[Bleach] And With This Hand

Ukitake Jyuushirou was nearly a thousand years old. He had been captain of the thirteenth division for almost as long and his name was both recognized and occasionally feared by those who had enough sense to recognize his power. His reaitsu could swamp an entire area, bringing those of a weaker constitution to their knees. His wisdom stretched far and wide. He feared nothing.

And yet, here he sat, knees folded beneath him and hands carefully placed on his thighs, trying not to tremble. Here he sat, before his kouhai no less, hoping that he didn’t look as anxious as he felt.

The tea that sat between was going largely untouched as Jyuushirou’s request hung in the air between them. Byakuya stared at him, without so much as blinking, and Jyuushirou tentatively believed that perhaps Byakuya had not understood his question.

Jyuushirou took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. “With your permission, Kuchiki-san,” he began, as perfectly formal as he could manage, “I would like to ask Rukia to marry me.”

Silence swept through the sitting room.

Byakuya stirred, but it was only to reach forward and pour his tea. He didn’t look at Jyuushirou as he readied his cup, and brought the slightly steaming liquid to his lips. He seemed to consider the aroma and the color, faintly frowning, before deeming both acceptable.

“No,” he said, and took a delicate sip.

Jyuushirou blinked. “No?”

His kouhai appeared to savor the flavor of his tea, and then lowered the cup, giving Jyuushirou a firm, unyielding look. “No.”

Jyuushirou’s palms scrubbed down the flat of his thighs, wiping away the sweat that dampened them. “I can provide for her,” he said, hoping that perhaps Byakuya just needed to be convinced.

Most fathers preferred that, didn’t they? Though in this case, Byakuya wasn’t so much as a father as he was an overprotective older brother.

“Though considering her recent promotion, the issue of providing isn’t really necessary,” Jyuushirou added thoughtfully. “She’s really quite talented, you know. No one deserved this promotion more than she did.”

“Rukia is a Kuchiki, after all,” Byakuya agreed, though there was no inflection in his voice. He blinked slowly. “The answer is still no.”

Jyuushirou worked his jaw. It couldn’t be that Byakuya thought him not good enough. Who in Seireitei would be more worthy? Who else in Seireitei could boast being a senior captain with decades of experience and a reputation for being a kind, honorable man?

Jyuushirou contemplated a cup of tea, and decided it would only be a distraction. Meanwhile, Byakuya continued to sip his as though he were completely at peace and he hadn’t just shot his senpai through the heart.

“I would treat her well, Byakuya. You know that,” Jyuushirou said, recognizing that he almost sounded pleading and that was something that would not do. “I would never hurt her and I would give her anything she asked of me.”

Byakuya tilted his head in a noncommittal manner, a very noble-like gesture. “Perhaps,” he said. “But that is not the issue here.”

For all his patience, Jyuushirou was growing frustrated. “Then what is?” Jyuushirou asked, trying not to sound demanding but his voice carrying his annoyance anyway.

“She’s my sister,” Byakuya replied, as though that should be all the answer Jyuushirou needed and he should just bow gracefully and abandon his hopeless quest.

Jyuushirou’s brow crinkled. “Yes, I understand that. Which is why I came to ask for your permission, as any proper suitor would.”

Byakuya leaned forward, tea cup replaced on the tray with the faintest of noises. “She’s my sister,” he said again, with greater emphasis this time.

The elder captain was coming to a slow realization. Oh, dear. Was this another one of Byakuya-kun’s possessive bits coming into play? The same he’d shown when he reluctantly released Renji as his vice-captain, only after Yamamoto-sensei informed him that it wasn’t his decision to make? That he couldn’t deny Renji’s ascension to captain because Byakuya didn’t want to select another vice-captain.

Which, by the way, he still had yet to do.

Jyuushirou’s kouhai was nothing if not stubborn. And quite the possessive one as well. Jyuushirou supposed it had something to do with being an only child and heir to a noble house. Byakuya-kun was used to everything falling under his ownership. The Kuchiki holdings were his. The sixth division was his – even if technically it wasn’t since it had been granted to him, but try explaining that to Byakuya and see if he understood it. Jyuushirou had made one attempt, but after getting that cold grey Kuchiki stare he had wisely backed away.

Byakuya had also considered Renji his – not in a romantic sense since poor Kurosaki-kun had claims in that regard. But Renji was his vice-captain and had been his second for quite some time and Byakuya was loathe to surrender his connection to Renji when he already considered Renji as belonging to him. After all, the sixth division did so didn’t anyone within it fall under his domain by proxy?

So perhaps what this whole matter boiled down to was that Byakuya considered Rukia his sister, and therefore was unwilling to surrender her to anyone for any reason. Even someone like Jyuushirou whom Byakuya respected – at least Jyuushirou assumed he did.

Jyuushirou inhaled slowly. “I know that I am a little old for her,” he began, wondering if perhaps Byakuya wanted him to admit his faults as well. “There is also the fact that I am not of the best of health and I am at times distracted by the rigors of running a division.”

“Do you honestly believe those are the reasons?” Byakuya asked, a touch of hurt in his tone, one that must have echoed his own.

“I’m merely stating what I know to be facts,” Jyuushirou replied, hoping that he hadn’t offended his kouhai. “Any father would see those as a reason I would not make a good match.”

Byakuya fingered his tea cup, looking contemplative. “I never said you weren’t a good match.”

Jyuushirou’s heart skipped an excited beat.

“But the answer is still no,” Byakuya added a moment later, crushing Jyuushirou’s hopes as though they were dried rose petals, scattered all over the ground.

His shoulders sagged, his reaitsu settling around his body like a dull blanket. Jyuushirou honestly couldn’t believe this, that Byakuya would be so unreasonable.

Jyuushirou started to wonder if there was anything he could say to convince Byakuya otherwise. His shoulders sagged, his fingers again rubbing anxiously over the top of his thighs. He felt quite stumped.

He’d covered all his bases, hadn’t he? What else could Byakuya expect from him? What else could Jyuushirou provide?

At a loss for words, Jyuushirou’s mouth opened and closed several times. He didn’t want to concede defeat, and certainly Byakuya’s permission wasn’t absolutely necessary, but Jyuushirou would feel better about the whole matter if Byakuya didn’t prove to be a deterrent. Rukia would probably dismiss her brother’s disapproval and suggest they flit off and elope, but Jyuushirou was – at heart – a traditional man.

Suddenly, the feel of familiar reiatsu swarmed through Byakuya’s manor, preceding Kurosaki-kun’s arrival as he threw open the door to the sitting room and invited himself inside. His expression was a mixture of amusement and annoyance as he stormed across the floor, and fixed a rather impressive glare on his lover.

“Stop fucking with him, Byakuya,” he says, tilting his head to indicate Jyuushirou. “We all know you’re going to say yes.”

Jyuushirou blinked.

The smallest of smiles curved the corner of his kouhai’s lips. “Perhaps I only wanted him to work for it first.”

Kurosaki-kun rolled his eyes and dropped down next to Byakuya, sniffing cautiously at the tea cup. “That’s just cruel.”

“Wait,” Jyuushirou said, holding up a hand. “I am not sure I understand what is going on here.”

“Easy,” Kurosaki-kun said, reaching for one of the untouched sweets on the platter and munching on it. “Byakuya was showing off his rare sense of humor.”

Jyuushirou glanced at his kouhai to confirm. “Is this true?”

Byakuya didn’t even have the good grace to look abashed. “I would be honored, senpai, if you were to join my family.”

Jyuushirou had kind of thought about marrying Rukia into the Ukitakes but if Byakuya preferred it the other way around, well, Jyuushirou supposed he would take what he could get. It didn’t really matter to Jyuushirou in the end.

Fingers unfurling from their near death-grip on his hakama, Jyuushirou managed a thin smile, still unsure if he liked this humorous side of his kouhai. “Thank you for your permission,” he said, voice a little weak, and reached for a cookie, stomach finally settling enough that they looked appetizing. “And thank you, Kurosaki-kun, for preventing me from further apprehension.”

The substitute Shinigami – who truthfully spent more time in Seireitei nowadays than he did in the Living World – inclined his head, shooting his lover a warning look. “You’re welcome,” he replied. “So… how are you planning to propose?”

It was a question that considered much more delicate thought than asking Byakuya for permission. While Jyuushirou was certain that Rukia would say yes and that their feelings were mutual, he also couldn’t fathom a proposal that was anything less than perfect.

Rukia deserved the best after all.

o0o0o

Jyuushirou had it all prepared, every trapping of the perfect proposal, from the candlelit dinner to the bouquet of roses and the sweet serenade of a privately hired trio of violinists. The night was clear, the stars bright and shining like perfect jewels in the sky. It was warm, the perfect temperature, and Jyuushirou’s lungs were feeling healthy and free, certainly not likely to interrupt him with a fit.

