Important Note: This is a one-shot follow up to my story The Truth of Shadows. Events and references in this story are taken directly from the first installment. It is recommended that you read The Truth of Shadows prior to this story so that you understand the full context of events.

The Truth of Shadows: Ukitake

"If the first light of dawn burns the threads of dreams then may I forever live in the shadows..."

I leaned back into the soft embrace of the sofa and pressed a cold bottle of water against my forehead, hoping to still the pounding already starting behind my eyes. Kiyone and Sentarou had long since departed, off to parts unknown to undoubtedly continue their asinine argument long into the night. Shun had taken his leave, as well, having finally abandoned his hopes of discovering what illicit deeds I'd been up to. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say he thought I made the whole thing up, just to tease his ever present love of gossip. I almost wished it were that simple.

Kurosaki. Ichigo. The lines had become so blurred that I wasn't even sure what to call him in my thoughts, much less out loud. It was a dangerous path to be walking, because in my current state of mind one missed step was going to have me crawling through his window and licking a trail down his body just to see what sounds he'd make. I let my head fall back angainst the sofa, staring up at the ceiling.

How long had it been since I'd felt so out of control? Decades, at least, if not centuries. There was something about the boy that burned its way beneath my skin, whispering promises that made me want to forget the dozens of reasons I should have kept my distance. And there were dozens, when I really stopped to apply reason.

Even at the very best of times, I would still have been a thousand years old, while Ichigo was 15, untouched and new to the thought of being attracted to men in the first place. That, in itself, was a cause for concern. If it were simply an age difference I might have seen it differently, because it was both an issue and a non-issue at the same time. 15 or 150 would still have been young to me and at some point other factors had to be taken into account. In many ways, Ichigo was more mature at 15 than many Shinigami I'd known at 150, but that wasn't the point. The issue lay in his lack of experience, and more so in the hesitant discoveries he was still making about himself. The thought of pushing him too far or too fast grated against my ethics, no matter how willingly it was being offered at the time. And therein lay my guilty conflict, because it was so willingly offered in the end, and I'd wanted it so badly. I wanted him badly.

Under ideal circumstances I would have simply employed patience; taken things slowly and allowed him time to process. Unfortunately, these were not ideal times, not even close, and there was no room for promises I had no way of keeping. I would not be casual to him, not with his nature, and I didn't want to be. That was no longer my world and I would not make it his. He deserved someone who could give him time to explore, allow him the freedom to come into his own, and, most importantly, be there in the weeks and months ahead so that he would know exactly how important he was. I couldn't promise any of that, not with the uncertainty we faced.

Each morning we woke could very well be our last. That would always be true with the nature of our lives, but it became a decidedly greater factor with Aizen actively seeking to kill us. How could I, in good conscience, introduce him to that world when it could be so brutally and irrevocably torn away at any moment? He already carried so much on his shoulders and I couldn't bear the thought of being the distraction that cost him his edge. Except that I'd already opened the door, because I just couldn't stay away.

I sighed, my lips curving up at the corners. He really was incorrigible sometimes and I couldn't seem to find the strength to want to help myself. At first I'd simply wanted to provide him an escape, because I saw him wearing down under the burdens he was carrying. I'd walked that path myself over the centuries and I knew how dangerous it could be. I'd experienced the torment of lives lost due to fatigue. I would not have wished that guilt on anyone, and certainly not on a boy who'd been so cruelly dragged into something he should never have been a part of.

I'd recognized the connection between us—the edge of sexual tension simmering beneath the surface—but I'd pushed it aside. Ichigo hadn't even been aware of it himself and I'd thought I could work around it like I'd done on past occasions. I'd miscalculated the level of attraction, and the ease and speed with which it developed. It was clumsy of me, but I hadn't been expecting it.

His similarity to Kaien had captured me in Seireitei and had struck me again when we'd met on the street. I'd drawn an unfounded conclusion that my feelings would be similar; that the echo of their likeness would carry further than it did. Kaien and I had never been lovers; it simply wasn't the nature of the bond between us. When Ichigo's eyes had raked over me the second night—taking in my unusual choice of clothing—I'd been surprised by the tingle of awareness that followed in its wake. It was wholly unexpected.

