Wow, this is the last chapter. Thank you all so much for the wonderful feedback. This is the first story I've been able to finish and the support helped me so much. I started this story in January of 2010 and it's been a long, fun ride. Some of you have been with me from the beginning and others have joined along the way. Thank you again. (There's an author's note at the end with some thoughts about the story that I'd like to share if anyone's interested.)
Weekend Getaway- Epilogue
Three Months Later. . .
Sosuke watched the Kuchiki mansion come into view from where he sat in the back of the car. It was the day of the much anticipated wedding between Rukia and Renji. His lips twitched a little as he considered how he'd come to be invited. It had been quite unexpected. A week ago, Abarai had come to his office looking perturbed, guilty and wistful all at once. Sosuke had given him an audience between meetings just from sheer curiosity. When Gin ushered him in and offered coffee, he'd declined.
"Uh, no. I'm good. This shouldn't take too long."
Gin merely continued grinning as he retreated back to the outer office. He seemed intrigued and amused that the younger man was at a loss of how to treat him. Gin's doubly employed nature wasn't openly discussed but everyone knew and pretended they didn't. Renji wasn't sure if he was supposed to act like they knew each other or not.
"So," Sosuke said when Abarai didn't immediately offer a reason for the visit. "What brings you to my office?"
Renji took a deep breath before blowing it out in mild exasperation and stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans. He wasn't dressed for work, so it didn't appear to be an official visitation. "Well," he said after a moment. "I never got a chance to. . .I mean. I never really thanked you. For finding him."
"Believe me, I did not do it for your sake." Sosuke kept his tone cool. He didn't specifically blame Renji, but he was still apart of the machine that had nearly cost Ichigo his life.
"Yeah, I know. I fucked up and the idiot forgave me like nothing happened."
Yes, Ichigo would do that. "Your friendship is important to him but I'm pretty sure that's not exactly why you're here."
"No. My wedding is next week."
"Yes, I've seen the media coverage." Sosuke leaned back in his chair and considered the potential conclusions of the conversation as he let the other man lead the way. There was a small smile playing at the edge of the Renji's mouth.
"My captain is a little less than pleased about that. I think it's kind of stupid myself. I mean, it's not like she's royalty or anything."
"Ah, but the masses like to insinuate themselves into the lives of the affluent and live vicariously through them." Sosuke had his own share media hounds in the past that trailed him but most knew better. He could imagine how Kuchiki-san responded to such invasions. It would be proper and polite with enough veiled disdain to ward off all but the most insistent photographers.
"Yeah, I guess." Renji shrugged and seemed to shake off most of his discomfort. He took another steadying breath but his gaze held no more uncertainty. "I would be honored if you would consent to attend my wedding."
Well that was certainly unexpected and Sosuke wondered whose idea it was. "I don't believe your future brother-in-law or his acquaintances would appreciate my presence." Byakuya wasn't openly hostile but in terms of tradition and propriety, Sosuke was on the other man's social black list.
"I respect and idolize him but it's not his wedding." It wasn't heat necessarily that threaded it's way through Renji's voice but there was a certain amount of defiance there. Perhaps his faith in Seireitei had been shaken recently. Or it could be something else entirely.
"No, it's Rukia's," Sosuke said. She was in awe of her brother herself but she was also learning how to play the game. "What did she threaten to do if you didn't at least come ask me?"
Now Renji smiled, the expression a mixture of fondness and discomfort as he shook his head. "It doesn't matter. But I would like for you to be there. Ichigo is my best man. He has lots of friends that are attending but. . ." Renji met his eyes again with a straight look. "His friendship is important to me too and your being there will make him happy."
"I see." He'd always known that Abarai had potential and it was shining right now. "Before I give you my answer, I'd like one in return." When Renji nodded warily, Sosuke continued. "Why did you turn down my offer all those years ago?" Once upon a time, he'd offered a younger, street smart and much more ambitious Abarai a job. Grimmjow's job to be precise. But after some thinking, he'd turned him down.
Renji thought about it for a few minutes before he said anything. Sosuke could see calculation shifting behind his eyes as he considered his words. He was probably thinking about what kind of answer to give. Tell him what he wanted to hear, make something up or be honest? The last seemed to be the winner.