His romantic senses were tingling. Tonight was going to be perfect.

Jyuushirou surveyed his work, and felt a small treble of satisfaction travel through him. He double and triple checked, making certain that everything was prepared. Now all he had left to do was wait on the woman of the hour. Once she arrived, he could then uncover the dishes and serve their romantic dinner.

A ring was tucked discreetly into his pocket, carefully chosen with the greatest core. It was a simple thing, not grand and expensive, but something that would suit Rukia’s taste. It reminded Jyuushirou of her zanpakutou, the small diamonds like twinkling snowflakes.

He couldn’t wait to see her reaction.

Humming a soft tune under his breath – one that the violinists would be playing later – Jyuushirou lit the candles and watched their flames flicker in the light evening bruise. Rukia should arrive soon. She had stayed late to finish up some paperwork, giving Jyuushirou ample time to prepare.

It was then that the jigokuchou floated across Jyuushirou’s line of sight, prompting him to lift a hand and accept the butterfly’s landing. Almost immediately the message came pouring through, news of a Hollow attack on one of Seireitei’s far borders. An attack that required the presence of a captain. An attack that Jyuushirou was needed to repel.

Of all the…

Gritting his teeth, Jyuushirou quickly pulled off his well-crafted kimono and shrugged into his shihakushou, determined that this should only take a moment. The Hollow – or multiple Hollow it seemed, including a possible Vasto Lorde – would come to regret the day it had interrupted Jyuushirou’s romancing.

o0o0o

It turned out that not only had a possible Vasto Lorde attacked, but a whole horde of them decided to try and make a run at Seiretei. Why? Jyuushirou had no clue. But it had taken the combined might of four divisions to cleanse the area, a feat that lasted well into the night and on into early morning. In fact, the sun was just peeking over the horizon as Jyuushirou swung his zanpakutou and destroyed the last of the smaller Hollow that were more or less a nuisance and distraction from the three – yes, three – Menos Grande that accompanied the Vasto Lorde.

If Jyuushirou didn’t know any better, he’d think Aizen had something to do with it. Only Aizen was dead, had been for years. So perhaps there was something else going on. Perhaps not. Frankly, at the moment, Jyuushirou didn’t care. He ached, he was tired, he was covered in blood and ash and a lucky Hollow had ripped his captain’s haori. He had a half-dozen others, yes, but this one was his favorite. Also, his dreams of a romantic proposal had floated right down the drain.

Jyuushirou was not happy.

In fact, his only saving grace was that Yamamoto-sensei had declared the four participating divisions to take the rest of the day off, leaving protection and surveillance to the remaining eight. Jyuushirou, aching, dirty, and hungry, didn’t protest. With a weary shunpo, he trudged on home, Rukia right beside him as her division had also been called.

She looked just as tired and worn as he did, her shoulders stooped and circles lining her eyes. She offered him a small smile, taking his hand, squeezing his fingers. Jyuushirou squeezed her hand back.

“Well, that was fun,” Rukia joked as they arrived back at Jyuushirou’s manor, setting their zanpakutou in the special stands Jyuushirou had commissioned someone to craft for them.

He liked the way they resonated when they were positioned together, a pleasing hum that brought a smile to Jyuushirou’s lips. “We should do this again sometime,” Jyuushirou replied, a small curve to his lips.

“Just not anytime soon,” Rukia said, pulling a face as she rubbed at her shoulder.

Jyuushirou remembered seeing her take a backhand from one of the Menos Grande. But he trusted in Rukia, trusted in her abilities, so he didn’t immediately rush to her side. He had been intensely relieved when she’d gotten back to her feet and exacted her vengeance in a rush of blizzard-cold air that froze the Menos in its tracks.

Jyushirou nodded. “Bath?”

“By the gods, yes,” Rukia said with a brighter smile. “Even better. Join me?”

Despite his fatigue, Jyuushirou’s belly did a little flop of pleasure. “Of course. Give me a moment?”

She squeezed his hand and smiled, wandering off toward the private path in Jyuushirou’s home, giving him time to head back toward the engawa overlooking his back garden. The table was still set up for a romantic evening, though the candles were half-melted and had blown out during the course of the battle. The roses were starting to wilt. And Jyuushirou was sure the food was sitting cold in his kitchen, the rice hard and inedible.

He sighed. It seemed his romantic endeavors would have to wait.

Jyuushirou salvaged what he could of the meal, and dumped the inedible portions into the garbage. He put away the half-melted candles and the fancy dishware and stripped the table of the fancy cloth. The engawa was restored to its former furniture-less glory. Clean up complete, Jyuushirou hurried toward the baths, already peeling off his spattered and torn clothing.

The fragrance of soap and steam filled his nose as he pushed open the door. Rukia had started the bath for them. Jyushirou smiled, dropping his dirtied clothing into a pile by the door, next to Rukia’s own smaller pile. He grabbed a tie and pulled his hair up into a messy coil on top of his head. It was too late to wash it and wait for it to dry.

“Took you long enough,” Rukia said, glancing over her shoulder at him from where she was soaping up her arms, long strokes of her hand leaving white suds behind.

Jyuushirou licked his lips, fatigue warring with the arousing sight in front of him. “I had something to take care of,” he explained and pulled up another stool, reaching for water and soap. “Shall I wash your back for you?”

Blue eyes glittered invitingly. “Only if you let me do the same.”

“My dear, that is hardly a request I would deny,” he replied, and despite his fatigue, took Rukia up on her generous offer.

It was nice, Jyuushirou thought, to sit like this and enjoy each other’s company. Even if his romantic plans fell by the wayside, he could always try again. Today wasn’t a complete failure.

His hands roamed over Rukia’s body, stroking down her arms and her sides, tracking sudsy soap all over her pale flesh. His fingers explored a few scars and tickled at her ribs, making her chuckle. Her skin was warm and soft and Jyuushirou leaned forward, sweeping aside her damp hair to press a kiss to the back of her neck. She smelled sweet, like the roses that had been left to wilt.

Jyuushirou pressed closer, one hand roaming over her flat belly, for a moment playing in her belly button, but only briefly as he knew how much it tickled her. His free hand wandered upward, teasing at her breasts, covering them in the white suds of the soap. She sucked in a heavy breath, leaning into his embrace, her head tilted to provide him more room. He cupped her breasts, rolling her nipples in his fingers, breath warm and soft over her ears.

Rukia sighed in pleasure. “Weren’t we tired?” she teased, one hand lifting to cup the back of Jyuushirou’s neck, fingers gently massaging.

Jyuushirou chuckled, nibbling on her ear as his hands continued to roam on the pretense of helping her wash, one dipping to the apex of her thighs teasingly. “I think I may have a little energy left in me.”

“Men,” she replied, and he just knew she was rolling her eyes, her tone filled with humor.

He reached for the water, pouring it over Rukia and rinsing away the worst of the soap. Watching the suds slide down her body made his insides tighten with heat and Jyuushirou couldn’t resist touching, his hands stroking down her sides and lightly gripping her hips.

Jyuushirou pressed against her, his half-hard arousal nudging against the base of her spine. Her skin was slick and soft, a perfect sensation that sent his senses on a slow slide into arousal. Another bucket of water and Rukia was mostly rinsed clean of the soap.

She turned in his arms, a challenging smile curling her lips. “My turn,” she said, and lifted a hand, twirling her finger. “Turn around.” Rukia was already reaching for the soap, a certain gleam in her eyes.

Jyuushirou bit back on a groan and obeyed, immediately feeling her slick body press against his from behind, her nipples against his shoulderblades. A shiver wracked his body as Rukia leaned forward, breathing hotly over his ear. Her arms encircled his body, her soapy fingers pressing against his chest and abdomen.

His fingers clenched over his knees as he fought to whirl back around. He should have known it wasn’t going to be a simple bath.

Delicate hands roamed over his body, one stroking down his arms as the other ventured lower, teasing at his thighs. Jyuushirou sucked in a breath as soapy fingers dipped between his legs, sliding slickly over his growing length and cupping his balls. A moan caught in his throat and Jyuushirou’s eyes slid closed, knowing from Rukia’s dark chuckle that she had to be grinning wickedly behind him.

Each touch was fleeting however, nothing more than a teasing slide of soap-slick flesh. It made Jyuushirou’s blood pump heatedly through his veins and his belly twist with desire.

Rukia chuckled again. “I can’t tell if I’m getting you clean or just making you dirtier,” she teased, her fingers sliding around his shaft and giving him a light stroke that made him throb in her grip.

