Disclaimer—I do not own Bleach and this is not for profit. Shakespeare is public domain.

A/N—I can't stop, IchiHitsu just does not stop invading my brain, despite the other stories I should be working on, or even my own original fiction. The worst sort of distraction, but I love it anyways. This story should be a couple chapters longer than Frozen Strawberries, but that always depends on reader response! Minor spoilers.

Check and Balance

Meetings between the captains of the Gotei 13 always made Hitsugaya feel discomforted. His status as the youngest ever captain in Soul Society's history ensured his place in history, and an almost god-like amount of awe from most shinigami. For the men and women who were the most powerful in Soul Society, however, those things meant little. The problem was that each of the captains was special; all of them were famous and talented in unique ways. A typical captain meeting was filled with the egos and grudges that rose between such naturally powerful individuals, almost always leading to some sort of showdown. Even if Zaraki Kenpachi caused most of those conflicts in some way, there was a saying that putting two captains in a room would either lead to the discovery of something amazing, create a friendship that could move mountains, or start a fight that would decimate the surrounding area for miles. Or something akin to that. Hitsugaya didn't typically bother with the gossip of those who were so far beneath him as to have no idea how captains interacted with each other.

Even if they happened to be correct.

Hitsugaya hadn't meant to zone out, but the feud between Kurotsuchi and Zaraki was so old now as to be completely devoid of interest. Komamura would step between the two, or Ukitake, and if they didn't step down then, Yamamoto-sotaicho would stop them, without a doubt. Not even Zaraki was crazy enough to challenge the most powerful man in Soul Society. After all, only Kyoraku and Ukitake could hope to match the old man, and they had to fight together to hold him off. Aizen himself didn't even dare challenge the captain commander directly, relying on the location of his fortress and Soul Society law to give him the time and space needed to act.

Which was part of why Ichigo had been able to lead a strike force into Hueco Mundo and pull out Inoue Orihime. Aizen had been expecting them, but his defenses had been untried and untested. Official details of the fights were scarce, Kuchiki Rukia and Abarai Renji had both been incapacitated enough to not have seen the majority of the action. If it wasn't for Ichigo being willing to tell Hitsugaya everything that had happened, it was likely there would be no record of the event.

He'd told Hitsugaya though, he'd told him everything, and quite a lot of it had not gone into his private and covert report to the captain general. There was no reason for Yamamoto or future generations to know about how Ichigo had been so scared he would lose his friends, his pain over not being able to protect them from being hurt, or the fact that he had given over to his hollow side long enough to fire a cero of such magnitude that his group could escape in the aftermath. Power of the sort Ichigo possessed was frightening, especially when a man as dangerous as Aizen sought that power. Bad enough that Orihime had a power with god-like abilities to affect the nature of fate, or that Sado Yasutora could annihilate everything in front of his fist, not to mention the Quincy that Ichigo insisted on being friends with. It was enough to make Hitsugaya despair, and no he was not jealous one bit of the amount of time that the god-damned Quincy spent with Ichigo, even if Ishida was clearly attracted to the orange-haired boy and attempted to cover it with his proud anti-shinigami diatribes. Hitsugaya just knew the bastard had ulterior motives, but Ichigo would always just insist (laughingly, and there was nothing Hitsugaya hated more than being laughed at) that he was being "silly and jealous."

The only reason Ichigo still had his testicles was because he'd managed to mollify Hitsugaya. The white-haired boy flushed slightly, reminiscing.

"Toshiro, you're being silly and jealous," Ichigo said, laughter in his voice. The two had been lying in bed, only now Hitsugaya was standing at the side of the bed Ichigo was sitting on.

"Kurosaki…" Hitsugaya growled, his anger poisoning his face. Ichigo raised his hands up, at once trying to placate his boyfriend and ward off any potential physical retaliation.

"I know, I know, but I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing at the idea of me being with Ishida. He doesn't have room for another stick up his ass, you know." Hitsugaya couldn't help it, he smirked. Ichigo smiled and reached out cup Hitsugaya's face.

"That's my Toshiro," he said, using his thumb to pet the other boy's cheek bone. Hitsugaya raised a hand to Ichigo's grabbing the thumb and holding it still a couple inches from his face.

"You're not off the hook." Ichigo frowned.

"This isn't just about Ishida, is it?"

"You went to Hueco Mundo, you were throwing your life away and you didn't even—" Hitsugaya stopped, his voice had cracked slightly on the last word, and he took a deep breath to get his control back.

"Didn't what, come say good bye to you? Why the fuck would I do that?" Hitsugaya gaped at Ichigo, hurt scrawled over his face, his grip on Ichigo's hand tightening.


"I would never say good bye to you," Ichigo said, his face and voice deadly serious, and before Toshiro could explode with anger he continued, "Because I'm never going to leave you, ever." Hitsugaya stopped, paused in such a manner that he looked like a wax statue, even if no statue could ever capture the sensation of being around Hitsugaya evoked in people, the peculiar sense of being in the presence of powerful intent.

"Ichigo," Hitsugaya wished he could say more, but his mouth stopped working as his heart swelled into the sweetest ache he'd ever felt in his life. The anger and pain of a second ago had been completely eradicated by Ichigo's words. Ichigo turned over Hitsugaya's hand and drew it to his chest, placing it over his heart. With his other hand he reached up to gently feel the line of Hitsugaya's jaw with the back of his fingers, ghosting over the soft skin while gazing into his brilliant teal eyes, the color of deep ice on a glacier.

"No more of this, no more Ishida or fear between us. I want," Ichigo stopped and took a deep breath, closing his eyes as if in preparation, before looking back into Hitsugaya's eyes in a way that seemed to sear the white-haired boy's very soul. "I want to make love to you, Toshiro." Hitsugaya sighed a little, disappointed.

