Theme/Topic: Parallel piece to "Switching Teams" and "Switching Tactics"
Character/Pairing/s: lightly IbaxIsane (with vague mentions of ShuuxYumi and IkkakuxKira)
Warnings/Spoilers: Implications for the SS arc, lots of speculation on backstory that is probably wrong. Plus OOC and completely strange tangents. --;;
Word Count: 2,495
Time: Lost Count.-- ;;
Summary: Sequel to "Who in the Hell are You?"- Iba explains himself.
Dedication: For jeina as another thank you for the art ( 3) and for the Div 14 artists for humoring my silly ideas. XD
A/N: Forgive me if this is kind of dumb, but I'm still sort of searching for my Iba and Isane voices seein' as to how I don't usually write them in a main character capacity all that much.
Disclaimer: Not mine, though I wish constantly.
Distribution: Just lemme know.
Iba Tetsuzaemon was one of those guys who wasn't really observant maybe, who maybe even had his head stuck under a rock sometimes (most of the time).
But he was also the type of man who could admit that. And the type of person who knew when there was no bother hiding from something anymore, who, when he figured things out like that, came to terms pretty damn fast. Once he got to that point, there was very little in the way of stopping him from doing what felt right.
He was a shinigami, after all. Big decisions had to be made all the time. The kind of decisions that were the difference between life and death, that had to be made in a split second or less. He knew how dangerous it was when someone in his line of work couldn't make up his mind quick enough.
Hell, he'd seen a lot of rookies die rookies that way after all, had worked this beat long enough to know that coming to a crucial decision between going right or left just one second too slow could lead to a face full of Hollow and an early grave real fast.
And so when faced with having to make a decision, Iba had learned that it was best to just go ahead and make his mind up right away. No wasting time.
It was both a good and a bad thing about him, he supposed. You know, depending.
So now that he'd realized what had been up with him way back when, he knew it was time to make up for it.
Time to set things right (even if they were going to be damned embarrassing).
He wasn't proud of what he did back when they were at school when he looked back on it. But he liked to think he was different from who he was before now. And really, his intentions hadn't been bad. He just hadn't understood them. His constant bombardment of "God, why're you such a damned wimp?" and "Those skinny lil stick arms of yours probably couldn't hold up a bokuto let alone a sword!" had really been…well, an attempt at bettering the girl who he thought was a boy. Though he would admit that it didn't excuse his behavior either way. Komamura-taichou would put him in the stocks for a week if he ever found out about Iba's deplorable behavior towards an underclassman.
He supposed he'd been…confused back then.
Squaring his jaw, he decided he wasn't confused (at least about this) now, and that was all he could do anything about at the moment.
So he crossed his arms and waited.
She came in a little while later, looking more at ease than she'd been yesterday, and she greeted him with a small smile before moving immediately to business, opening his window to air the room a little and asking him how he felt.
"Fine," he responded, watching her.
"That's good to hear. Did you sleep well?"
"Not really," he admitted. "Er, nothin' medical though," he assured her on the look she sent him. "Thinkin' 'bout stuff."
"Oh. Well, you'd best try and get your rest, fukutaichou," she chided gently, stepping forward with hands outstretched to examine his head and neck.
He submitted to her touch but kept watching her from behind his glasses, noting how different she looked now, from the way he remembered her.
Taller, stronger, less ragtag. Her hair was neater and the muscles on her arms more defined. Her walk was more confident, her smile easier. Differences.
Some things were still the same though, if he looked hard enough, now that he knew what familiar things to look for.
Her eyes were still gentle, a bit worried looking like he remembered, but soft and honest like always. And she still smelled the same, too sweet for a boy in Iba's book, but perfect for a girl, clean and lightly scented, not too heavily doused with stuff like the broads he and the fellas met at bars on their Friday nights, the ones who tried too hard and expected too much for the price of a cheap drink and some small talk.
She was far different from that, much more simple with her hands warm on his neck and her reiatsu thrumming pleasantly under his skin as she examined him, exuding a gentle effortlessness that must have put many of her patients at ease just by looking at her. He supposed he could understand those mixed feelings the boy-her had evoked in him in the past now that he looked at it, because there was still something very different about her that made her stand out to him, even today. Maybe even more today.