I'd surprised myself further when I'd asked him to dance, sitting casually on the barstools and watching the crowd. It had fallen from my lips with a natural ease, and that in itself made it all the more perplexing. Yoru had been right in her line of teasing, though it had probably been closer to 50 years since I'd danced with anyone seriously. Shun was my exception, because it was a harmless bit of comedy, but outside of him I usually kept to myself. She had also been right about the usual motives, though she'd only been guessing when applying it to me.

Dancing, for me, was a form of sensuality; an extended sort of foreplay of heat, rhythm and power. I'd lost myself for a moment when I'd felt his recognition, the surge of sexual desire tingling through his ever present reiatsu. He'd wanted to dance with me, to feel my power on his skin, and a dozen darker things he was not even fully aware of. It had been a slip on my part, a momentary indiscretion, but I'd dragged him into the music just to feel his body against mine. I hadn't intended to draw out his full arousal, and certainly not to make him feel so ashamed. It was unforgivable on my part.

I'd tried to make my apologies the following night, but I'd ended up on a tangent because of how badly he affected me. I wanted him desperately, like an ache in my veins, and it strained at my control in a way I hadn't felt in centuries. I'd wanted him to roll me beneath him on that windswept hillside; to take me against the alley wall earlier tonight. I wanted to taste every inch of his trembling body and it sent fractures rippling through my usually solid composure.

My body was thrumming with memory and need, and I set my water aside, pressing my hands to my eyes. My pants were suddenly uncomfortably tight and I shifted slightly, trying to alleviate the strain. It didn't help; in fact it made it worse, the heavy seam rubbing against me like a tease of what I truly wanted. I reached down to adjust myself and drew a slow, hissing breath at the slide of my palm over clothed flesh. I was further along than I'd let myself get in awhile, my fingers trembling visibly where they lay. I was not, as a rule, opposed to self-pleasure, but allowing my hormones free reign at my age was not something I generally permitted. It had probably been years since I'd indulged in such a thing. The timing was inconvenient, as well, because Kisuke was stopping by to collect my human things. It was a bad idea all around.

My breath hitched as I pressed harder, dragging my hand over my length a second time. I sighed amusedly at my complete and total lack of restraint. Apparently it was not my week for either self-control or entirely sound decision making. Of course, it didn't help that I couldn't get the taste of Ichigo off of my tongue or the feel of his hands off of my skin. My smile slid away. I dragged my lip between my teeth as my hand trailed higher, dipping beneath my shirt to trace his lingering touch.

His hands had been rough from his time spent training, leaving my skin tingling in their sweeping wake. I felt my back arch a little and gave up the fight, striping my shirt over my head and reaching for my belt. I worked the buckle one-handed while my fingers slid over my chest, thumbnail scraping across my already hardening nipple. I twisted, stretching along the length of the couch, letting my eyes slide closed as my hand trailed over my stomach.

My belt came loose and I popped the button on my pants, tugging slowly on the zipper. I could almost feel Ichigo's lips on my skin, his teeth on my earlobe where he'd caught my earring earlier. I groaned softly, my fingers sliding over my erection through the thin cloth of my underwear. I could feel his hands moving up my back, his breath on my neck, his arousal pressing against me with the roll of his body. The stiff flesh bucked against my hand, craving the slide of skin on skin. I caught the edge of the cloth, pushing it down to my thighs, barring myself to the drifting air.

I licked a wet trail across my palm, wishing I had more time to take things slow. My fingers dipped past my parted lips and I sucked at them hungrily, laving them with my tongue. My hips bucked off the couch with the first slide of my hand, my lips falling open on a needy sound. I could feel Ichigo's hand gliding over my own, twining our fingers together to stroke me harder. I groaned again, reaching out to taste him in my mind, letting my tongue trace up his neck as his head fell back.