"Sex isn't the answer, Ichigo." He didn't feel at all like a hypocrite. No sir. Just because the second Ichigo had come back he'd jumped his bones so hard he'd actually made Ichigo scream did not mean he thought that intercourse mended the rift that had opened between them.

"Not sex, Toshiro, we're going to make love." Hitsugaya eyed Ichigo warily.

"And the inherent differences between the two are?"

"Let me show you," Ichigo said, and then reached over to turn out the light.

Ichigo had been right, there was a difference. An enormous difference. Something had changed in their interaction. He'd been so tender, so gentle and so loving… Hitsugaya's skin prickled with the ghostly sensation of warm hands and a voice in his ear whispering, "Every time I look at you, I fall in love again. I'm sorry I left, Toshiro." He was so distracted that hearing the last item on Yamamoto's agenda was like a deluge of ice water on his body.

"The final order of business is the problem of Kurosaki Ichigo," Yamamoto-sotaicho said. Reactions across the room were varied and open, at once typical and irregular of a meeting between the captains. Each captain had met, fought or worked with one of the humans who had invaded Soul Society all those months ago, and there was no dismissing their significant influences and effects on Soul Society. Of them all, Kurosaki Ichigo had clearly had the most impact, and Hitsugaya knew that each and every captain had a strong opinion about the human boy, which in and of itself was highly unusual. To attract the attention of the most powerful members of Soul Society was both rare and notable.

"There is a problem with him?" Ukitake asked, far too mildly to actually be feeling calm.

"He is a wildcard, a maverick and uncontrollable quantity in a war that must be won for the sake of both Soul Society and the living world. He can turn the balance of war simply with his presence." Hitsugaya could feel his heart begin to sink. There was no way that the old man was going to do this. The report had been made fully and honestly, in exchange for complete discretion. But he was looking at Hitsugaya intently, and the 10th squad captain knew that the leader of the Gotei 13 fully intended to break his word.

"Surely you jest, he is only a human, more powerful than a normal one, yes, yes, but not something that necessitates concern," Kurotsuchi said. "My time is too valuable to waste on minutiae." The look Yamamoto-sotaicho gave the painted captain cowed him in a way that no other shinigami could ever hope for, no matter how much they tried.

"Many of us here have witnessed his power, he possesses an unusual bankai, and what's more he has the hollow abilities that Aizen so desperately seeks." Hitsugaya's hands had clenched into fists completely out of his own control.

"He does?" Kurotsuchi asked in surprise, surprise that was echoed by several other captains, but interestingly enough most of the seniors simply nodded. Hitsugaya flinched, an action that did not go unnoticed by the two captains standing around him, Kenpachi and Ukitake.

"His use of those powers is how he survived his venture in Hueco Mundo, that is how powerful he is. Hitsugaya-taicho's report on the matter will be distributed to all captains and vice-captains, and will progress no further. In order to combat the potential threat of Kurosaki going rogue, I will set Hitsugaya-taicho the task of reigning him in."

"No." The word escaped his mouth before any of the other captains could react. If before they had not displayed surprise, now they were openly shocked. Hitsugaya was almost shaking with rage.

"What, Hitsugaya-taicho?" asked the old shinigami, the question more reflexive and rhetorical in nature than in honest curiosity. His surprise at being challenged by one of the most formal and obedient captains he had ever worked with was so complete he didn't even become angry immediately.

"I said, Yamamoto-sotaicho, that I shall not force Kurosaki into a course of action." Now the old man's eyes narrowed in stern anger, but Hitsugaya held firm. He had trusted the old man with something that was precious and precarious, his relationship with Ichigo. His loyalty to Soul Society had compelled him to give an honest report of the events as Ichigo had related them to him, but he had only shared the report with the inherent promise of discretion.

"Why not?" The old man was a bastard all right. Instead of threatening him with the obvious consequences for disobeying a direct order, he was trying to coerce Hitsugaya; in much the same way he wanted Hitsugaya to force Ichigo to obey him. Hitsugaya took a deep breath, if the old bastard wanted to play it that way, he needed to talk fast.

"Because Kurosaki's position is at once unique and valuable. He stands as an objective check on the intentions of Soul Society, and he does so with a strong sense of morality and justice. His power is more valuable because he is not under our direct control; he acts in the service of his notion of justice, and in doing so forces us to examine our own path of justice. It is how he has saved us before, how he saves us now, and how he will save us tomorrow." The other captains stood silent and still, although Hitsugaya was sure he could count on the seniors to support him. The captain commander frowned; he clearly had expected Hitsugaya to fold instead of continuing his defiance.

"You would defy Soul Society law, Hitsugaya-taicho? The will of the Gotei 13 during a time of war?" The room was quiet, each captain waiting for the answer Hitsugaya would give to the question. A calm breath did nothing to settle his nerves, but at this point Hitsugaya could forgive himself for feeling as anxious as he did.

"Yes, I would, if I believed it to be right and just." The words were heavy and when they hit the absolute silence after the thinly veiled threat the emotional attitudes of the room shifted wildly again.

"You," Yamamoto drew himself up like the wrath of a god ready to descend. Hitsugaya braced himself for what exactly he didn't know; only hoping to be ready. It was wartime, and even if his actions were on the point of treason, he was reasonably sure he was too powerful to be executed. He just didn't know if his captaincy would survive what Yamamoto would say next. Was Ichigo truly worth all this?

"I love you, Toshiro. My sword and my heart are as much yours as they are mine." Yes, he was completely worth it. But this could hurt, a great deal.

"Ne, ne, Yama-jii, I think Hitsugaya-taicho has a point," said Kyoraku. Hitsugaya almost sighed in relief, but instead just closed his eyes for a second, trying to gather himself.

"Shuinsui?" Once again the old bastard was shocked, and a part of Hitsugaya smirked rather ruthlessly.

