Ichigo tried not to scowl as he watched everyone gathered around the table drink heartily of their liquor. In front of him sat a glass of orange juice. Juice since he was too young to drink. The bastards knew it and had still brought – read dragged– him there anyway.
They had accosted him the moment the incredibly botched strategy meeting had let out and had refused to let go. Ikkaku and Renji had latched onto him, declaring that they were going to show him how to have “real fun.” Whatever the hell that meant. He had yet to see it.
Besides, he had tried to get away, but Rukia had caught him and had made him march right back. She had argued about him being a coward or something stupid like that, and rather than get in an argument with her that he was bound to lose, he had sulkily agreed and had trudged along after them. Renji had muttered about him being whipped, but a sound beating by Ichigo had the vice-captain thinking twice about saying it again.
Now, Ichigo sat bored as hell in a raucous bar, half feeling like a monkey in a cage. They were laughing and shooting him side looks, even as they ribbed Renji endlessly for the… event that had taken place during the meeting. In other words, the passing of gas that had inspired a heated debate.
Sighing, Ichigo turned his attention to their conversation.
“It wasn’t me, man!” Renji protested, shaking his head repeatedly. His cheeks were stained with a red flush, having consumed his share of sake. “I keep tryin’ to tell ya that.”
Iba rolled his eyes, though it was hard to see behind his dark sunglasses, and jabbed Renji with his finger. “Sure. Whatever ya say. Just don’t nobody give him any beans.”
More laughter hit their table as Ikkaku added, “No wonder no woman wants yer ass,” he said as Renji glared, though it was somewhat watery. “Ya probably stink her out of the room.”
Yumichika sniffed. “Now, Ikkaku, you’re no one to be talking of indecent odors,” he remarked, primly sipping at his red wine. He and Kira were the only others not taking place in the uproarious laughter.
“Tch,” Renji countered with a noisy snort. “What d’you know? You ain’t got a woman either.” His eyes glanced around the table, taking in the slightly dull stares of his friends as he waved his cup of sake to gesture. “Ain’t none of ya do. The closest we’ve come is Rukia livin’ in his closet.” He jerked his thumb at Ichigo, who scowled at being included in their dumb conversation.
As if on cue, all eyes turned towards the substitute Shinigami.
“Pray tell,” Yumichika purred, purple eyes sparkling with interest. “This sounds far more intriguing than their disgusting banter.”
“There’s nothing to tell,” Ichigo mumbled, hunching down and kicking out a foot boredly. He struck someone under the table, but whoever it was seemed too drunk to notice. Either that, or he had merely struck the table leg. He couldn’t be sure.
The collection of men exchanged knowing glances, causing Ichigo’s eyes to narrow.
“What?” he growled, certain that they were talking about him.
Shuuhei leaned forward, almost conspiratorially. “You sure you’re not gay, Kurosaki-kun?” he asked, lifting a brow.
Ichigo was so stunned he nearly choked on his next breath. “What the hell?” he sputtered, gaping.
“Got a point there, senpai,” Renji added with a chuckle. “Rukia slept in yer closet, and ya never once put the moves on ‘er.” He gestured with his cup again, spilling the contents all over the table.
“But she wears my sister’s clothes,” Ichigo protested, getting sick at just the thought. “And her… underwear and her clothes,”he insisted.
Ikkaku didn’t look convinced. “Oh, yeah?” he leered. “Then what about the time Yoruichi-san was naked in front of ya, eh? Didn’t look then, did ya?”
Despite the fact that he was wondering how the hell Ikkaku knew about that, Ichigo was quick to respond. The substitute Shinigami clenched his fingers against the table.
“Cat!” he exclaimed, thoughts beginning to get jumbled. “Human and the thing and then… blah! Cat!”
Yumichika hummed in thought. “But when Matsumoto-san offered to sleep with you, even going so far as to unbutton her shirt, you covered your eyes, Ichigo-kun.”
His face burned; he could feel it. “The breasts!” he practically shrieked, gesturing wildly now. “And the thing and…”
He seemed to blame a lot on “the thing.” Whatever “the thing” was.
Then, Kira spoke, though it was so quiet Ichigo almost missed it. In the back of his mind, he groaned.
‘Not you, too.’
“What about Orihime-chan?” Kira asked, significantly less accusing than the others, almost seeming disappointed. “Doesn’t she love you?”
Ichigo blanched at the thought. “She’s just a friend,” he quickly pointed out. He had known Inoue forever. She was just another Tatsuki to him.
Alas, his words fell on deaf ears.
Iba, who had yet to offer up a suggestion, Shuuhei and Kira all exchanged glances. Meanwhile, Yumichika sat back, grinning in a very strange manner. Ikkaku and Renji toasted their sake cups.
“Gay,” the six of them chirped at once with definitive nods.
Ichigo slumped. “But I’m not,” he argued, though it didn’t sound as certain as he would have liked. “Am I?” he asked himself out loud.
