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Bleach - The Beautiful Lie - Ch 37: Rivals

a/n: In which Kisuke and Sousuke hear of Ichigo's decision and must make a choice of their own.

Title: The Beautiful Lie
Pairings: Urahara/Ichigo, Aizen/Ichigo, Shinji/Nel
Rating: M
Warning: Spoilers for recent chapters, Character death, Yaoi-ness, Post-war fic, Violence
Description: Years after the painful end, the echoes of war still prove their influence, and Ichigo discovers a dead man in his kitchen.

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Chapter Thirty-Seven: Rivals
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His return doesn’t go unnoticed, despite all of Ichigo's attempts to sneak in without catching anyone's eye. The moment he appears in a corridor, he’s instantly besieged by ghostly servants. Silently asking him how they can help, what they can do to make things easier. Silently wondering why he would run away, begging that he doesn't do it again.

They need him. They need him, and they reach for him, and Ichigo's the only one who can really hear them. Can take their hands or clap them on the shoulder or offer a meaningful thank you.

Guilt claws its way on top of all the other emotions that are weighing on Ichigo's heart. And it's only Gin's timely intervention that saves him from succumbing to it.

“I'm sorry,” Ichigo apologizes out loud, trying to catch as many eyes as shifting expressions will let him. “It won't happen again.”

“Damn right, it won't.” Gin's voice appears behind him. “It ain't polite ta run off without at least tellin' someone, yer majesty.”

Ichigo winces and turns around. The title, rarely used between them, is as much a chastisement as it is a step back into politics.

“I had my reasons.”

“I'm sure ya did,” Gin says and stops just in front of him, hands folded into his sleeves. “But ya can't forget that people depend on ya now either.”

Drooping, Ichigo rakes a hand through his hair. “Yeah, I know.”

“Good.” Gin threads an arm through Ichigo's, causing him to stumble as he suddenly pulls Ichigo down an adjoining hallway. “Now that I'm done chastisin' ya, ya look in need of a bath and some food.”

“But--”

Gin shakes his head firmly, giving Ichigo an askance look. “I can guess why ya left, Ichi-kun. I'm not blind or deaf. Ya can figure that stuff out after ya look a bit more human.”

“Told you we could have been friends.” Ichigo lets a smile flit onto his lips.

Gin snorts. “Yeah, well don't tell anyone. It'll hurt my image.”

“Any more than it already is?” Ichigo arches a brow.

Nudging him with a shoulder in mock-offense, Gin scoffs. “Ya know what I mean.”

“I do,” Ichigo replies. “Thanks.”

Gin looks at him and smiles. “Anytime.”

o0o0o


It's an hour later before Gin deems him acceptable for meeting with anyone else. Ichigo has bathed, changed his clothes, and wolfed down a meal. He feels physically better even if his thoughts are yet churning inside him.

It's now or never, and he asks Gin to find both Kisuke and Sousuke for him. He could push this off until later, but honestly, Ichigo would rather get it over and done with. He wants to lay the decision at their feet, let them decide what would be better. He doesn't want any more sleepless nights.

Sousuke is the first to arrive. He seems both confused and worried as Ichigo opens the door for him.

“Ichigo?” He frowns. “Is everything all right?”

“For the most part,” Ichigo says with a heavy sigh. “I'll explain in a minute. Go ahead and have a seat.”

Sousuke looks as if he might question him further but then changes his mind, inclining his head and taking a seat on Ichigo's couch. He looks uncomfortable, body rigid, hands folded in his lap. He probably thinks Ichigo is going to call things off. Well, he's both right and wrong.

Frankly, Ichigo's not sure the option he's about to give either of them is any better.

Kisuke arrives less than a minute later, reiatsu swirling with anxiety and dark circles ringing his eyes. He goes to throw his arms around Ichigo, probably for a hug, but Ichigo sidesteps him. Can't show favoritism. Not yet, maybe not ever.

“Ichigo...?”

Kisuke hesitates, a troubled look in his eyes.

Once again, Ichigo can only shake his head. “Sit down. I promise I'll explain.”

Mercifully, Kisuke doesn't press or argue. He simply enters Ichigo's room and heads for the couch. Only to pause and stare once he sees Sousuke already sitting there.

The two former enemies trade pointedly noncharitable looks – lacking some of the venom their previous encounters had carried but unkind none the less. Kisuke is thunderous, as though he might object. Sousuke's mouth is a thin, displeased line.

Kisuke whirls around, a protest on his lips, which Ichigo quickly cuts off with a firm shake of his head.

