“So we’re in agreement, right?”
At her question, Yumichika and Rangiku nodded deviously, their eyes twinkling with the same evil gleam as Rukia’s own.
Rangiku’s mischievous grin widened. “Iba’s easy to distract,” she declared flippantly, reclining in her seat to the enjoyment of the other patrons of the bar that they had chosen as their meeting place. “Flash him a little breast, and he’ll be out cold for hours.”
Pleased, Rukia looked expectantly at Yumichika, interested in the fluttery fifth-seat’s plan.
The man waved a dismissive hand. “Oh, trust me, I’ll keep Ikkaku occupied.”
“And how will you do that?” Rukia asked, interested despite herself.
Even Rangiku listened eagerly.
Yumichika laughed, fluttering his eyelashes with a coquettish look to the side. “I have my ways,” he merely murmured.
And for a moment there, Rukia swore that little horns sprouted from the fifth-seat’s forehead. Truly, he was a man to rival her own conniving abilities.
Beside Rukia, Shuuhei groaned and edged away from the trio of crazy people. “I don’t want any part of this,” he declared loudly, wondering if there was an escape. “You’re the ones that dragged me here. Leave me out of it.”
“But Shuu-chan!” Rangiku protested. “If you don’t help us, then you’ll ruin everything.”
He held up his hands, a bit worried for the look on the faces of the three devious plotters. “I didn’t say I was still going,” he corrected quickly because vice-captain level or not, he was nothing against the plots of those three. “I’m just going to stay the hell out of your way and pretend I never had this conversation.”
“Then it’s settled!” Rukia announced, immensely pleased with herself. This was going to go so well.
“Not quite,” Rangiku interrupted, and both she and Yumichika switched their intense gazes to the girl. “You haven’t said what you’re going to do about Renji.”
Rukia waved that off. “Pssh, he’s easy. We’re childhood friends, remember? I know enough dirt to keep him under my thumb for decades.” A sparkle of evilness illuminated her form as she chuckled, even scaring the perpetual schemers sitting before her.
For his part, Shuuhei felt an unmistakable stab of fear and prayed to kami that he never fell under Kuchiki’s radar. He had the feeling he wouldn’t survive it. He mentally apologized to his best friend, Kurosaki-kun, and Renji. Forgive him, but he was one man and nothing in the eyes of these schemers.
“Trust me,” Rukia was saying as Shuuhei tried and failed to tune her out. “Those two will be heating the sheets in no time.”
– – –
Izuru was just a bit nervous. Normally, he was mostly confident with himself and considered himself capable of handling any situation. But this… this right here was very different than assisting in the running of a division or fighting Hollows. And last time had been so disastrous, his cheeks burned at the mere remembrance of it. He really wanted to make it up to Kurosaki-kun.
Honestly, he had cried, and all because of a simple compliment. There was no getting over that sort of embarrassment. And then worse, all the people in the restaurant had looked at Kurosaki-kun as if he were to blame.
Kissing Kurosaki-kun had been an act of spontaneity, and Izuru was glad that he had. Just remembering it made something inside of him warm. Since that day, he had been able to find a strength he’d forgotten he’d once had.
Thus the reason he’d made these plans for tonight. To minimize the chance of failure, he made it a public affair, inviting a whole group of their mutual friends. Izuru figured he could cook dinner and prove to Kurosaki-kun that he wasn’t just some crying freak. That he really had gotten over Ichimaru. They would spend some time together, get a little drunk, play some cards. It was a good, solid plan with only vague ulterior motives.
Except that no one was here yet.
Izuru twisted his jaw and glanced at the clock again. It still read twenty minutes past the time he had scheduled this dinner. And he knew those boys. They would never be late for free food. What was going on? The rice would be done any minute now, and Izuru hated food that sat too long.
He swore that if Abarai-kun was the reason they were late, he would make that tattooed bastard pay.
