Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or any of the characters. All rights go to Tite Kubo and Viz media.
A/N: Hello readers! With the epilogue posted I'm happy and both proud to put the complete status on my story. It was like going through a journey, a very long one. Despite not responding to your reviews it was amazing to receive them, but more amazing was to read them to see your thoughts and sharing your opinions. With those words it gave me encouragement and helped me learn as a writer. With that I present the epilogue, I hope you enjoy.
Epilogue: His Smile
As he opened his eyes he never remembered waking up a single morning and feeling warm since Hisana had passed; even the summer mornings couldn't reach his frozen heart. It was always so cold in the mornings that it killed him on the inside little by little with refuge being his repetitive busy days he took for granted. Today when the noble woke up this morning it was pleasantly warm. Usually he would have to drive the cold away with a morning bath followed by a drink of strong tea just to feel awake or alive sometimes. This was different since Ichigo Kurosaki was now sleeping next to him. The peaceful look on his face was beautiful, the morning light reflected off his tan skin, and his lips were slightly parted as he breathed evenly. Just paying attention to the little details made him feel more awake, because seeing as how this was a vulnerable side he had never seen before it made him realize how much closer they were becoming. They had now reached the point of trusting each other like this, but there was still something they were both restraining and hiding.
The most lustful thing they had ever done was slip off their shihakusho to the shoulder as they kissed each other in the dark with only light coming from the moon. Ichigo had wrapped his legs around Byakuya's waist, his arms around the shoulders or sometimes alternating to gripping with his hands. They had been in the noble's room talking until it had been turned into playful teasing then later sitting on the large bed with Ichigo on his lap. When a moan came from the orange haired teen he couldn't restrain himself as he shoved his lover into the bedding and pillows watching him gasp from the loss of air. He slid his tongue along the bottom of his lip asking for permission when he heard a groan and was roughly pulled into a searing kiss. Their tongues slipped against each other sending their sense of taste and touch into bliss as limbs tangled, Byakuya could even sense the way Ichigo's legs were sliding against the futon craving for something more. It was becoming heavier by the minute with his hand sliding down against his lover's side, Ichigo arching his back, Byakuya kissing up his neck, and then a moan escaping both of them as their hips collided. Everything stopped slowly from there as their faces reddened and the shock of realizing what had been happening had settled in.
The relationship itself was still new, but they wouldn't let the lustful moment come between them or let it become awkward. Their touch and kisses had become light again knowing they had not been ready. This was Ichigo's first time being in love, and Byakuya was still adjusting to his emotions. Although it didn't stop the occasional tight pull of lust between them whenever the mood became too heavy it was enough that they were together, because most of the instances they were alone it was emotionally intimate like this morning.
Byakuya slowly wrapped his arms around his lover to be careful not to wake him up thinking over and over again how much he loved his person. How grateful he was that they were both alive and healthy so they could live together, no matter what the day consisted of. Speaking of which, if they wanted to get to work they had to start leaving bed. He took a few seconds staring into his serene expression before resolving himself to wake up Ichigo.
"Kurosaki," he whispered gently in his ear, "Kurosaki, wake up. We're going to be late if we spend any more time here."
He responded by nuzzling into his embrace, "Mm, morning Byakuya."
"Good morning Ichigo," he brushed a few strands of orange hair away. A smile appeared on Ichigo's lips when he heard his first name being called out again. It was something that happened each time he would say it, so he kept it to only using it when they were alone. Even he had his possessive moments after all.
"Did you get a good night's sleep?" he yawned. Byakuya sat up as he slowly moved the blanket away while the young teen stretched his arms as brown eyes opened with the gentle glow of joy in them. "Too bad I didn't wake up first," Ichigo teased, "I love watching you sleep, you look peaceful."
"I could say the same for you," he caressed the tan cheek and watched it turn red, "Breath taking." From looking into his brown eyes he could tell that he had made the teen's heart race as they stared half lidded with warmth. Byakuya wondered if he could make it go faster or could even have the chance to listen to his heartbeat the way Ichigo had done many times. Although one problem was the young soul reaper had always been more straightforward and free while he was more reserved and needed to express his desires differently. Luckily Ichigo didn't have trouble reading him as he brought his arms around and pressed his chest against his head. Strong, warm, and loving were just a few words to describe the beautiful beat of his lover's heart as he sighed gratefully for whatever had influenced him to ask Ichigo to stay with him last night. This was definitely the best way he had woken up, having the one you love right beside you.
"I'm going back to my room okay?" he said as he finished nuzzling in his dark hair, "We really need to start getting ready or we'll be using flash step at this rate."
