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Kisuke turned to look back over his shoulder again. At the man he now was to call his husband.

Some paranoia or another had seized the noble clans as was wont to do occasionally, whenever there wasn't a war or anything interesting going on to capture their attentions instead. As a favour for Yoruichi—who he probably didn't owe enough to do something like this—he'd agreed to be the Shihōin or Shihōin-adjacent offered up.

The other unfortunate was sent from the Shiba clan, which was better established in the Seireitei (Yoruichi was thinly reluctant to admit it) and therefore a way to solidly cement the two noble clans’ relationship with each other and the Gotei. The man’s back was broad and his hair grown shaggy the barest amount below his neck.

Kisuke continued to stare at his. Husband. He knew frustratingly little about the man. His hair was a flaming orange, nothing like Kisuke’s dirty blonde. He was a Shinigami too, so Kisuke had the small relief of knowing that he wasn't dating a civilian. The man was a genius apparently so Kisuke had the chance of at least scraping his way through the rare mandatory conversation.

And the most interesting part of all, his relationship with the clan leader. Kisuke’s new husband had been dubbed by Shiba Kaien to be the lieutenant’s ‘favourite cousin’ on more than one occasion, often in public places. And the men seemed to have a relationship more like close siblings than cousins separated by entire bloodlines.

They continued to unpack their things silently—Ichigo moving a pile of kimonos from the bed (the only bed in the room, but that elephant in the centre of the room was staying unprodded indefinitely) while Kisuke unearthed sheaves and messy piles of research onto the low table that was now too-small to fit even a sake cup.

Was he missing a sheet? Something on—

“Are you, overlapping different kidō? Normally don’t see that happen till someone’s desperate mid-battle."

Kisuke looked to his left. His new husband had all but forgotten the clothes that had half-slid from the wardrobe.

“Two bakudō. Huh, haven’t seen this combo before.” Ichigo slapped the sheet down over the mess on the table and pulled a pencil out from somewhere to tap at some of Kisuke’s handwriting.

“But why not— Sorry, I’m being rude.” He handed over the sheet to Kisuke.

Kisuke must have been exuding some aura of suspicion because the other man felt the need to explain himself.

“That’s a kidō diagram, right?”

The question was delivered so gruffly and abrupt that a bewildered Kisuke responded on instinct with a soft “yes”.

“You’re trying to overlap Inemuri with Shitotsu Sansen. To knock out an enemy and then incapacitate them more strongly.”

“How did you—?”

“It’s written there. No incantations but you’ve got the effect on one side, on the target there.”

Kisuke considered for a moment, then put the sheet back on the table and knelt beside it.

Ichigo understood the silent prompt and leaned over. “Weaknesses and possible counters running parallel.” He traced his finger along the ink. “You’ve mentioned a diminished effect, which I guess is because you’ve skipped the incantations. Not the bakudō I’d have chosen, but . . . it depends on what works for you.”

Ichigo paused, considering he might’ve gone too far.

Kisuke was keenly aware of the heat and solid body pressed against his back.

“Yeah, that’s just . . . what I think.” Ichigo had moved his right hand to jab at the paper, but his arm was resting on Urahara’s shoulder, so he pulled it back in retreat.

He tilted upwards to see the folded clothes narrowly clinging to the shelves and rushed to shove them back in. He could feel his cheeks were inflamed and shoved the outfits back in; hands all jittery.

He could hear the slight rustle of paper but that could’ve been the wind from the open window; Kisuke hadn’t spoken a word.

“So . . .”

Ichigo closed his eyes.

“‘Not the bakudō you’d have chosen’? What exactly do you think would have worked better? I suppose this combination only really works if you manage to surprise your target, but that much is a given for what I was going for . . .”

“But unless you’re expecting to be considerably stronger than your target, or at a considerable advantage to them—which you’re not, because you wouldn’t double the bakudō up otherwise. You make it easier for them to escape. Shitotsu Sansen is a great means of immobilising your target if you don’t think they’re skilled or smart enough to get out of it, but if you’re going without the incantation . . . I’d play it safe, use Rikujōkōrō instead. Especially if you’re out in the open and there isn’t any terrain you can pin them to.”

“Hmm,” Kisuke allowed. “Of course, this assumes the caster can use Rikujōkōrō.”

Ichigo smirked, eyebrow raised in smug disbelief. “You’re telling me you can’t?”

Kisuke tipped his head in concession.

“And”—Ichigo waved a hand—“I guess, if you can’t risk getting within reach of the enemy enough for Inemuri, I’d maybe consider Tanma Otoshi or if that takes too long as well, Shibireyubi.”

“Less effective . . . but it depends on what works, correct?”

Ichigo nodded. “Exactly.”

“I was gearing this towards a short-range opponent. It can be extended towards other battle types but this one fights with the hands. The kind where any proximity to them is risky for you."

Ichigo played along. “So you keep at a distance. Steer clear till you can bind their hands with Haikawa, then use the spell to make Rikujōkōrō easier.”

Then take them out.”

“Uh huh.”

Problem untangled, the room slipped back into silence.

Kisuke hadn’t expected this level of . . . fascination, from his new spouse, for all that the Shiba were known for their kidō. He just had to know—

“How did you know I was planning this technique for myself and not to teach my squad?”

“I doubt you’d bring all of these, uhh, home, if you didn’t feel like using them. Plus, I wouldn’t find it any fun preparing bakudō if I wasn’t going to make the most use of them myself.”

“‘Fun’.”

Ichigo scratched at the top of his head, highlighting the taut, tight muscles of his arms under his sleeve. “Maybe you can explain to me why you’d prefer to put your enemy to sleep instead of hit them with hadō?”

The blush lit up his cheeks like fireworks and grew down his neck and the visible-V of his chest.

Kisuke wondered how far down that redness went. And he really wanted to bite down on that broad neck and suck hickies onto that collarbone. Leave behind some red he could admire later.

If the way Ichigo’s eyes were stuck on part of Kisuke’s pectorals—escaping through the top of his uniform—meant anything, Ichigo felt the same way.

He was really looking forward being to married. So many secrets to uncover.