a/n: The dreaded morning after and confrontations with Aizen, what's poor Kisuke to do? Also, there's an OC that is briefly mentioned towards the end of the fic that is very, very similar to another character in another series. This isn't the result of a crossover, I just grew lazy when it came to creating an OC. *grins*
Chapter Eleven: Persuasion
He won't exactly call it a trap, but Aizen standing right outside the bedroom, failing to look as if he is just passing by as a coincidence, is too telling. There is a hint of disgruntlement in the man’s features before he schools it into something more nonchalant.
“Given up on Shihouin-san then?” he asks snidely.
Then, Kisuke can identify the look in his eyes. Malice, clear and simple.
Kisuke squares his shoulders, longing for a shower. “That's none of your business,” he retorts, ignoring the stab of pain that Aizen's insinuation produces. No need to have given up on something there was never a chance for in the first place. There is a reason they call it unrequited.
He should have known that such a weak rejoinder wouldn't have dissuaded Aizen.
“I was under the impression that you were supposed to be the one looking out for his best interests,” the brunet continues. Much like a man with a death wish because no matter the consequences he keeps pushing Kisuke, whose restraint can only take handle so much. “Tell me again how that works.”
Kisuke purses his lips, biting back a childish retort. “The person who caused most of his pain is in no position to question my motives.”
“Ah, so there is a motive.”
Dammit. Now, the bastard is twisting his words around on him.
“I never said there was because there doesn't have to be.” Kisuke’s mouth curls into a smirk. “Again, this is an aspect of friendship that a traitor like you could never understand.”
“I'm sure that all he needed was your healing touch to make it all better,” Aizen returns with a sarcastic drawl, making his point without a need to be overly crude.
Gray eyes narrow. “Ichigo is not a child. And I hardly need you chastising me for something that was his choice.”
“As the most rational and stable person in that room, I assume.” Aizen tilts his head at that comment. Infinitely amused.
Kisuke can practically hear his teeth grinding one against another. He reminds himself that Aizen has had years to hone the art of cutting another down with words, and though Kisuke won't ever admit it aloud, he knows he isn't the most equipped to win these tete-a-tetes. That doesn't mean he isn't going to try.
The former overlord goes on, as though Kisuke's brief silence gives him permission to keep spouting his unnecessary insinuations. “I suppose I should give you credit for waiting until he was legal. Unless there is a past of which I'm not aware...” He leaves it open-ended on purpose, trying to cut through with words alone.
If it is going to come to that, then Kisuke has no choice but to be nasty himself. He bristles, the temperature in the hall dropping to a chilly, subzero breeze. Like Hitsugaya has taken up residence with no one the wiser.
“If you want to make unfounded insinuations, there are plenty of rumors I can drag up for your benefit,” Kisuke retorts, squaring his shoulders once more. “And how old was Ichimaru when you dragged him into your plot again? I'm sure it didn't take much to convince an orphan from Rukongai, did it? But then, you know what strays are like.”
Something in Aizen’s demeanor instantly stiffens, and his eyes blaze behind his glasses. Burning in a manner that makes Kisuke smug inside, even as he feels a twinge of guilt at bringing up a dead man.
Still, the blond doesn’t even fight his smirk now that the tables are turned. “You just loved how much he admired you. He would’ve done anything you asked. Anything at all.” A little chuckle escapes, but it isn’t as honest as it could be. “You two were very close, weren’t you?”
The brunet doesn’t show it, but Kisuke knows that one hit home. Ichimaru means a lot to Aizen; he was more than just a subordinate and fellow conspirator. If Aizen were not such an unfeeling subhuman, Kisuke might even say that he loved Ichimaru. Like a father would his son.
And maybe it is that thought that makes him change his next words.
“Baseless accusations can go both ways. Besides,” Kisuke says with a cold sense of superiority, “I don’t recall you ever being attached to another. It must come as a shock that people do such things, but I’m sure that I can use small words to explain it to you. Perhaps a diagram.” At the narrowing of Aizen’s brow, he winks and wishes for his fan. “Shunsui was lax in leaving you so uninformed.”
His adversary gives a disdainful sniff. “Or perhaps Shunsui preferred that I have worthwhile encounters. Ones with others fully willing and able.”
“Worthwhile? Do you even know what that means?” Kisuke counters, fighting not to roll his eyes. “And don’t call him Shunsui. You lost that privilege.”
The flicker that travels across the former overlord’s face can almost be called guilt were it anyone else. But Kisuke knows better than that.
