This is mainly a Kira-centric fic, but there are some implied ShuuKira (and bits of one-sided GinKira, I suppose) moments in it. I sincerely hope you'll enjoy :)
Title: Sliver of Light
Author: Harmony (Silver Harmony)
Characters/Pairing: Kira-centric, blink-and-you'll-miss-it-ShuuKira
Word Count: Approximately 2,545.
Disclaimer: Not mine, sadly.
Notes: Spoilers for SS Arc, as well as the Shinigami Academy omake chapter of the manga (Chapter -17). Also, FYI, the first few paragraphs of this fic have some reference from this segment of the omake.
Feedback: Very much appreciated, as I would like to write much better Bleach fics. Your concrits mean a lot to me, especially when it tells me what you think of the story and what I can do to improve. Please and thank you.
Summary: ‘Don’t falter,’ he whispered to himself uncertainly, sometimes.
‘Will we ever become as strong as they are?’ Hinamori had asked half-dreamily, and hearing that question was the moment when Izuru pushed away the unfolding memory of the crippling fear; there was little good in reliving that overwhelming coldness, an unwanted growth, in the pit of his stomach. The white linen bandages that concealed the bleeding gashes on Hisagi Shuuhei’s face seemed deceptive – thin layers of chaste white hiding a terrible scar – and Izuru, laying his eyes upon it, felt hard-pressed to linger beneath the shadow of repeated inadequacy. He answered her, yes, they could. He believed he could.
Only one returning footstep within the doorway of the Shinigami Academy, Abarai gruffly reassured him: ‘You did have more guts than I took you credit for.’
Izuru thought not to ask whether the sentiment was meant to be a compliment or an insult.
He’d had his dreams, after all, just like Abarai and Hinamori and everyone else. The white cottony uniform that he’d slid over his shoulders every morning carried the reassuring weight of his talents, his potentials, his sunlit future. He’d wanted to kneel at the lone gravestone and whisper only shining words of success and pride.
The uniforms of the Fifth Division reinforcements had carried an unforgettable sharp superiority; Izuru distantly wondered how he would look in the black-and-white.
He thought it to be a good sign whenever the tender skin on the underside of his fingers became just slightly hardened, because Abarai often complained about the steady expansion of his own rough calluses, the result of long days of tightly-clutched training weapons and all manner of muscle and sweat that he devotedly poured into becoming stronger. The redhead ended each hard day with trickling perspiration and a distant half-smile; sometimes Izuru wished he could deny that the faint cold pulses in the bottom of his stomach might have been partly of jealousy.
The blond didn’t complain when Vice-Captain Ichimaru curiously clutched his hand in both of his own, opening up the curled fingers with inquisitive fascination, and running the pads of his fingers across the warm palm of the slender hand.
‘Real soft,’ he drawled, the usual teasing tone dripping from the light playfulness in his voice. ‘Funnily enough, I’d expect that from ya.’
Izuru gazed back at the raised eyebrows and unsettling wide smile, and could give him no answer.
‘You’re doing well,’ Hisagi Shuuhei said evenly; his zanpakuto hung limply at his side, dormant underneath the loose grip of his fingers. ‘I don’t know what else to tell you.’
‘It’s not enough,’ Izuru bit out. He felt ashamed to be trembling, his own muscles taut and tense from withheld frustration, his hand gripping so tightly at the hilt of his own training katana that he could feel the layer of warm sweat on his palm. ‘You always fear nothing, Hisagi-senpai; you've always stayed strong in circumstances that would bring other people down. There … there are no words to describe how fiercely I admire you and your lieutenancy. I just want to be strong and brave, like you. That’s all.’
Hisagi shook his head. ‘It’s not true that I fear nothing. Everyone has their fears, even if they don’t show it,’ he answered calmly, eyeing him. ‘And, Kira, you are strong and brave.’
For once, the too-tender composure in his expression gave Izuru no comfort.
But he felt the corners of his own mouth gradually curving upwards in answer to his senpai’s following silence and mild waiting eyes, more from the shade of irony in the entire conversation than from anything else. He uttered, then, ‘Everybody wants to be a seated officer, don’t they? But whether they end up the pride of their superiors, or a disappointment to them, is a separate matter entirely.’
There was something almost-invisible that lined the calmness in Hisagi’s face, something that Izuru couldn’t quite grasp the word for – disapproval, maybe – and it bore a kind of silent uneasiness, an imaginary downbeat, that he didn’t really want to lay eyes upon. ‘Why do you think you’d be a disappointment?’
