charmedfears: (ichi ishi grrr)
[personal profile] charmedfears
Title: Anatomy & Physiology
Author: [livejournal.com profile] sainnis
Series: Bleach
Pairing: Ishida Uryuu/Kurosaki Ichigo
Rating: Mostly R with a dash of NC-17
Warnings: Contains angst, fluff, action, blood, language, domesticity, h/c, and pre-med jargon.
Word Count: 13,261
Disclaimer: Bleach belongs to Kubo Tite, who also has amazing taste in modern acrylic furniture. All characters depicted in sexual situations in this post/fanfiction/fanart (including material in the comments) are fictional and are intended to be and considered to be by the author of said material of the legal age of consent in the United States state of California, regardless of what age these characters may be in the material they are derived from.

Summary: AU Collegefic, but with a nod to recent canon events (i.e. Fullbring arc). Uryuu reluctantly takes on Ichigo as a roommate for one semester while they both take Anatomy and Physiology I.
Notes: This fic is for [livejournal.com profile] kiyala who writes beautifully and is fun to squee with over I/I. The prompt she gave me was jealousy. I never took so much as one bio class in college, so all medical facts are very suspect.



Unit 1: Cells
The word cell comes from the Latin cellula, meaning "a small room".

Uryuu didn’t look up from his laptop as Ichigo hovered over him expectantly. “Hey, you busy?”

He kept typing his Western Civ paper as he spoke, not missing a beat. “Class is starting in five minutes.”

“Then you have five minutes to talk.”

Uryuu sighed, taking his hands off the keyboard, looking up at Ichigo. He wore a yellow, wrinkled T-shirt showcasing the logo of some obscure American band. To be fair, Uryuu thought, the band might be well known. He didn’t keep up with the alternative emo crap that Ichigo always had blaring from his headphones. “This better be good.”

“Actually, it’s shit.” Ichigo dropped a folded letter onto Uryuu’s desk, and then ran his hand over his face. “I cannot believe this.”

Uryuu picked up the letter, which was on Karakura University letterhead. “Due to the findings from inspections held over the weekend, the Karakura University Housing Department regrets to inform you that Saito Hall is infested with mold. Immediate evacuation will be necessary. A lottery will be held tonight at 7pm to reassign housing. Students can expect to be placed in triples, and in some cases, quadruples. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Saito Hall is expected to open again during the spring semester. As always, Karakura University appreciates the cooperation and patience of its student body during this difficult time.”


Uryuu exhaled slowly, shaking his head. “That really sucks.”

“What the hell am I going to do? They’re going to stick me in some broom-closet-sized dorm room with three other first years.” Ichigo stared at Uryuu, dropping his voice. “It was bad enough sneaking out to patrol with one roommate. I can’t just drop out of my duties.”

“You could move home.”

Ichigo groaned. “I just moved out. I need some space from my dad. Seriously. I don’t need to explain that to you.”

“You definitely don’t.” Uryuu folded up the letter, handing it back to Ichigo. “So what are you going to do?”

Pulling up a chair, Ichigo leaned across Uryuu’s desk, folding his hands together. “Okay. I’ve thought this through, and I think that I have a plan. And I know you’ll probably think I’m nuts, but hear me out, okay? If I move in with you—“

“Absolutely not.”

Ichigo ignored him. “If I move in with you, then we never have to worry about patrols. I’ll have a safe place to store my,” Ichigo gestured at himself, “you know. I’ll pay half of everything, so you won’t have to worry about money.”

Looking over the rims of his glasses, Uryuu glared, his voice dropped to a whsiper. “I don’t patrol on behalf of Soul Society, so that’s not my problem. And I don’t need money. I like my privacy.”

“You have two bedrooms.”

“One is very small.”

Ichigo shrugged, smiling in that charming way of his that made Uryuu insane. “Small is fine with me.”

“It’s not for rent!”

“Ishida, I swear to you that I will be the perfect roommate. I’ll be quiet, and I’ll be neat, and you won’t even know I’m there.”

Uryuu scoffed. I always know where you are. It’d be easier to stop breathing than to stop sensing you. “Yeah, right. Your reiatsu is like a television that never shuts off.”

