All was quiet at the Urahara Shop, save for the faint, sleepy sound of breathing (and, in Jinta's case, snoring) coming from the various rooms in the back. The shop's inhabitants were gaining whatever sporadic rest they could in preparation for the next day, when the creepy old shopkeeper who knew far too much about everything would open a gate to Soul Society and usher four somewhat unprepared but ever confident teenagers, and a cat, through, in order to save their friend from execution.
One resident, however, was unable to gain any solace in sleep. Kurosaki Ichigo lay awake in his room, turning over in his mind the events of the past three months that had lead him to this point, and all the possible outcomes of the plan he now found himself a part of. Despite his outward confidence and his intense training with Urahara, he was more than slightly nervous about the task ahead. He'd faced danger before, but he knew from his brief encounter with Rukia's brother and his lieutenant that anything he'd faced thus far would be nothing in comparison to what he may be up against in Soul Society. He winced involuntarily as he recalled the bite of the lieutenant's zanpakuto tearing through his shoulder, and the sharp sting of the brother's as he cut his Soul Sleep without appearing to even make a move.
Shaking his head, Ichigo stood, knowing he was unlikely to get to sleep any time soon. Trying not to disturb the others, he slipped out of his room, through the hallway and into the store cupboard, looking for something to eat. He was kind of peckish, and he thought that eating may calm his nerves (as well as his stomach), or at least make his lethargic enough to shut his brain down for a few hours.
After rummaging through the various boxes for a few minutes, Ichigo was debating with himself on whether or not he should tuck into a box of chocolate covered biscuits he'd found (the packet was marked "Urahara's Excellent Biscuit Treats of Spiritual Pressure Enhancing Excellence!", but the contents looked and smelt like ordinary Pocky), when he heard a noise behind him as the door to the cupboard opened and closed swiftly. He almost dropped the box in surprise, and was about to make up a fascinating story about what exactly he was doing rooting through Urahara's store cupboard when an altogether unexpected voice floated over his shoulder.
"Kurosaki? What are you doing?"
Ichigo turned round to find Ishida Uryuu standing just in front of the door, the moonlight splashed across his face giving just enough definition that Ichigo could make out the beginnings of a half amused smirk on Uryuu's pale face.
"I was… hungry?"
"So I see." Uryuu leaned over and plucked the box of treats from Ichigo's hand. "'Urahara's Excellent Biscuit Treats of Spiritual Pressure Enhancing Excellence'. They sound dubious. I would avoid," he advised as he handed the box back. "Now why are you actually here?" Uryuu took a seat next to Ichigo, who had shifted so that he was propped up against a large crate.
"Couldn't sleep. I didn't eat enough today, and you know how difficult it is to sleep when you're hungry, so I just came to get some food, so… yeah. "
"You're scared. I can feel it in your Spiritual Pressure. That's what woke me up and made me come to find you."
Ichigo sighed. He knew Uryuu was right. "It's just all so sudden. I've been a Shinigami for, what, three months? And now I'm going to Soul Society to attempt the rescue of a maximum security prisoner. You were there when they took Rukia. You remember those guys; how strong they were. I'm scared of failing Rukia, of being that douche bag that doesn't save her like she saved me. I'm scared that Orihime will get hurt, or Chad, or you, and it'll be because of me, because I took you with me. I'm scared that I'll lose control of my powers, or that I'll be beaten by the first Shinigami who sees me, or that-"
"Or that you won't come back alive."
A weak laugh. "Yeah. I guess so."
And there was the truth of it. What Ichigo would never admit to anyone, but Uryuu could tell from the tone of his voice, the feel of his Spiritual Pressure, the slight tremble of his hand. For all his big mouth and bravado, Kurosaki Ichigo was afraid of dying.
The two sat in silence for a few moments, each entertaining their own private thoughts. It was a comfortable kind of quiet; one that demanded no words or actions beyond simply being, so completely different from the awkward lunch times they had shared with Keigo and the others. Slowly, Ichigo's fear began to subside, and he was dimly aware of Uryuu's Spiritual Pressure washing over him and surrounding him with Uryuu's own notorious sense of calm and control. He smiled softly as he realised that, in his own way, Uryuu was trying to help him. Or maybe he was just trying to show off his ability to control his Spiritual Pressure. That seemed the more likely option. Not particularly caring to know the motive behind it, Ichigo sunk further towards the floor, allowing himself to be engulfed in serenity. "If Ishida's Spiritual Pressure was a colour," he thought, "it'd be pale blue, just like the colour on his Quincy uniforms."
After some time, Uryuu stood. "Well, since it's only a few hours until we have to be awake anyway, I don't think there's much chance of either of us getting back to sleep tonight, so would you like some tea? We can drink it in my room."