Someone knocked on the door, and Izuru nearly jumped out of his skin. A subtle scan with his reiatsu identified the visitor. Poor Kurosaki-kun still wasn’t that adept at keeping his locked down, though he was improving. He was alone though, and that confused Izuru greatly. Where were the others? Hisagi-senpai and Abarai-kun and Iba-san and Yumichika-san and Ikkaku-san? They were all supposed to be here!
Another round of knocking moved Izuru from his contemplation, and he hurried to open the door before Kurosaki-kun grew exasperated and left. He resisted the urge to check his appearance one last time in the mirror. He would not fuss over himself like some anxious teenage girl from the living world!
The door swung open, revealing Kurosaki-kun on the doorstep, dressed as casually as anyone in Seireitei ever really got and looking a bit nervous. He lifted a hand, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly.
“Sorry, I’m late. I couldn’t find it.”
“I thought Abarai-kun was going to show you.” Izuru was confused, as he was pretty sure he’d told several of those good-for-nothings to make sure that Kurosaki-kun could get here.
Kurosaki-kun scowled in shared annoyance, a look that promised dire retribution at a later time. “Yeah, well, he left a message. Something about Rukia and payback, and really, I didn’t want to know.”
Izuru smelled a trap. But he didn’t blame Kurosaki-kun. Frankly, he wouldn’t have wanted to ask either.
“Come on in,” he said, moving aside so that Kurosaki-kun could enter. “The others haven’t come yet either.”
“And here I thought I was late,” Kurosaki-kun muttered, though he stepped inside with hands fidgeting at his sides. His eyes immediately tracked around, taking in the décor of Izuru’s home as his host closed the door behind him.
“I haven’t finished cooking yet,” Izuru explained and gestured ahead of him to the main room that sprawled out in front of them.
It was little more than a sofa perched behind a low table with a decently-sized television on the other side, DVD player attached. Both electronic items had been a combined birthday gift from Abarai-kun and the others with the redhead the main instigator of said item having thoroughly enjoyed their presence in the living world. Though how they managed to work in Soul Society was a mystery to Izuru. Not that he bothered to ask.
“I was waiting for everyone to arrive.”
Kurosaki-kun nodded and glanced around. “I could help.”
Unfortunately, that would defeat the purpose of the dinner being an apology.
Still, Izuru was intrigued by the offer. “You can cook?”
A hint of a blush tainted Kurosaki-kun’s cheeks as he scratched at his chin. “I can boil rice,” he offered. “And a few other things.”
Izuru laughed. “It’s a start,” he said with a chuckle. “But I’m almost done. Just waiting on the others before I mix up the sauces and stuff. We can just wait until they get here.”
“Whenever that is,” Kurosaki-kun muttered and plopped down on the couch, leaving enough room for Izuru to sit on the other side of him.
He took a deep breath and did just that. This was his opportunity, after all, to make up for the disastrous date between them last time. It was a little too quiet in the room, so Izuru clicked on a movie, though he kept the volume soft on purpose. Sometimes, it was nice just to talk, and really, it was best to start out with the main reason he had invited Kurosaki-kun – and everyone else by proxy – here this evening.
“I am glad you came,” Izuru started, hoping it didn’t come out as hesitant as it felt. This was just a bit embarrassing. “I wanted to apologize.”
Kurosaki-kun blinked at him, obviously confused. “For what?”
The blond winced, wondering if Kurosaki-kun had really forgotten or if he truly didn’t think there was a reason for Izuru to apologize. “For what happened last time.”
He waited a few minutes for the words to sink in. And he knew when Kurosaki-kun realized what Izuru meant because he too winced and seemed self-conscious himself.
“That doesn’t usually happen,” Izuru continued, almost desperate to reassure Kurosaki-kun that he wasn’t just some weak creature who cried at the drop of a subtle compliment. “I was… in a rough place.”
“It’s not your fault. It’s Rukia’s,” Kurosaki-kun was quick to reassure, a scowl darkening his expression at the sound of his friend’s name. “She should have known better.”
“Even so, I wanted to apologize.”
