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Better that We Break

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I never knew perfection till
I heard you speak and now it kills me
Just to hear you say the simple things
Now waking up is hard to do
Sleeping's impossible too
And every thing's reminding me of you
What can I do?
It's not right, not okay
Say the words that you're saying
Maybe we're better off this way
I'm not fine, I'm in pain
It's harder everyday
Maybe we're better off this way
It's better that we break

“Better that We Break” Maroon 5

There is always a moment between the time Kisuke’s nightmares jerking him awake and full alertness in which he finds no breath. His throat closes, his chest constricts and he claws frantically at the blankets. These nightmares are not of the war, though he has those on a regular basis. No, these are of being abandoned by the one he loves; cast aside without a second glance and set adrift with her return to Soul Society. For the past few months, however, Kisuke hasn’t been plagued by them; the warm weight of Ichigo wrapped around him kept them at bay. Unfortunately, with recent revelations, Kisuke no longer has that comfort.

There is no sound in the room, except for the rustling of blankets as Kisuke tosses and turns…trapped in his own mind.

Everything moves in slow motion, the edges blurry as Kisuke steps into the main room with Shinji. Only Ichigo remains in sharp focus, shaking with anger and struggling to pull in reiastu. The muscles in Ichigo’s back tense and his spine straightens as he comes to the realization that not only did his own father betray him, his lover and best friend did as well.

“It must have been so fucking hilarious. Did you two talk about it? Laugh behind my back? Did you like watching me struggle? Watching me wander around trying to understand why I’m such a fucking freak?”

Kisuke is frozen is shock, wanting to speak, instead reaching forward to take Ichigo’s arm as he clips Isshin’s jaw in a punishing blow. Ichigo’s eyes are cold looking at Kisuke, yanking his arm back and returning to the dresser to retrieve more clothes to put into a small bag on the bed. His head turns, gaze fixed at Kisuke from the corner of his eye-- “Stop apologizing when you don’t really mean it.”

“If not an apology, then what?” Kisuke asks, feeling frustrated himself, and hurt, too. “What is it you want from me?” Ichigo turns and walks to within a few inches of Kisuke, eyes blazing.

“I want you to look at me, dammit,” Ichigo demands then, breathing sharp and pained. One hand slaps at his chest, probably harsher than he intended. “Me! Not the pitiful son of your best friend. Not the hero who has nightmares from a war he never should’ve fought. Not just a replacement for Shihouin Yoruichi! But me! Ichigo! Just look at me. For once in your life, look at me.”

Kisuke wants, tries to wake up, anything to stop the memories. However, fate and subconscious are not kind mistresses.

He watches Ichigo stride out of their bedroom, the small bag slung over his shoulder. Kisuke follows, wanting to explain….into the hallway where he and Aizen stand, arguing once again. He freezes; dread spreading though him…Not this, anything but this.

“When you screw up, ya really go all out…don’cha Kisuke?” Shinji purrs from the wall where he leans nonchalantly. “I mean, if ya wanted to show him just what a terrible person you are, ya certainly gave him a prime example of it!”

Kisuke stands there with a confounded look on his face, staring into the grinning face of his tormentor. His eyes turn back to the scene playing out before them, to the reproach and disappointment in Ichigo’s face. He couldn’t hear what was being said, but he knows. He watches Ichigo’s face soften slightly for a moment, and then harden again. The volume is seemingly turned up and the hallway seems to darken… “You can forgive Aizen his war, but you can’t forgive me for my hesitation; I suppose it’s my fault that I don’t know why.”

Ichigo is standing before him now, calm and without a trace of anger in his face. “You know, Kisuke, you’re right. I can forgive the war because it wasn’t about me. You, however, knew me and chose to lie as a means of getting what you wanted. I don’t want to see you, please don’t talk----

Kisuke awakens, gasping and reaching. His hand falls back to his chest and try as he might, his breath does not want to come. He twists his fist into his blankets. His ears roar. His breathing finally slows enough to take a shaky breath and he blinks several times to clear his eyes. The pounding of his heart hurts as Kisuke sits up and brushes a hand over his face. The tears he feels under his fingers is a surprising new development. Concentrating on his breathing, Kisuke gazes around the moonlit bedroom. His new roommate doesn’t seem to have woken and Kisuke is glad for the small favor. The last thing he wants or needs is another conversation with Isshin. Sleep won’t be making a return tonight, so he gets up. He doesn’t want to stay there.

