dracoqueen22 (dracoqueen22) wrote,
dracoqueen22
dracoqueen22

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Bleach - The Beautiful Lie - Ch 10 - Comfort

For newbies, click here for the master list of chapters and a full-length description.

a/n: Warnings for smut between two men and spoilers. Probably foul language. Oh, and the brief appearance of an OC (mentioned in passing but that's all). NSFW

Enjoy!

The Beautiful Lie
Chapter Ten: Comfort


They both watch Ichigo leave in silence. Not daring to look at anything but him and most certainly not each other. However, Aizen snorts once Ichigo's departure has him out of earshot, and his gaze flickers to the man left with him.

“Not interested, Urahara?” he asks ironically, turning towards the shopkeeper. “I find that rather hard to believe.” His voice is full of mockery.

Kisuke can't help but bristle at the implication, even though his heart is already torn with concern for Ichigo. He isn't acting like his normal self, not that he has for several years now. Kisuke can't help but be worried. Ichigo is notorious for bottling things up, and with recent events as they are, he knows that any sort of silence or easy capitulation isn't good. And even though he wants nothing more than to follow, he knows what implications that could mean.

“Perhaps the intricacies of a friendship are beyond your understanding,” he retorts instead as he angles his body towards Aizen, wanting the man in his sight so long as they are in the same room. “But don't impress your insinuations on me.”

That infuriating calm remains in Aizen's expression as he lifts his brow. “A lot of words where a simple denial would have sufficed,” he comments, voice effecting a note of superior disbelief.

Kisuke tightens his hand into a fist as his fingers tingle menacingly. “What game are you playing?” he demands because he's certain Aizen is trying to lead him to something. Goad him to an altercation, to alter Ichigo's opinion of Kisuke so that he is more inclined to trust the former warlord.

As if that were going to happen. Ichigo might not have easily dismissed Aizen, but he remembers the face of the man behind the war. He is not going to be quick to trust. Besides, nothing short of homicide – and perhaps not even that – could ever get Ichigo to turn his back on a friend without the same happening first.

The brunet watches him with a smirk, as though reading his mind. “The same as you. At least, I am obvious in my intent to borrow Kurosaki-kun's skills.” Aizen inclines his head, glasses catching a gleam from the overhead light.

“Borrow?” Kisuke repeats flatly and sneers. “You mean ‘use.’ God by proxy, Sou-kun? That's a new low, even for you.” His fingers prickle with the urge to lash out, but he just curls them tighter.

“Kurosaki-kun is the best choice for the throne, aside from myself of course,” Aizen returns, completely unperturbed by the accusation. Unflinching in the face of Kisuke's ire. “You cannot tell me you disagree?”

That might have been the truth, but Kisuke will never admit that aloud. Just because he shares the same distaste for Soul Society, does not mean he plans to walk hand-in-hand with Aizen-fucking-Sousuke to make things better. The idea of working with the bastard makes him shudder with his own feelings of betrayal. That would be like mocking the sacrifices of the departed. Kisuke can't do that. He won't do that.

“I don't agree with you using him to further your own ambitions,” the shopkeeper counters because someone has to look out for Ichigo's best interests; Aizen only has one person in mind – himself. “He deserves to have his own life. His own future free of you and Soul Society.”

Sliding fingers through tousled brown hair, Aizen's tone flattens. “Unfortunately, that is no longer an option for him,” he retorts, and distaste for Soul Society practically emanates from him in waves.

Kisuke hates that they actually agree on a point, fists clenching even more. Though for a slightly different reason.

“It can be,” the blond argues in return. “All we have to do is turn you in.”

And oh, how he wants to. Though admittedly he doesn't quite trust them to do the job right this time either. He wonders why Aizen is worth a guardian angel. Worth the effort of saving. Why anyone would even bother. The one person he can think to dare such a thing is dead, killed by the man before him.

Aizen shakes his head. “Come now. You don't believe that will mollify Soul Society any more than I do.” He gestures lazily. “Not when he was snatched right out from under their noses.”

“It's a start.”

