Kurosaki Ichigo – age, 19. A first year undergraduate. Currently living together with Ishida Uryuu; age, 19, also attending the same university as Ichigo.

That was, at least, what people perceive on the surface.

The deeper truth was, both were not only partners in bed but also advanced participants in BDSM, bordering on hardcore sometimes. Ishida had turned the tables over once, or maybe thrice… or maybe more than that throughout the three years they had been engaged in the activity. So instead of being bound and gagged and rendered defenseless, he called the shots. But that happened only during the times when Ichigo felt he had to go easy on him (Ishida was studying under the Medical faculty and therefore, his workload was undeniably more), yet at the same time, both were itching to have their hands on each other.

Sometimes when Ishida had to stay over in his lab or the university hospital for his assignments, Ichigo would wait for phone calls (just in case) at home and every so often, wonder if Ishida would ever give himself to him. The longing always made him felt guilty – that sometimes he asked himself if all he really wanted at the moment of Ishida was sex – so he pushed the question far back into his mind and never bring it out. Only, it had the tendency to re-emerge during those few minutes when he was lying on the bed, waiting for sleep to claim him.

Ichigo really needed to do something to stop thinking about it.

The chance came when the dean of his faculty decided to organise a once in a blue moon excursion to South Korea – only 100 limited places were up for grab. Ichigo, with some inside help had managed to book a place for himself and asked if it was possible to have another friend tag along. Since said friend was not a student of the same faculty, Ichigo's request was rejected. At home over dinner, he updated Ishida with information about the trip – the two weeks long trip.

"If you must," Ishida had said. "It's not just for play, is it?"

"Of course not. It's a home stay programme and we're required by the dean to familiarize ourselves with the…"

While it was a good chance to know of the Korean culture (which could possibly be beneficial for finals, Ichigo suspected), he also wanted to use this opportunity to get some fresh air, clear his head… day in, day out, he sees Ishida, observes the way he moves, walks, eats, speaks, quarrels… anymore of him and Ichigo feared he would really force himself onto his partner.

So this fortnight of separation would do everybody some good, hopefully.

Ishida did not think so, but he forced himself to be mindful of his meal, and dinner went on in awkward silence. The time spent between just the two of them was limited what with Ishida's commitment to his studies and Ichigo's on-field assignments for the semester. Ultimately, they were not children. They had responsibilities and Ishida convinced himself that it would be stupid and ignorant of him to chain Ichigo at base just because he was not willing to have the orange headed missing for two weeks.

That night, they went to bed together. Their kisses were filled with fiery passions and everywhere, Ichigo had laid his marks on Ishida's pale body. He was going to have to wear a collared long sleeved dress shirt tomorrow to cover those evidences of a steamy night – but as Ichigo's large hand grope him at places, Ishida could care less. Their petting was unreserved and wild and it was only at three in the morning that they decided to have some sleep – after Ichigo force another shot of cum from his partner.

And since they were not going to see each other for two weeks, why not compensate those missing days while they still had time together?

-----

"Hey, how are you doing?"

Ichigo called everyday on international line. Ishida was not going to kill the mood by asking the cost, so he let Ichigo tell stories, jokes, fun facts and occasionally some tedious details about his interaction with the locals. Ishida would sit on the floor, phone receiver glued tightly to his ear as he nod absent-mindedly, muttering vague "hmm" and "I see" wherever he deem appropriate, a small smile on his lips.

The calls were not very informational but as long as he knew Ichigo had him in his thoughts, he was very happy.

At the end of the second week, Ishida as usual, waited patiently for Ichigo's call at home. Only this time, instead of hovering around the phone (with a thick book of medical dictionary or likewise in hand), he was coughing profusely on the sofa, his throbbing head cushioned by two large cotton pillows, his throat sore. Ichigo was late tonight; he should be already barraging the phone with "Ishida, how are you; oh, there's an awesome dish here called…"

Ishida admitted he felt slightly disappointed when the idea of Ichigo forgetting to call him tonight surge, but it was all right because Ichigo was going to board that plane and fly back to him the next day. Ishida soon fell asleep when the dose of codeine he took kick in – that was when a call he had been waiting all night came in, but it went into the voice mail. So for that one full minute, his soft snore serenaded Ichigo's enthusiastic voice.

