Fifteen and Eleven

"Is that all you've got, Kenpachi?"

Ichigo paused to catch his breath. The rematch was brutal; every step sent waves of pain through the soles of his feet, while the blood in his eye stung with the heat of fire, and his hakama had torn to reveal the flesh of his legs beneath. There was a deep pain in his throat, where he struggled to breathe in the cold air, and he could feel a deep ache in his ankle that felt like a pulled muscle, which was just enough to force him to redistribute his weight.

The field was large enough not to risk any outsiders, but the lack of buildings and people somehow made Kenpachi's reiatsu all the more oppressive. It touched every nerve, filled every space, and it pushed Ichigo down like the gravity had been tripled, so that standing against it was a chore in itself. He cracked a smile, as he tasted the iron of blood in his mouth and felt the sting of pain on his cut lip. The weight of Zangetsu was difficult to hold, even with both hands upon the hilt, and he knew the battle was reaching its end.

"Boo-freaking-hoo," said Kenpachi. "You want more? You get more."

Kenpachi stood tall in the distance, with a dangerous grin across his face. The bandages across his midsection were bloody and covered with mud, while his haori lay discarded upon the boulders not far from him, and the scar that ran down his pronounced cheekbones was flushed red with bloodlust. Ichigo noticed the passion in his green eye, even as his hair lost some of its rigidity and fell lose to one side of his face, and he gave a shudder when the older man ripped off his eye-patch and let his reiatsu take charge. It brought Ichigo to his knees.

"Huh," teased Kenpachi. "Hard to believe this is the kid that beat Aizen."

"Hard to believe you're still standing, old man."

It was the taunt that sealed his fate. There was a clash of metal upon metal, as sword fought sword, and Ichigo was pushed to breaking point against a powerful opponent. The lack bells in his hair put Ichigo at an odd disadvantage, as he was unable to listen to the subtle sounds that betrayed the movements of their owner, and instead he was forced to rely on vision and senses alone. His muscles ached, but he fought on and on despite the pain.

He could see that Kenpachi was growing tired, despite his nearly equal strength and extreme stamina, but he also knew that Kenpachi had a gift that Ichigo lacked: no self-preservation. This was a man willing to throw himself before a blade, so long as it meant the killing blow was his to make, and he fought so relentlessly that it was clear only incapacitation would stop him in his quest to regain his reputation from their first and only battle. Ichigo felt his grip on his sword slip . . . too much blood, too little strength . . . pain followed.

Ichigo felt it strike like a sting of a wasp. It was sharp and localised, but nothing he couldn't handle on the whole. He gave a bitter laugh and raised his sword to strike at Kenpachi's shoulder; the older man stood there without a care in the world, as he let his sword hang limply by his waist and smiled in a somewhat dissatisfied manner. Ichigo began to see double, as he grew dizzy and light-headed, and he was forced to blink to clear his vision.

"You lose, Ichigo."

The red-headed boy looked down to his stomach, where a thin red line began to stretch out and widen, before blood cascaded from the wound and ran down his ripped clothing, and – as he reached down a trembling hand – he felt the warmth of the liquid on his fingertips. He dropped Zangetsu from his other hand. It felt with a dull thud upon the dew-stained grass, where it lay lifelessly apart from its owner. Ichigo stumbled back. The feeling that struck was akin to falling asleep, so that he could feel the world slipping away.

"I – I won't give up . . . I won't . . . I won't -!"

"I'm not going to fight an invalid."

Kenpachi continued to stand in place. It infuriated Ichigo, as he wanted to continue fighting, and he knew that he could come back from the brink, just like before, but the exhaustion was bone-deep and he fought so much in those past months. He watched people die, seen people suffer, and the rematch was supposed to be to hone his strength . . . keep on top . . . an outstretched hand to a friend that loved to fight . . .

"I'm not . . . not going to lose . . ."

The field began to grow cold, as he felt his eyelids grow heavy. They fell and rose of their own accord, but each time the falling would lead to them staying closed for longer . . . he felt his legs give way beneath him, while the ground rose up to meet him . . . the clouds above all merged and blurred into one large shape . . . he gave a broken laugh.

The last thing he saw was Kenpachi.

The world faded away.

