Ichigo hit the dirt hard and Hirako strolled up to stand over him.
"That was better," he declared. "Pitiful, but better. Again."
Ichigo spit out grit and looked up at him just a little blearily. "I really hate you."
Hirako showed his teeth. "You’re supposed to, right now. Now get up and do it again."
Ichigo hauled himself to his feet and did.
Ichigo sighed as he sank into hot water. Whoever first had the idea for these caverns, he liked their notions about hot pools, though he wondered where that bastard Urahara had been hiding his.
Hirako slid in across from him with a splash and a groan. "Gonna have to send a letter to the Academy instructors, apologizing for all the bad things I ever thought about them. This teaching shit is for the birds."
"Real motivational to hear," Ichigo grumbled, sinking down further.
The eye Hirako opened to look at him glinted sharp and his voice was low and even. "You should have all the motivation you need already."
Ichigo shifted. "Yeah. I do." On second thought, maybe he should get out now. He’d already figured out that when Hirako stopped acting like an idiot and got serious it made him feel… weird. Yeah, weird was a good word for it. The kind of weird he probably didn’t want to be feeling while naked in hot water across from Hirako.
Hirako had both eyes open and was looking at him like he could see straight through him. That didn’t help.
It wasn’t like Hirako was good looking or anything. Ichigo noticed good looks as much as any normal person and, okay, sometimes in bed at night, when that would-be voyeur Kon had been safely kidnapped by Yuzu, he thought about Renji or Orihime or Rukia or Byakuya or Chad. He knew his own types. Hirako wasn’t any of them.
But when the grinning and clowning dropped away and his eyes focused and his mouth turned serious and his voice got low and intent… well, Ichigo had had a few close calls with embarrassing questions during his time here and it was a good thing hakama were so loose.
He risked another glance at Hirako and found he was smiling, one corner of his mouth quirked up. "Ichigo. Come here." He held out a hand, and damn it there was that soft, level tone again. And then the actual words got through and Ichigo stared at him.
The tilted smile got a hair wider and Hirako beckoned. "Come here, I said." When Ichigo sat frozen he shook his head. "You think I don’t know that look? I’m the closest thing you have to a Captain right now. So, one, I was kind of expecting it; it’s practically traditional. And, two, it’s my job to look after you." That piercing sharpness glinted in his eyes again and he repeated, lower, firmer, "Come here."
A shiver slid down Ichigo’s spine and he swallowed. "O… okay." He edged around the pool to perch next to Hirako, eyeing him sidelong.
Hirako huffed a faint laugh. "Don’t look so panicked. I’m not that crazy woman, Shihouin; I’m not going to ravish you."
Ichigo’s face turned hot at the reminder of Yoruichi-san’s teasing and, while he was sputtering, Hirako wrapped an arm around him and pulled him in close. "Shhh," he said, and kissed Ichigo slow and easy.
Heat swept over Ichigo, and after it came relief. The same relief he’d felt when he’d come up out of his trial against his Hollow and found Hirako smiling, holding out a hand—knowing that he’d won support as well as that battle.
He didn’t have to figure this part out all by himself.
He relaxed against Hirako’s shoulder and kissed back tentatively, just getting used to the feeling of it.
"There," Hirako murmured, "that’s better." He drew back for a moment to move up out of the water, pulling Ichigo along and down among the towels. Ichigo flushed again as Hirako settled over him, unsure exactly what he was supposed to be doing with his hands at this point. Hirako gave Ichigo a penetrating look for a moment and nodded, sliding a hand up into Ichigo’s hair and tipping his head back, kissing him again deeper. A breath caught in Ichigo’s throat and he was tense for a moment before the gentleness of Hirako’s hands registered and he gave in to them with another rush of relief. When long, capable fingers slid down to curl around his cock he rocked into the touch freely, holding on to Hirako’s shoulders.
The heat of the rising steam and the heat of pleasure wound together until he was dizzy with them, panting for breath. "Hirako…"
"I have you," Hirako murmured, low and sure, and the sound was enough to push Ichigo over the edge. Pleasure wrung his body out until he was limp and breathless under Hirako, looking up at him just a little dazed. Hirako smiled and kissed him again, lightly. "It’s okay."
"All right," Ichigo said, softly.
Hirako’s eyes softened for a moment and he held Ichigo against him, quietly, until the others came to find them.