It did not matter; Ichigo was coming back the next day.

-----

"Hello, Ishida?"

"Kurosaki?"

Ishida checked the number that was flashing on the ID caller – local landline.

"You're back?" he asked, his heart beating a notch faster.

"Yes – no, please don't come to the airport. I've flagged a taxi; they're loading my luggage in."

"Why didn't you tell me earlier? I could've picked you up –"

"No, it's fine. I'm heading there now; give me forty-five minutes or so."

Ishida covered the mouthpiece as he coughed. Then he continued, slightly nasally, "Heading where? Home?"

"No – oh, you didn't get the message?"

Ishida fumbled around the phone and clicked his tongue when he saw what he missed; two incoming voice mails. And he thought he was going to put extra chili sauce into Ichigo's lunch and dinner for ignoring him during the last two days he was in Korea.

"Ishida?"

He swallowed thickly and said, "I'm listening. I didn't check the voice mails –"

"It's all right, you must be busy with your work too. In fact, it's selfish of me to call you near midnight everyday for the past two weeks."

"Never mind that; what message do you mean?"

"Ishida," Ichigo said again, his voice hoarse. Ishida insides clenched – he could only hear that voice when Ichigo was busy pleasuring him in bed. Flustered, he pushed his glasses up. Ichigo spoke again, "I've already booked a room with Grimmjow. Can you go there? Now?"

"… Yes."

"I'll see you there."

Then the phone clicked – the taxi driver must have already called Ichigo to get in.

Ishida packed a bag with a bottle of water and his medication – he decided to skip over his cough syrup since it make him drowsy in two hours – and within two minutes, Ishida was also out of his home.

-----

"Oh, early, aren't you? I wasn't expecting you until four."

Ichigo nodded courteously at Grimmjow and settled the payment and formalities at the counter. The blue haired man was communicating with someone – his assistant maybe – on the walkie-talkie. Once the papers were filled, Ichigo gave a quick wave before charging down the familiar hallway, his eyes searching for Dungeon 5.

Too long had he been denied release; release in Ishida's arms. He wanted to show how much he missed him, how much he wanted to have his skin stick on his, to have their breaths mingled as they greedily claim each other's body for the day.

The heavy door was shoved open with one mighty push and there, in the middle of the large chamber, Ichigo found his prize. It had been two weeks and he had somewhat forgotten at how the slender, unblemished body look under the dim candlelight in restrains.

Ichigo had requested for a session of heavy BDSM the moment he touchdown in Japan. They had advanced after three years of "training" under Grimmjow's tutelage and now, Ichigo was given permission to handle a much wider array of items to be used on his sub. For today, he had specifically asked Grimmjow to dress Ishida in a customized leather trunk – something he had a penchant for – and hook the raven haired to the ceiling, as usual.

That was exactly how he found Ishida in Dungeon 5.

"Kurosaki," Ishida greeted, his tone slightly breathless.

Ichigo did not reply. He instead jogged forward and crushed his lips onto Ishida's, unleashing two weeks' worth of pent up frustration at not having his partner in his vicinity. Ishida reciprocated meekly, allowing Ichigo to slide his wet tongue into his oral cavity, letting it wrestle earnestly with his own. When they broke apart, Ishida chuckle softly, "Long time no see."

"Yeah, too long."

He wrapped his arms around Ishida, pulling him closer as they kissed again. The chains chinked as Ichigo let his hands travel down Ishida's back and up again, rocking the smaller frame with passion. Ishida pulled back first, his face a tint redder.

Ichigo forgot; he had one hour to boot.

The edge of his mouth curled upwards as he entered his dominant mode. Ishida, still out of breath with arms secured above his head, smiled.

"One hour to go," he said, reading his partner's mind accurately.

Ichigo took a black blindfold and a gag from the trolley and stole Ishida's eyesight with the cloth. How ironic to have Ishida blinded the moment he got to set eyes on Ichigo again. Softly, Ichigo planted a chaste kiss on his lips before nudging at it with the gag. Unlike their first time, Ishida obediently opened his mouth and allowed the buckle to be tightened.