Jyuushirou opened his mouth, determined to reply with something witty and provocative. Instead, his stomach growled noisily, a sound that echoed in the bathing chamber and alerted both of them to the fact he had missed dinner last night. In fact, both of them hadn’t eaten yet.

“I suppose that shows what my body is voting for,” Jyuushirou said after a moment of humorous silence and a soft sigh.

Rukia outright laughed, her hands moving to settle innocently on his shoulders, fingers massaging his muscles. “A rinse and then dinner?”

He turned his head, placing a kiss to the back of her left hand. “Sounds good to me.”

o0o0o

Dinner was hastily gobbled onigiri and glasses of water before they climbed into a futon that seemed to embrace them perfectly. Jyuushirou had thoughts of rolling over, kissing Rukia, and continuing their bathtime teasing. But a yawn cracked his jaw and the fatigue pinching the skin around Rukia’s eyes had them both reconsidering.

He managed a fumbling grope or two, and Rukia peppered a kiss on his jaw, but sleep called too heartily. The only thing that saved him from sheer embarrassment was that Rukia fell asleep first, curled against him, all warm and soft skin that lulled him into falling asleep soon after.

o0o0o

Jyuushirou woke the next morning to pleasant sensations rippling down his spine as the brightness of afternoon gleamed through his window. He peeled open his eyes, biting down on a gasp as Rukia ground down above him, her lips curled with mischievous delight, her palms flattened on his abdomen.

“Good morning,” she said cheerfully, her fingernails lightly scratching at his muscled belly.

Jyuushirou licked his lips, hands moving to settle on Rukia’s hips, thumbs rubbing over her hipbone. “And a good morning to you,” he murmured, another gasp escaping him as she rolled her hips and teased his waking arousal with her damp folds. “I see your energy has recovered.”

A hint of scarlet blossomed in her cheeks. “Don’t remind me,” she said, abashed. “I can’t believe I fell asleep in the middle.”

Jyuushirou chuckled. “Rest assured, I followed not long after so I wasn’t left hanging.”

“Even so,” Rukia said, and leaned forward, her naked breasts bouncing enticingly on her chest. “I thought I should make up for it.”

For his part, Jyuushirou was not going to protest. His hands slid up her sides, tickling over her ribs. He watched as Rukia shivered, blue eyes darkening with arousal. Her tongue slid over her lips, slowly, sensuously. Her pale skin was flushing, her black hair a messy tangle around her head that Jyuushirou found simultaneously adorable and sexy.

“If you insist,” Jyuushirou said, prompting a chuckle on Rukia’s part.

Her hips shifted backward, body poised over Jyuushirou’s rigid length. “I didn’t think you would mind,” she replied and sank down, enveloping Jyuushirou in exquisite wet heat.

He sucked in a sharp breath, biting down on his lower lip as his hips arched toward her, pushing himself deeper. His fingers flexed around her sides, pressing against her skin, and he felt Rukia shiver, watched the delight dance across her features.

Her hands smoothed up his abdomen, tickling over his bared flesh, teasing touches of her fingers and nails. Her thighs clamped his hips as she settled on top of him, her inner walls gripping him.

“I can’t think of a better way to wake up,” Jyuushirou murmured, a gasp slipping from his lips as Rukia moved her hips in a sensuous roll that made heat skitter down Jyuushirou’s spine.

Rukia smiled. “So am I forgiven?” she asked, tilting her head to the side, body rising and falling in a steady rhythm that seemed determined to wrench noises from Jyuushirou’s throat.

Jyuushirou licked his lips, fingers clenching and unclenching in their hold on her hips. “Apology accepted,” he replied, the teasing hint in his voice chased away by a gasp as Rukia slammed down and swiveled her hips.

Conversation stuttered to a halt as desire replaced the need for words, Jyuushirou’s hands performing a groping sweep. He stroked down her sides, teased at her ribs, plucked at her nipples until they were hard, pink nubs. She shivered, eyes slipping closed as she rose and fell over him in perfect rhythm. Her tongue swept over her lips, moistening them, and Jyuushirou wanted to kiss her.

One hand slid lower, teasing at the apex of her thighs, fingers slipping through a dewy wetness. He touched her gently, and was rewarded with a throaty moan and swift intake of breath, her eyes popping open in startled arousal. Jyuushirou grinned wickedly, fingers rubbing circles in just the way he knew she liked, ways that made her breath quicken, her movements quicker and more erratic.

She was beautiful like this, body moving in perfect, sensuous rhythm. Her skin flushed with arousal, eyes bright and hungry. Small moans fell from her lips with every flick of Jyuushirou’s fingers, her hands massaging his abdomen, nails lightly scoring Jyuushirou’s flesh. Muscles tensing and flexing as she moved over him, lips wet with saliva.

Rukia pulsed around him, dragging Jyuushirou closer and closer to ecstasy. But he wanted to see her come first, feel her come undone around him. His fingers rubbed circles over her tiny nub of pleasure, and he watched as she chewed on her bottom lip, breath coming in sharp little pants.

His free hand slid up, ghosting over her abdomen, tickling at her ribs, before taking one breast in hand. His thumb and forefinger rolled over her nipple, and she clenched around him in response, motions more erratic. Jyuushirou’s hips arched, pushing deeper into her, and his fingers circled and pressed, firm touches that demanded pleasure.

Rukia moaned, head falling forward as she rocked her hips, motions frantic and hungry. Her inner walls clamped around him rhythmically.

Jyuushirou licked his lips, knowing she was close. “Come for me,” he murmured, keeping his voice soft and husky. “Rukia.”

As if the sound of her own name on his lips were a commandment, a whine of desire echoed in her throat. She arched, body trembling, and he felt her shudder around him, her orgasm causing a ripple of movement that made Jyuushirou’s own desire shoot toward the sky. He grasped her hips, rocking up into her, each sharp thrust making her gasp. She gripped his arms to steady herself, and ground down against him, bottom lip clutched between her teeth.

Sweat painted a line across Jyuushirou’s brow as he abandoned all attempts to hold back, giving himself over to the pleasure. Rukia’s hips danced over his, clenching slick and hot around him, and Jyuushirou stopped fighting it, surrendering to the inevitable outcome. He bit out a gasp and thrust upward, body shaking with his release. His fingers held her hips in a grip probably hard enough to leave behind bruises, she was so delicate, but Rukia didn’t mind, a small moan passing her lips.

Her palms slid from his arms back to his abdomen, sliding up his front as she lowered herself forward. Their bodies slid together, damp with sweat, and Jyuushirou slid out of her as she crawled up his body, latching their lips together in a fierce kiss. Her tongue plunged into his mouth and he wrapped his arms around her. They shared several quick breaths, the kisses darting and brief.

Rukia’s tongue lapped at his lower lip. “Mmm,” she murmured, wriggling atop him and sliding her fingers into his hair. “I can’t think of a better way to start a day off.”

“I don’t now. Breakfast is always nice,” Jyuushirou teased, hand sliding down her back, fingers pressing against her spine. She arched toward his touch much like a cat.

Rukia leaned back, dotting a kiss over her collarbone. “You and your stomach,” she retorted with a chuckle and sat up, straddling waist. Judging by her wandering fingers, Jyuushirou knew she wasn’t adverse to a second round.

“Or maybe I’m hungry for something of a different sort,” Jyuushirou said with a pointed look at Rukia, his eyes roaming over her nude body, painted with sweat and flushed from her earlier orgasm.

Her lips pulled into a mischievous grin, fingers interlocking with his. “I think if your subordinates heard you talking like that, they’d be scandalized.”

“It’s hardly the epitome of dirty talk,” Jyuushirou retorted dryly. “That is more Shunsui’s department than mine.”

Rukia looked down at him, her blue eyes bright with humor and something else, something that seemed to make the atmosphere shift just a tad. And not in a bad way, but rather something that made Jyuushirou’s insides warm. He loved how comfortable they were with each other like this, he loved how well they fit together.

“Jyuushirou,” she said softly, bringing his knuckles to her lips and kissing them, completely attaining his attention. “Will you marry me?”

For a moment, Jyuushirou’s world seemed to pause. He blinked at the question that had come from seemingly nowhere.

“I… what?”

She chuckled, humor peeking through the gleam in her eyes. “It’s an easy question. Yes or no will suffice.” Her lips pressed to his knuckles again. “Will you marry me?”

“I thought I was supposed to ask you.”

Rukia arched a brow. “Does it really matter?”

“Well… no.” And Byakuya had made some mention of Jyuushirou becoming a Kuchiki rather than Rukia becoming a Ukitake.

“Then what’s your answer?” she asked, performing a sensuous roll of her hips that threatened to reawaken Jyuushirou’s vigor.

