Warnings: boykisses, boysmut, spoilers, language
a/n: It alarms me how much of this was written before Tite Kubo put it in Bleach.
Time passes, in the way that it usually does when there is nothing to occupy oneself but thoughts of what could be happening beyond the window. It drags on and on, one day bleeding into the next. There is scant to do in the house, and Ichigo notices it more and more with the passing days.
A week. Perhaps two. And the three occupants of the house continue to play a miniature chess game with each other. Ichigo seeking out Aizen when Kisuke is gone and he has no one better to talk to. Kisuke and Aizen sniping at each other like a bunch of grade school children. Or worse teenage girls arguing over a mutual crush. Ichigo and Kisuke sharing their bed and other things.
He remembers that with a faint blush, faint only because it's Urahara-call-me-Kisuke whom he's known for the longest time and never really thought about that way but does now because how can he not? Ichigo still isn't sure of the how or the why behind their relationship shifting to another level, but he can't say he regrets it either. It's comfortable, far more than he would have expected. And it's been a long time since Ichigo's been able to feel that comfortable. A warm bed is so much more appealing than an empty one. Even more so when it is filled with lithe but muscled arms and legs that so willingly wrap around him and the sort of smiles he has never before had directed his way.
Even if it has turned Urahara-the-pervert into an even worse one, who has horrible timing with his choices to randomly grope or kiss Ichigo out of nowhere. And usually not long after Aizen has been talking to him. Ichigo knows what Kisuke's doing of course; he's not stupid. But he lets it slide for now because it really rattles Kisuke to have Aizen in such close proximity, and well, Ichigo's still not absolutely fond of the former overlord himself, their nearly amicable conversations aside.
He doesn't understand Aizen, and really, that's the reasoning and the problem. He talks to Aizen because there's no one else but also because he knows Aizen wants something from him. It's painfully obvious that Aizen wishes to return to his former glory but also knows it's impossible now. And it's clear he's not giving up on his ambitions, but a part of Ichigo can't help but wonder why he thinks he's doing this.
Unohana gave him a pretty good background, but it's nothing like hearing the words from Aizen's own mouth. And Ichigo has to admit that he's curious, too. All he's ever known of the man are the mutterings of the Shinigami who were betrayed by him and therefore making their comments less than complimentary. He thinks that there must be something salvageable; otherwise, what is he doing here? He could've just given Aizen to the wolves and possibly returned to his previous life.
Possibly because he doesn't know if Soul Society would have kept its promise to free him in the end or not. He would like to think that they would, but Ichigo's learned how to be a bit more cynical now. They won't be able to ignore the Hollow inside of him, not when they no longer have a use for him. Certainly not when even Ukitake is too weak to defend him.
And no, Ichigo is not bitter about that at all. Not bitter that he wasted his time and a good part of his innocence on that man. That if he'd even given a hint that he wanted Ichigo to stay, for him to remain in Soul Society for a reason other than the fact that he needed positions filled, none of them would be here now. Definitely not Ichigo. And by proxy not Kisuke either.
But really, that's all in the past now. Never to be repeated. Best left there, too. Like a lot of things he's lost.
His friends. His life. Possibly his sanity. So many things gone. So many regrets.
Ichigo thinks about that a lot, the things he regrets, because Aizen's presence pretty much shoves the war into his face every day. Aizen reminds Ichigo of all the things he hadn't been able to do and prevent, of all the wrong choices that Ichigo has made. And it is Aizen's presence that makes his decision so very hard.
He feels that if he leaps to do as Aizen wants, then he'll be spitting in the face of all those who died to defeat the man in the first place. And Ichigo can't do that. He doesn't want to make the wrong choice again. He doesn't want to regret anything else. The weight is heavy enough already. Too bitter and like ash on his tongue.
"Fuckin' stupid is what it is!" Renji snarls and throws his hands up into the air. Looking half-ragged and worn, much like Ichigo feels.
He scowls, stalking away from his friend, not wanting to hear it. "I just didn't see a reason to kill him, okay? What's the point?"
Renji follows and grabs his arm, stopping Ichigo's retreat. The teenager can't help but look down at himself, on the blood that splashes his clothes. It's not his. But he's defeated Grimmjow before, and he can do it again. Why does he have to kill anyone?
"We're in a war, Ichigo," the redhead inserts ferociously. "Or haven't ya noticed? It's stupid ta let the enemy go!"
Ichigo's hands curl into fists, body trembling with a mixture of so many things he can't even begin to identify them. "I'm not killing anyone," he growls with fire bursting behind his eyes.
He just can't; he just won't. It's not a simple thing. He's not a soldier like them. He didn't go to their precious fucking academy. And if he's not going to kill his enemies, then he's not going to! Grimmjow is a Hollow, yeah. But he's too human for Ichigo's comfort. Far too human. Far more human than many of the Shinigami.
