"Holy shit."

The rather crude verbal outburst comes from across the room and I have to stifle the urge to pull against the binds securing me to the bed, though I can't fully suppress the twitch of my fingers. The cuffs around my wrists are sekkisekki stone, fully immune to my considerable power, and I am otherwise held by layers of varying kidou. Struggling is, at least for the moment, useless, and I'd rather not degrade myself with such a pathetic attempt.

When I escape, and it is a when, I will find some subtle and extremely painful way of paying back the culprits of this particular prank. That is, Urahara, Shihouin, and Gin.

"Sousuke?" I can feel the owner of the voice - my much younger lover, Kurosaki Ichigo - move closer, recognizable just by the reiatsu brushing against my own. The gag tied securely between my teeth stops me from answering, and that particular touch is what irritates me the most.

The blindfold I don't mind, the restraints are aggravating but nothing I haven't dealt with before, I don't even particularly care that I am clothed only in a pair of black slacks and an overly cheesy red ribbon tied around my chest with a bow, but the fact that they have stripped me of speech is infuriating. Urahara's touch, naturally, he is the only one of the three who truly recognizes how much I value my mind and my ability to talk anyone around to my point of view. Shihouin barely knows me, and Gin would never dare, but Urahara possesses just enough spite to do this in the guise of a prank. The exiled shinigami has long hated me, and not even my help with the Vandenreich was enough to sway him from that point of view.

Though it certainly was enough to change Kurosaki's mind about me.

I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was, really. When we had stood next to each other in the Vandenreich's stronghold, their leader dead before us, I had honestly expected Kurosaki to put me back in chains and send me back to the endless darkness of Soul Society's prison. Instead he had - as usual - thrown my expectations out the window. He'd turned to me, brown eyes narrowed and blood streaking one side of his face, and bluntly told me that he'd do what he could to stop Soul Society from imprisoning me again, and he'd stayed true to that statement. He's the only reason I'm not still in that chair - deprived of sight and speech and power - and though I may pretend otherwise he will always have my loyalty for that.

Regardless of the front I had originally put up I am fully aware I could not have survived the twenty-thousand years they sentenced me to. I would have gone insane long before being released, supposed immortality or not.

Hands brush over my cheeks and then back, lifting my head a bit. They pull back and the blindfold comes with them. I open my eyes, focusing on the young man leaning over me. Kurosaki's brow is drawn down in a tight frown, deeper than his normal one, and worry is obvious in his brown eyes.

"Sousuke, you alright?"

Oh for the love of... On occasion Kurosaki can be remarkably dense. I arch one of my eyebrows, pointedly flicking my eyes down towards the gag. Kurosaki follows my gaze and then that familiar and adorable - though no one will ever learn that I actually meanthat beyond teasing - flush darkens his cheeks and the bridge of his nose. He immediately fumbles around the back of my skull for the knot holding the gag in, and I fight the urge to roll my eyes. The gag comes loose without trouble and Kurosaki lets it fall to the bed as I swallow and wet my lips.

"Are you okay?" Kurosaki demands, unrelenting, and I let my lips quirk in a small smirk.

"Your concern is appreciated, but unnecessary. I'm fine, Ichigo."

He lets out a breath and straightens up a little bit before moving to sit next to me. "That's good," he mutters, one hand idly moving to undo the silly bow tying the red ribbon around my chest, "I really wasn't sure what to think when I saw the note on the door."

Ah yes, the one Urahara had waved in my face before adding the blindfold. The one that disguised this whole petty revenge as a simple prank with the words 'Merry Christmas'. How typical of the former captain, to disguise his intentions behind meaningless jokes and frivolity, and how irritating. I'll have to be quite subtle in my vengeance to make sure Kurosaki doesn't catch on, I can't pull off the facade of a prank nearly as well as Urahara can.