"Kurosaki Ichigo has proven himself a valuable ally and a selfless man of great integrity time and time again. Is there reason to doubt he will continue to act this way?" Ukitake's strong, ever reasonable voice, was comforting but even more so was the way the white haired man shifted his stance slightly to show his support of Hitsugaya, even if fighting broke out. Hitsugaya felt the immense weight lift even further; with Kyoraku and Ukitake supporting him he had a chance.

"Aizen, Ukitake," Komamura said softly.

"With all due respect, Komamura-taicho, Kurosaki is nothing like Aizen. He is transparent and has no mastery of kidou," Hitsugaya said.

"He is too powerful to work independently. His actions could prove liabilities, even if he only has good intentions," Soifon's voice was cold and ruthless, and unfortunately it was not a point that Hitsugaya could refute.

"So what would you suggest?" Unohana was ever the quiet voice of reason.

"That Hitsugaya-taicho sways him and brings him under our control. That is the only course of action we can take at this juncture," said Yamamoto, his eyes were stern and his beard practically quivered with indignation. Hitsugaya tried to keep the impulse to pull Hyorinmaru and bankai the old man, but he'd be damned if he revealed their relationship before the rest of the captains just to say why he couldn't do it. For a moment he truly despaired, no course of sane action seemed available and he could not truly defy the will of Soul Society. Just as he was about to burst, do something either crazy, suicidal or simply cave, help came from an unexpected corner.
"Why is that you would you task the 10th squad captain with that duty in particular?" asked Kuchiki Byakuya. Yamamoto began to look uncomfortable and suddenly Hitsugaya knew that his secret was no longer safe. In many ways it was a relief, and at the same time he was wondering how the fuck did Kuchiki Byakuya know about him and Ichigo? Kuchiki Rukia would know, but she surely wouldn't report such a thing to her brother, would she?

"Hitsugaya-taicho has… qualities that will prove advantageous for such a task." Now all of the captains were looking at their leader with something bordering on suspicion in some cases, or staring at the wall bored out of their minds like Kurotsuchi.

"Such as? My vice-captain is close with Kurosaki, as is my sister. Why are they not selected for such a duty?" The quiet aristocratic voice was implacable.

"I don't think the specifics are important here—" Yamamoto started.

"Unfortunately that is not the case," Hitsugaya almost gaped, Byakuya, the stiffest and most law-abiding captain on the Gotei 13 had just interrupted the captain commander in the middle of a sentence. His surprise was echoed in several faces around the room, not the least of which was Yamamoto's. "The specifics are very important, because Kurosaki Ichigo and Hitsugaya-taicho are more to each other than simple companions." Slate gray eyes met his brilliant teal ones, and offered a silent apology. "They love each other. To force apart such a bond is both deplorable and unwise."

"Is this true, Genryusai-sensei?" Ukitake asked, his voice containing a small note of horror at what his leader was attempting to do. Hitsugaya felt a hand on his shoulder, one that didn't squeeze him affectionately or anything like that, as if the hand didn't know how to comfort but wanted to. The fact that the hand was huge and covered his shoulder made him feel practically enveloped by warmth. Zaraki Kenpachi didn't believe in much, but apparently he believed in love.

"That's a damn shame, old man." Zaraki's voice was the rumble of an avalanche ready to swallow anything in its path. "Cuz there's no way in hell I'll let this happen. Don't think any of us here will."

"You are all willing to wager this war on the whims of a human boy?" Yamamoto's voice was angry, but Hitsugaya didn't care anymore. He felt lighter than air, as if he was in a dream because this situation clearly could not be real, it just couldn't be happening. The hand on his shoulder steadied him slightly as he trembled, bringing him back to reality because this was happening, it was not a dream. He looked up at Zaraki who winked at him. Hitsugaya knew that Ichigo had affected more than one captain in very deep ways, but this was decidedly surreal of the infamous battle-loving captain of squad 11.

"If Kuchiki-taicho says the two are in love, then we do not wager it at all. We place our trust in love, which is stronger than any one person," Unohana said, and somehow her words decided the matter.

"Such a bond would ensure the boy's loyalty far more than any other method," Soifon added, her ruthless pragmatics this time aiding Hitsugaya's cause.

Yamamoto looked at his captains, and realized that none of them would support his actions, and each of them was looking at him with their own form of disapproval. He sighed; such insubordination had become all too common since that human boy had stuck his nose into their affairs. It was as if his captains had all just been waiting to start defying him. And yet…

"Perhaps I have grown too old," he said softly, and Kurotsuchi began to mutter about how if he missed the surgery on subject 34-B he would be most upset, yes most upset and he would just have to find another test subject which was so hard these days in a state of war but if this damn meeting would end now he could get there in time if only they would stop chattering about useless things. Kyoraku cleared his throat at the other captain making him subside.

"Nah, you just don't know Ichigo like we do," Zaraki said. The meeting ended soon afterwards, and Hitsugaya made his way (practically ran) out of there before he could be stopped for questioning. He truly had not wished for his relationship with Ichigo to be uncovered, it was a private affair, untainted by his position as a captain or his reputation. When he was with Ichigo, his concerns and cares could melt away. Ichigo was safe, removed from the stress and pain of his life in Soul Society, untainted by the nature of shinigami society. If he was completely honest, keeping it secret made him feel like he had more control than he really did.

And now everyone knew. And he knew shinigami. If there was anything a death god liked more than fighting or becoming stronger, it was gossip. Say good-bye to any sense of privacy, Hitsugaya, it's going to be all over the Court of Pure Souls in 2 seconds flat.

Perhaps the problem was that their relationship had progressed too fast. Hitsugaya had never been so out of sync with his emotions, never felt so tied up in another person. Around Ichigo he couldn't even keep his mask up, and damn it all he couldn't help but smile and laugh. He ached when the orange-haired boy wasn't around, and when he was around his presence, just his presence made Hitsugaya feel at peace. He didn't hate feeling the way he did with Ichigo, but he'd spent years achieving a serious demeanor, and to have it undone so very easily by a simple human boy was disconcerting. Strong emotions were something he was used to burying, and he wanted to be able to bury them once more before he introduced Ichigo as his partner.

