"I finally found you, Kurosaki Ichigo."
The building was stocky and solid, a wire fence surrounding the entire complex and a guarded door the only access to it. Al least for humans.
The entire place looked and smelled wrong, the stink of disinfectant and desperation hanging around the building like a putrid cloud. Grimmjow scrunched his nose in distaste, loath to associate any of them with his target.
It had taken him forever to find a trail, and the place it led him to had been surprising to say the least.
He stood unseen in front of the windows, his eyes scanning the place trying to distinguish the figures inside. He could go in and out undetected, the chances of someone with enough reiatsu to see him highly unlikely. But he didn't want to. Not yet.
He needed to make sure he was there and what the fuck had happened to him. He could not feel him, but he was convinced Kurosaki was inside that place, hiding from him.
Hiding from everyone; most of it, himself.
He had waited for almost a year; he could wait a couple of days more.
"I dreamt of them last night again."
Ichigo sat on the uncomfortable couch, his eyes staring unsightly out of the window while his hands clenched and unclenched rhythmically. He wanted to be anywhere but there, in that soothing pastel room with the softly speaking man looking at him. He hated that room and he hated that man.
But he had nowhere else to go.
"Kurosaki-san," the man said, his voice as low and soft as possible. "We've gone through this already. Those characters, those Shinigami, don't exist. Your dreams are only creations of your mind, ways of trying to cope with the tragedy in your past."
Ichigo sighed. He had heard the same words over and over again and it still wasn't any easier to believe them. He knew the man was right, but still those dreams felt more real to him than his inexistent memories of the accident.
"I can picture them in my mind clearly," he insisted, knowing it wasn't going to do any good but needing to say it anyway. "Byakuya, the stiff one with his damned pink scarf and those noodle things on his hair. Rukia, the tough little bitch always giving me hell. Renji, redheaded and loud mouthed, always good fun. Kenpachi, the bloodthirsty bastard always chasing me." His voice sounded wistful, as if he could make them real just by talking about them. He wanted them to be real.
"Kurosaki-san, I know everything about those shinigami and the War you dream about," the man said, his voice and demeanour the picture of patient understanding. Ichigo felt like screaming. "You lost your entire family in an accident, some of your friends perished as well and you were the only survivor. What you're feeling is called survivor's guilt, and the transference of feeling where you feel guilty for living when they don't, to an imaginary scenario where you were directly responsible for their deaths, is normal."
Ichigo shook his head sadly. He knew that, he had read about it and listened to the same rant from the shrink countless times. It still didn't make it any easier to bear.
"But the war feels real, the dreams feel like memories," he insisted, his eyes narrowing, his patience close to snapping point. It was taking more and more of him to sit still in these sessions, not to stand up and punch the damn bastard's face. He knew it was unfair; the doctor was only trying to help him. It didn't make it any easier, though. "There is nothing in my mind to replace them. Where are the real memories if the dreams are false?"
The doctor stood up and began pacing the room; clear sign Ichigo's stubbornness was getting to him.
"There was no war, and there are no shinigami. Check the papers if you like, Kurosaki-san, you will find everything about the explosion in your father's clinic, but nothing about a war." He sat down again and looked at Ichigo with stern eyes. "This has been going on for far too long, if you insist on this we'll need to resume your medication."
Ichigo shook his head violently. He didn't want medication, not again. Last time it had made the dreams go away, but it had made him incapable of doing much else. He needed to think clearly, needed the reassurance of being in control of his own mind to stop the other voice.
He couldn't allow them to learn about the other one or they were never going to let him go.
"No," he finally said, "that won't be necessary."
He sincerely hoped the doctor was convinced, that he didn't catch the fear of the other one in his voice and expression. That was the one part Ichigo had been able to keep a secret from them since he arrived there, and he wanted to keep it that way. Maybe it was interfering with his treatment, but at that point there was no way he'd talk about him again.
One slip had made more than enough damage.
The doctor nodded almost reluctantly. "Very well, Kurosaki-san. We'll increase your sessions to twice a day and see if there is any improvement. If I don't see progress in a week, we're starting the medication."
Ichigo nodded, almost grateful. He didn't know how talking to the shrink twice a day instead of twice a week was going to make him improve, but he was sick and tired of that place and wanted out. He'd go along with the flow as long as they kept the meds away from him.
"You can go back to your room now," the doctor said, grabbing another folder from the stack over his desk, clearly signalling his interest in Ichigo was over for the moment.
Ichigo didn't waste any time standing up and going to the door.
The way back to his room he made in silence, ignoring the presence of one of the orderlies next to him. In the past six of months he had gone from dangerous to himself and those around him to subdued and quiet, and the staff of the place left him mostly to himself. He appreciated that, and it meant he was one step closer to being released.
He didn't know what he was going to do or where he was going to go if that happened, but he was convinced he wasn't going to find the answers he was looking for inside that place.
He entered his room, white and sterile, and nodded to the orderly before the door closed and he was left alone with his thoughts again.