"It was a great opportunity, the offer that you made. But with all due respect, I wanted to be better." He said it simply. There was no challenge or regret, merely a fresh honesty that was almost surprising. Renji had grown quite a bit in more ways than one since his younger days. His answer also explained his mild hostility toward Grimmjow whenever they saw each other. He probably didn't like being reminded of what he could have become or the lines he might have crossed.
"Fair enough. I would be delighted to attend."
Renji pulled a small envelope from his back pocket and came forward to hand it to him. It was a fine, cream colored paper with delicate gold lettering stating the time and the place. "You're already on the guest list," he said.
So he wouldn't be turned away at the door, how considerate. Sosuke bit back a mild twinge of bitterness. This wasn't the time for that. Instead, he came over and shook Renji's hand before walking him out himself.
And here he was a week later driving up to the palatial Kuchiki estate. Sosuke had chosen a finely cut dark suit with no tie and a flash of royal purple in the form of a handkerchief in the breast pocket. He could have come in traditional dress armed with his father's sword. But that would just antagonize the hosts and everyone involved. No, today wasn't for him. He'd come for Ichigo. He'd have to be satisfied with the mild irritation his sheer presence would cause. The thought brought a small smile to his lips as they pulled up out front. Grimmjow turned around in the driver's seat to look at him.
"You sure you don't want me to stick around?"
"And have everyone's chauffeurs complaining about losing all their money? No thank you, I'll be fine."
"Che. It's not my fault they all suck at cards. But whatever. Just call and I'll be here."
Sosuke nodded and got out. Indeed, he would be fine. His healing was progressing well and only his shoulder continued to bother him when he tried to do something too strenuous. Ichigo had been at his side taking care of him the whole time. The thought brought a much warmer smile to his face as he went inside. The ceremony would be held out in the garden among the cherry blossoms but there were groups of people still mingling in the parlor.
He could see many wearing traditional shihakusho, members of Seireitei that had been invited for form's sake. But Sosuke knew many of them were friends of the couple. Scattered among them were the brilliant white haori of full seated captains and arm badges that denoted their lieutenants. Jushiro came forward out of the crowd to greet him with a warm smile.
"I'm glad you decided to come."
"How could I refuse an invitation to the social event of the year?"
Jushiro's smile turned into a knowing smirk. "Yes, I'm sure you're terribly worried about your standing in society." After a soft chuckle, his expression sobered. "How are you feeling?" He'd come to visit Sosuke often in the owner's suit at the hotel where he'd spent his recovery. The penthouse in his building held no appeal anymore.
"Very well, thank you." He couldn't help shifting his healing shoulder slightly. "A little sore on cold days but I'm no worse for wear."
"I'm glad to hear it." Jushiro's gaze shifted over Sosuke's shoulder and he turned to see what he was looking at.
Part of the wedding party was heading through the room toward the back garden, Ichigo among them. His orange hair would have stood out anyway but he seemed to shine among his companions. Sosuke couldn't look away. The redhead wore a uniform similar to everyone else's but it was cut differently. The falling folds of his black hakama were identical but his long coat was definitely unique. It fit his slim torso, accentuating his long, lithe body with fitted sleeves long enough to cup the heels of his hands. It continued to flow down over his hips and parted to reveal flashes of the crimson lining whenever he moved. The dagged hem of the coat should have looked tattered and unfinished but it fit somehow and made him look like a battle weary angel come to earth.
As he paused and turned to answer a question someone asked him, Sosuke could see the sleek, black blade at his waist. That was a new addition. Ichigo had told him about the oversized Zanpakuto he'd been given as a gag gift and he joked that he was going wear it to the wedding on his back just to spite them all. But this one seemed to suit him much better and the sword shifted the image to one of an avenging angel. Right now, said angel was wiggling his sock clad toes in his sandals nervously. He'd confessed his mild apprehension to Sosuke the night before but there was anticipation and just a little giddiness too. It was a happy occasion after all and the atmosphere was joyous, if a bit subdued due to the nature of the hosting family.
Soon Ichigo was moving on and the guests started heading toward the seating in the garden. The ceremony turned out to be a strange mix of tradition and modern with finery to match. Rukia wore a brilliant white kimono in frothy layers and Sosuke smiled when he saw the equally white blade at her side. The look suited her. Renji's shihakusho was overlaid with a fur battle mantle and his hair was pulled up in a fringe or ruby spikes. Ichigo stood at his side while Inoue stood with Rukia as maid of honor in a kimono of pale yellows and pinks. Ishida's design style could be seen in everything the wedding party wore. He would do well in his chosen profession.