Now all of his plans were out the window. He took one final flash step too the door of his office. Entering the room where his paperwork and sometimes his adjutant lived, he gave a sigh of relief. The name of his office might as well have been "sanctuary" because he always felt removed from the hustle and bustle of bureaucracy and the antics of his division. Although there was no where near the chaos that the 11th division created, or the explosions and hastily covered up experiments-gone-wrong of the 12th division, the 10th division had its fair share fights, melodramatics and general conflicts that Matsumoto never seemed to take care of. Usually some sake or her breasts got in the way, somehow. Hitsugaya had given up a long time ago on fathoming his vice-captain's excuses.

As he eased into his chair behind the great hand carved wooden desk that went with his office, he finally began to relax. Muscles that had been tense for long hours began to unknot, and he wished that Ichigo was there so he could ask for one of those shoulder rubs that the Kurosaki boy could do oh-so-well.

Hitsugaya blinked. His spirit sense had just picked up a very familiar signature, one that he (and just about anyone with a measure of skill) could pick out even if they were half asleep.

How like him to show up when I need—am thinking about him. He closed his eyes and counted. On the 5th second the door swung open and Kurosaki Ichigo came barreling through with a thoughtful look on his face that surprised Hitsugaya.

"Ichigo, what are you doing here?"

"To be honest, I'm not entirely sure. Are you all right?" Hitsugaya frowned and looked curiously at Ichigo.

"I'm fine, what does that have to do with anything?"

"I just got a hell butterfly from Soul Society saying that I should come as fast as possible, that you needed me. But the message, well it didn't feel like it was from you."

"It wasn't."

"Oh, well then. Uh," Ichigo trailed off, seemingly out of things to say.

"Well, I actually was just thinking about you," Hitsugaya admitted. Ichigo smiled and began to preen.


"Yes, I—I'm feeling really tense and I was wondering…" Hitsugaya hated it when he sounded so fucking timid, but the part of him that asked for help was still newborn, and decidedly out of practice. Thankfully Ichigo knew all of this, and he never made Hitsugaya feel awkward about it.

"You want a back rub?"

"Yes please."

"Come over here then," Ichigo said, slapping the back of the couch.

"Would you lock the door?" Hitsugaya asked as he took off his captain's robe and then undid his top so that it hung at his waist. He lay down on the couch with his head facing outwards. The click of the lock finally settled his nerves, so that when Ichigo climbed on top of him to straddle his backside he could only sigh in contentment. Ichigo's hands were callused and strong, but his touch was deft and gentle. The magical fingers began to slowly move his skin and muscles, pushing and rubbing tension out of him. Hitsugaya couldn't help but close his eyes and began to make little involuntary noises. He remembered the first time he'd completely let slip like that, and he'd made a noise that was embarrassingly like a bark when Ichigo had been deep inside of him and he couldn't hold himself back. It was the sort of thing that would have made him unbearably ashamed, except that the noise had so undone Ichigo that the other boy came almost immediately afterwards. Then it had been something they had laughed about, and Hitsugaya could remember clearly that was the moment he felt at ease with calling the thing they had between them love.

"So, tell me what happened. I wanna know who would send me a hell butterfly telling me you needed me." Honestly, Hitsugaya wanted to know as well.

"There was a meeting of the captains today," Hitsugaya said, and then paused as Ichigo found a particularly painful muscle. He hissed, the pressure on his shoulder hurt even though he could feel the knot being undone. Ichigo's hands lessened their pressure, gently moving on the skin above the now undone knot, manipulating his back softly and luxuriantly.

"And?" Ichigo said.

"You came up during the meeting. Yamamoto-sotaicho wanted me to… convince you to join Gotei 13."

"Oh?" Ichigo infused the single syllable with a wealth of meaning and questions. Hitsugaya paused as he decided how he should continue. It would not do to make Ichigo angry, any further resentment he might develop about Soul Society could be damaging to the support Hitsugaya had garnered, especially if Ichigo became angry enough to take some sort of action.

"He wanted a guarantee of control over you, he feels you are a threat to the stability of Soul Society. Even if your actions are motivated solely by good will, you could unintentionally prove detrimental to Soul Society's cause.

"Where have I heard that before?"

"He wanted to use our relationship as leverage."

"He what?" Ichigo practically yelled.

"But, the measure didn't pass. I thought it might, but Kuchiki-taicho apparently knew about us, and he told the rest of the captains." Ichigo's mouth hung open in surprise, and worked as he tried to come up with things to say.

"Byakuya did what?" he finally settled on, his voice weak with pure amazement.

"I know—it was the most bizarre thing I've ever seen. But each of the captains defended you, defended us."

"Huh, so one of them must have sent that butterfly."

"Obviously, I just can't imagine any of them doing it," Hitsugaya said.

"Really, none of them?"

"Perhaps Ukitake-taicho. He views himself as something of a mentor to me."

"You mean he gives you candy?" Ichigo asked humorously.

"I mean he patronizes me with candy," corrected Hitsugaya swiftly.

"You still take it," Ichigo teased.

"Only because it would be rude to refuse. Besides, you call him Ukitake-san while you cheerfully disrespect all the other captains."

"Hey, I know how to be respectful. Those old bastards are so stiff though, it pisses me off."

"You could stand to be a bit more polite," Hitsugaya rolled over. "If you made an effort, Yamamoto-sotaicho wouldn't be so concerned."

"Like I care what the old man thinks," Ichigo said in an undertone. He was rubbing circles on Hitsugaya's chest, soft touches that felt like heaven on his skin, Ichigo's sword calluses catching on his nipples and slightly scratching him.