“Yeah, ya are,” Iba agreed with a nod. He lifted a brow. “So… who is it?”
He was aghast. “Who is it?” Ichigo repeated with a wince, nearly crestfallen at being outed without realizing it. He lowered his eyes and pondered.
Considering he had only just learned such a startling piece of information, how was he supposed to know who he had a crush on? He didn’t even know he was gay. Isn’t that something he was supposed to know already or something?
“Well, he does look at Kuchiki-taichou funny,” Renji suggested, cutting into Ichigo’s musings. “And call him by his given name.”
Ichigo rolled his eyes. “He tried to kill me.”
“But Zaraki-taichou does the same thing!” Ikkaku argued, pouring himself yet another cup. “And ya just run away from him.”
“You can’t go by that. He calls Hitsugaya-taichou by his first name,” Yumichika pointed out deftly.
They fell silent, all determined to discover the secret crush Ichigo didn’t even know he had.
“Maybe one of the Arrancar or something?” Iba suggested.
Ikkaku promptly smacked him upside the head.
“What? Fuck no!” Ichigo snapped, looking offended.
“Ukitake-taichou?” Izuru prompted quietly, eyes gleaming bizarrely. “He seems nice.”
Ichigo considered this, glad that someone of intelligence had joined this foray. How in the world Kira Izuru was friends with this band of ruffians was beyond him. Well, ruffians and Yumichika. He was still trying to figure that one out.
“He’s kinda old for me,” Ichigo finally answered with a shake of his head.
“That fourth division guy?” Ikkaku questioned, grinning since he was starting to enjoy this. “Ya know. That droopy-eyed wimp?”
Iba furrowed his brow. “That Quincy kid?” His suggestion was tentative.
Ichigo made a face. “That sew-happy bastard?” A scowl twisted his lips. “I’d rather stab myself in the eye with Zangetsu.”
Pursing his lips, Shuuhei thought really hard, which was difficult since he was well on his way to becoming intoxicated. “Sado-san?” he suggested, not certain if he was saying the right name.
It was beginning to feel like a guessing game.
The substitute Shinigami waved him off. “We’re just buddies. It would be like Ikkaku making out with Yumichika?”
Around their group was a collective shudder.
Yumichika turned his nose up in the air. “As if I would,” he declared primly before fluttering his eyelashes at his best friend. “No offense, Ikkaku.”
The bald man dismissed it, and the guessing continued.
“That pervert? Again with the stabbing in the eye.”
“Gimme a break, Renji.”
Ichigo blinked. “Who?”
“The one who wears the hat. And pink haori.”
There was another confused look.
They gave up.
Shudders were shared all around, and Iba was promptly slapped upside the head once again for even suggesting it.
There was a pause. “…Aizen?”
“Do I look ready to die?”
Shuuhei was stumped, but only until a thought occurred to him. “It’s not any of us, is it?” he inquired warily.
“What?” Ichigo was stunned. “No!” he swiftly denied, his gaze raking over the males seated around the table, bypassing them all until his eyes inexplicably were drawn towards Kira. Nice, polite, and intelligent Izuru, who had offered once upon a time to carry his injured friend.
He felt himself flush to the tips of his ears, and he hastily looked away, trying to fight the blush from spreading further.
Renji, remarkably astute for once, noticed this immediately. “Izuru?” he spluttered with a cackle, almost choking on his sake.
The third division vice-captain was immediately indignant as he huffed. “And why not?”
Ichigo, failing to conceal his revealing blush, snarled. “Shut up, dumbass!” he snapped, chucking a few peanuts at Renji’s head.
The other man laughed harder, nimbly ducking out of the way and nearly falling over. The substitute Shinigami looked away with a frustrated growl. Renji was such a bastard.
Then, a hand touched him lightly on the arm. His eyes widened, and he glanced over at the man next to him.
Kira was smiling gently. “Ignore the idiot,” he urged, throwing Renji a furious glare before returning his attention to Ichigo, facing softening. “He is simply jealous.”
The sixth division vice-captain choked on those words, causing Ikkaku, Shuuhei, and Iba to snicker to themselves. Yumichika, however, was quite pleased with himself for being all-knowing.
“Well, I’m happy with the change in events,” he twittered, primping his hair in satisfaction.
Ichigo sighed and hated his burning cheeks. He swallowed thickly, raking a hand through his hair.
“Yeah, well…” he trailed off, clearing his throat noisily, uncertain where he was supposed to start in the whole dating guys thing. Especially since he had just found out he was gay.
He was completely oblivious to the bar fight beginning in the background between the other males, excluding Yumichika, who appeared to be goading them on for his own amusement.
Izuru smiled at him again, his blue eyes warm and open. “Do you like festivals, Kurosaki-kun?” he asked. “There’s a celebration in the tenth district tomorrow, and I have the day off. Would you like to join me?”
The substitute Shinigami was stunned but managed a nod, unable to convince his tongue to move.
“It’s a date then.”
For the first time that night, Ichigo smiled.