"Ya think he's somethin' honorable?" Renji demands, relentless in this matter. He's following Ichigo now, stalking him around what is left of the battlefield. Heedless to the eyes that watch their discussion. "That ya spared his life, so he ain't gonna come back and fight us again?"
Ichigo doesn't dignify that with an answer because this and that have nothing to do with each other. That wasn't even in his thought process. All he knows is that the thought of plunging his sword into Grimmjow's chest deliberately makes him sick to his stomach. It's different from cleansing a Hollow, too different. It's not the same thing. He can't -- he won't -- do it.
Ichigo blinks out of his reverie at the sound of the familiar voice, feeling hands slide around him from behind as a warm body presses against his back. The familiar scent of confectioneries and explosions surrounds him, growing fainter now that Kisuke has spent time away from both. But it's still there, still part of him and always will be. One can take the boy out of the candy shop but not the candy shop out of the boy.
He leans into the embrace because it's a warm comfort against the chill of his memories. "No, I'm not," Ichigo lies just because he can.
"You've had your hand in the sock drawer for fifteen minutes." A soft voice in his ear, a puff of breath coasting over it as Kisuke rubs against the side of Ichigo's head with his own.
He realizes with an embarrassed and somewhat guilty flush that the shopkeeper is correct. And Ichigo removes said hand, clumsily shoving the drawer shut.
"That doesn't mean I'm brooding," Ichigo retorts. If he admits to it, then Kisuke is going to start asking questions, and Ichigo really doesn't want to answer. He doesn't have an answer.
"Hmm." The fingers tighten before beginning a slow massage, the flat of one palm rubbing over his clothed belly. "Want to talk about it?"
With desire starting to prod him out of his melancholy, Ichigo lets a half-smirk cross his lips. "It doesn't seem like talking is what you have in mind."
Kisuke chuckles, pressing a kiss to the side of Ichigo's throat, right over his pulse. "Either or. I make a pretty good listener. Or distraction."
He snorts. "You're just a pervert," Ichigo counters, but he's the one who leans further into the touch, not even putting in a token resistance. A distraction sounds rather nice. Anything to keep from being surrounded by solitude and silence.
"That, too." Another of Kisuke's hands creep under the hem of his shirt. Warm palm pressing against Ichigo's skin as it glides upwards, making all kinds of heat build through him. "Well?"
"No talking," he agrees and turns his head with the perfect timing to meet Kisuke's lips, starting a slow kiss that tastes faintly of plums.
Well, at least someone's eating them.
Hands tickle across his belly, a slow slide against his flesh. Fingers pressing into his skin, crawling upwards, making him shiver with interest. Kisuke presses against him, enveloping him in warmth. His lips are soft and gentle despite the stubble, tongue sliding inside. Ichigo surrenders to it because he wants to. It's so nice to just let go for once, let everything fall away. The darkness slipping to the far, shadowy corners of his heart.
A finger brushes across his nipple and sends a zing of pleasure straight through him. Others slip under the hem of his pants
and boxers, a warm palm pressing against Ichigo's thickening arousal. His hips unconsciously arch towards the touch, Kisuke wrapped around him like a living blanket.
The blond's lips break away, trailing across the defined bones of Ichigo's jaw to tongue relentlessly at the side of his throat. Ichigo can feel warm breath ghosting against his skin, and it makes everything inside Ichigo tighten with anticipation. It really does feel better to just let go.
"Bed?" Kisuke questions, voice vibrating against his skin.
Nodding, Ichigo grinds back against him, need slowly building inside. "Bed," he agrees with a desire to forget knocking at his thoughts.
He hears Kisuke groan, a sound of longing. For him. Ichigo hasn't really stopped to think about that, but it hits him in that moment. Kisuke wants him, and Ichigo admits to himself that he wants Kisuke, too. Wants to feel the blond underneath him. Wants the feel of skin against his and the taste of him in his mouth.
The fingers under his shirt ghost down to grasp the hem, pulling it up and over Ichigo's head with the Vizard's assistance. The chill of the room attacks Ichigo, but it's quickly countered by the warm press of Kisuke's body against him as the shopkeeper backs them towards the bed in slowly measured steps.
A mouth falls on the back of Ichigo's shoulder, tongue flicking against his skin as teeth graze in its wake. And hands busy themselves on his pants, deftly sliding them open and off his hips until he's left clad in only his boxers. They too quickly join the pile on the floor. Kisuke presses against him from behind, clothes a soft rustle against Ichigo's bare skin, sensitizing him. It's more erotic than it has right to be.
"Why am I the only one naked?" he asks just as the blond whirls him around, and Ichigo falls back onto the mattress with a slight bounce.
Kisuke looks down on him mischievously, a hint of the teasing geta-boushi who Ichigo remembers from before the war in his eyes. "It suits you better."
