"Ichi," Gin teased gently in a sing-song voice as he slinked closer to him, ducking under the small door to the cell, grinning like a madman. "I see you're not bleeding so much today."

He laughed as he approached a kneeling Ichigo, running a finger along the marks on his chest, marvelling at the way the skin lifted under his touch.

Ichigo could barely hiss in pain let alone tell him fuck off, which he wanted to, very badly.

"It hasn't completely healed yet, hm?"

Swallowing, Ichigo wished he could open his lids but they felt gritty and dry, like his lips. The only thing he was capable of at the moment was breathing and even now that was like torment.

Gin seemed disappointed with his reaction because Ichigo soon felt a slender finger softly tilt his head up and he knew if he had his eyes open, he would have been eye to eye to the pale, silver haired man and been able to see nothing but slits of his pale blue eyes and a loaded grin. "Ey?" he drawled, his voice so pouty Ichigo could almost visualise it. "You aren't much fun today."

Ichigo moaned angrily in reply, swaying slightly in the irons that held his arms aloft, the chains secured to the ceiling. However, it didn't really come out aggressive, but quiet and halting.

"What's that?" the silver haired man urged, hand now clasping Ichigo's chin still.

Smacking his lips, Ichigo tried again but he just didn't have the strength to open his mouth. How long had he been here? Ichigo was almost seriously hoping Sōsuke would just get a move on and do whatever the hell he wanted rather than leaving him down here with Gin.

Though admittedly, he only had himself to blame for the predicament he was in. He had decided to punch Sōsuke in the face (so hard he broke his nose) and leap out the window when the brunette had attempted to get very personal.

Gin seemed to pause for a moment. "Would you like me to save you?" he asked seriously.

Ichigo stiffened in his grip, struggling to get his lids apart and he did, finally, staring through narrowed eyes in bemusement. Gin was serious it seemed, there was no grin at least.

Then he giggled, grinning and ruffling Ichigo's hair roughly as he cried, "Just kidding!"

Ichigo jerked in pain, the pressure on his head a little too much.

"But it was a nice wakeup call right?" he prodded.

Snarling throatily, Ichigo glared at him. "F – fuck you," he managed to get out. Though it was less than a whisper and it stung his throat, making him need to cough which ended up causing him to strain the slowly healing wounds across his chest.

He couldn't even cry right now, though perhaps that would give him relief. "W…" Ichigo took a few breaths, attempting to form a sentence. "Why… here?"

It was all he could manage but he dared Gin to comment as he lifted his head, scowling at him defiantly.

"I was just taking a walk and I dropped by to tease you," Gin answered with a laugh, as if it were obvious that it was the case. "No, you see, the master up there wants to have you back already. He's getting impatient so I'm here to add a little something to my masterpiece. I'm sure Cap'n Aizen will like the addition."

Slowly, Gin's fingers patterned the firm hip bone, quite enjoying the feel of the hot skin under his cold finger tips. "I think right here will do."

XXX

"Ichigo?"

Ichigo gasped, almost falling off the railing of the patio. It wouldn't have been far to fall considering it was at ground level, but it would have been irritating. He glared at his company, snapping, "Jesus Rukia, don't do that."

Rukia pursed her lips like she wanted to reply but instead asked, "Ichigo, are you okay? You're meant to be in there you know." She inclined her head to the glowing yellow light of the washitsu* where the nobles now sat.

After Gin had made an appearance, Ichigo let himself become scarce, only coming out once they had all moved out of the dining room to clean up. Then he had sat on the railing and his mind had naturally wandered.

He had known very well he was meant to be helping serve tea and sitting by Byakuya if he needed anything but right now, he couldn't do that.

Frowning heavily, Ichigo forgot about Rukia momentarily as his thoughts once again strayed to Gin. What the hell was he up to? Was he not going to say anything to Byakuya? No, he supposed he'd kidnap him when Byakuya wasn't looking.

Clutching the material just where his heart sat, Ichigo clenched his jaw. It hurt. Not his scars, his heart. He felt like if he went back to Gin and Sōsuke, he would truly lose himself. He would never be heard from again.

A sharp smack on the head had him jerking in surprise. "R – Rukia? What the hell are you doing?"

"Idiot," she groused. "Listen when people talk!"

He glared at her but quickly looked away at her serious face. "Ah, don't look at me like that."

She crossed her arms. "What's wrong? You've been weird since Gin arrived."

"It's nothing," he replied, moving towards the lit room. If he wanted Rukia to think he was okay, it would be easiest just to go to Byakuya. "I'm just tired. "

"You know him, don't you?"

Ichigo bowed his head before turning a broad smile to her. "Of course not, he's just one creepy guy."

Rukia was confused. Did Ichigo smile like that? "Are you su-"

"Yes!" he cried, raising his hands in defence. "I am, just shut up about it. I'm going to go help Byakuya." He glared at her as he went to the doorway, boring holes into the raven haired girl. "Stop asking me questions about it already."

"W – well excuse me for caring!" she cried after him.

Ichigo had already opened the door, glancing up at Byakuya when he entered.

However, Byakuya was distracted by a discussion and didn't notice.

"I don't quite understand. I thought he was in perfect health," Byakuya spoke softly Shunsui.

Shunsui shook his head a little, fingers intertwined with Jūshirō's whose head rested against the broad shoulder, white hair flowing as he snored softly. "I don't know. The old man seemed to be okay but when I went to see him, he wouldn't let me come in and said to go on without him."