Thus, the dinner this evening. Though it was going to be ruined if those other boys didn’t show up soon enough.
Kurosaki-kun nodded in understanding, and quiet settled between them. He watched as the teenager fidgeted and then glanced at Izuru from the corner of his eyes.
“Ermmm. I know it’s not any of my business, but… were you and Ichimaru… you know?”
The hesitant question was accompanied by a vague hand gesture that Izuru didn’t require a translator to understand even if he had never seen it before. He felt himself flush, only because it was a rumor he had heard several times over. Even though it wasn’t true at all – not even remotely – he was mortified that it had gotten all the way to Kurosaki-kun, enough that he would think to question it. Though Izuru supposed he couldn’t blame the gossip mill. From an outsider’s point of view, the relationship between he and his former captain might have seemed like that.
“No,” he stated, shaking his head as a note of fondness entered his tone. He didn’t hate his ex-captain. He couldn’t. Though he was largely disappointed. “It wasn’t like that. Ichimaru-taichou believed in me. And that was really all that mattered.”
Izuru wasn’t sure how to interpret that, so he let it slide, eyes shifting around as he continued. Finding it strangely easy to talk to Kurosaki-kun.
“My parents died early on,” he explained softly, “and there were a lot of expectations. It was… heavy. And when faced with so much talent at the Academy, I often thought that I didn’t belong. Ichimaru-taichou was the first one to look at me as someone worthwhile.”
“I think I can understand that,” Kurosaki-kun commented, shifting on the sofa and getting a strange gleam in his eyes. “My mom died when I was just a kid, and people poked at me because of my hair, not that I can really do anything about that. I never really fit in either.”
“And your father?”
To Izuru’s amusement, Kurosaki-kun made a horrified face. “Sometimes, I wish that old Goat-Face were dead.”
Izuru’s jaw dropped as he swiveled his head to give Kurosaki-kun a surprised stare, unsure what to say in response to that sort of thing. It didn’t sound like Kurosaki-kun hated his father, but one could tell he wasn’t exactly thrilled either.
“Look. You have to know Isshin to understand,” Kurosaki-kun was quick to explain, turning to face Izuru and lifting one hand. “Take a drunk Renji,” he went on, wriggling said hand for emphasis, “And smash him into a Yachiru-chewed Ikkaku–” He lifted another hand. “–stir in that Iba guy as he is–” Both hands came together. “–and throw in Hisagi-san having a freak-out over the newspaper, and you’ve scratched the icing on the cake of what’s wrong with my father. And Rangiku-san at her friendliest doesn’t hold a candle to the affections my father thinks everyone needs to experience.”
The earnest annoyance in Kurosaki-kun’s face was almost comical. Izuru could only blink at that rather detailed explanation.
“I think I understand.”
The blond thought of all of his friends who really were too much to handle at once. The only other person he had been able to commiserate about them with had recently been confined to the fourth division for the deterioration of her mental state. So he was left to suffer their stupidity alone.
“Yeah, your friends are pretty crazy,” Kurosaki-kun agreed, sharing a friendship with said mindless delinquents himself. “But then, you don’t really have to deal with Rukia.”
Izuru felt his lips twitch. “Kuchiki-san is… nice,” he said, purposefully forcing himself to forget her powers of persuasion when it came to the dates.
“Yeah, if you think crocodiles make great pets,” Kurosaki-kun retorted with a roll of his eyes.
Izuru outright laughed, an image forming in the back of his mind. “But she’s working so hard for you.”
Kurosaki-kun snorted, losing some of his polite restraint as an odd look crossed his face. “Fifteen dates later and so far she has managed to get Renji stuck in his gigai, Ikkaku and me arrested, set me up with my dad’s new boyfriend.” That was accompanied by a shudder. “Then, I was assaulted by a drunk wearing a pink haori–”
“Kyouraku-taichou?” Izuru inserted, hazarding a guess. But then, the other half of Kurosaki-kun’s description filtered through his brain. “Wait… He assaulted you?”
