ve teased him. Faster than you thought Zayn could move, he was next to you, placed you on your feet, said a quick: “We’ll never talk about this again,” and then he was gone.

NIALL (age 15): After you broke your leg, your mom had made special rules so you wouldn’t hurt yourself further. That including: No running, no drinking and no showering when no one else was home. Well, you had broken the last rule, and ended up slipping, and now you were unable to get back on your feet. You couldn’t reach the faucet, so the water was still pouring down on you. You waited and waited, and finally the front door opened. “Hello? Who is it?” you yelled over the sound of the water. “It’s Niall,” came the response. “Well of course,” you grumbled, before calling out for help. His footsteps could be heard in the entire house as he sprinted the short duration from the front door to the bathroom. “Are you decent?” he asked. “No, that’s kinda the problem. I slipped in the shower, and now I can’t get up.” Niall groaned on the other side. “How long have you been sitting there?” You shrugged, even though he couldn’t see you. “20 minutes, maybe?” Niall groaned again. “Stop doing that, you’ll hurt your throat,” you sassed. He chuckled. “Don’t be like that! I’m your savior!” “You haven’t even come in yet!” Niall opened the door, and covered his eyes. “You should just be happy you don’t lock the door,” was his only comment, as he looked at the floor, shielding the part of his vision that would otherwise see you. He kept his head low as he picked you up by your arms, and you giggled at his flushed cheeks. “Come on! We’ve seen each other naked before,” you laughed. “Sure, but now you look like a girl. It’s not the same.” Again, you laughed, the same loud sound as your brother, and he couldn’t help but join you as he passed you a robe.