Kenpachi grumbled mightily, pushing Yachiru up a little more onto his shoulder as she clung, pink lashes fluttering in sleep. "Damn old man probably just wanted to skip the formality bullshit."

"He isn't like you," Tōshirō told him sternly.

Mayuri chuckled a little manically. "Ah, tempers are flaring tonight."

Renji glanced up to see Ichigo and patted the cushion next to him silently and grinning a little as the orange haired man joined him. "This is the best bit," he whispered conspiratorially. "They get completely shitfaced and just start blabbing."

"Renji…" Byakuya's frosty voice cut through the chatter. "Please don't detain Ichigo, he has things to do."

"Ah yes!" Rangiku sang, raising her bottle of sake towards Ichigo who was still a little confused about what exactly he was meant to be doing. "The newbie! Where are you from Ichigo?" The name somehow managed to come out in a seductive purr despite her inebriated state. "I don't remember seeing you here last time."

Tōshirō seemed to bristle, turquoise eyes shooting warning knives in Ichigo's direction before he scolded his wife.

However, Kenpachi added, "Yeah, you sure are different to the others around here."

Ichigo shifted uncomfortably, glancing at Byakuya who seemed to be stuck between following his ingrained manners and allowing the conversation to continue and making Ichigo leave, making his own personal discomfort evident to his guests.

Finally Ichigo scowled, also sparing a glance around to look for Gin who, thankfully (or perhaps not) seemed to be absent and he answered, "Yeah, I'm new."

Rangiku pouted. "Hey? That's no fun! Tell me about yourself? Got any brothers or sisters?"

The collective group noticed how Ichigo's face hardened, his posture stiffening defensively. He answered, a little thickly. "Yes."

The silence was awkward because Rangiku was now much more curious, as she was sure, was everyone else. Still, it was clear that Ichigo didn't want to discuss it and so the silence continued.

Standing, Ichigo scratched the back of his neck and as if he wanted to heal the fractured situation, said, "I think this sort of talk needs to be accompanied with more drinking. I'll get some more."

His ears were red as he exited the room, the quiet following him like a bad scent. He hadn't expected people to be curious about him. Though he knew his hair garnered a lot of bad attention.

It wasn't just that. If they knew about him, they could use that information. Ichigo didn't necessarily distrust people in general, he just didn't like them. But Sōsuke had made trust in others almost impossible. Even if they didn't betray you, they could get hurt themselves. That wasn't something he wanted.

Sighing heavily, he was almost to the kitchen when suddenly Gin appeared, grinning from ear to ear.

Choking back the screech that had almost exited his lips, Ichigo grabbed the wall for support. Jesus Christ. "The fuck do you want?" he spat harshly, heavy breaths making his words seem wispy.

Gin cocked his head, stepping forward and pressing a hand against the wall next to Ichigo's head. "Now that ain't any way to talk to an old friend is it?"

Ichigo chased his fear away, glaring at him through his fringe and pushing him away before resuming walking, heart pounding as he heard light, steady steps behind him.

"So, how on earth did you manage to find yourself in this establishment?" Gin asked teasingly. "You seem to have a soft spot for nobles."

Gritting his teeth, Ichigo ignored him, not realising he had walked right past the kitchen in his concentration.

A finger ghosted over the back of his spine, urging Ichigo to speed up as Gin said, "Aizen's missed ya."

Ichigo almost laughed but it ended up as a strong exhale instead. Sōsuke missed him? Like he could believe that. More to the point, he didn't want to believe it – or even hear about it for that matter.

There was silence as if Gin was assessing his reaction before he continued, his voice strong with sadistic amusement, "Has he seen it yet? That beauty mar-"

Gin was cut off as Ichigo's fist struck his jaw with enough ferocity to knock him to the ground.

"Don't you fucking talk about that." Ichigo's voice was quiet and steady but filled with the pain and anger of a thousand suns. "Bring it up again and I will fucking kill you."

Gin's eyes opened as wide as possible at the threat because the truth was, he didn't doubt it for a second. If he had been a lesser man he would have shivered at the burning look in Ichigo's eyes.

As it was, he contented himself with chuckling, watching the young man walk off, shoulders hunched. Laughing again, he felt his tension evaporate. It was as if his laughter reassured him, whispering, it's okay, Ichigo wasn't really that frightening. And for a second, Gin believed it.

XXX

So, not quite where I thought or intended the chapter to go. Still… here we are! Isn't Gin mean? It's a shame actually because I do like Gin. But he makes a good bad guy! Now in the next few chapters, I hope I can make Ichigo like Byakuya a little more! And Byakuya like Ichigo a lot more ;) There will also probably be a little Grimmjow going on and you'll most likely find out where the missing nobles are! (If you haven't noticed the pattern, the nobles are the 13 court guard squad prior to Aizen leaving.)

Ah notes, notes… nothing really to add except that I really appreciate your love and attention! I also love your reviews. They are like the string to my kite… or something like that. Oh, giving you notice too that there will most likely be upcoming sexiness! Yay for sexiness \o.o/ Which is going to be very likely disliked by Ichigo. Byakuya can't have it easy!

Side note: I am going to randomly tell you something I find awkward in general. Sitting in the car, just chilling at the lights while I'm singing away (all too often) I glance around and people are staring like I'm a crazy person. Excuse me! Sorry I get passionate about Missy Higgins! I love the Special Two a lot. Is that a problem? No! Jesus, what is becoming of the world today? Huh? That's exactly what I thought.

P.S. *A washitsu is just a traditional Japanese room (usually for entertaining guests) with tatami mat floors and sliding doors.