I let my mind go, filled with images of him; of our times together and the ones still left to come. Would he touch himself tonight to the memory of my taste? Would he come over himself with my name on his lips? I could see him in my mind, kneeling by his bed with his pants pushed low, fist sliding slick over his straining flesh. He leaned forward, head resting against the bed, biting his forearm to muffle his sounds.

He would be vocal, I could tell from what I'd seen, and I ached to lick those gasps off of his panting lips. He shuddered, beginning to crest and I reached out, my fantasies swirling seamlessly together. My fingers slid over his back, tracing around to pull him against me, letting his head fall onto my shoulder as he moaned his release wantonly in my ear. He turned, eyes dark and dilated, nudging me back to sprawl against the floor. His hands pushed mine aside, twisting over my arousal, sliding slick with a coating of his own release. I choked back a moan, my hips flexing up to meet his downward stroke. He leaned over me, watching as I fell apart, dipping down to drag his teeth over my nipple. I shivered, my hips twitching harder.

"Say my name," he growled against my chest, biting down on the coiling peak.

"Ichigo," I moaned low in my throat, and his grip on me tightened, his hand moving faster.

"I want to fuck you, Juushiro." His voice was deeper, driven ragged with sex and need. "I want to spread you open with my come-soaked fingers and fuck you until you can't walk."

He leaned back, running his unoccupied fingers over the spattering of release still coating his stomach. I writhed against the floor, staring up at him, nearly lost to my pleasure as he nudged my legs apart. Slick pressure slid low, dipping between my cheeks to trace my opening.

"Do you want me, Juushiro?" He whispered, and I convulsed, unable to find coherent thought. "Do you want me to fuck you with my own come?"

"Yes," I begged, my hips twisting off the ground.

My eyes flew wide as he shoved two fingers deep into my body, the pain a distant second to the pleasure washing through me. I clenched down tight, my muscles spamming around him as my release burned through me, sharp and without warning. I bit down hard on my lip, but I couldn't fully muffle the near scream struggling to be free.

I fell back against the sofa, gasping in shuddering breaths and blinking to clear my vision. Wincing slightly, I eased my fingers out of myself and sunk bonelessly into the cushions. I raised my other hand sluggishly, tracing the tip of a come-slick finger over the curve of my lower lip. My tongue darted out, curling over the digit, tasting myself warm against my skin. I wondered what Ichigo would taste like as he came down my throat, fingers twisting deep in the riot of my hair. I felt my softening erection twitch with interest and knew I needed to stop before I sparked the whole cycle anew. Apparently decades of celibacy and one week with Kurosaki Ichigo were enough to regress my libido to a much less dignified state. I grinned to myself in the empty room.

Dragging myself from the couch, I kicked off my pants and padded to the shower. I didn't bother to let the water warm, allowing the chilled spray to clear some of the haziness from my thoughts. My body began to relax as the water shifted toward temperate and I pulled the tie from my hair, tipping my head back into the downpour. I felt a tingle of awareness and knew Kisuke had finally arrived, flicking his reiatsu briefly to announce his presence. I finished cleaning up and shut off the tap, dragging a towel over myself with no real hurry. I pulled on a robe and ran my fingers through my hair as I made my way across the bedroom.

Kisuke was lounging on the sofa, idly flipping through a magazine when I entered the sitting room. His eyes flicked to me and his lips pulled up at one corner.

"Terrible habits you're picking up," he commented lazily, nudging my pile of discarded clothes with his foot. "You're almost as bad as a teenager."

I chuckled softly, wandering toward the mess. "I was preoccupied."

"I'm sure," he drawled, his grin pulling wider. "I opened a window when I go here. Your room smelled like preoccupation."

I laughed again, scooping up the clothes and heading for the other room. Kisuke disgarded his magazine and followed me into the bedroom, sprawling against the mattress while I moved around to collect my things.

"Kurosaki went home early," he noted, sounding completely casual though he was rarely anything of the sort.

"We parted ways near the club," I filled in easily, holding back the details I knew he was fishing for.

"I half expected him to be here," he sighed with an edge of disappointment.

"Did you?" I wondered aloud, because I was fairly certain he knew better.