Kurosaki sighs and reaches up past my head, fingers brushing against my skin as he fiddles with the cuffs. They come loose with a click and a brief swell of my power shatters the kidou layered over me, fully releasing me. I relax momentarily, and Kurosaki straightens up, something knowing and mildly irritated in his eyes.

"Urahara, right?"

"Your assumption is correct," I answer, and the irritation turns to anger.

"He doesn't have any right," the younger man hisses, starting to get to his feet. I reach out and catch his wrist as I sit up, tugging him back down.

"While the idea of watching you tell off Urahara is quite tempting, I would prefer you let me handle it. It was a onetime event, Ichigo, they will not catch me off guard again." I let my fingers trace over the sensitive skin on the bottom side of his wrist, shifting closer to the younger man and pressing a gentle kiss to the exposed skin on the side of his neck. Ichigo is in human clothes, a plain black t-shirt and blue jeans, both articles of clothing just tight enough to hug his frame in all the right ways.

"You shouldn't have to be on guard at all!" Ichigo snaps, and some deep part of me still marvels at how the younger man has moved from being my enemy to my lover in the space of barely a year.

"It's alright, Ichigo, I promise. I'll deal with Urahara."

In fact, several ideas for just how I'm going to exact my revenge are already going through my head. The insult had been rather personal, so my revenge must be equally personal. Shihouin and Gin won't take the brunt of my irritation, but I'll make sure to devise suitable punishments for them as well. Especially Gin, he really should know better after all this time than to expect he can get away with this.

Ichigo huffs out a breath and looks over at me, softly asking, "You're sure?"

I smirk and lean in, catching the younger man's lips with my own in a brief kiss. "I'm sure, Ichigo. I'll even do it without hurting him, deal?"

The younger man snorts and his frown eases, a smile tugging at the edges of his lips. "Deal."

"Good," I let my free hand come forward, fingers sliding beneath the edge of Ichigo's shirt, "now it's Christmas Eve and I'm sure we could be doing many more interesting things than brooding over Urahara, don't you think?"

Ichigo gives one of his tiny shivers and his eyes shut for a brief moment, back just barely arching under my touch as he makes an amused noise. "How could I ever say no?"

As it happens, the Christmas party that Ichigo drags me to the following day is being hosted at Urahara's. It takes a good amount of willpower not to enact one of my several plots then and there, but in the end - as always - I defer to Ichigo's desire to have a good time. I won't ruin Christmas for the younger man, so I'll save my plans for later even though an opportunity like this probably won't come again for quite awhile. It's not like it's a hazard to wait. After all, revenge is a dish best served cold and I've always been better at long term plans anyway.

Shihouin shows us in, and though Ichigo clearly notices her oddly skittish behavior the younger man doesn't comment on it. It is almost revenge enough that she will be nervous and expecting me to retaliate the entire night. Almost.

When we arrive only Abarai and Kuchiki - the younger - are there apart from the shop's normal group of inhabitants, and neither are particularly enthusiastic about seeing me. Understandable, and not something I will hold against either of them, especially not with Ichigo so ready to defend them.

I take a seat against one wall and Ichigo joins me after a moment of greeting his friends, pressing warmly against my side and letting his long legs stretch out across the floor. I wrap my arm around his shoulders almost automatically, and easily ignore the tightening of our company's smiles.

"I don't think you told me the whole truth," Ichigo remarks quietly and I look down at him, letting my silence coax him into clarifying, "It wasn't just Urahara, was it?"

"No," I admit, equally quiet, "Shihouin and Gin joined in, but their involvement was minimal. I do not intend to let them escape unscathed, but in the end they were little better than minions."

Ichigo makes a noise of understanding, but before he can continue the conversation Urahara sweeps into the room. The blonde is clearly frazzled, reiatsu a distressed whirl around him and grey eyes narrowed in anger. He focuses in on me almost instantly and stalks forward, shoulders tight with tension.


I raise an eyebrow, not moving from my position and wondering what could have angered the blonde this much. I certainly haven't done anything, and as far as I know there's no one else currently out for revenge against the former captain. I'm curious, admittedly, but not threatened. I'm stronger than Urahara even on a bad day, not to mention that Ichigo would never allow the two of us to fight.