“But not enough.” The brunet laughs, and it’s a cold sound. “Not when he is a Vizard. And wasn’t that your doing?”

Kisuke’s blood boils, fire racing through his veins. Even as there is a roaring in his ears. It takes everything within him not to lash out, not to strike, to kill. And only the reminder that Ichigo is just down the hallway, that he would undoubtedly see keeps his hands at his side. But even then, Kisuke can’t help the burst of reiatsu that jumps free before he can control himself.

Aizen, in turn, sucks in a harsh breath and hunches over. One hand goes to his chest, as though he wishes to claw at his own heart. To force it not to tremble. His legs shake, eyes focused on the floor as he struggles just to breathe.

And for a moment, Kisuke actually forgets. Doesn’t remember that this man before him is powerless. That the only strength he has is in his words and nothing else.

He cools at that realization and feels a flare of shame shoot down his spine. Kisuke has never been the type to kick a man when he is down, no matter what sort he is. And despite the fact that he loathes Aizen Sousuke more than he ever has anyone else, he can’t help but regret his outburst. Regret that this man has such a strong hold on him that he can barely think straight.

Still, Kisuke can’t apologize. Refuses to do so. He just waits as Aizen centers himself. Waits for him to straighten. His face is a mask then, dark eyes shaded and unreadable. But Kisuke still has the distinct impression that he is embarrassed, and some hateful part of himself relishes in that.

“Soul Society will not back down,” Aizen says after a time. “You and I both know this. They will never let him free.” His voice is strong once more, as though the last several minutes never happened.

“They might,” the shopkeeper replies without thinking. “Ukitake--”

“Is weak,” Aizen interrupts. “Whatever he might have once felt for Kurosaki-kun is irrelevant. He has the power but did nothing to help him. No one else in Seireitei is strong enough to challenge him now, and those closest – Kuchiki, Unohana, Hitsugaya – wouldn’t even bother for this case. They are all three very fond of your charge, though they may not show it.”

Kisuke can see the truth of that, even admit it silently to himself. And deep inside himself he knows that arguing further is useless.

But dammit if Aizen doesn’t have a response for everything, and irritation curls in Kisuke's belly. Ukitake should have done more, but that doesn’t remove Aizen’s own role in all of this. Ichigo is suffering because of this man again, and he refuses to think of his own lingering guilt. If only he had protected Ichigo better. If only he had encouraged Ichigo to join the Gotei 13 earlier. If only…

“He can never go back,” the former overlord concludes.

Kisuke sniffs. “And I wonder who we have to blame for that?” he throws at the other man, as much an accusation as it is a rhetorical question. “You dragged him into this.”

“Out of necessity. Eventually, the truth would have emerged.” He crosses his arms over his chest and looks away. “This... miscalculation merely sped up the process.”

That Aizen is admitting any sort of mistake on his part comes dangerously close to an apology. And it nearly throws the blond for a loop, but he refuses to allow himself to become distracted by it.

“Miscalculation!” he repeats incredulously, his voice a low hiss in the room as it threatens to rise in his annoyance. “You ruined his life!”

Aizen inclines his head, sure of himself now. “And now, I'm trying to better it.”

The shopkeeper snorts. “What makes you think that this plan is going to work when you couldn't even make yourself god?” Throwing Aizen's loss back into his face makes a small, petty part of Kisuke feel smug.

He wants this man to remember that he has failed before, that Kisuke has helped to tear him down. He wants Aizen to linger in it. To never forget that he is the one begging for help here, no matter what his manner may try to say.

Aizen doesn't even flinch. “If it is Kurosaki-kun, then there is no doubt in my mind.” He sounds so certain and full of self-assurance that once again Kisuke almost finds himself believing. The same charisma that helped ingratiate Aizento his Shinigami, that must have made him the leader he was amongst the denizens of Hueco Mundo, it is still present. Muted and beaten but growing in strength the closer he seems to get to his goals.

Kisuke hates that about him. Not that there is much he likes.

