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The Imaginary Man

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Fake Karakura Town spread out in all directions, a hollow shell of the real thing, half of it already destroyed. Buildings crumbled down around Ichigo as Gin's bankai sliced through them. Bits of rock and stone dust rained down around them like a mean monsoon. Ichigo dodged the larger pieces even as he looked for an opening.

Meanwhile, overhead, Isshin was similarly engaged with Aizen. He would strike a blow and Aizen would dodge, over and over, a dance among the clouds. And then, a blow that connected: Isshin's zanpakatou hit against Aizen's zanpakatou. It would have been in inconsequential meeting of blades. It should have been an inconsequential meeting of blades. Perhaps, in some alternate dimension or universe, it was. But it this universe, Isshin's blade happened to hit a small minute weakness in Aizen's blade at exactly the right angle. A millimeter away or a half a degree off and nothing would have happened. But it hit it exactly, and the blade shattered.

Even more surprising than that, the shattering of the blade was accompanied by a loud scream from Aizen. He grabbed his head and curled up into himself, then started to fall. Downward, large and heavy, falling just as quickly as any of the small stones around him. His collision with the earth sent up a cloud of dust and rubble. Fights forgotten, everyone could only stare at the place that he landed.

In time, they slowly, carefully, made their way towards Aizen. Urahara, newly arrived, was the first to inspect the body. Still breathing. And then Aizen's body stirred and his eyes opened.

"Urahara Kisuke?" he asked, voice more subdued, more modest. The confusion in every syllable seemed more than genuine. "From the second division? What's going on? Where am I?"

Four Months Later . . .

Ichigo rushed downstairs, late for school yet again. Between his part-time job, mercenary work for the school sports groups, and desperate efforts to re-obtain his student ranking from before he became a shinigami, he rarely ever got to sleep on time. And every now and then a hollow would show up that the local shinigami couldn't handle and it was Ichigo to the rescue once again, in which cases he usually wouldn't get any sleep at all. He ran through the kitchen, stopping as he caught sight of Aizen Sosuke standing there in casual slacks, a polo shirt, and a frilly white apron, stirring something on the stovetop.

Every single morning. It never ceased to surprise Ichigo. . . he wondered when he would get used to it. Maybe never.

"Ichigo," Aizen said, looking up. "Good morning."

Aizen smiled warmly, an expression that Ichigo thought was strange on a face he had always known as only smug. Not that it looked bad. It was just. . . well, it was unsettling, for reasons Ichigo could identify and reasons he couldn't.

"Morning," Ichigo said, taking the bento that Aizen was now offering him. Loath as he was to admit it, Aizen's homemade bentos were better than even Yuzu's.

"Have a good day at school," Aizen said, still smiling.

"Yeah. See you."

And with that Ichigo ran out of the room, sparing one last glance backwards as he did. Aizen had resumed stirring his pot and was now even humming a little tune. It was difficult for Ichigo to reconcile this Aizen with the one he had known, with the arrogant bastard plotting to destroy Ichigo's world. They looked the same, really. Aizen wasn't slicking back his hair anymore, though he still wasn't wearing glasses. But even if they looked basically the same, every mannerism, every expression was different. Aizen's handsome features were always soft now, easy to smile, and not in a sadistic "I'm about to kill you and enjoy doing it" kind of way. It was strange and unsettling.

But Ichigo only spared it one passing thought before turning and rushing to school. The morning passed in its usual fashion, that is until halfway through math when Ichigo happened to look out of the window. He was just planning to distract himself, just for a moment, from the boring lesson. Maybe watch the cars drive by or the students already on lunch eating outside. Instead, he saw Ichimaru Gin kneeling on a tree branch and grinning at him in a way that could only be described with one word: creepy.

Ichigo nearly fell out of his desk, garnering the unwanted attention of his teacher and his classmates. Ishida gave him a curious look, but then looked out the window himself. He caught sight of Gin, rolled his eyes, and turned back to the lesson. Ichigo, on the other hand, couldn't brush the shinigami off so simply. Throughout the lesson his eyes kept glancing back to Gin, who had taken to lounging on the branches as though he was a cheshire cat. As soon as the period was done Ichigo ran outside and stopped underneath the tree. Gin quickly hopped down to join him.

"Ichigo," Gin drawled, "always good to see ya."

Ichigo held a book over his mouth so that passing people wouldn't think he was talking to himself. "What are you doing here, Gin? I've got ten minutes before my next class, so make it quick."

"Now, now, is that any way to talk to an old friend? And here I was, looking forward to meeting up with you. Silly me."

"Get to the point, Gin," Ichigo said, wanted to get away from Gin as soon as possible. The man still managed to creep him out unfailingly. He knew that Gin had only been with Aizen in order to ultimately get revenge on him, but he couldn't help but think that a guy like Gin was at least a little bit evil.

"Just checking up on Aizen," Gin said, smile shrinking just a tiny bit. Enough for Ichigo to notice, at least. "You know we have to do that, every now and then."

"Then go talk to my dad," Ichigo said. "They're both probably at the clinic right now."

"Your dad's a fun guy," Gin said, smile spreading again, "but pretty sketchy when it comes to details. Likes playing the fool, ya know? Won't tell me anything other than Aizen's the third best nurse he's ever had."

Ichigo sighed. "Look, so far he's been a model guest. As far as I can tell he's not plotting anything against anyone. He just helps out at the clinic and takes care of any housework Yuzu doesn't have time to do."

"Huh," Gin said, eyes taking on a contemplative glow even as his smile stayed plastered on his face.

Ichigo frowned, wondering if Gin had anything else to ask. But this was really all they did when they checked in, just ask how things were going. Ichigo, however, had some questions of his own, despite the fact that he didn't really want to admit it. "Hey, Gin. Do you think Soul Society will ever take Aizen back?"