He felt his cheeks burn, expectations turned completely upside down. “Well, of course it is a yes,” he said, reaching up and cupping her cheek, pulling her face closer to his. “I would be a fool to say otherwise,” he murmured, and drew her down for a kiss.

Their lips touched, tongue tangling. Her palms were flat and warm on his chest, fingers lightly scraping and making him shiver. His thumb rubbed across her cheek, stroking soft skin, and he swore that a purr vibrated in her throat.

By the gods, he loved her. And he was going to be marrying her.

It might not have happened in the deep and romantic manner Jyuushirou had been envisioning, but he could live with that. This alternative was much, much better.

 

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[Bleach] Slow Dance

Jyuushiro can’t remember being so nervous in his entire existence. Not in all the centuries he’s lived and served as a Shinigami.

Sure, there have been other women. Other relationships. Other liaisons. But none have meant as much to him as the one he shares with Rukia. None of them have been half as important. And none of them had brothers with the ability to not only make Jyuushiro completely penniless but also rip out his testicles and force feed them to him. Not that Byakuya-kun has made such a threat. It’s simply been implied by the steely glance in those Kuchiki grey eyes. A wordless statement that says all he never will.

That Kuchiki Byakuya loves his only sister and that Jyuushiro better think long and hard about what he’s doing.

Only, he’s not really sure what he’s doing anymore. Not the relationship part. Never that. More the physical realities of what that entails.

All of that explains why he’s so nervous. Jyuushiro wonders if it’s truly possible for someone forget these things after abstaining for so long. He wonders if he’ll manage to meet her expectations. He wonders why he’s as eager and hungry as a young man.

By the gods, she makes him so young again.

They’ve had dinner. They’ve been to the theater. They’ve walked through a park in the midst of a warm spring evening. Admiring the flowers, holding hands, listening to the wind breathe through the trees.

And now, they are here. In Jyuushiro’s home. In Jyuushiro’s bedroom. Standing at the foot of his futon and looking at each other expectantly. Rukia’s eyes are somehow both bright and dark. Eager and just as nervous as Jyuushiro’s own.

She blushes ever so lightly when he cups her neck, strokes her throat with his thumb, and leans in to kiss her. She tastes sweet. Like caramel and cream. Her mouth is warm and wet, and her reiatsu is a kiss of winter against his summer storm.

His hands fumble at her obi, peeling back the layers of her yukata. She looks beautiful in it. The same yukata she wore on their first date, one that Ishida-san embellished for her. But Jyuushiro is sure that she is beautiful beneath as well. And he confirms this as he peels back the dark fabric and reveals the pale, smooth cast of her skin.

She moans when he cups her breasts, caressing her firming nipples and stroking fingers over the silky-softness of her skin. Her head tips back, revealing the elegant length of her throat. Jyuushiro tastes her because how can he not? Her throat is warm against his lips, skin carrying a gentle fragrance of some flowery soap.

Her hands reach for his clothes then, and Jyuushiro is quick to help her disrobe him. His skin is paler than hers, the pallor of the sick, but judging by the look in her eyes, she doesn’t see the same man who Jyuushiro sometimes glimpses in the mirror. There’s heat and hunger in her gaze that grow when her palms flatten against his chest and her fingers splay across muscle.

Jyuushiro’s breathing quickens. He arches into her touch, own hands roaming. Tracing the curve of her shoulders. The swell of her breasts. The slim lines of her hips. Hands moving slowly, gently. Dipping lower. Teasing briefly at the dewy wetness between her thighs.

Rukia gasps, a breathy moan, and Jyuushiro’s belly tightens. He is as aroused as a boy first discovering women. Wanting, wanting, wanting. So much that he wonders how he can even stand, how he can hold back.

Ironically, she’s the one who steps back first. Who pulls him toward the futon and on top of the mattress. Flushed bodies meet cool sheets, and Jyuushiro nearly purrs at the contrasting sensation. Rukia’s hands tangle in his hair, fingers curling around long white strands. She pulls him down for a hot kiss where tongues tangle and their breath mingles together. She tastes so sweet, and Jyuushiro’s intoxicated. His hands run over and over her hips and sides when she cradles his hips with her knees as if goading him on. Urging him.

Jyuushiro loses himself as he kisses her. Sucking on her tongue. Tracing his over the curve of her lips. Nibbling on her jaw line. Tasting her throat. Desire coils tighter and tighter within him with each sound she makes. Each whimper and mew. Each desperate press of her fingers to draw him closer.

He’s had visions and fantasies of things being perfect. Slow and sensual, gentle and smooth like it should be. But that’s not what Jyuushiro’s body wants, not what it’s begging for. And not, it seems, what Rukia desires either.

Her eyes are blue, big and bright. Her motions hungry and all but begging. She’s tired of waiting; she just wants. Wants in the same manner as Jyuushiro.

Too many years of unrequited feelings. Too many years of holding back for the sake of… for what, really? What and why? Age? Circumstance? The sorrow that still sits shared between them like a wet blanket?

Jyuushiro doesn’t know. He doesn’t want to ask. In fact, it’s the furthest thing from his mind as he buries his face in her throat and nudges between her thighs. As he pushes inside of her. As she moans, low and long. As fingers dig into his shoulders. As knees urge him deeper.

He thinks romantic thoughts. Slow and steady. Kissing her all over. Whispering sweet nothings. Jyuushiro thinks of worshipping her skin with his hands, thinks of teasing her for hours with gentle kisses and touches. He thinks of doing all kinds of things that in no way resemble what he is actually doing.

He slides into her, feels Rukia rhythmically pulsing around him. Her thighs clasp around his waist, the heels of her feet setting an urgent pace. Her fingers lock around his upper arms, squeezing, encouraging. She’s making these noises in her throat. Needy and hungry. Demanding with her eyes and her lips that Jyuushiro get with the programming and stop trying to be picture perfect.

Whatever anxiety Rukia may have suffered is long gone now, vanished in the blink of an eye. Leaving behind this beautiful, sexy, alive creature who seems to hunger for Jyuushiro and Jyuushiro alone. The thought itself is intoxicating, is enough to make him rumble in his chest. It’s enough to make him thrust a little harder, bury himself inside her wet heat and listen to her moan and watch her writhe for him.

He wants to hold onto this moment forever because it’s supposed to be poignant and romantic and important. But all Jyuushiro can think is finally and delicious and more, more, more. Rukia seems to echo the sentiment if her wordless noises and bruising fingers are any indication.

And Jyuushiro is never more pleased with himself than when Rukia peaks first. Clenching around him. Body twitching and moving sinuously. She makes happy cries in her throat, breathes his name. Blue eyes so dark with desire and other emotions that they are nearly black.

All thoughts of making things last, of slow and sensual romantic love as they stare into each other’s eyes for hours, fly out the window and are promptly tromped in the dirt. Right now, Jyuushiro wants. And Rukia is so gracious to let him have.

Jyuushiro indulges as he steals her lips for another sweet kiss. Fire rushes through his veins, building first in his belly before bursting through his limbs. He gasps like a land-locked fish as his release washes over him not unlike a tidal wave. And Rukia buries her hands in his hair and jabs her tongue into his mouth.

She murmurs something to him, and Jyuushiro thinks he murmurs something just as stupidly sweet and romantic in return.

He falls asleep wrapped in her arms rather than the other way around, but Jyuushiro finds he doesn’t mind that at all. And when he wakes up in the morning to a dull grey, stormy morning and a slight chill in the air, he really doesn’t mind at all. Rukia’s wrapped all around him like she has twice as many limbs as the obvious person. Her hair is a mess. And drool paints Jyuushiro’s shoulder.

It’s adorable. It’s sexy. It’s all that Jyuushiro could have wished for. And more.

[Bleach] Dancing with Death

It started out subtly. And then, it became distinctly obvious. And worsened to the point that Ichigo was sure something had to be done about it soon, or they would actually succeed.

And by succeed, he meant that Ichigo would find himself a permanent member of Soul Society rather quickly without ever properly finishing out the extent of his human life. And then, he doubted he would last long before they would find some way to usher him onto his next life.

The Kuchiki were out to get him. And his damn boyfriend – also, coincidentally, a Kuchiki – didn’t believe him.

The first time, Ichigo chalked it up to a coincidence. A disastrously cliché coincidence but one all the same. Walking down the street, a flower pot barely missing his head by a few inches. He looked up to see someone giving him an apologetic smile, and well, Ichigo just sort of shrugged it off. No big deal.