The doctor said he was suffering from survivor's guilt and posttraumatic stress disorder, all of that related to the accident in his father's clinic. Once upon a time, Ichigo would have been inclined to believe him.
That was before the dreams, when his mind was a complete blank after the day he saved the little ghost-girl.
Patient: Kurosaki Ichigo
Diagnosis: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Background: Kurosaki Ichigo was found unconscious on the street next to his family home. He sustained burns and other injuries which were treated at the local hospital. Upon regaining consciousness, two days after the incident, the patient was disoriented and violent; he was delusional, raging at shinigami and arrancar and talking about a war.
He was administered sedatives and kept in observation. He seemed to have no knowledge of the accident or what had really happened to his family and friends, insisting on his delusions. The next time he woke up the patient had experimented a partial memory loss, the evens of the past two years wiped clean from his memories. (D.N. Possible defence mechanism? The time frame doesn't fit.)
He was released from the hospital when he was deemed healed of his physical injuries and suggested to begin psychological treatment for his amnesia.
Standing unseen on thin air, Grimmjow followed the progress of his target from one room to another.
Kurosaki had been staring out of the window, looking straight at him and had showed no signs of alarm. Not even a hint that he was seeing something unusual. He either was better than before at concealing his emotions, or he couldn't see Grimmjow.
Grimmjow was ready to put his money in the later.
It fucking irritated him; whatever the hell they had done to Kurosaki it seemed to have taken not only his memories, but also his reiatsu. It had taken way too long to track him down without that monstrous reiatsu of him acting as a beacon.
He wanted to tear the fucking place down and get Kurosaki out of there, but he needed to wait. He needed more information so he could restore Kurosaki to his previous self.
Grimmjow was not interested in broken toys.
Ichigo knew he was dreaming, but somehow the dream felt real to him. It was almost like a memory, one of those elusive fragments of his past hidden behind the wall in his mind.
He was determined to remember it in the morning.
"I don't like this." The voice belonged to Yoruichi, who was standing at the foot of Ichigo's bed in the hospital. Next to her, Urahara Kisuke was staring at him with something akin to pity. It made Ichigo's blood boil.
"I know, I don't like it either. But better I do it than wait for Yamamoto to send someone else."
Ichigo saw himself opening his eyes from his position in the bed, his lips curling in a snarl.
"Fuck off; I've had it with you shinigami and fucking Soul Society." His voice was laden with hatred and a tiredness Ichigo didn't believe he had felt before.
Urahara nodded sadly. "I know, Kurosaki-kun, and I'm sorry for your loss."
"Spare me, Urahara. What are you doing here?"
"Two things," Urahara showed him something that made Ichigo narrow his eyes, "I know how Soul Society works, and they're going to send someone after you. You are too powerful to leave unchecked, and after what's happened Yamamoto-soutaichou can't risk you losing control of your hollow."
Ichigo shrugged. "Let him."
Urahara shook his head. "There is a solution. I can help you forget, for now." The Ichigo in the bed looked like he wanted to protest, but Urahara raised his hand and he kept silent. "You can have a normal life, but I need to seal your reiatsu along with your memories, or they'll find you easily."
"You're going to do it regardless of what I want, aren't you?" he asked suspiciously. There was nothing he could do against Urahara right now, not in his condition.
"I'm afraid so, Kurosaki-kun. If it's me doing it we can revert it when the time is right. Soul Society won't offer you such a chance. I'd like to have your consent, though. "
He tried to stand from the bed, wincing at the pain of his injuries. They should have let Orihime heal him like she always did, and then he remembered, the wave of pain and anger almost overwhelming him again.
"If I say yes, I don't need to see any of you again?" he asked, his voice chocked in hatred. A small voice in his head told him he might regret it. He just felt like that now because everything was so recent, but he was going to miss his friends once his head felt clearer.
He was going to miss his friends either way, he reminded himself. They were dead.
"No, as long as you don't want to see us," Yoruichi said, her pretty face clouded in sadness. "But it's not permanent. We can reverse it if you ever want us to. If you start remem--"
"Do it," he cut her off, looking straight at Urahara.
"Just another thing. You're going to be helpless without your reiatsu; we need to make sure there are no more Espada alive."
He had not said Arrancar, like the one who had appeared out of nowhere and destroyed everything. Urahara had said Espada, loud and clear. But, as far as Soul society was concerned, there were no Espada alive.
And once Ichigo had no reiatsu and no memories, there wouldn't be as far as he was concerned either.
"Are you sure, Kurosaki-kun?"
"I am. Do it now if you're going to do it."
Urahara nodded, and the next he knew there was darkness enveloping everything.
In his bed in the institution, Ichigo woke up.
Hypnotherapy Session 1 - Patient Kurosaki Ichigo
Doctor: Yamagawa Akira
September 16, 2010 13:45
Dr. Yamagawa: We're going to go back in time to the day of the accident. Tell me what you see, Kurosaki-san.
D: That's not possible; there must be something you see. Your house, your family, your friends--
K: No, there is nothing.
D: Can you hear something?
D: What about your other senses? Any smells? Anything you remember eating, touching?