‘I don’t know,’ Izuru admitted under his breath, and he could suddenly feel it like rivulets of water – uncertainty and shame, pouring steadily over him. His chest tightened with doubt. It felt tremendously like his head had slid beneath the surface of water, like he was lost but unthinking, drifting, and wading just to find himself and keep from drowning.
He could hear his own voice echoing distantly in the pools of his memory, scratchy and wretched, crying out to no one: no, no, I don’t want to die.
His mental picture of true nobility was white-washed, all shimmering light and pale colors unfurled over a pallid canvas, a crisp purity and an extraordinary brightness to his eyes. He always imagined he could touch the cascading rays. If he closed his eyes, the weightless velvet could almost exist in the spaces between his too-thin fingers and underneath the skin of his palm, solid and real in his grasp.
Don’t falter, Kira. The faint words always felt familiar and warm breathed against his earlobe, even when no one was whispering them. Amidst the blinding luminance in his mind’s eye, he didn’t question it. It didn’t matter.
However noble they thought him, however refined, courage still bore the most vivid hues and was the most difficult to come by; Izuru always knew this. The stinging knowledge yawned a dark gaping hole at the back of his mind, severing the streams of light.
‘Don’t falter,’ he whispered to himself uncertainly, sometimes.
Wabisuke was a shining miracle to him, a strength that held the sensations of cold metal and sturdiness and glory. It bore an unexpected safety and security, soft and cool, spread over him in something that felt much like broad wings; it was the first time, maybe, that Izuru felt like he had finally acquired the capability to raise his head. There was no shame in that they sat alongside each other underneath the sun on the first day they spoke, a flurry of fascinated and feather-soft voices, just calling each other’s names, Wabisuke, Wabisuke, Izuru, Izuru.
The blade would cut through many a hollow and clash with other blades, and Izuru could almost always hear the bright symphonies of the rigid silver ringing, a perfect match to the imagined white-washed luminance; he could hear Hisagi Shuuhei’s voice in his dreams, uttering, ‘Do you still condemn yourself inadequate?’
It was a surprise to him to be promoted to lieutenancy before Abarai, a surprise that he didn’t voice and that he knew the redhead wouldn’t have minded nonetheless. Amidst the resounding pride and pleasure in his new position, a newfound anxiety rolled inside him like waves; there lay, dangerously, much greater room for unacceptable inadequacy, and fewer space for anything that was any less than undivided devotion and resolve. His new armband held a foreign sensation, tight and comforting and daunting all at once, a surreal engraving of new superiority engraved into such a thin slice of wood.
Wield me, Wabisuke often whispered these days, with an unsettling increased frequency, and even that, too, was new. Let me lend you my strength.
Strikes, slices, and quickening heartbeats, cut, cut, cut. He stood at a higher peak than he ever had before, so close to the edge that carelessness would topple him over the brink. The vice-captaincy could bring anything; the paperwork was almost nothing, but the strength and nobility was everything, everything from a steadily pulsing reiatsu to fingers that didn’t tremble, a stance that was unwavering, eyes that didn’t look away. Making the right choice was an undeniable pressure, a difficulty, but everything. Protecting the superior who chose him, who graced him with such a privilege, without revealing so much as a single tendril of fear was everything.
‘Ya do know that I don’t need someone who won’t end up being totally devoted to me,’ Captain Ichimaru ventured, almost challengingly.
And Izuru answered, while clutching tightly onto Wabisuke: ‘I would die for you, Taicho.’ And he pushed himself to hold pure belief in every word.
He could always smell his own fear, somehow, a strange smell of shame within innumerable beads of sweat, a reek that overcame even the most putrid stench of hollow. It weaved itself into the fabric of his uniform like long, secret threads, snaking around his limbs, fluttering across his skin, entwining every strand of hair. It tangled everywhere, lingering long afterwards; it was a too-stark reminder of himself, the musty scent of his own sweat, a texture reminiscent of an almost sensuous mortality.
There were very little number of assignments for him in the living world anymore, and the times that Izuru would have to come to slay another Menos came few and far between, but when he did, he could always recall his own clear voice crying: I don’t want to die. Each time, he would sink his teeth into his tongue and straighten his stance – it was long since the last time he truly feared, although the memory of that day came rife with discomfort. He would return home afterwards, sliding himself into hot water until all the smell dissipated with the steam.
Hinamori often remarked on how soft his fragrance was, undoubtedly like the rest of him, like his hands and the skin of his fingertips. Izuru knew that she meant that it illustrated his tenderness, more than anything.
Several times during the war, Izuru wanted to pick himself up and pull himself to his feet; only once out of all those times did Ichimaru Gin come to stretch his hand out to him.