Rolling his eyes, Ichigo's response degenerates into a stuttered breath as Kisuke kisses him. Deep and probing, tongue pressing against Ichigo's own. Hands glide down Ichigo's arms, only for fingers to encircle his wrists, pressing them against the mattress carefully. Not quite restraint. He could break free if he wants. But he's curious as to what Kisuke has planned, so Ichigo doesn't struggle. Besides, his body is just as interested.
Kisuke's lips leave Ichigo's mouth, traveling a path across his chin to tongue at Ichigo's ear. He squirms at the unusual feeling until it makes something hot inside him blaze higher. He can feel Kisuke's clothes brushing against him, each bare touch maddening in its infrequency.
Fingers squeeze Ichigo's wrists gently before the blond's mouth moves lower, skating briefly over Ichigo's chest. He can feel each puff of Kisuke's breath against him, the touch as arousing as it is vexing. His lover tongues Ichigo's belly button, prompting him to wriggle at the unusual touch.
"Gah... Stop that."
Kisuke glances up at him through bangs of blond hair. "Why?" he asks, stubble rasping against a bare belly as he brushes his chin over Ichigo's stomach. "You know that you liked it."
That may be so, but still, it's... embarrassing. For lack of a better word.
"Just... don't," Ichigo finishes lamely and shivers when Kisuke's mouth falls back on him, fingers flexing around his wrists.
The ex-captain's lips travel from Ichigo's belly and follow a path up his chest, a nonsense pattern that feels unexpectedly good. Ichigo's hands clench against the covers where Kisuke has pinned them to the bed. He squirms, heat flooding through him.
"What are you doing?" Ichigo questions because this is incredibly different from last time. Not that he's complaining since it feels pretty damn good. He's just curious.
Teeth nibble across his collarbone before skirting to his shoulder, tracing the lines of bone and muscle. "Exploring," Kisuke explains, mouth moving back down to trace over Ichigo's prominent hip bone. "I didn't get to do much of that last time, and I want you to enjoy this."
Ichigo scowls. "I'm not a woman," he protests and wriggles as Kisuke releases his wrists to drag fingers down his side, tracing scars that Inoue's abilities had not erased.
"Ichigo, I would never confuse you for a woman," the blond assures with a chuckle, gray eyes dark with amusement and something else entirely. "I am very aware that you are a man."
Lips press against Ichigo's throat as he tilts his head back, allowing Kisuke the motion. "This, for instance. So prominent," Kisuke comments with a brush of moist air across Ichigo's neck and Adam's apple.
One hand strokes down the Vizard's leg, teasing touches that have no substance. "And these hairy legs," Kisuke adds with another laugh. "Won't find those on a woman. At least, not most of them."
"I'm not shaving," Ichigo says on the edge of a growl, a bit embarrassed by the close attention but also not wishing for it to stop. He feels the heating in his cheeks, and try as he might, he can't make it stop.
"Did I ask you to?" Kisuke returns, sliding back down and grabbing Ichigo's hand, lifting it to his lips.
Ichigo watches, breath catching, as Kisuke draws one finger into his mouth. His warm lips and wet tongue flick over Ichigo's finger.
"Strong fingers, too," the shopkeeper murmurs, catching Ichigo's eyes with a single-minded intent. "Definitely male."
"Not true," Ichigo argues huskily, the soft sucking going straight to his groin and making him leap with interest. "Have you even shaken hands with Tatsuki?"
Kisuke's eyes sparkle before he abruptly laughs, shaking his head. "You're just being contrary."
"And you're just dragging things out to watch me squirm," Ichigo counters heatedly and licks his lips. He's hard, and he's aroused, and he just wants Kisuke to do something about it. Or Ichigo's going to take matters into his own hands. Literally.
"Perhaps," Kisuke says, dragging out the syllables of the word. He lifts Ichigo's finger from his mouth but not before his tongue laps the length of it.
A mixture of annoyance and pressing need thrums through Ichigo. He half-rises, intending to do something when a hand plants itself in the middle of his chest, pushing him back down. Kisuke looms over him, his breathing sharper, eyes bright.
"I'm not done exploring yet," Kisuke murmurs, dipping his head and trailing a line across the middle of Ichigo's chest. "Humor me please."
A sound of aggravation rattles in Ichigo's chest, but he relaxes against the covers anyway. He has some patience after all. Though he doesn't like to use it.
Kisuke reads his compliance and responds accordingly, laving his tongue over the flat disc of Ichigo's nipple. The Vizard moans, back arching as a skip of absolute desire dances through him. Fingers act in perfect counterpoint, palms running flatly over Ichigo's skin. Tracing scars that never went away, evidence of the many battles he's endured in his short life. Teeth nibble at his collarbone, and a tongue follows, making Ichigo squirm and not in a good way. It tickles, and he feels an unwanted urge to chuckle burbling up inside of him. He wiggles away again and tries to avoid the wet tongue, but Kisuke is relentless in his pursuit.
Ichigo's hand plants itself on Kisuke's forehead, pushing him away. "Stop that," he scowls with his face heated.