“I won't let you use him.” He squares his jaw; he won't allow Aizen to weasel his little manipulations into Ichigo.

But Aizen smirks, so damn full of himself. “Luckily for me, you're not the one who makes that decision.”

The same homicidal urge as before rises up inside Kisuke, and he turns away in order not to follow through with it. He detests that Aizen is partly right.

“As if he will ever choose you.” He steps away then but not before a parting shot. “Make yourself useful and clean the kitchen,” he mutters, hating that it appears like a concession. He doesn't like Aizen thinking he's won. Even for an instant.

He asks himself again why he's allowed the bastard to stay here. Why he let Aizen to accompany him. It's too late to toss him out now because he suspects Ichigo will protest. He should have killed the traitor when he had the chance; Ichigo need not ever know what had happened to him.

Disgusted, Kisuke leaves the room on a sharp turn. If he talks with Aizen any longer, he'll want to hurt something. And as much as he would like nothing better than to squeeze the life out of the traitor, he has the feeling Ichigo wouldn't appreciate it so much.

He considers where he can go in this small house, all the more cramped thanks to Aizen's unnecessary ego. The main room has a television, but Kisuke's too restless to sit and stare. But there's something on the edge of his thoughts and senses, something that drives him to the hallway. He hasn't heard a peep from Ichigo since he left the kitchen. Somehow, that worries him.

Kisuke changes directions, heading for the bedroom, and that's when he feels it. A wave of misery and darkness, caught in the clinging tendrils of Ichigo's reiatsu. He's gotten better at being more contained, but no doubt the cuffs and the subsequent release of them threw that all out of his control.

Worry replaces annoyance, and Kisuke puts his hand on the side, sliding open the door. Ichigo is sitting on the bed, shoved into the corner, face buried in his arms with his knees up to his chest. And Kisuke again feels a spike of anger, of irritation with himself for not acting sooner. And fury with Soul Society for making things worse. He saves a good portion of his frustration for Aizen; that bastard is the cause of everything.

“Ichigo?”

The Vizard barely stirs, lifting his head as though a thousand weights hang from it. His eyes are red, but no tears line his face. At least, no fresh ones.

“I'm fine,” he mutters, uncurling his fingers from his legs, gaze slipping to the side. “I'm fine.”

He says it twice, but that only makes Kisuke believe him less. He's the furthest from fine at the moment. And the ex-captain has a pretty good guess what must be running through Ichigo's mind. He has the same problems himself. Waking up in a cold sweat, heart pounding. The people he couldn't save. The things he couldn't prevent. Accusations and blood and rage so bright and terrible that it burns away everything else.

“Liar.” Kisuke sits on the edge of the futon, cautious and concerned. “Such a liar.”

“No one asked you,” Ichigo retorts dully, voice lacking its usual bluster and ire.

Kisuke misses that just a bit. The reckless and protesting Kurosaki-kun who Ichigo once was. Before the war and the blood that stains both of their hands. But at the same time, he can’t help but be proud of the man Ichigo has become. Strong and self-contained. A friend. His dearest one now. He has told Ichigo things he has never confided to anyone else. Not even Yoruichi or Tessai or Shinji.

“Ichigo--”

“Don't.” The Vizard cuts him off before he can offer a word, sucking in a shuddering breath that fails to reassure. “Just don't. I already know what you're going to say. I've heard it all before.”

Kisuke searches for something to say. “You'll see them again,” he murmurs, and it almost sounds like a promise. As though he vows to make it happen.

“I know.” Brown eyes flutter, a brief moment of peace amid the chaos that glimmers in the background.

It's not just the present that's affecting Ichigo; it's the past, too. Kisuke can see it in the lines of his face. In the dissonance of his reiatsu, coiling around his body. He is pale, trembling, and Kisuke wonders if he even knows how to fix this.

“You should get some rest,” he suggests, already knowing it is a paltry offering. Sleep never works for him, so he doesn't know why he wants it for Ichigo. Sleep doesn't bring peace, only opening up the subconscious to the things he wishes he didn't remember.

