Disclaimer:Bleach and its characters belong to Kubo Tite. I am just a small writer borrowing his characters for entertainment purposes.
He does not know what woke him up, but he slowly opens his eyes. It is not like there is a bad feeling to it. It just feels different.
He sighs and turns on his back. His room is still the same, the shadows of the night playing through his scarce furniture. He had moved in a small apartment since he got in college and began to be a man of his own. Seriously, there is nothing wrong. He concentrates in case there was a hollow but those have left Karakura town a long time ago after Aizen's defeat.
Ichigo blinks. His sleep is slowly fading and that makes him angry. Damn it, he had been really tired at the end of the day after courses at the university, going to work and meeting with Chad for a session jam with his band. Sometimes Ichigo misses the adrenaline rush before going to hunt a hollow. He misses the prickling sensation of what was about to come. Shinji tells him that there is nothing wrong with peace or having a normal life and also tells him there is nothing wrong with letting the designated shinigami deal with the scarce hollows that sometimes penetrate the city, only to be killed. Yes, Ichigo knows that, thank you very much. For crying out loud, the man has given up so much blood for the town that he probably could have made a center donation all on his own.
He just misses his friends. Orihime is really busy with her studies in gastronomy and with her love affair with Uryuu, who shocked all of them by deciding that he wanted to study fashion after all. Chad takes classes of Spanish literature during day and jams with his band during night. Tatsuki works at a karate center and she studies sports medicine too. He is pretty busy himself: studying medicine, working at a bookshop and helping his dad in the clinic. He is so busy in fact that his scarce visits in Soul Society are looked upon as a fucking national celebration day, if he was to quote Ikkaku. Ichigo ignores perfectly the pang in his heart because the Soul Society equals someone else in his mind and he does not want that.
He groans in frustration. Goddamn it! He is supposed to have ridden of this impossible feeling, the feeling that has driven him away, that makes Renji scowl and curse every time he comes here, that makes Rukia watch him with a soulful look in her eyes. Yeah, but it is not his fault, is it? It is that stupid fucker's with his stupid grey eyes and his stupid scarf and his stupid silky hair and his stupid elegant hands. Ichigo puffs. Yeah, he hates the sixth division captain. Seriously he does. Really….
"Where the fuck are you going?" Kon yells as soon as Ichigo gets up from the bed and becomes a shinigami. So, yeah, blame Ichigo for being an insane person in the kind of I'm-a-boy-with-plush-toys who kept Kon with him.
"I have some business in Soul Society since I can't sleep anyways. I feel like checking up on Rukia while I'm there. Wanna come?"
"Nee-san!" Kon yells and he just jumps on the shinigami's shoulder and yeah, Ichigo takes that as a yes. By the strength of the grip, he thinks it might be a hell yes, but he does not care. He flash-steps to Urahara, who doesn't comment anything, smiles slyly and just lets them pass in the other world.
This passage never gets old. It always reminds him of the first time when he did this, when he was only thinking of saving Rukia, the one that gave him so much power to protect his family. He was only thinking of avenging her, rescuing her, and probably in the wide expanse of the events that would follow defeating her brother.
What is interesting enough is that lately the gate opens only on the training grounds of the sixth division. If he did not know better, Ichigo would say that Urahara knows something and likes to torment Ichigo in some of his impossible ways. But then again, even for Urahara, annoying the captain of the sixth division would be something amusing. And nobody annoys Kuchiki Byakuya better than him.
It takes Renji exactly ten point two seconds to appear next to Ichigo.
"You lazy fucker! Learn to fucking keep your reaitsu to yourself!" His best friend welcomes him, yelling in front of the new replacements for the sixth division. Ichigo scowls his famous Kurosaki scowl that makes all the people in Soul Society want to grab something and run. The replacements surely do look like it, except for Renji, who seems determined to yell even more at him. "And you have ruined my practice with the new recruits."
"Oh, fuck off, Renji! Haven't they already realized you're a useless bastard?"
"What did you just say to me?" Renji scowls deeper while the recruits feel fascinated by the whole show. They knew their lieutenant to be somewhat brash and generally impulsive, so unlike their captain, but still they kind of love Kurosaki for allowing this view of their flushed lieutenant. The plush toy sits on the orange kid's shoulder, gripping tight the hilt of his sword and just nodding approvingly every time Ichigo speaks.
"You heard me, ass!"
"In your fucking dreams!"