The second instance was a little more obvious. He was having tea with Ukitake-san, and they were having a pleasant time of it. The captain was suggesting that he teach Ichigo a few of the more advanced kidoh, while Ichigo stirred a few cubes of sugar into his tea, never able to drink the stuff without it. A strange sound had traveled to his ears, and when he looked down and pulled out his spoon, Ichigo noticed that half of it had melted away. Seconds later, liquid spilled all over the saucer and table as the cup itself dissolved. Acid ate through the saucer and then a large portion of the tabletop, dripping down to the floor where it preceded to eat through several inches of wood before losing strength.

Both he and Ukitake-san were left gaping at it. Especially since nothing at all had happened to the older man’s tea.

“Who… who made this?” Ichigo demanded with a thick swallow.

Ukitake-san edged away from his cup, pushing it from him with one long, elegant finger. “Kiyone perhaps? Or Sentarou?”

Ichigo shook his head. “Did I do something to offend them?”

Ukitake-san could only stare in wonder. And when later questioned, both third-seats adamantly denied trying to poison Ichigo, and well, he was inclined to believe them. He’d done nothing to either of them, and really, it seemed a little out of their league to try something like this.

The third attempt approached ridiculous and was when Ichigo really began to consider that someone was trying to kill him. He had been walking down some stairs in Seireitei, attempting to get from one place to another and foregoing shunpo because he was in no rush, when he’d been pushed him from behind. And then subsequently tripped by someone.

Fortunately for Ichigo, his reflexes were superb, and a quick manipulation of spirit particles had him standing on empty air. But by the time he turned, the perpetrators were gone. Not even their reiatsu was traceable. Che, cowards.

That was also the first time Ichigo began to get an inkling that someone was out to get him. Though he hadn’t yet decided to blame it on the Kuchiki.

Until the fourth attempt.

Wandering around in Rukongai because his two guides – Ikkaku and Renji – had gotten drunk and arrested and thereby leaving him to find his own way back to Seireitei, Ichigo had been mugged. Well, he had assumed it was a mugging as the guy sort of attacked him and grappled very uselessly at his shoulders. It had only taken a few punches and kicks on Ichigo’s part to lay him flat, and his three following friends.

Of course, Ichigo could have taken that for the mugging were it not for the fact that none of his attackers even looked like residents of Rukongai. Oh sure, they wore the clothes of the oppressed, tattered and somewhat stained. But with hands that weren’t calloused and skin nice and moisturized, they didn’t look desperate enough to be on the wrong side of the law. Of course, the fact that one of them wore a bracelet with the Kuchiki symbol etched into the metal might have been his biggest clue.

And the most recent attempt gave him his largest indication of all. It had been pure instinct to dodge those darts flying at him out of nowhere. And after he’d retrieved them from being stuck in the wall, he noticed the symbols that danced in the metal. The Kuchiki clan.

It was at that point Ichigo decided they really were trying to kill him though he had no clue why. Possibly because he was dating their heir and they weren’t too happy with that. He knew they had dozens of nice young woman lined up for Byakuya’s perusal, and the man just wasn’t bowing to their every whims. Maybe they blamed that on Ichigo.

Still, that didn’t give them the right to try to assassinate him. Try being the operative word here since they weren’t anywhere close to succeeding. However, it still made Ichigo tiptoe around everything in his life, wondering what absurd method they would try next.

“Would you please stop pacing,” Byakuya stated mildly, his voice cutting through Ichigo’s thoughts as he idly flipped the page in the book he was reading. “It is very distracting.”

He turned towards his older lover with a snarl dancing on his lips. “Distracting?” Ichigo repeated sharply and waved one hand wildly through the air. “Would you be able to relax if someone was out there, plotting your demise?”

Byakuya eyed him over the edge of a page. “I am the heir to a noble family. There is hardly a day that goes by without someone seeking my death.”

“Why didn’t you warn me this would happen?”

“I did not believe – and I still don’t – that it would ever be a problem,” the Kuchiki heir answered, shifting his gaze back to his book. “And I was under the impression you were capable of taking care of yourself. As evidenced by the fact you are still alive and well in front of me.”

The substitute Shinigami snorted. “Not for long, if your family has anything to say about it.”

“Ichigo, they would never harm you,” Byakuya retorted in a tone one would use when speaking to a particularly slow child before dropping into something a bit more seductive. “They would never dare. They know what you mean to me.”

It was bait, but Ichigo didn’t bite.

“I don’t care what you say, Byakuya,” the teenager snarled, steps carrying a frantic pace across the floor of a stately study of the Kuchiki manor. “Your damn family is out to get me.”

The noble looked at him and arched one well-manicured brow, face placid but his eyes betraying his amusement. “I assure you, Ichigo, the Kuchiki have made no great effort to assassinate you.”

Frustrated, Ichigo glared at his lover, feeling just a bit twitchy. “I didn’t say it was great,” he stated through clenched teeth before throwing his hands up into the air. “They fail spectacularly every time!”

“Then what are you complaining about?” Byakuya returned mildly. His lips twitched as though trying to hold back great mirth.

“Argh!”

Ichigo turned on one heel, stalking away from the captain before he followed through with the urge to commit some violence. He loved this man dearly, but sometimes, Byakuya could be quite impossible. Case in point.

“Forget it!” He threw over his shoulder, vibrating with annoyed tension. Zangetsu and Shirosaki weren’t too happy either. “I’ll survive on my own.”

Byakuya didn’t seem to realize his leaving for what it was. He set his book to the side, rising to his feet.

“Are you sure this isn’t some cry for attention?” he posed, following after Ichigo with that annoying scarf a pale trail in his wake.

Ichigo ground his teeth, refusing to answer the sheer ridiculousness of that question. He was not insane. He was not imagining things. Something strange was going on, and if it wasn’t the Kuchiki attempting the assassination, then it was somebody. And he was going to find out who.

“I can definitely tell the honeymoon’s over,” Ichigo muttered under his breath, ignoring Byakuya’s absurd accusation.

“Tell me why you think they would try assassination,” Byakuya started to say, pulling up beside Ichigo and taking on an expression that proved he was only humoring his lover. “The Shihouin would know better than to anger their head. The Kasumioji are far too fond of you, as are the Shiba. And the others are far too afraid of the Kuchiki, you, and your variety of friends. So tell me again why you think your life is in danger.”

Ichigo whirled sharply, glaring at the slightly taller man. And boy didn’t that still burn.

“I am not imagining things,” he hissed, body shaking with a rising anger.

“I did not say that you were,” Byakuya returned too soothingly for Ichigo’s comfort. And he lifted a hand, reaching for his lover and attempting to draw the younger man into his embrace.

Ichigo allowed it because he’d rather not be angry. Even if Byakuya was being both patronizing and unreasonable.

“Then what are you saying?” he demanded, just wanting a little support rather than an aura of complete and utter denial.

“You may be… misinterpreting the facts,” Byakuya breathed into his neck, moving his mouth to nibble on the skin there.

Ichigo huffed. And tilted his head away.

“You have an idea in mind, and you are reinterpreting the circumstances to fit that particular belief.”

Ichigo’s jaw dropped. “That’s just another fucking way of saying I’m imagining things, just in prettier words.” He turned away then, unwilling to listen to it any longer. “Fine. But if I get trampled by a random herd of cows in the next few days, no sex for a year.”

“A herd of cows?” Byakuya’s voice held a note of incredulity.

“It doesn’t make any less sense than the other stupid shit I’m imagining,” Ichigo all but snarled and flicked his hand through the air, well aware that he was causing a scene. “And while I’m at it, no anything else either. No kissing. No cuddling. No hand-holding. In fact, no touching! Nothing! How’s that for losing my mind?”

He whirled on his heels with the last proclamation and went out the door. Anger blazed in his veins as Ichigo stalked down the corridor, fully intending to leave the Kuchiki manor as it made him quite twitchy. Who knew what enemy lurked around the corner, just waiting to trip him or impale him or accidentally spill boiling hot water on him or set him on fire with a candle or any other number of mundane things that had the capacity to kill him? Purely by accident, of course. Since the Kuchiki would never stoop so low as to take the blame for purposeful homicide.

Byakuya didn’t chase after him, which was probably a good thing because Ichigo was seriously considering violence of his own. He had thought, of all people, that his own boyfriend would believe him. Ukitake-san definitely did, but then, he’d been there for the whole cup-melting incident. Kenpachi believed him because he’d been the one to help Ichigo get out of Rukongai. The geta-boushi believed him because he’d identified the ninja darts… and kept a few for safekeeping.

But Ichigo couldn’t even convince Byakuya that he wasn’t losing his mind. It frustrated him to no end.

Ichigo stopped in the middle of the street then, a new annoyance growing inside of him. In fact, he was pissed. Byakuya hadn’t gotten nearly the tongue-lashing he deserved.