“No.” Ichigo's hands rake through his hair but pause in the midst, pulling on the longish orange strands. His expression darkens with restrained emotion, the difficulty of someone trying to pull themselves together and failing miserably. “No, I'm fine.”

“You're not.”

“I am,” Ichigo practically snarls, as if thinking he only has to say it firmly enough to make it true. To make himself believe it. Even if it's so obviously a lie.

The both of them know it.

He wants to offer comfort. He aches to see Ichigo in this much pain because he could have done something back then. Kisuke just doesn't know what Ichigo will accept. If the boy – no, man – would even let him. But then, he isn’t like Yoruichi. Has never been like her at all. Willingly letting Kisuke move in closer until they are touching, arm to arm.

“Talk to me,” he says finally, one hand drifting down to rest on Ichigo’s.

“What good will that do?” Ichigo retorts, and it is almost bitter. “It's not going to make the nightmares go away, will it?” The demand is harsh, breathing sharp and frantic, barely contained. So close to the edge. But at least, he hasn’t pulled away.

Kisuke's insides clench with unease and guilt. He never should have let Ichigo fight. He never should have given him the power to do so. He never should have given in and pushed him this far.

He opens his mouth to speak, though there are no words on his tongue, but Ichigo continues doggedly.

“I close my eyes, and I see them,” he whispers, and Kisuke needs no elaboration to know just who Ichigo means. “I see them. I can't make it go away. I can't forget.” His fingers tighten around his hair, and Kisuke can't take it anymore.

He reaches up to snag the other hand and curls a tight grip around Ichigo's wrists. Forcing the Vizard to look at him and uncoil his hair from his own likely painful hold.

“Would it be easier if you could?” Kisuke demands, tone soft and careful. Even as he draws in closer to kneel between Ichigo’s feet, practically in his lap.

It's not unlike facing a wounded, cornered animal. Ichigo is at a breaking point, and Kisuke wonders if lashing out will do the Vizard any good. He has always been one to internalize everything. His own fears and pains, his weaknesses. He never admits when he needs help. Ichigo never shares the burden.

Reddened eyes don't quite meet his. “Yes?”

And Kisuke looks at him. He knows good and well that’s a lie, and damn it all, Ichigo is full of them today. He wants to forget, but he also wants to remember. Some of those memories are the last he has of what was precious to him. He doesn't want to forget Renji or Shunsui or the brave fight the other lost souls put forth. That would be a dishonor he isn't willing to commit.

Ichigo senses his disbelief without Kisuke having to say anything, and he crumbles. “Dammit,” he curses under his breath, barely louder than a whisper.

His heart contracts painfully in his chest as Ichigo drags his gaze away, unfocused and unseeing. His friend’s brow draws down, scrunching as he tries to repress a pain that's scrabbling to break free.

“I don't know. It's just--” His frustrated growl is accompanied by the sight of his fingers curling into fists. “I can't sleep anymore. I can't think.”

Ichigo lifts his head again until Kisuke is suddenly aware of how close they are. Just a hairsbreadth away. His hair brushing the blond’s forehead.

“I don’t know what to do. I can't breathe. I--”

He kisses him. Kisuke doesn't know why he decides to do it. He just does. Perhaps to stop the broken words that don't make sense any more. Maybe because it hurts him to see Ichigo like this. He doesn't know what else to do. He doesn't know what else to offer because Kisuke never has been good at words, not where it really matters. He's just a scientist. A goofy, unsociable scientist who doesn't know how to handle this agony anymore than Ichigo does.

Ichigo stills in surprise, and Kisuke doesn't blame him. It's a first for him, too. But just when he thinks that he's committed some terrible affront to his dear student, the young man responds. Returning the kiss. Desperately, needfully. Tongue sliding across Kisuke's lips and touching his own, tasting like tea and sorrow. Like sin.

He can't stop the moan that digs itself from his gut, traveling up and rattling in his chest. Heat flashes through his body, fingers going slack around Ichigo's wrists. And Kisuke is filled with this incredible and sudden sense of desire and need and “Can I have? Dear gods, please let me have...”