/*/*/* Line Break */*/*/

"W-Where . . . am I?"

Ichigo attempted to raise his head. There was a searing pain on the back of his skull, which caused him to drop back down with a hiss, and – as he raised his hand to touch what seemed to be a bruise – he noticed that his bare skin was on show. It caused him to panic, as he looked down to see his kosode had been removed and folded to the side, because he could now see the row of cuts laddered along his upper arm. He prayed that he wasn't being treated by Squad Four, as he anticipated more talks than he was ready to experience.

There were bandages around his abdomen, hiding muscles from sight, and the pain felt substantially less than he expected before he fainted. A quick move of his muscles revealed that his hakama were also removed, leaving him in just his underwear, and he felt grateful for the thin blanket that covered him and warmed him. He let a hand run across his chest and stomach, as he sought to reassure himself that he was still in one piece.

It didn't take him long to realise someone else was present.

The rooms around him felt personal, like a bedroom, and he could feel a slight breeze from behind him that felt very reminiscent of the sliding doors that were common this realm. It woke him just enough to feel alert, but not enough to chill him or become a nuisance. Ichigo almost let his eyes fall closed again, until he caught sight of a familiar face sat sprawled out in the corner of the room. He blushed a little and pulled the blanket to cover his chest.

Kenpachi sat with one leg pulled to his chest, while the other was stretched out. The familiar sword lay by his side. There was a sheen of sweat and water over his body, as if he had stepped out from a bath, and it emphasised his muscles in such a way that Ichigo was forced to look away, lest his body betray his interest. He noticed that Kenpachi's hair had grown longer in the months after the battle, while it was less stiff than before, although it still looked styled with soap and a lot sharper than how anyone else wore their hair.

"Thought you might want a rest," said Kenpachi.

"Are you kidding?" Ichigo frowned. "It's meaningless to survive for the sake of survival, just as it's meaningless to fight unless you give it your all. I could have done better. I know I could have done better! Just lying here makes me feel like . . . I've failed. If I can't stand my own against you, how can I protect those closest to me when the time comes?"

"You keep on fighting, that's how. If you can find someone that can best you, you make it your life's mission to beat him, because – guys like us – we need to feel the thrill of battle, just like we need somewhere to aim. The only problem is that you can't fight if you're dead."

The older man nodded to Ichigo's arm. There was no hiding the row of cuts on his peach-coloured skin, each about an inch long and perfectly parallel to the other, and yet they were mostly on the inside of his upper arm, hidden out of sight by clothing and careful positioning of his limbs. If Kenpachi hadn't undressed him, he wouldn't have seen something usually kept so desperately secret. Ichigo raised his hand to his face, as he breathed deep breaths.

He began to feel a deep panic, one that was so unlike the adrenaline rush of battle, and it caused his heart to pound loudly in his ears. It took all his strength to sit upright, as his stomach gave a heave in protest and burned along the slash, but he could feel it already knitting together and closing in what he hoped was a healthy manner. Ichigo ran a hand through his red hair, before he looked over to Kenpachi. There was no judgement in the older man's eyes. He was bare-chested, so much that Ichigo could see the many scars all over him.

"I'm not trying to kill myself," muttered Ichigo.

"Yeah, then what the fuck is that?"

"It's how I ground myself. It's what I do when it gets too much."

Ichigo looked at the wooden floors, desperate for something to wear, but the pile of folded clothing was just out of reach and Kenpachi looked in no mood to help. The older man gave a yawn, as he scratched at his chest with a distracted manner. It was nice to see him looking so relaxed, especially knowing he struggled to form attachments to people, and Ichigo wondered just what it was that made Kenpachi drawn to him. If it was just the thrill of a fight, he suspected that his friendship would soon be at an end. Kenpachi finally had victory.

"I guess I'm still dealing with my mom's death," said Ichigo. "Plus, everyone keeps expecting me to date and study and be a normal teen, you know? I know Orihime is interested in me, but – eh – I just can't bring myself to see her that way. I study enough as it is, I'm already twenty-third in my year, and what is normal? I don't know . . . I'll figure it out."