Blind, mute and limp – the way Ichigo love his sub to be in during a high level BDSM play.

He walked around the unmoving form, stopping when he was behind Ishida. Inclining his head a bit, Ichigo said barely noticeably, "The safe word is still Quincy, right?"

Ishida nodded.

It was Ishida who set it – to Ichigo's bewilderment. Never in his entire life had he heard such a thing but somehow, it had a nice ring to it when spoken with Ishida's voice. And not to mention, something as random as Quincy would definitely spring both dom and sub to reality. Ichigo of course never mentioned its mood destructing property for fear of being forced to sleep in the hall as retaliation on Ishida's part.

Strong fingers ghosted along Ishida's naked torso, along the jaw line, the neck, shoulders and the lean sides… Ishida shuddered as it tickled. Ten finger pads then scattered like spiders around his abdomen. Ishida could not predict where Ichigo would be touching next, usually he could but these two weeks of depravation had really set Ichigo off. A thumb flicked purposely at his nipple and the chains chink – Ichigo laughed quietly. Ishida for all he know could be seething under the blindfold and gag, and disregarding that, he plucked at both the nipples simultaneously. A groan cracked and Ichigo kept his rubbing and pinching, teasing them until they stood erect on the chest.

"You're never missing from my mind throughout those two weeks, Ishida," Ichigo mumbled as he ironed the flat chest with a large palm. He dug a finger into the sternum, earning a jerk from Ishida. "I want to show you how much I miss you." He then thrust his clothed half-erect cock into Ishida's buttocks. Ichigo ignored the gasps and gyrated his hip. "I know if I go home and see you, I'll throw you onto the bed and do something real bad." Ichigo's breath was as harsh as Ishida's. He held the lean waist still and thrust his hips out, simulating what he had wanted to do with the other man, an urge he had altruistically held back throughout the years out of respect for the other's wish. "Real bad, Ishida."

Ishida gagged against the ball in his mouth. Ichigo stopped his pounding and distanced himself. "Sorry," he said. His cast his head down, his forehead resting on Ishida's shoulder. "But I must have you, maybe not in that way, so I bring you here."

Ichigo quietly ran his hand over Ishida's thighs, feeling the muscles flex under his touch. Up and up his hands went, and Ishida waited with hitching breath. But they stopped right before where Ishida expect them to touch and he cursed – forgotten that he had his tongue tied down.

"Why the hurry?" Ichigo taunted, licking at the shell of Ishida's ear.

Then Ichigo's presence seemed to disappear. Ishida kept still, straining his ears to pick up a footstep – maybe he had returned to the trolley for another item? But no sooner than the guess was made, something slick and warm was swirling around his collarbone. The top of Ichigo's head was tickling his chin and he turned his head – he was not exactly allowed to scratch anywhere itchy what with his arms up high in the air – and Ichigo took the opportunity to suck at the juncture of his shoulder. The tongue went over his heart and down to the slightly toned lower abdomen before Ichigo had to stop above the hem of the leather trunk.

"I'll be damned – I ask for this specially and now I hate it." He kissed the mound and let his front teeth scrape over it, hard enough for Ishida to feel below the layer of hide. "Do you want me to service you here?" Ichigo asked, jabbing at the half-hard penis. Ishida looked away. "Ishida… if you don't tell me, I won't know if you like me to touch you here." Ichigo cupped the balls and gave them a light squeeze. If Ishida's legs were working, he would've kicked the bastard square in the face for toying with him.

Still not satisfied with Ishida's adamancy, Ichigo slide the leather trunk down, stripping Ishida to only his skin.

"I haven't seen this side of you for two weeks," Ichigo spoke again in a deep, dangerous voice. "Just a nod, and I'll make you touch heaven. What do you say to that proposition?" And to make sure Ishida understood what he meant, Ichigo kissed the tip of the penis. The foreskin slipped in between his lips easily and Ichigo wetted them with his tongue, pulling another groan from Ishida.

"Well?"

It was indistinct, subtle, but Ichigo recognised the nod.