"All right," Ichigo was the first to stand up. Byakuya stood up just as he was walking out the door then stopped him as he began to open it.
"Kurosaki?" he turned his head, "Would you mind if we did this more often? Just being like this in the morning-"
"It's a lot warmer, isn't it?" he looked back a rare smile on his face, "Yeah, I'd love to." Ichigo walked out and closed the door behind him leaving the raven haired noble stunned. Hiding something such as simple desires or emotions from Kurosaki would simply be a waste of time, despite his age the young soul reaper was smarter than he had led on to be. Perhaps he should be straightforward on occasion, because whenever he requested something simple such as attention or small gesture it had never been refused before. There was something lingering in the back of his head though…
After getting himself ready for work he joined Rukia for breakfast with Ichigo coming in a few minutes later. The two lieutenants talked as they usually did with Byakuya silently listening to their happy chatter. When it became work related he would either give his opinion or advice, which he was doing until a ring stopped their normal meal. Rukia went pink and apologized for her cell phone going off, yet checked it first before turning it off to see if it was important. Her deep blue eyes lightened up and she smiled with her blush getting a bit redder as she read what was sent to her.
"Is it from Renji?" Ichigo asked as she nodded.
"Yeah, he says that he'll met me later today, he's got some time off," Rukia said. She quickly sent him back a message then shut down her phone within a matter of seconds. "Sorry about that brother," she apologized with a small bow of her head.
"Not at all," Byakuya dismissed. Honestly, he was getting soft from the way he had woken up this morning. It seemed Kurosaki had a small influence on his strict habits.
"Was that all Renji sent you?" Ichigo questioned.
"Um, yeah that was it," Rukia answered. The noble picked up on how flustered his sister was, so he paused to watch her as he lowered his rice bowl away from himself.
"Rukia," he said while lifting an eyebrow. Knowing that she couldn't hide anything from them, mostly Byakuya, she looked at her phone again.
"It's nothing really. He just told me he loved me," she picked up her food again then started eating a bit quicker. The atmosphere became awkward for a few seconds before Ichigo picked up his teacup and said something.
"That's nice," he muttered.
Rukia looked up at her friend, "Wait, so have either of you confessed to each other yet? I thought you two were dating." Correction, the atmosphere went from awkward to extremely embarrassing with Ichigo nearly choking on his tea and blushing a bright red and Byakuya froze for a moment. When he looked over at Ichigo he could see a small amount of pain from what Rukia had said. He then knew what exactly he had forgotten; despite dating for a while now Ichigo had been occasionally telling the raven haired soul reaper he loved him. It was only a few times that he had done that, but Byakuya hadn't even confessed once despite knowing how important it was. Inside he felt ashamed for forgetting and at the same time wondered how he was going to say just three words that would also admit that his heart had completely opened up to someone after so many years of isolation.
Immediately Rukia picked up on the situation with her sharp women's intuition as she continued eating breakfast without another word. Once she was finished she stacked up her dishes and left quickly with the excuse that she wanted to get as much work done as possible today to make sure she would have plenty of time with Renji while telling them she would come home late. It left the two of them alone with the tension to hang around until they had finished what was left of their meal. Finishing first Ichigo stood up while muttering he would go on ahead, but Byakuya quickly snatched his arm as he was about to get up. Brown eyes widened in surprise only to soften after the young soul reaper let out a sigh then sat back down with his gaze on the floor.
"Does it still bother you?" Byakuya inquired softly.
"It makes me a bit jealous," he admitted, "but you don't have to push yourself. I can wait."
"You've seen where that's gotten us Kurosaki," he was glad to hear the other's bright laughter that lasted for a few seconds before getting up and offering his hand.
"Yeah you've got a point, waiting isn't exactly our thing," the orange haired teen admitted. "Come on we're going to be late."
It was a silent walk to work that morning and whenever Byakuya glanced over towards Ichigo he seemed to be thinking of ways to brush off this morning's conversation. He wasn't going to allow Ichigo to fall into that bad habit as he thought of a plan to confess his feelings by the end of the day. How though?
An idea sparked in his head that was so simple that it made his pulse race. Byakuya reached out then intertwined his hand with his lover's making Ichigo's arm tense. Normally they would both unconsciously avoid any displays of affection outside the manor, yet the resolve burned through him to see this through the end no matter what anyone else thought. The look in Ichigo's eyes was bright and questioning until he made their handholding firmer, however; to both of their surprise no one had asked them questions, bother to notice twice, or never noticed at all.
