Author Notes: Happy Valentine's Day, everybody! I'm making my first foray into Bleach fanfiction, and today, I come to... break some hearts.
First and foremost, I have to thank Algernon Fenton. This work is a spin-off of her m-preg works, How Do You Choose? and Letting Go Of Pride to Make New Life. (So, if you hadn't guessed, this is going to be based around m-preg too.) I got lured into Bleach fanfiction in the first place off of those, and this story was inspired by those. However, I ended up writing my story in her universe. Therefore, this story uses elements of those two. This story is being posted with her permission, and she has my deepest gratitude for allowing me to use her setting.
This story is in continuity with those other two. So, for those of you who haven't read those but might want to read this one, I will fill you in with quick summaries!
How Do You Choose? - Captain Ukitake accepts a lozenge and a glass of water from Mayuri Kurotsuchi. This was an ill-advised decision, as with a little help from Captain Kyoraku, he soon falls pregnant. The lozenge created a mock womb and blank egg in his body, and the water contained medicine to keep his illness from passing on to his child. He and Shunsui opt to keep the baby, but a little less than seven months later, the medicine wears off, and Jushiro's illness comes back in force and nearly takes his and his daughter's life. Again, with assistance from Shunsui, he pulls through, and they soon take home a beautiful daughter, Emiko, to live happily ever after.
Letting Go of Pride to Make New Life – After hearing of Ukitake's success and feeling his lack of an heir, Byakuya gains interest in having a child of his own. His partner, Renji, is at first reluctant but after a little talk with Kyoraku, is soon convinced. Mayuri willingly gives them the lozenge. After a very long and stressful pregnancy, wherein hijinks ensued, Takahiro is born to eager arms and the gratitude of Byakuya, Renji, and more than likely, the entire Kuchiki elder council.
It is in a chapter of Letting Go of Pride to Make New Life that Yumichika broaches the idea of having a child with Ikkaku. Ikkaku, bewildered, gets annoyed and brushes him off...
And that's where I got the idea for this story. This story is considerably less light-hearted than Letting Go of Pride to Make New Life, but I've tried to make it funny where I can.
Without further ado!
1: A Beautiful Person Can Make Ugly Decisions
A place like this was beautiful. A sidewalk cafe, one lined with low bars of greenery, was a lovely place at any time of day. In his opinion, it was best at this time of day, in the late afternoon or early evening when the sky was tinged pink like sorbet and the lamplights around the Seireitei were just starting to come on like the first stars pulling away the veil of the sun. Beautiful. Cafe was a beautiful word, at that. Short for cafeteria, a decidedly ugly word. Sounds like bac-teria, and who wants that in their food? Anyone who calls a cafeteria as such just might. Disgusting. Mess hall at least had a rugged sort of grace to it, even with the sharp mess deciding the flow of the phrasing. Now, bagatelle, that was a beautiful word. Perhaps it was just the French etymology, because there was very little from France that he didn't find beautiful, but there was a flow to it. Trisyllabic, and three is the most beautiful number, then the suffix elle- a feminine suffix! Beautiful, beautiful-
And Yumichika sighed, because he knew he was only distracting himself. The party meeting him was late, which was unnerving enough, but anything was easier than mulling over the topic of this encounter. Rather than fret, Yumichika watched the lamps come on, one by one, and mused over things that were beautiful and things that weren't. The task at hand was decidedly un-beautiful, perhaps verging on downright ugly, but his mind was made up. It had to be done.
He could feel the ugly presence approaching long before he could see it. He'd always had a way with that sort of thing. Most with a sufficiently strong reiatsu could tell the color, size, and shape of someone's soul. Yumichika prided himself in being able to sense this out with the best of them, and that of Twelfth Division Captain Kurotsuchi was as ugly as they came. Red, like Renji's, but lacking that beauteous crimson hue that made his unique. This was the red of old blood, of burnt copper. Its shape was unspeakable. Kurotsuchi himself, however, was as unassuming as he got today. That is to say, marginally less flamboyant than usual. Yumichika had no idea what he was going for with that makeup, but between the flagrant violations of dress code and the unspeakably gauche manner of carriage, he was unsightly in public.
