[Bleach] Before the Dawn

He traces his fingers down her bare back, feeling few scars beneath his touch. She is too skilled, too quick. There are few enemies that could manage to catch her, and even then, it must be purely because of their luck.

Her skin is warm to him. Soft. Beautiful.

With a smile on his lips, Jyuushiro brushes long strands of purplish hair from where it fans across her back. He leans forward, balancing his weight on the elbow tucked beneath him, and presses a kiss to her shoulder over a freckle that is now so familiar to him. She smells like war, steel and blood and smoke. But also something feminine and soft, like lilacs or sakura.

His lover stirs at the gentle press and shifts onto her side to give him a sleepy, smug smile. “I was sleeping, you know,” Yoruichi murmurs silkily, settling comfortably onto one elbow. As always, she is completely at ease in her nudity, body stretched out for his eyes without a single covering.

“Liar,” Jyuushiro accuses as he admires the flicker of light over her features. Her brown skin is such an allure, a rich color that he has always enjoyed.

Yoruichi reaches out, tugging gently on a few loose strands of white hair that hang beside his face. “Only a little,” she responds and gives another pull, guiding his mouth down to cover hers. Golden eyes sparkle as they draw closer.

He goes all too willingly, eagerly even. Yoruichi’s mouth is warm with his, breath washing over and through him. He licks across her lips, her tongue touching his teasingly and then deeper still.

Jyuushiro loses himself in her taste, in her fire. In her lust for life and her sense of absolute freedom. Yoruichi is the wind, traveling where she pleases with no cage to hold her down. She is young, and she is beautiful. And she is probably also more than he deserves with his frail body and bad luck.

He loves her; Jyuushiro is sure of this. But it is something he will never say aloud, will never share with her. He has never voiced his feelings, put them into words that could be spoken. He fears that if he did, she would run, would flee from them. So he keeps his feelings where they are safe, even if he suspects she might even know.

Yoruichi’s lips drop away from his, drawing into a familiar smile. “Would you have believed this a decade ago?” she asks, falling back against the thick mattress and pulling him down on top of her.

He sinks willingly onto the comfort of her flesh and presses his nose into her throat, laying a kiss on her collarbone. “Not in even a century.” He pauses to chuckle, mind recalling for him certain instances. “Of course, then you were just a loud-mouthed brat.”

One of her arms circle around him, fingers tangling in his hair and playing with it, not unlike a cat in idle amusement. “Well, aren’t you just the cradle-robber?”

“And you are hardly a child.”

Jyuushiro slides his hand down her side, tracing every curve. She is so sleek and smooth, nearly unblemished. She shifts to accommodate his touch, languid and inviting. It is a lazy warmth between them, sated and comfortable. Familiar. He cherishes every moment of it because he knows it won’t be long before she is gone again, just like the wind and its brief visits.

She hums in her throat, and he can feel it against his nose. “I didn’t think you would ever notice me,” Yoruichi comments off-handedly.

And somehow, they have slipped into reminiscence. Perhaps there is something in the air that drives them. The soft scent of sakura drifting in from his open window. Or the flickering lights that illuminate the room. Or even the knowledge that her visit is only brief, as always. And that technically, it is probably not a good idea for her to be in Seireitei.

His breath is a warm puff against her flesh. “How could I not?” he asks, voice somewhat muffled by his position, and he turns his head to the side. “You were the loveliest woman I had ever seen.”

“Were?” He can practically see her arch one brow.

“Fishing for compliments, my dear?” His fingertips trace a nonsensical path down her flesh, and he swears he can feel the strength of her reiatsu beneath his touch. Simmering beneath the surface, always out of the reach of his own.

“Completely unnecessary.”

Jyuushiro laughs and is glad that a wheeze doesn’t accompany the sound. The last thing he needs is for his illness to ruin the moment.

“Precisely. Especially since you still are the loveliest creature I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.”

“Jyuu, have you been taking lessons from Shunsui again?”

He is glad she cannot see the smile on his face. “I learn from the best.”

She shakes her head, and he imagines she is rolling her eyes. “You always were a stubborn man. Then and now.”

“I imagine it is one of my strong suits,” he replies and rises up to his elbows so that he can meet her eyes. “Or at least, so I am told.”

Her fingers curl around his face, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear. “They must have been lying to save you the embarrassment,” she murmurs, but it is without any heat as she rises to meet him again, her kiss soft and strangely poignant.

Jyuushiro nips gently at her lips, memorizing the taste of her mouth. Always so fleeting. But he doesn’t think he could possibly forget either.