"Byakuya?" their gaze connected when they finally made it inside the building. "Why are you- mph." Their lips crashed together stealing any words, or air for that matter, away from the young lieutenant as he continued kiss him before finally looking into a flushed face.
"I don't want to keep you waiting much longer," he said calmly then quietly whispered something he wanted only Ichigo to hear. When he started walking away he left the teen standing there along with a handful of shocked soul reapers without an explanation. It wasn't until he closed the door to his office that he let the full effect of his actions sink in as the emotions inside him continued to stir violently. Byakuya leaned against the door wondering if he looked as embarrassed as he felt when he decided to continue onto his work. Hopefully he would learn to pull himself together faster whenever he did something so openly away from the manor, because he wouldn't want anyone but Kurosaki seeing him in his current state. For a brief moment he wondered something as simple as handholding a brief kiss were enough to make him believe he could gather enough courage for later.
Today had to be the strangest day he had ever lived thanks to what had happened this morning. Some people were staring at him and whispering whenever he went while others slapped his back and smiled at him like they were expecting it to happen. Of course the ruder comments went ignored unless they were insults directed to Byakuya, which he returned with a dark scowl that instantly made them silent. It was a bit uncomfortable with the constant stares and some of his friends visiting during their free time. Rangiku had even suggested a party (no alcohol or cameras) to congratulate the pair on the first step of having their relationship out in the open. For a moment he was a bit flustered seeing as he still wanted to take things slowly with the noble.
"Wha? Just how far are you in this relationship with Captain Kuchiki?" Rangiku asked as she crossed her arms. "I heard he hasn't even confessed yet!"
"How do you know?" he looked away a bit embarrassed.
"Sorry," Rukia said shyly, "It slipped out of me."
Ichigo sighed, "Well, I guess I don't really care if you guys know. Yeah he hasn't said anything but-."
"We could help you out with that if you like," Shunsui suggested while Ukitake nodded supportively.
"Oh, do you already have something planned?" Rangiku said with interest.
"You don't have to do anything, I know that… well," he paused for a moment so he wouldn't look too embarrassed, "He cares a lot about me, so I don't need him to confess. It's true that I am impatient although this is something I don't want to rush into that fast. Besides I… think I could wait a hundred years for him if I have to after this morning." They all stared at him in amazement after he faintly fidgeted and just the slightest traces of pink started appearing in his cheeks though not to a full blush.
"Aw… how cute," they all thought.
"Still Ichigo, I want you and my brother to be a little happier. I haven't seen him act like this before and I was getting worried he would never stop mourning my sister, which I still have to thank you for. Besides I don't want you waiting around forever like I did with Renji," Rukia protested.
"She's right," her captain intervened before he could get a word out, "It seems that with each passing day Byakuya looks like he gets closer to smiling." They all stared at him in awe and tried to see the clues that the stoic man was slowly beginning to change while Ichigo had a warm look on his face. Although the warmth was gone in a few seconds only to be replaced with anxiety when he saw the calculating expressions on each of their faces.
"You know I don't mind waiting," Ichigo said. It made him wonder if he should have said it at all after the spark of determination in their eyes.
"All right then, let's all do our best to get Captain Kuchiki to smile for you!" Rangiku cheered with the other three.
The orange haired teen silently looked around for an escape route, "It looks like they're not paying attention. Maybe I could just slip away and-."
"By the way Ichigo, could you do us a favor and don't tell Byakuya about any of this," Kyoraku clapped his hands together.
"Uh, sure…" he said nervously. On his way back to his office the young lieutenant knew he could trust the white haired captain although he wasn't sure about what the other three of them would do to him if they had found out that his boyfriend had found out about it.
"Oh…" a light bulb came on in his head, "That's the first time I ever even thought of calling him that." He left himself wonder if Byakuya would ever call him that, yet knowing how old-fashioned he was it would probably be lover instead of boyfriend. There was something so sweet about it that a soft, brief laugh escaped him that was as fresh as a summer's breeze. It didn't go unnoticed either when he heard his name being called out from behind him.
He turned around quickly, "Byakuya?" It was a bit embarrassing to be caught laughing like that since it was rare of himself to do it.
His captain lifted an eyebrow, "Did something make you laugh just now?" Feeling that his throat was working against him he simply nodded his head then noticed how there was a faint smile starting to form until they were surprised.
"Special delivery!" a voice chirped. They both looked down to see Yachiru holding a big basket above her head with a canister of tea leaves sticking out and a note dangling from it. Noticing the card he picked it up and read the simple message from both Rukia and Ukitake. It looked like their plan was for them to just enjoy a nice picnic together. Thank goodness it was something small this time. Although from what Ukitake wrote saying as how Rangiku and Shunsui had insisted in adding something extra in the basket he didn't want to be around when it was opened.