And yet there he was. In public. Sitting down across from Yumichika at an obscure café on the outskirts of the Seireitei on the line between afternoon and dusk.
"I must say, Seated Officer Ayasegawa, your request is an unorthodox one." His wicked little eyes crinkled up at the bottoms, a wicked smirk matching his makeup. "A meeting with a doctor in plain public? Let me pick your brain. Figuratively, for the time being." Yumichika swallowed the instinctual disgust, shrugged and flagged down a waiter.
"I'd rather this conversation remain off-the-record." He used his raised hand to gesture around them. "It's pretty quiet out here, and I doubt anyone who knows me will be here. Nobody else would be interested or even listening. I imagine anything conducted within the bounds of even your private clinic would still end up on my permanent record somehow or other, not to mention that the Second surely still has it bugged." Kurotsuchi sneered, and Yumichika ignored him and beamed at the waiter as he approached. "Rose hip tea, and bring some honey."
"Coffee, black. Ayasegawa, I expect you'll be covering this."
"Naturally. I did request this meeting, it'd make me a poor host. I hate to be looked at as a poor anything." Yumichika laced his fingers on the table to keep them from shaking. Keeping his composure in the face of such a powerful and hideous presence was not easy. He felt like he did when he was a small child nearly bowled over by the presences of lower-ranked officers patrolling the Rukongai. Still, confidence was going to be key if he was going to walk away from this satisfied. "I suppose you're not interested in small talk, so I'll cut to the chase." He put his palms flat on the glass tabletop. "Captain Kurotsuchi, I'm interested in your male pregnancy experiments."
"Oh?" Kurotsuchi's grin spread, his eyes narrowed to eager little slits.
"I am." Yumichika did his best to keep his voice low, and to keep the shaking threatening his hands out of it. "In other words, I want a baby. However, there's a bit of a caveat." The waiter arrived with the tray, and Yumichika waited for him to seat their cups down and leave before adding a spoonful of honey and stirring. "You see, I rather like things on my own terms. My chief term is that..." Yumichika stirred a moment longer, though he could feel Kurotsuchi's impatience with his vacillation building. "Well, while I am interested in becoming a parent, my partner is not. I have chosen to disregard his wishes." Yumichika paused, sipped his tea, and tried to ignore Kurotsuchi's stare. "As such, I would like your assistance in-"
"You want me to do this for you and help you hide the mess." Musical laughter, such as it was from the walking Halloween decoration, tainted every word. "I love it. It's like those awful serial romances in the Communication. But tell me, why should I do this for you?" Kurotsuchi took a sip of his coffee and blatantly licked his lips. Yumichika maintained his composure, but the Captain's amusement was as intimidating as his aggression. It was hard not to be unnerved.
"Your usual reasons, Captain." Yumichika kept his eyes on the honey-gold liquid in his teacup as it spun in spirals led by his spoon. "It's an experiment, after all, and you need test subjects. As far as I know, you've had two. Captain Kuchiki and Captain Ukitake." He took a sip of his tea off the spoon, and added a bit more honey. "Abject failures, from where I'm sitting."
"What?! How dare-" Kurotsuchi had jumped up and half-lunged across the table, but Yumichika quickly continued:
"Oh, your medicines worked perfectly." He turned his shoulder away in his seat. "There are two beautiful, healthy babies in the Seireitei now. However, you failed to get any viable data out of either of them." He took a sip, as Kurotsuchi came up short and froze in motion. "It's my understanding you were barred from Captain Ukitake's examination room by Captain Unohana... after Captain Kyoraku choked you out. Your Lieutenant was allowed to observe, but you weren't allowed any independent experimentation. It's a shame, too- you might have been able to prevent the near-miss with Captain Ukitake and Emiko's lives."
