*cracks knuckles* ahh, finally finished that damn chapter XD that took longer than expected... *looks at date*

HOLY HOLLOW MASKS!

*looks around in fear* So sorry! University and stuff got busy, and so did I :O

Chapter XV

Had it really been just a couple of days? It seemed like so much longer.

Ishida glared at his ceiling. There had been no sign of the hollow since the night he gave his body and soul to it, with no resistance. After hours of starting at every noise and seeing that maniacal grin in every shadow, his body had finally demanded sleep, and now the insistent bleeping of his alarm clock demanded he woke.

With a groan he rolled out of his bed, realizing that tonight was Keigo's party, and there was no way he could avoid going – Orihime already said that she would come and find him if he tried to run away, and something told him that she would find him – even with his broken reitsu.

And so it was that Ishida found himself surrounded by people he didn't know, a glass of vodka and lemonade in hand, trying to avoid everyone at once. He cast his cool gaze across the room, looking at so many people just getting drunk and making fools of themselves. Without meaning to, Ishida tended to look down on others, but in the midst of such drunken stupidity (one guy thought it would be funny to give a girlfriend a piggy back, but he could barely walk himself, and ended up almost breaking his teeth on the coffee table) he somehow found a feeling of superiority came somewhat naturally.

He was broken from his musings by Ichigo standing next to him.

If Ishida had felt that he was losing sleep, it was nothing compared to the lack of sleep the shadows under Ichigo's eyes told.

Ishida blinked as Ichigo attempted to yell something over the blasting music, saw Ishida's blank face, shook his head and pointed at the back door. Ishida nodded, then the two boys started to fight their way out of the crush of strangers – they caught sight of Kiego failing to get anyone to talk to him, despite it being his house and his party, which was predictable. At least no-one was picking on him. For a change.

Ichigo finally got to the back door and pulled it open, both boys sighing as the cool air hit their faces. The house was like a furnace, but those next to the doors refused to let them stay open for long.

They sat on the edge of the raised patio, what remained of their drinks in hand. Ishida waited patiently for Ichigo to speak, painfully aware of the others awkward stance and the fact he hadn't met his eyes in several days.

After a few false starts, Ichigo finally tried to make everything seem natural and normal.

"So, Keigo's going to be killed for this. By his parents, the police or that lot," He laughed weakly, jerking his thumb over his shoulder at the raving crowd indoors. 'Okay, keep cool, Ishida doesn't know that you haven't been able to sleep for more than 20 minutes before dreaming about him. Keep thing's natural…'

Ishida joined in with an equally weak and awkward laugh. "Then why are we still here? Orihime's already been taken home by Tatsuki, after that guy tried to take her home himself. In fact, she'll probably end up killing him for that…" The boys' laughter seemed more natural this time. 'Shouldn't I be more cautious here? Or am I getting used to the fact that he's my friend/rival during the day and my tormenter by night? Is that possible..?'

"I think Chad's still around, but I don't know where. Beside, we have to stay, if nothing else than to record Keigo's dying words." Ichigo's pulse was slowing down, as he took a large swig of his bottle of beer. 'Wow, the alcohol is actually helping to calm me down… why should I be worried? This is just a teenage phase thingy, worrying about it is just going to make it worse, Ishida doesn't have feelings for me, so I'll just wait for it to pass…'

"Um, last I saw he was helping someone out of a coffee table…" Ishida laughed quietly. 'Well, this is a lot easier than I thought it would be… maybe it's the drink? Or maybe it's because I've got a reason for going through with it? It's not about me, or how I feel, it's for Inoue-san's sake, so I don't have a choice. Wait, is that me giving up? No… Giving up would be to let the hollow have it's way with Inoue-san, which I will never let happen.' Sighing to himself, Ishida took another swig, feeling the oddly comforting slight burning as the alcohol slid down his throat.