Ichigo suddenly grabbed Uryuu’s wrist, and the shock of such an intimate gesture stole Uryuu’s breath. “I promise I’ll never ask you for anything again. Please, just help me out this one time. It’s just a few months, and when the dorm opens up, I’ll be out of your hair and you’ll be free of me.” He sighed, looking contrite enough for church. “Please don’t make me beg.”

Ichigo’s warm hand still gripped his wrist, and Uryuu panicked at the thought that Ichigo could feel his now-racing pulse. He took a calming breath before speaking again. “If I say yes, you’ll live by my rules?”

The relief that flooded across Ichigo’s face echoed in his reiatsu. “Of course.”

“Half the rent? And the food?”

“Half the rent. And I’m pretty sure I’ll eat more than you so I’ll pay more.”

Uryuu almost wanted to smile at that, but he didn’t. “I like it quiet.”

“Not a problem.”

“Very quiet.”

“Understood.”

“And I don’t want people over.”

“Fine.” Ichigo leaned forward, eyes bright, his outrageous hair falling over his forehead. “So, do we have a deal?”

“Don’t make me regret saying yes, Kurosaki.”

Ichigo laughed, throwing his arms up in the air in triumph. “You are the best, Ishida. I could seriously kiss you right now.” He started to say more, but the professor made a loud show of clearing her throat, so instead he gave Uryuu a grin and turned around in his seat, facing front.

Touching his fingers to his lips, Uryuu let the words repeat in his mind until the lecture on cellular regeneration finally pushed them aside.

Unit 2: Integumentary System
The integumentary system is the organ system that protects the body from damage, comprising the skin and its appendages. It may serve to waterproof, cushion, and protect the deeper tissues, and is the attachment site for sensory receptors to detect pain, sensation, pressure, and temperature.

Ichigo banged on the bathroom door, shouting over the fan. “Are you nearly done in there?”

There was no response, and Ichigo sighed, tapping his fist. How fucking long did it take to get a shower? “Ishida!”

The door opened, releasing a cloud of steam. Uryuu’s scowling face appeared in the crack. “What?”

“I need my deodorant. It’s on the back of the toilet.”

Uryuu muttered something about smelling like the cologne department exploded and then pushed the door open, handing him his deodorant. “Here. Enjoy.”

They’d been living together for a few weeks and Ichigo had never seen Uryuu shirtless, let alone standing naked with a wet towel around his hips. The Quincy star was stark against Uryuu’s pale skin—beautiful—its lines connecting in the center of his chest. Ichigo felt his fingers flex; he wanted to touch it.

Lithe, long muscles wrapped his arms and torso; his thin frame was anything but delicate. His hair fell around his face, dark and dripping, nearly brushing his tapered shoulders. Stop staring at him. Stop it. NOW.

He took the deodorant, forcing himself to turn away. “Thanks.”

Uryuu slammed the door, and Ichigo stepped back, letting his head tip back against the wall. It wasn’t like he hadn’t considered this when he’d come up with his brilliant plan. He knew that Uryuu tolerated him well enough; they bickered over dishes and the piles of papers Ichigo left in the living room, but that was nothing more than usual roommate dynamics. Uryuu cared about Ichigo enough to fight beside him, to protect one another and their friends, but that was Quincy ethics. Regardless of how Ichigo felt about him, Uryuu would never look at him as anything more than an ally.

He pushed himself away from the wall, and then headed out to the kitchen, scrounging around the cabinets for a coffee filter. He fought back a yawn, wishing he could crawl back into bed and sleep for three days. Living with the most ridiculously good looking guy on campus was bad enough, but last night’s patrol had been a bitch. Uryuu had covered the south part of town, picking off the few Hollows he saw with little effort, but Ichigo had gotten in a nasty fight with a Hollow who refused to die. The thing was wicked fast and weirdly clever. He’d been tired and sloppy, and the result was an embarrassingly large bruise from his right shoulder down to his forearm. When he’d crawled back into his body last night, he hoped some of the marks would heal, but two hours of sleep wasn’t long enough to do much.

As Ichigo poured two cups of coffee into travel mugs, Uryuu walked into the kitchen, dressed in slim jeans and a black sweater. He stopped, his expression softening. “You made me coffee?”

“It’s probably crap, but yeah.”

