Phew new chapter! This has finally come to me and I was able to update so thank you for being so patient! And thanks for the reviews!

Chapter Twenty-One: Dirty Passion:

Weeks of intolerable normality passed them by like the ticking of a clock, slow; pensive; repetitive, and dull. As ashamed as he was to admit it, Ichigo missed the fight, he missed the challenge and the adrenaline of the battlefield; his fingers were twitching with the need to fight and his mind was running away with him concerning tactics and strategy. It was boggling that he be so mindlessly insatiable with a lust for battle after everything he and the group had gone through, surely he should be enjoying the momentary lapse of action with a passion. Taking his time to recuperate and recover from everything. But no... Not Ichigo, he was bored out of his mind with trivialities.

Szayel had made a cure. A week after returning to their base he had succeeded in his task and now Unohana, Stark, Grimmjow, Aizen and Szayel himself were cured of all traces of the Infection. They were no longer in danger or superhuman, they were normal once more and that meant that the only one who still possessed the strength, will, enhanced abilities and unfortunate appetite of one of the Undead was Ichigo. And that made him feel incredibly lonely.

It was a selfish thought, he should have been happy that his friends... No his family were safe from harm but he couldn't help but feel the singes of jealousy and rejection bearing down on his shoulders like metaphorical bricks crumbling in a landslide. And he had experienced one too many of those since the beginning of this entire apocalypse.

Despite being assured by his lover, his fiancé, that he was in no way being shunned, Ichigo had begun to see the side glances and the whispers that followed him wherever he went. It was clear to him now that he was no longer considered as a 'friend' but a 'threat' as well - Unohana, who he had mistakenly believed was actually a decent person when she wasn't in danger of losing what mattered most to her, was still a bitch-born-whore who had blabbed to everyone that Ichigo could go rampant if he became too embroiled in blood lust, and could effectively kill them all at the flip of a switch.

So naturally, even his closest friends now regarded him with some caution, caution which he loathed and despised; caution which made him feel rejected and alone. Caution which made him wish that the others were still Infected, and were still suffering and that in itself was enough to make him upset that he was being so selfish. But what was he to do? He had never felt so alone in his entire life, Aizen, Szayel and Grimmjow were the only ones who were still treating him like normal. They were a mixed group of the most likely to support him and the most unlikely to support him, Szayel being the most unlikely person he would have guessed to be supportive in any way shape or form.

Yet he was. In fact, he and Szayel were getting along quite famously now that everyone else was treating Ichigo like he had the plague, which was even more surprising. But he put it down to the fact that as handsome and intelligence as Szayel was, he was still a social reject who had at some point in his life felt the brunt of society's disallowance for difference in their culture.

Out of curiosity, Ichigo had ventured to ask him as such: "You act so smugly and so proudly but you don't seem to care that people... Have a disliking for you. You really don't care what they think of you?"

Szayel had appraised him for a moment before throwing back his head in laughter, "Care?! Why should I care?! When they open their mouths to utter taunts or jibes they lower the IQ of the entire planet! And considering that the entire planet is likely made up of a majority of undead creatures who can no longer remember to wipe their backsides after relieving themselves that makes them pretty unintelligent doesn't it?"

"But... Don't you get lonely?" he then frowned in bemusement.

The scientist had then paused and sobered for a moment, offering him a small smile, "Of course I do. I am... Human. I may not always act like it, but I have human emotions and human desires. When I was a lot younger I had desires to befriend the people around me; I had desires to fit in and to be 'one of the gang' just like any ordinary child. But that was never going to happen, and do you know why?"

"... Why?" Ichigo then asked after a moment of contemplation, followed by a small shake of his head.

"Because we are not meant to be that way. We are better. We are who we are destined to be. And if whatever sick God is playing with our lives desires it we shall never find peace."

"Gods? You're religious?"

"No, I am a scientist. But even I have to admit that there must be someone playing with us... Look around you Ichigo! Look at the world outside! Look at the people gathered in this building... How unlikely is it that this would happen without intervention? Do I believe in God: no. Do I believe in a higher power: yes. Certainly this can be laid at the feet of Mayuri Kurotsuchi and we scientists who worked for him... But where did he get his ideas from? Where did he get the idea of create such vicious chemical weaponry?" Szayel then sighed and had drawn a long breath, looking out of the window as he fell silent.

