Not About You
Bleach is not mine. These characters are not mine.
Operates within my Aizen/Gin Bleachverse. Post-war, after the events of Over All Things.
Character death and BL mentions.
This is the first time I'm writing these two together, so please review :)
Urahara passed the cat's feeding bowl to Ichigo, who placed it on the ground nearby. Yuki, the black cat, materialized out of nowhere and delicately padded to his food, taking care to stand in the center of the newspaper Ichigo was reading. The youth was sprawled on his stomach near the porch, trying to get as much breeze as possible.
With a sigh Ichigo gently tried to dislodge the cat. Yuki had moved in for a week, and already it was the undisputed ruler of all he surveyed. Evidently it had managed to inherit some of its previous owners' characteristics: Yuki sank his claws into the paper, and Ichigo ended up with long strips of text.
"You know better than that, Ichigo," chided Urahara as he sat down beside his one-time student and current lessee of a room in the Shoten. "Everything here belongs to Yuki."
"Like hell they do," remarked Ichigo without any real heat.
The quiet nuzzle of Yuki in the pet food and the shuffle of paper were the only sounds in the Shoten this evening. Urahara leaned back against the cool wall. "When is Kira coming over?"
"He said next week, with dad and Ikkaku." Ichigo plopped his chin on his hands. He was sticky and sweaty – this place was too hot. "I told the girls too."
"Be nice to see the old fool," said Urahara wistfully.
That was about all the conversation they could make. It has been one week since Yuki's owners departed, and Ichigo still woke up, cold with sweat, with the memory of the dead, of Aizen slumped over Ichimaru. It was what he thought he had wanted to bring about, but having it shoved down his throat – and every other shinigami in Soul Society's – meant the impact ran a little too deep.
If only they had died by other means. But in the face of death, Ichimaru had selected his own path, and Aizen had taken care of remaining details before claiming his own life as well. No power to the shinigami, no real closure for the bereft.
If only they had died by other means.
"Tessai is late," commented Urahara out of nowhere. Ichigo jumped a little. Already Yuki was off to the side, licking his paws slowly, as if he had the rest of eternity. The blond stood up, looking concerned. "They should've been back by now."
Ichigo scrambled to his feet. Perhaps he would need to take the shinigami form. For the twenty-year-old, it was second nature to rely on Zangetsu and shinigami abilities. But Urahara merely pulled out a mobile phone and pressed a number.
"Yeah, Tessai... I see. I see... Be careful though. How are the kids?" Urahara nodded and paced the room. "Mmmm. But... oh. Okay."
Ichigo scratched the back of his head. His sisters were at their class camp, Jinta, Ururu and Tessai had been to pick up their boss's purchases, and he had a splitting headache. The perfect evening. And I have a ton of research to do for my essay.
"We've to fend for ourselves tonight," said Urahara after clicking his phone off. "Apparently Ururu won a round-trip ticket to Hokkaido for four, and she grabbed Kon to follow her, Jinta and Tessai."
"Huh?" Ichigo was thoroughly lost. "Shouldn't they pack some clothes and such?"
"Ururu tends to be somewhat... single-minded. Not even Tessai can handle her in those situations." The blond chuckled. Then he nudged Ichigo's side with his foot. "Come on. We need to get cooking or we don't get dinner."
"Why not just call in a pizza or something?" grumbled Ichigo halfheartedly.
Urahara shuddered. "Unhealthy food."
The silence wrapped like a shroud.
Neither wanted to talk about it, despite the fact that (A) it was way too late for them to be reading, (B) they were still sitting together in the same room and (C) they kept stealing glances at each other's troubled expressions.
Finally Ichigo gave in to fatigue. "Night, Urahara."
"Good night, Ichigo." Urahara abandoned the use of honorifics after Ichigo moved in, with the reasoning that, as Ichigo's landlord, he had every right to call Ichigo by his full name as often as necessary. Not that he hounded the orange-haired youth for rent: Ichigo trained Jinta and Ururu as payment, while Karin and Yuzu (when they stayed there) were excellent fun and good cooks.
As Ichigo made his way out of the main room, Urahara wondered if he should find Yoruichi and talk the issue over. The suicide of his ex-lover shook him to the core, and he was trying to grieve. On the other hand, Yoruichi and Aizen had never gotten along, and she would not be receptive at all.
He decided to let it be. Eventually an idea would come to him. They always did.
Ichigo tossed and turned roughly. He was still having difficulty sleeping, despite the calm that now spread through the house. What used to be small fights between Jinta and Ururu had been silenced into something akin to peace – and it bothered Ichigo.
The groaning of the house as it settled thundered across his nerves. That creak in the floorboards sounded more piercing than usual. He could vaguely hear the slow dripping from the gutters, due to the downpour in the late afternoon. And then there was a low whisper that he couldn't identify, right on the edge of his hearing.
In the end Ichigo gave up and plodded to the kitchen for a drink. There probably was a carton of milk inside the fridge he could finish up, since Yoruichi wasn't likely to be around for the next couple of months. As he made his way down the far too empty corridor he heard music from Urahara's room.
The music was played very quietly, and Ichigo wondered why the irrepressible shopkeeper didn't just blast it on full volume since there was only Ichigo around the house. It wasn't as if Urahara was famed for his consideration of others. After a moment's hesitation Ichigo slid Urahara's door open.
The blond sat at his low table, the futon beyond rumpled. Evidently the man had been unable to sleep as well. His back was turned to Ichigo. The green yukata he wore as a sleeping robe was unfamiliar to the young shinigami-substitute; after five years of living with the crazy family Ichigo thought he knew Urahara's wardrobe pretty well – he had made it a point never to buy anything that has appeared in there. A small bottle of sake was on the table, as well as a bowl Urahara was filling up again.