"Oh, no, no," Gin said with a laugh. "Never. Most people believe the story that he was being controlled by his own zanpakatou this whole time, but that doesn't mean they want him around. Too much bad blood, and there's always the chance he could be lying about everything. Always was the consummate actor. Better to stick him in a gigai and let you guys deal with him."

"Yeah," Ichigo said, frown deepening. "Thanks for that."

"Hey, it was your dad and Urahara's idea, so don't blame us for that. Still. . . I hafta admit this is weird for me." And here Gin's grin did disappear. "To people who have known him awhile, this is Aizen going back to normal. This is the real Aizen. But when I first met him he was the bastard they all discovered later on. So the Aizen now. . . to me, he's just the character the Aizen I knew was playing all this time."

"You don't have to tell me that," Ichigo said. "I never even knew this version of Aizen. So to me, it's like a completely different person, just with his face. You don't think that's weird for me?"

Gin shrugged. "You don't seem to mind too much, not from what I've seen."

Gin still hadn't resumed his grinning. Ichigo thought he would be happy about that fact, but for some reason it made things even more disconcerting. He shifted from one foot to the other, crossed his arms, uncrossed them.

"Gin," he finally said, feeling like he should be worried about something. "You okay?"

"Hmm?" Reverie broken, Gin's lips spread upward again. "Sure, sure. Just, I've lived a good chunk of my life thinking I'd get revenge on this guy named Aizen, and now that guy doesn't even really exist anymore. Know what I'm saying? Lack of closure's always an annoying thing."

"You're not. . . you're not thinking of. . ."

"Killing this Aizen?" Gin laughed and his voice took on a teasing tone. "Nah, don't worry about that. Wouldn't be any fun. This Aizen's completely different from the one I knew. Still, I can't help but wonder what similarities they share. Like I wonder if he's still a demon in the sack."

"Excuse me?" Ichigo yelled, face turning bright red. He didn't need to know. . . especially right now, he didn't need to be thinking about that.

Gin laughed at Ichigo's response. "Don't act like such a virgin, Ichigo. It's no big deal."

Ichigo turned even redder. "But what about Rangiku? I thought you two-"

"Well, yeah," Gin said. "Ran-chan always has my heart and my soul. But, you know, sometimes my body wants to try different things. It's like food. You get sick of eating the same thing over and over again."

"You're awful," Ichigo said. "You're an awful person. I hope Rangiku dumps you."

Gin laughed again. "Don't you worry your little head off about that. Ran-chan and me, we have an understanding. And shouldn't you be getting back to class?"

"Oh, crap," Ichigo said, eyes widening. He didn't even bother saying goodbye to Gin, just turned around and started running back to the classroom. He could hear Gin laughing lightly behind him, but he didn't have the time to be bothered by that right now.

That day, Ichigo didn't end up going home until eleven. Which wouldn't have been terribly bad, if not for the fact that he had a report to write and a few assignments due soon. He stumbled into his house dead tired and dreading the work he was going to have to put in before he could actually get a bit of sleep. He had stumbled up the stairs and was heading into his room when he heard his name being called.

"Ichigo? Are you just getting back now?"

Ichigo turned, blushing when he saw Aizen coming out of the shower. His hair was slicked back now that it was wet, reminiscent of how bastard!Aizen (as Ichigo had taken to thinking about him) wore it, though bastard!Aizen never had that worried expression on his face. There were a few drops of water trailing down Aizen's neck, though Ichigo didn't dare look down past his bare clavicle bones. His mind was already supplying him images of Aizen wearing nothing but a towel; he didn't need the real thing to add fuel to the fire. And Gin's words from before only made things worse. I wonder if he's still a demon in the sack. He hadn't exactly said that as though it were a bad thing.

"Ichigo? Are you okay?"

Lost in his thoughts, Ichigo hadn't realized how close Aizen had gotten. But now Aizen's hand was on his forehead and he found himself just inches from Aizen's cheek. He felt himself blush harder.

"You look a little flushed."

"I'm fine," Ichigo said, noticing that he didn't really sound fine at all.

Aizen's hand came down to Ichigo's chin, lifting Ichigo's face up to get a better look. Ichigo gulped as he found himself looking into concerned brown eyes.

"I think you've been working too hard," Aizen finally said. "I wish you would take it easier. Sado told me that you were saving up money to live on your own in college, but I'm sure your father would be willing to help you out with that."

"Chad told you that?" Ichigo asked. Aizen still hadn't let go of his chin, and his fingers felt too hot there. "Umm. . . Dad's all about taking responsibility for yourself. I think tuition and books are all he's going to help me with."

"I see," Aizen said, frowning a little bit.

His fingers fell from Ichigo's skin, much to Ichigo's relief.

"Still," Aizen continued, "I think you're working too hard. Take some time to relax every now and then, okay?"

"Okay," Ichigo mumbled, not able to say much else.

Aizen smiled. "Good. Get some sleep now, okay?"

Ichigo nodded as Aizen turned to head back to his room (a.k.a. a sectioned-off portion of the clinic). As the man disappeared down the stairs Ichigo let out the breath he hadn't known he was holding. This wouldn't be so confusing, he thought, if Aizen wasn't so damned nice to him. But then he heard someone clearing his throat, and turned to see his father in the doorway to the master bedroom.

"You know," Isshin said, shaking his head, "I consider myself a cool dad, but I don't know if I can approve of this. I mean, he's like a hundred times your age."

"Oh my God, Dad!" Ichigo couldn't help but yell. "It's not like that. I don't. . . just. . . shut up about it, will you?"