"You ain't the only one to be lost, Ichigo." Kenpachi gave a dark grin. "You got a name, which is more than some of us ever had. If you have an identity, you can forge yourself a reputation, force yourself to look ahead and get yourself a future. If you keep looking back, you're only going to be dragging around the weight of the past. Trust me, that kind of darkness just wreaks havoc with your fighting reflexes."

"So what? If I just 'look ahead', I can redefine my entire person? Yeah, that's easy. I just have to 'choose' to be happy, is that it? I don't choose to feel bad about things, but it's just there and it doesn't go away, and I don't know what else to do about that."

"Well, I got a solution you can try. If you're up for it."

Ichigo looked over with a blush. He began to imagine that spending so much time around Yoruichi and Rangiku had rubbed off on him the wrong way, as his mind began to jump to the most lascivious conclusions that only made him grip the blanket tighter around him. The roll to Kenpachi's eyes made it clear that the last thing on his mind was something dirty, which was something of both a relief and a disappointment, as Ichigo tried to instead imagine what kind of things the older man could possibly be thinking about.


"Yeah," said Kenpachi. "Next time you come fight me."

Kenpachi gave a dangerous grin, which revealed his somewhat yellowed teeth. The dark skin – mottled with scars and wounds – stood as a testament to his age and wisdom, even if such wisdom was hard-earned through years spent on the streets and proving himself in battle, and he flexed his muscles as if to taunt Ichigo. It was enough to make Ichigo smile, as he thought about the rush that fighting brought with it, and so he asked in a hopeful voice:

"I come fight you any time I want to hurt myself?"

"That's right. Unless you're chicken?"

"You're on," laughed Ichigo.

/*/*/* Line Break */*/*/

Every part of his body burned.

Ichigo collapsed back against the wall, as he tried to catch his breath. He felt himself drenched in sweat, while the fatigue prevented him from moving in the least, and he began to breathe quick and heavy in an attempt to find some strength. He was bruised from sparring, but the rooms were geared up more to sparring and training, which meant that the wooden swords were a lot more forgiving than the one that Ichigo usually wielded.

'Kenny, Baldy won't play!'

It was difficult to keep his eyes open, but – as he looked across the rooms – he saw Yachiru padding along in bare feet. The pout on her lips was absolutely adorable, while her pink hair and puffed out cheeks gave her a truly innocent look, and she reminded him a little of his sisters when they were that age. He wondered why Kenpachi allowed her such freedom. The way she tugged on his haori looked a nuisance, especially when she shook him with all the strength someone at a lieutenant level possessed. It was oddly cute.

Kenpachi simply sat on the bench with an indifferent expression. He let his hands hang between his legs, while the small girl yanked at his hair and tried to drag him away, and he was so infinitely patient that it was hard to believe this was the same man that killed his predecessor and lived for the sight of blood. Ichigo looked on with a sense of admiration, as he realised what love the older man had for the child barely waist-high.

"Hey!" Ichigo called out. "Kenny and I are done. Why don't I play with you?"

"Do you know how to skate? Baldy made me skates!"

"Er, how hard can it be to learn?"

There was a loud cheer for Yachiru, who jumped and clapped her hands together, and – the next thing he knew – she was running across the room with little slaps of her feet upon the wooden floorboards. He was yanked from his spot before he realised what was happening; it took all his strength not to fall flat on his face, as he used every last ounce of energy he possessed to stand on his feet, before Yachiru began to drag him away. Ichigo was able to get one last look over to Kenpachi, whose green eyes narrowed with interest, as he gave a smirk.

"Good luck, Ichi-Nii," teased Kenpachi.

/*/*/* Line Break /*/*/*

"This – this isn't about the fight!"

Ichigo drew back his fist for another blow. The decision to forgo weapons was a tough call, as he began to realise that his hand-to-hand combat severely lacked in skill. He felt a bruise around his eye, which had begun to swell just enough to make blinking painful, while he was sure that one of his ribs had cracked with a strong kick. He felt the race of his heart, as he struggled to remain standing and so much as land a blow on Kenpachi.

They both stood face to face in Kenpachi's private rooms; the sliding doors were open to reveal the garden beyond, along with the light of the moon, and – for the first time in a long time – Kenpachi had given up on moon-watching in order to spar. He looked like a demon in the moonlight. The way his chest heaved with every breath was almost erotic, especially with his kosode thrown loose about his waist, so sheer muscle and perspiration was on clear show, and he looked as exhausted as Ichigo felt. Kenpachi also sported a cut lip.

