OMG, you guys! I'm SHOCKED! Like seriously fucking SHOCKED! I NEVER would have imagined my little story getting 71 reviews! 71! And Holy frickin' cannoli! I just looked on a whim and this story has gotten 15,000 hits! Not 1,500, but 15,000! *faints from overwhelmingness of it all*
Okay, still seriously overwhelmed, but I think I can carry on in a somewhat intelligible manner! Lol :D
I really want to give everyone who has granted this story this much attention my PROFOUND gratitude! I have done my absolute best to respond to my reviewers, if I have missed anyone, I'm very sorry! I appreciate your feedback so much, and want more than anything to tell you how much it means to me. And thank you to all who have added me and my story to their favorites and alerts! Seriously, I'm gonna start crying at how awesome you all are! Tears of happiness, I assure! ;D
I really wanted to get this chapter out to you guys sooner, but then Tropical Storm Debbie put a damper on things. Literally. Leaky roof. Seriously leaky. And an unfortunately leaky spot right over the toilet... Ironic huh? Dripping water makes you have to take a leak, only to get leaked on... Whilst leaking... I couldn't make this up if I tried! So, new roof, that gets put off due to subsequent thunderstorminess, and now...things are finally underway! New roof! No more leaking while leaking! New chapter! Yay!
And now I have to pee...Lol...
Also, wanted to let you guys know, my chapters were getting a little big for me to handle. The last one was like 8,000 words! And I do NOT type fast. Not to mention, I'm a little OCD. So I'm going to make it a priority to keep it to around 4,000 words , give or take. A good length, and much more manageable for me :)
Without further ado, on with the chapter! And the conclusion of the condoms caper!
This chapter, aside from condom comic relief, is a bit more serious in tone, as things are beginning to unravel with the fullbringers. Don't worry though, Ichigo and Rukia have had some nice sexy times so far ;) and will definitely be getting more sexy times in future chapters! But I think it's only fair to Asasininja4827, that he get a lemon free chapter! (Seriously bro, you are a trooper for sticking around and reviewing consistently, even when you aren't a big fan of lemons. I can't thank you enough! Major props and virtual hugs to you!)
Disclaimer: Still don't own Bleach.
Random side note: Chris Evans naked. Google. You're welcome. That is all.
Random side note 2: OMG! ComicCon News! SOOOO exciting!
Ichigo watched in what seemed like stop-motion horror as Keigo, having instantly quieted once the box hit the floor, grasped the container with a perplexed look. As helplessly frozen as he was into inaction, he could only watch as it took merely a few seconds for the realization to register across his peer's face in the form of wide eyes and raised brows.
He expected, with a mounting sense of dread, the boisterous exclamation that he was sure would explode from the guy's mouth. But it never came. Whatever words that would have issued from his friend, sputtered disjointedly in an unintelligible tangle that quietly fizzled into a series of meaningless sounds.
Apparently the shock of the situation was contagious. Even Mizuiro, who stood behind his prostrated companion, watched the brief scene unfold with an expression of unconcealed and slightly impressed astonishment on his face.
He nearly jumped at the unfamiliar voice that cut the unyielding awkwardness.
Turning, he caught sight of the young, scrawny clerk behind the counter, and realized that it was his turn to pay.
The small uncertain utterance from the store employee, was enough to not only break his own tense stillness, it was also enough to break his two classmates of their stupors as well. But before either one of them...well, mostly before Keigo had the chance to act on the newfound collective lucidity, Ichigo beat him to the punch. Literally.
Actually, it was more like a well placed stomp on the shaggy brunette's wrist that elicited a sharp yelp, and ultimately caused him to release the box.
Tossing the jug of milk on the counter with a firm thud, he leaned down, snatched up the box, tossing it on the counter as well, and pulled Keigo up roughly by the collar of his shirt.
"One. Fucking. Word. Too anyone. And I will kill you and personally make sure Ikkaku is the one who hauls your ass to Soul Society."
Ichigo conveyed his threat with such conviction, that Keigo visibly paled, and Mizuiro stood mouth agape. He was pretty sure that he'd never been so blatantly threatening to anyone other than an enemy. His two friends before him looked genuinely astounded.
Good. They needed to take him seriously. Not that he would ever do any such thing to any of his friends...no matter how tempting it might be... but they didn't need to know that.
Turning back to the counter, he slapped enough money on its surface to cover his purchase, along with the box, and fixed the cashier with a formidable glare. He just wanted to pay for his shit and get the fuck out of the store. His hope of carrying on about his task with discretion was effectively shot in the ass, and he just wanted to get to the safe solitude of his own home, and his own room.
