“Asking Nicely”

Sunday,  20 October 2013

Disclaimer(s):   Kubo Tite owns Bleach.

Stark_Black owns the original fanfic “A Little Help?” this is based off.

Please read Author’s Note at the bottom.

Title:                   Asking Nicely

Author:              Lavender Wynter (lav.wynter@gmail.com)

Series:               Bleach

Credits:             Takes place after “A Little Help” by Stark_Black;

Pairing(s):         Shihōin Yoruichi x Urahara Kisuke // Hisagi Shūhei x Kira Izuru (hinted) // Urahara Kisuke x Hisagi Shūhei

Characters:      Urahara Kisuke, Hisagi Shūhei, Abarai Renji, Kira Izuru, Hanatarō Yamada, Shihōin Yoruichi, Ukitake Jūshirō.

Rating:              R – Adult topics, language. Hints of sex.

Word Count:    ± 12,000 words, give or take.

Warning(s):      Yaoi (m/m). Hetero (m/f). Angst. Spoilers. Fluff.

Summary:         Hisagi played a prank on Hanatarō which Urahara rescued him from. Now Urahara intervenes.

———————–

Ukitake Jūshirō listened to the waterfall, the moon full and just climbing the night sky. The gentle wind played with strands of white hair, and the tall captain pulled his haori a little tighter against the cold breeze. A dark figure stepped out of a shunpo next to him, her reiatsu announcing her identity, and the captain turned in acknowledgement.

“Yoruichi-chan,” Jūshirō smiled. “It’s good to see you.”

“Jūshirō-dono, been waiting long?”

“Yes, but I arrived early to enjoy the solitude.”

“Solitude or the memories forged here?”

“Both, I suppose,” the smile could be heard in the deep voice. The sound of the waterfall swallowed the silence that lingered as both figures recalled the fond memories that had been forged with friends, families, but mostly significant others. Yoruichi stepped closer to the tall man and threaded her arms between Jūshirō’s sides and arms, pulling them closer together. Leaning down to compensate for their height difference, Jūshirō pressed his lips to her forehead in a deep kiss, reminiscence of memories past. Yoruichi’s tongue clucked in her mouth in mock disapproval.

“If you’re going to kiss me, do it right,” Yoruichi yanked Jūshirō down further for a full kiss. Jūshirō chuckled around the kiss and obeyed like a gentleman would for a lady.

“Thanks for the cuffs, Jūshirō. They’ve caused quite the riot, and Kisuke got to them before I could,” Yoruichi whispered with a chuckle when they finally parted for air.

“Oh? How is Kisuke-kun? Tessai-kun? The children?” Jūshirō straightened but didn’t relinquish his arms around the petite woman, choosing instead to pull them towards a familiar path walked often by the two of them in days long past. Jūshirō is only one of a couple of captains who believed in Kisuke and Tessai’s innocence. While he is happy to know that the escapees are all safe, Jūshirō still laments the loss of so many competent and capable captains and vice captains, especially two so near and dear to him. The current Twelfth Division captain is avoided by most, if not all Shinigami.

“Kisuke sends his greetings and is keeping tabs on everything, inventing new things, and being a general pain in everyone’s hind end. Tessai is keeping his head down, as usual. The kids are healthy. Ururu-chan is keeping Kisuke and Jinta-kun in line.”

Jūshirō laughed, a deep sound that puts everyone around him at ease. The flowing sounds of the waterfall gave way to the night life of the woods as the two figures walked arm-in-arm down a twining path paved with stone personally hand hauled  and laid by Yoruichi’s grandfather when he was a wee lad as punishment for mischief long forgotten.

“You have my interest peaked, Yoruichi-chan. What happened with the cuffs?” Jūshirō asked as they came to a grove of willow trees, their branches and leaves thick to provide covering for the hidden pergola inside. Jūshirō stepped forward and swiped the dangling leaves to the side for Yoruichi to step through, following in her soft footsteps.

“Kisuke found Hanatarō bound with them in one of the spare rooms,” Yoruichi settled down on one of the benches worn smooth by weather and age. Jūshirō sat next to her, extending an arm over her shoulders and pulled her close.

“Oh dear.”

“Yeah, poor boy was there for a few hours before Kisuke found him.”

“I take it Hisagi-kun did this? Quite unlike him.”

“Kisuke thought so. They had a chat, and Kisuke thinks you can help.”

“I’m listening.”

-o-o-o-

Kisuke studied the cuffs in his hands, fingers rubbing at the leather, pre-shrunk, soaked and beaten until soft and worn smooth before being cut and molded. A thin metal chain wrapped around the outside of each of the cuffs and ended into the latches that hold the cuffs closed. Intricate Celtic knots were designed and hand carved into the leather, hand stained into a deep green. Connecting the cuffs together were six inches of two finely looped chains linked to the latches. On the inside, next to the metal that held the clasps was the patented icon of a cat with a tiara on its head. Kisuke smiled. He had been drawing designs for all sorts of things for centuries to stave off boredom when he had to wait for his equipment to crunch information or experiments to mature. Yoruichi had been making off with some of the designs, had some made, and given to friends and confidants to test. Some worked, others didn’t or simply cost too much for the lower classes to consider. A few took away too much of a person for it to be considered safe unless all parties had complete trust. A few exist, but none of them are sold on the open market. Kisuke couldn’t complain. He had spent centuries of fun nights being her loyal test subject and muse. Some jobs he really wouldn’t give up for the world.

This set must’ve cost a small fortune…

Kisuke wrapped a cuff around his wrist, slid a finger in to test the fit, and laughed as the cuffs hummed with his reiatsu.

Perfect fit. Definitely a small fortune…

Then remembering who he was thinking about, Kisuke corrected himself.

Or, this poor soul owed her a hell of a favor.

All amusements of the perverted nature aside, Kisuke’s brows furrowed in consternation. Hanatarō’s words repeated themselves in Kisuke’s mind, “He’s… usually so nice…”

That he is, so why bound Hanatarō, of all people, with lover’s reiatsu cuffs?

Kisuke disliked getting involved in other people’s personal things, but there are some things that just cannot be left to the deities that be, all puns aside. The atmosphere between Kira-fukutaichō and Hisagi-fukutaichō had swirled with everything from extreme anger to immobilizing helplessness and crushing sadness. Whatever animosity the spike-haired Shinigami had for the healer was kept under wraps until the moment Hanatarō found himself caught and bound. Kisuke believes the animosity is unfounded, and his gut feeling has rarely been wrong, if ever at all.

Kisuke heaved a sigh, put a new pot of water on the stove to boil, and retrieved a bowl to fill with cold milk. Then he opened up the back door and slid it outside for a friendly neighborhood cat with golden eyes, returned to the kitchen to lean against the counter and muse some more.

What the hell happened between those two and what does it have to do with Hanatarō?

Kisuke recalled the heavily concentrated scar tissue covering various parts of Kira as the man was pulling his uniform back on after Hanatarō had healed the man’s injuries. Some were results of battles, that much was certain. It was the cluttered scars that troubled him. Those could only be from wounds that were repeatedly inflicted on the same spots over an extended period of time. Kisuke was more than certain that Kira-kun had been abused and may still be.

Just as the kettle gave hint of a whistle, Kisuke turned off the heat, poured the water over tea leaves in the tea pot, dropped the cuffs into his sleeve, and relocated back to his private quarters.

Whatever it is, it involved those scars.

Kisuke sipped at his cup of mint spiced tea, got comfortable, turned his attention back to the book he was reading, and waited for the band of fukutaichō to return from their night out and about the human world.

-o-o-o-

Hanatarō was leaning against the wall outside Urahara’s shop when three shadowy figures appeared in the distance, two of the trio visibly swaying under the effects of alcohol. The reiatsu signatures were familiar, so Hanatarō refrained from panicking the way he seems to have made a reputation for, especially when Shūhei’s reiatsu grew steadily closer. Renji noticed him first and greeted the healer with his sake-slicked, easy-going attitude.

“Yo, Hanatarō! What’re you doing out here?” Renji asked as he staggered up to the doors.

“Getting ready to go back to Soul Society, Abarai-san.”

“Ah! Well, I’m tired, so I’m going to bed. Nite!” Renji disappeared into the shop with a wave of his hand after toeing off his shoes.

“Good night, Abarai-san.”

“Hanatarō-kun, would you mind waiting for me? I’ll go back with you.” Kira asked, wobbly on his legs without Renji’s support.