"You wanted a distraction," said Kenpachi. "You got one."

"You – you aren't listening." Ichigo dove forward, but Kenpachi sidestepped him. "I know I wanted help in . . . you know . . . not hurting myself. The thing is that I've been so confused lately; it's like I don't want to hurt myself, but like I want to hurt everyone else. I was scared my Hollow was taking control, but it's – it's not and I just -! I don't know."

Kenpachi spat out some blood upon the floor. It lay disgusting and wet upon the floorboard, and it irked Ichigo more than he cared to admit. Lately, everything about Kenpachi annoyed him. He hated his strength, just as he hated his directness, and he hated how Kenpachi always knew how to make the pain go away, how he could distract him with battles no one else could even come close, and how he invaded every one of Ichigo's thoughts. He clenched his fists and tried not to let the older man get under his skin, but it was impossible.

"I know what you want, Ichigo," said Kenpachi.

There was something strange about his tone, although it sent chills down Ichigo's spine, and – with a swift kick to the older man's chest – he managed to knock Kenpachi back a step, just enough that the man doubled over and gave a hearty laugh. The pain meant nothing to him. He simply laughed it off, as if he had the upper hand, and then grabbed Ichigo's ankle with such quick reflexes that it was impossible to avoid. He held tight.

"Fighting ain't the only passion a man can get."

Ichigo felt himself flipped over and landed upon the floor. The crash caused his back to ache, as he groaned in pain and tried to roll onto his side, but – with another roar of laughter – Kenpachi dropped down upon him. He felt a hand on either side of his head, while knees were astride his hips, and the sheer force of another person upon him was enough to make his mouth water, while each and every confusing emotion reared its head. Ichigo began to writhe, as Kenpachi leaned close enough that he could feel warm breath upon his cheek.

It was difficult to understand how his body reacted; he felt arousal in the past, usually for women that were beyond attractive, but he never truly saw himself as being romantic with them, while the sheer embarrassment of the situation put him off ever trying anything. There was a more natural intimacy with men, something that felt deeper and left him without the sense of shame and fear, but to feel that way around Kenpachi Zaraki -?

"You think too much, kid," whispered Kenpachi.

The lips against his felt rough and hot. They were so unlike anything he ever imagined, while he could feel how Kenpachi dominated the touch, so that it was his tongue that slid into his mouth and explored all there was to explore. He tasted something that was startlingly like alcohol, while the fast and passionate kiss soon led to an erection that came incredibly quickly, something he blamed upon his age, and he struggled to breathe through his increasing anxiety and desperate arousal. A hand rested upon his hip.

It was difficult to ignore those callused fingers, as they struggled to undo his clothing, and – out of sheer instinct and fright – Ichigo brought up his fist and struck Kenpachi hard across the jaw, sending the older man flying off of him and crashing onto the floor. Kenpachi groaned, as he nursed the injury with a confused expression. Ichigo panted for breath and sat upright. The terror at having punched his crush devastated him.

"S-Shit, I – I didn't – I mean I just –"

Ichigo ran from the room.

*/*/*/ Line Break */*/*/

Isshin gave a long hum of consideration.

The former spark of playfulness was gone from his demeanour, as he scratched at the sparse facial hair around his chin, and his brown eyes narrowed onto Ichigo with deep contemplation of the problem at hand. He removed his white coat during the start of their conversation, so that he now looked far more casual and calm, but it had the unfortunate affect of making him seem more like a 'father', which intimidated Ichigo just a little.

Ichigo was used to the man that made jokes and goofed off, who would leave most responsibility to his children, and who often came across more of a child than his very children, but this man was someone entirely different. Isshin scratched at his black, spiky hair and leaned back against the kitchen counter, where he folded his arms and let that same hand rest underneath his chin. The silence was slowly beginning to drive Ichigo insane, as he bit his lip and felt himself grow frustrated. He just wanted a simple answer.

"So my little boy is gay, eh?"