"Bah." Kurotsuchi sank down into his chair in disgust. "Preventing it wasn't the issue. Closer observation was all I wanted, and those damned ingrates..."
"Oh, but Captain Kuchiki went willingly into motherhood, from what I heard." Yumichika took another slow sip, quietly relieved that stroking Kurotsuchi's ego had been enough to deflate him. "He probably paid your funding for a good fifty years for the privilege."
"Five. The cold prick shortchanged me. That, or I adjusted my budget accordingly." Kurotsuchi smirked fondly. Yumichika hummed understanding, because expressing disgust at such hideous spendthrift was ill-advised given present company.
"Yes, well, surely you wanted to examine him, too. Observe. Perhaps poke and pry, if you could." He smirked secretively behind his teacup. "But you forgot about the private Kuchiki medical facilities, and the incredibly tight Kuchiki security. I wonder just how many times you and your agents were removed, chased off, or otherwise rebuffed."
"And how, dare I ask, do you know all this?" Kurotsuchi drummed his fingers on the table. "Is this raw conjecture, or-"
"Girls talk, Captain. And I talk to the girls." He couldn't count how many times Yachiru had bragged about sneaking past Byakuya's guards while they were escorting the sundry unseated members of the Twelfth Division off the property.
"Hmph. Gossipy hens." Kurotsuchi gave his fingers another drum. "Never let it be said I'll denounce an argument that raises valid points, no matter how offensive the cut of your jib. So tell me, Ayasegawa, what are you offering me?" He set an elbow on the table, narrow, beady eyes affixed to Yumichika with rapt attention. Yumichika swallowed twice, and lowered his voice further.
"Me. Myself." He faced Kurotsuchi head on, but kept his face low. "An opportunity has arisen, and it's my intention to seize it. It's my understanding that your Third Seat, Akon, will be out on extended medical leave due to a work-related accident-"
"- clumsy fool-"
"But due to the time this will take, I require a response urgently. If you will give me the medicine and keep any record off this off of my personnel manifest, you stand to gain a willing guinea pig." He pressed his hand over his own chest, the other trembling with his teacup in its grip. "My only requests are that the child and I walk away healthy, whole, and able to live full healthy lives, to the best of your control, and that my partner, Ikkaku Madarame, never discover what I've done." He drained his tea in a gulp, letting it sear his throat all the way down. Kurotsuchi had the gall to look bemused, as Yumichika laid out the rest of it: "Keep your data, but remove my name. Take me on as a temporary Third to substitute for Akon, and keep me out of sight of the Eleventh. I'm no genius, but I can take notes and file papers and teach Kendo and Kido. I'll let you stick me with needles and do whatever you want so long as I can have what few things I ask for." He folded his hands and tried to ignore the burning sear of Captain Kurotsuchi's gaze. His reiatsu was oozing something green from his self-satisfied grin, and it was making the knots in Yumichika's stomach twist.
"Let me pick your brain again, Seated Officer Ayasegawa." He leaned a little closer. "Infants are worthless. They can't support themselves, in any sense of the word. You'll wear yourself thin caring for one, especially alone. Usually if one is choosing to have a child, it is a commitment between them and someone else, and I find even that ridiculous! Parenthood is boring, thankless, joyless work. I honestly consider my route genius! My dear little Nemu was born an adult, walking and talking and already pulling her weight, no diapers, no bottles, no tantrums, no time wasted!" He smirked and sat back. "Why would you torture yourself? You'll get wrinkles, and if there's one bit of your personnel file that stands out, it's your vanity."
"Hm." Yumichika's cheeks burned, because this was an insult. Not the 'vanity' bit, no, he knew that one. "Well, I guess I can say I admire how clinical you are about the whole thing, but there's a beautiful sentiment to parenthood." He traced the rim of his empty cup with the tip of an elegant index finger, and let his eyes wander across the low gardens of purple violets. "The wonder of watching a new life learn and grow, of molding and shaping the future in what small ways we can. You might think it's joyless, but the evidence I've seen in my friend with a child refutes that outright. He's never been happier."
