A/N – so it seems that writing in the Bleachverse turns me into an old romantic. Seriously, usually I don't write anything this lovey-dovey, and I don't do OTPs, but ironically, when it comes to Bleach, I've got lots (see, 'cos there should only be one true pairing … Ignore me, I'm lame). This is a short one-shot about how Yumichika and Ikkaku became inseparable. It deviates from canon in some places, just 'cos I really think even these two should have gone through the academy at some point, but that's just personal opinion. Hope you like, reviews are like manna from heaven.


He picked him up at first because he was a magnet for fights, and all Madarame Ikkaku wanted was to fight.

The first time he saw him, Ikkaku was stumbling through the 80th district of Rukongai, somewhat worse for wear on saki, and planning how he was going to smash the next big guy he saw into a bloody pulp. Didn't matter who it was, all that mattered was that they were big. And tough. That's when he glanced down the alley and saw the flowered kimono fluttering in the wind.

Two huge guys had a woman against the wall, rough hands circling the pale column of her neck and reaching under her kimono. Her head was thrown back to look up at them, her long black hair catching on the wall behind her, her big, violet-grey eyes showing no fear whatsoever. In fact, the defiance in them was obvious, even from metres away, even without the vicious grin that played around her delicate lips.

Ikkaku was on them in a second, drawing his sword (he hadn't yet learned to think of it as a zanpakutou, let alone learned its name). It was a good fight, lots of rage and blood. When the two bandits lay in a defeated pile at his feet, he remembered the woman and turned to her.

"You needn't have bothered," she said airily, tossing her hair with one graceful hand, the other on the hilt of the sword at her hip. "I was about to kill them both anyway." Ikkaku, breathing hard, grinned around the blood that was seeping from his forehead, running down his cheek and into his mouth.

"You're a guy?" he asked.

"Obviously," he sniffed. "I am particularly beautiful, and the unobservant, like this trash," he kicked the nearest body to himself, the flowered kimono slipping off his smooth bare leg, "find that misleading. My name is Yumichika Ayasegawa."

He was telling the truth, he was beautiful, so beautiful that sometimes it hurt for Ikkaku to look at him. Yumichika was perfect bait to start fights, a role that he didn't mind playing, because he said it stopped him getting bored. He followed Ikkaku around, always few steps behind, loitering beside stalls selling necklaces or songbirds, or catching his reflection in a still pool and being captivated by his own beauty all over again. When Ikkaku fought, he sat quietly and watched, never joining in. Ikkaku found that the calm eyes on his back made each fight a little sweeter.

At night they shared a bed: in Rukongai you took what warmth you could find if you didn't want to die in your sleep. And so what if that warmth was the slow, sleepy heat of another man's breath on his chest, another man's narrow back under his hands? So what if he slept better like this than ever before in his life? He never had any thoughts beyond companionship and necessity.

When they'd run out of fights in Rukongai, they went to the academy. Ikkaku had heard that Zaraki Kenpachi was joining the Gotei 13 and he wanted more than anything to meet up with that guy again. On the first day they were separated, Ikkaku to the stream for Special Forces training, Yumichika to the Demon Arts stream for no reason that Ikkaku could fathom. Ikkaku had to learn to sleep alone again.

Still, Ikkaku was grateful for the intense training he was receiving, his battle abilities being stretched to their utmost, even if he had no intention of joining the Special Forces when he left. He broke free just as Yumichika graduated from the Academy with flying colours.

"You look different," Ikkaku commented.

"Don't I look more beautiful?" Yumichika responded with absolute confidence, swirling his black kimono around him as he twirled, showing off his shorter hair, the orange touches he'd added to his uniform, the feathers on his eye, ending in an obviously practiced pose.

"Always," Ikkaku replied, his only concession to the joy that swelled his heart at being reunited with his friend.

"You look the same," Yumichika said contentedly, and fell into step behind Ikkaku.

"So why aren't you dressed like the Demon Arts Brigade?" Ikkaku asked.

"I only stayed in their training programme for a year," Yumichika replied, pausing to fluff his hair as they passed a window. "It was so boring, all 'forget the self, sublimate yourself to the ritual'." He gave himself a final pat then jogged to catch up. "That's fine for ugly people." Ikkaku snorted out a laugh.

"Where'dya get assigned to?" he asked.

"5th. You?" Yumichika responded without much interest.

"7th. You going to yours?" Ikkaku asked, holding out the piece of paper with his assignment on it. Yumichika simply crumpled up his own sheet and tossed it on the ground. Ikkaku grinned and did the same.

They went straight to the 11th division and waited for the man that had that day killed its captain and taken over in his place. Zaraki greeted them with a slow smile, the only welcome they would receive from him. That night, without thinking about it, they climbed into the same bed again.

It seemed strange that despite the decades they'd known one another, Ikkaku had never seen Yumichika fight. The first time he did, Ikkaku wondered how he'd deprived himself of it for so long. Yumichika fought with savage joy forced into graceful lines, adrenaline and passion utilised and shaped to create perfection from death. It was almost, almost enough to make Ikkaku want to stop fighting so he could watch, and that was a feeling he'd never had before. He realised that sweeter than calm eyes on his back was fierce beauty in battle beside him.

That night the 11th got drunk, roaring with uncontained joy at their earlier victory. Later, in the darkness of their quarters, Ikkaku found himself pushed against the wall, fine hands fisted in his kimono, warm lips finding his for the first time. He found his arms moving of their own accord to circle the slender back he'd held in sleep so many times, his fingers running up the spine to tangle in soft hair, his mouth kissing back with a passion he'd thought was only good for fighting.

When those lips, that clever tongue, left his and started to run down his throat, he regained his wits. Before he could be robbed of them again, he looked down at Yumichika, his white skin glistening in the moonlight, and forced himself to confront the reality of what they were doing.

"Yumichika, stop," he said, the words catching in his throat.

"What?" Yumichika whispered against his heated skin, turning one violet eye to look up at him. Ikkaku's chest swelled with all the things he didn't know how to say, with the fact that Yumichika was his best friend, as close, no, closer than a brother, closer than his own heart, that if that bond were destroyed by this he'd never survive, that no matter how much he wanted this to continue, one night wasn't worth the heartbreak it might cause.

"You know how I feel …" he managed, and Yumichika straightened to meet his gaze, his chin tipped up slightly to look at him, his eyes serious.

"Always," he said, and kissed Ikkaku again, gentle and searching. He paused only momentarily to beg softy, "trust me, my love."

Ikkaku realised that he would never have, would never need, any other choice.