There is comfort here and familiarity. The warm touch of another person, so healing when all he remembers recently is the loneliness of cold sheets and echoing silence. For a moment, Kisuke forgets all the reasons he shouldn't do this. Not just for his own sake, but for Ichigo's as well.

He wants to melt into that familiarity. However, Kisuke forces himself to stop, breaking off and dropping his hold on Ichigo entirely. He's been able to feel his pulse through that touch, rapid but strong. The blond clears his throat, trying to ignore the haze of want, want, want that is fighting to take over his rationality.

“I’m sorry,” Kisuke says, licking his lips, tasting the last of Ichigo. “This is a bad idea.”

“You started it,” the Vizard retorts, and he doesn't sound angry. Just contemplating and perhaps annoyed because Kisuke is over there when he should be over here, kissing him again.

“I know, and I apologize.” That's really all he can do. He can't sit here and do... whatever this is. Ichigo is not exactly in a good place. He doesn't even know what he's thinking.

“Don't.”

Kisuke isn't sure what Ichigo means by that and looks at him, the question on his lips. He sees it then, just a glimmer of its usual will, but it's there. A spark of his previous determination and stubbornness.

“I didn't ask for one,” Ichigo retorts, and his tone takes an edge of bitterness. “I'm not a child. Not anymore.”

He remembers in that moment Jyuushiro and Ichigo and what they could’ve had. How close he and Ichigo were. How they'd never gotten any further than chaste kisses and playful gropes. Ichigo was so young then. So very young. And yet, they'd still thrust him into that war.

But still, even now, he's fragile. Cracked but not broken. Kisuke might only be making things worse.

“I know what I'm doing,” Ichigo adds, and his hand lands on Kisuke's thigh, warm and present. Squeezing meaningfully.

He says he does, but he probably doesn't. He's grief-stricken, stressed beyond belief and crumbling under the cards life has dealt him. Ichigo isn't thinking logically. He can't be. He doesn't know what he wants.

Kisuke shifts back, knowing he should make the smarter choice since he's the only one in the position to do so.

But…

“I feel like I'm taking advantage,” he admits, unable to move more than a few inches.

Ichigo's fingers shoot out, grabbing his arm before he can retreat again. “Then, do it already,” he almost snarls. “I can't... I don't want to think anymore. About anything.” But suddenly, he softens, and his face is open in a way that is Kisuke’s undoing. “I need you.”

And it’s the most wonderful and terrible thing he has ever heard. The truth of it burning in Ichigo’s eyes. Painful and heartbreaking. But hopeful.

Before Kisuke can entirely digest his words, can even think what to do, Ichigo crosses the distance between them. His kiss is unskilled but passionate. Lips hungry and seeking, asking for comfort. For him to make it better, even if only for awhile. Put a band-aid on the wound because it can be fixed later.

Kisuke wishes that he could form a coherent thought. But he can't. Ichigo is warm and pliant as his free arm snakes around, and the blond deepens the kiss, a groan rattling in his throat. He's hurting, and if this will help, Kisuke won't – can't – deny him. He ignores all the reasons that this is a Very Bad Idea and drags his knuckles down Ichigo's back, a thrill running through his body at the sound of the resulting sigh.

It blurs, Kisuke losing himself to the sounds of rustling clothes and the feel of Ichigo's skin beneath his fingertips. They fall back onto the bed with a loud and somewhat embarrassing thump, but he is already too far gone to care. His leg slips between two thighs, nudging against a rising arousal. Fingers digging into the arms above him, pulling closer, needing contact.

He mouths Ichigo's throat, sweat and the taste of his skin, feels Ichigo swallow beneath his lips. The Vizard bucks up against him as Kisuke lowers his pelvis, and their groins collide, sending a moan through the shopkeeper that vibrates out of his throat. He's hot, burning, rubbing against Ichigo in all the best kinds of ways.

He can feel Ichigo's reiatsu, buzzing with power and emotion as it brushes against his own, setting his senses aflame. He's still there, the Ichigo who Kisuke knows. Reckless and burning beneath the surface. Determined and resolute, never giving up.