"Thank you Kusajishi," Byakuya picked up the handle.
"No problem, bye!" she said then waved as she left.
"Well, I'll get started on the tea leaves," Ichigo picked up and looked at the label. "Hmm, it's your favorite."
"That's nice, yet who send this and why?" Byakuya gave the basket a suspicious look.
"Let's just say a few people I know are trying to put you in a better mood than usual," he tapped the wooden container on the noble's forehead. It made him blink his gray eyes then rub at spot, Ichigo thought it was cute.
"A bad mood? Did I appear that way to anyone?" the raven haired soul reaper asked.
"Maybe it was because of the way you were acting this morning," Ichigo teased. All of a sudden he was pushed against the wall in the blink of an eye with his back sinking into it as Byakuya stared at him with a guarded gaze.
"Kurosaki, I acted that way so I could destroy anything else that stood between us. At least then I could tell myself that there was nothing to fear of telling you how I felt. I'm tired of waiting," he growled the last line he had whispered this morning. Shivers rolled down his spine as he lightly scratched at the wall and the container of tea leaves he was holding. Ichigo calmed himself down first before he wrapped his arms around his lover's chest.
"You're trying your best, and here I am trying to stop you," he muttered, "I'm sorry Byakuya."
"You know, you still haven't told me the reason you laughed," the noble said in an attempt to lighten the mood.
"Oh, that…" his face started turning red, "I was just thinking about how sweet you are when you do things the traditional way. I just love that about you." When Byakuya hummed it was a single beautiful note making him tilt his head up to expose more of his neck to feel the intoxicating breath ghosting over his skin.
"Let's go to my office," he whispered as hands roamed down his sides.
"No tea?" he gasped when Byakuya started to lightly suck on his collarbone.
"Later," followed by a small nip. He was tugged along by the strong grip on his arm making it hard to slip out of the tight hold, which is if he wanted to get out of it in the first place. When they reached the office the captain pulled the door open and led Ichigo in first with the door closing behind them followed by a small click. Ichigo's shoulders tensed until Byakuya had placed his hands on each of his shoulders to spin him around and met a warm pair of lips waiting to meet his own.
All of this strange and sudden behavior from the usual calm and collected Byakuya Kuchiki frightened him, so he wondered why he continued to kiss back frantically or how his arms wrapped around the strong pair of shoulders. A pool of warmth started to swirl around in his stomach as the Kuchiki continued to try to devour him and steal his breath away. His hand reached the back of his lover's head as he tangled his fingers into the soft ribbons of black hair, gasping when his bottom lip was bitten letting the other's tongue into his mouth. When he finally moaned from the sheer pleasure of it all it seemed like the single string that had been holding the noble's control together snapped and they landed on the wooden floor. It wasn't painful until he felt something hit his head.
"Ow," he looked at the noble's arm to see the forgotten basket then noticed he was still holding the tea leaves.
"Are you hurt?" Byakuya carefully started to move his hand through the orange hair to feel for any bumps.
"Not really, but why did you- did you…" he was starting to lose his mind when the other man began to lick and suck at his throat. "Hah… Byakuya why the rush?"
"The way you laughed," Ichigo's eyes widened then they stared into each other's eyes. "It was so beautiful. To be honest I would have done all of this in the hall if Kusajishi hadn't interrupted."
"M-My laugh?" he stuttered only pausing when Byakuya lightly kissed his swollen lips this time. "Beautiful?"
"Of course," Byakuya pressed their faces together, "Hearing that and then knowing that I was the one in your thoughts. Ichigo, you bring me constant joy in my life, I love you."
Nothing in the world could make him love this man any harder when he heard those words or saw a beautiful smile on the other man's lips. It make his heart pound faster than any other moment in his life and he felt his face turning the darkest shade of red he could ever make. Then there was another question popped into his head that sounded so stupid he wondered how it ever left him in the first place.
"So why are we on the floor?"
A rich deep laughter started to fill his ears and felt stupid for not noticing the noble had lost his self-control the moment they stepped in here. It was worth when he saw the pure smile on Byakuya face knowing that he had made him happy again.
They smiled together and became lost in each other for the rest of the afternoon.
A/N: Hello everyone! I know this epilogue seems rushed and it's really short, but I ran out of ideas. I was honestly so lost that I just decided to make this short, sweet, and poetic? It depends on your point of view so… Anyway I wish you all a Happy New Years and I thank everyone for reading this story!
ShadowWolf XIII signing off!