So he took the organ in, letting his tongue wrap over it with ease. Ichigo worked confidently, extracting strangled moan after moan from Ishida. When the latter felt his knees weakening, Ichigo held those legs firmly as he sucked and licked even harder. The first wave of orgasm hit him precisely when the hot mouth left the shaft, lowering to assault the swollen balls. Ichigo did not pull back even when Ishida ejaculated; and the second wave racked him after the first ended, albeit only for a very brief while.

Ichigo had to remove the gag to allow Ishida easier flow of air throughout his system. The latter panted hard.

"Don't you do it to yourself when I wasn't here?" Ichigo asked, wiping sweat off Ishida's brow as he said so.

Ishida knew it was an honest question, another example of "spur of the moment", but that did not mean it was not embarrassing matter to ask.

"Shut up."

Ichigo tutted, "No, no... that's not the way to speak to your dom, Ishida."

There was a clatter of something rusty rolling and Ishida's knees buckled when his arms were suddenly released. Ichigo caught him around his midriff and he winced. It went unnoticed.

"Can you walk?"

Ishida pushed himself up and stood as steadfastly as he could. Ichigo was probably minding the trolley since he heard something rattling on the stone floor as though being pushed. So with Ichigo steering the way, he traipsed blindly, stopping only when his guide did.

"Put your arms here," Ichigo instructed with a voice as light as in normal conversations with his course mates. It was another side of him that Ishida respect, that Ichigo never ordered anyone to do anything and was assertive without needing to be aggressive.

The surface which Ichigo had meant was low, about knee-high and Ishida knelt gingerly, resting both arms at the edge of what felt like a desk. He was now bent over with his chest on the cold, smooth surface of the furniture. The next thing he felt was his wrists shackled to the edge.

"Is this uncomfortable?"

With his head bowed, lying against the desk, mucous began clotting his nasal cavity. Breathing was more difficult. Ishida made a mental note not to purchase another bottle of nasal spray – it never worked no matter what the company that produced it claimed.

"Ishida?"

"I'm fine."

Satisfied, Ichigo went and took something (which sounded heavy and cumbersome) out of the trolley. A drop of something on his back took him by surprise – and it burned. Ishida suspected ice but several more drops splashed on his skin again and they were not cold in the tiniest bit.

"Do you know what this is?"

More liquid dribbled on his skin. A stray stream of the hot liquid had dribbled to his side and Ishida suppressed a cry. That had hurt more than it should, assuming he had guessed the nature of the substance right. But in his current state, he was not surprised it did.

"Wax…"

Ichigo let out a light laughter. "With your flawless diagnosing skills, Japan should be honoured to hail the arrival of future Doctor Ishida."

Ishida was finding it more difficult to supply his body with sufficient oxygen, especially when he had a cloaked nose and his back was almost burning with wax. Even in his discomfort, the tautening effect that was left on his skin below the layer of wax told – or rather, spelled – something that made his heart race harder. A kanji… a character that had never been uttered verbally throughout the entire three years they had been together. That could be because exteriorly he seemed to forbid Ichigo from saying it, and he would never find himself saying it even in his wildest dreams.

"I've always wanted to say this to you," Ichigo started. Ishida let his temple rest on the desk as coarse fingers trace the outline of the wax on his back. "Until you're ready, until you believe completely in what we are, then I'll say this to you."

But Ishida already knew what it was.

"Hmm… your back is so warm…"

Soft hair tickled his sides when Ichigo nuzzled his cheek into Ishida's back.

It was not that Ishida had no faith in their relationship. If he were to declare his feelings for Ichigo or otherwise, what then? Because it was superficial and contribute nothing at all to their lives, why bother? But when it came to necessity, what should Ishida do? He asked himself many times over, should he after all, surrender? Surrender and comply with Ichigo's wish; maybe it was an aspect Ishida had failed to take into consideration, that if they really did merge physically, it would only give birth to a more fulfilling and sated relationship?

"Kurosaki, if I can't ever give what you seek, will you look for anoth – ah!"

The wax had landed on his bare buttocks.