“Certainly, Kira-san,” Hanatarō smiled at the tall man, tall-ish to Hanatarō’s height anyhow.

“Let me get a few things, then. I’ll be right back,” Kira disappeared inside, but not before shooting Shūhei a warning look that said in no uncertainty, ‘Don’t you dare.’

When Shūhei came into Hanatarō’s line of sight, Hanatarō resisted the urge to bolt, reminding himself that he did not do anything wrong.

“Hisagi-san, Urahara-san wanted me to pass on a message when I see you.”

“What is it?” Shūhei’s expression was neutral as if nothing was amiss. Hanatarō waited until Kira was out of earshot.

“Urahara-san said he has something of yours. If you want it back, you will have to ask him very nicely,” Hanatarō patted himself mentally on the back for not stumbling over the words under Shūhei’s scrutiny. It was everything he could do to keep his knees from buckling.

“I see. Thank you, Hanatarō-kun. Good night and safe travels,” Shūhei replied and reached out to grip the healer’s shoulder in a gesture of apology. Hanatarō’s flinch shook his entire frame. Shūhei kicked himself for letting emotion get the better of him and being a complete ass.

“You have my most sincere apologies, Hanatarō -kun. I was out of line earlier.” Hanatarō nodded in acknowledgement, swallowed hard, gave Shūhei a smile, and bowed in thanks.

Kira reappeared with a box under his arms filled with items requested by various people in Soul Society, “Thank you for waiting, Hanatarō-kun. Shall we?”

“Yes, of course. Good night, Hisagi-san.” Hanatarō bowed and stepped away.

“See you back at Soul Society, Shuu.”

“Yes. Safe travels,” Shūhei waved and disappeared into the store.

As soon as the door slid close again, Kira turned to follow Hanatarō waiting a few paces away from them. No further incidents inhibited their departure.

-o-o-o-

Shūhei sat down on the tatami inside the store, turning the message over in his sake-mulled mind and groaned. Pulling up his legs, Shūhei removed his shoes, giving his fingers something to do as his mind churned. Taking a deep breath and giving his head a firm shake, Shūhei stood up and made his way down the hall.

Of all people not to deal with while drunk…

Stopping by Renji’s room that the three of them shared while on this mission, Shūhei poked his head in. Renji was already undressed and buried under covers on his futon, snoring softly without a care in the world. Sighing softly to himself as he furled his reiatsu about him, Shūhei closed the door and padded softly up the stairs in search of the person who had taken the cuffs hostage.

Just as Shūhei reached to tap on the shogi doors, the door slid open, and Kisuke greeted him with a smile. “Come in, Hisagi-kun. How was your evening out?” Kisuke asked pleasantly. Shūhei regarded the tall blond man warily, unsure of what to make of the light mood after having just gotten a rather enigmatic message delivered via Hanatarō.

“I had a good time. Thanks for asking,” Shūhei stepped inside, and Kisuke slid the door closed. The room smelled faintly of cinnamon. Glancing around, Shūhei guessed the source of the smell was coming from the candle burning in the corner. Shūhei found himself drawn into the flickering of the small flame.

“I’m glad to hear it was so. Tea?” Kisuke gestured towards the second cup with wisps of steam curling from the surface of the hot liquid at the low table. The feeling that he was expected stirred rather violently in Shūhei’s spine, rolling up and down and waking up a mass of wriggling earthworms in his stomach. Shūhei swallowed, hard.

“Thank you,” Shūhei sat down on folded legs before his knees buckled and helped himself to the liquid, hoping that it’ll settle his nerves a little, if not unknotting his gut.

“You’re welcome,” Kisuke’s tone was light, and didn’t carry the usual wit. Shūhei sipped at the tea, letting its warmth drive out the light body feeling from the sake earlier. One doesn’t talk to Kisuke while missing one percent of full brain power, much less anything more. While Kisuke might not ask questions or pry into things, it wasn’t because he wasn’t interested. The blond man possesses superb observational skills even if his eyes weren’t on you, and a mind that can process data better than any computational system known to Shuuhei, if Shuuhei knew any, that is. Kisuke’s hypothesis is the equivalent of facts, as far as Shūhei was concerned. The blond confirms his assumptions on the off chance that he might have been mistaken, which was basically never.

Kisuke noted the stiffness in Shūhei’s usually graceful posture. While it could be attributed to the alcohol the man consumed earlier, Kisuke doubted that. Alcohol loosens people for the most part, not make them more uptight, which meant Shūhei was expecting something to happen, probably unpleasant. Kisuke hummed quietly to himself, sat down cross-legged next to the low-table, and closed the books he was reading. Kisuke clasped his hands together and settled them in his lap, waiting.

Shūhei finished his tea and set his cup back on the table, gripped his knees, and waited, his gaze burrowing a hole into the tatami just beyond his knees. He heard Kisuke refilling the cup and mumbled thanks.

“Hisagi-san…” Kisuke began after the silence stretched into a forever.

“I’m… er… uhm…” Shūhei began at the same time and trailed off at Kisuke’s voice.

“Go ahead, Hisagi-san.”

Shūhei wanted to say something, but he was at a loss. I’m sorry didn’t quite cover it since he wasn’t sure what he was apologizing to Kisuke for, Hanatarō  gave me your message seemed to convey an eagerness, of what he didn’t know, and Stay out of my business was just plain rude. Shūhei didn’t earn respect by doing ‘plain rude.’

Watching Shūhei made Kisuke feel like he just kicked a sick puppy. “Hisagi-san, relax. You’re acting like I’m about to feed you to a pack of starving hollows.” Shūhei looked up to find a pair of storm gray eyes looking at him. Shūhei had expected to see annoyance, anger, or even a mild case of ‘a-fukutaichō-should-know-better’ in those eyes. He certainly did not expect understanding, much less… compassion?

“I… hm…” Shūhei started again, trying to knock enough brain cells together to form a sentence that didn’t drip with guilt. Wondering when he acquired this kind of speech impediment, Shūhei let Kisuke’s steady gaze wash over him. “I came by to ask for the cuffs back, Urahara-san.”

Kisuke calmly reached into his left sleeve to retrieve the item, but instead of holding it out for Shūhei, he kept it in his hands. “I would like to know why you used them on Hanatarō-kun,” Kisuke inquired lightly, his gaze unwavering.

Taken aback, Shūhei ground his teeth, the muscles in his jaws and temple flexing under the pressure. “With all due respect, that’s none of your business. I already apologized to Hanatarō-kun.”

“While I am happy to hear that, this is still my home, and your animosity had influenced everyone, especially Ururu-chan and Hanatarō-kun. Hanatarō-kun, to my knowledge, hasn’t done anything to warrant your treatment of him, and I am not referring to just the cuff incident,” Kisuke sipped at his tea.

“I don’t have to tell you anything.”

“No, you don’t, but Yoruichi-san would not appreciate a personal item having been used in an act of revenge, especially if you consider what she wants to use these for.”

Shūhei blushed, rather adorably, Kisuke noted.

“I never said it was for Yoruichi-san,” Shūhei’s eyes flashed, accusation heavy in his voice. Steady gray eyes met sharp black eyes with a calm challenge to the falseness of his statement, but reflected no animosity or judgment.

“No, you didn’t. The cuffs told me,” Kisuke thumbed over the cat icon.

“What gave you the right to examine the item?” Shūhei challenged.

“Nothing. It was simply a force of habit, Hisagi-san, much like your need to straighten things,” Kisuke replied dryly. That’s when Shūhei realized that everything in Kisuke’s quarters were organized or laid out in perfect squares. A warm fuzzy feeling crept through Shūhei at being so well-observed by someone he has no personal connections to and wasn’t sure if that was comforting or creepy. Maybe a little of both.

“Do you always pry into people’s businesses to use as an advantage?” Shūhei whispered, the look of hurt belied his true emotions, and his reiatsu pulsed in confusion.

Kisuke visibly inhaled and exhaled in a soft sigh, but kept his voice steady and calm.

“I’ve upset you, Hisagi-san. My apologies. I am not prying, nor am I trying to use anything to my advantage. While I appear less-than-likeable and positively-conniving to most people, I assure you that is strictly outside of those doors for the sake of self-preservation.” Kisuke made a beckoning motion with his hand and continued, “In here, I am not one to turn an ignorant back when I believe I can, and should, help. Yoruichi-san, Tessai-dono, Ururu-chan and Jinta-kun can attest to that.” Kisuke paused. “Albeit I would be grateful if you would keep what I just told you to yourself,” Kisuke amiably added at the end.