“Long story. Don’t ask,” Kurosaki-kun insisted. “Seriously, just don’t.” He paused to think, as though desperately trying not to recall each and every horrifying encounter his supposed friend had pushed on him. “Yumichika-san was tolerable at least. And she sent me on a play date with Kenpachi. I found out Toushirou loves pinball, and that everyone is conspiring against Uki– Jyuushiro.”
Izuru lifted a brow. “Conspiring?” He couldn’t help but laugh again at Kurosaki-kun’s frank assessment of all his dating nightmares. “How so?”
“Again with the long story. All I know is that it involves his third-seats, Rukia, and cooking.” Kurosaki-kun shook his head, leaning back as he continued, ticking off encounters on his fingers. “Iba broke my nose, among other things. Hisagi-san and I stared at each other for fifteen minutes, and Byakuya was clearly threatened and told to kiss me or else. To top it all off, she set me up with our mortal enemy, though don’t ask me how she managed that!”
Izuru hazarded a guess, a silly grin splitting his face. “Kurotsuchi-taichou?”
“Only slightly better. Aizen!”
Practically red with mirth, Izuru tried to contain himself. “But at least you got to know the Shinigami better, ne?” he inserted, thinking to hope that there was something salvageable in the situation.
“True,” Kurosaki-kun admitted. “I found out that Hanatarou was still in love with his dead wife. Huh. He and Byakuya have something in common. Didn’t realize that until now.” He pondered.
Izuru practically radiated amusement as he gazed at the teenager, only to notice that Kurosaki-kun had left him out of that list. “And me, Kurosaki-kun?”
“That was pretty good,” Kurosaki-kun answered after a moment of pause. “Until um… the end there. When I sorta said the wrong thing.”
The blond winced, feeling heat steal into his cheeks. Yeah, that had been mortifying.
“I promise not to cry this time, Kurosaki-kun,” he said. “Or really ever again if I can help it.” And he looked down, fingers cautiously seeking out the hand which seemed so casually near to his.
“You can call me Ichigo.” Kurosak– Ichigo lifted his fingers, as though embarrassed by the offer. “Everyone else does.”
“Well, you already call me Izuru,” the blond replied then, tilting his head and just smiling invitingly. Almost beckoningly. “I don’t know what else to offer you–”
Ichigo kissed him. Was kissing him. And Izuru eagerly responded to the almost hesitant and slightly clumsy brush of their lips, finding that Ichigo tasted like something citrus. Oranges or tangerines, as though he had been eating one or the other recently. The scent seemed to surround him.
Izuru wanted to linger in it.
But the kiss was as brief as it was surprising, leaving Izuru gaping and hungering for more. He looked at Ichigo, a sense of wonder banking behind his eyes.
“That was…” But words failed him.
“Me being assertive,” Ichigo said and eyed him warily. “Should I not have or–”
Izuru kissed him, if that was what he would call the attack of lips and tongue. There was a moment of stunned surprise before Ichigo returned the kiss, not even fighting off Izuru’s hands as they crept forward of their own accord, one splaying across Ichigo’s belly. The other curled around his hip, dragging him closer.
A low sound echoed in Ichigo’s throat, one that sounded like restraint snapping as he deepened their exchange, their tongues tangling. Heat crackled down Izuru’s spine, Ichigo’s rapid-fire breathing loud to his ears. His hands wandered without further thought, palms hot against Ichigo’s bare skin and traveling upwards.
He leaned forwards, and then, Ichigo fell backwards with an abrupt sound of surprise, Izuru landing atop him. He sprawled across the teen’s equally sprawled body, legs entangled. And while the abrupt change in angle surprised them both, it didn’t seem to do anything for the pacing.
Izuru couldn’t get enough, his lips dragging from Ichigo’s mouth to pepper kisses along his strong jaw line. He felt hands settle on his back, rubbing across cloth before traveling further, squeezing his ass and grinding their bodies together. Izuru gasped, his body working a ragged rhythm.