“Sit,” he says and realizes it came out short and commanding. “Please.”

Huffing, Kisuke reluctantly does, though Ichigo notes that it is on the opposite end from Sousuke. As far as they can physically get without sitting on the arms or getting up from the couch altogether. Feelings of discord and loathing practically radiate from their tense frames as the two grown men exchange mutual glances of intense dislike before focusing on Ichigo with ironically matching looks of curiosity, concern, and desire.

Ichigo sighs.

This isn't going to work. That much is pretty obvious. They can't even stand being in the same room together. Sharing is an impossibility.

He half-turns, rubbing fingers across his forehead. He should’ve known better than to listen to Lisa. Some things can't be solved. That's the reality of the situation. It's better if Ichigo just ends things now. With both of them. They, all three, can be miserable apart.

Sousuke is the first to break the silence. “Ichigo,” he says almost hesitantly, which in itself is unusual. “Where did you go?”

Ichigo's hand drops from his forehead. He turns to face the both of them, staring at the noticeable distance between them.

“Here and there,” he answers and makes a vague gesture. “Down to the living world. Out to Rukongai. I just wandered. I needed to think. I needed to be alone.”

“Why?” Kisuke this time, leaning forward with elbows on his knees, expression open and intent.

Ichigo considers dancing around the issue. But he's never been good at conversational subterfuge and being blunt has always worked best for him. He doesn't know any other way.

His shoulders slump. “Because I had to choose and I couldn't do that here.”

Ichigo risks a glance at them, but both of their expressions are now unreadable. Sousuke has vanished behind his usual mask, face set with composure. Understanding has dawned in Kisuke's eyes, but he's pulling into himself as well. Prepared for an inevitable rejection perhaps.

“Choose,” Sousuke repeats lowly. He straightens and draws from an infinite well of composure. “And what did you choose, Ichigo? Or should I say, whom?”

Two pairs of eyes focus on Ichigo, putting him on the spot. He feels like sinking into the floor as he admits the strange solution he'd decided upon.

“Neither of you,” Ichigo says and then squares his shoulders, firming his resolve. “Both of you.”

Silence descends in his bedroom as the two stare at him, almost as though they believe he's lost his mind. The blond looks more confused, reiatsu an anxious swirl, and Sousuke has furrowed his brow.

“I... I'm not sure what you mean,” Kisuke says carefully.

Ichigo circles around the coffee table – which has served as an effective barrier – and plops down on it, so he can look both of them in the eye. Ironically, they've shifted more toward the middle to make this easier for him. Inadvertently, they are now sitting closer to each other.

“It means,” Ichigo replies, “that I’m incapable of choosing. I'd rather be alone than make that decision.”

Sousuke frowns. “What exactly are you suggesting?”

Here, Ichigo's confidence falters. He feels his face burn crimson at mere thought of the absurd idea.

“I want both of you,” Ichigo blurts out, gaze darting between Sousuke and Kisuke. “At the same time. Not necessarily the two of you together because I know that's impossible. But together with me.”

More silence ripples outward. Ichigo sits on the coffee table with bated breath, feeling like he's standing on a razor-sharp edge.

Kisuke holds up a hand. “Just so we're clear... are you suggesting that we – Aizen and I – share you?”

“Yeah.” Ichigo clasps his hands together. “Either both of you or neither of you. I can't choose.”

Twin expressions of speechlessness meet his gaze. Well, at least there's no outrage or outright fury. No one's exploded yet. They've not called him an outright fool.

“This,” Sousuke pauses as if gathering control of himself. “Are you sure?”

Ichigo leans forward. “I didn't say it would be easy. I'm not blind or stupid. You two hate each other. There's only one of me. There will be issues, but...” He huffs, frustrated.

“But you feel you have no other option,” Kisuke finishes for him, surprisingly subdued.

Ichigo inclines his head. He fights not to stare at the wall beyond them and just give up on this conversation.

“Yeah.” He exhales softly. “Look. I don't expect either of you to give me an answer right now. I want you to think about it seriously. Take some time.”

“What if we can't agree?” Sousuke asks then.

Ichigo spreads his hands. “Then that's it. We'll go on as friends and nothing more. All of us.” He means what he says. Either both of them or neither. Unless of course one of them decides that he doesn't want to be with Ichigo anyway. Which isn't outside the realm of possibility.

Kisuke and Sousuke exchange a short, awkward glance. Obviously weighting their options. The look is barely their usual heated loathing, but it falls vastly short of respect and doesn't dance near affection.