Shūhei’s shoulders uncoiled a fraction of a notch at those words, but the phantom creaks can still be heard from the straightness of his spine. Kisuke sighed inwardly. He was never much for therapy puzzles. Those usually come with enough baggage to require a bellboy, or in this case, maybe two. Hoping he isn’t biting off more than he could chew, Kisuke offered, “I would like to help, Hisagi-san. How can I help?”

Shūhei stared at Kisuke, more than lost to the turbulent emotions within him. He did not know who to trust anymore. He believed and trusted Tōsen, and that ended spectacularly. He had been so busy trying to keep Ninth Division from falling apart, he only ever spent time with Kira and Abarai. Kira because Shūhei thought he understood the blond man, and Abarai because he wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed to be right.

Kisuke placed the cuffs on the low table, stood up and gave Shūhei a smile, “Restroom. Take your time, Hisagi-san.” Shūhei nodded as Kisuke slid the door closed and then sighed. Shūhei knew he trusts Ukitake. Seeing how Yoruichi trusted Ukitake with parts of her rather intimate personal life and that the sentiment being the same between her and Urahara, Shūhei tried to figure out if any of that information was relevant to what Urahara was asking him to expose.

Trusting someone through association with someone else may not be enough, but what if Urahara really can help? Yoruichi’s probably using lover’s binding cuffs on the man, for crying out loud! He may know something that can help.

Shūhei ground his teeth in frustration, at the feeling of helplessness, and at Renji’s voice in his head that just spoke a little too druid-like. Shūhei wished he was Renji sometimes, brave enough to take that leap of faith, all else be damned, and land on the other side with both feet on the ground, even if it meant being cut to pieces by the senbonzakura.

You’re brave enough. You’ve always been brave enough. You didn’t get those scars on your face from being a coward. Jump and believe! Is there really that much to lose?

The doors slid quietly open and close again as Kisuke returned to his vacated spot.

“Tell me why you think you can help, Urahara-san. What makes you think I’ll trust you?”

Kisuke’s hand flowed towards where he had left the cuffs on the table, palm up, “You could have taken the cuffs when I had excused myself, Hisagi-san, and be on your way. That in of itself tells me that you’re willing to give me a chance, so while trust isn’t completely on the table, it’s not off either. I am not completely certain that I can help, but I have seen a lot of things, and just observant enough not to let much slip by. I have my suspicions about Kira-san and about you, but I will let you figure out what it is you want to share and what it is you won’t by not asking twenty questions.”

Shūhei blinked. Was that Kisuke being humble? Shūhei wanted to snort, but bit the inside of his cheek instead, thinking about what he could ask Kisuke as a gesture of good will.

“Who is Yoruichi-san to you?” Shūhei asked.

Kisuke’s eyes widened at the question, put two and two together, and a corner of his lips quirked in response. “A simple question with a complicated answer, Hisagi-san,” Kisuke murmured, thinking how best to answer for the purposes of this discussion.

“Yoruichi-san is the reason I am here and do what I do,” Kisuke answered.

“What’s that?”

“Keeping myself, my dependents, and generally everyone at large alive and safe.”

“So you’re not… involved intimately?”

“We are not exclusive,” A corner of Kisuke’s mouth quirked up again in a half-smile.

Shūhei’s eyebrow rose at that, trying to read between the lines and figure out what that meant, exactly. “And those cuffs?”

“What about them, Hisagi-san?” Kisuke found himself amused at the conversation at large, almost like he was baby-sitting a teenaged Shūhei and the kid had found the hidden box of toys under the bed that caught his interest, was examining the items when Kisuke found him, and now wanted to know everything about them. Only, Shūhei isn’t some teenager just finding out about the kinkier side of sex, nor was Kisuke baby-sitting anybody.

“Who does she use them on?” A rosy pink crept up Shūhei’s throat.

Kisuke bit his tongue to keep his facial expression in check. “Anyone she likes who would let her, I suppose. You’ll have to ask Yoruichi-san for a more specific answer, Hisagi-san.” Kisuke wanted to laugh at this dance of tongues that didn’t have anything to do with the melding of the mouths, although Kisuke wouldn’t mind a chance with the young fukutaichō, cuffs optional.

“Does… erm…” Shūhei trailed off, the mental imagery running faster than his mouth could form words, and the blush resurfaced on his cheeks and across his nose, making the tattoos stand out in stark contrast of color.

Kisuke resisted the urge to chuckle, expertly hiding his amusement behind his tea cup as he drank a mouthful. “What is it, Hisagi-san? You’re rather flushed.”

Shūhei flushed even harder, “Does she use them on you?”

“Certainly, whenever the opportunity presents itself,” Kisuke paused. “Is it the idea of me being bound or the idea of such practice that’s enticing you so much?”

Shūhei’s expression sobered in an instant, the flush gone, features scrunched in part scowl, part confusion. Kisuke shoved his amusement aside and concentrated on Shūhei, suspecting the next question to be the crux of the evening. “Kira…” Shūhei began, but stopped again. Taking that first step over a threshold one knew not to cross lightly always took a herculean effort, and Kisuke gave Shūhei all the time and space needed.

Shūhei’s reiatsu suddenly swirled, determination and frustration twisted so tightly, Kisuke braced for Shūhei’s next words.

“Ichimaru’s betrayal affected Kira,” Shūhei blurted so fast, Kisuke almost couldn’t make out the words. “Broke him somehow. Keeps going somewhere to get beaten up. I don’t know if it’s in a fight or what. I want to help him. But I don’t understand. He won’t tell me anything.” Shūhei’s chest heaved and the grinding of his teeth was loud enough to make Kisuke wince. The harsh breaths turned into ragged gasps as the flood gates crashed open. Kisuke knew it was going to happen, could see it coming, but there was nothing to do really other than brace for impact, wait for things to level out a little, and have access to a paper bag. Shūhei was going to hyperventilate at the rate he was going.

Kisuke got to his feet and fetched a paper bag out of a drawer, sat back down next to Shūhei with part of their thighs and knees touching. Shaking the bag open, Kisuke held the mouth end of the bag to Shūhei. “Breathe into this, Hisagi-san, before you pass out.”

Shūhei took the bag with shaking hands, couldn’t quite figure out what Kisuke was asking him to do, so Kisuke demonstrated. When Shūhei got the hang of it, Kisuke rubbed Shūhei just above the knees, unsure if the touch would be welcomed or not. When Shūhei’s breathing steadied, he lowered the paper bag, and saw Kisuke looking at him with gentle eyes and a smile.

“Start from the beginning, Hisagi-san. Let’s work through this together, shall we?” Kisuke’s hands didn’t stop their rubbing, and Shūhei was grateful for the connection. It helped him keep focus. Shūhei gave a two second pause to the warm, tingly feeling in his veins before shoving that aside.

“I didn’t know he was doing that. We weren’t that close in the beginning. After the incident with Kuchiki-fukutaichō and Kurosaki Ichigo-san, Abarai, Kira and I crossed paths more often, then we went out for meals and drinks, about once a week, usually a Saturday night, just to catch up…”

Kisuke had stopped rubbing circles on Shūhei’s knees and was pulling his hands back from the younger man when Shūhei stopped him. “Please, don’t stop, Urahara-san. It helps with some connection. Helps me talk.”

Kisuke nodded, and instead of just rubbing Shūhei’s knees, he pressed his palms firmly against Shūhei’s thighs and dug his thumbs into the bunched muscles where he felt the most tension. “Is this all right, then?”

Shūhei couldn’t stop the groan of gratitude from escaping him in time, and Kisuke smiled. “Yes, thank you, Urahara-san.”

“Just Kisuke is fine, and thank you.” Kisuke relished the feel of the firm muscles under his working fingers. It has been too long since he’s touched or felt the touch of another man, not counting Hanatarō, the last time being well before he found himself here in the real world since.

Shūhei nodded, swallowed a mouthful of cold tea, and continued. “Then just Shūhei, as well.” Kisuke nodded in acknowledgement.

Allowing himself to relax into Kisuke’s touch, magical fingers, those, Shūhei swallowed the lump in his throat and pushed onward, “One of those nights Kira had drank a little bit too much, so I helped him back to his quarters. I got him undressed and saw them. I was numb. I didn’t understand. Why was he covered in so many? Scars only appear when no kidō was used, but if Kira was injured in a fight with hollows, there was no reason to not have the Medical Division look at his wounds. At first I thought he kept them for the same reason I keep these,” Shuuhei reached up to touch the three parallel scars running from his hairline to his jaw. “But why keep so many?”