Again, she ends the kiss. And this time, her eyes flicker to the window. The harsh inkiness of night is fading away with an oncoming blue glow, hinted by streams of pink. Dawn approaches, stealing upon them as quietly as always.

“I know what that look means,” he comments, hiding his disappointment with a skill he has cultivated over the years. Somehow, he has deluded himself into believing this is enough so long as he has her touch every so often to remind him of what she is like.

Her eyelids lower, something flashing briefly in golden irises. “The sun is rising.”

Smiling, even if it is a tad fake, Jyuushiro gently moves aside, giving her room to slip out from beneath him. She rises to her feet in all her nude glory, hair a dark stream down her back. He remembers running his hands through it earlier, enjoying the silky texture. Jyuushiro feels an urge to ask her to stay, just as he has considered all those times before. He has never voiced it then; he knows that he won’t voice it now.

The lights play delicate shadows across her skin.

“What do you think will happen,” he asks all of the sudden and before he can stop himself and rationality, “if they find you here? Do you truly believe that they will punish you?”

Her features soften, turning introspective. “I honestly don’t know,” Yoruichi answers, a few short strides taking her to the window. “I haven’t thought to test it.”

She lifts herself up into the frame, settling lightly against it as her hair falls over one shoulder. Anyone looking would be able to see her, but Jyuushiro knows it is too early for others to be about. And these are his private quarters. No one will venture near.

Yoruichi tips her head to the side, watching him with an indefinable something glinting in her eyes. “Do you miss me when I’m gone?”

“Always,” he replies, and it is more honest than he meant it to be. Perhaps a bit too fierce, and he wishes he hasn’t betrayed himself with that admission.

She looks at him, and he isn’t sure what she sees. A man on the edge of his life perhaps. A captain of the Gotei 13. Her lover. Her friend. He wishes he knew.

She swings her legs once, like a child perched playfully on a fence. “I miss you, too,” Yoruichi finally responds.

And then, her body shimmers, shrinking down into her familiar form of a black cat. She watches him another moment more and then leaps down from her perch, leaving him with the silence and solitude of his bedroom. Much in the same way she had appeared.

Sighing to himself, his mind thrumming with what she has revealed to him, Jyuushiro rises to his feet and flicks off the few lights he has on, bathing the room in complete darkness. He leaves the window open, for nostalgia perhaps. Or maybe it’s just because the wind blowing in is so pleasant.

He returns to his bed, which feels a bit colder now, and crawls beneath the covers. It is as lonely as it has ever been, and he asks himself why he doesn’t just try to move on. To find someone who gives a thought of more permanence. Why does he try to cling to an evanescent wind?

Jyuushiro supposes he has always been a foolish man.

He watches the dawn creep into the sky, attacked by insomnia that keeps his mind and body awake when he should be sleeping. It has always amazed him how quickly daylight descends. Night is almost completely gone by now, several shades of blue replacing the darkness.

On the edge of his senses, there is a purring reiatsu, very familiar. And a cat appears in his window, walking in as though it knows it belongs there. Jyuushiro blinks, thinking that maybe he has fallen asleep and this is nothing more than a dream. Before his eyes, Yoruichi takes form once more, her expression unreadable as she crawls into bed beside him, skin a bit chilly against his.

“You-”

She shushes him with a kiss, one that he can’t exactly protest against. Not that Jyuushiro would. He thinks that if this is a dream, it’s a damn good one. And he doesn’t mind it one bit.

She pulls away, and she must have read the confusion in his dark eyes because she laughs. “I’m thinking it might be fun to elude Seireitei’s best, don’t you?” Yoruichi responds, curling up close to him. “Besides, cats are supposed to sleep in.”

Jyuushiro is speechless, but that doesn’t seem to bother her. He can feel her breathing even as she leans her head on his shoulder, palm pressing flat against his bare chest.

“Should I have not come?”

In answer, he slides his arm around her, tugging her closer to his body. “Never ask that again,” he replies and isn’t sure if he means her most recent question or the one she had asked before. About missing her.

His reiatsu rises, and for the first time, he feels the answering press of hers. Tendrils of it slide into the room, teasing playfully at the seeking curls of his before meeting gently. Entwining.

And silence falls between them, words nothing necessary at the moment. Jyuushiro doesn’t need them. She is enough. He closes his eyes, savors the warmth and the presence and the feeling of not-alone.

He thinks that there is a benefit to being stubborn and to being foolish. That eventually luck might prove to be on his side.

And Jyuushiro is infinitely glad that this dawn does not find him alone.

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