Ichigo struggled out of the darkness as though escaping physical, clinging tendrils of it. He fought with grim determination, clawing his way out and gasping for breath when he finally broke free. His eyes shuttered open slowly, only to immediately close again when the harsh brightness of the lab’s fluorescent lights nearly blinded him. Wincing, he tried to lift a hand to cover his eyes but found his fingers were trapped by something warm.
He attempted to lift the other and was successful, laying his palm over his eyes. His head faintly throbbed, and his mouth was dry. His entire body felt as if it had been wrung out like a wet rag. And his arm ached, but damn, he was alive. And he hadn’t even known he was that close to dying.
‘Very close, in fact,’ Zangetsu’s voice poured through his mind, sounding both relieved and exhausted.
‘Too close, king,’ Shirosaki added with a drawl, even more fatigued than the old man. ‘Almost killed me, man. Not cool.’
Ichigo winced at the addition of both voices, which for some reason seemed to bother his senses. It took him several seconds of searching through his scattered memory to remember what had happened. Then, it poured through his mind. The attempted assassination. The battle. The poison. And then, darkness.
He couldn’t believe that something as simple as a minor scrape had nearly killed him. And a part of Ichigo was ashamed for letting that rather cowardly attack take him down.
Forcing a breath past his lips, Ichigo peeled his eyes open once more. His hand was still warm. And his gaze followed the path from shoulder to arm to hand, finding his fingers firmly clasped within longer, thinner ones. Gin’s fingers.
His eyes traveled further, finally setting sight on a head that was pillowed on the bed, pressed against Ichigo’s hip. In fact, most of Gin’s upper body was laid across the bed, leaving the rest in a certainly uncomfortable position perched on a chair. Gin’s face was turned towards him, slackened with sleep, which seemed like a good thing with the fatigue that seemed to line his eyes. His forehead was pinched, as though he were suffering from a bad dream.
On impulse alone, Ichigo reached out with his free hand, smoothing the tips of his fingers over the furrowed brow. His mind was still fuzzy from waking, and the lingering effects of whatever the hell that poisonous concoction had been.
Gin stirred beneath his touch, and releasing a small breath, eyes slitted open, revealing a thin line of amber red. Confusion flickered across Gin’s face before he abruptly sat up, chair screeching behind him from the sudden movement.
“Ichigo,” he murmured, leaning forward with obvious relief. “Yer awake.”
His first attempt to speak failed miserably, and Ichigo swallowed, his response coming out scratchy and worn. “Sorry to worry you,” he replied and squeezed the fingers he still held.
His gaze flickered beyond his lover, seeing Urahara’s form on the bed nearby. His chest was rising in even intervals, looking far better than the glimpses Ichigo half-remembered in his delirious state.
“He’ll be fine,” Gin responded, and his voice sounded thick to Ichigo, strained and barely contained within his slight frame.
The teen dragged his eyes back towards his lover. Gin was watching him, something peculiar in his expression that Ichigo couldn’t quite place or name. He couldn’t even begin to associate it with something, the look a mixture of so many emotions that it was difficult to pin even one.
He stirred when Ichigo called his name, free hand reaching to press the pads of his fingers against Ichigo’s arm. They brushed shortly, a feather-light touch, against the white bandages that covered the remnants of the small scratch that had nearly killed Ichigo.
Gin licked his lips, and it was only then that Ichigo realized the hand he held was trembling. “I’ve never felt so helpless ‘n my ‘ntire life,” Gin murmured. And it was very nearly broken. “Ya were dyin’, and I couldn’t do anythin’ but watch ‘nd wait.”
It wasn’t entirely his fault, and yet, Ichigo felt guilty. He wanted to apologize, though he wasn’t sure why. He simply knew that he didn’t like that look on Gin’s face, one that spoke of fear and uncertainty. He much preferred the teasing, confident man usually presented.
He didn’t know what to say, having never been in this situation before. He wanted to kiss Gin, but his aching body wouldn’t respond to his commands. It was melded to the comfort of the bed and preferred to remain that way. But he had to erase that look; it was killing him, his heart feeling as if someone was squeezing it out of his chest.
Ichigo lifted his free hand, hating how much effort that required, and managed to curl his hand around Gin’s face. His fingers slipped into long silver strands, softer than he had ever thought they would be against his skin. And then, his thumb rubbed gently over a high cheekbone.
“Gin,” he murmured, hating that his voice sounded so scratchy and hoarse, betraying the current frailty of his health. “Kiss me.”
There was the briefest barely present moment of hesitation, and then, Gin’s lips were on his, mouth tasting faintly of tea and peppermint. The kiss was slow, leisurely and gentle like Gin feared breaking him. Ichigo’s fingers massaged against Gin’s head and deepened the kiss, sliding his tongue into his lover’s mouth and reminding him that he was still here. He had always been absolutely useless at words and had found that actions spoke a hell of a lot better.
When the kiss ended, Gin pressed his forehead to Ichigo’s and let out a small sigh of relief, feeling every muscle in his body finally loosen. “Ya scared us,” Gin admitted, breath a warm brush across Ichigo’s lips. “Ya scared me.”
“Sorry,” Ichigo whispered, really not knowing what else to say. “I didn’t mean to.” With a great effort, he shifted his body a few inches on the bed in silent invitation.
Gin took him up on the offer, lying down beside him. A small groan escaped him as kinked muscles seized up on him from his previous sleeping position, and Gin winced.
“Uncomfortable chair,” he muttered.
Ichigo let loose wheezy sound that was probably supposed to be something close to a chuckle. “I don’t think they were meant for sleeping,” he replied and sank back into the comfort of the bed.
The weight of his lover pressed against his side was comforting, and he turned his head, laying it against a bony shoulder. One hand settled across his belly possessively, fingers tracing nonsense designs.
“Ya shoulda said somethin’,” Gin began after a moment, rubbing his chin gently over the top of Ichigo’s head.
Ichigo snorted, though it came out more of a raspy snuffle. “And you should’ve told me about the assassination. I can protect myself you know.”
Fingers brushed across the bandages pointedly. “Ya didn’t do so good a job of it here,” Gin reminded him. “Protectin’ yerself includes lettin’ people know when ya get hurt.”
The Vizard had every intention to argue, to make his point. But Gin had already shifted to kiss him again, not minding what was surely an awful taste in his mouth. And Ichigo was inclined to let him, not liking the harried ripple in his lover’s reiatsu. He had really worried Gin, and he hadn’t ever wanted to do that. He knew better than anyone just how fragile the former captain was. And he had vowed already to never break him.
As much as he wanted to continue and let his body succumb to Gin’s touch, he could feel the fatigue pulling at him. The poison was working its way out of his body, but it had still sapped his strength. And he was finding it harder and harder to keep his eyes open.
His fingers curled around the folds of Gin’s overly-large robes. Ichigo broke off the kiss, a small sigh escaping him.
“Tired,” he murmured and closed his eyes. “You staying?”
“Stupid question,” Gin retorted. “I haven’t left ya yet.”
His breathing was beginning to even out, and Ichigo was glad that the sense of fear and sorrow was fading away. But still, a little verbal reinforcement couldn’t hurt. He didn’t mind saying it, and he knew that Gin needed to hear, probably more than anyone.
He curled closer, letting the warmth of his body soak into the chill of his lover’s. “Gin?”
He felt Gin’s hold tighten around him, but he didn’t comment on it. He simply let the exhaustion carry him into sleep. The last thing he heard was Gin returning the sentiment, voice soft and quiet, as though admitting it too loudly would allow Fate to rip him away.