He made a soft sound of amusement, his smile spreading slowly.

"Not really," he admitted. "Even if your people could be trusted to follow instructions, I think your propriety would have gotten the best of you, in the end. These are complicated matters, after all."

I hummed a noncommittal sound, because he'd always been too shrewd for his own good and I didn't feel like rehashing the situation.

"You're aware he's 15?" Kisuke asked offhandedly, though there wasn't really a question in the tone of his voice.

"I am," I replied anyway. "And I'm aware of a hundred other reasons that it's probably inadvisable."

"Kurosaki wouldn't care about any of it, you know. Not if he's made up his mind," Kisuke said, almost as if he were trying to persuade me.

I stilled in the act of folding a shirt, frowning softly at him. "You think I should have taken him up on his offer?"

I felt his interest curl as the mention of an offer, but he chose to exercise restraint, which I truly did appreciate.

"I think you probably did what you thought was best, but that you also have a tendency for self-sacrifice, even when it's unnecessary," he replied instead.

"And you would have acted differently, I suppose?" I countered, brow sliding up as I met his gaze.

"Absolutely," he lied thought his grin, lashes slipping low with a sensual edge.

We both knew the truth; that he would have had the same hesitations for the exact same reasons if the positions had been reversed. More so, probably, because of his history of mentoring Ichigo.

"I'm sure," I drawled, returning to my clothes.

I pulled the belt from the pants I'd been wearing, coiling it to add to the pile before turning to the shirt. I smoothed it out against the bed, staring down at it for a moment as my lips twitched involuntarily into a smile. I'd bought the clothes originally in hopes of making Ichigo to feel less out of place, but they were actually starting to grow on me. I folded it, adding it to the pile of things that needed to be cleaned.

"They suit you, in a strange way," Kisuke murmured, nodding toward the clothes. "As does Kurosaki, oddly enough."

"It was unexpected," I said softly, frowning a bit at nothing in particular.

"Will you come back to it?" He asked seriously, meeting my gaze without his usual guises. "When all is said and done."

I stared down at him, smiling sadly. "If it's within my power."

That was the real issue behind every false smile; coloring every action we took: Who would live and who would not be so fortunate. I had no way of predicting the future and even the best of my ability might prove to fall short. The same was true for Ichigo. For everyone.

I sighed, reaching up to remove my earrings, studying them for a moment as they lay dark against my palm. "Will he come through this?"

There was no way for Kisuke to know for sure, but he had a history of knowing more than he let on. He also had a habit of manipulating the playing field and I feared that Ichigo's role was far from finished. It was a necessary thing, more often than not, but that didn't make it easier when it struck close to home.

"That is my hope," he replied softly, plucking the studs from my hand with delicate fingers. He dropped them into a small box he'd retrieved from a drawer, snapping it closed and setting it on the nightstand. "It was never my wish for him to suffer."

I knew he would say no more, there was too much risk of being overheard, and I didn't care to know what couldn't be changed. I trusted him and sometimes that had to be enough, especially with all that was on the line. I would go into this battle like I had so many others: with my eyes wide open and ready to die. That was all I could offer.

He rolled off the bed gracefully and retrieved a bag from the closet, helping me pack what remained of my wardrobe.

"You don't have to keep coming here," I said after a moment, watching him close a now empty drawer. "I'm capable of delivering my belongings to your establishment without an escort."

This had become something of a ritual over the decades; his meeting me at my lodging on the day I was to leave.

"I have absolute faith in you," he assured me with a smirk, the tired bit of tension never leaving his eyes. "I simply enjoy the company."

I felt my brows pull into the hint of a frown, because his words were the truth without any underlying twist. He was worried, I realized, and beneath that lonely. Too many years spent fighting battles no one saw. It was a tired, thankless thing and most people would never know how grateful they should be.

I caught his arm as he reached for the bag and he turned toward me with a quizzical look. I pulled him forward with gently insistence, free hand threading through his hair as I drew him into an embrace. He was strangely compliant and I think I had shocked him, because his hands were hesitant as they settled on my back.