"What?" Just then the back door opened as someone came flying out, threw up in a flower bed and staggered back inside, finishing his beer to get rid of the vomit taste. "Man, this party is a mess – Keigo is actually going to be killed for this, I just hope no-one calls the police. I'm not sure if my dad will be angry and start yelling about me 'succumbing to the flames and passions of an unruly youth, or disappointed and start crying at that stupid poster of mum." Thoroughly relaxed now, Ichigo finished his drink.

Ishida laughed weakly. 'I wonder what your dad would say if he found out what else was going on…' With a shudder he realized what he'd just thought. 'What the hell was that about? Good one Ishida, start thinking about everyone finding out just after you make peace with what's going on… real clever.' and finished his drink with a low growl.

Ichigo waited for Ishida to say something, the seconds seeming to stretch for miles. 'Shit, what did I say? Actually, have I ever talked to Ishida about his parents…? What do I know about them? Wait, doesn't he live alone… Crap! What if I've brought up some sort touchy subject, how didn't I realise this before? He keeps banging on about him being 'the last of the Quincy' and it's a family thing… Damnit… How can I be so stupid?'

'Why has he suddenly gone quiet? Wait, am I supposed to say something to that? It's not like I can swap casual family anecdotes... Unless you count my father not even looking at me when I left and ignoring me ever since a casual family anecdote... Which isn't sane.'

Ichigo coughed dryly, feeling the tension deepen "Anyway, I'll get some more drinks, shall I?" Nodding his assent, Ishida passed him his glass. Ichigo rose to leave, the paused and looked down at the Quincy. "What were you drinking?" A pause as Ishida looked up, his hair fluttering slightly in the night breeze.

"Vodka and..." a pause as hair suck to his lip, he frowned and delicately whipped it away with a slim finger tip, "Sorry, um, vodka and lemonade" he said, looking up at him and absentmindedly running his tongue along the slight itch the strands had caused on his lips.

Ichigo froze 'Goddamn it! He must know how hot he looks when he does that, right?' "R...Right..." He stammered, trying to keep his voice level as he turned back to the house. 'Damn him, even his drinks are girly! Is he doing this on purpose!' He hung his head with a sigh and plunged into the writhing mass of people.

This left Ishida alone, sitting on the slowly warming patio slabs. 'Well this is going as well as I could have hoped. He knows something's up, but hopefully he just think it's me being out of my comfort zone in this goddamn party...'

After a few minutes Ichigo fought his way out of the backroom, passed Ishida his drink and sat down heavily with a sigh. "I'm tempted to leave Keigo this time – I told him that this would be a disaster."

Ishida raised an eyebrow questioningly, whilst sipping his drink.

"Someone threw up in his parents wardrobe, Chad was throwing them out – I offered to help and he said he had it covered" Ichigo shrugged.

"Fair enough."

Slowly time flittered past, as the two boys chatted, each not saying much, but both of their minds whirling with thoughts on what the other was thinking and how they were going to deal with their problems.

"Anyway, it's getting late - and I've had enough." Ishida said with a sigh, passing his drink to Ichigo whilst he was getting up. As soon as he stepped away from Ichigo, however, the world lurched under him, and if it wasn't for the low fencing around the patio, he would have fallen to the ground.

"Shit! Ishida, are you okay? You have too much or something?" Ichigo asked, jumping up, and dropping Ishida's drink in the process. Both boys looked down to see the powdery remains of two small white pills, slowly fizzing in the spilled lemonade.

"What the...? Damnit Ichigo! How could you give me a spiked drink?" Ishida said, clinging onto the fence as the world swayed below him.

"Me? What? But nothing went near it! Everyone was watching Chad! I shouted if he need a hand, then poured the drink and left! I watched it the whole time! I would have noticed something! No one even banged into me or anything!" Ichigo yelled, flustered, grabbing Ishida's shoulders to steady him.