His face bright red, Ichigo stormed into his room and slammed his door shut. Trying to get his mind of his confusing feelings for Aizen and the fact that his father somehow knew about them, he immersed himself in his schoolwork before falling asleep.

When Ichigo woke up, he opened his eyes to find a man sitting on his chest. He bit back a scream, pushed the guy away, and rolled off the bed and into a fighting stance.

"What the fuck? What the hell is wrong with you?" Piercing blue eyes and a snarl of white teeth.

"That should be my question!" Ichigo answered, his sleep-addled brain catching up to the waking world. And when the haze cleared, he became aware of a very mad Grimmjow stalking the corner of his room. "What the hell are you doing here, Grimmjow?"

"You told me before," Grimmjow said. "You told me that if I wanted to fight, you'd fight me as many times as I wanted. Well, now I'm pretty healthy again and I want to fight."

"I don't have time for this," Ichigo said back. He grabbed some clothes, started to change for school, and generally tried to ignore Grimmjow.

"Don't give me that," Grimmjow snarled. "Like you've got any say in the matter. Don't look down on me, asshole."

"I'm not," Ichigo said, "and you've gotta get over this inferiority complex of yours. Look. . . maybe after I get back to school, okay?"

"Like fuck I'm going to let you leave here without a fight-"

At that moment the door to Ichigo's room opened and Isshin poked his head in. He looked from Ichigo to Grimmjow, then to Ichigo again.

"Is there a problem here?" he asked.

"No," Ichigo said. "I've got it taken care of."

"As long as you don't make too much noise," Isshin said, leaving and shutting the door behind him.

Ichigo turned towards Grimmjow, fully expecting the man to throw a fit over being taken so casually. Instead, he found Grimmjow staring at the door, unusually calm for the moment. This was his chance to sneak away. . . before he could, though, Grimmjow turned to face him again.

"Who the hell was that?" Grimmjow asked.

"My dad."


Ichigo blinked a few times. "Excuse me? I think I would know the man who raised me."

"You two don't look alike at all," Grimmjow said. "How could a pretty boy like you have a dad as hot as that?"

"Whoa. Wait." Ichigo felt like his head was about to explode. Surely Grimmjow, feared espada and man who had attempted to kill Ichigo on several occasions, had not referred to his father as 'hot.' "Just wait a second. I'm going to pretend you didn't just say that, then I'm going to leave for school, then maybe I'll fight you after club activities are over this afternoon."

"What about your mom?" Grimmjow asked. "What's she up to? Your hot dad's got any pieces on the side?"

"Oh my God," Ichigo said. "Look, my mom's dead and my dad's not interested in anyone else and. . . wait, why the hell am I telling you this? I have to go to school."

Ichigo's door opened again, but this time it was Aizen who was looking in. His eyes scanned the room but settled only on Ichigo. It was clear to Ichigo that Aizen couldn't see Grimmjow. A handy effect of the gigai, in that it drained away all of Aizen's spiritual powers.

"Ichigo?" Aizen said. "I heard you talking to someone and wondered if you needed any help. Is it someone from Soul Society?"

Ichigo wasn't sure how he should answer that question. "No. . ."

Aizen blinked a few times, but apparently decided not to press the matter. "Okay. Well, you're up early today so try to make it downstairs in time to eat some breakfast, okay? I made some miso soup so it won't take long to eat."

"Okay," Ichigo said.

After the door shut once again Ichigo turned towards Grimmjow, who was staring at the door with eyes wide and his mouth hanging open.

"What. The. Fuck?"

"I'll explain," Ichigo said, "after I'm done with school. If you try to fight me now you can forget about me giving you an explanation."

Grimmjow's eyes narrowed into a sharp glare, but after a long moment he nodded. "Fine. I'll just stick around here until you come back. Maybe chat up your dad a little."

Ichigo almost groaned. Instead, he tried not to think about Grimmjow's awful taste in men and headed to the bathroom to brush his teeth. Five minutes after that he was down the stairs, where he picked up his bento from Aizen and walked out the door. Before he could get very far, though, he felt a gentle hand wrap around his wrist. He turned to see Aizen staring back at him. The older man stepped outside as well and closed the door behind him, so that they were alone on the front step.

"Ichigo," Aizen started, hesitant, cautious, "I won't push you if it's something you can't tell me, but I know that you were talking to someone this morning. If it has something to do with me, I'd like to know."

Aizen looked more concerned than serious. Ichigo hesitated, but. . . there wasn't really any reason to keep this from Aizen. It's just that, for some reason, Ichigo was loath to talk about anything that had to do with Aizen's plot to destroy Karakura Town and overthrow the Soul King. Aizen said he didn't remember any of it, but what if something triggered his memory? This Aizen had nothing to do with that. He didn't need the guilt from his actions during that time weighing on him.

"What exactly," Ichigo said, "is the last thing you remember? Before waking up in Fake Karakura Town?"

Aizen sighed. He had, no doubt, been through all of this with the Central 46 and the Gotei 13. "I remember being a third seat in the fifth division. I remember achieving bankai, and. . . that was it. The next thing I remember was waking up in Fake Karakura Town."

"And nothing in between?" Ichigo asked.

"Nothing," Aizen said, his expression growing more and more concerned with each passing moment. "Ichigo. Should I be worried about something?"

Ichigo shook his head. "No. The guy I was talking to, he was someone you knew when you were in Hueco Mundo. Someone who worked under you. But he won't be a problem, I'll make sure of it."

Aizen smiled. He moved his hand to Ichigo's cheek, causing Ichigo to blush a little bit.

"Aren't you sweet," he said, fingers lingering just enough to tuck an errant hair behind Ichigo's ear. "You don't have to handle everything on your own, you know. I might not have my powers, but I can still physically fight. And what's more, you have your father and Urahara. . . all your friends. . . you don't have to do everything alone, Ichigo. If you're busy protecting everyone, who's going to protect you?"