The cashier was thankfully hasty about his task, and with a shaky hand, handed Ichigo the change and a bag containing his purchases. To which he took in equal haste and turned to make a beeline for the exit, passing by Mizuiro and the newly uprighted Keigo.
He nearly made it to the corner of the street, when he heard his name being called again.
"H-hey wait up, Ichigo!"
He really didn't want to, so he kept on walking purposefully. Maybe they would think he hadn't heard them. But the staccato of rapid steps grew louder in his ears as they, no doubt, ran to catch up with him.
"Dude! Since when did you start buying rubbers?"
Of course the loudmouth had to exclaim such an unmistakable inquiry just as a young mother was pushing her kid-filled stroller along in the opposite direction. And even if he tried, Ichigo couldn't miss the scandalized and disgusted expression that was cast his way, before the woman picked up her pace in a hurry to put distance between him and her offspring.
Now all the stay-at-home-wives had something to gossip about at the playground while their kids ran around play-fighting on the jungle gym. The orange-haired deviant who just started buying condoms. Because seriously, how many orange-haired young men were there in Karakura.
"And holy shit dude! You've been gettin' some and didn't say anything?"
Apparently, the guy just didn't know when to quit. Ichigo swore he could distinctly feel the vein in his forehead almost burst from frustration and aggravation. And a newfound urge quelled within him to strangle Asano Keigo and silence his classmate's perpetually and excessively fat mouth once and for all.
Spinning around with furious purpose, he grasped his supposed friend by the collar of his shirt once more and announced - not even needing to raise his voice - each syllable sliding between his gritted teeth, directly and clearly, "Shut. The. Fuck. Up."
However, despite his efforts to get him to drop the subject and actually shut the fuck up, it was taken more as 'quiet the fuck down', as Keigo lowered his voice to a hoarse whisper.
"C'mon man, who is it?"
"None of your damn business!"
"Aha! So you don't deny it!"
At that point, Ichigo could only angrily scoff in exasperation, and it was Mizuiro who spoke up instead.
"Why would he buy condoms, but then deny using them? And I believe it is most likely Kuchiki-san."
He shot a glare at the other young man.
"For real?" Keigo started with a surprised raise of his brow.
Though, that same brow furrowed a moment later in contemplation, a feat not commonly practiced by the loudmouth on a regular basis.
"Don't get me wrong, I really like Rukia-chan. She's great and beautiful and all... but she's also kinda...dead." Keigo finished with a half confused, half weirded-out expression on his face.
"And you're about to be dead if you don't drop it."
"Fine, man." the loudmouth placated, raising his hands in a gesture of 'no offense'.
Though, offense was taken. And Ichigo couldn't help the new onslaught of questions that began popping up in his mind.
If he wasn't still so pissed at Urahara, he would have made a quick detour and headed over to the Shoten just as soon as he parted ways with Keigo and Mizuiro. Damn those two for putting stupid ass doubts in his mind. Now he needed to talk to someone, to ask questions. He needed to know what kind of repercussions there were if he and Rukia took things to the next level. Unfortunately, there was a major shortage on potential advisors, considering the nature of his concerns.
He could have asked Yoruichi, but the last time she helped him with anything she teased him relentlessly over his embarrassment at seeing her naked. To go to her with something like this would just be adding fuel to the proverbial fire.
Besides, the weight from the plastic bag in his hands reminded him that he really needed to get home before the milk spoiled. And being reprimanded by Yuzu was enough to make him feel like the worst failure ever.
So he continued home, stopping only briefly to stuff the box of condoms securely in the dark safety of his school bag. There shouldn't be anyone home yet - Karin had soccer, Yuzu went to the mall, and his father should still be seeing patients. But if someone was there, he didn't want to have to explain the second item in the bag.
It also surreptitiously crossed his mind, that this whole endeavor to be responsible and private at the same time, was a lot of work.
When he finally arrived home and entered the door as quietly as possible, he was relieved to find that it was quiet and still.
After the afternoon he just had, it was definitely a weight off his shoulders to not run into anymore hassle. So, he took in a deep breath, as method of dispelling any further tension that had locked his body into its 'fight-or-flight' mechanism, and just enjoyed the sense of complete and unassuming solitude.
That was until he caught the unmistakable smell of cigarette smoke.
There was only one person he knew that smoked. Well, smoked cigarettes that is. He knew several people that liked smoking pipes, but that was an altogether different smell. A much sweeter smell, than the distinguishable and chemical aroma left in the wake of a lit cigarette.