"That's exactly what I mean, Kurosaki, you let your mouth run entirely too much." God it was getting hard to think. If Ichigo wasn't careful other things would get harder as well, and then where would they be?

"Che, whatever, Toshiro. I am how I am, they can learn how to deal with it." Hitsugaya frowned, propping himself up slightly. In response Ichigo let his hands fall and lay down fully, resting his head on the smooth stomach of the boy beneath him.

"Why do you have to be so difficult?" Hitsugaya asked the top of Ichigo's head.

"Oh, I don't know, maybe it's because the first time I came here it was to rescue my best friend from being unfairly executed." The rumble of Ichigo's voice and the scratchiness of his hair combined to feel oddly like his hands, until Ichigo began to nuzzle his chest.

"That was an aberration, and you know it. We have our rules for very specific reasons, having them subverted from within should not have occurred." He pulled himself back to lean on the arm of the couch, dragging Ichigo with him. After they resettled, and Ichigo continued to bury his face in Hitsugaya's torso, he began to play with Ichigo's hair. Running his hands through it, twisting it slightly and then tracing the line of his jaw, or the outline of his ears.

"You know we learned about something in my civics class, it was called the 'system of checks and balances.' In a government, the various branches should function, as checks on the other branches so as to balance the power, and make sure decisions are proper and just. So maybe Soul Society needs a check like me to balance your decision making."

"That's funny." Ichigo drew back and looked at Hitsugaya. His body language screamed that he was offended and Hitsugaya mentally slapped himself in the face for misspeaking.

"Funny, you think that's funny?" If there was one thing they both had in common, it was pride. Mocking their opinions was a surefire way to offend Hitsugaya and Ichigo, something that when they weren't busy placating each other, they bonded over.

"Only in that I made a very similar argument to the captain commander, to justify my position of non-interference with you," the white-haired shinigami said, wriggling down the couch so that he was completely under Ichigo. The taller boy smiled widely at him, and he honestly felt like his heart stop. Ichigo lay down on top of him, folding one arm under Hitsugaya's so that he could grab Hitsugaya's hair and the other hand disappeared between their two bodies.

"And then Byakuya spilled the beans." Ichigo was gently twirling his boyfriend's incredible hair. He could play for hours with Hitsugaya's hair (it was something they had in common), if the shinigami let him. And given the way that Hitsugaya had just hissed in pleasure at what Ichigo's other hand was doing it looked like he could get his way.

"An interesting colloquialism, but yes." Ichigo smirked at the boy who had gently begun to thrust into his hand.

"I have another one for you, let's play doctor." Hitsugaya knew for a fact that Ichigo loved it when he looked horribly confused, but that didn't stop the orange haired boy from dropping phrases or doing things that left him completely and openly baffled.
"Doctor?" Ichigo's face suddenly became serious, his tone business-like.

"Hello young man, my name is Dr. Kurosaki. You have what appears to be mortification of the penis. I'm afraid that if left untreated, you could lose your genitals. The only thing to do is an oral resuscitation. Are you prepared?" Hitsugaya was looking at Ichigo with his eyelids partially lowered, a mixture of incredulity, arousal, and the patented brand of scorn he gave to everyone. Ichigo sighed dramatically.

"You're no fun, you know that?" Hitsugaya smirked.

"You know me, I'm the rain on your parade." He reached up to wrap his arms around Ichigo's shoulders and kissed him. Ichigo tasted like something sweet, probably an after school snack. Gently the two began to undress each other, without trying to move so they could keep touching. Ichigo turned so that Hitsugaya was on top, and began to suck on his neck. Their bodies were aligned with one another, pressing down and close so that eventually Hitsugaya knew they would feel like a single entity, a joint body of pleasure and—

One of the downsides of being so physically close to Ichigo was that it clouded his spirit sense. So when the door unlocked and his vice-captain walked in he was still trapped on top of a fantastically kissing Ichigo, his hands up Ichigo's shirt and clawing at his back, Ichigo's hands attempting to slide down Hitsugaya's pants, clutching at his back side. He glared at her, but instead of leaving she leered at him, and opened the door wider. Hitsugaya's eyes went wide and he opened his mouth to say something except Ichigo, who still had his eyes closed damn him, he suddenly pressed his body to Hitsugaya's, his grip on the shorter boy's rear adding extra force to their grinding bodies. He tried to do something other than gasp incoherently but oh god it felt so good and Matsumoto had just been joined by—oh god it looked like almost all the members of the Shinigami Women's Association were present. Hitsugaya could feel his head begin to throb and he purposefully shoved himself up off Ichigo, so forcefully that Ichigo's head smacked the arm of the sofa. Hitsugaya gripped his captain's robe and immediately drew it over his naked chest.

"Ouch, what the hell Toshiro—WHAT THE FUCK?" Ichigo practically shrieked at the women and Hitsugaya winced.

"Oh, why'd you have to stop?" Matsumoto was pouting, she was fucking pouting. Hitsugaya was going to poison her, he decided. Something that would take its time and be extremely painful. Maybe he'd ask Kurotsuchi if he needed a new test subject.

"Matsumoto…" His voice sounded incensed even to his own ears, and several of the women outside the room paled.

"Ichy Ichy was making nookie with Shiro-chan? Wow… Wait till Ken-chan hears this," Yachiru cheered and took off at a dead sprint. Hitsugaya could feel an embolism coming on.

"I think it would be prudent to leave at this juncture," Nanao muttered and took off, Isane and Kiyone following close behind. Soifon paused before she left to smirk at Hitsugaya.

"Enjoy celebrating, Hitsugaya-taicho."

"Just—just leave," Ichigo waved at the remaining three. Matsumoto sighed, Nemu continued to gaze as if completely fascinated (Hitsugaya dimly noticed that she had a notepad and she was sketching while staring straight at them, creepy and creepier) and the girl next to them was unfamiliar to Ichigo, Hitsugaya could tell from one look at his paramour's face. But the look on the face of one of his oldest friends was cutting him, even if Ichigo didn't know who she was, he owed her an apology and Ichigo could wait.