Kisuke's too smart not to realize why, latching on his lover's weakness in an instant. "Ticklish?" he inquires with a mischievous gleam that doesn't bode well for Ichigo's sanity.
"Don't you da-- Ah!"
His warning dissolves into a moan that doesn't in any way sound intimidating. But Kisuke's just wrapped his fingers around Ichigo's length, giving it a nice stroke and making ten kinds of heat race through his body. He practically melts against the bed, hips rising to encourage more.
Kisuke chuckles. "And this right here," he murmurs, fingertips deftly dancing over Ichigo. "Is the more obvious proof that you are male. And I rather like it."
Ichigo's cheeks burn at the frank compliment. "Fine, I get it," he gasps out, feeling sweat dot his forehead as the need builds up into a crescendo inside of him. "Just do something."
"Anything?" the blond asks, voice all too playful.
And Ichigo's not sure he likes that tone. He thinks to protest, but Kisuke's already shifted further down the bed. And then, Ichigo is engulfed in wet warmth. He clamps down on a shout as Kisuke takes him into his mouth with no hesitation, hips unconsciously surging towards the flicking tongue. He groans, fingers twisting into the covers.
Ichigo glances down at the older man, who looks far too smug for his own good. Kisuke is too damned skilled, flicking over Ichigo's length in all the right ways. Not that he isn't already on the edge, twisting restlessly on the bed and forcing Kisuke to hold his hips in place. He wants to thrust, but Kisuke won't let him, and Ichigo releases a growl of frustration. Words lose their meaning, and all Ichigo has left are inarticulate noises for more.
And then, Kisuke does something with his tongue that Ichigo can't
exactly describe, and he loses it. Ichigo moans, hips jerking as he spills into the shopkeeper's mouth, and to his surprise, Kisuke swallows him down. Body taut, Ichigo collapses against the bed, lover's mouth gentle on him as the last of the tremors wrack his body. The former captain pulls back with a lewd licking of his lips as though he's just finished an ice cream cone and not something a hell of a lot less innocent.
"Better?" Kisuke questions, smirking.
He looks too smug for his own good. As though he's the one in complete control here, and Ichigo should bow to his awesomeness. Ichigo can't have that.
In answer, he reaches up, tangles his fingers in Kisuke's clothes, and drags the older man down towards him. Their lips crash together, nothing soft or subtle about it, and as their tongues grapple, Ichigo's fingers tug at the blond's clothes. He can taste himself on the man's tongue, and it's an odd taste but nothing he can't handle.
Kisuke struggles to stay propped over him, and as Ichigo lifts a knee, he feels it collide against the blond's groin. Hard and aching, pressing at its cloth confines. And Ichigo's not the type to lay back and just take it.
With an expert martial twist that would have made his childhood sensei very proud, Ichigo reverses the situation and pins Kisuke beneath him. The shopkeeper makes a startled noise, but Ichigo muffles it with a deep kiss, tongue wrangling his into submission even as Ichigo divests the other man of his loose hakama.
"No underwear?" the Vizard questions, fingers curling around Kisuke and stroking him skillfully. That part at least he needs no explanation for. "I should've known."
"Maybe I just need to do laundry," Kisuke counters, raggedly thrusting into his grip.
Ichigo isn't buying it. "Or maybe you're just a pervert," he teases and slides down the body before him, contemplating the length in his grasp.
He's not done this before. At least, not to a man. His girlfriend never had any complaints, but she came with slightly different equipment and didn't have any other basis of comparison. Kisuke undoubtedly does, but that doesn't mean Ichigo isn't going to try. He's pretty sure he can do this, and now's as good a time to start as any.
Ichigo takes a breath, running his tongue over his lips. Kisuke must be able to read his intent because his eyes widen.
"Ichigo, are you su-- Ahh!" His protest breaks off into a startled moan, which further degenerates into a curse as Ichigo flicks his tongue over the leaking head.
Amused, the Vizard focuses on the task at hand, slowly drawing Kisuke into his mouth and dragging his tongue across the length of it. He attempts to imitate what he remembers feeling for himself, bobbing his head up and down and using his tongue whenever possible. Though Ichigo has the feeling it's not going to take much, not with the way Kisuke is leaking all over his mouth.
Hands drag through Ichigo's hair, fingers ghosting across his scalp, and Ichigo grunts in warning. Kisuke wisely backs off, but it's clear he's struggling to restrain himself. Ha, serves him right for teasing Ichigo so much.
Kisuke is hot and throbbing in Ichigo's mouth, and he can feel each beat of the ex-captain's pulse. It's a strange sensation but not altogether unpleasant. And Ichigo, who never went nearly this far with Jyuushiro, is glad that it seems he can do this without roiling thoughts of revulsion. Though he should have realized that from the first go round. And the fact that of his three semi-relationships, two of them were -- are -- with men.