Pushing himself to his feet, Ichigo puts some much needed space between them and himself. He circles back around the table, fatigue crowding at the edges of his mind.

“Anyway,” he says loudly, firmly. “That's what I wanted to say. So please think about it.” He doesn't turn to look at them; he can't. “And it's late so we should all get some sleep.”

The couch creaks. “You're right,” Kisuke inserts, still oddly subdued. Well, of course he would be. Nothing about this situation is ideal, is it? “Will we see you at breakfast?”

“Yeah.” Ichigo tugs at his sleeves, part of him wishing they'd just leave. Another part of him wanting to beg they stay. “I'm not vanishing again. I promise.”

“I believe you.”

The blond pauses for another moment, as though carefully considering what he's going to say, and Ichigo hates that their relationship has come to that. Skating on thin ice, treading on slick ground.

“Good night, Ichigo.”

“Sleep well,” Sousuke adds, tone carefully controlled as always. Just as awkward as their growing friendship was in the beginning. All that progress lost in a flash.

They let themselves out, door clicking quietly behind them. Only then does Ichigo let himself slump into the nearest piece of furniture. He inhales shakily, exhales with even less control, and closes his eyes.

His quarters are too quiet, too empty. And all Ichigo has to look forward to is cold sheets and a lonely bed.

And unless Sousuke and Kisuke can agree, it’s all Ichigo will have waiting for him for years to come. A thought which is both unsettling and depressing.

Ichigo's fingers rub across his chest. The ache is building there again. But he doesn't want to sleep in that huge bed alone.

He sighs, knocking his head against the back of his chair. It's going to be a long night.

o0o0o


The following days pass in a blur. He buries himself in his kingly duties, if only to stop thinking endlessly on the decision he's given them. He duteously attends to his paperwork and responsibly meets with all those who request an audience. He oversees some of the rebuilding in Seireitei and wanders through Rukongai, resolving to make it less of a slum and more of a place someone would choose to live.

Aside from awkward meals, he spends very little time with either of them. Ichigo lets Gin take over communication between he and Sousuke regarding his schedule. Ichigo doesn't want to speak to them for fear he'll do something stupid. Like beg them to say yes.

It's practice for when they come to him and explain why this won't ever work. Why they can't agree with his absurd solution. Eventually, he'll stop feeling so alone. Eventually, the nights won't be so long. He's done fine by himself before; he can do it again.

Ichigo's never realized how good at lying to himself he's become over the years though. It's a bit alarming, but then, it’s not entirely unexpected either.

So he waits anxiously. And in the meantime, there are things to accomplish and responsibilities to meet.

o0o0o


Sousuke finds him between one meeting and the next, wandering aimlessly down a long corridor as he carefully reads through a proposal from Chamber 46. It sounds good in theory, but Ichigo's not taking any chances. He won't put his approval on anything unless he's sure he's covered all the bases.

Ichigo has sensed Sousuke coming. With the distance he's purposefully put between himself and them, Ichigo has come ridiculously skilled at being aware of their presence. Even Sousuke without his reiatsu. So he knows the brunet is there, but he waits for the other man to speak.

He tells himself that unless they bridge the gap, the rest is pointless. They'll have to make the first move. Ichigo refuses to push them into anything.

“Ichigo?”

He looks up, gives Sousuke his full attention, trying to ignore the way his heart increases in tempo and his breath catches. It just doesn’t work.

“Yes?”

Sousuke looks tired. As though he hasn't managed a full night's sleep since their last conversation.

“A moment of your time?”

This is it.

Ichigo forces calm onto his face. “Sure.” He glances around pointedly. “Here?”

“Here is fine,” Sousuke allows, and he's right. The corridors are deserted, and the only ones likely to hear are the servants, who talk to only themselves and Ichigo. “I've thought about your proposal.”

Ichigo shuffles the papers he’s holding, desperate for something to do with his hands. “And?”

“Are you sure this is what you want?” Brown eyes look at him intently.

“Yeah,” Ichigo confirms, relaxing marginally. If anything, the past week of loneliness has only strengthened his resolve to have both men in his life. “I'm sure.”

Sousuke exhales audibly. “Then I wish to express my consent.”

Sometimes, it's hell trying to get around Sousuke's wordage. Ichigo arches a brow.

“You're agreeing?” he questions, certain he must have heard wrong.

Sousuke nods sharply. “Yes,” but he says it in such a way that it leaves no room for Ichigo to doubt. “However, if you expect me to display... affection toward Urahara then you are asking more than I can give.”