"Don't…"

The shaking voice did not suit Ichigo. Was he not a man of confidence and pride?

"Kurosaki?"

"Don't – I'll never, Ishida. Never."

His butt cheeks were spread apart roughly. Shocked, Ishida gripped the edge of the desk instinctively and held his breath. This was so unlike Ichigo. Where had the collected and calm him go?

A quick moan was expulsed when Ichigo's tongue darted over the offered anus. But it did not stop there; it prodded in. Ishida's knuckles were white against the wood.

"Kurosaki! What are you doing?"

Ichigo thrust his tongue in, massaging what it could reach with dexterousness. Warm saliva trickled down to his ball and Ishida clamped his thighs, a strong message for Ichigo to stop. But a hand slipped in between to fondle at the growing erection, handling it with expertise. Ichigo had already mapped out Ishida's pleasure points – fighting against pleasure was a battle any man would lose.

"Kurosaki!"

Ichigo feigned deafness and quickened the pace, both in the tongue thrusting and hand job. Ishida's breathing was labored, his chest rising and falling at a rapid rate. His vision went white a number of times but Ishida clenched harder on the table, not allowing his senses to leave him just yet. His legs were already a lost case and he supported himself with the desk.

It was difficult to savour pleasure when all Ishida had in mind was not to fall over.

"Cum for me, Ishida…"

The tongue now lapped hungrily at the underside of the ball as Ichigo's long fingers toyed with the head. With a gentle squeeze there, a guttural groan tore out of Ishida's lungs, so raw it stirred heat in Ichigo's own abandoned erection. Ishida's flexible backbone had arched to its maximum capacity as load after load of semen were shot out. Evidences of sexual satiation now lay in pools on the floor.

Ishida closed his eyes. With the blindfold, darkness, whether his eyes were opened or not did not matter.

Then he heard Ichigo's groan behind him.

"Kurosaki?"

Another set of panting accompanied Ishida's own. He tried to look back but in his restrains, it was hard to even turn his neck. Panic surged.

"Kurosaki? Are you all right?"

The unmistaken sound zip of being pulled caught Ishida's ears and he shuddered visibly when Ichigo's footsteps were approaching.

"Kurosaki?" he called out nervously. His wrists shook against the table and his knees went number, if at all possible.

Ichigo however, unbuckled the straps that were holding Ishida down and pulled him up. His knees creaked at the sudden jolt.

"I've to get rid of it," and Ichigo waved vaguely at his crotch. "Or seeing you bent over like that, I'm not sure I can resist it any longer. One more thing, Ishida." They started walking again towards the center of the room where the chains were located. Ishida trudged as quickly as he could, his hand being pulled by Ichigo. "We should be above the niceties and stop being overprotective over each other. This is a high level BDSM play." The chains were secured again around the wrists. Slowly, Ishida's arms were raised until they were over his head.

"For the next twenty minutes, I don't want you to make a single noise."

And Ichigo, for the first time, raised the chain higher until Ishida's toes barely touch the ground.

"That is – Kurosaki, what's wrong? You never –"

His words were cut short when a stinging lash scorched the back of his thighs. The sound of a whip being readied stabbed the solemn air and Ishida struggled, forgetting that he was partially airborne with the sole chain attaching him to the ceiling for support.

"Not a single noise, Ishida."

Two more lashes struck him, this time on the buttocks. Ishida, still shocked at the sudden change of personality, chose to remain quiet and access the situation. Suddenly he hated being robbed of his sight. He wished to have a look at Ichigo's visage, at the expression when he whipped another human being.

"Those are warm-ups, punishment for making noises."

Ishida could scarcely feel his legs. They hung uselessly with only faded pain to remind him they were still attached to his hip.

"Ten lashes."

Ishida had been whipped but never in this atmosphere. He hated it. He hated it when Ichigo seemed to not care each time he swing his leathery flog, as if the pain dealt onto another was meaningless. It takes a masochist to fully appreciate this kind of sordid deed but Ishida just could not comprehend it as a gesture of compassion. It hurt, and worse still he did not know if Ichigo was enjoying it as much as a sadistic dom should. He could not see.

"One."