Uryuu sipped it. “It’ll do. Thanks.” He glanced at Ichigo’s arm, and then frowned. “You all right?”

“Yeah, fine.”

“Probably should cover that.”

Ichigo nodded. “Yeah, I was trying to find my hoodie.”

“You left it behind the couch, so I hung it up for you.” Uryuu slung his bag over his shoulder. “Let’s go.”

Grabbing his coffee and his books, Ichigo fell into step beside Uryuu. “There’s a party tonight at Kochi Hall. I think I’m going to go.”

“A bunch of drunk jocks and airheads grinding is not my idea of a good time.”

“We’ve been locked up studying for weeks. It’s time to let off some steam, don’t you think?”

“Even if I wanted to go, which I don’t, I have way too much work to do.”

Ichigo sighed. “Okay. Don’t wait up then.”

Unit 3: Skeletal System
The skeleton provides the framework which supports the body and maintains its shape. Without the ribs, the heart would collapse.

Uryuu’s phone rang, startling him out of sleep. He fumbled in the dark, fingers scrabbling to find his phone before it vibrated off the bedside table. Squinting at the display, he saw “Ichigo Cell” and the time, 1:42 am. He sighed, and then answered.

“What?”

An unfamiliar female voice spoke. “Is this Ishida Uryuu?”

“Who is this?”

“I’m over at Kochi Hall. Is that orange-haired kid your roommate?”

“Yeah. Is he—“

“He got pretty sick and passed out. Someone said that you were pre-med so I thought you should come.”

“I’m not a doctor! Call the—“ The line went dead. “Ambulance.” Uryuu jumped out of bed, tearing off his flannel pants and pulling on yesterday’s jeans. “Shit, shit, shit.”

They didn’t want to call the ambulance because they’d get busted. Uryuu clutched his phone, weighing his options. If he called the ambulance and sent it over there, Ichigo would definitely get in massive trouble, potentially even probation or suspension. Ichigo also wasn’t much for holding liquor, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he got sick. But what if it’s alcohol poisoning? What if he chokes and can’t breathe?

Uryuu ran out the door without his coat, tearing off into the cold. It would only take him three minutes to get from the apartment to Kochi Hall if he sprinted. The sound of his sneakers hitting the pavement echoed the single word pounding in his head. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

He heard Kochi before he saw it. The dull thud of bass leached out into the street, even though it was long past quiet hours. Students spilled onto the patio out front, some dancing, some kissing. Uryuu ran up the front steps into the main lobby of the dorm, quickly swallowed up by the sound of thrumming music. People were everywhere, and with the lights dimmed, it was difficult to see.

He could feel the bass thumping against his chest, an outside echo of his pounding heart. Reaching out, he sought Ichigo’s familiar reiatsu. It was slightly more difficult given the swirling crowd of people and Ichigo’s unconscious state, but it didn’t take him long to feel the threads of Shinigami reiatsu coming from upstairs. Uryuu took the steps two at a time, careful not to step on a sprawled co-ed who had fallen asleep on the landing.

The room smelled like beer and sweat, prompting Uryuu to breathe through his mouth instead. It seemed to be some kind of den, with some dilapidated couches and scratched coffee tables scattered around. A few students sat drinking nearby, most of them wasted. Ichigo lay across one of the couches, his eyes closed, his shirt stained with what could only be vomit. Uryuu stepped closer, relieved that Ichigo’s breathing seemed regular. “Kurosaki.”

He touched Ichigo’s forehead for a moment, and then nudged his shoulder, gentle at first, and then sharply. “Kurosaki!” Ichigo let out a weak groan, stirring slightly.

“Idiot.” Uryuu grabbed his wrist, pulling him up. “We have to go.”

“Don’t wanna,” Ichigo slurred, and then closed his eyes again.

“Kurosaki,” Uryuu got next to Ichigo’s ear, hissing, “get your lazy ass off this couch right now!”

Ichigo whined, turning away. “Leave me alone.”

Uryuu exhaled, scrubbing a hand through his disheveled hair. “Fine.” He leaned down, lifting Ichigo’s arm and throwing it around his neck, pulling him up. Ichigo’s body was dead weight, and even once Uryuu got him on his feet, he swayed, knees buckling.