"Hinamori-chan," he said softly, and felt more than saw Ichigo grow focused and rein his emotion in. It was gratifying that when circumstances dictated he could be as restrained as Hitsugaya really did need him to be.

"Toshiro… How could you?" He opened his mouth to explain, to try and say something. Only nothing seemed to come out. Mischief had been replaced by a blank look on Matsumoto's face, but she was gently steering Nemu out of the room. Ichigo turned to Hitsugaya, silently asking if he wanted him to leave. Hitsugaya shook his head, Ichigo was a part of his life, for better or worse he wanted Ichigo there.

"Please, Hinamori, come in." The door closed behind the youthful looking girl as Matsumoto left. Hinamori stiffly walked over to an armchair and sat down, her posture rigid and her eyes choked with emotion.

"I—I am not quite sure where I should begin."

"How about you start with telling me when exactly you decided that I wasn't important enough for you tell me—tell me that you'd fallen in love?" There was so much hurt and anger in her voice that Hitsugaya felt her words like physical blows. He was not used to emotional pain like this, and it left his heart feeling raw and his throat feeling tight and cold. Strong arms encircled him from behind, and Ichigo glowered at Hinamori while resting his chin on Hitsugaya's shoulder. He wished that Ichigo wouldn't look at Hinamori like that, but at the same time it felt so good, so very good to have someone defend him so.

Because if it was one thing that really, truly made his relationship with Ichigo so different from his others, was that Ichigo was his equal. Oh to be sure, the boy was no genius, but he was definitely smart and very quick in his own fashion. But what's more, Ichigo was his equal in power. IN all fairness, Ichigo was far more powerful than Hitsugaya, but Hitsugaya knew kidou and other valuable skills that Ichigo completely lacked. They complimented each other in their abilities, and all of that together meant that Ichigo didn't make demands on Hitsugaya. He didn't demand protection, he didn't demand service, he didn't demand paperwork, and he didn't demand responsibility. He just wanted to make Hitsugaya feel good, both physically and mentally (although in Ichigo's the book the two were related). Even Hinamori, for all that he loved her dearly, demanded that he be strong, that he nurture and care for her and even now that she was over what Aizen had done to her, healed enough to be herself again, she still demanded protection because she was fragile. It wasn't even fair to label them "demands," because to her credit, Hinamori did not entreat him to protect her. It was his nature, his history with her and the fact that he was someone who wanted to—no—needed to protect people. He could no more ignore Hinamori's needs than he could ignore eating (the part of his mind that never seemed to be on-focus felt that "breathing" would have been better, but unfortunately breathing was something he didn't exactly think about).

Through no fault of her own, Hinamori's presence and condition made demands of Hitsugaya. Telling her was risking upsetting a delicate mental balance that had only recently been restored. He hadn't wanted to risk it, but this was much worse.

"It's not like that, Momo, it's that—I didn't want to cause you undo stress, I didn't want you to possibly feel threatened or jealous, or just unbalanced in any fashion," he said slowly. There was no point in further lying at this time, honesty, however potentially painful, was the only respectable course. Hinamori's flushed cheeks told him he had chosen correctly, even if it meant that he was right about the pain.

"You thought I was too weak to handle you falling in love?" When she put it that way, he winced.

"That's not really fair, he has good reason to be afraid for your mental state," Ichigo said bluntly. Hitsugaya closed his eyes and tried to count to 5, he didn't think he'd make it to 10 no matter how hard he tried. Hinamori turned a furious red.

"You don't know anything that you're talking about," she said venomously.

"You're wrong, I do know. I know exactly what it's like to lose your mind, to not be in control of your actions, to actually have someone else, someone evil and powerful, control your actions, and take your freedom from you. I know because I have a hollow, inside of me. He actually is me, my hollow self. And he would like nothing better than to crack open my mind and take my body for his own whims and pleasures. He is a violent sadist who is capable of possibly killing everything he comes across." Hinamori's eyes had gone wide and her anger had left her. Hitsugaya stared wide-eyed at Ichigo. He had honestly never expected the other boy to talk about his hollow self; it had taken Hitsugaya a long time to get the entire story, even if he knew the gist from living in the real world.

"When Toshiro and I first started…going out, I was in the throes of a battle with my hollow self, trying to master it. And for a while, our relationship was pretty self-destructive. Toshiro had decided that I needed to be without distraction, and without any possible worry. So he refused to talk to me anything important, and he refused to show weakness or fear in front of me." Ichigo sighed.

"It infuriated me that I didn't learn anything about him, despite telling him so many things about myself. But he kept silent. I grew so angry with him, I wanted to fight him, beat him, and my hollow side tried to take advantage. But my anger was powerful, and my focus and fighting intent were clear and honed. I had no fear in my heart at that moment, because my attention was focused on someone who I saw as fearless, and someone who was enraging me. And that anger, that focus helped me. And even though a part of me still wishes you hadn't done that, Toshiro, I don't think I could have handled it. You were right." Hitsugaya's mouth hung slightly open, and then an expression crossed his face that was so full of tenderness, Hinamori had to look away. The two stared into each other's eyes, and Ichigo's sad smile melted into the warmth of Hitsugaya's loving acceptance.

"Maybe, maybe it would have been too, disruptive, I just wish—I wish you would trust me Toshiro. I had to find out from Matsumoto telling us all that you were—gay." Oh he was definitely going to poison his vice-captain.

"I'm sorry, Hinamori, I really truly am. I meant to keep it from everyone."

"I didn't think I was an everyone to you."