Ichigo raises a hand. “No,” he replies firmly. “All I'm asking is for toleration. For you to realize that I want to share my time, that I don't want to have to choose.”

“That seems... fair.”

It's not really. Ichigo knows this is ridiculously selfish of him, but a part of him feels he's owed one selfish thing. Isn't he?

Still, something inside of him breathes a sigh of relief, and the edging feeling of loneliness wisps away on the furthest edges. Sousuke has decided to stay. Now, hopefully, Kisuke can agree to the same.

Ichigo lifts his eyes, meeting Sousuke's gaze. It’s carefully neutral, but somehow, Ichigo thinks he sees a flicker of hope.

“Thank you,” he says, insides warming with an odd sort of glee. “I wasn't sure how I was going to wrangle the stubborn old goats without you.”

The ex-overlord snorts a laugh. His following smile is warm enough to make Ichigo’s belly and the tension it holds melt completely.

“Aiding you in political matters was never contingent upon our romantic relationship,” he murmurs, but it’s more amused than anything. “I'd never thought to earn something beyond friendship, truth be told.”

“Yeah, well, I never expected that I'd start falling for the guy who's supposed to be my mortal enemy,” Ichigo shoots back, finding it hard not to grin himself.

Sousuke tilts his head to the side. “I take it I'm no longer your much-hated foe?” But the way he shapes the words only shows that he already knows the answer

“I think you know that,” Ichigo replies.

But he’s distracted when one of the faceless servants materializes beside him, bringing with it a breath of reishi and a sense of urgency.

Not even Ichigo as the king knows who these ghosts are or who they used to be or even if they’re male or female. He suspects that knowledge will come with time as he becomes more accustomed to his newfound abilities.

Ichigo sighs, hearing the servant's words like a brush against his mind, rather than something audible.

It is time for the meeting, Kurosaki-heika. Shihouin-sama and Hirako-sama wait.

He fights back a sigh and roll of his eyes. No matter how many times he tells them to simply call him Ichigo, they always approach with Kurosaki-heika. He’ll never get used to that. It’s so frustrating.

And things had been going so damn well, too.

Sousuke, able to see the servant though he can't hear it, lifts a brow. “You are late for something, I take it?”

“Approaching tardiness but not quite there yet.” Ichigo dismisses his servant with a wave. “Thanks. I'll be there in a minute.”

A feeling of satisfaction and pride rolls out toward Ichigo before the nameless ghost vanishes again, fading into the light as though it had never been there at all. He’ll never get used to that part either.

“It seems I've interrupted your busy day.” Sousuke tips his head in a gesture of apology. “I have one more question, and then I'll let you get back to work.”

Ichigo grins despite himself. “You'll let me?” he teases. “And honestly, I don't mind the distraction. Some of this shit is downright tedious.”

“Even so...” The older man pauses, as though carefully choosing his words, something he does quite often. “What of Urahara?”

Running a hand through his hair, Ichigo takes care with his own response. Not wanting to seem as if he's leaning in one direction or the other.

“As soon as he's given me an answer, I'll let you both know. Until then, nothing's changed.” He shrugs helplessly.

“Fair enough,” Sousuke says with another tilt of his head. A bowing out so to speak as he accompanies it with a slow step backward. “I take my leave so that you can get back to your duties.”

Ichigo stops him before he can get much further, his fingers curling around the long sleeve of Sousuke's robe. “You're not my servant,” he says, letting his gaze roam up Sousuke's arm, across his shoulder, tracing the curve of his neck before landing on his face. “There are better ways to tell me you'll see me later.”

He watches as comprehension flickers over Sousuke's face. A smile curves the man’s lips, and then he leans forward, neatly closing the distance between them. Their lips meet in a kiss. Ichigo is the first to deepen it, swiping his tongue across the seam of Sousuke's mouth and begging entrance.

Sousuke grants him that favor, tasting like green tea on Ichigo's tongue. His mouth is warm and inviting, and his free hand reaches out, stroking down Ichigo's other arm.

The kiss is brief, as parting kisses are meant to be. Sousuke withdraws with a visible gleam in his eyes that makes Ichigo shiver.

“I'll see you at dinner,” Sousuke murmurs as Ichigo releases his hold on his sleeve.

“See you then,” Ichigo says and watches Sousuke turn down the hallway, off to do the numerous tasks he assigns himself on any given day.

