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Everyone liked Captain Aizen, but Kira was beginning to get the feeling that maybe he shouldn't.

That feeling was so subtle that it took him some time to identify it, but over the years he'd become sensitive to Ichimaru's moods and habits (out of self-preservation, if nothing else), and he was starting to notice a pattern.

For one thing, Ichimaru rarely concerned himself with Kira's comings and goings, mostly because he didn't have to. Kira did what he was told, exactly as he was told, the first time around. And on the rare occasions when Kira had inaccurately anticipated Ichimaru's wishes, well -- Kira could take correction just as well as anyone else, and he wasn't in the habit of repeating mistakes.

But it was a fact that every time Aizen came over to the third division to have tea, Ichimaru found some reason or another to send Kira away.

He wondered if today would be different as he slid the door open for Aizen to come in, his eyes lowered and his posture humble. He didn't look up, merely felt Aizen step into the room and slid the door shut behind him.

"Good afternoon, Gin," Aizen said politely, advancing toward Ichimaru's desk. Kira made an effort to watch discreetly, to see if there was any change in Ichimaru that would give him a clue as to what was going on.

"Afternoon," Ichimaru said agreeably, his smile unwavering. "Ah, Izuru -- could you bring us some of that new tea?" The way he found Kira's eyes immediately suggested that Ichimaru had been perfectly aware that Kira had been observing them carefully.

"Yes, Captain," Kira said, withdrawing from the room with a bow.

He wasn't fool enough to listen at the door, although he dearly wanted to. Instead he went to the kitchenette next to their office, and made the requested pot of tea and set it on a tray with two cups. If this meeting were at all like the rest, Ichimaru wouldn't let him stay in the office long enough to have a cup of his own. Of course there were matters that could only be discussed between captains, but if that were the case, Ichimaru would just order Kira to give him some privacy. He didn't resort to this steady stream of requests that kept Izuru occupied and out of the office as much as possible.

Since it wouldn't do to let the tea cool, Kira picked up the tray and went back to the office, knocking quietly on the door and announcing himself before walking in.

There was something profoundly wrong with the atmosphere in the room. It made the hair on the back of Kira's neck sit straight up, and though he couldn't see any difference in either captain's expression, he had a niggling feeling that they had been having a disagreement. But he kept himself calm and set the tray down on Ichimaru's desk, murmuring a polite, "Pardon me," as he poured for both of them.

"Kira-kun is so graceful," Aizen said, and though his tone was entirely admiring and complimentary, something about it made Kira's insides twist. "And has such a way with tea," he continued, after his first sip.

Kira met Aizen's eyes briefly -- and they looked the same as always, friendly and warm -- but Kira couldn't shake his feelings of unease. So he said softly, "Not at all," and then decided to see if Ichimaru really did want him out of the office. So he leaned down just a bit to whisper in Ichimaru's ear, "Would you like me to take care of those reports now?"

There were, of course, no reports to be done, since Kira had finished them hours ago. Ichimaru just nodded, as though it didn't make any difference to him whatsoever, but when his hand came up to stroke Kira's back just above the waist of his hakama, Kira knew he'd guessed right.

"Then please excuse me," Kira said, taking the tray and bowing deeply to both of them.

"Kira-kun," Aizen called, just before Kira could walk out the door.

Kira stopped and turned slightly.

Aizen was still smiling, looking gentle as always. "Perhaps someday, you could come back over to your old division for tea."

And though Kira had been uncertain since Aizen had arrived, that was a question to which he didn't even have to think about the answer. "If Captain Ichimaru allows it," he said placidly.

Aizen couldn't see Ichimaru's smile drop a little, but Kira certainly could, and knew that whatever was going on, he had performed as well, if not better, than Ichimaru had expected.

Still, when Aizen left and Kira judged that it was safe to go back in, he hadn't been prepared for Ichimaru to shove him up against the nearest wall. "Captain?" he said, bewildered, trying to think what he'd done wrong.

Ichimaru's eyes were still closed, but he wasn't smiling. "Izuru put on a nice little show today," he said, his grip tightening around Kira's wrists.

Kira instinctively wanted to struggle, wanted to get away, but made himself stay as relaxed as possible. "I don't know what you mean," he temporized.

"All sweetness and yessir and pretty manners," Ichimaru said, his voice light but no less dangerous. "Everything Aizen likes best. You tryin' to tempt him into taking you back?"

"No!" Kira said, starting to struggle. "I never -- I'd never leave you, you have to know that!"

Ichimaru opened his eyes a little, and it was enough to terrify Kira into being still. "No, you won't. Izuru is loyal to me, and only me, isn't he?"

"Only you," Kira whispered, because it was true, and he'd known it for years.

"Then maybe," Ichimaru said, pressing himself closer, "all that wasn't for Aizen at all, was it? You trying to get my attention, Izuru?"

Kira swallowed and felt the brush of Ichimaru's cheek against his own. His wrists ached from where Ichimaru still held them against the wall, but he couldn't find it in him to protest.

Especially not when Ichimaru was right.

At Kira's embarrassed silence, Ichimaru laughed low in his throat. "Well now. I wonder what you want."

Kira licked his lips once, and lowered his eyelashes, and dared to say, "I want whatever you want."

"We'll see about that," Ichimaru said. And when he kissed Kira for the first time, it was less gentle than Kira would have liked, but he never would have told Ichimaru to stop.

Not when he'd worked so hard to get here.