"I should have known that you are here, Kurosaki Ichigo." The steely voice makes them both flinch but for different reasons. While one thinks only of his feelings, the other thinks only of the punishments. "You're the only one who manages to make my lieutenant so noisy in the morning."
"Yo, Byakuya, long time no see." Ichigo scowls some more to Renji and then finally dares to look at Byakuya and fuck, yeah, the man is as sexy as ever. His uniform has not even one small proof of ever being worn by a human being. It is perfectly arranged on his body, as if the material hugs the owner in all the right places. The scarf is enwrapped around his long neck and the kenseikan is as always present in his long soft hair.
Ichigo swallows the lump stuck in his throat. For how long has he harbored this kind of feelings for Byakuya? For how long has he attempted at least to befriend the cold man? For a while, it all seemed possible. After he defeated Aizen, it looked like this was it, that he would finally conquer the hearts of all Soul Society. Yeah, right.
But never mind that. As usual, Byakuya is a damn monument of composure, propriety and of course the fucking proud owner of an ice cube instead of a heart. That is Ichigo's secret conviction anyways.
"I thought I taught you a long time ago what the proper manner to address me is, Kurosaki Ichigo."
"And you honestly thought that a serious discussion like that might have actually any effect on me."
"Why is it that you are here?" Of course, he had to ask this. Byakuya never sees that Ichigo comes for him. However, as if these hurtful words are not enough, he also adds. "As I remember, I have told you uncountable times that your place is not here."
Why Ichigo hurts at these words is still a mystery for the young man, even though he has heard them repeatedly. Nonetheless, they hurt so badly. He is almost masochistic in waiting for them, and the captain never disappoints. Byakuya always delivers them with sharp perfection. Suddenly Ichigo feels truly exhausted. Maybe he should have gone home and stayed there instead of being in front of this bastard who constantly reminds him that what he wants or needs is impossible.
"I seriously don't know why you keep asking useless questions, Byakuya." And there's a tinge of tiredness and hurt in Ichigo's tone that both shinigamis look at him with different eyes. There is a sudden moment of silence between them and all the recruits around them keep their breaths to themselves. Ichigo feels tight and tensed. He has been trying so much. Even with Urahara's pranks, he has tried to be around Byakuya, to make the older man realize that maybe he could feel something for Ichigo. He would take anything, even just friendship.
The moment lengthens itself and Ichigo does not seem to realize that until Renji clears up his throat and says slowly, "The Women's Association." They both understand each other just from their looks. Ichigo smiles wearily at his friend, because Renji knows that what Ichigo needs is Rukia, as she is the only one that can make sense of the crap that goes through his head.
Before anything else happens, Ichigo flash-steps away from the bastard that has stolen his heart. Why the fuck does he even care anymore? He is an asshole. It has been two years since the Winter War has ended, and two years, one month and eleven days since Ichigo has realized that he would give up his life just to feel that man's lips once. Just fucking once, is that too much to ask?
But yeah, it is a totally impossible dream and what scares him the most is the fact that he is so damn used to it. He is used to be rejected by the people he loves, to lose them or to simply vanish from his life. Yeah, he is actually used to that. It comes as no shock to him and that hurts him the most. People tend not to need him after a while. Case in point: Rukia. She has grown so much, becoming the lieutenant of the 13th and helping her captain make the division what it used to be. Ikkaku and Yumichika still follow Zaraki in his wild escapades; Hisagi has become the captain of the ninth and he is more stressed than ever. They all move on, why the fuck can't he do the same?
He halts all of the sudden, making Kon screech in frustration, his tiny hands barely holding the hilt. Why is he here? Byakuya won't ever respond to his feelings. The Kuchiki pride wouldn't let him, even if he actually felt something for him, which of course he doesn't. Ichigo does not mind Kon's screams and he does not care about the fact that the stupid plushie yells at him. He just has to remember the cold stare, the harsh words, the impeccable way in which he is let down over and over again. Ichigo knows, he fucking knows, that he will put all this behind him, even if it kills him.
He does not need Byakuya fucking Kuchiki, the insensitive captain, who does not care about anything. He will fucking move along. Yeah, that is it. If he has no place in Soul Society, which he saved, then so be it.
Kurosaki Ichigo with a scowl of gigantic proportions leaves back to Karakura town, not even sparing a glance back, ignoring the painful fact that he did not even see Rukia. 'Urahara and his stupid gate that opens up only in the sixth division's grounds.' He will have his revenge on the shopkeeper soon.
For now, he is determined to forget some certain grey eyes.