"Hnn." Captain Kurotsuchi snorted in utter disgust. "You're toeing the line, Ayasegawa. Don't think so little of me. Just because I don't engage in sentiment doesn't mean I don't understand it." He took a swallow of his coffee, leaving a black ring where his makeup touched the white porcelain. "You might be able to hide yourself through the course of gestation, but what will you do when you've got the little bastard crawling up your chest?"
"Ah. I believe the term is 'AWOL.'" Yumichika's shoulders dropped, though he maintained his cool. "I've survived on my own in the Rukongai. I'm willing to return if it means I get what I'm looking for."
"Ha! Look at you, throwing around terms like AWOL!" Kurotsuchi howled with dizzying laughter, and Yumichika stifled a blush with thoughts of ice and steel, as Kurotsuchi exaggerated an eyeroll. "And yet you're so concerned about this staying off of your record."
"So my partner doesn't find out and has no way of finding out." Yumichika lowered his brow so he wouldn't have to look at Kurotsuchi anymore. Something cold was pooling in the bottom of his heart, and it had started to ache. "I thought I said."
Kurotsuchi clicked his tongue, the sharp point snipping sharply at Yumichika. "So much effort for something so meaningless."
"It isn't meaningless!" Yumichika reared back and tossed his hair over his shoulder. "It has meaning to me, because I give it meaning. I think it is, therefore, it is."
"You're no philosopher."
"And you don't care. The bottom line is, I made a decision." He clenched his fists on the table in front of him, dropping his composure for the first time since the meeting began. "I realized... there was something I stand to lose. And this is how I will save it. This one thing is more important to me than anything else, and I am willing to give up things that are less important to save it. My station, my place, everything I've striven for up until this point. Even him. Because if I lose that thing, then I lose all of those anyway!" He slammed his palms down and burst up to his feet. "You can get something you want out of this. I'm giving you a lot of carte blanche here!" He took a roll of parchment from inside his shihakusho and slapped it down onto the table. "The terms I've described are laid out here. I have signed my name to it." Kurotsuchi took the paper without hesitation and ran his eyes over it. Yumichika seated himself again, still trying to tamp down his frustration. "If you are willing to accept my terms, sign, and I'm yours."
"You're ridiculous, Ayasegawa." Kurotsuchi's smirk didn't quite match his insult. "If you're to have a decision, you'll have it tomorrow." He pocketed the contract, turned his empty cup over, and sauntered back in the direction he'd approached from.
And somehow, the oppressive atmosphere he'd brought with him didn't dissipate in his absence. If anything, being alone made him feel worse. It was a necessary evil, and perhaps the least ideal situation. Ideally, Ikkaku would have been at his side, demanding Kurotsuchi just give them what he wanted. Even more ideally, Ikkaku would have wanted the very same, or at the very least been willing to consider it. But no.
The one time he'd even tried to broach the topic, Ikkaku shot him down like a clay pigeon and left him shattered in a million ugly, jagged pieces, and no, he was not being overdramatic.
This was his best option, and his only chance. The alternative would be to risk the greater loss, and he was a member of the Eleventh, wasn't he? He was supposed to fight. Fight, so you don't have to lose anything. Even if it meant to resorting to dirty deals and underhanded tricks that would make even the hideous shudder at how ugly they were.
"Even if it means throwing it away."
His teacup long empty and his mind whirling with thoughts he didn't want to address, he tried to think of beautiful things. The azure sky, as the sun sank away and took the light with it. The shine of the glorious, round moon as it came visible. Fierce little eyes that belonged to him and someone he cared about on a face he hadn't yet met.
"Our baby would be beautiful, wouldn't it, Ikkaku?"