He whirled around yet again, stalking back towards the manor. Only to halt in stunned surprise, catching sight of his lover leaving through a side entrance. Purpose in every step. Where in the world was Byakuya going on his day off? A day that they had intended to spend together?

Ichigo’s eyes narrowed, and without a second thought, he set to follow Byakuya, beyond curious. He was too angry to wait and simply ask for an answer. And so, shielding his reiatsu to the best of his abilities, Ichigo trailed along at a safe distance. Wondering if Byakuya would have ever known that his help in training Ichigo would come back to bite him on the ass.

The manors grew more elite, and Ichigo could tell that he was garnering quite a few disapproving stares. It didn’t help that he had the feeling he headed into deeper noble territory, which worried him just a twinge. After all, wasn’t it the nobles who were trying to kill him? He’d have to be on his guard.

He followed Byakuya to one of the larger and more ornate buildings, the nameplate answering all the questions Ichigo carried. Kuchiki. So much for Byakuya not really believing him. Why else would he come here?

Ichigo scowled, taking up a position across the street where he could watch the gate. He would wait for Byakuya to emerge and demand answers then. His eyes tracked over the large structure, practically screaming old money and affluence. Places he had never been very comfortable at or inside.

Time crawled, the sun passing overhead and making Ichigo sweat, pulling at his collar to relieve the stifling heat. People passed by, wrapped in their fine robes, and tossed occasional disgusted glances at him. Ichigo just offered a scowl in return. He wasn’t leaving until Byakuya came out.

Which coincidentally, he happened to be doing at this exact moment. Ichigo rose to his feet, swiping a hand over his sweaty forehead, effecting a lazy stride as he moved to intercept his lover.

“Didn’t believe me, huh?” he said, the moment the captain came into view and causing Byakuya to nearly startle in his surprise. “Just imagining things?”

Byakuya worked his jaw, unwilling to immediately admit defeat. “Perhaps things were worse than I initially believed, but the matter has been dealt with I assure you.”

Ichigo snorted. “We’ll see. As for me, I’m not drinking or eating anything that I haven’t made myself anytime soon.” He fell into line beside Byakuya, who looked to be beginning a slow trek back towards his own home. “As well as avoiding jaunts into Rukongai, windowsills, and long stairs.”

“I have been informed that you had best avoid the Seikaimon for the next few days as well,” the older male added softly.

What?” Ichigo was embarrassed to admit that the sound leaving his mouth had better resembled a squawk than an actual word.

Byakuya slanted his eyes at him, a touch of apology in his gaze. “It is a good thing you weren’t planning to do so anyway.”

A low growl escaped Ichigo’s lips, only to die on the end of a resigned sigh. “Your grandmother’s a piece of work,” he muttered but held a hand out anyway, capturing Byakuya’s wayward fingers.

He could tell that the captain was startled by the move, considering Ichigo’s proclamation of earlier. Let him consider that the teen’s silent appreciation for a much deserved gesture.

“Midoriko-sama still trusts in outdated times,” Byakuya conceded, his way of admitting that Ichigo’s frank assessment of her character was rather accurate. “She understands now, however, and that is all that matters.” His fingers gave a squeeze in return.

Feeling a bit mischievous, Ichigo tugged them back, eyes glancing around briefly before turning towards Byakuya. He leaned in for a kiss, lips gentle but warm. There was no one in immediate sight to witness the moment of affection, but he was certain some Kuchiki goon lingered in the shadows trailing them. Well, let them take that back to Miss-High-and-Mighty-Kuchiki-Sama and see what she had to say about it.

He ended the kiss, his mouth a few scant inches from Byakuya’s. “Well, I suppose they won’t try anything so long as I’m with you.” He gave a playful nip.

“Oh?” Byakuya asked, trying and failing to conceal the interest in his tone.

Ichigo shrugged nonchalantly. “So I guess that means you’ll be seeing a lot of me for the next few days.” He guided the man into heading back towards his manor and out of sight of prying eyes.

“I’d like to see a lot of you right now” was his low and heated response. Grey eyes flickered over him, and Ichigo could just see his lover undressing him in his mind. Of course, the hand sliding beneath at his collar certainly helped that illusion, fingers warm and smooth against his neck and trailing ever downward.

Ichigo rolled his eyes, a touch of amusement pulling at his lips. “What is with you and those cheesy lines?” Not that they didn’t work very well.

“I learned from the best,” Byakuya replied, mouth so close to Ichigo’s ear that his lips brushed skin.

Ichigo pretended to ignore that as he considered. “Who? That drunk guy? The one who always wears pink?”

“No, actually.” Byakuya’s hand slid down a bit further. “Ukitake-senpai.”

“The guy who’s dating your sister.” Ichigo was incredulous, having thought Ukitake-san to be a bit smoother than that.

Byakuya’s hand froze, a vaguely disappointed cast to his face, still not entirely pleased with that particular relationship. But not voicing his opinion for the sake of Rukia’s happiness. Not to mention the fact that it kept her otherwise occupied and from prying into his own affair.

“Unfortunately yes,” he commented, fingers resuming their wanderings.

Ichigo squeezed his hand, stepping back and giving him a tug. “Just think, soon you’ll have him as a brother-in-law.”

“He’ll be yours as well,” Byakuya reminded him smugly, allowing himself to be pulled along.

Ichigo let the comment fall by the wayside. “Is that a proposal, Kuchiki Byakuya-sama?”

It took a moment for him to reply. He was too busying running his thumb over Ichigo’s knuckles. Not even bothering to pull away as they walked by several other people. Lips curling faintly at their nearly scandalous expressions and muted whispers.

“Small steps, Ichigo. Small steps.”

Not an affirmation. But not a negative either.

Ichigo could live with that. For now.

 

[Bleach] Chocolate Temptations

Byakuya was confused, and for him, that wasn’t an emotion he was used to harboring. Frowning, he looked down at the box in his hands, hoping it would make sense with a second glance. Brightly colored and wrapped with a bow. It didn’t suddenly change.

“Ichigo,” he began with all the patience that he could muster. “Why have you given me chocolates?”

His lover shifted in front of him, scowl firmly in place. “It’s a celebration in the living World. you’re supposed to give them to your… you know on this day. And since you’re mine…” he trailed off with a shrug, scowl deepening. “Just take the damn things.”

Blinking, Byakuya’s gaze shifted between the teen and the box. “But chocolates?”

“Would you prefer a stuffed animal?” Ichigo demanded, pushing at the box and shoving it further towards the noble’s chest. “Besides, I had Yuzu make them.” He tapped it with one finger. “Be grateful.”

The frown of confusion never left Byakuya’s face. “I… honestly don’t know what to say.” He felt completely speechless, having little understanding of this human custom.

What was he supposed to do? Did one gift deserve another? And was he required to do something in return? What was the significance of the gift? And why was Ichigo’s blush only deepening?

He watched as Ichigo shrugged and buried his hands in his pockets, looking off to the side as though Byakuya’s wall was far more interesting. He freed one hand long enough to rake it through his hair before returning it to the safety of his pants. It was almost cute.

Deciding to humor him, Byakuya pulled the ribbon off the box and opened it, the smell of chocolate wafting to his nose. Despite never having a taste for it before, he found himself interested and carefully selected one of the small, dark squares. Sniffing it cautiously, he popped the candy into his mouth and lifted his eyebrows. It was actually rather palatable, robust and bittersweet, not overly sugary like he would have expected.

He rolled the flavor around in his mouth, letting it settle over his tongue. The chocolate melted rather easily, and he swallowed the first square, already contemplating a second one. These things were dangerous Byakuya decided as he licked his lips. A man could easily get addicted to them.

And then, it felt as if eyes were watching him. In the midst of bringing another piece of chocolate to his lips, he looked up to find Ichigo staring at him. Brown eyes had darkened with interest, seemingly locked on the piece of candy in his hold.

Byakuya arched one brow. “Something wrong?”

Ichigo shook his head and closed the distance between them. “No. I just want a taste, too.” And though the blush on his cheeks seemed to belie his actions, Ichigo took that moment to swoop down and steal Byakuya’s lips.

He slid his tongue into the noble’s mouth, tasting both the rich chocolate and a flavor that was uniquely Byakuya. A sound echoed in Byakuya’s throat beneath the lusty onslaught, fingers carding through his hair and tilting his head back. The one chocolate he held dropped from his fingers as he curled them in the front of Ichigo’s shihakushou.

A sense of rising lust filled the entryway of Byakuya’s manor, where they had gotten no further than when Ichigo shoved the chocolates at him. He was suddenly reminded of how long it had been since he’d last seen his lover. At least a week, if not more, since Ichigo had been able to come to Seireitei and Byakuya had been able to leave for the living world.