"It will be okay, Kisuke," I murmured against his temple, and I felt the slightest tremor run through him at the words. "I believe in you."

"You may come to regret that, in the end," he replied softly, but I felt his fingers curl into the fabric of my robe.

"I'm sure there are worse things I could put my faith in," I chuckled, pulling back so I could meet his gaze.

"Like your ability to keep your hands off certain wildly unpredictable teenagers?" He challenged with a smirk, though there was a hint of gratitude mixed in as well.

"Hmm," I intoned thoughtfully, smiling fondly at him. "That would be a very unwise wager, indeed."

He disengaged with an amused sound, retrieving a set of clothes he'd set aside while packing.

"Get changed," he instructed, pressing them into my hands. "If we don't move soon I'm afraid we'll be discovered."

I shrugged out of my robe and tossed it on the bed, pulling on the pants without question. He was right in his assertion that we needed to hurry, as Kiyone and Sentarou had a near-psychic ability to sense my intent. I had no interest in being escorted home be a combination of their arguing and Shunsui's continued inquisiton.

I pulled the shirt over my head as Kisuke zipped the bag and we headed for the door, taking one last look around the room. Three steps from the threshold I drew up short, sighing heavily and turning toward the window. Kisuke chucked as he handed me the bag, sliding the glass open and leaning out to look. It was 9 stories down, but the streets were nearly empty.

"Taichou?" Sentarou called through the door, hammering on the wood with unnecessary enthusiasm. "We thought you might like something to eat."

It was nearly 2am and I realized we were going to need to have a talk about both personal boundaries and volume control. I'd lost count of the number of times we'd had this talk. I was fairly certain they were immune. Kisuke slipped out onto the window ledge just as Kiyone's reply thundered through the hall. I sighed again and joined him on the ledge, feeling like a naughty child sneaking out for the night. The ridiculousness brought a smile to my lips.

"I think we're out of luck," I chucked softly, staring down at a passing car. "At this height I'd need reiatsu to land and it's doubtful those two would overlook it."

Kisuke caught my eye, his teeth flashing in the moonlight, turning to face me with causal grace. He leaned in smoothly, wrapping an arm around my waist and pulled me against him on the narrow ledge.

"Do you trust me, sempai?" He asked with a wicked grin, free hand tugging the bag from my fingers.

"Not at the moment," I shook my head reply, slipping an arm around his shoulders. "But I'm not sure I'm being offered a choice."

The pounding had resumed at the door, and from the sound of it they'd decided to make it a competition.

"They'll just follow your reiatsu," I reminded him amusedly, "They may be excitable but they're not entirely dim."

"What reiatsu?" His grin pulled wider and the world lurched as he stepped off the ledge.

He'd been experimenting again, I realized with a laugh; there was barely a whisper of power as our feet touched the ground. I'd have to talk to him later about modifying my gigai because that level of stealth would be an immeasurable benefit. I had plans for the future involving an incredibly headstrong creature and I wasn't of a mind to tolerate interruptions.

Kisuke's chucked drifted faintly as we moved into the darkness, cutting through an alley in search of deeper cover. The humid shadows tickled my memory, fresh with the promise of earlier that night. We emerged on an empty street and I glanced out into the city, still haunted by the flavor of Ichigo on my tongue.

I would be back, I promised myself. It was worth whatever I faced just to follow the dream deeper. I was completely and totally addicted. I had to return.



A/N: So, it took me a little longer to post this than originally intended, but it wasn't too bad. I hope this holds eveyone over until I can start posting the sequel. I'd offer an estimated time of publication, but I think it's fair to say I'm absolute rubbish when it comes to knowing my own timelines. Let's just say I hope to publish it soon!

As for this story goes, I just love Ukitake. I'm also getting quite fond of the image of Kisuke and he being friends. There is just something about those two that works for me.

Anyway, I don't have a whole lot to say this time around. I hope that everyone enjoyed the story, brief as it was. I'd love to hear from anyone who has the time to review. It's always nice to hear what people think, and the feedback is great motivation to keep writing. Thanks again for the support you have given this series. I hope to have something new for you soon!