“I can call him whatever I like,” Aizen returns loftily. “We were family, after all. Despite opinions to the contrary.” He inclines his head then, lenses catching the dim light of the hallway. “Not that you would understand such things. I mean, really… did you even know who your mother was? Or did she truly abandon you the day you were born to some unseated Shinigami?” he asks with a raised eyebrow, affecting a sense of self-righteous innocence.
How he manages that is beyond Kisuke. But the shopkeeper is too busy seething inside to really care.
“My father was a fukutaichou, though you are probably unaware,” he rebuffs with an easy tone. “And my mother loved him dearly. Though not necessarily her husband.”
Aizen gifts him with a wicked smile. “Ah, the Urahara family. Always tasting what they shouldn’t. You must get that from him.”
Kisuke was willing to back off on the Ichimaru angle, but parents are fair game. And he’s tired of playing by the rules when his opponent clearly doesn’t care.
“At least my father loved me. What of your parents?” he questions already knowing the painful and humiliating truth. “Oh, that’s right. They didn’t even notice you existed most days.” Kisuke taps his chin with his first finger in mock realization. “And I vaguely recall something Shunsui told me once. An explanation for why you always hung around looking like a lost dog.”
His eyes gleam then, and the blond doesn’t even care that they’ve gone beyond dangerous territory with a few words and to the point of no return. After all, Aizen was the one who dug up their family histories. There is a reason long dead pasts should stay buried.
“For why Unohana-san always had to patch you up as a child,” Kisuke continues maliciously, not even feigning this time. “You couldn’t possibly have been that clumsy. Running into doors? Not even Kurotsuchi would believe that one.” His tone is light then, a direct mockery to his words. “Tell me, did some part of you enjoy it? Just some small part? At least then, your father actually noticed you.”
Dimly, he notices one of Aizen’s hands curl into a fist at his sides. Kisuke, however, just doesn’t care. Completely ignores the twinge of guilt at his own cruelty. Something about this man just makes him vicious. Brings out the very worst in him.
“Is that your excuse for everything?” he inquires before he can even stop himself. Not that he really wants to do so. “That your daddy hit you, so you had to be bad. That you needed to punish everyone around you.” Kisuke snorts. “Kyouraku Shunsui was good to you. Probably the closest thing to a real father you ever had. And we all know how you repaid him for it.”
If the blond thought Aizen’s eyes burned before, it is nothing compared to the inferno now. The smoldering fires that threaten to consume everything. And if he even possessed a trickle of reiatsu, Kisuke has no doubt that Aizen would use it to summon forth the worst and most agonizing kidoh he knows. Or perhaps he would just reach for Kyouka Suigetsu and run him through.
Strangely though, his tone is frosty. Icy in a way that not even Kuchiki Byakuya could manage.
“I may be a murderer,” Aizen admits with a slow deliberateness, “but at least, I don’t rape children.” He pauses to let that sink in but speaks before Kisuke can focus beyond the roaring in his ears. “Was the opportunity simply too much? Too much temptation in such a sinful package? What would your dear friend Isshin think? Or Hirako? Your fukutaichou?”
The brunet lets out a light laugh at Kisuke’s expression. Enjoying that far too much for his own good.
“Or maybe you merely like them young,” he sadistically follows through. “Perhaps it is the heartbreak that appeals to you. Do you like how broken he is? Did he call you sensei and ask you to be gentle?” Another cruel chuckle is followed by that same smile. “You simply couldn’t resist, could you?”
Instead of flaring hot, Kisuke’s insides go cold. A sharp stab of shame in his belly. Those words true. Too true for his liking. For his comfort. And he honestly has no response to that. No possible defense.
“As if you know about resisting temptation,” he snaps harshly and pushes by Aizen, heading for the bathroom without so much as a backwards look.
It's weak, oh-so-weak, and Kisuke knows it. Aizen has won this time around, and he hates. Loathes it. Wishes he could end things with a well-placed kidoh or a graceful swing of Benihime. He grinds his teeth, his insides twisting and churning. Not with regret because he's already promised that. But guilt. Heavy and nauseating guilt.
He feels it crawl over him as he closes the bathroom door behind him and jerks the water for the shower on, letting the noise of it cover the sound of his harsh breathing. He ignores the mirror, refuses to look at it, doesn't want to know what it sees. Kisuke strips quickly, throwing his dirty laundry into the basket, and steps under the spray.
The heat beats down on his back, and he lets it wash over him, over his hair as he stares at the grey tile. His palms flat against the cold surface, a contrast to the steaming heat. His fingers scrape against the wall. He can practically feel Aizen's sense of victory from here, and it burns.