"I don't mean it like that, listen, I'm not speaking very well today, I was… for lack of a better word, outed at a captaincy meeting after being threatened with treason by Yamamoto-sotaicho," he said. Hinamori's eyes went wide and her mouth formed a small O. But the hairs on the back of his neck were raised and he could feel Ichigo's reiatsu growing thick and hot around them. He hadn't told Ichigo about that yet, he'd meant to do it later, when it might not enrage the shinigami representative. Salvation once again came in the form of an unusual person.

"Ichigo, are you and short stuff done fuckin' yet? I wanna fight," came a bellow from the hallway. Hitsugaya had never really been happy in a situation where someone made fun of his height, so this was a first. Only Zaraki Kenpachi could manage something like that. Ichigo and Hinamori both looked stunned.

"Ken-chan, how do Ichy Ichy and Shiro-chan fuck?" Hitsugaya felt his eyes widen, he could not be hearing this.

"Well, I reckon that Ichy Ichy puts it in Shiro-chan's—" Zaraki drawled and Hitsugaya didn't feel himself break down the door and try to slice open the older shinigami's throat but his sword was being blocked only just enough to prevent him from doing more than scoring a light bloody line on Zaraki's neck.

"You're fast, I like it." Suddenly Ichigo was between them.

"Uh-uh, no way. Not going to happen. You can have him only after I'm done with him." Zaraki sighed wearily.

"That fucking does it, you don't get shit tonight, either of you,' Hitsugaya snapped. Both men drew back in horror.

"Shiro-chan is mean," Yachiru added as a carefully thought out observation. The group stood in the doorway, framed like a tableau vivante, except with more travesty involved. The tableau was broken by soft giggled, muffled by one hand. Hinamori was laughing at them, and suddenly Hitsugaya could relax again.

"I'm sorry, Toshiro," she said walking over, "but promise to tell me everything later, okay?"

"Of course."

"Thank you. And Kurosaki-kun, play nice, okay?" Ichigo smiled brazenly and Hitsugaya frowned at Hinamori's cheeky grin.

"Trust me, I'm very gentle with my lovely Shiro-chan," he said, every word laced with a smirk. Hitsugaya casually backhanded him in the gut, with more than a little bit of spirit energy in the move. Ichigo gasped as the wind was knocked out of him. Hinamori took off running, her giggles drifting back to them like musical bells. Yachiru shouted in delight and chased after her.

"Che, so you two are gonna rut now, ain't ye?" Hitsugaya and Ichigo blinked at Zaraki.

"That's the oddest way I've heard it referred to today," the shorter boy said in the way people do when they're thinking out loud. Zaraki shrugged.

"Well, are ye or can we fight?" Ichigo shook his head and pointed to the door.

"Yeah, if it's all right with you, I wanna fuck my boyfriend, Kenpachi." The 11th squad captain sighed with disappointment.

"Che, suit yourself. You come find me before you leave, Ichigo, or I'll come find you next time no matter what you're doing." With that he turned and left, closing the door behind him.

"Over my dead body," Hitsugaya muttered to the departed captain. Ichigo chuckled behind him, only to have to bite off a cough.

"Did you have to hit me so hard?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I did," said Hitsugaya.


"Shut up, Ichigo." And then to make sure Ichigo did shut up, he kissed him. Ichigo murmured his appreciation into Hitsugaya's mouth and things would have progressed rapidly except that Hitsugaya broke the kiss.

"We're going to my quarters, the office is not an appropriate place for this." Ichigo grinned, and before Hitsugaya could protest, he picked up him up, cradling the smaller shinigami in his arms.

"Put me down this instant," Hitsugaya said coldly, but Ichigo just kept grinning and then gave his boyfriend's bare stomach a raspberry. Hitsugaya began to thrash about, and to his dismay he laughed. It tickled entirely too much and he was helpless in Ichigo's arms under his vibrating lips.

"Stop, Ichigo, stop—please—Ichigo, stop," he gasped between incapacitating laughter. Finally Ichigo relented and smiled at the irritated armful of boy.

"I hate you," Hitsugaya said.

"I love you too, baby." That did it. Hitsugaya grabbed Ichigo by the sides of his head and forced his face up to give him full access to his neck. The place where Ichigo's neck met his collarbone was the most erogenous spot on his body, excepting those areas intended for sex. Sure enough Ichigo went weak at the knees and groaned as Hitsugaya sucked greedily, until his legs actually collapsed and he fell into a kneeling position, helplessly clutching his shirtless boyfriend.

Hitsugaya put his feet on the floor and then shoved Ichigo to the ground. Ichigo lay there, staring up at him with dilated pupils and the sort of intense look he usually saved for combat.

"Get up," Hitsugaya said and then without looking he rearranged his captain's robe and walked out of his office. Ichigo followed behind him, and Hitsugaya didn't even have to turn to look, he knew that the orange-haired boy was trailing him with a look of intense lust. Thankfully his rooms were in the same building as his office, unlike some of the other divisions where the captain's quarters were with his subordinates. Hitsugaya opened the door, and indicated Ichigo should go inside. Hitsugaya followed him inside and turned to the door, locking it and then casting a minor spell to keep it sealed.

He turned around to see that Ichigo was gone. He wondered if he was in the bathroom or the bedroom.

"Bedroom, Toshiro," came his voice from Hitsugaya's room. Hitsugaya opened the door to see Ichigo standing by the bed, already stark naked. The dim evening moonlight filtered in through the blinds of the windows, casting Ichigo in relief with intense darkness and pale light. Hitsugaya took a moment to admire the view, and to savor the fact that it was all his.

Dark sable eyes watched him carefully, so Hitsugaya began to slowly remove his clothes. Ichigo's expression became progressively hungrier as Hitsugaya took his time, gently inching his haori off, undoing his sash and then letting gravity pull his pants down so very teasingly.

"Bastard, you're going to drive me crazy."

"I was given to understand that turnabout is fair play."

"Well, all is fair in love and war." Ichigo took Hitsugaya into his arms and bent his head to capture the other boy's lips. Hitsugaya wrapped his arms around Ichigo's torso, silently bemoaning his boyfriend's greatly superior height. The extra foot of difference was annoying at times, but it didn't make much of a difference when they were lying down.