Isshin waggled his eyebrows and wore a mischievous smile, as if the matter were nothing more than a joke, and Ichigo – now at breaking point, having expected something useful – drew back his fist and aimed it at his father's stomach. He hadn't expected the old man's instincts and reflexes to be so good, but he dodged it at the last second and Ichigo stuck the kitchen cabinet hard enough to hear the door crack. It caused a spark of pain. He yelped and nursed his hand, while Isshin stood with hands on hips and laughed in an evil manner.

"Too slow, Ichigo!"

"Bite me, Goat-Face!" Ichigo sucked upon his knuckles. "That freaking hurt! I come to you for genuine advice, but all you can take from that is 'gay'? I – I don't even know if I'm gay or not! I mean . . . I could see myself being with a woman, I guess? Damn it. I don't know what I am, but you could at least pretend to be useful!"

"You want useful? Okay, how about this: why define it?" Isshin shrugged. "You never really gave much indication of wanting to date one way or another, but you have feeling for Zaraki, don't you? Well, gay or straight or whatever, it doesn't change what you feel for him."

"Yeah, but I don't want to feel for him, do I?"

The look that Isshin gave him was one of pity. He let his smile turn into something almost fatherly, as he reached over and clapped a hand on his son's shoulder, before he gave a squeeze and reassured his son by the only way he knew. Ichigo felt the rough and warm hand, which forced him to give a weak smile in response, and he realised that – despite everything – he made the right choice in going to his father for support. Ichigo smiled back.

There were the sounds of running footsteps from upstairs, as Karin rushed to do whatever it was that she was sought to complete, and outside the rain was strong enough to lash upon the panes of glass loud enough to block out the sounds of the television. Ichigo felt his mind rush with a thousand thoughts, each one more urgent than the last, and – as his father pulled his hand away with a reluctant movement – he realised that his father and Kenpachi must have known one another, which only made the whole thing all the more awkward.

"You can't control your heart, son," said Isshin.

"I know, but this is Kenpachi!" Ichiro dug his hand into his hair. "He's older than you, Pops! He's rude and conceited and thinks only about fighting! I – I know he's a fantastic father to Yachiru, though, and his men look up to him . . . he's their hero, but probably because he's so insanely loyal and hard working . . . he also knows what it's like to suffer, so he's got a surprising amount of empathy . . . plus, no one else is that muscular."

"Aw, someone's in love!" Isshin laughed loudly, as Ichigo blushed. "Look, you can't rationalise how you feel, love just happens and you can't do anything about it, not even if you tried! Does he treat you with respect? He doesn't hurt you or take advantage of you, right? In that case, why not go for it? Don't deny yourself happiness, just because it's not 'normal'."

"You know most parents would want more for their kids? I can't be with Kenpachi unless I either die or abandon my body, plus I kind of liked the idea of having children of my own, and it's not as though that'd be easy or even possible with another guy, right?"

"Hey, it's like they say: 'love will find a way'."

"You're useless, you know that?"

Ichigo gave a soft laugh, as he ran a hand through his hair. He knew that his father would support his children's happiness no matter the circumstances, but Ichigo found it difficult not to think through all the possibilities that could arise, up to – and including – Kenpachi's death at the hands of a newcomer that wanted his position as captain. There were too many risks, from the extreme to the trivial, and the age difference was quite large.

There was a crack of thunder, which seemed almost a bad omen to Ichigo, and he saw the flash of lightning illuminate the sky outside and all beyond, so that he knew a walk to clear his head would be the worst idea imaginable. It was true that following his heart would make him happy, but Ichigo wondered for how long and what the consequences would be, especially after dedicating his life to other people, and yet he kept thinking back to Kenpachi and finally having an equal in his life that could challenge him. He gave a sigh.

"I think I'm going to go back," said Ichigo. "Fix this."

He purposely avoided his father's gaze, as he could see him smiling in a way that simply screamed: 'I told you so'. It felt strange to be in agreement, especially on something so serious, but – as he listened to his sister upstairs and his father's fidgeting just opposite – he realised how his parents sacrificed so much to be together. There was no way of knowing where their relationship would go, but Ichigo knew he wanted to find out.

"Good luck, son," said Isshin.