"Can I help you, Urahara-san?" I ask smoothly as the blonde stops in front of me, looking a hairsbreadth away from trying to strangle me with his bare hands.

"You wrecked my lab!" Urahara nearly screeches, and suddenly the blonde's fury makes a lot more sense. While I primarily focus my intellect on knowledge and other people, Urahara is a scientist at heart. There's nothing quite as precious to a scientist as his or her lab.

"Interesting," I comment, my lips twitching into a smirk, "but it wasn't me. Why on earth would you think it was?" I really can't help baiting the other man, even though my words are entirely true. I didn't do anything to his lab, and I must admit I'm curious who did.

"As if!" Urahara hisses, and Ichigo chooses that moment to intervene.

"That's enough, Urahara," the younger man says firmly, "Sousuke didn't touch your lab, I did."

Again, Ichigo has managed to throw me completely for a loop. Even ignoring how he got here - since I would have sworn he was with me all night - or how he wasn't sensed doing it, why would Ichigo do that? The younger man isn't like us, he doesn't play mind games or pranks or anything even remotely similar. Ichigo is kind and loyal and more or less pure-hearted, so why would he choose to sink to our level of combat?

The only good thing about it is it seems Urahara is similarly thrown, grey eyes wide and blinking. "Ichigo... why?"

Ichigo gets to his feet, meeting Urahara's gaze steadily. "You might not like Sousuke, Urahara, and I don't ever expect you to, but for god's sake grow up. I shouldn't even have to tell you this but don't you fucking dare ever again try anything like the juvenile bullshit you pulled last night, you got it?"

Well, that explains things. There is very little that can rile the younger man as quickly as threatening someone he cares for, and I suppose I most definitely fit into that category. While I may have played it off as a harmless prank it appears that either Ichigo refuses to let even that fly, or he is more perceptive than I thought and spotted my irritation anyway.

Urahara stutters out some expression of acceptance, backing up a step and then leaving the room altogether, and Ichigo returns to his seat at my side. I look over at the younger man, one eyebrow raised and ignoring the whispers of Abarai and Kuchiki since subtle as they are trying to be they are still clearly audible from across the room. There's still a core of steel in Ichigo's eyes, a protective gleam that I can't quite believe is aimed at me.

I have never had a low opinion of myself. I am a genius, more powerful than almost anyone else, a talented lover, and immensely attractive, to name a few of my better traits. But it's still hard for me to truly grasp that out of everyone he could have had - and there are few who would have said no had Ichigo asked - this incredible man, with all his grace, strength, and power - that is overwhelming even to me - chooses to be with me despite all the people that dislike that choice.

"That goes for you too, Sousuke."

"Hm?" I reply, pulled out of my own thoughts by those brown eyes turning my way.

"Whatever you were planning to do to him, don't. You don't have to like him but stop the war, alright?"

As always, I am helpless to refuse Ichigo in anything. "Of course, Ichigo, as you wish." I pause, studying the younger man as he leans back into my side and makes himself comfortable. "Did you truly wreck Urahara's lab on my behalf?"

Ichigo snorts, giving a tiny shrug. "I threw a few things around, and not even anything he was using. The worst he'll have to do is reorganize his papers and clean up some glass from some empty vials."

"Well, thank you for... defending my honor, I suppose," and isn't that an amusing thought? Me, the supposedly evil villain of Las Noches, having my honor defended by Ichigo, the hero of Soul Society. Who would have even considered such a picture?

"Yeah, well, merry Christmas, Sousuke. If he's stupid enough to do it again I'll let you deal with him." He rests his head on my chest and I once again situate my arm around his shoulders, drawing him closer.

I lower my head, pressing a kiss to his hair and giving a quiet chuckle. "I'll keep that in mind. Merry Christmas, Ichigo."

How did I ever get so lucky?