“Stand up. Come on.” Uryuu held tight to Ichigo’s frame, keeping him upright.

“Ugh,” Ichigo groaned, hanging his head. “I’m gonna puke.”

“Just not on my…fuck.” It was too late. Uryuu grimaced; he’d just gotten those shoes. “You are an asshole, you know that?”

Ichigo could barely lift his head, clinging to Uryuu’s shoulders. “Sorry.”

“Shut up. Just do me a favor and don’t choke on your own puke before we get home,” Uryuu snapped, dragging Ichigo towards the stairs.

It was a long, arduous journey down the steps, and Uryuu had a brief moment where he felt a great sympathy for Samwise Gamgee, except Frodo never would have shirked his duty to save the world by getting drunk off his Hobbit ass and making poor Sam lug him around Mordor.

Ichigo’s hip bumped into Uryuu’s with every step as they made their way away from the dorm and towards home. Uryuu struggled to keep Ichigo from falling; it was difficult to imagine that the same Shinigami who could perform acrobatic feats that even made Uryuu jealous from time to time could be such a sloppy, uncoordinated mess. Ichigo kept making pathetic sounds as they walked, as if each step caused him pain.

“Kurosaki. Quit it.”

“I feel baaaad,” Ichigo said, words tripping out of his mouth. “They kept making…kept making me do shots.”

“You only have yourself to blame.” Uryuu held Ichigo up with one arm while he dug his keys out of his pocket, trying to get the front door to their apartment building open. “We are,” he said, breathing heavily, “taking the elevator.”

The ride to the fifth floor was a quiet one, save for the sound of Ichigo’s self-pitying muttering. Uryuu stared at the ceiling, wondering how it had gotten to this. Fucking Ichigo. Always making trouble for me. Never listens. So selfish. He could ‘ve gotten us both in big trouble if we’d been found out at that stupid party. I don’t know why I care. Uryuu let out a slow breath. Except I do care, even if it kills me.

Uryuu managed to get Ichigo into the apartment without any of the neighbors seeing, which wasn’t nearly so difficult considering it was 2:30 in the morning. “Come on. Almost there.”

Ichigo’s legs weren’t functioning very well at this point, and Uryuu half dragged, half carried him down the hall to his bedroom. “Are we home?”

“No thanks to you.” Uryuu dropped him gently on the bed with a groan, grateful to finally put down Ichigo’s weight. “Oh my God, you stink.” Ichigo’s shirt was a mess, and his pants weren’t in much better shape. Uryuu sat down beside him, picking up each of Ichigo’s legs and pulling off his sneakers. “With my luck, you won’t even remember all the nice things I’ve done for you tonight, idiot.”

Gingerly taking the hem of Ichigo’s shirt, he gave it a small tug. “Don’t fall asleep yet. You’re covered in puke.” Ichigo sat up just enough for Uryuu to pull the wretched thing off of him. “You are disgusting.”

Falling back, Ichigo sprawled across the bed, looking like party roadkill. Uryuu unbuttoned Ichigo’s jeans, undid the zipper, and then pulled them off slowly, trying not to pull down Ichigo’s boxers with them.

“What’re you doing?” Ichigo slurred, blinking up at him.

“You threw up everywhere. You don’t want to fall asleep in these clothes.”

Ichigo snorted. “You coming on to me?”

“Oh yeah, because you’re so damn hot right now, drunk off your ass and covered in vomit. I can hardly contain myself.” Uryuu got the jeans off, and then dropped them in a heap on the floor. They were Ichigo’s problem now.

Ichigo didn’t respond; he’d passed out again. Uryuu carefully arranged his limbs on the bed, getting him into what seemed like a comfortable position. It was so strange to touch him, to feel the bones beneath his skin, the warmth of his muscles. He was so lovely; his musculature like sculpture. Every bit of him was interesting, and each long stare revealed something new; the curve of his hipbones, the arch of his neck, the sweep of his ribs. Uryuu forced himself to stop, thinking instead of the battered yellow skeleton in the anatomy lab. Ichigo was just bones and muscle and skin like everyone else; nothing to see here. Nothing at all.

Unit 4: Muscles
The function of muscles is to produce force and cause motion.