His lack of skill doesn't seem to bother Kisuke as Ichigo attempts to take him further into his mouth and fails spectacularly. Fighting back the reflex to gag, Ichigo retreats and concentrates on the sensitive head, curling his fingers around what his mouth can't cover. A sound not unlike a whine echoes from Kisuke's throat like he's damn close to begging, and Ichigo smirks to himself.
Flicking his tongue against Kisuke's shaft, Ichigo is treated to an appealing moan. The blond must be getting close; it's obvious in the urgent rocking of his hips. And Kisuke backs up Ichigo's assumption with a vocal moan.
"Ichigo, I'm going to--"
Kisuke breaks off, but Ichigo's smart enough to hear the warning in his voice. He's not sure he's ready for the whole swallowing thing, so Ichigo wisely backs away. His eyes take in the blond's face, flushed with arousal, and Kisuke moans throatily and bucks into Ichigo's grip. He spills across his lover's hand, fingers twisting into the blanket covering the mattress.
Kisuke lets out a slow exhale, relaxing against the bed as Ichigo draws back to his heels, infinitely pleased with himself. The shopkeeper looks satisfied, skin taking on a healthy glow that Ichigo much prefers to his somber appearance as of late. But then, Ichigo hasn't been looking too cheery either.
He has the feeling no one in this house likes mirrors right now.
Wiping the back of his hand over his mouth, Ichigo reaches for his discarded shirt and uses it as a makeshift towel. He's too lazy to get up and walk to the bathroom. His body is drained, and he wants nothing more than to go back to sleep. So he crawls completely onto the bed, slumping down next to Kisuke and nuzzling into his neck.
A hand reaches out, dragging down his bare back and making Ichigo shiver.
"Pervert," Ichigo retorts because he can, and it's more like an affectionate nickname at this point.
"Ah, I just love how you sweet-talk me," Kisuke says with a chuckle.
But his fingers don't stop, and Ichigo finds it soothing. He thinks to take a nap. Who cares that it's the middle of the day? It's not like he has pressing business or even anything else to do.
And Ichigo closes his eyes, letting the languid feeling wash through him.
"What's for dinner?" his bedmate suddenly asks.
Ichigo rolls his eyes, wanting to laugh. Kisuke has been banned from the kitchen, so he makes it a point to tease Ichigo about cooking.
"I don't know," he replies with a yawn. "Aizen's cooking."
This prompts a startled sound from the blond. "You're trusting him to make our meals?"
"Did you happen to buy any poison and store it in the kitchen when I wasn't looking?" he returns, allowing his eyes to drift shut.
"Ah, good point," Kisuke allows after a moment.
Ichigo shrugs against the bed. "Yeah, and the whole fact that he's the one who wants our help. Not the other way around. It wouldn't be smart to try and kill either of us."
Kisuke snorts, and Ichigo feels it rumble through his skin. "I never said he was particularly intelligent."
Ichigo looks up, practically feeling the hostility radiate from his bed partner. Kisuke looks disgruntled, his eyes shadowed as though he misses the shielding of his hat.
"He's smarter than you're giving him credit."
Grey eyes gaze at him, narrowing. "You're spending a lot of time with Aizen," Kisuke comments, shifting the topic and pulling Ichigo into a discussion he hadn't wanted to start.
He just wants to take a nap and doesn't particularly like Kisuke's tone either.
"I spend most of my time with the guy," Ichigo retorts. "What do you expect?"
He thinks it sounds an awful lot like Kisuke's trying to be paternal of all things. Which is all too creepy for his liking. Especially with what they've just done and what Ichigo would like to do to him in the future.
"I just don't want you to be manipulated by him," the shopkeeper placates, nothing but concern in his expression and tone. Yet, there's still something in his words that Ichigo doesn't like.
He snorts and sits up, dragging a hand through his hair. "I'm not stupid. I can think for myself." The breeze from the ceiling fan tugs at Ichigo's sweaty skin, causing a chill to sweep across his body.
"I didn't imply that you couldn't," Kisuke argues, the bed shifting as he rises, too. "But I think I know Aizen a bit better than you do."
"Yeah?" Ichigo huffs as he tries to decide what precisely the emotions coursing through him were. Annoyance perhaps? Indignation? "I thought that you didn't want to know him at all," he continues. "That you'd be doing your best to forget about him?"
Kisuke appears at his side, having shifted enough on the bed that Ichigo can actually see his profile now. "That's hard to do when he insists on hanging around." His voice lowers, eyes darting around as though he expects Aizen to be peering from behind the dresser or peeking through the crack at the bottom of the door. "Besides, he's too dangerous to let out on his own."
He makes it sound like Aizen is a rabid dog or something. And it is disturbing how similar that last sentiment is to Soul Society's proclamation about Ichigo's own existence. But the Vizard doesn't want to draw parallels, so he forces that thought from his mind.