For the most part, the blond had always known that everyone was waging their own war, that the boundaries between sides became blurred and that a majority fought with almost mysterious intent. Duty separated them all, and allegiances amounted to almost nothing. Hisagi Shuuhei, too, had delivered him to his confinement for what he had thought to be an act of courage and loyalty; all it left him was a cold, dank cell, no one but himself and a muted heartbreak to suppress and conceal.
Poor thing, Captain Ichimaru had drawled, teasing as always, curling his spidery fingers around the bars. Want me to save ya?
It was in those final moments, maybe, that the man whom Izuru wouldn’t hesitate to die for offered him respectability with an outstretched hand, and a fierce admiration filled him; it was an offered sanctuary from helplessness and incompetence, everything that he feared, and fear itself. These were his rays of light, his pale bright picture of nobility. It was purity and salvation, reflected in a crisp white captain’s uniform.
‘Please don’t hurt anyone,’ he begged. ‘Not Hinamori. Not anyone.’
Captain Ichimaru’s wide smile only widened. ‘I wouldn’t do a thing like that. Not everyone in this battle’s lost their dignity, ya know.’
Dignity. The word filled Izuru with the relief he craved most, all at once, and he slid his thin hand into the other shinigami’s and remembered, then, the reason he donned that badge upon his arm.
The wall was hard behind his back when he was left slumped there, after Matsumoto Rangiku had departed. Izuru didn’t know anymore whether or not that white-washed space existed. The softness it came with was a dream; all that was left was the rumble of Kotetsu Isane’s words ringing in his ears, Wabisuke quivering underneath his clammy fingers and a disarray of reiatsu remnants scattered throughout the air, drifting as though lost.
‘This game is pointless,’ Matsumoto had scolded firmly, seconds before her hasty departure. ‘I don’t have time for you, Kira.’
So he sat there alone at the wall while everything thundered somewhere far away, and he could feel the heat of some imaginary fire and hear the echoes of distant angry voices crying; there were heavy sensations washing over him, jumbled mixtures of too much strong reiatsu rising and falling and flaring and dying, someplace where he didn’t feel even the smallest desire to go. He knew that he would find no sliver of light there.
Inadequate, helpless, weak; they were everything that he always dreaded being. In the end, his only uses had been as a pawn, and nothing more. He knew that it bore no salvation, no dignity.
His visions were fractured.
He sat dazed and unmoving for hours, Wabisuke’s faint garbled whispers incomprehensible in his mind and a crippling weakness in all his limbs, until he finally felt someone holding on tightly to him and gently pulling him to his feet, and Hisagi Shuuhei’s voice uttering in his ear, ‘Don’t falter, Kira. Stay with me.’ And he still wondered, then, how anyone at all could bear such rationality even after they had just been openly betrayed, how anyone could stay so calm and brave and strong.
Wabisuke, too, was echoing the words: don’t falter, don’t falter, and Izuru couldn’t bear to. The waning sun was still aglow when they were taken away, and that was a final pure light, even when everything else lay crumbled in darkness.
‘What will you do?’
It was a mild way of asking if he was okay, and Izuru understood it without it being said; he could always read his senpai’s tender eyes, always steadfast and selfless. The deep scars that everyone bore from the war ran almost as one long line, a connection of endless wounds of every kind that required nursing – he felt the prickling and smarting of every gash that wasn’t his own. All of Seireitei suffered. All of Seireitei carried deep holes and injuries in the wake of the betrayal, and not just him alone, and he knew that.
‘I’m going to clean up Captain Ichimaru’s office,’ he answered calmly, slowly, and even he was surprised by the steady composure in his own voice.
Hisagi said nothing.
‘I’ll put away everything that’s unneeded, and then I’ll move all the documents and record books I need into my own office. I can go on with supervising the new Division recruits; I’ll help take over half of the training sessions from now on. It shouldn’t be too much, as long as I put my mind to it,’ Izuru continued resolutely. ‘Either way ... I guess that when you’re picking up the pieces and running a Division alone, you have to remember to put aside anything personal and think of your subordinates first and foremost.’
The corners of the dark-haired lieutenant’s mouth curved upwards just a little, and Izuru could catch every color of sadness in that smile, however unintended. ‘You’ve got some stout heart, Kira Izuru. Not everyone could hope to have that dependable quality and that kind of strength, especially after everything that’s happened.’
‘Not yet, really, but I’m trying the best I can,’ the blond replied gratefully under his breath, and his chest already ached terribly just from the reassuring weight of his friend’s words; he hoped his own features were schooled enough to not reveal so much as a trace of it.
His eyes flickered over to the window at the pale daybreak, the dawn of a new morning. He glanced down, seeing just the faintest rays of half-light enveloping his hands.
The sunrise was always quiet.