*/*/*/ Line Break */*/*/

"Okay, just because I agreed to date you, doesn't mean –"

Kenpachi leaned in again for a kiss. It was demanding and passionate, nothing like Ichigo was used to feeling, and yet – if he were honest – Ichigo had never before kissed anyone to have a basis for comparison. He felt breathless and light-headed, as he felt Kenpachi explore his mouth and coax his tongue into action, and he moaned into the kiss with a deep and primal sound, which caused the older man to grind against him with a laugh.

The feeling of an erection – not his own – was a little disorientating, as it forced him to reconsider everything he ever thought he wanted, and he was reminded that this was a man pressed against him, rather than the soft curves of a woman. Ichigo pulled away; he turned his head to the side, so that Kenpachi would be unable to kiss him any further, but instead there came a barrage of kisses against his neck, all light and gentle, until he felt himself grow aroused in response to the stimulation. This time he pushed Kenpachi back.

He gasped for breath, as he looked about the bedroom. They were guaranteed privacy from the rest of the barracks, especially as no one would dare interrupt their captain, but there was just something a little worrisome about having people in such close proximity. It was always scary enough wondering if Rukia would be caught in his room, and they were platonic, but this was something of a whole other level. Ichigo swallowed hard.

"Seriously, Kenpachi, I'm not just going to –"

Kenpachi wrapped a hand around Ichigo's neck, before he pulled him in for another kiss, and – that time – Ichigo felt himself melt into the touch, as he gave in and let Kenpachi deepen the kiss and let his free hand roam over his body. He gave a mewling whimper, as Kenpachi squeezed his buttock and began to knead it. The touch sent shivers through his body, as he tried to control himself and breathed heavily through his nose, and the arousal only –

'Ooh, Kenny got a kiss!'

Ichigo gave a yelp and jumped back. He bent in half, as he desperately sought to hide his length, and felt his face blush a deep shade of red. The comment 'now he really looks like a strawberry' only made things so much worse; he was still spluttering and stuttering when Yachiru gave a bubbly and bright laugh, but then she was out of the door just as quickly as she entered, which left him wondering how she managed to sneak about so much. The sheer humiliation was absolutely devastating and all arousal was gone.

"Maybe we should lock the door," said Kenpachi with a smirk.

"B-Bite me! We're – we're done here. Done!"

Ichigo stormed out. Kenpachi roared with laughter.

*/*/*/ Line Break /*/*/*

"Momma! Momma! Come play!"

Ichigo looked down to Yachiru. The little girl was bursting with energy; her hair had grown out just slightly, while she now adored a skull barrette in her hair, and she bounced on the back of her heels with great enthusiasm. It was easy to see how she stole the attention of a room, as – in a training hall filled with mostly grown men – it was almost out of place to see someone so sweet and innocent lurking about. If he wasn't aware that she could take out most of them in a fight, he might have been inclined to usher her elsewhere.

He threw the wooden sword off to the side, as there was no use arguing with Yachiru. It would only cause her to use the puppy-dog eyes, which often broke what little self-restraint that was left, and soon there was Kenpachi chuckling from a corner while Ichigo was forced to don a bonnet and play with dolls. Ichigo gave a loud sigh, as he reached down and patted her head with more force than necessary, and made his way to follow her.

There was a loud laugh from across the room.

Ikkaku was practically doubled over, as he laughed loudly, and the shine on the top of his baldhead was particularly noticeable with the posture. He braced himself on one hand to his side, unable to bend over completely, as Yumichika laid his head upon his partner's lap with a sense of intimacy that Ichigo rather envied. The prettier of the two – still with feathered accessories and an arrogant grin – gave a smirk that showed what he thought.

The two of them had been watching him for some time. They may have belonged to a squad that worked hard, but they were also a part of a squad that enjoyed relaxation, as such they were content to just observe and learn from that observation. Ichigo didn't mind, as he trained alone and put in his best effort, but he minded when they began to mock him for something beyond his control. He felt himself blush, while Yachiru puffed out her cheeks and folded her arms, and – for a child – it was a rather intimidating look.

"Why are you laughing, Baldy?"