Shūhei’s stuttering breath shook his frame, and he could feel the heat rise to his skin as he shared the burden of his frustration with another. Shūhei craved more comfort, but was unsure how to ask Kisuke to provide, or if it would be overstepping the fragile boundary of this connection.

Sensing that Shūhei was thinking too much per his habit, Kisuke touched one of Shūhei’s hands. “What do you need, Shūhei?”

Shūhei blushed in embarrassment, “Is it that obvious?”

Kisuke chuckled, the tenor voice catching Shūhei with surprise and sent shocks down his spine. “A skill I perfected thanks to Yoruichi-san,” Kisuke replied with care. “Tell me what you need, Shūhei.”

“I just… hm…” Shūhei tried to figure out what he needed. It’s usually never this difficult. Then again, this is not anywhere in Shūhei’s scope of ‘normal.’

About as far as I can get from it, actually.

Shūhei tried again, “I would like a bit more physical contact, but not quite to the point of you holding me, I think.”

“Ah! Here, let me…” Kisuke backed up from where he was sitting, then pulled on Shūhei’s arm, “Come, stretch out your legs,” Kisuke gently pulled Shūhei to the side and held onto him so the younger man didn’t topple over. Shūhei grimaced, and groaned in gratitude when Kisuke caught his weight. His legs had fallen asleep a while ago. The movement caused them to stir from slumber, and Shūhei gave an undignified hiss when what felt like the universe’s collection of pins, needles, and thumb tacks shoved into his legs all at once as he straightened them. Kisuke moved gracefully around.

“Here, don’t move…” Kisuke rubbed Shūhei’s legs, focusing a bit of his own reiatsu to get the blood circulating in the sleeping limbs, and the needles just about disappeared entirely. Shūhei sighed in relief.

“Where d’you learn to do that?” Shūhei asked, and Kisuke gave a smile wide enough to show teeth.

“Tell you what. Let us finish our conversation and I’ll answer some of your questions. How does that sound?” Kisuke asked.

Shūhei’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline, gave a “sure!” then winced inwardly at how entirely too enthusiastically he sounded. Kisuke gave a genuine laugh, and Shūhei marveled at the sound, a singing tenor, capable of being directed and heard over a long distance. Suddenly Shūhei wanted Kisuke to read a book aloud, or heck, sing a song.

“All right, then. Let’s get comfortable. More contact without being held… hm…” Kisuke’s golden eyebrows furrowed as his mind worked quickly. “Ah, I know.”

Kisuke moved behind Shūhei and sat down, his legs going on either side of Shūhei’s hips. Shūhei’s left eyebrow rose in a questioning look, but kept quiet to see what Kisuke was doing. Scooting forward, the junction of Kisuke’s thighs came in full contact with Shūhei’s ass, and his legs wrapped around Shūhei by threading them under Shūhei’s knees. Shūhei fought the gasp the position incited as he could feel Kisuke’s warmth roll off the man. Shūhei almost half expected Kisuke to wrap his long arms around his waist, but instead, Kisuke’s hands rested on strong shoulders and fingers dug into the tense muscles. “There, contact, but no holding. Does this work for you?” Kisuke asked.

Shūhei had sufficiently lost count how many times he’s been surprised thus far this night, and all he could manage was a nod, trying to keep his focus on task and all his blood north. “Oh… okay…Where was I?”

“If Kira-san had sought medical help, he would not have the scars that he does…” Kisuke reminded the man as his fingers steadily kneaded. The reminder drained all the heat from Shūhei’s body, and Shūhei shook so hard Kisuke wrapped his arms about the man. Shūhei didn’t fight, just pushed forward and was very thankful that he could feel Kisuke, but not see him.

“Kira brushed off my concerns. It wasn’t like I could make the man talk, so I left. When Abarai got transferred to the living world on week-long temporary missions, it was just Kira and me some times. Things got intimate, and… uhm…” Shūhei shifted a little, awkwardness not quite enough to describe the feeling of talking about the intimacy while being held by, really, a complete stranger. Kisuke, in demonstration of his alleged mind-reading skills, unwrapped his arms from around Shūhei and went back to rubbing shoulders.

“Thank you…” Shūhei breathed. He knew this was going to be one of the most difficult things he’s ever done, but Kisuke was managing to make it just a couple of notches easier with his uncanny ability to read minds, apparently. “Any way, it got intimate, and things were moving along until Kira started crying in the middle of it all. I damned near died, thinking I had raped my best friend…”

Unconsciously, Shūhei’s hands went out to grip Kisuke’s thighs.

“… That’s when he told me he couldn’t get off unless…” Shūhei’s breath stuttered again. Kisuke gripped Shūhei’s shoulders, tightened his thighs around the man, and wrapped his reiatsu around the two of them, letting the part of him linked to Benihime give voice to power, control, but most of all, the feeling of security.

“… unless I hurt him.” Shūhei choked back a sob. “We spent the rest of the night with him on his futon and me on the other side of the room talking. He tried to explain,” Shūhei shook his head, “Gods… I wish I could understand.” Kisuke guessed this was as far as the story was going to go, and he had no desires to push the man too far beyond his limit. Kisuke wrapped Shūhei back in his arms and rocked the slender Shinigami.

“That’s quite something, indeed,” Kisuke murmured, his mind churning at warp speed. “And how does this all relate with Hanatarō-kun?”

“I had sustained an injury while training with my shikai one weekend and had shown at up the medical barracks after I misjudged a fling and cut myself wide to the bone. I overheard the nurses in the hallway commenting about poor Hanatarō being called in again for Kira after just pulling a double shift, and I just knew… that he knew… and… I don’t know, I got pissed, I guess, that he knew more than I did… saw the damage at its worst, was there for Kira, and that Kira never once called for me or anything…”

The swallow was roaring loud from Shūhei’s throat. “That just hurt.”

“Ah, I see,” Kisuke could hear the pain practically drip from Shūhei’s voice. Shūhei didn’t just care for Kira-fukutaichō, he fell in love. Shūhei needed someone he could go to. A certain white-haired taichō appeared in Kisuke’s mind. Access to certain quarters might be required, and that’s more than what Kisuke has to offer here. Calculating risks and determining that whatever blow back he would catch would most likely be survivable, Kisuke gave Shūhei a rib-crushing hug before unfurling and getting to his feet.

The loss of contact physically hurt for Shūhei, and that feeling caught him by surprise. He had been so emotionally isolated since the incident with Kira that Kisuke’s actions had been a powerful reminder that no one can walk through life alone and isolated, not him, much less Kira. Shūhei pulled his legs in to sit Indian style, leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands.

Kisuke pulled out some comfortable clothes, placed them next to Shūhei, and sat down cross-legged in front of the other man again just as he had before Shūhei asked for physical contact. When Shūhei didn’t move, Kisuke reached out and squeezed a shoulder, feeling the slight tremors that shook them. Shūhei still didn’t move a muscle, but Kisuke saw the moisture slide down the man’s arms.

Shūhei was crying.

“Shūhei…” Kisuke began, “I think I know someone who can help you, but I will have to break the confidentiality between you and me. I will need to enlist the help of two more people, but no more, and they are as good as I am about being confidential. What would you like to do?”

Shūhei raised his head, cheeks smeared by tears, but dark eyes met gray ones again. “Help me how, exactly?” Shūhei finally asked after a small forever of silence, hands coming up to wipe at his cheeks and eyes.

“Answer your questions, give you some insight why Kira-san feels the way he does, maybe help you find a way to help him, if you wish,” Kisuke answered matter-of-factly. Kisuke watched the muscles in Shūhei’s jaw and temple flex as he tried to pull himself together enough to think. “I don’t expect an answer right this moment, Shūhei.”

Shūhei’s eyes reflected gratitude. Nodding, Kisuke gestured towards the clothes. “You need rest. Those should fit you just fine, and they’re comfortable.”

“Thank you.”

Kisuke stood and moved the low table to the edge of the room, folded the small futon and blanket, retrieved another set with an extra pillow, and prepped the bed for the rest of the night. Shūhei used the opportunity to change out of the jeans and polo shirt he was wearing, but glanced at the futon in surprise. “Erm, Kisuke?” Shūhei turned towards Kisuke and his jaw fell open in an unabashed, drooling gawk.