He tastes Ichigo's collarbone, licks over the paler-than-usual skin and is treated to an answering groan. Ichigo arches up against him, his hands tugging at Kisuke's clothing, sliding it up, his palms following. They are a hot presence against the blond’s stomach and chest, setting goosebumps over his skin.

He wants. Oh, how he wants.

One hand slams against the futon for balance as Kisuke presses a second against Ichigo's burgeoning arousal. He strokes him over the cloth, unsure what to call the noises emerging from Ichigo but knowing that he likes them. That he wants to hear more.

“Ah, Urahara,” he moans as Kisuke's fingers winnow their way beneath fabric, curling fingers around him, hot and hard.

But he can't have this.

“Kisuke,” he murmurs into Ichigo's ear, breath a warm whisper. “My name is Kisuke,” he corrects and drags his lips back around, needing and wanting to taste him.

Ichigo gasps, something like a sigh spilling into Kisuke's mouth. One hand pulls him closer, an iron clamp against the shopkeeper's back. Another shoves through the loose waistband of Kisuke's hakama, and damn if the blond isn't grateful that he doesn't dress more appropriately.

His fingers seek out Kisuke's rigid arousal and hesitate at the feel of dampness across the head before pushing forwards anyway. Kisuke shudders with want, never in his wildest dreams thinking that something like this would happen. Never thinking it was possible; he never even considered desiring it. He wishes he had sooner. Had realized what could be between them. They could’ve been doing this for months. Years even.

Their bodies move without any real direction, without any sort of finesse or skill. Just responding to hunger and desire, an edge of desperation coloring each pass of hand over skin, each careful stroke of Kisuke's fingers over Ichigo's length. Kisuke pulls back, his mouth hovering over another, their breaths mingling. And Ichigo arches beneath him, hips rocking hungrily.

Eyelids flutter over brown eyes, darkened with sorrow and need, beautiful. Kisuke nuzzles into his throat, feels the flutter of Ichigo's pulse against his lips. He murmurs something; he isn't sure what it is. Ichigo's name perhaps. It's all a blur to him. Of sound and scent and touch – hot flesh and pulsing need and dampness streaked across the pad of his thumb.

Kisuke wishes he were more coherent; that it isn't just this needy push towards release. He has thoughts of taking his time, of running his tongue over Ichigo's skin and watching arousal fill the Vizard's face. He imagines the noises that Ichigo might produce, and the thought only makes him that much harder. Blood rushes through his veins, and he can hear his own rapid pulse.

Ichigo sucks in a breath, heel sliding harshly across the futon as he surges upwards, a half-bitten cry tearing from his throat. Kisuke isn't sure if it's even coherent, barely notices as he feels warmth spill over his hand. Ichigo jerks and writhes beneath him, covered in a sheet of sweat and is oh-so-beautiful. It should be wrong to describe a man in such a way, but Kisuke can't honestly think of anything better.

He watches Ichigo come undone, and it is Kisuke's own undoing. He drags his hand from Ichigo's pants, and it slams against the futon, smearing a mess across the clean blankets. Pleasure shoots through his body in sharp staccato – want, want, want – and into his core.

Kisuke captures the lips below his because he has to, the taste of him on his tongue as he moans into Ichigo’s mouth. His hips sink down, rocking against Ichigo and likely crushing the fingers trapped between their bodies. Kisuke's too gone to notice as he splatters Ichigo's hand with his own release.

Panting, body thrumming, he deepens the kiss. It's not enough, and it's just perfect, and he wants to gather Ichigo into his arms and never let go. Kisuke doesn't know what to do with all these sudden – or maybe not quite – thoughts. And Ichigo's hand draws free from between their bodies, and it grips onto Kisuke's haori, pulling the shopkeeper down against him.

He tries not to put his weight on Ichigo entirely, shifting to the side. Kisuke cups his face with his free hand, letting the kiss turn languorous. Savoring it as he should have done from the beginning. Ichigo's reiatsu is a humming, quiescent presence against his own lapping gently like waves against a shore. And his eyes are open, staring into the blond’s in such a way that he knows he is all Ichigo sees.