The strawberry had watched him for a moment before he reached over and rested a hand on his shoulder, "You need to stop blaming yourself for what happened. Yes you played a part in this, but you have worked so hard to put it right since then! Look at what you acomplished just days ago! A cure! A real active, working cure! You could save hundreds of survivors with this! Making them immune to Infection and saving us from total obliteration!"

"You place too much faith in me."

"I don't think I do. I think you are brilliant, truly, you are intelligent and you are strong. You resisted the Infection's grasp long enough to find this cure and you are a good person! Never lose faith in that!" he had said strongly, offering him a broad smile, "You are a perfectionist right? So be perfect."

Szayel then simply sighed and shook his head, "How did this turn into you comforting me? It was you asking the questions. My goodness, all this time cooped up with you and the rest of the ridiculous herd following you has turned me into a soft sap. I demand that you stop being nice to me immediately."

"Whatever you say!" Ichigo smiled then and stood up to leave him in peace.

The strawberry sighed softly and looked at the ceiling, considering what they had discussed made him feel somewhat better about everything, but despite it the lack of friendship he felt was still a burning hole in his heart that scoured him to the core and made him want to throw down his sword and surrender to the horde of blighted spew outside their walls.

But he could never do that. His foolish sense of duty outweighed his sense of self-pity. Maybe that was his true selfishness... He could never simply let people fend for themselves. Oh no... No wait, that was selflessness. Tch, how soon they forgot how far they had come with him at their lead. Well now, if they wanted to reside without him for a time they could. Let them beg for his help when they needed it. For he would not give it under any other circumstances. Not until that happened. Ah, that was selfishness. He was learning, see?

Snorting, he stood up slowly, turning and straightening out the bedsheets before he picked up his black katana from where it rested beside his bed and slung it over his back, he then strode from the room with strength in his steps.

He ignored the glances he received as he walked past a few straggling members of his group as he headed for the rooftop, it was almost sunset; he could feel the sun's fading warmth on his face and neck.

When he burst out onto the rooftop, he sucked in a breath and looked around, pausing momentarily as he saw Aizen already stood there with a sniper rifle in his hands, keeping an eye out for any Infected coming their way.

"Hey, what are you doing up here so late?" the brunet asked without looking up.

"I'm going down on the street. I want some supplies." he answered as he began to hook himself up to the abseiling cable.

"Alone?"

"Does it look like anyone else is with me?" he said a little more bluntly than he had intended, "Sorry... Sorry I didn't mean to sound so cold then."

Aizen glanced around and offered a weak smile, "It's fine, I get that you are frustrated. I would be as well."

"That doesn't excuse me taking it out on you."

"Well you have to take it out on someone or you'll go mad. And we have enough crazy for the time being." he straightened up and pulled him into a kiss, brushing their lips together before he pulled away, "I've got you covered."

"Thanks." he smiled before he turned his back to the world and began to lower himself over the edge of the building, "Any contraband you want me to loot while I'm down here?"

"Hmm... Tempting but I think I will pass this time."

"Suit yourself. I think we need a new tube of lube... You've been going through it like a dog in heat lately." he added with a wicked smirk.

"Oh I have, have I?" he added, "Just you remember who is watching your back, you."

Ichigo blew him a kiss before he detached the cable and dropped about six feet, landing lithely on his feet before he turned and ran across the street shamelessly.

Over the course of the time they had been cooped up in the facility they had plundered the nearby stores for any supplies they were missing, which meant that Ichigo had to go a little further afield, which was fine by him because it meant he might run into the Infected and have a scrap with them. Personally he was in the perfect mood for lopping heads off shoulders.

A shudder of excitement ran through him and he sighed as he considered his innocent teasing with his lover before hand. It wasn't a lie, his sex drive was hitting a pique that even Sousuke was struggling to keep up with. He assumed it was to do with the continuing changes to his body. He was demanding more of everything, more respect; more sex; more food; more exercise; more bloodsport; more hunting; more fighting... In fact the only thing he needed less of was sleep!

It was getting a little ridiculous and he felt bad for being so demanding but he couldn't help it and luckily for him Sousuke understood that and didn't question it, he simply did the best he could and when that wasn't enough the world would explode. Metaphorically speaking of course. Because a second apocalypse was not what they needed right now!