The kiss ended with much reluctance, Byakuya finding a smirk curving at his lips. “I apologize. I didn’t realize to get you anything in return,” he murmured as Ichigo released his hair and grabbed the box from his hands, dropping it indiscreetly to the floor. His other hand settled on Byakuya’s hip, pulling them closer together.

“Che,” he snorted, burying his face in Byakuya’s throat and licking a line across his Adam’s apple. “Surprised Rukia didn’t bash you in the head to do it.” He nipped gently at the noble’s neck and caused Byakuya’s blood to pump with heat. “I’ll forgive you this once.”

Byakuya’s skin prickled as he felt Ichigo ground against him. “Perhaps you can forgive me in the bedroom,” he suggested, finding the hallway a rather conspicuous place.

Chuckling against his throat, Ichigo brought his mouth back up to Byakuya’s, covering his lips. “Perhaps,” he muttered against pale skin. Still, he slowly backed down the corridor, pulling the noble along with him.

Byakuya was inclined to agree.

 

[Bleach] My Pace

He was not a man skilled in comforting. Byakuya didn’t know how to soothe those inner aches and pains of those close to him. He could barely understand his own emotions, couldn’t even begin to handle his own aching heart. When faced with someone else’s pain, Byakuya drew a complete blank. Maybe that was why he never could communicate with Hisana. Perhaps that was why he had been unable to help Rukia after Kaien’s death.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Then, he met Ichigo.

Byakuya wanted to believe that his lover was a man capable of taking care of himself, that he didn’t need silly things like comfort. That Ichigo understood just how much of a social and emotional failure his lover was and didn’t expect anything. And that was probably true. Ichigo didn’t really expect anything from him. Byakuya expected it from himself.

There were times when he knew without even having to ask that Ichigo was hurting. He drew away, became quiet, lost some of his bluster. He sought solitude and even brushed off attempts by his friends to talk. He didn’t train, he didn’t practice. He just sat and thought.

He didn’t understand why Ichigo did that at first. Byakuya even considered it a personal affront, that perhaps it was him Ichigo was growing tired of. That the boy couldn’t think of a way to end it. But slowly, the realization dawned on him that this was an old pain haunting his lover, not something that could readily be healed.

Ichigo had told him once about the Hollow that had taken his mother’s life. About his own inability to destroy Grand Fisher. He hadn’t said it, but Byakuya had received the distinct impression that he still considered it his own fault, even if everyone told him otherwise. Byakuya could only recognize it because he held some of the same feelings himself for his own regrets.

Thoughts of his mother usually brought about the distance, brought about the sudden need to be alone. It would come, and it would pass. And when Ichigo returned, Byakuya was there, keeping normalcy. It was the best he could offer. If his kisses were a little gentler that night or his touch a bit softer, neither noticed. It might have even been unconscious.

And then, there were the scars.

Byakuya himself had very few, most of them from recent battles and from Ichigo himself. He hadn’t been a captain very long before he had met Ichigo, and even then, he hadn’t been in a position where he would have had to fight a difficult enemy. Hollows were never strong enough to get a single strike against him, and he was a Kuchiki, he didn’t go on routine patrols.

But Ichigo had many scars. Byakuya had traced them with his fingers, had followed their path with his eyes. Had even measured the length and breadth of some with his tongue. Each was a testament to a battle his lover had survived, a battle in which Ichigo had proved victorious.

All except one.

Neither of them spoke about that particular scar, a bare impression of injury against Ichigo’s darker skin. Neither spoke of what it represented. Byakuya already knew that Ichigo had vowed to never face such a loss again. Even if Aizen’s strength was ten times his own, Ichigo was determined to defeat him.

Byakuya believed sometimes that everyone conveniently forgot just how human Ichigo was. That though he could pull a miracle from thin air, prove victorious against improbable odds, to make the impossible possible, he was still just a boy. One suddenly thrust into the life of a Shinigami. Even Byakuya himself was guilty of forgetting.

He couldn’t help but wonder how Ichigo coped with everything. All of the blood he had lost, the wounds he had suffered, the pain he had endured. The sudden and abrupt change from normal teenager to Shinigami to Vizard to a hero who everyone depended upon without even asking if he wanted it in the first place.

The answer always came to him at night, the heavy hours before morning and not long after midnight.

There were times when Ichigo had nightmares, ones that were vivid enough to cause him to break into a cold sweat and shake. Byakuya always woke when the first broken noise pierced the quiet and had quickly learned just what had produced the pained murmur. He would reach over, laying his hand gently against Ichigo’s bare shoulder. Sometimes, his touch was enough to soothe Ichigo back into quiet sleep. Other times, Byakuya was forced to wake his lover, just to end whatever haunted his night.

The look in those brown eyes, once so young and lacking knowledge, never ceased to put a chill on Byakuya’s heart. They were eyes far too old for someone Ichigo’s age, eyes that were far too distressed for a teenager. One who should have had no bigger worries than which occupation he wished to follow or which university would better suit him.

Ichigo never talked about whatever pains he held inside, and Byakuya never goaded him to speak. He knew that with all things, Ichigo would do this his own way and in his own time. At some point, Byakuya knew that his lover would come to him. And then, it would all come pouring out, everything that made him ache, everything that troubled his sleep.

Byakuya wasn’t the best at comforting; he didn’t have the right words or the right reactions. He didn’t know how to deflect worries or make false but hopeful assurances. But he supposed that really didn’t matter since it wasn’t what Ichigo wanted or needed in the first place.

Just simply being there was enough. And that, Byakuya could do.

 

[Bleach] May and December

Rukia was angry.

Actually, to be more precise, she was furious. Working her way towards irate. The entire Kurosaki family was supposed to have met twenty minutes ago, and yet, she was the only one who had appeared.

Rukia couldn’t help feeling a little ridiculous as she stood next to the gates leading to the festival. Outfitted in a beautiful navy yukata and constantly checking her cell phone for the time, she knew she looked the part of a woman who had been stood up for her date. Though a few of those that had passed her had complimented her on the intricate silver stitching on the side of her yukata. Ishida’s work, of which the Quincy had been quite proud. It consisted of several delicate snowflakes, to represent the beauty her zanpakutou. Or so he had claimed.

Inwardly, the Shinigami vowed to strangle Ichigo the next time she saw him. It was his fault entirely. He had suggested it, proclaimed that his father would be hurt if she refused and then had told her when and where to meet. On a crunch for time, she had changed at Ishida’s because she thought she would be late if she had met them at the house. And yet, they were the ones who hadn’t arrived.

It was irksome.

Grinding her teeth, Rukia had every intention of flitting across town and demanding a reason for their tardiness when she felt a very familiar reiatsu nearby. Blinking in surprise, she peered through the crowd still filtering into the as-of-yet-unknown-name-to-her festival and spotted a head of long, white hair. Her heart picked up a faster rhythm.

“Ukitake-taichou?” she exclaimed, pushing between a couple holding hands and making her way to her captain. “What are you doing here?”

He smiled at her as he folded his hands into the arms of his beautiful green haori. “I came to enjoy the festival,” he answered simply, as if she should have already known that. It was then that she noticed he had his hair tied back, making him look much, much younger.

Rukia blinked again and gave her captain an exasperated look. “I know that,” she responded. “I meant here. In Karakura.”

Dark eyes sparkled with amusement. “I thought I would take a break from the rigors of Soul Society. It has been a long time since I ventured here just for fun.”

Inwardly, Rukia sighed. It was something she should have expected from her captain. Ukitake-taichou could be just as spontaneous as Kyouraku when he was feeling well enough to be up to it.

“And on my way here,” he added. “I ran into Kurosaki-kun. He wanted me to pass along the message that they would be unable to make it. An emergency came up at the clinic ,and they have their hands full.”

Despite the fact it was her captain delivering the message, Rukia couldn’t help but find it a bit suspicious. Especially since she hadn’t so much as spoken to the twins or Isshin since Ichigo had mentioned the festival. She peered at her captain.

“Did he look… distracted?” Rukia asked, wondering if she had her brother to blame for this sudden abandonment.

“He looked busy,” he replied, still with that same smile. He offered his arm to her. “But since we are both here, perhaps we could enjoy the festival together?”

Rukia’s heart skipped another beat, never expecting her captain’s charm to be turned her direction. “Of course, Ukitake-taichou. I would be happy to escort you.” She slid her hand through his arm.

“Please, call me Jyuushiro,” he corrected, tone as even as if he were addressing someone he considered an equal. “I feel old when you call me that,” he added as a joke.

She smiled. “Alright, Jyuushiro,” Rukia responded, testing his name on her tongue. It felt so strange but right at the same time.