Shaking his head, Ichigo starts off toward his own meeting. One down, one to go. He can only hope Kisuke is as agreeable.

o0o0o


It's two days later when Kisuke comes to him, against all odds, knocking on Ichigo's door first thing in the morning. He opens it to find a very solemn blond meeting his gaze, looking torn between fleeing for the hills and stubbornly staying where he stands.

“May I come in?” Kisuke asks, perfectly polite.

His eyes skip past Ichigo as though checking to ensure Sousuke isn't there before him. Ichigo can't read minds, not even as king, but it's pretty obvious what Kisuke's wondering.

“You're up early.” Ichigo steps aside, giving him room to enter.

“Wasn't really sleeping,” Kisuke answers, coming to a halt only a few steps inside, as if he feels he doesn't quite belong. “I decided now was as good as time as any to stop dithering around.”

Closing the door, Ichigo leans against it and watches Kisuke closely. “And?”

“Aizen already gave his answer, didn't he?” The blond turns to face him.

“Yes.”

“What was it?”

Ichigo's arms fold across his chest. “That's not how this works, Kisuke. I want you to tell me what you want before I let either of you know how it's going to be.”

Grey-green eyes drop to the floor as Kisuke nibbles on his bottom lip. “I see.”

“Why did you ask?” Ichigo tilts his head to the side. “Are you only going to answer depending on what Aizen wants?”

“No. I pretty much came to a decision already,” Kisuke replies and shifts his weight, looking too young without the concealment of his hat. It's nice that he's chosen not to wear it.

Kisuke goes silent for a full minute, and Ichigo expects that he'll have to prompt him,. But before he can open his mouth Kisuke continues, his gaze lifting back to Ichigo.

“I want to say that I'll do it. I want to be by your side.” He pauses, eyes darkening as his brow furrows. “But I'm no good at politics. I can't help you.”

Ichigo sighs. He leans fully against his door and braces one foot against it. He’d suspected something like this.

“Has it occurred to you that dealing with laws and people isn't all I might need help with?”

The shopkeeper blinks at him, at a loss for words.

Shaking his head, Ichigo can't stop the amusement that curls his lips. “You built the gate I needed. You're already working on a better communication system for Seireitei. And the last time I checked, you had blueprints drawn for Kon’s new body.”

Kisuke's jaw all but drops. “How did you know?”

“I may not go to your lab – I tend to value my safety, you know – but it's not like I don't pay attention.” Ichigo chuckles, some of his anxiety melting away. “I don't just want someone to help me rule, Kisuke. I want someone for the other things, too. Maybe I don't want to be king all the time. Maybe sometimes, I just want to be Ichigo.”

Comprehension dawns slowly but surely. Kisuke works his jaw for several long moments, coming to terms with Ichigo's admissions. Ichigo pushes himself off the door, closing some of the distance between them, relieved to see that the blond neither retreats nor shows that annoying guilt either.

“What I'm trying to say is... I do want you next to me.” Ichigo lifts one hand and letting his fingers trail down Kisuke's shirt. “But only if you can accept someone will be standing on the other side.”

Kisuke's breath catches; Ichigo can feel the hitch of it beneath his fingertips, the hesitant tremors to his reiatsu.

“Does that mean you forgive me?”

Ichigo barely stops himself from rolling his eyes. “I forgave you a long time ago,” he puts in with a huff. “It's not like what you did was unforgivable.”

“It certainly seemed that way,” his lover murmurs.

“Yeah, well, things change.” Ichigo gives Kisuke a pointed look. “But you're avoiding the subject. I need an answer, and I thought you came here to give me one.”

Kisuke sighs. “I did. And I have one.” He reaches up, taking Ichigo's hand, fingers idly rubbing over his palm. “I utterly despise Aizen,” he says quietly, reiatsu buzzing against Ichigo's own. “But I love you more.”

Ichigo stills, fingers of one hand still curling in Kisuke's shirt. It shouldn't come as news to him, but somehow, it does. The urge to reciprocate rises up inside him, but the words lodge in his throat. No, not yet. Too soon. He can't say it to both of them. So he'd best not say it at all.

“Please, don't agree for my sake,” Ichigo says. “Or because you don't want to let Sousuke win. Or because you think you have no choice. Or--”

“Ichigo.”

He clamps his mouth shut. He can’t imagine being shaken by Kisuke's honest but obvious confession. And yet, Ichigo is.

Kisuke looks at him directly. “I'm saying yes because I want to be with you. Even if I have to share.” He makes a face that Ichigo can only describe as childish. “Just don't expect me to like Aizen.”