Things blurred, lost to heat and touch and hands and clothes rapidly disappearing under fumbling, unskilled but no less determined fingers. Izuru licked long paths across inches of bared bronzed skin, and his heart stuttered at every twitch of the body beneath his. Ichigo groaned, his hands roaming. Raking through blond hair. Skittering down a back and spine. Knee rising to rub against a groin.
Izuru’s own hands wandered, one working its way under the hem of Ichigo’s hakama and the other clenched into the sofa for balance. He mouthed at a bare collarbone, for some reason fascinated by the outline of it beneath Ichigo’s skin. A low moan echoed in his ear, oh-so-enticing, and Izuru forgot all the reasons this might be a not-yet-good-idea.
His fingers encountered the hard and heavy weight of Ichigo’s arousal, further proof that this wasn’t one-sided. And at his first touch, he was treated to the sound of Ichigo’s throaty and pleased groan. Hips bucked into the hesitant rhythm, and Izuru swallowed thickly, heat flushing throughout.
“Ichigo,” Izuru breathed, desperate searching for the right words to make this okay and not a serious mistake on his part. “Can I…?”
“Don’t stop,” Ichigo moaned. “I swear I’ll hurt something if you stop.”
Well, okay then. That was pretty much all the permission Izuru needed right there.
‘Itadakimasu,’ he couldn’t help but think lecherously and lowered his lips to a nipple that had been begging for attention.
A series of startled gasps along with the sound of Izuru’s front door opening cut through the frantic push of desire like a zanpakutou cleaving a Hollow’s mask. Izuru broke away, hand still down Ichigo’s hakama, to see their five friends standing in the doorway. Completely and mortifyingly frozen in place.
A few seconds of stunned surprise passed where the seven men stared at each other. But finally, Izuru cleared his throat and pointedly licked his lips.
“You’re late,” he commented because that was honestly all he could think to say.
Beneath him, Ichigo blushed profusely and didn’t dare move a muscle. Frankly, Izuru didn’t want to move either as it would reveal certain things that should for the moment remain hidden.
Abarai-kun was the first to break the silence, strolling in with an aplomb that only the drunk or immensely stupid could pull off. Fortunately for him, it appeared he suffered from both.
“Sorry ‘bout that,” he slurred, perhaps referring to being late. “So what’s fer dinner?” he asked and then promptly wandered into the kitchen.
They stared at each other a bit more, Yumichika-san wearing a rather astonished expression and Iba-san gaping with his mouth open. Hisagi-senpai had covered his eyes, mumbling something under his breath, while Ikkaku-san was dumbfounded.
Abarai-kun stumbled back into the living room, a piece of white fabric dangling from his fingers. “Someone missin’ a sock?” he questioned.
A slight twitter echoed through the room, though the immediate perpetrator was unknown. Izuru looked down and realized that Ichigo was indeed absent a single tabi. Toes wiggled in the heated air.
Ichigo flushed to the roots of his orange hair, stumbling around for an explanation that sounded convincing. “He was… uh… We were… er… He was…”
Words escaped him.
“… teaching him some hakudo techniques,” Izuru supplied finally, though he didn’t think even Iba-san would believe them, despite the fact that he was as perceptive as the burnt side of toast.
“What? Pinning moves?” Ikkaku demanded, clearly not thinking about his own words.
As one, Hisagi-senpai, Iba-san, and Yumichika-san all turned to stare at the bald man. Who cringed when he realized how his statement could have been taken.
He rubbed a hand over his head. “Uh, I mean… How to turn on your opponent… Arg! How to beat them off?” He paused and smacked himself in the face. “I mean… Aw… fuck!”
“Guys, we should leave,” Hisagi-senpai insisted then, one hand still carefully shielding his eyes.
Indeed, none of them had moved from the doorway. Except Abarai-kun who had gone back into the kitchen, seemingly oblivious.
Yumichika-san laughed or perhaps it would have been more appropriate to describe that sound as a giggle. “I see you started without us. Though one usually saves that for dessert.”