K: No. There is nothing. It feels as if there is a wall and there are things behind that wall. But here I can't see or feel anything.
D: You mean you're blocking the memory.
K: I don't think I'm the one blocking it. I want to get to the other side, but the wall is too tall and wide. I can't cross.
D: If there is a wall in your mind, Kurosaki-san, you put it there.
K: No, it wasn't me.
D: Ok, let's go further back in time. A month before the accident. What can you remember? Tell me if you see or hear something.
K: Nothing, the same wall.
D: Follow the wall, picture yourself walking alongside it. Tell me what you find when you reach the end.
K: It goes on forever.
D: Keep going Kurosaki-san.
K: Here, the wall suddenly stops.
D: What can you see, Kurosaki-san?
K: I'm kicking some thug in the face.
D: Why are you doing that, Kurosaki-san?
K: They were skateboarding and knocked over the flowers. The little girl was sad, I couldn't allow that.
D: Tell me more about this little girl.
K: She's sad and scared, but she doesn't cross to the other side. She has blood dripping from her face and her dress it's torn and dirty where the car hit her.
D: Is she injured? Have you called the hospital?
K: No need, she's dead. She's been dead for a month already and she knows this. But still she can't cross.
D: You mean she's a ghost.
K: Yes, she's a ghost.
D: But you can see her.
K: Yes, I've always been able to see them.
D: Can you still see them now, Kurosaki-san?
K: No, not anymore. I kind of miss it.
D: What do you do when you leave the little girl?
K: I go home and kick my father on the face.
D: Why? Is your father abusing you?
K: No, just annoying me. My sisters are having dinner and my father's being his usual obnoxious self. It annoys me, and another ghost has attached itself to me on the way back home. Everything is irritating me today so I go straight to my room to sleep.
D: What else?
K: Nothing else. I go to sleep and the wall starts there. I can't see anything else.
D: We'll come back to this in the next session, Kurosaki-san. For now, you can wake up.
Patient: Kurosaki Ichigo, continuation.
Treatment: After treating his injuries and releasing the patient from the hospital he was assigned a Psychologist to work on his case. Kurosaki attended the first session, in which they tried hypnotherapy to bring his repressed memories to the surface.
The first session was a failure, but it brought an interesting fact to light.
Prior to the accident Kurosaki might have been dealing with certain mental problems. He appears to believe he can see ghosts and has been using it as an excuse for his violent tendencies. We have a report from his school saying he used to get into fights; he wasn't prone to bullying but would respond violently to provocation.
We're checking his background for a possible parental abuse. Kurosaki admitted to "kick" his father on the face as greeting. His file indicated a single parent home, the loss of the mother apparently a traumatic one, which might have prompted his delusions.
Patient needs to be kept under observation in case his violent tendencies reappear.
The uncomfortable feeling was back with a vengeance.
For the past couple of days Ichigo had been feeling observed, as if the orderlies and doctors had put him under surveillance. He knew this was probably paranoia, and he really didn't need more illness to be added to the ones already on the list. They had done it before, when they had believed he was suicidal and self-harming.
Ichigo had tried to explain it then, but coming from his mouth it had just seemed like another delusion. He could not explain the injuries which landed him in the hospital after barely two months out of it in a way that sounded real. There was no explaining them at all, but he had felt the blows raining on him from nowhere, and he had known it wasn't a call for attention.
He was not so stupid as to hit himself.
At that time he had also felt observed, and he was afraid something might hurt him again. Not that he was afraid of the pain, but if the doctors believed he was trying to take his life they were never going to release him.
And he needed to get out of there. Needed to get to the place he had dreamed about and find the man with the answers. He was sure that shop keeper from his dreams was the key to unlocking his memories.
He needed to find him.
"Whoever is there," he finally said, feeling foolish for doing so. Maybe he really was delusional, and talking to thin air wasn't helping him feel saner. "Just don't. I need to get away from here, and being covered in bruises and cuts won't help."
He waited for a response, any kind of response, for a few seconds, feeling his grip on reality slipping with each passing breath. He was really insane.
He felt it then, a hand surrounding his throat and squeezing lightly. His heart jumped in his chest and his breath got stuck in his throat. This felt real, not like something he had imagined or invented. Ichigo closed his eyes, relieved.
He wasn't delusional. A weight lifted from his chest.
The hands left his throat and he felt a different kind of touch on his face, lips pressing against his and a tongue slipping into his mouth. He opened his eyes again, but there was nobody with him in the room. He moved his hands to where the head should be, but there was only air. The kiss felt real, he could feel the lips and the tongue and teeth closing around his lower lip, biting sharply. His body was feeling it, getting aroused. Ichigo breathed through his nose, eyes narrowing.
It ended as suddenly as it started, leaving Ichigo staring at the blank wall, a trickle of blood running from his mouth to his chin. He touched it and looked at his fingers, the redness there confirming it had not been an illusion.
Ichigo pulled a name from his dreams, the ones the doctors said were not real, and whispered it in the silent room.
TCB (part II)