Walking further into his home, he peered around the corner that was just on the other side of the kitchen, and found that one person seated dejectedly with his back towards him. A half empty pack of smokes sat on the table next to said individual, as well as a half full ashtray.
His old man didn't smoke often, abstaining from the activity for the most part thanks to the urging from his mother. Even after she...was gone, his father kept that promise. Well, he did his best. There were a few times Ichigo could remember when he would give in, and those times...it was only something the old man would resort to when he was feeling particularly hopeless.
It was in that moment, when he was remembering the rare times that his father would be so despondent - so unlike his usual crazy ass self - that Ichigo realized that the elder man's current mood was probably most definitely linked to what he'd overheard between the two former captains the day before.
He still didn't know what it was that could make his father so miserably sullen. But whatever it was, he knew that it had something to do with him. Something that he was hiding.
The old man must have sensed him standing there, because he looked over his shoulder, startled shame evident on his face, before he turned back to stare at whatever he'd been staring at before.
"How long have you been standing there?"
Ichigo couldn't help but frown at the question. That was the sort of question you asked when someone feels like they've been caught.
"Just got home."
There was a barely perceptible release of tension from the old man's shoulders that gave Ichigo the impression that he felt relieved. He also noticed his father's line of sight shift up to the poster of his mother on the wall. Knowing the man's habit of talking to the poster - in good mood, but also at times like this - it finally clicked in his head that he was probably talking to his mother. His relief being that Ichigo didn't hear.
With a heavy sigh, Ichigo pushed away from the wall and made his way to the kitchen to put the milk in the fridge. When he turned back, a glint of something shiny caught his eye, and upon quick but closer scrutiny, he discerned that it was a ring. And since the old man still wore his wedding band, he had a good guess who's ring it was.
"You better open some windows. Air this place out."
He didn't need to press further, his implication that Yuzu would be upset over the smell of cigarette smoke abundantly apparent in his suggestion. The old man simply nodded, stamping out the lit cig in the shallow bowl of the ashtray, before getting up and actually doing what Ichigo suggested.
Not knowing what else to say...and partly knowing that his father didn't seem to be in a particularly forthcoming mood, Ichigo turned and headed up to his room. His father's uncharacteristically subdued behavior, another thing weighing on his mind.
He leaned against his door after shutting it behind him.
Damn. He knew deep down that all kinds of crazy came along with the powers that he craved so badly. And it kind of pissed him off. He didn't mind the occasional hollow, or sending a lost soul off to Soul Society. He could pay his dues, if it meant that he would be able to see the one person who understood him more completely than anyone ever could.
But things were really starting to feel like they were spiraling into another version of the fucking-bat-shit-crazy that had lost him the powers he relied on in the first place.
The worst part was, that he had a feeling that it all revolved around him somehow. Or at least his powers.
He didn't see it at first. He usually doesn't see things until they are practically in his face. But when the crazy starts to creep up closer and closer to his life and loved ones, it's hard not to notice.
Like how some stranger pops into his life one day, claiming that he can help him reclaim his lost powers.
Yeah, he now acknowledged that he was admittedly won over by Ginjou and his ragtag crew. It was kind of hard not to be, especially when it was with their help that he was able to start seeing the world that he'd been completely blind to for almost two years.
But that didn't mean that he forgot about the way Ginjou went about getting his attention in the first place.
He didn't forget the picture of his father. Or the fact that the man knew way too much about his family than a stranger should know. But Ichigo was always one to give the benefit of the doubt. Thankfully, Rukia had come back into his life and helped him see that there is no benefit in putting aside doubts.
And lately, doubts revolving around the group of fullbringers were multiplying with tenacity.
Ginjou already knew about his family. He really didn't want him find out the truth about Rukia. Last time he trained with him, the man was a bit too curious about her for Ichigo's liking.
He was also a bit too eager about Ichigo getting his powers back. He had gotten several texts from the guy earlier that day, going on about meeting up for more training. But he didn't answer them, partly because he just trained with him a week ago- and 'training' with Urahara since then had mentally worn him out- and partly because he needed time to actually pass his last year of high school.
And anyways, aside from his sister's call, the only call or text he wanted to answer was Rukia's.
He was starting to get really worried. A simple debriefing shouldn't have taken this long. He'd been through plenty, so he knew it shouldn't, and his were always complicated.
Raking a hand through his hair, he was starting to feel overwhelmed at how the number of things that were worrying him, increased exponentially in the time since he left the store and the time he got home. It was making him antsy and angry. Not to mention he felt a helluva headache forming behind his temples.