Ichigo swallowed and nodded. He wasn't sure what to say and was well aware that he was blushing. This was the Aizen, he thought, that had the respect of everyone in Soul Society. This was the Aizen his subordinates were so devoted to. Over these last four months, Ichigo had certainly seen why.

"I'll keep that in mind," Ichigo said. "Thanks, Aizen. I'll see you later."

Aizen nodded and smiled again. "Don't come home too late."

But, once again, Ichigo came back late. It was about midnight when he came back this time. Yuzu and Karin were in bed, but there were several voices in the kitchen, and Ichigo made his way there with some curiosity. There were loud voices and boisterous laughing. Like his dad was drinking with friends. Once he got to the kitchen, Ichigo could see clearly what was going on. Urahara, Aizen, Grimmjow, and his dad were all sitting at the table, three bottles of sake between them. And Grimmjow was dressed in a graphic t-shirt and skinny jeans, with the tattoos under his eyes missing.

"Please don't tell me that he's in a gigai," Ichigo said.

"Then we won't tell you," Urahara replied, before the group turned away from Ichigo and resumed their conversation.

Ichigo slammed his hands down on the table. "I can't believe you put him in a gigai."

"Why not?" Grimmjow asked, lips tugging downward. "This bastard gets to stick around here after everything he's done, being a- what do you call it? Housewife?"

"That's not what he is," Ichigo said, "and it's a different case."

Ichigo looked over at Aizen, who now seemed a bit uncomfortable. His mouth was set in the tiniest of frowns as he kept glancing at Grimmjow.

"Not particularly," Urahara interrupted. "Grimmjow gets to live freely and we get to keep tabs on him while the gigai keeps him powerless. It seems like the exact sort of situation to me."

"What?" Grimmjow snarled, eyes widening. "What the hell do you mean powerless? Is that why I've been feeling kind of funny?"

Urahara placed his fan over his mouth, probably to cover the large smirk that had no doubt taken over his lips. "You should have read the fine print, Grimmjow."

Grimmjow's nostrils flared. Just like a bull, Ichigo thought.

"What fine print? You didn't give me a contract or nothing!"

"Yes, well," Urahara said, "nothing for it now. You should just try to make the best of this situation."

"Bastard!" Grimmjow yelled. He tried to jump over the table to grab at Urahara, but was quickly restrained by both Isshin and Aizen. All the while Urahara chuckled lightly from behind his fan.

"Okay," Isshin said. "I'll get him out of here. Aizen, you don't mind if I set up another cot in your room?"

"Not at all," Aizen replied. "This is your house, after all. I'm grateful to be allowed to stay here at all."

"That settles it then," Isshin said, hand clamped over Grimmjow's mouth as he dragged the semi-struggling man away. "Looks like we've got another household member."

"I should be going as well," Urahara said. "Walk me out, Ichigo?"

It was phrased as a question, but both of them knew that Ichigo wouldn't say no. They walked out of the kitchen, then out of the house, and then they were standing alone outside in the cool yet pleasant night air.

"Clear night," Urahara said, looking upwards. "It's nice to be able to look at all the stars on a night like this."

Ichigo looked up, but he was too tired to appreciate something like stars right now. Still, he decided to let Urahara take the lead in this conversation. The other man would get to what he wanted to say, one way or another.

"You're not feeling too put out by this, are you, Ichigo?" Urahara asked, still scanning the night sky.

Ichigo shrugged. "I figured I don't have any say in the matter."

"Yeah, well, you're a smart kid. You can probably see why I would want someone like Grimmjow where we can keep an eye on him. I just didn't want your past history with him to be too much of a problem."

"You mean about him trying to kill me multiple times?" Ichigo asked. "Water under the bridge."

"Good boy," Urahara said, lips spreading into a wide smile. "I knew I could count on you. And what about Aizen? He's not giving you any problems, is he? I've already asked your dad about it, but thought it would be good to get your input as well."

"He's fine," Ichigo replied. "No problems at all."

"Is that so?"

Urahara was looking at him now. No, just just looking. . . studying. It put Ichigo a little on edge. It always did when Urahara looked at him like that, like he could see right through him.

"Good, good," Urahara finally said. "Like I said, you're a smart kid, so I figure you would know if something was off with Aizen. Like maybe he isn't what he wants us to think he is."

Ichigo frowned. "Do you think it's a lie that his zanpakatou had him under hypnosis? The Central 46 apparently believed it."

"Yes, well, he's fooled us all before. Though I have no idea why he would go through this kind of ruse. At any rate, I'm just being overly cautious. Aizen was the one who had me banished from Soul Society, after all."

"And you think this might be some trick?" Ichigo asked.

Urahara's eyes gleamed as he smiled. "Actually, I don't. Like I said, I'm just being overly cautious. I never knew Aizen before the zanpakatou supposedly took control. I knew of him, of course, but we had never talked. He wasn't on my radar until he was made lieutenant, and by then he was already under his zanpakatou's control. But the Aizen I knew. . . he was intriguing, in a way. I always got the sense that there was something very deep underneath his surface. An ocean where there should have been a pool. I remember once he said something once while we were in bed-"

"Wait," Ichigo interrupted, a little incredulous. "You've slept with Aizen?"

Urahara shrugged. "A few times, but that's not the important part. The important part is that. . . huh. Now I can't remember. But my main point is that I don't sense any of that from Aizen now. No ulterior motives, no calculations running behind his eyes. The Aizen now seems like exactly who he's supposed to be. A nice, boring guy."

"I wouldn't say boring," Ichigo protested, stopping when Urahara seemed to be studying him again.

