Ichigo stood tapping his feet impatiently as Mihane filled a jug filled with wine, feeling uncomfortable all around. The noble's had already arrived, seated around Byakuya's large mahogany dining table and though Ichigo hadn't seen Sōsuke or any of his other men, he didn't like being around rich people – they were arrogant and thought they practically owned the world. His own family was rich, sure. But they didn't have any servants and most of what the wealth they had, they earned from hard work.
"You look very handsome," Mihane praised, smiling shyly at him.
Rikichi who was grabbing plates of food just shook his head, rolling his eyes. "Suck up."
Mihane frowned at him as she handed Ichigo the jug. "Well excuse me but I was just telling the truth."
Ichigo chuckled awkwardly, glancing down at the kimono that Rukia chose for him. It was silky, all black – plain on everything but the bottom of it where white birds were embroidered, flying up the kimono. He was wearing a ruby undershirt that showed slightly through his clumsily made kimono.
"I think I've done it wrong," Ichigo admitted reluctantly, pulling at the kimono.
Mihane laughed, wiping her hand on her apron. "That's okay." She moved closer, hands on his collar as she adjusted it a little. "Don't worry about it. There isn't much you can do now anyway, you need to take this to Master Byakuya."
Sighing and nodding a little, Ichigo reluctantly left the kitchen, the jug in hand.
Byakuya and Ichigo's eyes met as he entered the dining room but he narrowed his eyes, glaring at the noble. He still couldn't get the memory of the kiss out of his mind and every time he saw him, all he saw was red. His body would pulse and he would tingle from head to toe. It wasn't from desire. He was pissed. Really pissed. Byakuya had no right to take whatever he wanted and he really should have just punched him in the face, screw the consequences. Still, he had a job to do and that wasn't to get distracted by Byakuya.
What bothered Ichigo however was that he was bothered. He should hate this man because he was everything he hated about this world. He especially hated the way Byakuya watched him – like he wanted to push him down and ravish him. Still, it was like when Rukia asked him about Byakuya. He hesitated. Why?
He growled to himself as he stomped towards Byakuya, attempting to get the feeling of his eyes off of him. The clothes probably didn't help either. To Rukia's credit, she had very good choice in clothes. They made him look… good.
Ichigo also tried to turn a blind eye to the stares from the other nobles. They were irritating, the way they looked him up and down critically. He wasn't sure if he was doing what he was meant to, or if he was even doing it right, but there was no helping it.
Standing by Byakuya's side, Ichigo resisted the temptation to snarl at him and instead held the jug out impatiently. "Did you want to drink?"
Byakuya exhaled gently, wishing he could slap the boy. His attitude seemed to have gotten worse after the kiss; though he had been willing enough to kiss him he seemed to be biting back as hard as he could.
At least he maintained some semblance of respect, Byakuya admitted to himself, Ichigo had actually asked if he wanted a drink rather than just pour it or worse, just left him with the jug.
"Thank-you." Byakuya nodded toward his glass, watching him fill the goblet.
"Over here too," someone called out, voice lazy and gravelly.
Ichigo glanced up at the man who had called out to him. The man had light skin and high cheeks bones, hooded grey eyes sitting above them – his left one covered with an eye patch. His long wavy hair was tied in a pony tail that was slung over his shoulder and he had his hand held high, waving his goblet in the air.
Shunsui Kyōraku. That was his name. Or so Mihane told him. He seemed nice for a rich bastard. From what he had seen, he was amusing and laid-back.
Byakuya seemed uncomfortable with Ichigo serving other people and that just made him even more eager to do it.
Nodding, Ichigo went over to him and knelt beside him, ready to pour for him when he noticed the subtle but very dangerous narrowing of eyes from his friend.
Ichigo was told that the man beside Shunsui was Jūshirō Ukitake. Shunsui and Jūshirō had apparently been friends for years and were very close. They had spent the majority of their life together and Ichigo supposed that allowed them a certain degree of jealousy. Still, being the reason jealousy was incited was strange for Ichigo and it made him uncomfortable.
Thankfully Rukia saved him from getting in the middle of that when she spoke up lightly, "Don't worry about getting him a drink Ichigo and come pour me one instead. Shunsui has had too much already."
Shunsui pretended to look offended. "Well excuse me Miss Rukia."
Rukia just grinned, waving Ichigo towards her and the scarlet man who Ichigo assumed was her husband Renji.