“Yes?” Kisuke asked from the closet, stripping out of his own clothes and into a pair of low-riding cotton sweat pants, leaving most of his torso bare. No one would have guessed that hiding underneath Kisuke’s clothing was a body with muscles that spoke the man was more than just capable of wielding a zanpakutō. Shūhei has only ever seen that kind of muscle definition in someone exceptionally well-versed in hand-to-hand combat, a true master of Hakuda. Shūhei had only ever met people like that from the Onmitsukidō and was fortunate enough to train with a few of them since he didn’t particularly enjoy releasing his shikai.

“What are you… thinking?” Shūhei couldn’t help himself. He just stared, his brain running away with countless questions, and then from the depths of the swirling thoughts was the reminder that Kisuke promised to talk about himself. Shūhei would have squealed if he was ever inclined to do such a thing. Nope. Never.

“Sleep, mostly, and fulfilling my end of the bargain in a more comfortable position,” Kisuke answered, not missing the dark eyes busy devouring him from across the room. “Like what you see, Shūhei?” Kisuke gently teased.

Shūhei blinked and blushed seven shades of crimson. Subtle, Shūhei, real subtle.

Kisuke resisted the urge to kiss the adorable man when he stepped in front of him. “It’s all right. I don’t mind the staring. If you’re not comfortable with me like this, I can put a shirt on. I just didn’t want to leave you alone for tonight. You need someone with you.” Then he gestured towards the futon, “I don’t particularly enjoy getting out when warm, so if you need any more contact for the rest of the night, I can just slide over. If not, you are welcome to stay on your side, and I’ll remain on mine. Is that all right with you?”

Shūhei thought about how to answer that. I don’t mind you without a shirt on seemed a bit too… friendly, You’re fine sounds like he was hitting on Kisuke, and Whatever you’re comfortable with was too much of an invitation.

Yet you’re about to crawl into the same bed with Kisuke… Shūhei wished Renji’s voice would quit hounding him at the moment. Sometimes, best friends and brothers-in-arms can be downright annoying.

“Erm…” Shūhei frowned. “I wasn’t trying to stare. Was just wondering if you were in the Onmitsukidō. They’re the only ones with your kind of physique.”

Kisuke smiled, “How perceptive of you, Shūhei, though they’re not the only ones and not all of them have this physique.” Taking Shūhei’s hand, Kisuke tugged him towards the futon, a large size, with two pillows and a large blanket. “Come, let’s get comfortable. I remember I said something about telling you a little about me, didn’t I?” Shūhei shushed the voice-that-is-Renji before the cackling started, walked to the far side, slid under the cover, and tried to relax.

Kisuke followed suit and turned onto his side to face Shūhei, his right arm sliding under his pillow. “Let’s see, you mentioned the Onmitsukidō, so I’ll start there, but before I do, strictly confidential, agreed?” Shūhei turned his head towards Kisuke and nodded.

“Good.”

“Can I ask questions?”

“Yes, but I cannot promise I’ll answer every one,” Kisuke replied, with a smile.

Shūhei nodded, “Fair enough.”

“All right, then here we go,” Kisuke drew in a breath. “I was a part of the Onmitsukidō’s Detention Unit a lifetime ago, 3rd Seat of the Second Division that was headed by a Shihōin Yoruichi then,” Kisuke began. Shūhei could hear the affection in Kisuke’s voice at that particular name.

“I was closely connected to the Maggot’s Nest, which had a very specific requirement. Weapons were not allowed, so I had to be proficient in hand-to-hand combat to subdue any conflict, which wasn’t difficult considering who my sparring partner had been, and still is,” Kisuke chuckled.

“Who?”

“Yoruichi-san.”

“Wow… and ouch,” Shūhei mock grimaced in sympathy remembering that Soi-Feng taichō lost in her battle against the woman.

“Yes, indeed,” Kisuke replied, laughing. “I can hold my own against her, but back when I just joined the Gotei Thirteen, I’ve earned my fair share of bruised everything and broken this and that when she got carried away.”

Shūhei’s eyes widened. Holy shit, hold his own!

Kisuke smiled at Shūhei’s look of comprehension.

“You and Yoruichi-san go way back, then?” Shūhei asked.

“Tessai and I grew up with Yoruichi at the Shihōin mansion. We were practically together through everything. Tessai went Kidō, Yoruichi heading Onmitsukidō and then Second Division and I operated behind the scenes and threw myself at research and focused on intel.”

“That’s quite something,” Shūhei mumbled, his focus on Kisuke’s disclosure was succeeding in distracting the man from the troubles that gripped him earlier.

“Yes, it was,” Kisuke’s voice changed at memories locked from the world.

Shūhei rolled onto his side to watch Kisuke. The man, without the damned hat, really was beautifully handsome. The blond hair was slightly tousled and the definition of his physique was witness to the dedication the man kept to keeping in top shape, as if he was anticipating something big coming. Whatever the reason, Kisuke is a highly desirable man, and with the way he keeps smiling whenever Yoruichi’s name came up, it was obvious the man is spoken for, but… Yoruichi-san doesn’t feel the same way?

Kisuke was quickly becoming a romance-mystery novel.

“So, you and Yoruichi-san…”

The corners of Kisuke’s eyes crinkled as a grin split his face in two. “I’m not going to get any sleep, am I?”

Shūhei blushed, realizing that Kisuke was probably exhausted, but kept Shūhei company despite it all. “I’m sorry. I should let you sleep. It’s really late, or early. You didn’t have to do this for me, and I’m keeping you up.”

“It’s all right, Shūhei. Tessai can run the shop if I need to sleep in. I’m actually somewhat of an insomniac anyway,” Kisuke reached over and patted Shūhei’s hand in assurance. “So, ask your questions, Shūhei.”

Shūhei felt like an eight-year-old unwilling to go to sleep because the bedtime story was just getting too good to stop at one chapter. The mysterious Urahara Kisuke was sharing details about himself that nobody else knows, or at least as far as Shūhei was concerned. Shūhei couldn’t remember the last time he had taken some down time for himself and just talked with another person. Kira had too much to deal with, just like Shūhei, and Shūhei wasn’t sure if Renji knew what was going on with Kira to confide. It’s surprising, really. In some ways, it’s easier to confide in a near complete stranger than someone close. The other party could always walk away, and that would be the end of that – there was not much to lose.

But Kisuke didn’t walk away, and even went above and beyond. It certainly caused mental gymnastics.

“I don’t even know where to start. You’re like a hundred-thousand-piece puzzle that I got for a birthday gift or something,” Shūhei began.

“Like any other puzzle, the exterior edges are usually the easiest,” Kisuke answered, a little too suavely like a know-it-all.

He is that

“Okay, back to some questions I asked earlier then. How did you know I needed something? Was I that obvious?” Shūhei ventured. It wasn’t like he knew where the corners were, so he’ll use a different tactic to a puzzle – find the pieces that look like they might go together.

“You weren’t that obvious. Reading people by their reiatsu and body language is a skill I perfected, as I said, thanks to Yoruichi-san,” Kisuke rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling.

“She taught you?”

Kisuke laughed. “In a way, yes. Yoruichi-san has another title… Shihōin Yoruichi-hime of the Tenshi Heisouban. Princesses are not known for their patience, and growing up with her poses its own set of unique challenges.”

Shūhei started chuckling at the mental imagery of Yoruichi in purple pigtails throwing a hissy fit and beating up a young Kisuke. Kisuke turned back towards Shūhei with a questioning look, so Shūhei enlightened Kisuke to his train-of-thought.

Kisuke laughed, “Well, you’re not too far from the truth.” Shūhei snorted, much to Kisuke’s amusement. “She didn’t beat me up. She had a lot to deal with, and no one would approach her when she’s in one of her stewing moods since she started sending back anyone going after her decorated in black and purple bruises or nursing broken ribs, arms, fingers, or a combination of the above. The more persistent ones got personal facial reconstructions from her free of charge, just without general anesthesia.”

Kisuke was rewarded with Shūhei’s chuckling.

“I learned to read her reiatsu and body language as I like my nose, and all other parts of me, how they are, and then it was just a matter of applying what I learned from her to others and rounding out that skill.”

“Being a cat suits her,” Shūhei commented thoughtfully.

“That it does.”

“So, the cuffs… you’re into kink? How did it start?” Shūhei asked tentatively, hoping he didn’t come across too eager about this juicy tidbit.