With a gesture Hitsugaya dimmed the lights, and then pulled Ichigo down onto his very large bed. Except that once they were on the bed, Ichigo got on top of Hitsugaya and placed a hand on the boy's chest. Hitsugaya looked up at him questioningly after they separated from a kiss.


"You've had a rough day, let me make it better." Hitsugaya's eyes widened as Ichigo spread his knees slightly and took a firm grip of Hitsugaya's erection.


"I had planned on visiting you later today actually, so I was already prepared when I got the butterfly. Now you just relax," he said with a lecherous grin, "and let me do the work." Hitsugaya would have opened his mouth to respond, except suddenly he was inside Ichigo and there were no words, just a raw sexual heat and pleasure that grabbed his entire body, his entire focus, and left him immobilized. He heard a voice rasping for breath and realized it was his own. Ichigo's feet were on either side of his head, and the smiling boy was resting on one hand while the other took care of himself.

"You feel good, Toshiro," he said.

"Oh god, Ichigo you are—" Hitsugaya started only to have Ichigo fucking bounce and oh dear god in heaven when the fuck did he learn to clench like that? Hitsugaya's arms and legs flexed as he tried to restrain himself from jumping up into Ichigo as the other boy started a steady rhythm. His toes curled and he clutched the bed sheet, his neck would get a crick if he kept watching Ichigo, but the sight was too incredible to ignore. Just watching his own skin vanish into Ichigo's body, to see the expression on Ichigo's face and watch his Adam's apple bob up and down in his throat as he gasped for air, all of it was nearly too much. His body, which had felt so tense and terrible, now was subject to a bliss that made him feel like water had replaced his muscles. He quivered and gasped and was at the complete mercy of the boy who was—oh, Ichigo was—oooooooh

"You like that, Toshiro," he said breathlessly as he rode the white-haired boy.

"More, just—fuck—please more—Ichigo please," Hitsugaya begged and Ichigo complied. He could feel it building now, the feeling of orgasm that swept through his brain and from the soles of his feet. Waves that built and swept forwards to center on his groin, only to pool up and seemingly pull his entire body, his entire mind into the heat and the feeling of being clenched so tightly he was being pulled into Ichigo, becoming a part of the boy above him. With a violent shudder and cry, he practically exploded inside of Ichigo. The other boy followed soon after, and Hitsugaya felt heat land on his chest and dribble onto his stomach. For a second they were both stilled, except for Ichigo who was still bouncing slightly. The sensation of continued movement on his exhausted member almost drove him to distraction, like sensory overload.

"Feel a bit better, Toshiro?" Few people could make Hitsugaya smile completely without any guarding his expression, and whenever Ichigo managed it Hitsugaya knew that the other boy felt warm in his heart. He'd told him that, once, when trying to convince Hitsugaya to smile more. Hitsugaya had responded that if Ichigo didn't have to work so hard to make him smile, then the smiles would be less significant. Of course Ichigo had said something along the lines of "even if your only expression to me was a smile, I'd still cherish each one," and then Hitsugaya had no choice but to flush like a virgin being touched for the first time, despite the line being unbearably cheesy.

I wonder if anyone else knows that Ichigo is such a romantic? Or that I'm a sucker for that crap… It had something to do with the boy's admiration for Shakespeare, if Hitsugaya was any judge. Instead of answering Ichigo, he looked the other boy in the eye and dragged a finger across his chest. Then he lifted his hand to his mouth, and sucked on his finger. It tasted bitter and salty, not something that Hitsugaya actually enjoyed, but then again that wasn't the purpose of the display. The purpose was to watch Ichigo's face as it tightened with raw lust as Hitsugaya sucked his boyfriend's seed from his finger, lavishing obvious attention on it and swirling his tongue around the tip. He spent almost a minute before he finished, carefully observing Ichigo's tense demeanor.

"I had a rather enjoyable time, yes. I didn't know you missed me so much you were planning to visit anyways. Thank you," Hitsugaya said softly.

"All days are nights to see, till I see thee; and nights bright days when dreams do show thee me," Ichigo quoted in English. "Sonnet 43."

"Mmm," Hitsugaya responded, he really did enjoy Ichigo's habit of reciting literature to him. Ichigo levered himself off of the smaller shinigami and offered his hand to Hitsugaya. The captain let Ichigo pull him up and press their naked bodies together for another kiss. It was a leisurely kiss, with their tongues gently caressing each other, without aggressively trying to wrestle the other into sexual submission. They separated slowly and almost regretfully, Hitsugaya resting his head on Ichigo's chest.

"How about a shower and then some sleep, I have school tomorrow," Ichigo said. Hitsugaya nodded, his face pressed against soft skin stretched over firm muscle. After cleaning up, which was interrupted by what was crudely (in Hitsugaya's opinion) called "round 2" by Ichigo, the two got into Hitsugaya's rather large bed. Ichigo promptly grabbed Hitsugaya and pulled him into his body, wrapping his arms around the other boy and placing a kiss on the back of his head. Hitsugaya smiled and inched back, pressing himself against Ichigo's body as firmly as he could.

"Good night, Toshiro."

"Good night, Ichigo." Hitsugaya felt another kiss on the outside of his ear. The two drifted into sleep as one, their bodies as close as they could manage, one of Ichigo's legs curled around Hitsugaya's, Hitsugaya's hand resting atop the hand that was snaked around his chest. They breathed as one person, and the ease with which they slept was a welcome change for both of them during this time of war.

End Note: Next time, lechery abounds as the various captains begin to investigate the relationship. And if Hitsugaya and Ichigo think they're bad, wait till they flee to the real world and have to deal with—duh duh duh—Ichigo's family and the Urahara Shop! Not to mention Keigo, just because I can.