His suspicions were confirmed when he knelt next to them and Renji joked, "I think you made a great choice Rukia. It suits him."
Rukia's eyes ran critically over Ichigo before she nodded. "I agree, though you need to learn how to actually wear them properly."
Ichigo scowled. "They're just weirdly hard to use," he defended.
"Right." Rukia chuckled. "Sure."
Renji grinned at the both of them before greeting Ichigo properly, reaching out his hand. "Nice to meet you Ichigo, I feel like we're already friends, Rukia's spoken that much about you."
Rukia flushed, glaring at Renji in embarrassment.
Renji didn't take back what he said but continued seriously, "And I hear I have to thank-you for helping Rukia out. I owe you."
Ichigo was the one embarrassed now and he shook his head, waving his hands a little. "No, honestly, don't even mention it."
"What exactly did you help Rukia out with?"
Ichigo froze, eyes turning warily to Byakuya who must have overheard their conversation. "Ah…"
"Hm?" Another noble decided to nose in on their conversation. Her name was Rangiku Matsumoto. She was married to Tōshirō Hitsugaya. How that couple had come to be Ichigo had no idea but apparently they were very cute together. Or so Mihane told him.
Rangiku wiped her long blonde hair out of her face, hoisting her impressive breasts onto the table as she placed her arm underneath them and leaned on her elbow. "Did you get into some sort of trouble Rukia? And this dashing young man saved you? How romantic."
"Oi, I'm still here," Renji grumbled.
"Don't be ridiculous," Tōshirō muttered, levelling a stare at his wife who just grinned at him playfully. "He isn't that good looking."
Ichigo just stared at them incredulously. How the hell had the conversation moved in this direction?
Byakuya silenced their strange banter with just a name, "Rukia."
Rukia glanced at Ichigo, frowning a little. "Brother… it was nothing, really. It was just when we were down at the market. These men pulled me away and started pushing me around. Ichigo-"
"I just showed up and they left," Ichigo lied, giving Rukia a 'what the hell' look which was replied with a, 'I don't know what you're so pissed about, shut-up' look.
"I see," Byakuya murmured. "And you expect me to believe that a gang of men were so frightened by your appearance that they just… ran away?"
"It is a little hard to believe," Tōshirō put in with a rise of his brow.
Ichigo felt his own brow twitch in irritation. "And you're telling me people respect a pipsqueak like you? Why's it so hard to believe they ran off?"
Byakuya's eyes clouded in fury and he began to stand, ready to drag Ichigo out. He had believed, foolishly it seems, that Ichigo would be able to be silent for the two or three hours it took to complete the dinner. Showing disrespect to another noble was out of the question. Being disrespectful to him in private he could take. Showing such utter disregard to Byakuya's position in public by insulting him or others was unacceptable.
He silenced himself when Tōshirō spoke. One eye was narrowed in irritation but he seemed half amused by Ichigo's reply. "I suppose you're right. It must seem strange. If I were them I would have run off too. You're fairly scary looking."
Shunsui laughed. "Ah, Shiro must like you somewhat if you're not dead for that comment."
"Be quiet," Tōshirō scolded the man, glaring at him as he crossed his arms. "And don't call me that."
Shunsui pouted. "But you let Jūshirō call you that."
"It seems," another noble drawled, flashing the pair a sickening grin while he placed his chin in his hand. "All you lot can do is argue."
Ichigo didn't like the blue haired man on principle. When Mihane had spoken about Mayuri Kurotsuchi she could barely hide her shivers. Apparently he was a scientist.
Ichigo only liked one scientist and he was eccentric. And he still wasn't even sure he liked him half the time.
"Shut-up!" another noble exclaimed, shaking the table as he slammed his palms onto the table. "This talk is boring. If there isn't going to be a fight from all this, stop the chatter. Brat," the large man narrowed his eyes, grinning dangerously at Ichigo. "I'd like to see what exactly you did to make those men run away."
Ichigo chuckled awkwardly, waving his hand wearily. "N – nah, there's no need for that."
"Entertain me boy!"
Kenpachi Zaraki. He was a scary guy but it seemed Mihane liked him because she spoke fairly kindly about him. She seemed under the impression he was some sort of soft hearted cuddly toy in the shape of a demon.
"Heeeey! Kenny!" A small girl climbed up to Kenpachi's shoulder, pouting at him. "I said I want to play. Play with me!"
"No," he rumbled in reply, sighing in exasperation at his daughter Yachiru.