Ichigo nodded and rose to his feet. He made his way to Uryuu's room and took a seat on the floor. He was joined a few minutes later by a tea bearing Uryuu. As he passed the cup of tea to Ichigo, Ichigo's eyes once again fell on the bandages around Uryuu's wrist. He remembered the way his Spiritual Pressure had torn up the boy's arm, and felt his self doubt begin to surface again, before it was promptly flattened by Uryuu's level-headedness.
"Stop apologising. It wasn't your fault."
"How did you know…?"
"Because you're easy to read, Kurosaki. At least, to me you are. I've felt your Spiritual Pressure more than perhaps anyone else. I've had it pushed inside me and flowing through me. I know every inch of it, every nuance and I can see every emotion as plainly as if it were written on a sign around your neck. I know you're angry, and I know you're scared, but I know you're determined to protect, and it's that determination that will enable you to defeat anything. Don't let go of it over a few cuts and one lost fight."
Ichigo blinked a few times at Uryuu's unexpected words of encouragement. He had expected something more like "because it's obvious, Kurosaki" or "you had absolutely no control over the situation, Kurosaki" or even just Uryuu's trademark "that question wasn't even worth the time it would take to answer" glare. Support was something that Ichigo wasn't even sure how to work with.
"Eh? Oh, sorry. I was just surprised. I was expecting something a little more… insulting."
"I didn't feel it would be appropriate to the situation."
"Ah. Well, thanks. I appreciate it."
Ichigo smiled, and as they sat sipping their tea, the silence returned. Ichigo contemplated Uryuu's words, and the more he thought about them, the more he trusted them. Despite their rivalry, he and Uryuu shared a weird, awkward sort of friendship. Ever since the incident with the Menos, Ichigo had felt some sort of obligation to Uryuu. He'd invited him to lunch, spoken to him in class, even walked home with him a few times. Although the Quincy appeared to remain as cold as ever, Ichigo knew, or at least hoped, that Uryuu felt somewhat less animosity towards him, even if he would never show it. Ichigo himself had become almost fond of the boy.
"Four hours," came Uryuu's voice from next to him.
"We're leaving in four hours."
"It seems strange, don't you think? This moment of peace between such huge events."
"You know," Ichigo said as he turned to face Uryuu, "we may not come back from this." There was no fear this time; only resolve.
"I know. But that's no reason not to go." Uryuu turned also, fixing Ichigo with a gaze full of a resolve to match his own. In that moment, they both saw in each other something of themselves. Ichigo didn't know whether their Spiritual Pressures were somehow linked, or if it was far more basic, but he felt something, like he was connected to Uryuu in some inexplicable way.
"I've felt your Spiritual Pressure more than perhaps anyone else. I've had it pushed inside me and flowing through me."
Something about those words, about the way Uryuu had said them, made Ichigo's stomach lurch and his Spiritual Pressure flare in such a way he was certain Uryuu would've noticed.
Uryuu had noticed, and his Spiritual Pressure was dancing in a similar way. His face remained unchanged, but the air around him gave away the little flutters that were making him want to do something that was probably very stupid.
"This could be the last night we're alive together." Uryuu's words carried a second meaning; an unspoken question hanging in the air between them. Ichigo brushed aside the something he was feeling. There would be time to deal with it later. For now, there was something more urgent to attend to.
He leant forward and pressed his lips to Uryuu's. It was fumbled, and awkward, and new, but despite all that it felt right. The kiss lasted a few moments until they pulled apart, Ichigo grinning like an idiot and Uryuu somewhat more reserved in his happiness.
"No questions. We talk about this later."
"After we've saved Rukia."
"After we've saved Rukia. But for tonight, there's just us. Just this. Tonight, I'm yours."
Suddenly they crashed together, Spiritual Pressures whirling around them in a heady mix of lust and feelings that weren't quite there yet. It spoke of the knowledge that this might be their only time, and their refusal to accept that outcome. Hands and mouths roamed in a quest to touch and kiss and caress and remember. Whatever waited for them in Soul Society, the only thing in the world at that moment was each other and the driving need to take what they wanted now in case there was no other chance.
With flushed cheeks and heavy breaths they dragged themselves to Uryuu's futon, never breaking contact. Ichigo laid Uryuu down and climbed on top of him. Almost desperately, they kissed and held and made love to each other as many times as they could before the morning came to drag them away from each other.
In Soul Society, Ichigo and Uryuu fought for many reasons. For their friends. For their families. For vengeance. For protection. For Rukia. But in the darkest, most desperate situations, there was only one reason left to fight.
They fought for all the things they needed to say to each other.