This is set in the Renji x Ichigo universe after "Don't Run". Renji's happy that they finally don't have to hide their relationship anymore. Rukia and that nosy Urahara Kisuke—and Uryuu (if you remember "Stressful Situation")—know, but everyone else doesn't.
This is a fun, bubbly piece...so no tissues needed, unless you want to wipe tears of laughter. ;)
"So, how're we gonna do this again?" Ichigo asked, looking at his red-haired friend skeptically while walking briskly through the Senkai Gate that Renji had opened.
Renji was making his regular check-in at Soul Society and had invited Ichigo to tag along for the 2-day-1-night trip. Since it was the weekend, and Rukia volunteered to stay back to watch over Kon to make sure he behaved properly as "Ichigo", the teen had agreed to go.
"We just...let 'em figure it out themselves," Renji said with nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, fingers laced behind his head.
Ichigo gave Renji a dirty look. "Right. Because we went through all that drama so that we can hide this from your friends," he said dryly, referring to their almost-breakup a few weeks ago which stemmed from the fact that Ichigo didn't want to make their relationship known.
"Uh uh!" Renji said immediately, wagging his forefinger in the orange-haired teen's face. "We're not hiding, we're just...not telling them directly, there's a difference!" When Ichigo rolled his eyes, Renji added, "Plus, can you think of a good way to tell them? Oh hi, this is my boyfriend Ichigo?"
A touch of pink dusted Ichigo's cheeks. "Idiot," he mumbled. True, he had run a few scenarios in his head, and none of them—at least in his mind—ended well for his ego. He pictured Ikkaku slapping his palm on the tea table laughing his head off and calling him "lover boy", and Shuuhei looking at him with an awkward, lopsided smile, just because the man was too polite to laugh at him in his face. Yumichika would probably be the only one who wouldn't tease them, but then again, he would probably offer them "advice" on how to spice up their love life.
Renji gave a triumphant "hmmph!" when Ichigo could not come up with a snappy retort, then, with a grin, he slid his arm over Ichigo's shoulders and pulled the boy close. "Don't worry, they'll get it," he said reassuringly. "And they'll be nice! They're all old enough to know what to do."
Ichigo gave Renji a sidelong glance and muttered, "I'm glad one of us has such confidence in their maturity."
The restaurant was bustling with business when their little group arrived. It was peak hour, and the place was packed with people catching late dinner right after work and those who were there for after-dinner drinks.
Ichigo navigated his way carefully, avoiding waitresses balancing overflowing dishes and customers who were gesturing animatedly during their conversations, their arms waving and bumping into people walking along the narrow gaps between tables. This was nothing like the places he went to in Karakura town, and his eyes darted apprehensively from table to table, taking in drunken faces and sake bottles.
"So, Ichigo! I hear you're a virgin!" Ikkaku said loudly as their drinks were served.
Ichigo immediately flushed a deep red and flicked his eyes towards Renji, mind scrambling to comprehend the awkward statement. What was he supposed to say? It's kind of embarrassing to say that he wasn't a virgin anymore in front of so many people—surely they would ask him who had the honors...and what did this have to do with dinner?
The redhead laughed at Ichigo's bewildered expression and explained, "He meant that you're someone who has never had alcohol before."
Ichigo let out an audible sigh of relief.
"What'd you think I was referring to?" Ikkaku huffed, rolling his eyes. As Yumichika giggled and Shuuhei feigned a coughing fit, the bald man pushed a bottle of sake in front of Ichigo. "Here! I'm not letting you leave the table until you've finished at least one bottle!" Then, before Ichigo could respond, Ikkaku took a sizable swig from his own bottle and looked at Ichigo expectantly.
"Uhh..." Ichigo stared at the delicate glass bottle in front of him, then, after a moment's hesitation, brought it to his nose and took a whiff. He raised his eyebrows. The alcohol actually smelled quite pleasant, which was surprising considering how much his father stank whenever he came home drunk.
The table fell silent as everyone watched the young substitute shinigami carefully inspect his first bottle of sake as though it was an archaeological find.
"You don't have to drink it if you don't want to," Renji said, eyeing Ichigo with an amused smile on his lips. The minute the words left him, he groaned inwardly at his own stupidity.
Sure enough, Ichigo's eyes narrowed and his grip tightened on the offending bottle. Then, with a look of determination, he brought it to his lips and tipped it over. A good amount of the cool liquid slid smoothly into his mouth, and without thinking, he swallowed the entire mouthful.
Renji cringed as Ichigo burst out into a coughing fit, gagging at the sudden searing sensation of the alcohol going down his throat. Setting down his own bottle, Renji rubbed a palm over Ichigo's back to help soothe the boy. By the time Ichigo was finally able to breathe again, he was nearly purple in the face, and Ikkaku was practically rolling on the floor gasping for breath from laughing too hard. The others, being slightly more civilized, sat there with their lips quivering from their attempts at holding back their laughter.
"You alright?" Renji whispered in Ichigo's ear as the boy slumped over the table, breathing heavily. "You're supposed to just sip, not gulp it down like water!"
Ichigo shot him a glare. "Well, now you tell me."
"Still, you swallowed every drop!" Shuuhei said cheerfully, feeling a little sorry for his young friend. "Good job!"
Ikkaku opened his mouth, no doubt to take another jab at Ichigo, but Kira gave him a not-so-subtle nudge in the ribs, and he fell silent with an indignant look on his face.
Patting his chest as he slowly recovered his breath, Ichigo pushed the sake bottle away from himself and said, "I think I was happier being a virgin."