“Oh my, hm…” Kisuke took a few seconds to smile at the question and map out an answer. “It was a Lunar New Year’s party, and all four noble clans had sent representatives. Many of the Academy students joined us. Ukitake and Kyōraku were there, as were Unohana and Shiba Kaien. Kuchiki Byakuya was there by taunting of Yoruichi-san, and it was girls versus boys all out snowball fight to celebrate the last freeze of the season. Ukitake, Kyōraku, and Unohana were the supervision. Everyone else was in the game.”

“Kuchiki-taichō?” Shūhei’s disbelief was apparent.

“Mmhmm… At any rate, with everyone using shunpo, there were a few collisions – broken noses, fractured wrists or collar bones, a few twisted ankles, and the like, but those were all easily treated by the Fourth Division. I had shunpo’d myself into the top of a blossoming sakura tree to get out of Yoruichi’s snowball storm. The view was beautiful, but I had ignored how tired I was. One moment, I had the entire Seireitei sprawled out before me, and the next I was in the snow with Unohana and Ukitake hovering over me with concerned looks on their faces. Kyōraku laughed so hard he had sake dribbling out his nose.”

Shūhei made a noise at that, “That can’t have felt good for Kyōraku-taichō. Snowball?”

“No, exhaustion. Blacked out and fell out of the tree. I assure you the landing was as graceful as I could make it while unconscious,” Kisuke said with mock seriousness.

Shūhei lost it. Laughter rang and bounced off ceilings and walls before Shūhei could clamp a hand over his own mouth to stifle the ruckus, but oh dear gods, that felt good.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be laughing. I probably woke everybody,” Shūhei rasped.

“I’m glad that you are, Shūhei, and no, no one will hear you. Sound barrier,” Kisuke replied with a tired smile.

“I was bundled inside. When Yoruichi-san heard that I hadn’t slept for nearly eight days except for one or two naps… well, I’ve never seen her so infuriated in my life. She was almost as white as the snow outside. I was terrified,” Kisuke continued. Shūhei winced with a hiss.

“I was put on bed rest for two miserable weeks and drugged so I could sleep. I had never slept so much in my life. The moment Unohana cleared me, I went to the place where Yoruichi-san and I had been sparring since we were kids. She was there, sitting all by herself, stewing with puffy eyes. It just about broke me seeing her like that. She gave me enough bruises to last a decade or so. Then we sat, talked, and I explained to her why I’ve been having so much trouble sleeping. She smacked again me for good measure and made it her life’s mission to turn my brain off so I can sleep…”

Shūhei watched in fascination as the smooth pale skin of the blond man started deepening with hues of rosy pink, but Kisuke looked happy. “That’s where the kink came into play. She wanted to try it since we tried everything else and nothing worked. I could never find it in me to say no.” Kisuke started chuckling, “When it didn’t freak me out, we tried it a couple more times. It took us a few months to figure out what worked and what didn’t. She was not interested in inflicting pain of any sort, thank the gods, but she rather enjoyed toying with me and playing the age-old game of… ah… denial.” Kisuke brought an arm up across his eyes to cover the blushing, but Shūhei could see him grinning.

“You love her deeply…” Shūhei murmured, so relaxed from the laughter and Kisuke’s priceless story telling that sleep was starting to creep up on him.

Kisuke sighed. “In general, yes, I love her deeply…”

Shūhei threw a questioning look at Kisuke, “In general?”

“Yoruichi-san is a free spirit. She is the first in my world, in everything I do, but I’m not bound to her in the standard way most relationships define ‘love.’ I still have my freedom, as does she, too many forces against us for it to be anything more, but if she wants my time, I put all else aside,” Kisuke said.

“Not exclusive,” Shūhei murmured in understanding and filed it away under ‘to think about.’

“Mmhmm…” Kisuke murmured. “But she’s still here, wandering for certain, but always close.”

“Is that enough?” Shūhei asked.

Silence graced the room again before Kisuke answered. “I cannot answer that, Shūhei, for my sake.”

Shūhei gave a moment’s pause. He was pretty sure that was the most vulnerable he’s ever heard the man, and his heart thudded a few painful times for Kisuke. Yet Kisuke is making it work for him. It isn’t perfect, but there’s more good than bad. Knowing that, Shūhei had to ponder what he is willing to do for Kira.

“I think I know someone who can help you. What would you like to do?”

“Shūhei?” Kisuke’s voice sliced through Shūhei’s thoughts. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, sorry, didn’t mean to space out.”

“It’s all right. Just wanted to make sure you weren’t lost in your head again and drowning,” Kisuke gave Shūhei’s hand a squeeze.

“You must do it, too, getting lost in your head. That’s the only way you would know,” Shūhei predicted.

Kisuke laughed, “I’m often in my head, but not ever lost.”

“Uh, huh,” Shūhei didn’t know if he was affirming or disbelieving. “So, how did you get the cuffs off Hanatarō? Kidō?” Shūhei asked, dragging the conversation away from the emotional.

Kisuke turned to face Shūhei again, his gray eyes twinkling, “You really think something Yoruichi-san commissioned can be unlocked by kidō? I am excellent in the arts, but even I have my limits.”

In reality, after studying the cuffs, Kisuke could open it with his reiatsu even if it had been sealed by Shūhei. The trick is spiritual power. One can always overpower a lower level reiatsu in the same way a higher kidō could overcome a lower one. Kisuke was not going to share that little tidbit, however, to appease the part of him having an epileptic fit all night over this conversation. Besides, the dirty and perverted side of Kisuke enjoyed just how absolutely adorable Hanatarō was… and helpless.

Kisuke laughed at the forty shades of red Shūhei was turning as his mind churned through all the possibilities, “I relieved Hanatarō-kun with a good kiss, Shūhei.”

Shūhei stared at Kisuke with a mixture of horror and apology on his face. “Oh gods, Kisuke. I’m so sorry. That should not have happened…”

“Relax, Shūhei. No harm done,” Kisuke gently cut Shūhei off. “He was quite adorable, and I think he enjoyed it. I know I did.”

Shūhei blinked, realization plowed into him like a bullet train. “Wait, you play both teams?”

“I involve myself when I find a person interesting and has interest in me, not what body parts are included,” Kisuke propped his head up on his hand to watch Shūhei’s reaction. Shūhei’s breath hitched just for a fraction of a second. Kisuke traced a finger against the back of Shūhei’s hand. “I find you interesting, and am interested, if you are, Shūhei.”

Shūhei’s mind reeled, all other questions to ask Kisuke disappeared in a mental shunpo to oblivion until further notice. Suddenly, all the times of Kisuke asking Shūhei what he needed, how Kisuke had provided requested contact through the night, the feel of those magical fingers kneading various parts of him intertwined in his core and started stirring heat into previously calm veins.

“Like what you see, Shūhei?” The heat started giving misguided directions for the blood to travel south instead of staying north, adding ten more shades of red to the previous forty.

Shūhei definitely has a whole new level of respect for Kisuke. Hell, the man walked a delicate line between Shūhei’s vulnerability and his own interests, crawled into the same bed and under the same blanket with Shūhei, kept a trustful distance to give him space and all the while Shūhei didn’t even suspect the man was interested. Kisuke’s reiatsu has been nothing but calm, steady, and comforting all damn night! Fuck, the man’s groin was pressed up to Shūhei’s ass for a solid part of… however long that was. Shūhei would definitely have noticed if a hard cock started pressing up against him.

“Shit, how the hell…” Shūhei’s voice trailed off in absolute awe. Kisuke’s eyes sparkled, and Shūhei just shook his head, uncertain if he actually wanted to know the answer.

Kisuke slid a little closer to Shūhei, reading the facial expressions on Shūhei’s face much like one reads a map. “Yoruichi-san really is a very talented teacher in the most unconventional ways possible. Being in the Onmitsukidō certainly helped perfect the art of control,” granted Kisuke in a vague answer.

Shūhei’s mind whirled. It’s been a long day for both him and Kisuke. It’s nearly 5am, and he’s due back to Soul Society in the morning. He’s not particularly looking forward to working on less than four hours of sleep, much less none, but this feeling in the pit of his stomach is starting to gnaw at the lining, not to mention the semi-erection Shūhei’s keeping pinned underneath the covers to make sure Kisuke couldn’t notice it, although it felt like the man’s got x-ray vision half the time. Shūhei stopped himself from drooling at Kisuke’s exposed upper torso.