“That would be stupid of me,” Ichigo retorts. “I hope someday you two might be friends, but anything more is pushing it.”

Kisuke makes a noncommittal noise in his throat. It perfectly displays his opinion of even being friends with Sousuke.

“Will you tell me Aizen's choice now?”

“You seem sure he's made one.”

The shopkeeper huffs. “I may hate the bastard, but I know he's more decisive than I am,” he admits with a sour tone.

Ichigo laughs. “You two are more alike than you realize.”

“Please don't say that.” His expression and tone are pained.

“But it's true.” Ichigo laughs, loosening his hold on Kisuke's shirt but only to smooth his palm down Kisuke's chest. “I'll answer your question at breakfast.”

Kisuke's bottom lip juts out. “But--”

Ichigo cuts him off with a kiss, and something inside him melts with relief. Loving the familiar taste of Kisuke on his lips, the comfortable tangling of their reiatsu. Reveling in his warmth as they press closer together.

“Let's go,” Ichigo whispers against Kisuke's lips. “It's time for breakfast.”

“If you insist,” Kisuke replies, but it's with a smile. The light is back in his eyes where there had been only shadows before.

This is how it should be.

Ichigo’s unable to stop his insides from warming, his heart from patting a happier beat. He feels like he's walking on clouds as Kisuke follows him down several hallways and into the dining room that Ichigo has claimed for their daily use. It's small compared to the official one with the huge table fit for a banquet, but Ichigo likes the smallness. It's more comfortable and cozy.

Inside, breakfast has been laid out and not unsurprisingly, Sousuke is already waiting for them. He's always the first to rise.

He looks up at their entrance, raising a brow. Probably noticing Kisuke's flush of happiness and the fact that Ichigo's not walking around like the world rests on his shoulders.

“I take it Urahara is amenable to your proposal?”

Ichigo takes a seat at the head of the small table – it seats six at best – with Sousuke on his left and Kisuke taking the empty chair at his right. For once, the level of animosity at the table is at an acceptable level.

“Yes,” Ichigo confirms. “So that makes two of you. See? You can agree on something.”

He watches the two exchange a glance over the table, simultaneously assessing, measuring and forming opinions. There's a visible struggle, even from Sousuke. Obviously trying to come up with something civil and the sight of which reassures something inside of Ichigo.

Maybe this can work. Maybe it's not outside the realm of possibility.

“Agreement seems to be a matter of necessity now,” Sousuke says slowly, gaze lowering to his food as he occupies his hands with serving himself from the delicious smelling fare spread across the table.

“It is, after all, what we signed up for,” Kisuke adds, tone just as carefully constructed.

Ichigo watches them both for a long moment. “This isn't going to be easy, you know. I can't just say who gets me when. I don't know if I can handle the stress of trying to balancing things. I don't--”

“Ichigo,” Kisuke says mildly as he spreads strawberry jam over a piece of toast. “Why are you trying to change our minds now? I thought you wanted this.”

“I do. I just...”

Ichigo sighs, feeling tired, and more than a little confused. That they are both being so agreeable is throwing him for a loop. Plus, this could easily turn into a huge clusterfuck problem later. Maybe all he's doing is delaying the inevitable.

“It's complicated.”

“No one says we have to figure it all out right now,” Sousuke allows, looking perfectly composed as he sips from his usual morning cup of tea. “You could try letting things run their natural course.”

Ichigo inhales and swallows his anxieties. Sousuke has a point. It's not like he has to sit here and hash out a schedule for the next ten years.

“You have time,” Kisuke adds, and why does their sudden agreement make Ichigo so very worried? “All I want is to be with you. I'm sure Aizen feels the same. Work out the rest later.”

Ichigo blinks.

Kisuke? The voice of reason? And without the subtle tone of loathing in his voice?

Ichigo feels a bit like he's awoke in the Twilight Zone.

“Eat your breakfast,” Sousuke then says, heedless to Ichigo's amazement. “Your schedule is fully booked today.”

Working his jaw for several long moments, Ichigo picks up his chopsticks. His eyes flick between them. But they’re merely eating their own meals, the atmosphere lacking the usual undercurrent of tension.

Huh. Maybe this can work.

It seems to be off to a fairly decent start at least.

*****

a/n: Will this work? Only time can tell. You'll learn more in the epilogue, which is coming up after the last interlude, which is the next update. As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated.This entry was originally posted at http://dracoqueen22.dreamwidth.org/143384.html. Feel free to comment wherever you find most convenient.
Tags: bleach, the beautiful lie
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