"Well, where else is he going to go?" Ichigo demands, curious as to Kisuke's opinion on this. "I mean… first, you don't want him here. And then, you say that we can't let him leave. What do you honestly want to do? Stuff him into the closet or something?"
Kisuke frowns with his fingers twitching as though missing the distraction of his fan. "We could get rid
of him," he suggests softly but all too smoothly.
And Ichigo knows that he is at best only half-teasing. Testing the waters so to speak. Even so, Ichigo finds the waters to be turbulent.
"You better not mean that the way it sounds," the Vizard counters, not quite sure why he defends Aizen so strongly when even he's not fond of the man's presence. Maybe it's just the lingering part of him that still believes in something like justice.
Ichigo can feel the agitation growing inside of himself. And he's ridiculously glad when Kisuke chooses not to respond to his blatant warning. Ichigo all too happily abandons that line of conversation.
"Can we just drop this?" he asks because Ichigo doesn't want to fight with Kisuke. And especially not about Aizen because then that means the man is niggling between them, and Ichigo doesn't want that either.
"Yes," Kisuke thankfully replies. "Consider it dropped."
It's only a temporary fix because Ichigo knows the issue will only come up again, but for now, he doesn't want to talk about it. He turns and snags Kisuke's lips, just to prove he's not angry or anything, and Kisuke doesn't fight the kiss. Instead, he deepens it. Pulling Ichigo down to lay on top of him and curling a leg around his thigh.
Ichigo returns that fully. But inside, he sighs in relief.
Ichigo's sitting in the main room, curled up on a chair and poring through a book he's read several times before when Aizen comes strolling in. Nothing unusual, all things considered. He watches the former overlord over the edge of the binding, Aizen making himself right at home on the couch and pointedly staring at the cover.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream?" Aizen asks with a lifted brow, mirth daring to dance in his dark eyes.
Ichigo immediately scowls, not liking his choice of literature to be mocked. "What? And I suppose you like Julius Caesar?"
That seems like the type of story that would interest Aizen, betrayal and war and the like.
But Aizen only inclines his head. "No. Actually, I prefer The Tempest."
At the straightforward and honest answer, Ichigo slowly lowers his book. "You've read Shakespeare?" he asks skeptically, but really, should this even surprise him?
"He is one of the greatest literary minds of all time."
He watches as Aizen looks around pointedly, giving off the impression of a youth making sure no parents were in sight. Ichigo would have chuckled at the thought of such if it weren't Aizen sitting right in front of him.
"I don't see Urahara," the older man comments very casually.
Wary at the almost offhand mention of his mentor, Ichigo marks the page in his book and sets it in his lap. "Supply run," he replies, thinking of all the meals they've had in the last week. A hefty collection of sauces and pasta, enough that even Ichigo is getting sick of it. "I wouldn't be surprised if he shows up with several more boxes of pasta." He makes a face, one that would like to try something else for once. "Spaghetti. Risotto. Lasagna. Linguine... I never knew Ura-- Kisuke liked it so much."
He casts an askance glance at Aizen. Visibly catching the former overlord as he thins his lips, a mild look of perturbation on his face. Ichigo can tell that he is trying not to clench his teeth.
And that sounds like something Kisuke would do right there.
"Let me guess," Ichigo continues, "you don't like Italian."
"I wouldn't choose it, no." Aizen shakes his head, face twisting in a way that doesn't suit his character at all.
Ichigo snickers. "Figures," he retorts and lifts a hand, counting off his fingers. "You taught middle school. You've read The Tempest, and you hate Italian. You're not as evil as I thought you would be."
No, in fact, all of those attributes make him sound human. Rather than the total and complete demon Ichigo has always assumed him to be. At least, that is the picture that most of the Shinigami painted for him. Even Ukitake, who doesn't have a harsh word to say about anyone, was ambivalent at best towards him. Only Shunsui ever had anything positive to tell.
The former captain blinks. "Should I take that as a compliment?"
"Well, if you figure in the way everybody talks about you, I'd have thought you only did awful things," Ichigo explains, switching hands for his next list. "Like steal candy from babies. Kick puppies. Unscrew the lid on a salt shaker." He shakes his head, a chuckle escaping him out of fond remembrance. "Actually, I know that Kisuke's done that last one."
As a matter of fact, no one at the table had been fond of the shopkeeper for several days after that. And for good reason. Renji had never left his food or the table unattended at the shouten again.
Amusement flickers into Aizen's eyes. And Ichigo can honestly say that is a good look for Aizen. Making him seem gentler and much more approachable. A shadow of why so many people originally put their trust in him. He seems too much the kindly but nerdish gentleman. More interested in books than conquest.
If Ichigo didn't know this man's true nature, he'd probably believe it, too.
"I'm not fond of candy," Aizen responds easily, voice a pleasant tenor. "Puppies are too small of targets, and the rest is a bit counter-productive." His lips pull into a light and agreeable smile. "Though I'm glad you think so highly of me."