Ichigo will wake tomorrow, he reminds himself. And only then will Kisuke know how his friend really feels about this. The sense that he had taken advantage of Ichigo has not faded, no matter how he tries not to think about it. He asks himself what else he could have done and then wonders if he is merely making excuses. Only to curse under his breath, closing his eyes in frustration. He hates that the uncertainty stems entirely from Aizen and his cutting words.
With a shuddering, deep breath, Kisuke forces himself to actually shower as he intended. There's nothing more to be down now. All he can do is wait for tomorrow and hope that he hasn't completely ruined one of his dearest friendships. Hasn’t made his best friend hate him.
And that the shame doesn't drown him.
Kisuke wakes with an annoyed grunt as a slot of bright sunlight pours through the blinds and right across his eyes. He rolls over and encounters a warm body, having previously forgotten that he shares a bed with Ichigo now. Mind fuzzily trying to recover, Kisuke stiffens as Ichigo groans and stirs, waking himself.
He isn't ready for this, a mish-mash of memories attacking him in that moment. Memories of hot skin and warm lips and Ichigo sighing his name. Aizen's accusations carrying the stench of truth as they settle heavily in his mind. He realizes that in all likelihood, Ichigo will wake up swinging, and it'll be Kisuke bearing the brunt of it because it is his fault. He's the bastard here.
Kisuke's breath catches in his throat, and he has an awkward moment of heart-stopping breathlessness as Ichigo's eyes flutter open. The lame “good morning” he thinks to say dies on his tongue, and he regards Ichigo warily. Waiting for the blow to come. He deserves it, after all. He's the pervert everyone thought him to be.
Ichigo looks at him, expression unreadable, before he leans in and presses his lips to Kisuke's own without a single ounce of hesitation. Surprised, his reaction is delayed, and he scrambles to execute a proper response. He moves against Ichigo's warm mouth and feels a great sense of relief sweep through him. When Ichigo draws back, the blond can't help but question whether or not he's dodged a potential landmine.
“So I suppose I can take that as a good sign you're not planning to attack me?” he asks, attempting a half-crooked grin that utterly fails in light of his wariness.
“Depends on what you mean by attack,” Ichigo answers and rolls onto his back, stretching his arms over his head in a languid stretch that makes bones pop and muscles ripple invitingly beneath his skin.
He looks much better than he did the night before. The darkness is not completely gone from his eyes, but the strain has eased. And Kisuke won't push for him to talk about it either. He knows that it won't really help, and he wishes he knew something that actually would. A band-aid to the wound, he reminds himself.
Kisuke stirs at the sight, wanting more than the brief taste Ichigo allowed him. He blinks at the unexpectedly bold statement, and his grin turns genuine.
“My Ichigo, I didn't know you could be so forward.”
Brown eyes glance at him askance. Seeming to judge him for a second as if realizing something.
“I never said I was a virgin either,” Ichigo comments. Like he’s read his bedmate’s mind.
His eyebrows threaten to crawl into his hairline at the almost blasé statement. Kisuke doesn't want to admit that he honestly thought Ichigo was. Thus a good portion of the guilt that may or may not have been exacerbated by Aizen's accusations.
Ichigo scowls, annoyed by Kisuke's expression. “I can tell by that dumbass look you thought I was.”
Ah, he's been caught. Not that he and Ichigo have ever really discussed the Vizard's experience or lack thereof. For a war hero, he is surprising jilted on that regard. Still, Kisuke would have thought that he'd heard of some kind of romantic interest in Ichigo's past. He knows of Jyuushiro, and he also knows that never went further than vestal touches.
“I've had a girlfriend, you know,” Ichigo reveals, voice tight and vaguely annoyed. “I’m not that pathetic.”
“Oh?” Kisuke murmurs, wondering why he's not heard about this before. “And I never said you were. I’m sure she was lovely.” Still, he is racking his brain, trying to figure out when this happened.
But then, there was a time when he had been too caught up with Yoruichi's sudden abandonment of him and the living world. When she had returned to Soul Society without so much as a farewell, going where he could not follow. Ichigo might have told him and Kisuke hadn't been paying attention. And then again, it might have never come up. They discussed the war and Ichigo's abilities. They talked about his family and schoolwork. But they never discussed Ichigo's romantic life. Kisuke wonders why when it seems so relevant now.
“Don't say it like that, pervert,” Ichigo retorts and rolls into a sitting position, looking pointedly down at his changed clothes, probably wondering how that happened. “It didn't work out.”
Kisuke finds himself curious, more than should seem reasonable. “I assume you met this girl at school.”
“Yeah.” Ichigo runs a hand through his hair as he muses, always slow to wake. His voice is quiet but almost offhand as he continues. “My nightmares scared her more than they did me.”