After the ceremony, everyone adjourned to the section of the grounds set apart for the reception. As Sosuke came near, Ichigo came to greet him with a look of pleased surprise and a strong hug. "I didn't know you'd be here." When he pulled back, his look turned just little suspicious. "You didn't crash, did you?"
"Darling, would I do that?" Sosuke asked with a smile as he leaned in to kiss him. He was aware of people watching but paid them no heed. He truly didn't care and he was glad that Ichigo didn't seem to either. The redhead stayed close to him and held the embrace.
"You might. If you thought you'd get the chance to yank their chains and it was somebody that didn't matter to me." The smile returned with a smirking edge. "But not today."
"No, not today." Sosuke took Ichigo's hands and held him briefly at arm's length. "I like this. It suits you."
The redhead shrugged. "Ishida designed it. I feel kind of silly but I guess I like it too."
"And while your other sword would have been an amusing choice, this one is quite elegant."
"Yeah," Ichigo said as he touched the short length of chain hanging from the hilt. "It was a gift. Yoruichi, one of Urahara's friends, had it made for me."
And a valuable gift it was. Shihouin craftsmanship was world class and highly sought out by collectors. As Ichigo was examining himself, Rukia came over with Renji in tow. Sosuke gave the couple a small bow while still holding one of Ichigo's hands. "Congratulations to the both of you."
"Thank you," Rukia said with a strange gleam in her eye. "You're fully recovered, right?"
The question seemed a bit out of place but Sosuke answered anyway. "Yes, I'm on the mend. Thank you for inquiring."
"Then after dinner when the time comes, you two had better dance, got it?" It was a challenge and a demand all in one. Renji seemed mildly appalled but Ichigo was trying to smother a smile. Sosuke slipped an arm around the redhead's waist and pulled him close. He could feel Ichigo's shaking control as he tried to hold in his laughter.
"Of course," Sosuke said easily. "Anything for the lovely bride. It is your day."
"Damned right," she said with a smile before the two of them headed off to meet with more well wishers.
"You know," Ichigo said from where he leaned into Sosuke's side. "Sometimes she scares me a little."
Fine food and champagne flowed freely. Despite the Kuchiki family's penchant for discretion and their subdued manner, the crowd was cheerful and celebratory. Sosuke obligingly twirled Ichigo around the dance floor which wasn't a exactly a hardship. They ate they laughed and they danced. All in all, the day was a complete success.
After the newlyweds had headed off to their honeymoon, Sosuke and Ichigo went back to the hotel suit. On the landing just inside the door, Ichigo pressed himself close and wrapped his arms around Sosuke's waist as he leaned up to kiss him. The redhead was beautiful, sultry and just a little bit drunk.
"Wanna fool around?" he asked with a soft giggle.
"I think I may be able to fit it into my schedule," Sosuke replied as he moved back in for another taste. The kiss was deep and sweet and arousing in all the best ways. Ichigo's tongue played with his own for a while before they had to come up for air. They'd been very careful during his recovery but Sosuke was ready for something more. As long as he didn't try to bench press the redhead, his shoulder should hold up well enough.
They started to undress each other as they moved toward the bedroom but there was no real finesse or seduction, just the gentle slip of fabric being pulled away. Sosuek took a moment to set Ichigo's sword safely on the coffee table in the living room as they passed. This was the same place where they'd been together the night before their first real date. There had been no terror or frustration or unknown factors at the time. Just companionship. But their relationship had grown into something that was so much more since then.
When they were finally undressed and in the bedroom, it was Ichigo who pushed Sosuke gently down to sit on the edge mattress so he could straddle his lap. Tipsy or not, he was still being cautious. He continued to kiss him lavishly before working his way along Sosuke's jaw line and down his neck. He pressed a gentle kiss to the pink skin of the wound before resting his cheek on his shoulder. Sosuke could feel his warm breath on his neck as he slid his hands up and down Ichigo's back.
They sat together for a few moments enjoying the closeness. Their arousal hadn't lessened at all. In fact, their lengths brushed occasionally, sending little zings of pleasure up their bodies. When Ichigo shifted and bit him gently before licking the spot, Sosuke took that as an encouraging sign to continue. He was mildly worried that the redhead would pull back like he'd done in the past while he was recovering. But the small moan as the tips of their erections touched again seemed to indicate he was eager to continue as well.