Shuffling over to his bed, he tossed his bag on top of his desk and slumped on the bed. He was ready to fall back onto his pillow and just...not think for once. Or at least try to, but the sound of something falling off his desk and landing with a muffled, paper-y crunch next to his bed roused his attention.
He looked over to see that his bag teetered on the edge of the desk and that it was slightly opened from where he stuffed the box of condoms inside. He also noticed that the box was not currently in the bag, and with a brief rise of panic, looked down to find that it had landed in his room and not anywhere for others to find.
It was already all kinds of hell that Keigo discovered him actually purchasing the box. He was pretty sure he would cease to exist if his family discovered the damn box lying, accidentally abandoned, somewhere between the front door and his room.
The box in question had, in fact, landed near his bed. In the space between the bed and his desk. On top of a different bag that he had no recollection of leaving there. Picking up the box, he absentmindedly deposited it on the desk again, his curiosity about the mysterious bag overriding any other concerns.
When he got a better look at the bag, he vaguely remembered Yoruichi handing it to Rukia before they left the night before. He definitely remembered Rukia carrying it with her on the way home. Though it was probably quickly forgotten by his bed when they...
The memory made his face go hot. Which was kind of ridiculous, seeing as how he was sitting alone in his room. But still.
Opening the bag, he was understandably surprised to see a colorful assortment of feminine undergarments. He picked one up, a particularly lacy one, and swallowed the lump that was forming in his throat.
So much for trying to relax.
"You need to calm down, Rukia."
She scoffed with vehemence, though quickly regretted her actions. Ukitake-taicho was always kind and respectful of her. He didn't deserve the anger and frustration with which she lashed out. But she couldn't help the vexation that clouded her mind.
The root of it all stemmed from the moment she arrived in Soul Society and was hastily whisked away to a captain's meeting. It was enough to set her on edge from the very beginning.
She had been prepared to give a situational briefing to her captain and then return in time to attend the that day's classes. She never anticipated being brought in to give her brief account, to all the captains and lieutenants no less, only to have them divulge that they knew more than she did. Far more.
"I know you are upset," he started.
She was beyond upset. And she wasn't one to let her emotions run away with her. She was a Kuchiki. Even adopted, she had persisted through many decades of suppressing all that would lead her emotions to cloud her actions.
At first it had been a mechanism of ascribing to the Kuchiki way, a way of upholding the dignity that she had been so suddenly cast into. But it soon became a way of keeping her own sanity, of not lashing out - the way she very much wanted to - at the very same clan that barely tolerated her.
There were only a handful of times in which she let her emotions get the best of her. But even those times, her emotional output had been restrained by her own volition. And she tried to remember that now. She couldn't loose her head, it would only make things worse.
But after what she had learned - and after being prevented from doing anything, especially being prevented from warning Ichigo - her anxiety was winning her internal war.
"Your worry is only going to hinder you," her taicho continued, his expression understanding, and she felt even more guilty for finding it to be annoyingly so.
Her patience, however, was quickly being overwhelmed by her mounting frustration. But just as she was about to harshly respond again to her captain in a manner, not only unbefitting, but that would also cause her shame, the older shinigami surprised her.
"And you need your head clear, if you are going back to Karakura."
She was poised with a retort hanging on the edge of her tongue, but it fell short, confused speechlessness winning out.
When she did finally regain her ability to articulate words, they came out in an incredulous exclamation.
"B-but, I've been pulled from active duty in the Living World!"
She searched her captain's face for any sign of a joke, as if his expression alone would belay any such mischief. He simply smiled, only kindness and compassion in his gaze.
"Only because you are not a seated officer."
Her frustration returned full-force in the wake of her surprise, as she remembered the order from Captain Yamamoto himself. Despite the fact that Rukia had more experience in Karakura than many and most seated officers - her station, or lack of, is what ultimately determined the situation.
She had tried to argue her position. Tried to assert her qualifications, not only in the far greater knowledge she possessed of the area and of Ichigo himself, but also in her capabilities as a shinigami. She was stronger than most seated officers and would be a lieutenant herself, but was held back. And everyone knew why that was so, and the responsible party.
"They could at least send Renji..." she protested, even though Ukitake-taicho gave her no reason to, "or Madarame and Ayasegawa..."
She met her taicho's gaze, but looked away when he seemed to study her thoughtfully.
"I believe the head captain merely wished to avoid sending any representative of Soul Society that could be a distraction to Ichigo. The young man does have a penchant for putting himself at risk for the sake of others."