“We’re obviously interrupting,” his senpai announced in the background. “So let’s just be going.”
“Some cocking techniques… I mean, blocking techniques!” Ikkaku-san added, clamping his mouth shut. “Dammit, I’m just going to stop talkin’ now.”
Abarai-kun reappeared in the living room, a sake bottle pilfered from the kitchen in one hand. He invited himself to the open end of the couch, plopping down without a care and uncorking the jug. He took a deep swig and then seemed to notice that he was sharing space with two other very embarrassed residents.
“Oh, didja want some?” the redhead asked, gesturing the bottle towards Izuru. He then seemed to notice the lack of available hands. “Never mind. Ya look like yer hands’re full.”
Somewhere, someone snorted. Izuru suspected Yumichika-san. And this had long passed the moments of awkwardness and heading into territories rich with humiliation. This was downright mortifying. Why hadn’t they left yet?
“Ichigo?” Abarai-kun pushed and tried to offer it to him, too. Though it wavered midair, the vice-captain’s coordination ruined by his inebriation.
Ichigo scowled, likely wishing he could crawl into a hole and never come out. Preferable a deep one on the other side of Hueco Mundo.
“I’m too young to drink, dumbass,” the teen muttered in an obvious denial.
Abarai-kun shrugged. “Suit yourself.” And chugged down half of Izuru’s really good, really expensive sake. That had been a gift from Aizen-taichou last winter.
Come to think of it, Abarai-kun could have the whole bottle.
“Too young to drink but not to– Ack!” A sound of pain emerged from Ikkaku-san as Hisagi-senpai nonchalantly elbowed him in the ribs.
“Let’s go. Come on, Ikkaku,” his senpai insisted, still trying to encourage his idiotic friends to accompany him out the door.
Ikkaku-san shook his head and glanced away. “They’re trying to,” he muttered.
Yumichika-san spluttered before abruptly covering his mouth. Iba-san made a sound not unlike the eleventh division when faced with Unohana-taichou.
Abarai-kun just sniffed and peered around. “I smell something fruity.”
Hisagi-san groaned, slapping his hand over his entire face and wishing he could sink through the floor. And Izuru’s living room degenerated further into madness with Yumichika-san unable to conceal his mirth. The man suddenly letting out a shriek of laughter that echoed across the walls.
“Okay, you’ve made your jokes,” Izuru announced with more strength in his voice than he thought he held. “Time to leave.”
“I agree!” Hisagi-senpai insisted, tone approaching a high pitch that didn’t suit him at all. He crossed the room in a quick, purposeful stride. “But don’t worry! This never happened. At all. I didn’t see anything, I swear. Nothing at all. Nothing to see here, folks.”
Izuru watched as he grabbed Abarai-kun by the ear and hauled him up with an indignant squawk on the redhead’s part. Iba-san had already escaped, having never regained his composure, and fled into the night.
His senpai pushed Abarai-kun ahead of him. The latter just stumbled towards the front door in a very incoherent fashion.
“I told Kuchiki this would happen,” Hisagi-senpai mumbled just loud enough for Izuru to hear as he started herding everyone else to the exit.
“Why’re we goin’?” Abarai-kun mumbled, clutching his sake protectively and glaring at Ikkaku as though he were going to make a grab for it. “We jus’ got ‘ere.”
“Ahh, Shuu-chan! I want to watch!” Yumichika-san complained. “Just for a–”
Thankfully, the door closed shut on the rest of his words, leaving the room in complete silence.
Izuru turned his head, looking at an equally embarrassed Ichigo. Sure that the same mortification echoed on his face. Only then did he draw back, removing his hands from Ichigo’s hakama and giving him some space.
“Umm… I should probably go,” the teen said then, clearing his throat as he tugged self-consciously at the hem of his pants. His eyes tracked around and looked for lost articles of clothing.
Izuru himself wondered where his shitagi had gone. “Sorry,” he replied, feeling like all he had done tonight was apologize to Ichigo. “I didn’t know that would happen.”