He ends the kiss gently, letting his fingers slip away from Ichigo's cheek as his head falls against the younger man's shoulder. Kisuke doesn't speak because he honestly doesn't know what he would say. He has mixed feelings about this – guilt and relief and happiness and desire – and he can't vocalize them without sounding like an idiot. He's almost afraid to ask what Ichigo thinks.

Thankfully, Ichigo doesn't speak either. Just breathes slowly, his heart returning to a more normal pace as his muscles gradually ease from their tension.

They lay there like that for several minutes, and Kisuke isn't surprised when Ichigo falls into exhaustion, his breathing now deep and even. He carefully eases back, glancing at the Vizard's face. The worry lines aren't erased from his forehead, but they are definitely less deep. He isn't displaying the same restlessness as before, and that's something to be grateful for.

Kisuke watches him sleep for awhile longer, reassuring himself that it's restful and Ichigo isn't going to wake anytime soon. And then, he eases himself from the futon, careful and slow, trying not to disturb his bedmate. It takes some amount of maneuvering to rescue his arm, and then, he's free and slipping carefully away.

Discomfort attacks as the sogginess in his pants becomes apparent. Kisuke winces, realizing that Ichigo must be in much the same state. Once again, he'll be undressing and cleaning the man while he is unconscious. It's become a habit as of late.

Kisuke creeps out of the room and across the hall, the silence of the house surrounding him. He doesn't know where exactly Aizen is, and frankly, the blond doesn't care. That is one disadvantage to the man lacking reiatsu. He has become rather difficult to sense. No wonder no one in Soul Society had realized he was alive up until this disastrous point.

He flips the light on in the washroom and catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror. It is sad that he looks scarcely better than Ichigo, despite the satisfied gleam to his eyes. The years have not been kind to any of them. Or more truthfully, the war has not left a kind legacy.

Kisuke glances away, busying himself with finding another clean washcloth. What is it about mirrors showing the things one doesn’t want to see, doesn’t want to admit? Amazing how they can only reflect what's in them, but there's always something else to see.

He ventures back into the hallway, still no Aizen in sight, and heads back into the bedroom. And then, he mutters to himself because he's tiptoeing around the house like a teenager who doesn't want daddy to know she just lost her virginity. Or maybe he's just not in the mood to put up with another verbal battle against his loathsome houseguest.

Ichigo hasn't so much as moved in his absence, which could be a good sign. Working quickly but carefully and feeling just a bit like a parent, Kisuke efficiently strips and redresses him once more. Except that the last thing he wants to be right now is anyone's father. Especially to this man. Especially after what they’ve just done.

Isshin is going to kill him. Scratch that, a lot of people are going to kill him. Shinji. Ichigo’s sisters. Hiyori. Ukitake if they ever see him again. Tessai.

He could go on, but really, he doesn’t want to think about all the homicidal people coming after him.

Ichigo taken care of, Kisuke grabs another pair of pants and slips out of the room, intent on cleaning himself up. Worry runs a steady course in the back of his mind, but what's done is done. He can't take it back, and Kisuke refuses to regret. Not when it is Ichigo. He cannot.

However, Aizen waits just outside the bedroom. He is simply standing in the hallway, and there is a look on his face that Kisuke can't quite interpret. He isn't sure he wants to.

Kisuke draws up short, matching Aizen stare for stare, despite his obvious disadvantage. He'll be damned if he lets Aizen intimidate him.

Kisuke doesn't regret anything. Not a damned thing.

*********


a/n: Wahhh, cliffhanger! And whew, that was hot. My face still burns whenever I read this scene, one I actually find myself proud of. I hope you enjoyed it as well. Things are going to heat up from now on, I promise! Relationships deepen, Aizen and Urahara get personal, and Ichigo starts to make some decisions.

See you next time!

On to interlude two and then chapter eleven!
Tags: bleach, the beautiful lie
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