“Bitch,” Kisuke says before he thinks about it.
Really, how could someone be with Ichigo and not want to support him? That is just cowardly.
Ichigo glances over his shoulder, tossing out a strange look. “It's not her fault. She didn't know. And damn if I'd ever tell her. That would’ve been a hell of an explanation.”
“I can imagine,” Kisuke mutters, still oddly disgruntled.
If the twit had cared, she would've stayed, and that's all he can think. Though he does suppose trying to make anything work with someone who has no knowledge of the spirit world could be difficult. He only has to look at Isshin to realize that. The man has three children he adores, but his wife died protecting their spiritually-strong son because she didn't have any abilities on her own. Kisuke doubts that Masaki regretted it, but the fact remains that Isshin pulled her into their world.
He watches as Ichigo rises to his feet with a barely concealed yawn, running a hand through his hair and making a face. “I need a shower,” he murmurs, fingers scratching over his chin where stubble has begun to show.
Kisuke can't refute that, and he doesn't as he watches, every motion languid and intentional. Somehow erotic. Or perhaps that's just his own lust talking. Despite Ichigo's nonchalance, it's obvious he hasn't forgotten his near-breakdown of the night before. The nightmares that spawned it aren't so easily neglected or pushed aside.
Either way, Kisuke is certain that Aizen's accusations don't have an entire ring of truth to them. This – whatever it is – between he and Ichigo has nothing to do with Yoruichi or what feelings he may have for her. He cares for Ichigo and wants nothing but the best for his former student. Kisuke is sure of it. He looks at this man, and he swears to whichever god is listening that he won't let Aizen manipulate Ichigo or himself.
“You can't trust him,” Kisuke says as Ichigo rifles through his bag, no doubt looking for something else clean to change into. It probably seems out of the blue, but it is something important for Ichigo to hear.
“What?” The Vizard hesitates, confusion furrowing his brow.
“Aizen. He can't be trusted,” Kisuke clarifies, shifting until he leans against the wall to hopefully clear away the drowsiness that is still infecting his body.
“I sort of got that during the war,” Ichigo answers with a frown. He straightens, holding a bundle of clothes. “But that doesn't mean he's wrong.”
Kisuke resists the urge to wince. “I don't like Soul Society anymore than he does. Especially not now. But that isn’t your only option.”
“I know.” Ichigo shifts in discomfort, gaze flicking to the covered window and the bright sunlight glinting beyond it. “But I'm not much liking the other choices I have.”
“You mean the one where we could easily stay here and give Aizen over?”
Ichigo scowls, obviously not amenable to the idea. Damn. Things would be much easier if Kisuke could just get rid of Aizen. But somehow, the bastard has managed to get under Ichigo's skin. He has doubts, and that is worrisome.
The shopkeeper switches directions, biting back on a sigh. “You want to be king then?”
“You mean if the world accepts me?” Ichigo shrugs, obviously still indecisive about the matter. “I don't know. Not really. It wasn’t exactly on my list of life aspirations. But I’d imagine it’d be right below becoming a captain but ahead of being taken over by my Hollow.”
His sarcasm relieves Kisuke. Ichigo hasn't become Aizen's just yet. There's still a chance to make it all go away, to prevent his student from being used.
But then, Ichigo continues, almost as if he's thinking aloud to answer his own questions. “But if I can stop the bullshit from happening, if I can do something about them...” he trails off.
Kisuke can guess all too well what he is thinking.
Ichigo has always been like that – too willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of others. For Rukia. For Ishida. For Inoue. Countless unknown faces during the war. Quick to throw himself in front of a blade or a kidoh or an opponent that he knows an ally can't handle. He can't stand idly by, not even for the sake of his own health. Kisuke supposes that is Masaki shining through in him. Isshin and his kin have never been that self-sacrificing.
Still, the blond has wished time and time again that Ichigo would be just a little selfish. That he would think about himself for once. And Aizen knows far too well how to appeal to Ichigo's sense of altruism. His feelings of unnecessary guilt. Ichigo has always refused to sit back if he can save someone, even more so now that he remembers all those he couldn't during the hell that was their war.
He hesitates, but Kisuke says it anyway. “Don't be loyal to him out of guilt,” he warns quietly, rising to his feet with a creak of bone that makes him feel far too old for his age. But it's not the years that have been harsh on him. “Aizen started this war.” He crosses the floor, moving towards Ichigo as the Vizard mulls over his warning.
“And we finished it,” Ichigo adds, a flicker of darkness and shame entering his eyes.
Guilt threatens to crest over Kisuke. He was just smiling, if only slightly, and now, it is back. All the negative emotions he has battled the night before. And Kisuke can only think of one way to chase them away.