It was true. And the closer Ichigo was to someone, the more he would risk. She had witnessed that nerve-wracking quality of his the first time she ever met him, when he risked himself before that hollow for the sake of his sisters, with absolutely nothing to defend himself.
"But, unlike the head captain, I feel that Ichigo is strongest when his loved ones are closest," he continued, "which is why I am going to send you back."
Surprise and confusion fought for supremacy in her mind due to what Ukitake-taicho just said. She wasn't sure what was more surprising - that he was sending her back, or his implication that he considered her one of Ichigo's loved ones.
The thought of Ichigo loving her was just too overwhelming at a time like this. Particularly for someone like her, who had never truly felt love, so she had no idea how to recognize it, much less reconcile it with her own feelings. And particularly now, when all she wanted to do was get back to Karakura to warn him about the danger he was in.
"But I'm not a seated officer," she reasserted weakly.
He smiled then, a knowing smile.
And before she could even get into the possibilities of her being apprehended or the fire her captain would come under for violating a direct order from the top - even the assured mayhem that would trickle down and reach Ichigo when he desperately didn't need any more - a familiar voice sounded behind her.
"You will be."
Just when she thought she couldn't possibly be more shocked from everything she'd learned since her abrupt arrival back to Soul Society, she was proven wrong.
Ichigo woke up with a start, breathing heavy, and in a cold sweat. The events of the dream-turned-nightmare very fresh in his mind.
It hadn't been easy, trying to relax - much less catch some sleep - after discovering the bag of lingerie. It was even harder, after imagining Rukia in such a decidedly sexy state of undress. Especially imagining her in nothing but that lace bra. The fucking see-through one.
His traitorous mind had persuaded his body into the fully erect conclusion that any form of relaxation, would only come after he found release. Fast, hard, messy release.
All the tension that had built over the day, left his body as he came. And he had fallen asleep - pants and boxers pulled down low on his hips - not even bothering to cover himself or clean up.
Usually, after finding the peak to such gratifying stimulation, he was incredibly relaxed and would find especially restful and dreamless sleep soon thereafter.
Not that he would jerk off all the time. He had always felt a bit guilty giving in. It had been for his own peace of mind, not wanting to be some mindless weirdo controlled by his own dick. But ever since he and Rukia had become more intimate, he found himself needing to more often. And the one good thing to come of his self-indulgence, no matter how dirty he felt after, was that he always slept better.
But not now.
He had dreamed this time.
It had started out as a good dream. Operative phrase - started out.
Rukia had been there. So had his family. His friends too - both here and Soul Society. And it played out in a series of pleasant vignettes.
Some amusing, like on the rooftop at Karakura High with Keigo invariably getting a fist to the face. Or family vacations to the beach, and his old man squealing like a little girl as Karin slipped some kind of live, squirmy sea creature down the neck of his shirt.
And those with Rukia...her soft sighs and low moans as he made love to her.
But there was a very apparent shift in the tone of his dreams.
The bright, warmth and comfort of those scenes darkened as everyone that he cared about was hunted down.
Not by the hollows that would normally haunt his nightmares, but by a faceless swordsman. Cutting them down one by one. Slashing indelible marks upon each and every one more deeply than a mortal wound. Scarring their very souls.
If it wasn't terrible enough to watch helplessly as all his loved ones were struck down, his own subconscious conjured up even more horrors, as those scars widened into gaping holes. Eyes blackening. And screeching howls, made all the more eerie by the recognizable voices that laced through each one that pierced through his ears, mind, and heart.
The last thing he saw before waking up, scared shitless, was the all too recognizable glow of yellow irises surrounded by inky black on his own maniacally twisted face.
Whew! I told you guys it was gonna get serious!
And I hope I did justice to the condom comedy! Ichigo is a pretty serious guy for the most part, so I think his panic would be internal while on the outside he reacts with tempered violence lol!
Also, on a side note:
I really did NOT like what was insinuated about Ukitake with the whole fullbring arc. Mainly because it just seemed like it was thrown in there for the hell of it, and also because there was never really any closure to it either. I don't even know how Kubo, in an effort to bring closure to that plot gopher, would work that into the current arc.
Please let me know what you guys think! If the condom caper was a win or fail, my working Rukia's promotion into the story the way I did (because I really just wanted to have a Byakuya is being an awesome big bro moment), and the nightmare! Or was it just a nightmare? I love hearing from you guys! You keep me on the right track, and make this story better and better! I told you guys, that my writing revolves around you!
Big hugs and loves to all!
Stay awesome until next time!