Yumichika immediately raised his eyebrows. "But Ichigo! You don't know what you're missing!" Then he hiccuped and giggled, covering his mouth as if he had made an inside joke. Everyone at the table seemed to get it, except Ichigo. Even Renji was chuckling, although he did flash Ichigo an apologetic look.
When Ichigo simply scowled at them, the slim, black-haired man batted his feathered eyelashes and gave him a sickly sweet smile. "Speaking of which, are you a virgin?"
Next to Ichigo, Renji choked on his drink.
"I just nearly killed myself with it, or have you already forgotten?" Ichigo retorted, still annoyed that he had made a fool of himself in front of Renji's friends.
Yumichika laughed and rolled his eyes. "I'm not talking about that kind of virginity," he said, his smile widening.
"Food's here!" The waitress sang, appearing suddenly behind Ichigo and Renji, saving the boy from needing to answer the awkward question. The dishes that were spread out in front of them proved to be distraction enough, and the question was forgotten.
Renji and Ichigo excused themselves early. Once they were out of earshot, Yumichika whispered to the rest of the people at the table, namely Shuuhei, Rangiku, Ikkaku, and Kira, "Is it just me...or did you guys get a weird vibe from Ichigo today?"
"Ichigo?" Rangiku replied, her face flushed a delicate pink. She had had a lot to drink, but she could easily outdrink Ikkaku, so she was quite sober. Still, even sober, Rangiku had no fear speaking her thoughts or being nosy. "I thought Renji was acting weird! Didn't you notice how he stroked the boy?"
Shuuhei gave her an exasperated look. "He was just trying to help Kurosaki through his coughs, Rangiku-san."
"Right," Kira deadpanned, looking at Shuuhei with slightly drunken, heavy-lidded eyes. "Because Renji-kun does that for us all the time, too."
Yumichika held up his hands dramatically and cleared his throat, silencing the rest of the conversation. "Okay, I think we all agree that we should look into this."
Shuuhei cocked an eyebrow and said, "We? Look into this? Since when?"
"Since now," Rangiku giggled and wrapped her arms around Shuuhei, crushing the man against her ample bosom. "Come on, it's not like we have anything better to do!"
Excited at the prospect of adventure, Yumichika got to his feet eagerly and kicked Ikkaku, who was sprawled on the mat gazing at them through red, half-closed eyes. "Come on!"
The bald man waved dismissively. "I ain't gonna waste my time on something so stupid," he drawled, then tried to reach for his bottle without getting up. After several failed attempts, he grunted and fell back onto the mat. "Order me a couple more bottles, will ya?" he mumbled to nobody in particular, and then promptly fell asleep.
"How do you guys drink that stuff?" Ichigo complained, rubbing his chest as Renji led the way to his quarters. "I think it burned my throat...like, permanently."
Renji laughed and wrapped his arms around the boy's shoulders. "You get used to it," he said with a grin. "Not all first times are as pleasant as...you know...that first time." He gave Ichigo a suggestive wink, making it quite clear what he was referring to.
Ichigo blushed and gave the redhead a shove. "Don't be so fucking full of yourself," he said with a scowl.
"No, I believe you were quite full of me that time," Renji said with a straight face. Before he could duck, Ichigo drove an elbow right into his gut. With a choked cry of pain, the redhead stopped in his tracks and doubled over.
Ichigo looked at the trembling form with a satisfied smirk on his face. But when Renji remained crouched for a good half a minute, his smile faltered. "Oi," he said, poking Renji's arm with one foot—no response, not even an angry grunt. "Hey." He began to feel alarmed. Crouching down, Ichigo patted Renji's back. "Oi!"
Still no response except for the slight shaking of Renji's shoulders.
"Come on, that couldn't have been that bad," Ichigo said, beginning to feel rather guilty. Did he really hit him that hard? He tried to remember. He felt certain that Renji had taken worse hits than this without even flinching. Still, maybe Renji was weakened now from drinking so much at dinner. "Hey," he tried again, squeezing the redhead's shoulders, pulling the man closer. Renji trembled against Ichigo's chest but remained silent.
"Sorry," Ichigo whispered, and nuzzled Renji's hair. His heart began to beat faster as he felt more and more frantic. Should he send Renji to the Fourth? "I'm really sorry, Renji," he said in a small voice, hugging the redhead tightly. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry...listen, I'll let you top the next time we...you know. Just...say something!"
Renji stood up so abruptly that Ichigo was flung off, and the boy landed on his rear with surprised "oof!". Looking up in shock, Ichigo immediately saw the triumphant glint in the man's eyes. "Oh, come on," he said in disbelief as he realized that he had just walked right into a trap.
"I was just waiting for you to offer me something," Renji said with a smug grin. "Sounds like I got a good deal." He held out a hand to help Ichigo to his feet, and was promptly rewarded by a flurry of fists, which he skillfully dodged. Laughing at the dirty look Ichigo gave him, he grabbed Ichigo's wrist and flash-stepped to his room.
Not two seconds later, four shadowy figures ran out from a nearby alley, some looking straight ahead while others looked to the left and right.
"I swear I heard their voices! They're right here!" Yumichika said, chest heaving from exertion, squinting at the direction where Renji and Ichigo had been walking.
"Shhhh!" Kira nudged Yumichika with a frown. "If they're really here, they'll hear you!"
Shuuhei leaned against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest. "Well, I don't see them," he said, shrugging. "What'd you hear them say?"
With a frustrated growl, Yumichika stomped his feet in the ground. "Couldn't make out the words," he said grudgingly. "But I swear it was them!"
To be continued...