Urahara smirked. "I see. How interesting."

Ichigo blushed. "What exactly is so interesting?"

"Oh, nothing." But Urahara's smirk only grew. "At any rate, I guess I should go. I'm heading to Soul Society tomorrow and want to be well-rested. I get to see my Mayuri, after all."

Ichigo could practically see the hearts coming out of Urahara's eyes. The guy had a really screwed up type when it came to his romantic and sexual partners.

"You know he hates you, right?" Ichigo asked.

"Oh, he's just being coy. He's been like that for the hundreds of years that I've known him."

"And you know he's evil, right?" Ichigo asked. "Evil in a 'kill his own men without a second thought' kind of way?"

"No one's perfect," Urahara countered, smile growing. "I prefer to think that his flaws are endearing."

"Uh huh. Good luck with that."

"Thanks, Ichigo," Urahara said. "I'll let you go now, but be sure to let me know if something happens with Aizen or Grimmjow."

"Sure," Ichigo said. "Have fun in Soul Society."

The two men waved goodbye before separating, Urahara walking towards his shop and Ichigo heading back inside. As he stepped into the house he was met by silence. Which made sense, but. . . it was a change from the noise he had walked into the last time he had stepped over the threshold. As he made his way inside he could see the sliding screen to the backyard was open and that Aizen was sitting on the engawa there. He held a cup of sake in his hands as he stared up at the night sky.

Ichigo debated just heading upstairs and going to sleep, but temptation won out and he found himself walking to the backyard. As he sat down beside Aizen the older man turned, smiled at him, and held out the cup of sake.

"Can't," Ichigo said. "I'm underage."

"Ah," Aizen replied. He pulled the cup back and held it to his own lips. "I constantly forget how young you are. You look like you're about a hundred, at the very least."

"Yeah, well," Ichigo said, "I am a human. Mostly. We age a little bit differently."

They sat in comfortable silence for a little bit, just staring up at the sky together. It was Aizen who eventually broke the quiet between them.

"This Grimmjow," Aizen said, "he's a very colorful man."

"That's an understatement," Ichigo mumbled under his breath.

"He's not the kind of man I can see myself associated with," Aizen continued. "And yet I did."

"It was a different you," Ichigo said. "It has nothing to do with the man sitting in front of me right now."

"Is it really so simple?" Aizen asked, his eyes boring into Ichigo's. "What would happen if, somehow, my zanpakatou gained control of me again? That version of me would presumably appear easily enough again."

"Then I'll just have to beat some sense into you," Ichigo replied. "Until you're yourself again."

Aizen chuckled at the answer, a sound that made Ichigo flush a little bit. "I'll have to trust you to do that, then. But, Ichigo. . . is there really no part of you that blames me for what I put you through?"

Ichigo shook his head in the negative. "Like I said, that was a different you. If you say you don't remember any of it, then there's no point in holding a grudge."

"I'm happy that you believe me," Aizen said. "And I find your naiveté charming. Just be careful that it doesn't get you into trouble one day. You're too trusting and straightforward; someone a little cunning could easily take advantage of that."

Ichigo shrugged. "Let them. I'll take care of it if it happens, somehow."

"I suppose that's one way to go through life," Aizen said with a laugh. His eyes, though, took on a serious gleam. "But you know it's strange. Hundreds of years of my life seem to have gone by in an instant, without even a memory of what happened during them. Grimmjow appearing only reminded me of the fact that time has gone by without me, that I've lived a whole other life that I'll never know. It's a disconcerting feeling."

Ichigo only nodded. He could see how it would be. And not only did Aizen lose all that time, now that he was back he was being forced to adapt to a completely different environment. Instead of the security of Soul Society, he had to deal with life in a human world that bore little similarity to the human world from his memories.

"Do you miss Soul Society?" Ichigo asked.

"Somewhat," Aizen answered. "I suppose it's inevitable, considering it was my home for so long. Not that I don't enjoy being here; I'm very grateful to you and your father for taking me in."

Here Aizen turned to smile at Ichigo, who had to bite his lip to keep from smiling back.

"Still," Aizen continued, "I won't pretend that it's that easy to adapt. The worse is not having my powers. I see why it was a wise choice to take them away from me, but I can't help but feel bereft without them. I feel absolutely helpless, to be honest."

Ichigo nodded, imagining what life would be like without his powers. He didn't like the thought of it. "To tell you the truth, when Rukia showed up I didn't even want these powers. But now I can't imagine life without them. Not being able to protect the things I care about. . . I'd probably go crazy. If there was ever some threat and I wasn't able to deal with it, I don't know what I'd do."

"You know," Aizen said, looking a little amused, "I was told you weren't much for conversations, but I've found you quite talkative during my stay here."

Ichigo's ears burned at the comment. "Umm. . . yeah. . . well, I should go to sleep."

Aizen only nodded and watched after Ichigo as the younger man left.

As Ichigo settled into his bed that night, he couldn't help but wonder if he was just completely transparent. His usually obtuse father had managed to figure out his emotions towards Aizen, and so had Urahara, most likely. Did Aizen himself know? Ichigo preferred to believe that he didn't, but it wasn't as if he could tell. And Ichigo himself wasn't even sure what said emotions were. There was a physical attraction, sure, but was that it? Did he actually like Aizen? Or was he confusing the fact that Aizen was so caring and kind with something else. . . maybe this was just his mother complex manifesting itself. Ichigo sighed and tried to keep those thoughts from keeping him from sleep. With Grimmjow here, things would be busier than ever, and he would need all the rest he could get.