By the time he reached the Uruhara Shoten, it was closed. Ichigo stepped onto the porch, still breathing hard from the first part of his run. There were no lights on inside. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, scrolling through his texts. Uruhara had sent him a message yesterday, but he hadn’t been able to get across town until now. He was about to turn away and head back, but then he noticed the screen door was slightly ajar. Opening it, he discovered a paper bag with his name written on the outside. He pulled out a hastily scrawled note.

K—Going to SS. Fixing the problem. This is just in case. –U

He shook his head as he took a small bottle of liquid out of the bag with a sigh. The print was too tiny to read in the dark; he’d read it later. It was just like Uruhara to be cryptic and then disappear. Momentarily he pondered what kind of problem might be going on in Soul Society, and then he thought better of it. He had problems of his own to deal with, and they weren’t the sort that any Shinigami could fix. He shoved the bottle and the note back in the bag, and then tucked it into the pocket of his tech jacket.

Ichigo stepped off the porch and started to run down the quiet street, earbuds pouring his favorite songs into his head. It was a cool night, the sort he liked best, and the air felt like a balm against his skin. It had been three days since Uryuu had dragged him home from the party, and the Quincy had barely said two words to him.

Of course he’s pissed. You threw up on his shoes. He had to drag you all over Karakura and he could have gotten caught at that party. That’s not something you DO when your dad teaches for the university. And then, to top it off, you were still so hung over the next day that you couldn’t go on patrol, and Uryuu had to go alone.

Yeah, he’d gotten drunk. Maybe he’d even kissed someone at the party while drunk. Some girl had pushed herself into his face, and well, it happened. Yeah, and maybe she—Emiko—had been the one that called Uryuu. And maybe she was in their anatomy class and now was flirting with Ichigo and trying to be his lab partner and generally embarrassing him.

Ichigo took in a long breath, feeling the air travel all the way down to his stomach. He hadn’t meant to get stupid. He certainly hadn’t meant to kiss Emiko. He definitely hadn’t meant to get drunk and puke all over himself and Uryuu and make Uryuu come get him in the middle of the night. All he’d wanted was a night not to think about the fact he couldn’t stop thinking about his roommate, and that the only thing he wanted he couldn’t have. It had been a night of bad decisions. The hangover had been terrible, but it wasn’t quite as bad as Uryuu’s pointed silence.

He turned the corner, starting up the next street, which was a steady incline. He forced himself to push harder, the pounding of his shoes thudding distantly below him. Running wasn’t something that he loved to do, but it had been one of the best ways to keep his endurance up back when he lost his powers. After he got them back, he still didn’t drop the habit; keeping his physical body strong meant that his spiritual one would benefit as well. Uruhara tried to explain it one time, but Ichigo had gotten bored and stopped listening.

For now, though, running was a good way to get away from Uryuu. There was a massive test tomorrow, and even though Ichigo knew he’d be up late studying, he needed a little space before facing Uryuu’s silent glowering stare. He made it up the hill, sprinting down the next street with a last final burst of speed. Lungs burning, he finally slowed to a walk, his calves protesting faintly; they’d ache tomorrow.

His feet took him back to the apartment, and he stared up into the night sky at the window above where he knew Uryuu would be light years ahead of him, piles of index cards and definitions surrounding him. He trudged up the stairs, refusing to take the elevator; he could drag himself a little farther. He entered the apartment quietly, shutting off his mp3 player and pulling the earbuds out to drape around his neck.

Uryuu was on the couch, a dozen books scattered around him. He glanced up. “Kurosaki.” He turned his attention back to the book in his lap.

Ichigo took a breath before he spoke. “I just want to say that I’m sorry I was an asshole and I’m sorry you nearly got in trouble. And I’m sorry that you had to bail me out in the middle of the night. And for the patrol thing.” He scratched his head, at a loss. “I’m just…sorry. I promised I wouldn’t be a pain to you and I was stupid. Also, I will buy you a new pair of shoes.”

Uryuu nodded slowly. “Okay.” He paused for a moment, looking around him, and then picked up a stack of index cards. “Quiz me.”