Ichigo isn't sure what Aizen is implying with those words. So he decides to shrug and look away, dismissing them.
"You're just not what I expected," he clarifies warily, refusing to let Aizen think he's managed to sway Ichigo to his side just yet. "You're too... human."
But then, there is a dark cast to Aizen's face. One that flashes across his features in an instant. Returning him to his previous state effortlessly.
"Most monsters are," the man allows.
He says it so blandly, so simply, that Ichigo can't help but stare at Aizen in surprise. The ex-overlord all but declares himself to be evil incarnate as though it is nothing to be ashamed of at all, as though it is a simple truth of the universe. Water is wet. Clouds are in the sky. And Aizen Sousuke has killed hundreds without mercy or remorse.
But then, some part of Ichigo acknowledges, Aizen does have a point. All Ichigo has to do is look at the daily news to know that much. All he has to remember is Rukia's execution and how determined her own brother was to kill her. All he has to recall is the other Vizard and how swiftly Soul Society was quick to condemn its saviors. All he has to do is consider himself and his own situation.
"How true," Ichigo agrees quietly, forcing himself not to think anymore. "All of us are capable of good and evil."
Aizen shifts, fingers tapping on the couch arm as though in nervous habit. Only reinforcing what Ichigo had said earlier.
"There is no such thing as either, Kurosaki-kun," he returns in an even and very honest tone. "Only infinite possibilities."
Brown eyes narrowing, Ichigo watches Aizen. A sense of understanding grows within him.
"You really believe that, don't you? That nothing of what happened or what you did was wrong?" Unconsciously, his hands draw into tight fists. Ichigo remembers -- blood death Renji oh kami there's blood everywhere -- and feels the familiar rage burning a slow, cold path through him.
Aizen's gaze is steadying, unapologetic. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't still believe in it."
The answer is given without hesitation. And Ichigo's entire body threatens to shake, the memories crowding against him, reminding him of why he shouldn't trust this man. And why he shouldn't even consider Aizen's request.
"Do you even feel remorse at all?" he questions before he can stop himself.
To Aizen's credit, the man at least considers Ichigo's question. He doesn't answer immediately, quietly thinking. And Ichigo swears to himself that if Aizen doesn't regret a single thing about his war, then Ichigo is going to walk away here and now. Even Soul Society -- corrupt and heartless that it is -- carries some regret.
A shadow falls across Aizen's face though, one tainted with sorrowful emotions. One that Ichigo can recognize all too well. He sees it in the mirror every day.
"Perhaps," Aizen concedes.
Which for all intents and purposes, means yes.
Ichigo doesn't know what or who Aizen is currently thinking about, but it's obvious there's something that is making him reconsider his bid for the throne. And it's that something that reminds Ichigo that Aizen is truly just a human. Just a man. And not a monster like he wants -- perhaps needs -- to believe. That idea of something regrettable to Aizen eases Ichigo's conscience, even if only by an inch.
There may be something in him worth salvaging, Ichigo thinks. The choice may not be as simple as he would like to believe.
"And what's that for?" Ichigo prods, not thinking for a second that Aizen will trust him with it. And it is a snide, bruised part of himself that spits out the next accusation.
Aizen doesn't flinch. Maybe he thinks that it's his due.
"Among other things." He shifts position, shoulders squared. "I don't regret my choices, Kurosaki-kun. Soul Society... is a bad place." Aizen laughs, but it lacks humor and stings bitterly. "You know just as well as I do that it had to be done. If not me, then by someone else."
"Maybe," Ichigo concedes.
He forces himself to chase away the memories before he loses all control. He wants to understand right now. If necessary, retribution can come later.
"But did it have to be in that manner?" he asks a few heartbeats later.
"If you're referring to the war and the results of it, yes," Aizen answers simply.
And Ichigo bites his tongue on a shout of outrage because it's obvious that Aizen has more to say.
"All other methods have proven useless," the ex-captain continues. "There was no room for talk. Words have lost their meaning to those in a position of influence. Only action remained."
Ichigo sighs. "You keep saying how terrible Soul Society is, and yeah, I know some of it. But I get the feeling there's more. A lot more."
He thinks that he has every right to hate Aizen as much as he despises Soul Society and its corruption right now. And Ichigo has this terrible, awful feeling that there's more lurking in the shadows. That he'll only come to loathe Soul Society further if Aizen explains even a quarter of the knowledge he has gathered. And a part of Ichigo doesn't want to know because then he might find himself siding with the man, and he isn't sure he's ready to do that yet.
"If I thought you would believe me, I would fix your ignorance," Aizen responds quietly, looking at Ichigo with that same steady gaze. One that doesn't hide. "But some of these matters are perhaps heard from a different mouth."
Aizen inclines his head. "You should ask Urahara sometime about the true purpose of the Onmitsukidoh. You know he was a member of it, don't you? That he served under Shihouin Yoruichi?"