He rounded the corner and almost instantly ducked back, hiding in the shadows and crouching down as he watched a group of... Ten, no twelve Infected battering at the doors of a small post office opposite him. His desire for bloodlust kicked up a notch and he felt his senses change as his eyes began to glow golden, a gentle breeze floating around his body and tousling his hair before he shot from his hiding place and drew his sword, letting not a cry nor a crack of glass under foot escape him as he charged straight at the bastards.

He carved his way through them in a spectacular volley of blood spatter which covered him from head to toe in a matter of seconds, drenching his white vest top and green pants, he didn't flinch or stop though and one by one heads rolled from their shoulders, wheeling away across the street as the corpses dropped in a unified and concentric circle around the strawberry, who was hardly a strawberry at all any more for the coagulated blood colouring his hair.

Ichigo swatted the blood from his blade and sheathed it before he pushed his abilities aside and kicked the door open, sending the barricade of chairs and tables scattering across the almost empty room. He walked inside and cast a swift glance around, his eyes falling on a huddled figure near the counter, he could not see their face for the blankets they cowered behind, the person were clearly terrified and the sight of a blood soaked man walking towards them was unlikely to assist them too much.

"Please, don't be afraid I am a survivor like you. There is a group of us a few streets away, if you want food and safety then come with me." he offered with the calmest smile he could muster given the scent of Infected blood wafting up his nostrils, driving his inner senses wild with desires he simply did not understand.

His back arched suddenly as he felt the burning pain of a sword being impaled through his body and he cried out, looking around and seeing the blade sticking through his shoulder; a clench of his teeth a slight hissing sound made him painfully aware that his body was attempting to heal around the blade, and seal it where it was, something that he didn't really want to happen. He tore himself away, swearing under his breath as he did so and he pressed his hand against the wound, flipping around to face his attacker and pausing at the sight of him.

"... Ichigo?"

"I... Urahara?!" the younger man exclaimed in surprise.

"What are you doing here?! I believed you had died for certain!" the blond man lowered his sword and quickly embraced the man in a hug, "I am pleased to see you!"

Ichigo laughed and hugged him back firmly, "I am glad to see you also! It has been a long time... Far too long..."

"Yoruichi, it's alright, it's Ichigo!" he added and the strawberry looked around to see the dark skinned beauty rise from the floor wielding a pair of painful looking nunchucks.

"I can see that, idiot!" she rolled her eyes, "Sorry for the facade, we've had reports of bandits leaking through; we mistook you for one. Obviously."

"Bandits? But that would mean survivors?"

"You'd think so wouldn't you? But we haven't see hide or hair of them! You were the first we had seen... Or unexpectedly seen anyway!" Urahara clapped him on the back before he paused, "Damn I stabbed you didn't I? Let me get the medical box."

"No need." Ichigo said as he lowered his hand away from the already healed wound; sighing as he saw their expressions.

Urahara sheathed his curvaceous blade and slowly reached out to examine the area, blinking back his surprise, "I believe we have some things to discuss my old friend."

"Yeah... I guess so. Do you want to come back to my place? Safety in numbers?"

"How many are there of you?"

"Eighteen." he answered instantly, "From all warps of life, you would both be most welcome. Renji, Rukia and Byakuya are with us as well; I am sure they would be happy to see you both."

"Little Byakuya is still alive! My goodness wonders never cease!" Yoruichi clapped her hands together and cackled at the thought of the teasing she could inflict upon her former student.

"Yep, and happily gay with Renji." he smirked..

"Nooooo!" she exclaimed, "I don't believe it!"

"Oh yes, you had best start believing it. They've reaching the touching part in the bedroom as well, or so Renji was telling me with a furious red face as I blackmailed him into it." he chuckled, "Apparently Byakuya is very good with his hands."

They left before Yoruichi died of a nosebleed and followed the strawberry back towards the building; Urahara watched the young man curiously, he could tell easily that there was something different about him. When he had known him before, Ichigo had been a courteous and polite boy, slightly shy and unable to say what was really on his mind, not to mention so certain that he was straight it was almost tattooed on his forehead. But he could tell, from experience, that Ichigo was now a confident, resilient leader of survivors. That much was obvious from the blood spatter covering him and the fact that he had ventured onto the streets alone. And he had a sneaky suspicion that Ichigo had finally realised his amazing gay streak, considering they stopped by a pharmacy and the youth picked up a handful of different lubricants without even a hint of blush on his cheeks.

'Dear me... How he has changed...' the blond thought to himself.