The whip landed on his back. He felt something flaky crumble against his skin – the dried wax.

"Two."

Ishida bit the insides of his cheeks, preventing any sounds from escaping his throat. This had got to be most intense hardcore session he had been put through as a sub. The last time they had whipping, Ishida was only given seven. Ichigo had increased the count to ten, and what did the extra three mean? Or so Ishida thought until the fourth lash.

At the fifth, he could not keep his groan in. A hiss accompanied the sickening slashing sound of the whip on his back.

"Did I hear something?"

Ishida started panting. All he could hear now was his own heart pumping blood in his ears and his shallow inhales and exhales.

"Six."

A sharp cry was elicited this time. His body had jerked more forcefully and he shivered against the cold chains. Every hit felt more painful than the past ones. Did Ichigo use a different whip or did he use more force this time?

"You managed to go through all seven without a noise last time, Ishida. Your resilience is low today."

Ishida said nothing, his head drooping onto his chest. He knew his skin was not torn – no matter what, he knew Ichigo would never allow bloodletting, and with Grimmjow's strict policy of safety, all the more so to believe he was not bleeding – but with the wax reduced to flecks by the blows and the skin still sensitive after the waxing, whipping had become even more painful.

And the white spots had returned to his vision. His head buzzed. He could no longer hear Ichigo's count but the hot lashing on his shoulder blade was very vivid. Another sharp cry was let out.

"This won't do, Ishida. I guess another punishment is in order."

The chain was lowered. Ishida winced again when he felt solid ground under him and was a little bit worried when he found his legs could not stand on their own. He raised his head but even with the blindfold on, he knew his vision was swimming.

"Hmm… this is surprising. You're normally very sensitive here… I thought I'll be looking at a raging erection now…"

Ichigo was standing before him, close, since he intended to fix a cock ring around Ishida's shaft. Not trying to guess where Ichigo's shoulder was or even if he was still in front of him, Ishida let his head fall and was relieved to find it resting on his partner's chest.

"Begging isn't going to help. Punishment is punishment."

"Quincy…"

Ichigo's eyes widened. He twisted his neck so quickly he could have snapped a vein but he scrutinized Ishida's sweaty visage more closely. Cupping the jaw line tenderly, Ichigo asked, "What did you say?"

"Quincy…" the word was whispered wearily through chapped lips. When Ishida's breathing had been shallow and brisk, now it was deep and strenuous. The chains clang again when Ishida's whitish fingers released them – he had been holding on to them for dear life since his lower limbs were not functioning.

"Ishida!" Ichigo asked in alarmed, almost shouting. "What's wrong?"

Quickly he removed the blindfold. Sapphire irises were glassy below his eyelids – Ichigo held Ishida tighter and freed his wrists. Lowering him to the ground, Ichigo yelled to the door and around the corners where the microphones were installed.

"Help! Can somebody help! Please, quickly!"

He laid Ishida on his lap and promptly unbuttoned his own shirt to cover Ishida's naked form. The door was flung open so hard it bounced off the wall, but Ichigo did not care whether it was because the person now looking down at them – Grimmjow – was pissed.

"Medic!" the blue haired man shouted.

A man shorter than Ichigo swept past Grimmjow to attend to Ishida who was now laid on another piece of thicker blanket. As Ichigo watch with clenched fists, Grimmjow crept up to his side. He saw how Ichigo tremble when the medic shook his head, how Ichigo grit his teeth when the medic sighed after taking Ishida's pulse.

"What have I done?" he uttered weakly.

Grimmjow heard it but chose not to acknowledge it. Instead, he removed his jacket and shoved it hard into Ichigo's chest, knocking him back a bit.

"You'll catch a cold."

"Grimmjow-sama," the Medic suddenly said, "the rest room or the private room?"

"Private."

"I'll make preparations then."

The Medic sprung to his feet and was about to rush out before Ichigo stopped him, fisting his collar in desperation for answers. "How is Ishida?"

"Why should you care?"the Medic responded coolly, regarding Ichigo with condescending eyes.

"Please, what's wrong with him?"

It must have been his fault then. It must have been or the Medic would not have looked at him like a disgusting slug unworthy to slither on earth.