Unit 5: Circulatory System
An increase in sympathetic nervous system stimulation causes the heart rate to increase, both by the direct action of sympathetic nerve fibers on the heart and by causing the endocrine system to release hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline), which have a similar effect. Increased sympathetic stimulation is usually due to physical or psychological stress. This is the basis for the so-called "Fight or Flight" response.

Kidou arrows flew through the night sky, Uryuu’s hands bright with their power. He leapt onto the next rooftop, the wind catching his hair. He grinned as he watched the Hollow disintegrate. Ichigo was about a half mile away, and if his reiatsu was anything to go by, he hadn’t had much luck hunting. There were nights when Ichigo’s spiritual pressure was so strong that Uryuu wondered how the entire town didn’t feel its weight.

It had been a decent night so far; he’d killed six Hollows of varying sizes. Since Aizen’s demise, they tended to be smaller and less aggressive. While he appreciated the fact that protecting Karakura was much easier these days, he had to admit it wasn’t doing much for honing his skills. The Winter War was over, and though he wanted to enjoy the peace, he sometimes worried that he was losing his edge. He sparred with Ichigo on occasion—usually in the Quincy training area under the hospital—but Uryuu found it difficult to truly push himself; if Ichigo went all out, he might accidentally take the building down. Orihime was studying in London for the next two years, and if they did themselves some serious damage, there wouldn’t be any quick healing fix for either of them.

He took a long breath, staring out over the city. The only Shinigami he could sense right now was Ichigo, although he knew there would be more around later in the week. Midterms were coming up, and Ichigo had called in a favor from Ikkaku to do patrols. The bald-headed freak loved human food and clothes, although Uryuu shuddered to think of what horrific ensemble Ikkaku might show up in this time. His fashion choices made Renji look like the next winner of Project Runway. Uryuu didn’t love the idea of always having to rely on Soul Society to cover their asses, but he didn’t have much choice if he wanted to keep his 4.0.

He checked his watch; 11:58pm. If it was proving to be a quiet night and Uryuu didn’t sense anything amiss, they usually called it a night by 1am. He still had a chapter to read before class tomorrow, but if they got home early, he’d have plenty of time to read and maybe even get an extra hour of sleep. His stomach growled a little, and he suddenly remembered some leftover dumplings from the night before. A hot shower, warm dumplings, a chapter of chemistry…what else could a college student want?

There was a brief flicker of spiritual pressure behind him, just enough to make Uryuu turn on his heel. He barely had a moment to breathe before he leapt out of the way of a massive Hollow bearing down on him. The creature was incredibly fast, its reptilian body twisting and curling to avoid Uryuu’s arrows. As it spun around under the rooftop lights, Uryuu saw its legs and tail were covered with wicked-looking spines.

“Where the hell did you come from?” Uryuu muttered, taking several steps back to line up his next shot. The Hollow tensed, holding its position, and Uryuu shot a barrage of arrows at its throat. They arced through the air, striking the Hollow exactly as he planned. The creature roared, shaking its head, and to Uryuu’s horror, the arrows vanished.

“Shit.” Uryuu raced to the opposite side of the rooftop, thinking fast. Maybe it has another weak spot. Maybe I need to use another type of attack. He reached toward his belt, grasping the metal hilt he needed to activate a Seele Schneider. The blue blade thrummed to life, and he slipped into a defensive crouch, watching the Hollow carefully. Ichigo was never one for patience; he threw himself into fights and figured out his opponent’s weaknesses during battle. While this worked pretty well for a Shinigami, it wasn’t always the best strategy for someone who actually fought in his own body full-time.

This Hollow was eerily different from the ones he’d encountered over the last few months. It was predatory, quiet, and clever; even its blank eye sockets seemed to possess a bizarre kind of intelligence. As the creature lunged at him, snapping its teeth, Uryuu rolled right under it, dragging the Seele Schneider along its belly. He regained his footing, trying to see if the attack had damaged the Hollow at all, when suddenly something struck him from behind, knocking him to the ground. Pain bloomed in his leg, but he forced himself upright, staggering away. He glanced down to see several large spikes sticking out of his right calf, and the Hollow made a pleased sound, something between a hiss and a growl.

Uryuu jumped out of the way as the Hollow’s tail swept out at him again, but he stumbled, scraping his palms on the concrete. His right leg had gone numb; he couldn’t move it at all. Fuck! Kurosaki, where the hell are you?