Sliding his fingers around the back of Ichigo's head, hair tickling his skin, Kisuke leans in and kisses him. Nothing too deep or lusty but a soft mingling of their mouths. Breaths are shared and calm exchanged. Desire stirs in Kisuke again, but he fights it down. He doesn't really know the limits of what is between them. Besides, Ichigo really does need to get cleaned up.
He ends their kiss with much reluctance on his part. Lips lingering briefly against Ichigo’s mouth, slightly chapped but warm and pliant. He watches as Ichigo's tongue runs over his lips, not at all bothered by the display of affection.
He's used to it, Kisuke realizes. Used to being touched like this by another person. Though it had only been fleeting. And he finds himself curious about this person, this girl who Ichigo had dated for however short a time it was. What kind of person could captivate Ichigo's interest?
“What was her name?” he asks, palm warm against Ichigo's neck, thumb stroking over his strong and steady pulse. He wonders why he hasn't noticed before that they are the same height now, especially since that he's not wearing his geta.
Ichigo blinks at the odd and likely disconnected question. “Does it matter?” he returns, and when Kisuke looks at him, Ichigo sighs in acquiescence. “Haruhi,” he answers succinctly, shifting his clothes in his hold. “She has brown hair and brown eyes, and she likes otoro. She was pre-law, but I don't remember when she graduates from law school.”
He recites off her attributes like reading a listing of available dates off some sort of purchase contract. As if he's reminding himself of them time and time again. Kisuke isn't sure what to think about that. And he's a bit surprised that Ichigo would freely offer all the answers without more prodding on his part.
“How long?” Kisuke questions softly, not sure why he needs to know this but feeling like it is necessary that he does. He still wonders how he could have missed it.
Ichigo shrugs, closing his eyes briefly as he tries to recall. “A few months. Towards the end of my first year at the university.” He pauses, reconsiders. “It was just after Yoruichi-san went back to Soul Society.”
That explains more than Kisuke is willing to admit it does.
“Why didn't you tell me?”
“You had your own problems. And besides, I bothered you with everything else.” Ichigo rolls his eyes as Kisuke's hand slides away. “For once, Goat-Face made himself useful. Not that he was my first choice. Kinda sprang it on me.”
Amusingly, Kisuke isn't surprised. The relationship between father and son is very complicated indeed. He isn't even sure what to call it. They care for each other as family does, but the both of them are hiding truths from one another. He can't imagine Ichigo's reaction when he finds out his father's past. No doubt it will be ugly. Very, very ugly. And all he can hope is not to be caught in the cross-fire.
“How's that?” Kisuke prods, grinning a bit at the image of Isshin attempting his own special brand of consolation and Ichigo kicking the crap out of him for it. He still wonders if Isshin is ever going to learn that acting like an idiot isn't an effective cover for the reality beneath. It certainly hasn't helped Kisuke.
Ichigo's lips curl at the edges, a shade of a smile. “Karin couldn't keep her big mouth shut,” he mutters, but it's fond. Full of love for his sister. “Yuzu thought we'd get married, but it was never that serious.”
Somehow, Kisuke isn't sure he's getting the whole truth. “Are you sure it wasn't?”
“It never was,” Ichigo says doggedly and turns away, one hand on the door, still intent on his shower. “She was more into her studies than me, but she's a good friend now. I still talk to her. Well... I did.”
He frowns, expression darkening before he shakes his head. The door slides open, and he steps out, leaving Kisuke behind to contemplate.
Aizen's words linger without his permission. His personal questioning runs rampant. He wonders just what he has gotten himself into. And then, he thinks that he can't – won't – be like that girl. Ichigo deserves better, and Kisuke is going to give him better.
He wishes he could feel less guilty for Ichigo's seeming acceptance of what happened. It doesn't excuse him. And someday, he'll have to grow some balls and actually talk to him. They're both on thin ice, dangerous ground here. And with the pest that is Aizen two steps away, Kisuke can't be certain of his next move.
He knows he's losing position here. That the more time passes, the more Ichigo leans towards Aizen's goals. The more he seems to think that's the best thing to do. The more he's willing to throw himself into battle for the sake of others again. Kisuke doesn't want that for him. He wants Ichigo to heal, not crack even more. He doesn't want to see Ichigo break.
Kisuke can't shake the feeling that he's actually losing this battle, and that simple thought worries him more than he can say.
a/n: Ah, I'm really fond of that chapter. And yes, that was a cameo appearance from Ouran High School Host Club, except this isn't a crossover so it wasn't her exactly. Just similarly.
On to chapter twelve!