In all honesty, he should have realized it since they were waiting for the others to arrive. Though he had believed they would at least knock rather than barge into his house like that. And Abarai-kun! Just how drunk was he?
Ichigo winced, pulling on his top. “I don’t think anyone could have expected that,” he responded and glanced around pointedly. “Man, what did Renji do with my sock?”
And really, that did it right there. Izuru was trying to hold onto his composure in the wake of that debacle, but watching Ichigo stand there, missing a tabi and looking quite perplexed, just sort of shattered his resolve. He chuckled, hand rising to cover his mouth but failing to conceal the sound of his laughter.
Brown eyes turned to him in confusion. “Izuru?”
“I’m sorry.” Izuru snickered again, holding his belly as the laughter pulled at his stomach muscles. “It’s just… the look on their faces.” He shook his head, unable to put it into words.
He watched as Ichigo appeared to consider it before chuckling as well, dragging the rest of his missing clothing to his side. “I suppose it could have been worse.”
“It could have been my dad. Or the geta-boushi.” He shuddered at the thought of either.
And though Izuru wasn’t too familiar with them, he had the feeling that it wouldn’t be a comfortable situation. At all. Rather like being caught by the captain-commander.
“Or Kuchiki-san,” he added by way of suggestion.
Ichigo made a disgusted face. “The horror!”
The two shared another laugh, one that seemed to chase away all the awkwardness that the interruption had gathered. Izuru situated the last of his clothes, watching as Ichigo did the same.
“But… it was fun,” Izuru commented almost wistfully and followed as Ichigo wandered towards the door and his waraji by proxy.
A thoughtful expression crossed the substitute Shinigami’s face. “Yeah, it was,” he agreed.
And looking up at Izuru, their eyes briefly met. It sent a tingle of interest down Izuru’s spine. Reminding him that moments before, they’d been in the middle of something very hot and heavy.
“Are you heading back to the living world, or do you have somewhere you plan on staying?” Izuru asked, having some sort of idea in the back of his mind of walking Ichigo somewhere. Prolonging the night as long as possible, he supposed.
Ichigo shrugged, hands tucked into his sleeves. “Rukia offered the Kuchiki manor, but…” he trailed off and made a face. Imagining all of horrendous things she could do to him there. Especially with Byakuya such a close and tempting secondary target.
“You fear for your virtue?” Izuru suggested teasingly.
“Yeah, something like that.” Ichigo shrugged again, tilting his head back and peering up at the night sky, the moon gleaming white above them. “So I’ll just head home. Safer that way.”
Izuru chuckled, rather enjoying Ichigo’s expression in profile. “You’re probably right,” he said and took a breath and a chance, reaching for Ichigo’s fingers with his own.
Relief rattled through him as Ichigo accepted the hesitant touch and turned to look at him. They weren’t so far apart now, just a scant few inches, and Izuru rather liked that closeness.
“You’re welcome to come back anytime,” the blond murmured, his thumb rubbing across Ichigo’s hand.
“Yeah?” A faint blush tinted the teen’s cheeks, but he didn’t look away. “I might just do that.”
Izuru couldn’t help it. He stole another kiss, that same distinct flavor of citrus washing over and through him. He enjoyed the way Ichigo’s lips felt against his, and a stirring of want rushed through him. It would be so easy to ask for more, so easy to lead Ichigo back inside and to his bedroom. To pull him down on the futon and set his hands wandering again.
Only… Only, Izuru didn’t because it wasn’t the best thing for them to rush headfirst into such a relationship.
So he ended the kiss, a stupidly goofy grin on his face. “Make sure you do,” he murmured and hoped it didn’t come out all girly-breathless like it sounded.
Ichigo squeezed his fingers, and the smile on his face was really worth all the embarrassment Izuru had just suffered. He watched as Ichigo drew away, heading for the gate a short distance from there.
And Izuru couldn’t help but think that it had been a great night. Perfect for starting over.