Sosuke pulled out a bottle and prepared him with slow, sensual movements that made Ichigo writhe almost delicately in his lap. The teasing pushed at them both until the younger man seated himself slowly with a low purr of pleasure. It was easy for Ichigo to undo him with a single sound, a solitary touch. The redhead surrendered completely and melted into him as he started to move. It was a slow, leisurely pace as they started to kiss again with the growing passion pushing at them. Sosuke rolled him over onto his back to push deeper as Ichigo's legs wrapped around his waist. Climax was sudden and sweet and their kiss as they came nearly stole their breath away.
The two of them ended up laying on the rumpled blankets holding each other quietly with Ichigo pressed up against his side and their legs tangled together companionably. Both sighed in contentment. If he was honest with himself, Sosuke would have to say that he was happy. Happier than he could ever remember being. The thought itself was a surprise and it followed him down into sleep, making his dreams warm and inviting.
. . . . . . .
When Ichigo woke the next morning, he was greeted with the scent of breakfast which was laid out in the small sitting area of the bedroom. Sosuke was sitting at the table sipping coffee, up before him as usual.
"Morning," Ichigo mumbled sleepily as he tried to wake himself up all the way.
"Good morning," Sosuke said with a smile.
Ichigo pulled himself out of bed and padded into the bathroom. He wouldn't be fit for human company until he'd had a quick shower. It wasn't quite a hangover that made it hard for him to concentrate but he was feeling the aftereffects of indulging yesterday. But it was worth it and he smiled as he started the water running. When he was clean and felt more awake, he came out wrapped in a plush robe and went over to greet Sosuke with a kiss. He eyed the paper the other man was reading and saw it was open to the business section.
"I thought you were going to take a few days off."
"I am," he said easily but there was a mildly distracted tone to his voice. "Just keeping an eye on things in the meantime."
"Okay." Not wanting to read to much into that, Ichigo let it go for now. It didn't really matter anyway. He had ways of keeping the other man distracted. "So what do you want to do today?" He let his gaze flick to the bed with a not so subtle glance as he grinned. "We could stay in."
Sosuke couldn't help but smile back as he poured him a cup of coffee. "Definitely tempting. But after breakfast I'd like to show you something. After that, we can do whatever you'd like."
"What is it?" Ichigo's curiosity was piqued as he started forking fluffy eggs and sausage onto his plate.
"Let's just keep it a surprise for now." It was an evasive reply which wasn't really unusual for Sosuke but he rarely used it with him.
"Okay." Ichigo focused on the food and tried to not worry about it too hard. It wasn't anything bad, he was pretty sure of that. But Sosuke seemed distracted somehow and he wasn't sure why.
After breakfast, they went for a drive with Sosuke behind the wheel. Usually Grimmjow drove them everywhere so this seemed like a special occasion. Ichigo didn't ask where they were going since he figured Sosuke wouldn't tell him anyway. But the silence wasn't really uncomfortable, he enjoyed his company even if they weren't talking about anything. After driving across the city, they pulled up in front of a huge lot that was under construction. The bones of a large structure sat back a ways from the road. Ichigo couldn't help but ask once the engine was turned off and they got out of the car.
"What's this going to be?"
Sosuke didn't answer right away. He merely took his hand and led him toward the main building. As they crossed the large front lawn that was compacted and mussed from construction equipment, Sosuke sighed. "I've never really cared much where I lived. As long as it was secure, that's all that mattered. And you know I'm not overly fond of owning things for possession's sake."
There was an odd tone to his voice that Ichigo couldn't quite identify. "That's why you live in the penthouse in the same building as your office, right?"
"Yes, partly. It was convenient and suited my needs at the time. It no longer appeals to me for several reasons."
Ichigo figured that at least one reason was that it had nearly been blown up but that wasn't all. In terms of possessions, the house out in the country was filled with stuff. "What about the mansion?"
"That's mostly for the people who work for me. Sometimes they need a place that's not in the city to relax and get away from things for a while. And occasionally I use it for entertaining when business requires it. But it's too far away to be useful in an everyday business sense." The lot where they stood now was still in the city but detached in a way that made it easy to imagine that it was far away from everything. It was a trait Ichigo had seen in Sosuke's other properties on several occasions.