A shiver of excitement crept up her spine, but she kept it restrained. She didn’t want him to discover the truth, after all. She didn’t dare mess up their relationship. Even if nothing ever came out of her own crush, she always wanted to be friends with Uki– Jyuushiro. He was a great man.

“Good,” Jyuushiro confirmed with a firm nod. He gestured with his free hand towards the festival. “Shall we?”

Rukia smiled. “After you.”

And so, they went.

Later, Rukia would recall that she had never enjoyed a festival so much in her life. It was nice to relax around her captain, not have to worry about maintaining proper decorum, not that he ever held strongly with it anyway. Kaien had always been laid back, and much of it had passed onto Jyuushiro.

Conversation flowed remarkably easy between them, finding all manner of things to discuss, ranging from art to food. The topic of the war they were fighting and the pain that still haunted both of them was wisely steered away from.

Rukia laughed as her captain tried his luck in a game, managing not to win a thing. The man gave them a consolation prize, however, in the form of a good luck charm. Ironically, it was for “good health.” She was glad that Jyuushiro found it amusing.

They paused in their walk to watch one of the live performances, a short little show set to beautiful music, and ate taiyaki together. He stopped to buy a souvenir for Shunsui, and though Rukia protested, he got her one as well. She was secretly pleased at the beautiful ornament and grudgingly accepted the carefully wrapped item with a smile.

The night grew longer, and soon, the crowds slowly dispersed as the festival drew to an end, well into the evening.

“I suppose I should be getting back soon,” Jyuushiro claimed with much reluctance in his voice. “While capable, I can’t in good conscience leave Kiyone and Sentarou in charge for too long, else I might not have a division to come back to.”

Rukia tried to hide the disappointment that settled through her. “That’s probably for the best,” she conceded.

He paused, looking at her with those beautiful dark eyes. And then, he led her off to the side, under a tree that was out of the main pulse of the crowd.

“I had a wonderful time with you, Rukia. I do hope we can do this again.”

Her heart skipped a beat again. She wondered if she ought to go to the fourth division since all of it couldn’t have been good for her.

“I did, too,” she admitted. Rukia added with a faint smile, “The next time Ichigo stands me up again, I’ll let you know.”

He laughed, eyes sparkling. “I think I have to admit something. I would hate for you to blame Kurosaki-kun.”

Rukia blinked. “Why wouldn’t I? It’s his fault.”

“Not entirely.” His hands grasped hers, warm fingers rubbing over her palm. “It was only his idea. I merely agreed with him. I thought it was the easiest way to spend time with you without you having opportunity to reject me.”

Her eyes widened in surprise and only then did she notice how close he was to her, how very intimate their position actually was. She remembered telling Ichigo about her feelings for her captain, but she hadn’t honestly expected he would do anything about it. Nor did she think for even one moment that Jyuushiro would return the feelings.

“Then… then you…” she was stuttering, words absolutely failing her.

Luckily, she didn’t need them because in the next moment, Jyuushiro leaned down and kissed her. His lips pressed gently against hers, and she was surrounded by the scent of him, like the air right before a heavy thunderstorm. Crisp and clean. It was only then that she realized he might have been a little nervous, too, the scent proving that he lost some control of his normally tightly contained reiatsu.

When he drew back, Rukia knew that a faint red had to be painting her cheeks.

Well, that certainly explained everything,’ she thought to herself.

“I do hope that wasn’t too presumptuous of me,” Jyuushiro said softly, a gentle smile on his lips. “But I’ve been wanting to do that all night.”

The flush grew in force, until she was certain her face must have been glowing. She longed to say something sweet and romantic, but what actually came out was, “Ichigo told you, didn’t he?”

It took a moment, but Jyuushiro grinned wide and laughed, shoulders shaking with amusement. “Yes, he did. In the most roundabout way that I’ve seen in years. But I assure you, everything is mutual.”

Rukia felt a warmth spread through her at Jyuushiro’s admission, happiness completely overriding her sense of annoyance with Ichigo taking matters into his own hands. She could see the truth in her captain’s eyes. He meant what he said.

“And if you do in fact feel the same,” Jyuushiro continued, “I would really like to explore where this could take us.” His fingers still clasped hers warmly, and Rukia found she really liked the feeling.

She nodded. “Me, too.”

Rukia hesitated on her next move but then decided to follow through with it. She kissed Jyuushiro again, enjoying the feel of his lips against hers. It was like a dream come true.

When they pulled apart, a thought suddenly struck Rukia. She looked up at her new beau and smiled.

“Now, we just have to tell nii-sama.”

The look on Jyuushiro’s face at that was absolutely priceless.

 

[Bleach] Of Understanding

There were times when Ichigo caught that gleam in his lover’s eyes, when Byakuya didn’t notice he was looking. It was moments when the captain seemed caught by something in the past, something that wasn’t readily forgotten no matter how much time had passed.

Ichigo knew without having to ask what his lover thought of then; it was as plain to read as every change in emotion of those expressive eyes. It wasn’t easy to completely forget about a first love, first true love. Ichigo understood that. And he knew that Byakuya wasn’t making him some cheap replacement or wishing he were someone else. The man wasn’t the type to do that.

Contrary to popular belief, Rukia wasn’t a replacement for that woman either. Ichigo was absolutely certain that Byakuya loved his adopted sister, even if he had trouble showing it. His lover couldn’t help being socially retarded; that came with the territory of the angsting noble. There were things one just couldn’t learn when wrapped in layers of refinery and manners, when held to a certain standard the rest of the world could easily escape.

All Ichigo could do at those times was be there, silent and waiting, letting that moment pass when Byakuya’s heart drifted to what had been. He would sip at his tea, stare off into the night, viewing something only his eyes could see, and he would ache. Something in him would hurt, a wound that was impossible to cure with any sort of kidoh, not that Ichigo was particularly skilled at such things anyway.

The only thing he could do in those times was soothe the injury. It was too much to think that he could completely heal Byakuya in such a short time. After all, the man had carried his pain as if it were a cloak, as if it were the only thing he could cling to. It wasn’t something easily let go. But he was trying to move forward, and that was all Ichigo could ask for. He wasn’t stupid enough to demand what Byakuya wasn’t ready to give.

He hated her sometimes, that woman who made this confident man collapse inside himself. Who made him question his own beliefs. The same person who couldn’t have been bothered to love her husband or take care of her own damn sister. When Ichigo caught that look in Byakuya’s eyes, he never could stop that brief stab of anger from flashing through him, when he wanted nothing more than to go back in time and shake that woman for causing such pain.

Ichigo occasionally wondered, more often than he should have, that maybe she hadn’t cared for her husband as she should have. It was so blatantly obvious that Byakuya wasn’t grieving for the love he had lost but the love he had never been given. Ichigo wondered if it might have been better had the woman turned him down, knowing that she couldn’t possibly be what he wanted. Who knew how different things could have been?

But then, Byakuya never would have had reason to seek out Rukia, and Ichigo might not have become a Shinigami. It was possible that someone else might have stumbled on him, bringing out his abilities, but things wouldn’t have been like they were now. So he supposed in some grudging manner that was the one decent outcome to the whole heart-breaking affair.

The only one though. Ichigo wasn’t giving that woman any more credit than she was due.

Any other person would have been irritated by Byakuya’s behavior, demanding all his attention or all his time. They wouldn’t have been able to understand that a person couldn’t just throw away pain as if it were a piece of used parchment or a broken waraji.

Ichigo was different. It didn’t bother him, those moments when Byakuya thought of someone else. He understood. Really and truly, he understood.

Byakuya had been married, had loved, had devoted his heart to someone else. He must have felt powerless when she died, despite his own strength. It was something his skill and strength couldn’t fix, no matter how he trained or what he learned. That woman might have been his only freedom from the heavy and dutiful chains placed upon him.

Ichigo couldn’t begrudge Byakuya his grief, even if it was five decades old. Shinigami lived for a long time, longer than he could really comprehend. Fifty years might have only been a few months for the sixth-division captain. Or it could have agonizingly dragged on, seeming like centuries.

Besides, those brief spots of time when Byakuya was distant, when he didn’t want the comfort, were slowly getting few and farther between. The cherished, half-smiles reserved for Ichigo and Ichigo alone were becoming far more frequent.

It was a slow process, a careful easing into complete trust and possibly even love. The substitute Shinigami hadn’t expected a mad dive into forever from the outset. He was simply glad that he could ease the pain in whatever way he could.

Byakuya was healing, little by little, even gradually opening up to the sister he hadn’t acknowledged until recently. It was a start, slow and stuttering, like a car that hadn’t been run in ages, but it was a beginning.

And that was all Ichigo ever wanted.