He held up the Seele Schneider, pouring as much reishi into it as he could. The illumination from the blade revealed black blood on the ground beneath the Hollow; the thing wasn’t impenetrable after all. Despite its wounds, it still moved remarkably fast, and Uryuu was barely able to keep up. His leg was completely useless, and blood was already staining his uniform. The Hollow had forced him into a corner, pushing him close to the edge of the roof. Uryuu forced himself to stand, trying not to lose his balance as the Hollow bore down on him again. If he timed it just right, he could get underneath it and deliver a killing blow.

He didn’t time it just right.

Just as the Seele Schneider made contact with the Hollow, a brutal hit knocked him sideways. He gasped as the blow drove spikes into his bicep, the force of the impact shoving him into midair. Uryuu twisted, flailing with his one good arm as he tried to grab something—anything—before he went over the edge. He caught his fingers on a bit of concrete, and hung there just long enough to see Ichigo screaming across the sky, his zanpaktou larger than the crescent moon above. It only took him one blow to slice the Hollow in two, and it dissolved neatly into the night. He heard Ichigo call his name, and then his nerveless fingers lost their grip.

People always said that the fall is what that kills you. Uryuu fell, but was very much alive and terrified and about to die, which was different entirely. He tried using hirenkyaku, but it was impossible with only one leg. Spinning in the air, he closed his eyes; he didn’t want to know when it would be over.

All of a sudden, his body jerked sharply, and he cried out, aware that he wasn’t falling anymore. Ichigo stared down at him, holding him tightly. “I’ve got you.”

Uryuu gasped, unable to catch his breath. His chest felt like it was collapsing in on itself, and his heart slammed painfully into his ribs, its pace fast enough to leave him lightheaded.

“Those wounds don’t look good.” Ichigo frowned, adjusting his hold on Uryuu’s body. “Uruhara’s in Soul Society right now, but he gave me some medicine that might help. I’ll take you home and we’ll fix you up.”

Uryuu opened his mouth to object, but before he could manage a word, Ichigo flash-stepped them across the city. His stomach rolled, but in a matter of moments, Ichigo landed on the balcony to their apartment, deftly opening the door while balancing Uryuu with one hand.

“You still with me?”

Uryuu managed a brief grunt, holding on to Ichigo with his one good arm. He stared down at his limp arm and leg, surprised by the amount of blood that stained his uniform. It was entirely disconcerting to feel the sharp pain from the wounds but not be able to move either limb.

Ichigo grabbed a blanket off the couch, throwing in onto the kitchen floor before setting Uryuu gently on top of it. “Just hang on.” He ran over to the coat rack, and dug around in the pocket of his jacket until he pulled out a bag. “I think Uruhara left us instructions.”

“You think?” Uryuu hissed.

Ichigo lifted up a small green bottle with smiley face on the label, and it proclaimed in bright red letters, ‘Now for Humans!’ He turned it over, reading the back. “Okay. We’ve got to get those things out of you first.”

“What the fuck are these?” Uryuu craned his neck, staring at the jagged spines sticking out of him. “Am I poisoned?”

“This says,” Ichigo said, peering at the tiny print, “the venom in the spine paralyzes the part of the body it hits, but it won’t kill you.” Ichigo stood up, pumping some antibacterial cleaner into his hands. “Unless they stab you in the chest and it paralyzes your heart. So okay, yeah, technically they can kill you.”

“Why the hell didn’t Uruhara warn us?” Uryuu’s breathing, which had gotten slightly less panicked, was back to shallow pants.

“He left town in a hurry; there wasn’t time.” Ichigo looked down at him, his expression concerned. “You need to calm down.”

“Don’t tell me to calm down! I’m fucking paralyzed and I just nearly died!” Uryuu felt himself shaking, resisting the urge to punch Ichigo with his one working fist.

Ichigo dropped a gentle hand on his chest, his voice quiet. “I know. I’m going to help you, okay? You’re going to be fine. But I need you not to freak out right now because that will only make things worse, okay?”

“Fine,” Uryuu finally responded through clenched teeth. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to pull the spines out first, and then I’ll use Uruhara’s medicine. It should stop the bleeding and help counteract the venom. At least that’s what it says on the label.”