"So what about this?" Ichigo prompted as they headed over to what looked like a contractor's field desk that was covered in blueprints.
"This is something else. A way to start over, I guess." Sosuke rarely sounded unsure of himself but now was one of those rare times. He gestured to the plans. "It will still have suits for some of my people. And Grimmjow and Ulquiorra will live here full time in their own part of the house."
House was a misleading term. The place was going to be a palace. Despite his professed lack of need for possessions, Sosuke did enjoy things on a grand scale. Ichigo could see areas to entertain, a pool and gym complex, smaller living areas, a large library, guest suites and gardens out back that looked like they would be extensive. But there was one section inside the building that was conspicuously blank save for the general outline.
"What's this?" Ichigo asked.
"Whatever you want it to be." Sosuke took Ichigo's hands and held them. His gaze was sincere and almost painfully open. It was quite possibly the most vulnerable Ichigo had seen him. "I'd like you to live here. With me." He sounded so nervous which was endearing and a little worrisome at the same time. Ichigo had spent a lot of time with Sosuke in the last few months as he recovered but he hadn't spent every single night at his place. All he kept there was some of his clothes and his official address was still listed as the apartment that he loosely shared with Keigo and Mizuiro. It was a simple question with a complicated answer. Up to this point, Sosuke hadn't asked him to move in yet but Ichigo knew the answer almost immediately.
"I'd like that." He saw the relief in Sosuke's gaze and reached up to cup his face in his hands as he kissed him. When they pulled apart, he had to ask. "Were you afraid I'd say no?"
"Not exactly. I just know that you have strong attachments to other places. Those can be hard to give up even though you're not really giving up the people that go with them. I'd just like to offer you a home here. I've changed my mind about it already several times and had sections redesigned. So we can redo anything inside."
The nervous ramble was more than enough to convince Ichigo he'd made the right decision. Up until this point, he'd had several homes. He still had a room at his father house, Urahara's, Jushiro's and his apartment. But he'd never been attached to any of them aside from his childhood home with his dad. Not really anyway. A thought struck him then and he laughed a little.
"My home is where you are." Ichigo kissed him again and was relieved when he was drawn into a tight embrace. He was so happy right now. Whatever dark shadows had chased them before didn't seem so important now. All of that was in the past and they had a whole future to look forward to. It might get bad again but they'd deal with it when the time came. Right now, he was focused on what he had right here. And what he had was pretty damn good.
. . . . . . .
Author's End Note:
When I first started this story, it was going to be short, maybe a few chapters. Initially, there was no grand conspiracy. Aizen saw Ichigo in a bar and wanted him even though he turned down his invitation. He had a much more sinister persona when I was first came up with the idea. Gin was supposed to have him delivered to the island for a weekend seduction that was going to be a mix of dubious consent and Ichigo's eventual surrender. Then I had the idea: "What if Aizen wasn't the one who planned his abduction?" I ran with it from there and it obviously turned out much different.
I can't take complete credit for the structure of Ichigo and Sosuke's relationship. I based the dynamic of their interactions on a hetero couple in a series of books written by J.D. Robb, aka Nora Roberts. The "-In Death" detective/romance novels are some of my absolute favorites and I idolize her work.
Ichigo's recovery was also going to be much longer and more heart wrenching. I had plans to describe his hallucinations with much more detail and there was going to be more emotional reactions from his friends and family. Unohana was going to make an appearance to help with his healing. But ultimately, I think that would have made things too dark and gotten away from the kind of feeling I was going for.
When I write, the TV is always on for background noise and sometimes it effects the tone of what I'm writing. I was watching a lot of Burn Notice while I wrote this in the beginning. That's where a lot of the explosions and spy-like ideas came from. Then there was some Psyche which probably accounts for some of the lighter moments. I was watching Torchwood while writing Ichigo's recovery which just added to the misery. (Love the show, but it's incredibly intense at times.)
I got ideas from reviews too. Every helpful comment was considered and they helped me move through some tough spots. I honestly don't know if I would have been able to drive myself to finish this without all the support. So thank you again. I've got lots more ideas to come. Aside from the partially finished stories I've already got posted, there are at least seven more full length ideas floating around in my head. I wasn't allowing myself to start anything new until I finished at least one thing. Now I can start to play a little more. Keep an eye out for updates and new things from me in the future.