Luckily enough, school and work kept Ichigo thoroughly occupied for the rest of the week. Grimmjow, Ichigo was shocked to see, settled into his household pretty easily. Maybe Urahara had modified his gigai to somehow temper his aggression. But even if Grimmjow was proving to be rather docile, things were still chaotic around the house, and that's what Ichigo woke up to on Sunday morning: sheer and utter chaos.

The first things he heard upon waking were the sounds of Karin and Grimmjow arguing. Well, screaming was more like it. He ignored it as he changed his clothes and brushed his teeth, but by the time Ichigo made his way to the kitchen it was pretty hard to tune out. Apparently, they were arguing over how Grimmjow was cooking breakfast.

"What do you think you're doing?" Karin was all but yelling. "You're going to burn the whole house down!"

There was, in fact, smoke coming from both the stove and oven, and pots, pans, and food scraps all over the working area of a kitchen. It looked like a bomb had exploded.

"Shut up, you little brat," Grimmjow spit out. "I know what I'm doing."

"Yeah? It doesn't look like it. It looks like you're being an incompetent-"

"Where's Yuzu?" Ichigo asked as he sat down. He didn't say it to anyone in particular, just to the kitchen in general, but he was still surprised by the voice that answered him back.

"Out grocery shopping with Aizen."

That was. . . not a voice he was expecting. It was vaguely familiar, but it didn't belong to his dad or Urahara. He looked up to see a stranger sitting at his kitchen table. The man had shaggy blue hair that fell over his ears and golden brown eyes that reminded Ichigo of a cat. He was sitting with his back perfectly straight, legs pressed together, hands clasped in his lap.

"Who the hell are you?" Ichigo asked, voice loud in order to be heard over Karin and Grimmjow.

Those gold eyes flickered over towards him, where they took a moment to regard him cooly. "That's not a very polite way of phrasing that question."

Which is when Urahara burst into the room, Isshin close behind him.

"Mayuri-chan!" Urahara exclaimed. He waved some small sheets of papers-train tickets?-in his hand. He wrapped his arms around a completely unresponsive Mayuri's shoulders. "Mayuri-chan, I picked up the tickets on the way back, so now we can go."

Ichigo could feel his mouth drop. That was Kurotsuchi Mayuri?

"Get off me, you insufferable fool. I only came here because you said I could dissect an espada."

A pot came flying towards the air, missing Urahara's head only because he dodged at the very last moment.

"Who the hell did you say he could dissect?" Grimmjow yelled from his position behind the stove.

"Now, now," Urahara said, smiling. "I said study, not dissect. And you can study him all you want when we get to the hot springs."

"Ichigo," Isshin said, coming up directly in front of Ichigo and clamping his hands down on his son's shoulder. He had his 'serious fatherly advice' face on, so Ichigo was dreading what he was going to say next. "I changed my mind. I approve of you and Aizen. I decided that I'm not against the age difference between you."

Ichigo could feel himself turning red. "Wha- what-"

He looked around the room in complete mortification, but Urahara, Mayuri, and even Karin seemed indifferent to what Isshin was saying. Grimmjow, however, had a little smirk on his face. Ichigo's eyes narrowed at him.

"Wait a minute," Ichigo said. "Exactly why aren't you against our age difference anymore?"

Grimmjow's smirk grew even wider.

"Let's just say," Isshin said, patting Ichigo's shoulders, "that maybe you and the girls will have another father soon. I only hope that Masaki will approve from heaven."

"I can't believe this," Ichigo said. He could feel a huge headache coming on.

"I can't wait until you have to call me 'Daddy,'" Grimmjow added, looking extremely smug. How had he worked so fast? It hadn't even been a week!

"No chance in hell," Ichigo muttered darkly.

"Well, technically," Isshin said, eyes staring upwards as he thought about it, "he'll be your adopted brother. That's the only way we can add him to the family registry. But that's just the legal explanation for things. At any rate, the four of us are taking a little vacation to the hot springs for a few days, so you're in charge while we're gone."

"You should feel lucky," Grimmjow interrupted. "You might get a little alone time with Aizen. What you see in him, though, I'll never know. He was an arrogant bastard. Only two good things abut him were that he was strong in a fight and good in bed."

Yeah. That headache had definitely settled in and probably wouldn't be going away any time soon. "You slept with him too? Has everyone slept with him already?"

"Not me," Isshin said in a sing song voice, holding a hand up like some teacher's pet.

Their little conversation was interrupted by a loud, high-pitched shriek. They all looked over to see Yuzu standing in the doorway, Aizen standing behind her. The paper grocery bag she had no doubt been holding in her arms was now on the floor, spilling out vegetables and a few broken eggs.

"What did you do to my kitchen?" she screamed.

Two hours later, Ichigo and Aizen had finished scrubbing every nook and cranny that Grimmjow had managed to get food stuck into earlier. Things were quiet again, considering all the men had left about an hour and a half ago, and Yuzu and Karin had left to a study session shortly after that. When they were done cleaning, Ichigo was feeling tired and dirty and in need of more sleep.

"It must be a shock to you," Aizen said as they stuffed the trash bag closed. "Your father dating again."

"Not so much," Ichigo said, scowling. "More like I'm shocked he's dating a bloodthirsty espada."

Aizen chuckled a little at that. "Yes, well, we can all change. I'm proof of that, though I suppose my situation was a bit different than Grimmjow's. I wonder, sometimes, what kind of a man I was when I was under my zanpakatou's influence."

Apparently you were a huge slut, Ichigo thought, though he didn't voice that particular thought. "It doesn't matter. What matters is the man you are now."

"You always say such sweet things," Aizen said. His eyes had a warm glow to them as he peered at Ichigo over the garbage, an expression that sent a small flutter through Ichigo's stomach. His hand reached up, hot fingers touching Ichigo's arm. "I'm glad I got to know you over these last few months."