Morning walk of shame, here I come

Shūhei slid closer to Kisuke, “I’m interested.”

Kisuke’s eyes widened at the unexpected answer, but gave Shūhei a broad smile before leaning in and kissing Shūhei deeply.

-o-o-o-

The sun was almost at its peak by the time Shūhei stirred, noting that Kisuke was no longer there since he couldn’t sense the man’s reiatsu. The empty spot still held the man’s body warmth, and Shūhei scooted an inch closer, rolling the blanket closer around himself. The scent of last night’s activities and Kisuke still lingered, and Shūhei remembered chuckling when he realized Kisuke sweated the scent of a well aged, fruity shiraz, giving a new definition to “being intoxicating.” Shūhei still couldn’t quite believe last night happened, and was rather impressed Kisuke could move this morning considering Shūhei got a little carried away. Embarrassed laughter bubbled up Shūhei’s throat.

Right… a little. Poor man’s probably not bottomed for half a century and you fucked like you’re on death row.

Shūhei’s laughter gave way to a groan, guilt flushing his neck a rosy red, “Oh gods…”

“Are you all right?”

Shūhei bolted upright at the voice, blanket flying and exposing his nudity, and winced at the sharp throb at the small of his back. Kisuke slid the door aside and entered with a tray in his hand, turning to close the door behind him.

Yup, fucked like you were on death row…

“Kisuke, you startled me…” Shūhei mumbled, reaching for the blanket to cover over his lap. “Shouldn’t I be asking you that question?”

“My apologies, Shūhei. I’m fine, thank you for asking. I brought some breakfast,” Kisuke sat the tray down next to the futon on Shūhei’s side. “How are you?”

“Thank you. This smells wonderful,” Shūhei scooted closer to the tray and inhaled the smell of a grilled egg and ham sandwich with a side of breakfast potatoes. There was orange juice and a mug of steaming green tea spiced with what smells like ginseng. Shūhei guessed it was sweetened with honey when he took a sip. “I’m fine, I think. A little sore… I’m amazed you can move,” Shūhei smiled sheepishly.

Kisuke smiled back, “I manage. Go ahead and eat. If you’re interested in a shower after breakfast, the bath is just around the corner. I know you have some things to think about, so I’ll leave you alone.” Kisuke moved around the room to throw the windows open. “Tessai-san is out on errands for me, the kids are at school, and Abarai-kun is out on his rounds, so I have to actually man the store until Tessai-san’s return. Come down when you’re ready, Shūhei.”

Shūhei nodded his thanks, and Kisuke gave him another soft smile before disappearing back through the doors, his footsteps gradually softening down the stairs. Shūhei wasn’t sure why his heart began thudding so hard when Kisuke left. Last night was wonderful, to say the least, and Shūhei wondered if he was perhaps feeling sad that this was, for the lack of a better phrase, a one night stand.

Having a crush, are you? Forgetting Izuru already?

Shūhei growled at himself, picked up the sandwich, and bit into it. Flavors danced across his tongue, and he moaned in appreciation. Is there anything the man can’t do?

Shoving thoughts of Kisuke aside, Shūhei turned his attention to the things the blond man had mentioned he needed time to think about. Shūhei wasn’t sure what to think. Kira wouldn’t talk to Shūhei about anything, and Shūhei wasn’t sure if seeking out advice might push Kira further away or bring him closer. Shūhei just wanted to be supportive, but no one ever told him if “being supportive” meant trying to help or giving the man space he wanted.

Ever considered that maybe Izuru felt embarrassed about what he needs?

Shūhei sighed as he downed his glass of orange juice. The acid bit his dry throat, but the sensation wasn’t unpleasant. Frustrated at not knowing enough to make an educated decision, Shūhei flopped back onto the futon. What could he lose if he learned about whatever it is Kira’s involved in? It’s an education, just like reading a book about kidō or the history of the shinigami’s origins. Shūhei had no intentions of giving anyone Kira’s name.

But what if Kira found out Shūhei was learning about it? What happens when Kira runs instead of feeling like he had support from Shūhei?

Hisagi Shūhei. If you are forgoing the choice of helping on the risk that you might lose something precious, then you have no right calling yourself a shinigami. Isn’t it your job to run into the fray, not away from it?

Shūhei finished off the mug of warm tea, got off the futon to pull on his jeans, and placed the breakfast tray by the door. Folding the blanket in half, Shūhei draped it over one of the window sills, letting it air out. He left the futon where it is so it could air out as well, gathered the pile of neatly folded clothes and towels Kisuke had thoughtfully left for him, and headed to the bath for a long soak. Shūhei’s rolled his shoulders. Yes, a soak will feel wonderful.

-o-o-o-

Kisuke heard the running water through the pipes and estimated that Shūhei would be downstairs within the hour, if not sooner. The man probably needed a good soak from last night, so it gave Kisuke a few more moments for the thoughts in his head. He hadn’t expected last night to end the way that it did, and it was difficult not to walk with a spring in his step when he came downstairs. While Tessai and the children wouldn’t be around to notice it, Kisuke was sure that a certain golden-eyed cat was prowling around, and Yoruichi doesn’t pass up chances of making Kisuke’s day more interesting than it already is.

As if Yoruichi knew Kisuke was thinking about her, the petite woman dressed in black tights and an orange jacket stepped through the doors. “Had a good time last night?” Yoruichi greeted with a sly grin befitting the cat she liked to roam as. Yoruichi looked like the satisfied cat in Saturday morning cartoons that just ate Tweety with feathers still sticking out of its mouth.

“Ah! If it isn’t Yoruichi-san! I have no idea what you’re talking about! Welcome home!” Kisuke cheerfully denied, flipping his fan open and covering up the lower half of his face. Yoruichi chuckled in a satanic sort of way, grabbed a cushion, and sat down cross-legged at the table. Kisuke deftly produced an empty cup and poured the woman some tea.

Sensing that Shūhei was still upstairs, Yoruichi glanced over at Kisuke and gave him that look. Kisuke dropped his fan, his eyes focused and serious, and if anyone had stepped into the room, one would swear they communicated in part by telepathy. “How is he?” Yoruichi asked.

“A bit better physically. Emotionally, who knows? I’ve given him some time to sort some things out and think about what I said,” Kisuke replied. “You know what I’m thinking, Yoruichi.”

“Ja, but he hasn’t agreed yet. You’re jumping the gun, Kisuke.”

“Oh, he’ll agree, I’m certain. The man’s in love,” Kisuke refilled Yoruichi’s cup.

“Hm, then I’ll talk to Ukitake.” Taking another sip of her tea, Yoruichi’s eyes gleamed, “So you’ve got it?”

Kisuke flipped his fan back open again, “Got what, Yoruichi-san?”

“Be careful, Kisuke. Playing this game with me has its consequences,” Yoruichi threatened with a hungry cat look on her face, making Kisuke feel just a tad like he was on the menu for lunch, dinner, and maybe even a midnight snack. If one listened closely enough, the sounds of Yoruichi licking her feline chops can be heard.

Gray eyes shuddered in a wide smile, “I assure you I do not have any idea of what you’re talking about, Yoruichi-san. Give Ukitake-taichō my regards!”

Yoruichi tsked and rose gracefully to her feet, “Kisuke.” Unguarded gray eyes met soft purple ones, and Yoruichi smiled, “You know this is my favorite part of you, right?” Kisuke’s eyes smiled, and just as soft footsteps could be heard padding down the stairs, Yoruichi slipped out the backdoor and disappeared into the day, possibly finding a warm, sunny ledge to park and sun herself for all anyone know.

Shūhei appeared a few moments later after a detour to the kitchen to clean up the dirty dishes. “Morning,” Shūhei greeted and settled on the curiously evacuated cushion on the floor. “Thanks again for the breakfast. Is there anything you can’t do?” Shūhei asked with a smile.

“Oh, I’m sure there’s something,” Kisuke replied, his hat shadowing his eyes and producing another cup for tea.

“Thank you again, Urahara-san,” Shūhei’s unconscious return to formality made Kisuke smile a little. If the man didn’t wear his emotions on his sleeves, so to speak, he would have done well in the Onmitsukidō. “About what you said last night, can you tell me who the confidants you spoke of are?”

Kisuke studied the younger man. Shūhei was sitting rather stiffly on folded legs, but Kisuke could understand. This was not an easy conversation, and that Shūhei could now talk about it without the same falling apart as the night before meant he has made substantial progress. “You’re very welcome, Hisagi-kun. As for the confidants, would you like their help?”