"I'm fine, Ichigo. Go get whatever you were intending to get, then go back to sleep." Urahara didn't bother looking at Ichigo at the door.
Instead of complying, Ichigo stepped into the room and slid the door shut. "What is that piece of music?"
"Moonlight Sonata." Urahara looked down. Ichigo walked around to the other side of the table so he could see his landlord's face. The blond appeared fatigued. "They loved it a lot."
"They?" Ichigo wondered which of the blond's comrades was on his mind. There were evenings like this when Kyoraku or even Ukitake came by Urahara's place, and they reminisced over people Ichigo had never heard of.
Urahara smiled pensively. "Sousuke and Gin."
The redhead was startled. He didn't know Urahara was on good enough terms with the traitors – the dead traitors – to call them by their names. He was always referring to them as Aizen and Ichimaru to Ichigo and the rest. "They did?"
"They thought music and art were the two things humans did right," said Urahara, gazing at a hidden horizon. "Sou always loved classical music. Evidently Gin was influenced by his lover's tastes too – when I last saw him this piece was playing in the background."
"You saw him? When?" Trust Ichigo to identify the most troublesome piece of information.
Urahara drained his bowl again. "The day Gin collapsed for the first time, Sousuke called Unohana, and she called me. I went to Aizen's to set up a communication link between the two."
Ichigo was stunned. Unohana had known of their presence in... wait a second. Urahara also knew, but pretended he didn't when Ichigo mentioned it to him... what the hell?
"If you're irritated that I lied to you, it's over now, alright?" snapped the blond as he splashed another bit of sake into his bowl. Some of his finer stuff, if Ichigo remembered his sake lessons from Kyoraku rightly. "I knew them before you and your mum were born."
Ichigo frowned. Urahara wasn't himself. At the worst of times Urahara never took his temper out on others. He studied the scruffy face before him carefully, and then realized that Urahara was grieving.
"If you tell me to let the tears out I'll kill you," said the shopkeeper thickly. He glared red-eyed at the young man. "And don't think I can't, despite your fancy bankai and vizard powers."
"Never even thought it," said Ichigo. "But drinking isn't the way to stop feeling."
"Does the job well enough." The music had stopped.
Ichigo grabbed the bottle and the bowl away, leaping to his feet. He got to the window and threw the two out just as Urahara reached his side, grappling for the items. They could hear the crockery smash into the darkness.
Urahara stared at Ichigo. "I have other bottles."
"I can keep doing this," countered Ichigo. He softened. "You've been doing this since... since that day, haven't you?"
The gray-green eyes narrowed. "So what if I have?"
"Snap out of it. No wonder Tessai took the kids away." Ichigo scoffed in disgust. "I bet he tried to reason with you and you also threatened him, didn't you?"
Urahara glared at the orange mop of unruly hair; Ichigo was looking out the window, but continued, "We have other things to do, Urahara. I guess it must have been quite a blow, but you knew it had to happen eventually since they are our enemies."
"Sousuke was my friend before he was my foe," said Urahara softly.
Ichigo turned around. "So what? He's gone," he said bluntly. "Besides, he's probably being reincarnated as we speak. Why are you upset now?"
The blond's eyes shut wearily. "Because... I feel something for them both."
Ichigo stepped closer, trying to force eye contact. "What, pity?"
"No, guilt." He looked up into warm brown eyes, similar yet dissimilar. "Ichigo, Sousuke shouldn't have turned out that way. It was my fault. And because he became who he was, he dragged Gin into his wake. And that was also my fault. I had a chance to separate them very early in their liaison and I-"
Urahara blinked. Ichigo seldom swore.
He was looking annoyed and solemn now. "You didn't make his choices for him, Urahara. Gin chose Aizen, Aizen chose world domination, they chose to destroy my world for their own gains. It's not all about you, you self-centered prick."
The shopkeeper fell silent. He was quiet for such a long moment that the young man thought he had offended Urahara permanently. Ichigo scrubbed his hair, trying to phrase the idea in more comforting words. Instead he was surprised by Urahara turning his face with a finger to face him.
"Thank you, Ichigo."
Ichigo quirked a lopsided smile. "You're welcome."
That bit of tension eased, both of them abruptly realized they were in a very interesting position. Ichigo's elbows rested on the window ledge, while Urahara had a hand braced on the wall framing the window and a finger on Ichigo's cheek. To make matters a little more interesting, Ichigo's legs were planted together while Urahara's feet were shoulder-width apart. Which was a lot wider than the space between their faces.
Even with the light in Urahara's room Ichigo couldn't make out the blond's features clearly, his sudden embarrassment flooding his face and blurring his vision. Said blond was also reacting, especially to the earlier smile and the current pink over Ichigo's cheeks.
"Yeah." He didn't look at Urahara directly, but the sidelong glance was oddly frank.
Urahara decided to try. He could always blame the alcohol, or Ichigo's darkening blush and parted lips, or the atmosphere within the room. The worst thing that could happen was for Ichigo to kill him and, as the young man had said, he'd be reincarnated anyway.
Ichigo woke up, feeling like Yuki had crawled into his mouth and died.
Then he felt the limb draped over his waist, and the legs that curled around him, and the warm breath brushing over his skin, and finally something that pressed into the base of his spine.
Oh my god. Last night... last night. We didn't... shit. We did.
He shuffled a little to peek behind him, and was rewarded with a headful of blond hair and a scruffy, unshaven jaw scraping over his shoulder with a relaxed murmur. Ichigo screwed his eyes shut. Was the pounding of his heart the result of exhilaration... or terror... or relief?