"Urgh... I'm not arguing, it's not like you did it... I just need to get home..." Ishida said softly – moving had been a bad idea, now his head was throbbing, and the world just wouldn't stop spinning. He didn't even flinch when Ichigo put his arm round his shoulders and started to lead him home, if anything the contact seemed to lessen the pain in his head.

"I'm gonna kill Keigo if he isn't already dead by Monday..." Ichigo growled. They walked around the outside of the house, Ichigo planning on swinging back after helping Ishida home and telling Chad what happened.

So their journey home started. Every few steps, Ishida would let out a mewl of discomfort, and stagger slightly, usually into Ichigo's chest. Every time he did, he wouldn't notice the slight intake of breath from the young Shinigami.

Ichigo's mind was racing, he was angry at whoever hurt Ishida, and concerned for the Quincy's well being, but right now he had his warm thin body pressed up against his side, and was somehow very aware at the fact Ishida was completely relying on him. He'd never even thought of the archer as someone who could rely on others, he half expected him to get thrown off and Ishida attempt to drag himself home, on his knees if he had to.

This continued along the few short streets to Ishida's flat, the Quincy pushing into the Shinigami, and the Shinigami blushing, but only when he was sure that the Quincy wouldn't see. Ichigo did know one thing, however, and that was that he couldn't let Ishida stay at home alone tonight, he had no idea what he'd taken and – wait a minute...

"Ishida, we're out of our depth here, why don't we go to the hospital?" Ichigo asked, suddenly.

Ishida baulked and lost his footing, yelping as Ichigo grabbed him, a few inches from the pavement. "No!" He growled, "Ryuuken...My father runs the hospital, I am not going to let him see me like this. Would you go to your dad's clinic if it was you? And on that note, I'm not going to the clinic – Ryuuken will find out somehow – he probably scans all the patient files in Karakura in the hope of finding another reason to be disappointed in me." Ishida panted – he didn't have enough breath for such a long speech, and Ichigo had to hold his shoulders as he shook and gasped for air.

"Oh... I see" 'Wow,' Ichigo thought, feeling stupid. 'He does have a dad, and he runs the hospital, I suppose I should have known... But what was that about being disappointed? That and the fact they don't live together means that whatever happened was big, but I'm sure as hell not going to ask him about it now...' Before he could muse on this further however, Ishida looked up.

"Well, here we are then, home sweet home ... Um... thanks Kurosaki." Ishida stammered on the thanks, it wasn't a word he wasn't used to saying. With that he pushed Ichigo off him and went to walk towards his flat, staggered and was caught yet again by Ichigo.

Ignoring Ishida's weak protests, Ichigo took his keys off him and helped him inside, finding the bedroom after trying the few doors and laying Ishida down on the bed.

A pause, then Ichigo said "Do you want me to stay? We have no idea how this is going to affect you... I mean..."

"No, I'll be okay, I've been through worse" Ishida smiled. "...T...Thank you though..." He added quietly.

"...Okay, if you say so..." and with that Ichigo got a large drink of water and a bucket from the kitchen and left, fighting his guilt and worries about leaving him alone, but knowing there was only so much Ishida can do in one night, it was a miracle he let him help him home. It was these thoughts that made Ichigo forget to go back to the party, and took him straight to bed.

His eyes closed as soon as his head hit the pillow and Ichigo was dead to the world.

And while the cat's away, the mouse shall play. It was hard to take over his King's waking body, but for the Hollow the struggle was worth it – it took just a few seconds to slip the pills into Ishida's drink, so quick that Ichigo didn't even notice. There was a burning, growing excitement building in the Hollow's stomach. If Urahara's pills did the job, his Quincy Whore will be throwing himself at him, the pills causing him to push himself towards the nearest, strongest reitsu. And The Hollow was planning on using this to turn His Quincy Whore to putty to his hands.

Thanks for reading guys ^^ I promise the next chap will be out before years have past!

Critique preferred!

Arigato!