Shūhei stared at the wisps of steam rising in curls from the tea in front of him, wondering why there was still a chasm the size of an inverted Mount Fuji between his decision and the ability to voice it out loud. Didn’t he already make up his mind before he even took a bath? Whatever happened to resolve? He wanted to help Kira.

“I…” Shūhei tried to start, but his tongue refused to form the words. Shūhei, focused intently on an internal battle, failed to notice another presence by the door or Kisuke’s eyes flicking upwards to meet the person’s eyes before settling back on Shūhei.

“Would it help if you knew one of them is me, Shūhei-kun?”

Shūhei jumped at the voice that snapped him out of his thoughts, eyes widening, “Yoruichi-san?”

“Morning,” Yoruichi greeted as she righted herself from the door frame, grabbed another cushion, and settled down at one of the two remaining places at the low table.

“I, erm, your things… they’re with Urahara-san,” Shūhei offered.

Yoruichi quirked an eyebrow and a sly smile spread across her lips, “Oh, they are, are they? Thank you, Shūhei-kun.”

Kisuke made an unhappy sound at the back of his throat and corrected his earlier assessment of Shūhei and the Onmitsukidō. Shūhei looked curiously between the two, remembered the conversation from last night, and blushed at the blunder he just made.

Oh, that’s right, Kisuke wasn’t supposed to know about those yet…

Then it occurred to Shūhei that Yoruichi was here talking about confidants and the woman shouldn’t have known anything about what’s going on. Shūhei felt horribly out-classed.

Onmitsukidō…geez.

Shūhei caught the twinkle in Kisuke’s eyes and mentally shook himself. He suddenly felt like prey between a cunning fox that likes to play with its food and a very large, hungry, and fast cat.

“You mentioned that you were one of the confidants, Yoruichi-san,” Shūhei began. He needed to sort this out before he goes, and the hour is drawing late as is. His division is probably wondering why he isn’t back yet.

“Yeah. I bounce between here and Soul Society,” Yoruichi supplied, hoping that this will help ease whatever difficulties Shūhei was having. She wasn’t as good at reading people as Kisuke was, but she wasn’t bad either.

“How can I be sure others wouldn’t find out I’m getting involved like this?” Shūhei asked, thinking about how vulnerable his position as fukutaichō and acting taichō was right at that moment, and with the face off against Aizen coming up, extreme caution is advised.

Yoruichi cocked her head to the side. “The only way they would know is if you tell them yourself, Shūhei-kun,” Yoruichi replied. Shūhei processed that little piece of logic.

“If no one talks about this, as you suggest, then how could there possibility be a community?” Shūhei’s eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

“Select members of these communities sometimes choose to step forward into the limelight with usage of either a single code word or even just a name to help others in need,” Yoruichi explained further. “It is possible because both parties have interests in keeping things confidential.”

“Even for people just looking to understand? What keeps that confidentiality?” Shūhei challenged.

“The same thing that’s making you nervous about this conversation, Hisagi-san. Fear of judgment,” Kisuke spoke up in answer. “Most people have something very precious to lose in this type of vulnerability, so confidentially is an iron-clad, understood, and respected-by-everyone rule.”

As silence graced Shūhei once more, Kisuke pulled out the cup Yoruichi was using before and served her a cup of tea. Yoruichi made a face, much to Kisuke’s amusement, and he silently stood up to fetch a new cup and some milk for the petite woman. Shūhei crunched through his thoughts, took a deep, stuttering breath, and swallowed the lump in his throat.

Here goes…

“I would like to understand so I can help a friend in need,” Shūhei’s voice cracked multiple times as he got the sentence out. Kisuke squeezed Shūhei’s shoulder with one hand before moving around and setting the milk down in front of Yoruichi who dove after it.

“Then I’ll put it through,” Yoruichi gave Shūhei a reassuring smile that lidded her eyes. Shūhei found himself liking the small petite woman and her unwavering optimism that lent Shūhei the support he needed to take this step forward. It didn’t untangle the knots his intestines and stomach were twisted in, but crushing fingers of helplessness eased up on the cage around his heart, and his chest didn’t hurt so much anymore. Polishing off her milk and licking the foamy mustache, Yoruichi got to her feet. “Things will be okay, Shūhei-kun. You’ll see,” Yoruichi reassured before waving and disappearing out into the world. “I’m off!”

Shūhei glanced back at Kisuke, “I didn’t get you in trouble with the cuffs, did I?”

“Oh, I’m in trouble, but that’s all right. I’m fairly used to the punishment, Hisagi-san,” Kisuke offered and Shūhei flushed. Glancing at the clock, Shūhei grimaced at the time.

“I would love to stay and talk some more, Urahara-san, but I must return. I’m hours late already,” Shūhei said as he climbed to his feet.

“Of course. Keep out of trouble, Hisagi-san. The best of luck to your endeavors,” Kisuke replied. Shūhei nodded and made his way out of the store and back to Soul Society.

-o-o-o-

“I would be happy to help,” Jūshirō replied after a moment of pause for the wind to stop its sporadic singing.

“Kisuke thought you would,” Yoruichi acknowledged.

“He has always been a perspective young man, although I suspect you had something to do with the honing of that skill?” Jūshirō chuckled to Yoruichi’s sly grin. “Still torturing him, huh?”

“I don’t torture him. I just like keeping him on his toes,” Yoruichi retorted, letting every pun in the book play in those words. Jūshirō’s deep laughter shook wide shoulders.

“When I get a moment to be semi alone with Hisagi-kun, I’ll let him know, or I’ll have someone at Fourth Barracks drop my name to the young man. Do we know who he’s trying to help?” Jūshirō asked.

“Kira Izuru. I’m afraid if we don’t intervene soon, he really will get himself hurt in a bad way,” Yoruichi caught a fluttering leave between her fingers, turning the broad maple leaf in her hands, its color a brilliance of yellow, red, and orange.

“Yes, that will make for dire circumstances, especially now,” Jūshirō agreed. “So, are you spending the night at the Thirteenth quarters or are you headed back?”

Yoruichi’s teeth showed in the next smile, “Do I get to stay in the captain’s quarters?”

Jūshirō laughed but didn’t fall for the bait, “No, Yoruichi-chan, you’ll have one of the suites reserved for guests, though. I’m afraid I’m not completely finished with my work for today, yet.”

Yoruichi pouted as Jūshirō pulled her to her feet, “I’m used to a higher standard, Jūshirō-dono.”

“Such statements no longer become you, Yoruichi-taichō,” Jūshirō chuckled.

“Then I shall take my leave back to the real world. Kisuke is waiting,” Yoruichi replied and tugged Jūshirō down for a hug.

“Then it is farewell, sweet Yoruichi. Take care of yourself and everyone,” Jūshirō gave her his best winning smile when he pulled back. Yoruichi blew him a kiss and stepped into a shunpo, the leaves on the ground swirling upwards with the disturbance. Jūshirō stepped into his own shunpo for his quarters moments later and the groove was quiet again having seen another memory made and watched history pass by in quiet contemplation.

END

————————————————————

A/N: Oh my god, it’s done, finally. All mistakes are my own.

For those of you who are a fan of Stark_Black and Liralen, you might notice some similarities between some of their stories (“Living in This Moment”, “After Care”, “Strange Tortures”, “Giving Grace”, “Simple Submission”) and mine or think my story falls in their timeline. Those are unintentional. I have emailed both authors, and they are fine with my story, so my gratitude to both for their support.

This IS completely inspired by “A Little Help?” written by Stark_Black, and it does continue in timeline, but Stark has no input on this. This is in no way related to her writing. I took it and ran for the purpose of building my version of Kisuke, Yoruichi, and Shuuhei… mostly Kisuke x Yoruichi. My thanks to Stark.

I will most likely never write the story between Shuuhei and Jūshirō simply because I don’t know the BDSM universe, and I don’t feel, even with reading and research, I can comfortably pull it off without sounding like I’m talking out of the wrong end of my anatomy. I’ll leave that up to the professionals *points to Stark and Liralen*

There was supposed to be a smut scene, but it was stressing me out too much. It’s in the works as a side fic, but no promises that it will reach completion.

Hope you enjoyed. Comments and constructive criticism welcome.

My thanks to a wonderful muse whose undying support and extensive knowledge on history and craft works has helped with my many forays into insanity, even if he has no idea what Bleach is or what I’m writing about.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s