Feeling his focus on her, she paused and blinked at him. "Is something the matter?" she asked, pulling her hands away slowly. "I'm almost done, fukutaichou so…"
"Hey, I'm sorry," he said, without preamble.
She blinked at him. "Sorry…for what?"
He looked sheepish, because he hadn't meant for it to just come out like that. "Er… I guess… and I didn't mean nothin' by not doin' it before, promise…just uh… I uh…I remember you now."
She took a step back then, and something about the serenity he'd felt from her a moment ago dropped a little. She took her hands and crossed them over her chest, hands clutching at the upper parts of her own arms. "Do you?"
He felt like an asshole and all he'd done today was apologize. Crazy.
"Sorry, look… I uh… I just wanted to let you know that uh… what I did then wasn't right. I mean, granted, I was a bit confused at the time, but either way, I shouldn'ta…done what I did to ya."
She took a breath. "No, you shouldn't have," she allowed, looking him the eye.
He winced. "Yeah well. I know it's late'n all, but I wanted to let you know that. Er, that I understand now. And I shouldn'ta done that to a girl…"
She frowned. "You shouldn't have done that to anyone!"
"Well yeah, I know!" he hastily amended, surprised at her sudden vehemence. "But especially not a girl!" he clarified. It was just how he felt.
She looked at him, frustrated. "If you're apologizing just because you realized it was a bad idea to pick on a girl back then, then you haven't learned anything at all!"
He blinked, because he really hadn't expected that he'd get yelled at for saying sorry. "That ain't what I'm sayin'!" he said, quickly. "I'm apologizin' 'cuz what I did wadn't right, is all. And er… I just didn't know…stuff… about it…" he trailed off, sheepish.
She looked skeptical. "You didn't know that it was wrong to pick on someone?"
"I was confused!" he responded, feeling defensive under the sudden barrage of questions and indecipherable looks.
She on the other hand, seemed to be growing more righteously indignant with each passing second. "What was there to be confused about?"
On that particular demand, he felt the blood rushing to his cheeks and hoped that his skin tone would hide it. He searched for an answer, any answer that wasn't the truth because the truth was pretty damned embarrassing.
"Er... you! You were confusin'!"
He groaned, internally.
So much for anything that wasn't the truth.
Then again, he'd never really been what you could call a good liar.
Another one of those good and bad things about him, depending, he supposed.
She blinked. "Me? What was confusing about me? I did nothing to warrant any of your attention, bad or good! And you were always so nice to most everyone else…"
He scowled. "Well, I thought you were a boy!"
"Er… that is to say," he started, coughing uncomfortably. "I thought you were a guy."
She stared, not quite sure if he was trying to tell some ridiculous lie to place the blame elsewhere or if he really was that stupid.
He crossed his arms. "It's the truth, okay?"
She supposed he really was too stupid to try and find a scapegoat in something as bizarre as that. It could only be true.
She sighed. "That still doesn't explain anything," she told him, feeling a bit headachy herself now. "Guy or girl, why would you just single me out like that? I never got anyone else's attention the entire time I was in school. Why yours?"
She looked at him then, and her eyes were begging for some sort of explanation while at the same time, the rest of her seemed to be barely holding herself back from punching him out cold before he said another idiotic thing.
On the question, he felt his face get hot again and scratched at the back of his neck, trying to think of anything that wasn't the truth for real this time, because this truth was even more embarrassing than the last one.
"Er… well, ya see… I uh… I sorta had a crush on you."
Maybe those assholes he called friends were right.
Maybe it wasn't a matter of him not being good at lying.
Because he was beginning to actually think that he was actually too dumb to pull it off.
"Er… well, I didn't know it was a crush then, but I uh, I guess it makes sense now, lookin' back."
He chanced a glance at her and found that he'd managed to very successfully render her speechless with his admission.
Hell, if he'd known that he could have gotten her to shut up and just listen to him by saying that in the first place, he would have done it right away.
Well, maybe not.
But the idea of it was funny, in a vaguely crazy way.
"You had a…" she trailed off, blinking. "But I thought you said you thought I was a…" Pause. "Oh. Ooh."
He knew what that second 'oh' meant. That was the 'oh' people used when they saw Hisagi and Yumichika making out and suddenly realized that Yumi wasn't a girl.