Wandering the halls at night is becoming a habit and not only for himself. The stark desolation and simmering anger of Ichigo’s reiatsu sends Kisuke off in the opposite direction, not wanting to distress the young man any more than he has. The cold night air on the roof is numbing, as Kisuke feels stepping into the dark. Sitting down in one of the chairs left from summer cookouts, he turns his gaze on the city lights.

You’re not the man I thought you were. It is this statement that keeps repeating in his mind. Kisuke is drowning in self-doubt, guilt and resentment; it’s been coloring his decisions in the worst possible light. The events of the previous evening serve as a perfect example. He was just calling Aizen out on his blatant attempts in currying Ichigo’s favor...the man makes him see red every time. He knows he went too far and feels remorse at what he said, though you won’t hear him apologize. It is just his luck that Ichigo didn’t hear the insults that Aizen threw his way and Kisuke’s fault for getting goaded into escalation.

And as much as he wants to place the blame solely on Isshin’s shoulders, Kisuke knew in the end that he could have prevented this. If he had only known Ichigo thought himself a freak… It hurts, more than anything that hurts. In his desperation to keep his secrets, the dirty parts of his past from Ichigo he...Gods above and below, he truly is selfish! His hands rake through his hair roughly. The last thing he wanted was to cause pain to that beautiful, selfless man. A man who only wants to protect what he loves with a fierceness that blazed in those brown eyes. Better to have him see the monster that he is and maintain a professional relationship. But he didn’t do that, being the bastard that he is, just took and took without regard to any consequence. Basked in the glow of Ichigo’s trust, faith and affection. Blinking faster, he finds himself fighting tears again; dammit, you’re pathetic…..

Self-absorbed in his own misery, Kisuke fails to notice he has company until a blanket is draped over his shoulders. Startled, he turns to meet the hazel eyes of Neliel, who is taking the folding chair beside his. She holds his gaze for a moment and then proceeds to look at the skyline, concern echoing through her reiatsu. The silence stretches between them for several minutes, until Kisuke tugs the blanket around his shoulders a little tighter and clears his throat.

“Thank you,” he says in a quiet, rough voice. “You didn’t have to go through the trouble.”

“It wasn’t any trouble. You looked a little lost and I didn’t want you to get sick. Besides, this gives me the opportunity to talk to you.” Neliel replies, her gaze intent on him now.

His eyes widen slightly with surprise. He watches as she turns in her seat to face him fully, tugging the fur collar of her winter coat closer to her neck. Since Isshin’s arrival, not many in the warehouse have spoken to him, the dinner debacle not withstanding. And while he considers Neliel a friend, she is especially close to Ichigo and the last person Kisuke thought would willingly talk to him.

“I’m angry. Ichigo is hurting and he shouldn’t be.” She releases a hard sigh and there is a slight hardness in her tone. “I know you…. you wouldn’t intentionally hurt him like this. And there is more you haven’t told him. Shinji didn’t tell me exactly what it was, but it makes me wonder.” She has risen from the chair and wandered forward to look over the ledge. She turns back towards him, arms crossed in front of her, contemplating him. She must have seen something, he thinks, for she comes back and stands before him. He refuses to meet her eyes, his own stubbornly trying to betray him by filling with tears. He closes his eyes to try and prevent their fall, not wanting to seem weaker than he already was.

Her hand touches his shoulder and slides down his arm as she kneels in front of Kisuke. His eyes open wide as she reaches under his blanket with chilly hands to grasp his. “What are you afraid of? Is it really so terrible that Ichigo would cast you aside?” Kisuke’s breath quickens and he tightens his hands around hers.

“I---there….” Kisuke tries, but can’t make the words come. He looks away, feeling a tear slide down his face, the tenuous grip he had on them and his emotions gone. He tries to control his breathing, not wanting to break down completely.
Neliel is patient, giving him time to compose himself before she raises her hand to Kisuke’s face and turning him back towards her. “It’s alright, you don’t have to tell me. But you need to let go of this fear and move forward. If you love Ichigo and I can see that you do….you have to be honest. Tell him. You’re my friend too, and I hate that you are hurting. Make both of my friends happy. Fight!”

Neliel’s hand falls away and she gives the hand she’s holding one last squeeze before standing and stretching. She takes notice of a lightening eastern sky as her gaze crosses the skyline one last time. “I’m going back inside. Promise me you’ll fight.” She bends forward and presses a kiss to Kisuke’s forehead. His gaze follows her as she straightens and he swallows hard, nodding in the affirmative. He doesn’t trust his voice. Neliel pats his shoulder with a small smile as she heads back inside.

Kisuke releases a deep sigh as he pulls the blanket more securely around his body to wait for the sunrise; Neliel’s ‘Fight!’ rings in his head until the sun is high in the sky.