Ichigo gulped. "Yeah. Me too."

Aizen's touch lingered as they stared at each other, until he dropped his hand and lengthened his smile.

"We could both use a bath after that cleaning," Aizen said. "Why don't you go first? I'll finish doing the dishes."

"Okay," Ichigo replied. He didn't know if he was relieved to leave the kitchen or not, but a bath definitely sounded good right now. It would at least give him some time to relax and think.

Soon enough Ichigo had rinsed himself off and was sinking into a tub full of hot, slightly steaming water. It felt even better than expected. When was the last time, he thought, that he had a chance to soak like this? He sunk down until his nose was just a millimeter away from the water's surface, until only the top of his head and his kneecaps were visible. Even in the hot water his skin seemed to burn where Aizen had touched it earlier. He was becoming much too conscious of the other man. The fact that everyone lately seemed to feel the need to comment on Aizen's sexual prowess didn't help matters any.

Ichigo, of course, was a perfectly normal adolescent boy. As much as he didn't like talking about it, as much as he wouldn't admit it to other people, he watched porn and he masturbated. And he had seen more than enough porn to keep his imagination supplied with rather vivid scenarios, lately involving Aizen, mostly involving anal sex. He would be lying if he said that wasn't what he wanted from the other man.

Even now, just thinking about it in an abstract way, Ichigo could feel himself getting hard. Well, he was alone now. . . he figured this would be as good a time as any. He closed his eyes and let his hand wonder down his body. As his fingers wrapped around his half-hard cock, he felt a jolt go through his body. Really, even this act was something he hadn't been able to indulge in lately. Maybe everyone was right. Maybe he was working too hard. But those thoughts took a back seat to the the pleasure he started to give himself with his hand. As he tugged on his cock, already hot and fully hard underneath the water, he imagined Aizen's lips on his lips, pretended his hand was Aizen's hand.

"Ichigo," Aizen would whisper, breath hot against his ear, and his voice alone would enough be enough to make Ichigo come.

His touch would be a little too rough, a little too fast, just like Ichigo's touch was now. But Aizen would have two hands, of course. Ichigo took his other hand and moved it downward. Past his cock, this time, until his index finger was meeting with a little puckered hole. He ran circles around it, teasing, because that's what he imagined Aizen would do. After awhile he slid a finger in, and awhile after that another, until he was fucking himself with two fingers.

"Do you like that?" Aizen would ask, just a touch of the old arrogance in his voice. "Do you like how my fingers feel inside you?"

Ichigo thrust his head back, let it fall on the porcelain rim of the tub. He was getting close. With the hand stroking his cock and the fingers moving in and out of his ass, it shouldn't take him long.

"Sosuke," he moaned, caught up in his little fantasy.

The door to the bathroom flew open. Ichigo's eyes also snapped open as he froze, breathing heavily as he realized that Aizen was standing at the door. The man had his mouth open just a little bit, a light blush on his face. It was an expression Ichigo never thought he would see on Aizen Sosuke's face.

"Ichigo," Aizen murmured, before visibly gulping. "I was passing by, and when I over heard you, I thought I could. . . help."

Ichigo was too shocked to say anything. All he could manage was a small nod.

Each step Aizen took forward was agonizingly slow, but then he was at the edge of the tub and kneeling down. His eyes were focused on the water, on the area where Ichigo's hand was on his cock and his fingers were up his hole. Aizen cleared his throat, mumbled something like 'please, allow me,' and reached his arms within the water. Ichigo felt hands tug at his wrists and he withdrew his hands, letting them fall to the side to give Aizen easier access.

"Just relax," Aizen said, his voice low and throaty.

Ichigo wasn't sure that he could. The knowledge that this was real, that it wasn't just a fantasy, made his cock throb so much that it hurt. And when Aizen's large hand wrapped around it, Ichigo couldn't help but let out another moan. Aizen was so close that Ichigo wanted to lean forward and kiss him, but the older man seemed completely enraptured by the scene underneath the water. As his hand moved up and down Ichigo's cock, his other hand found its way to Ichigo's hole, where he pushed in two fingers with no problem.

Ichigo let out a sharp outtake of breath. He spread his legs without even thinking about it and thrust upwards into Aizen's touch. It felt so good, being handled like this. Being handled like this by Aizen. As Aizen's fingers worked his hole and his cock, Ichigo felt himself getting closer than ever before. Finally he felt himself come. Felt his balls tighten and his cock spurt into the bath water. Afterwards he breathed deeply in the water, the feeling of Aizen's fingers still inside and around him.

"It's nice to be young," Aizen murmured, after awhile, eyes still on Ichigo's cock. "You're still completely hard."

Ichigo blushed, but figured he should be beyond feeling embarrassed about this at this point. "There's room for two in this tub."

"Oh," Aizen said, attention finally drawn away and towards Ichigo's face. "I see. Yes, I suppose there is."

Ichigo reached forward and wrapped an arm around Aizen's neck, all the better to pull the other man forward. Their lips met and, as they kissed, Aizen's hands finally drew away from Ichigo's body. When they parted Aizen wasted no doubt in removing his clothes. Ichigo, for his part, blushed as he considered how bold he was being. He watched as the last bit of clothing was removed from Aizen's still very fit body. He watched as Aizen's cock, long and hard, came into view. And he watched as Aizen got into the tub, between his legs, arms on either side of him, until they were face to face once again. As they kissed some more Ichigo took the opportunity to use his wet hands to moisten and slick back Aizen's hair. As much as the look reminded him of bastard!Aizen, Ichigo had to admit it suited the man. Not that that was the most pressing matter on his mind. Aizen's hard cock was pressed against his thigh, after all, and Ichigo wondered if it was odd that he took pleasure in even that simple touch.