Uryuu rolled his eyes, trying not to lose the small shreds of composure he still had left. “I’m ready.”

It was probably sick fascination on his part, but Uryuu couldn’t help watching as Ichigo prepared to pull out the spikes in his arm. “Okay, on three. One, two, three—“

Uryuu tried not to scream, but he couldn’t quite keep the sound in. As Ichigo pulled it out, it felt like he was being torn in half.

“Oh my God, Uryuu, I’m sorry,” Ichigo said, staring down at the bloodied spine, which had tiny barbs up and down its length. “Fuck, the bleeding’s getting worse.”

“You think?” Uryuu spat. Every muscle in his body seemed to spasm in pain, and he struggled to keep from whimpering. “How many more are left?”

Ichigo looked at him miserably. “Seven.”

“Okay.” Uryuu took a shaky breath, and then released it slowly. “Okay. Here’s what I need you to do. Just get them out as fast as you can. One right after the other.”

“Are you sur—“

“Don’t argue! Just do it!” Uryuu closed his eyes, and the pain started. He gave up trying to stay quiet; he could hear his own grunts and cries, but they sounded distant, as if they belonged to someone else. Ichigo kept up a litany of swear words under his breath, his hands working fast as they wreaked havoc on Uryuu’s body. Pain crashed over him, tearing him apart, and Uryuu debated whether or not he was going to stay conscious for much longer. Finally several moments passed where a fresh wave of hell wasn’t passing over him, and Uryuu swallowed, his voice shaking. “Done?”

“Yeah.” Ichigo’s voice was quiet and small, which was unnerving in itself. “Just don’t move. I’m putting on the medicine.”

Uryuu prepared himself for the worst, if his prior experience with Uruhara’s remedies was anything to go by. He felt something cold touch his torn flesh, almost to the point of freezing, and then the substance grew pleasantly warm. The sensation spread throughout his entire body, and against his better judgment, he relaxed into it, the tension in his muscles slipping away.

He opened his eyes, finding Ichigo staring down at him. “Hey.”

“Is the medicine helping?”

“Yeah, a lot.” He looked over at Ichigo, and was surprised and a bit concerned by the amount of blood on Ichigo’s hands. “Did it stop the bleeding?”

Ichigo nodded, relief evident in his expression. “The wounds are already starting to close.” A smile appeared momentarily on his face. “We’ll have to stock up on this stuff.”

Slight tingling began to run along his right calf, and he tried flexing his toes, and found that the tip of his boot moved just a bit. “The venom’s wearing off,” he said, feeling like a massive weight had been lifted off his chest. He tried flexing his fingers, and discovered they were able to move again as well. He exhaled slowly, his pulse finally approaching something close to normal.

Ichigo sat back on his heels, letting his chin drop to his chest for a moment, his hands massaging his temples. “So that sucked,” he said softly, creaking out a laugh.

“Easy for you to say, asshole! You weren’t the one bleeding all over the kitchen floor. Which I’m not cleaning, by the way.” Uryuu tested his limbs again, pleased to find they were now able to bend slowly.

Ichigo checked his wounds, his hands warm on Uryuu’s skin. “These are looking much better. They’ve closed up, but I wouldn’t push yourself too much. The bottle says that it takes 72 hours for maximum benefit.”

Uryuu tried to push himself off the floor, but found that his arms were too weak, and he slid back down. “Fuck. How I am going to get to class tomorrow?”

“I’ll carry you,” Ichigo said, grinning.

“You will not.” Uryuu sighed, looking up at Ichigo’s smug face. “Thank you. For saving me. And,” Uryuu moved his good hand the in general direction of the pile of bloody spines. “for all that.”

“You would have done the same for me.” Ichigo shrugged. “Why don’t I at least help you to your room so you don’t have to crawl there?”

Uryuu nodded, and Ichigo lifted him gently, cradling him against his chest. “You okay?”

All he could feel was Ichigo’s chest, moving in time with his breathing. All he could hear was Ichigo’s heartbeat. All he could do was try not to memorize this moment, to catalog every detail, because it would be over the second they reached his bedroom.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

(tbc in PART 2)

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April 2012

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