Ichigo remembers Kisuke mentioning it before, during those times in the last years where they sat up late in the night, talking of old things. The war was usually avoided, but when prompted, Ichigo could sometimes convince Kisuke to tell him about the past before things went sour for him. Memories of his time as a captain and even earlier than that. Back all the way to when he'd just been a boy.
"He was the third-seat. In charge of special detention," Aizen carries on with a strange light in his eyes. "That in particular should be of interest to you."
"Special detention?" Ichigo repeats, even as a part of him squirms in realization.
He has the feeling he isn't going to need much else explanation. He remembers Soul Society saying something similar when pronouncing his fate. In fact, Ichigo distinctly remembers the new second division captain's mention of the Maggot's Nest, is it? The place that they planned to confine him. In the dank, darkness for the rest of his life.
Ichigo shivers unconsciously and isn't even slightly relieved by the ill cast to Aizen's expression.
"As I said," the man repeats, "you should ask him. You're more likely to believe him than myself."
A tone is there, a slight variance to Aizen's speech that hints to more. Ichigo looks at the brunet and comes to a startling and absolutely mortifying revelation. It is a small house, after all, with thin walls. No doubt Aizen has already been privy to the not-so-subtle change in Ichigo's relationship with Kisuke. And it is probably the main reason he is pressing so much on Ichigo's trust in the blond.
The Vizard wonders what Aizen is thinking right now. About Ichigo and Kisuke. If it bothers him. And then, he wonders why Aizen's opinion should matter to him. Ichigo doesn't know, but he does feel he needs to ask. There's a niggling feeling in his stomach, and it's focusing on Aizen's fixation with trust and the reasons behind it.
"You're not going to say anything?" Ichigo questions, knowing that the purposefully vague statement won't confuse Aizen at all. The man's too smart not to understand what Ichigo means.
Aizen rises to his feet and moves to peruse the bookshelves. "About what?" he asks, fingers sliding over the titles available. "Your relationship with Urahara? I don't see why I should."
And yet, there's a tightness to his tone that implies he has something he wants to say but won't for various reasons known only to Aizen.
Still, Ichigo cocks his head. "You don't have an opinion?" he presses, anticipating the usual arguments one would normally toss at Ichigo. The sort of things he expected to hear had things ever progressed with Jyuushiro, but he doesn't like to think about that either.
"Like he's too old for me?" Ichigo inserts. "Or I should go find some cute girl? Inoue. Rukia... Someone?"
Ichigo is used to everyone trying to decide things for him. Even Kisuke is guilty of that. So he fully expects Aizen to have some sort of opinion, some sort of advice as to what Ichigo should and shouldn't do. Or perhaps Aizen's lack of opinion is just his way of appearing the good guy, of getting on Ichigo's good side. It's hard to tell.
In the end, Aizen is the one who wants something from Ichigo, not the other way around. And since Ichigo has yet to make that decision -- or at least share what he has chosen -- Aizen is still trying to win him over. It is a fact that Ichigo has to keep reminding himself, and then, it circles back around to the whole Kisuke and trust thing that Aizen seems fixated on.
It always comes back to trust. Or a lack thereof.
Aizen pauses, fingertip stuck on a book whose title Ichigo can't see from his current position. "You are free to do as you wish. I have no right to question you."
It almost sounds rehearsed. And Ichigo would pursue that further. Except that his ears and mind have focused on something else, something that Aizen has just said without thinking of the repercussions.
Free to do as he wished?
Ichigo would laugh if the thought didn't piss him off so much. Ichigo is free to do nothing, not anymore. He can't leave this house for danger of being found. He can't go home. He can't return to the life he wanted. He can't do much of any damn thing anymore all because of the man standing before him right now.
That reminder breaks Ichigo's composure. And he finds himself on his feet, forcing out a civility that he doesn't feel.
"Unfortunately, it's the only thing I'm free to do, isn't it?" Ichigo bites out, unable to stop the sneer that twists his lips. "Enjoy your reading.”
He turns and leaves, because the anger that twists inside of him needs an outlet and right now, Aizen's the only target in sight. And if he's going to try and understand this man, he can't be attacking him now, can he? Ichigo still has a decision to make.
Though he supposes it isn't unexpected that he's still bitter. It's been under two weeks. He's heard nothing from his family; he's a wanted man. Ichigo is trapped by these walls, and it's driving him crazy. It doesn't help that his only company is a man he barely stops himself from attacking and his mentor. Both of whom bicker at each other on a constant basis.
Ichigo can't help but wonder how long it'll take for him to go mad entirely.
a/n: Ah, tension ratchets, but understandings are born and time ticks slowly by. This does move slowly, I admit, but also, not so much time has passed for them. At this point, I'd say they've been sharing these quarters for... five days perhaps? Maybe a bit longer? Heh heh. The story only gets more complicated from here on out.
I do hope you enjoyed!On to interlude three and then chapter fourteen!