It was that 'oh.'
"No!" he cried, vehemently. "It ain't like that!"
She looked skeptical. "It's not?"
"Well… you're a girl, ain'tcha?"
She nodded. "But you thought I was a boy."
"Which…er…which was why I was pickin' on you!" He pointed at her, accusatorily. "You made me feel all gay, and I didn't like it!"
He had to admit, that was a pretty sound conclusion to come up with in the middle of something akin to panic. At least, it drew her attention away from those disturbing 'ohs'.
However, her eyes narrowed slightly at his change in focus. "What's wrong with gay?"
Goddamn her and her PC-ness.
"Nothing!" he said, quickly. "Some of my best friends are… ya know. But uh…but back then I was… well, I was young, okay? You confused me."
She sighed, looking tired. "This is the most bizarre conversation I've ever had."
He snorted. "Tell me 'bout it."
"You're unbelievable," she said, almost on the verge of laughing at him. Or maybe both of them.
"Yeah well, you piss me off," he rejoined without thinking, crossing his arms and looking flustered.
She sighed again, and after a moment, said, "I'm going to accept your apology."
He looked at her, skeptical. "Really?"
"Yes," she responded, levelly. "Because you tire me out and it's just too much trouble to hold a grudge. I'll be honest though, it seemed a lot easier to simply write you off as some two-bit thug who I'd never have to see again instead of force myself to look at you as an actual real person."
He blinked. "Well, uh. I'll take that, I guess."
She laughed a little bit at his easy capitulation. "What you can get, huh?"
He shrugged, though he felt a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth anyway, spurred by her amusement. "Yeah, well. We both grew up some, didn't we? You're uh… stronger, and I'm less… mmm, two-bit?"
She smiled. "I suppose so." She put her hands back on his neck.
He blinked. "Er…"
"I'm still not done with you," she said, simply. "Now just relax."
He twitched a little, but managed to loosen the tenseness that had developed in the back of his neck when they'd been yelling at each other.
After a moment, she took a breath. "At least I know now. I wondered for years."
"Yeah well," he replied. "Don't go tellin' everyone, 'kay? The boys is already laughin' their asses off at me for not realizin' earlier."
"That you had a crush on me?"
"That you were a girl," he said. "And I guess, the crush part. Should've known though, I guess. Shouldn't have freaked out. Heh. Should've trusted myself. My senses was usually pretty good at findin' the type of girls I liked."
She eyed him. "Really?"
He grinned. "Yup. Guess a part of me was just a coupla years ahead. Knew right off under all that scraggly awkwardness that you was pretty."
She withdrew her hands suddenly, and expecting to be punched or something, he braced himself.
It didn't come, but he waited for it anyway because he knew some people hesitated until the person being aimed at thought they were safe before socking it to them good.
After a moment, an exasperated, "I'm not going to hit a patient, Iba-san."
He looked up. "No?"
She crossed her arms, face suspiciously pink. "You can't expect I'll punch you for saying something nice, even as awkwardly as you put it."
He shrugged, laughing sheepishly. "I been slugged for less."
Somehow that wasn't surprising to her.
"Well," she started, embarrassed. "In either case that's all the healing I can do for you, Iba-san. The rest is up to you. You can go home if you'd like, but I recommend taking it easy for a few more days yet."
"So I can go?"
He frowned. "Huh."
Perplexed, she asked, "Not good news?"
"Well, to be honest," he began, "I figured I at least had a coupla more days."
She blinked. "Of what? Treatment?"
He looked troubled. "Guess I'd best do it now then."
He sat up a little straighter and looked her square in the eye. "You wanna maybe lemme treat ya to dinner some time?" he asked. "To uh, make it up to you. You know, the bein' a jerk."
She looked at him. "I… hmmm." It sounded like she wanted to say no. She was pretty sure she wanted to say no, too. But what came out was, "Alright."
She blinked, surprised at her own answer.
He grinned. "Yeah?"
Furrowing her brow, she responded, "Yeah. I guess so."
"Well. Alright then." Standing, the vice-captain climbed out of bed and moved to stand beside her. "I'll uh… I'll…" he trailed off, straightening.
Moved back again.
"Huh," he managed after a moment. "You're taller'n me."