"His blood pressure is low and he's burning with fever. He's not fit to be in a in any form of BDSM play, sub or dom. How funny it is to answer to someone who'd pushed his sub so far to this state. Now if you'll excuse me."

What, in the name of God, had he done to Ishida?

-----

The private room was indeed, a lot more comfortable than the normal resting ones. They were also located in a different wing than the dungeons and reception hall, probably to avoid meeting between collapsed BDSM participants with the rest. It was not good for the center's reputation after all. Grimmjow who had personally carried Ishida to a vacant room where he now lay resting on a bed looked like he was close to ripping Ichigo's guts out (if only law did not prohibit it). Ichigo did not talk back, he took Grimmjow's reprimand silently – but half of the time the words did not penetrate. He was too deeply consumed in guilt, wallowing in self-disgust until it probably showed on his face since Grimmjow finally sighed and asked for his jacket back.

Ichigo's eyes caught sight of numerous old scars adorning Grimmjow's bare back. The latter caught Ichigo staring but merely shrugged.

"They were from a past relationship."

Ichigo, distractedly, asked, "In a BDSM setting?"

The jacket was taken from Ichigo's arms and Grimmjow plunged his right hand into the sleeve. "I was a sub to another man. He was a person of little self-control; never knew he was hurting me since I didn't tell. But that's the past, what importance does it have to the present and future?"

Ichigo saw the opposite. It was the past which dictates the present and future – if Grimmjow's past had not affected him so severely, this man would never set up another BDSM center and preach upon proper etiquette in the discipline. And if the past dictates the future, what should Ichigo expect once Ishida gained consciousness?

What if Ishida wanted out?

-----

It was very dark when he opened his eyes; darker even than the dungeon but much more comfy. He turned to the side and saw sheer curtain billowing slightly in the wind; there was a half-opened window built into the wall by the bed. Pulling it aside, the shadowy room brightens up as moon shone gently into the space.

It shone gently onto another sleeping form whose head was resting on folded arms on his mattress.

"Kurosaki?" he called, shaking the shoulders.

Ichigo groaned in his slumber and turned his head to the other way, only to suddenly jerk awake and blink in the dark.

"Ishida?" he asked uncertainly.

"Hey."

Impulsively, Ichigo got up and pulled the other into a warm embrace. As he snuggle into the crook of Ishida's neck, he exhaled generously, relieved and most of all, grateful that Ishida was sitting and talking.

"Why didn't you tell me you were ill? How long has it been?"

"Three days. What's a little fever anyway?"

"I could've hurt you seriously back there."

"You didn't."

Ichigo peeled himself slowly and held Ishida by his shoulders. His eyes bore into his partner's and mutedly, he said, "But I could."

"Well if that's the case, I assure you, when I get back on my feet, I'll hunt your sorry back down and make you pay twice as bad."

But it was no joking matter. Ishida did not understand the fear gripping his heart throughout the day. How could he make Ishida understand his guilt?

"You know, Kurosaki – do you remember the first day we step foot in Grimmjow's center? What makes you think BDSM is worth trying out?"

What did that have to do with their present?

"I think I'm getting it," Ishida said. He leaned closer, his nose barely touching Ichigo's. "Trust and respect, isn't that what we have for each other now?"

"What are you getting at?"

"If it's anything that happened back there, it's because I trust your actions and judgment. These three years are my happiest and I'm grateful for that. So thank you."

Their lips touched, soft, innocent – shy.

"And if you still want to have me, I am ready."

Then Ichigo seized Ishida firmly and kissed him properly, an expressive one that smolders of wanton infatuation and love. Suddenly the declaration did not matter – even if Ishida never agreed to it, Ichigo would not mind. As long as he could have him by his side, nothing did. Ishida's body heated up and Ichigo tactfully retreated, patting at the pillow that Ishida had slept on earlier just now.

"For the time being, you need your rest. When you feel better, we'll do it over… and over again," Ichigo pecked mischievously at the edge of Ishida's lips. "Until the night is over."

Their light chuckle graced the room.

Yes, for now, this was all that mattered.