The bald man tried to cover his laughter by turning it into a cough. It was a transparent attempt at trying to save face and avoid trouble, but for a moment Yachiru almost seemed to buy into the strange coughing fit. The expression on her face was one of puzzlement, as she walked forward with her finger upon her lip, and – as she tilted her head – Ichigo was almost certain that he could see a bead of sweat upon Ikkaku's head. Yachiru eventually gave a low of hum of consideration, before she put her hands on her hips with confidence.

"You were laughing at Mommy!"

This time it was Yumichika's turn to laugh. He covered his mouth with a graceful gesture, which knocked the braid upon the side of his face away from his shoulder, and he gave a blush that made him look more feminine than usual. Ichigo vaguely recalled some rumours about the flamboyant man, but he ignored them and focussed on the fact that – out of the two men – Yumichika was somehow the more observant and cautious of the pair.

"Yes, Ikkaku," said Yumichika. "You were laughing. How rude."

"I – I wasn't laughing at that . . . just an old joke."

"I like jokes!" Yachiru gave a wink. "Why don't you tell us?"

Ikkaku seemed annoyed by his partner's teasing, and soon shoved him away. Yumichika rolled onto the floor with a loud thud, before he looked up with a pout that could rival any of Yachiru's, and began to rant with an ease that usually only came to old married couples. It was a one-sided argument that only ended when Yachiru hit Yumichika hard upon his head, which caused the dark-haired man to grit his teeth and water his eyes. Yachiru followed up by pointing an accusatory finger at Ikkaku and giving a large pout.

"You still shouldn't laugh," said Yachiru. "I'm telling Kenny!"

"N-No, Lieutenant! Honestly, it was just a joke! I was –!"

"Kenny! Kenny! Ikkaku was laughing at Mommy!"

The way that Ikkaku paled made Ichigo laugh. He only laughed harder when Ikkaku frantically waved his hands around to placate her, while offering her bribes in the form of candy and toys that would have been worrying from any other person, and Ichigo made a point of looking as heartbroken as possible any time Yachiru looked his way. It only made Yachiru call out for her father all the louder, much to Ikkaku's dismay.

"Lieutenant, it – it was just a joke! I wasn't making fun of –"

"Kenny!" Yachiru shouted. "Kenny, I need you!"

Ichigo couldn't stop his laughter.

*/*/*/ Line Break */*/*/

Ichigo sat astride Kenpachi with a smirk.

The older man was drenched with sweat, with black hair slicked back against his head, and his eyes narrowed with interest upon Ichigo above him. It was a nice view. Kenpachi had foregone a lot of clothing for their private sparring match, which left muscles and scars on display for Ichigo's hands to trace and touch, and he felt a huge sense of gratitude in finally being able to best Kenpachi for the first time since their first introduction. If he didn't know any better, he would have suspected Kenpachi of going easy on him.

Ichigo felt battered and bruised, while his uniform was ripped to shreds. There was blood on his lip, while he was certain that his eyes was black, and his body ached so much that he could barely keep himself propped into position above Kenpachi. He regretted having spent so long in the Seireitei, as he knew he ought to be with his family and not draped over the older man, but – as he panted for breath – he relished in hold Kenpachi's wrists in his hands.

"You're mine, Kenpachi," said Ichigo.

He looked briefly to check the door was locked. The bedroom door was properly shut this time, while the sliding doors to the veranda were equally as closed, and the lights inside were all on an absolute minimum, so no one should even notice them to so much as knock, let alone demand entry. Yachiru had found a babysitter in Ikkaku, so that was one less thing to worry about, and – as Ichigo leaned down to touch his lips to his boyfriend's – he felt a strong and obvious arousal beneath his buttocks. Ichigo gave a bright blush.

"You gonna make me yours?" Kenpachi gave a laugh: "Like to see you try!"

"You've got a big mouth for someone that just lost."

"Yeah, and it's all yours, Ichigo."

Kenpachi lifted his head enough to lay a kiss upon soft lips. Ichigo gave a groan and held tighter to his boyfriend's wrists, as he ground down and let his arousal grind against the other man, while his buttocks instinctively clenched against cloth-covered member. They both knew that it was finally time for them to consummate their union, but the only argument was who would be in charge, and – having won the battle – Ichigo finally won that war.

"Damn right that it's all mine," barked Ichigo.

Kenpachi laughed into another kiss.