Aizen drew away eventually. The heat and the situation had gotten to both of them, and both their breathing was audible.

"Ichigo," Aizen said, pressing his forehead against Ichigo's forehead. "What do you want?"

Ichigo blushed. There was no way that he could say it out loud. So instead he spread his legs a little bit more and wrapped his hand around Aizen's wrist, leading those fingers back to his hole. Aizen pushed his fingers back inside of Ichigo's body, drew them in and out a few times, then pulled them away completely.

"Turn around," he said against Ichigo's ear. "Hold onto the rim of the tub."

Ichigo shivered and did what he was told. The water moved around him as he shifted, until he was on his knees facing away from Aizen, arms resting on the side of the tub. Aizen's cock pressed against one of his ass cheeks as warm hands ran over his chest and body. Aizen's chest pressed against his back and a kiss was pressed against the back of his neck.

"I should go get something," Aizen said, voice hoarse.

"No," Ichigo said back. He had wanted this for awhile. Now that he was about to get it, he didn't want to wait even five more minutes. "Use soap or shampoo or something, I don't care. Just hurry up and do it already."

"I don't think that's a good-"

"I said I don't care," Ichigo said, teeth gritting together.

"Fine, fine."

After a moment those fingers were back, slicker this time, and pushing into him again. They worked him over for a little bit before being removed again, before the blunt tip of Aizen's cock was pressing against his entrance instead.

"Are you ready? Ichigo?"

Ichigo refrained from saying something as vulgar as 'just hurry up and fuck me.' "Yeah. Yeah, go ahead."

Slowly, agonizingly so, Aizen started to push inside of him. Ichigo's breath caught as it happened. He had never felt anything like this; it was so much different than just using his fingers. It felt like he was being torn apart. It hurt, but there was something else there as well. . . some strange kind of pleasure. The fact that it was Aizen doing this, the fact that he had fantasized about this numerous times over the last few months, probably had something to do with that. Eventually Aizen stopped and Ichigo felt Aizen's legs against the back of his thighs. He was fully breached.

Ichigo clenched his ass muscles a few times, testing, wanting to feel Aizen's cock completely. The motion drew a gasp from Aizen, who promptly told Ichigo to stop doing it.

"If you keep doing that," Aizen said, "I'll come too soon."

Ichigo just wanted to say something like 'fuck me already,' but couldn't bring himself to do. Instead he waited, waited until Aizen's hands grabbed onto his hips, until Aizen started to move his hips back and forth. Just circular, shallow thrusts, but it felt so amazing. Ichigo couldn't believe the noises coming out of his mouth, couldn't believe the feelings spreading through his body from where Aizen's cock was repeatedly pushing into him. There was still a dull pain, and even a growing stinging, but it wasn't anything he couldn't bear with. After awhile Aizen's thrusts became deeper and deeper, harder and harder, until the water was sloshing violently around them and Ichigo almost slipped forward several times. Aizen's hands were running all over his body, until his arms finally hooked around Ichigo's shoulders and his chest was pressed against Ichigo's back once again.

"I'm coming," Aizen said, into Ichigo's back. "Ichigo, I'm coming."

A grunt and a particularly hard thrust and Ichigo could feel heat filling him. Aizen kept thrusting into him for awhile, albeit weakly, until he finally pulled out and moved back. Hands massaged his backside, which now felt empty and incredibly sore, and was stinging quite a bit.

"Ichigo," Aizen said, voice a bit less hurried than it had been a moment ago. "Do you mind doing something for me?"

"What?" Ichigo asked. He turned his head to look behind him, noticing a light blush on Aizen's cheeks.

"This may seem an odd request, but could you try to push it out for me?"

"Excuse me?" Ichigo asked. Apparently it was his turn, once again, to blush now.

"I want to see my semen coming out of you," Aizen said. "I want to see it running down the inside of your thighs."

Ichigo flushed even harder, but he did what he was told. After pushing for a little bit there was a strange, wet noise, after which point he felt something hot and thick running down his taint, over his balls, and ultimately down his right leg. It was vaguely embarrassing, knowing that Aizen was watching this, but not as much as Ichigo would have thought. It was extremely embarrassing, however, when he felt a tongue press against his taint and and start to lick up the cum there. Ichigo's eyes fluttered shut as Aizen's hand wrapped around Ichigo's cock one again and started stroking. That tongue ran over his taint, his balls, delved into his hole, over and over again until the sensation was too much. For the second time that night, Ichigo felt his orgasm building up inside of him, until he was spilling himself the bath water once again.

Afterwards Aizen sat back, pulling a limp and tired Ichigo against his chest. Ichigo felt his head lull back onto Aizen's shoulder as arms came up to wrap around him. This was nice. Soon they would have to get up and clean off, but for now this was nice.

"I didn't want to do this," Aizen murmured.

Ichigo scowled. "It's too late to regret this now."

"No, I didn't mean that I have any regrets. What I meant is I owe your father a great deal. Preying on his son doesn't seem the best way to pay him back."

"Don't worry about Dad," Ichigo said. "For one thing he's an idiot. For another thing he's given us his approval already. Considering he's screwing around with Grimmjow of all people, he doesn't have much right to talk about my relationships."

One of the hands around his chest moved to Ichigo's head, where it brushed back the hair there. A low chuckle reverberated through Ichigo's back.

"In that case," Aizen said, "I've wanted to do this for a long time."

Ichigo smiled as the arms around him tightened. Right now he didn't even care that Grimmjow was taking a romantic vacation with his dad. This could definitely work, this arrangement they had. As long as no other espada showed up to date Yuzu or Karin. And even if that did happen. . . well, Ichigo guessed he would just cross that bridge when he came to it.