She tapped his hair before yanking on the long tresses. "But I want to play."
"Play with the kid."
"He is not here to play," Byakuya told him sternly.
His words were immediately ignored as Yachiru leapt towards Ichigo.
Ichigo shook his head fiercely, backing up, stumbling over his feet. He'd been chased by Suki all day and it was as if he were experiencing déjà vu. The way she charged at him…
Kenpachi grabbed her by the collar as her arms pin-wheeled furiously trying to reach Ichigo.
"But I want to play with the orange head!" she cried.
"Oi, Mayuri, where's Nemu tonight?" The giant turned his scarred face to the scientist who just tisked in irritation.
"Che, what's it to you? Whatever, she decided not to come tonight. I believe she is with Nanao. Nanao wanted to have some sort of 'secret' outing with her. She is a continuously bad influence."
They shifted their eyes to Shunsui who just shrugged, bottom lip jutting out in an exceptional display of despondence. "When I asked her if she wanted to come she hit me with her book and told me I was an eyesore and a nuisance and should go by myself because she didn't want to come. I thought that was a fairly clear no."
Retsu Unahona hummed with a gentle smile. "It seems your daughter is causing you quite a bit of trouble Shunsui. You should just speak to her about it."
Shunsui laughed, half-smiling wryly. "I'm fairly sure you're the only one that can have a civil conversation with someone so stubborn and have it end the way you want."
Jūshirō nodded a little, smiling as Shunsui winced his way.
"What exactly are you saying Shunsui?" Retsu asked softly, cocking her head a little, a patient smile on her face.
Shunsui choked up, glancing around for support but all he received were pity looks.
"I – I just meant that you have great motherly skills, that's all," he replied quickly, smiling at her though he swore he could feel sweat forming in his panic.
She smiled, seeming pleased with the response. "Well thank-you Shunsui. That is lovely to hear."
Ichigo grimaced. He had heard a little about Retsu from Mihane but she had been so nervous she couldn't talk long about it. She must be a pretty scary lady. Still, he had relaxed now. It seems in all the conversation, he had been forgotten.
Glancing at Rukia and Renji who were observing the conversation with a concerned frown and a small grin respectively, he began to stand a little, hoping to escape.
It was then the door opened and Gin Ichimaru stepped through, a wide, snake like grin on his face. His head tilted to the side, making his silvery hair slip in front of his slitted eyes.
"Hm, sorry I'm late. I was caught up. Huh? What's this? You started without me?" He gave a small gasp, pretending to be offended.
"Oi, you've finally made it Gin. I thought you must be dead – haven't seen you for that long," Kenpachi grumbled in greeting.
He laughed as he approached the table, moving to take a seat beside Kenpachi and Rangiku just as his eyes fell upon Ichigo who was stuck in an awkward motion, somewhere between standing and kneeling.
Ichigo could feel his breath sweep out of him, cold dread filling his stomach as a strange sensation filled his throat. It was as if a stone was pushing its way up to his mouth and he was sure he would be sick. His heart, so full in his chest, boomed as loud as thunder and he felt light headed.
He was going back. Gin would take him back and that demon of a man would do whatever he wanted.
Then Gin sat down, smiling face turning to Byakuya. "Dear me Byakuya, such a banquet, I do believe you've outdone yourself this year."
Ichigo felt breath swoop back into his lungs and he could barely stop himself from gasping as he hastily excused himself from the room.
He stood with his back against the door, legs threatening to fold under him and he laid his head back as the nausea began to recede. Tears welled and he scowled, wiping them away. He was… just so relieved.
Ichigo jumped as Mihane approached, wiping flour of off her face, staring at him in concern.
"What are you doing in the doorway?"
He laughed and pushed off the door, patting her on the shoulder. "Nothing Mihane. Nothing. I'm fine."
Dear me, it's been so long! I'm very sorry. There are many excuses I can give you but I'll just tell you that I'm very contrite for not writing sooner.
Please, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Poor Ichigo huh? Talk about having a mini heart attack!
Seriously though, the scariest thing happened last night. I woke up after a weird ass dream and thought I saw something standing in my room and I felt exactly the way Ichigo did. I was really freaking out. But then I woke up a little more and realised it was just my furry bean bag. Ridiculous huh? Too much Nurarihyon no Mago for me!
Regardless, tell me what you think and I'm very thankful for your continued reviews and support. I'm honestly a little surprised it's so popular :/