Disclaimer: Bleach & everything connected to it belongs to Tite Kubo. I'm just messing around for no profit.
Author's Note: Due to the author's horrified realization of how badly this needed editing, this chapter was given an nth look-over on the 29th of March, 2010 and an nth plus 1 look-over on the 15th of April 2011... And might go through another edit at a later time, should I get horrified again. I've grown quite fond of this story in time. It was initially supposed to be almost PWP, but, lo and behold! It is so impossibly complicated now that I have to work hard to balance all the plot points. In other words, it's gotten quite fun.
If you're interested in other works I do, aside from the fan fiction, or in getting free requests on random Fridays, you can find me on deviantArt. The link is on my profile.
Chapter 1: Bloody Blatant Blackmail
Urahara looked at Ichigo from behind his fan. If there ever was a moment to put to practice a plan that should never have been drafted in the first place, a plan which was below him, unworthy of him, which he loathed and despised even as he loved it... If there was a time to do the thing he had carefully drafted and agonized over ever since he had realized it could be done... That time had arrived. Urahara had arranged for everybody at the shop to inconspicuously go away for awhile, which would give him just the right context to set some things right. Or if not right, then better than they would otherwise be. At least, he hoped so, because otherwise he would be no better than a damned perverted bastard who had no right to live, never mind consider himself a decent human being.
Licking dry lips, he said, "Kurosaki-san, please stay behind."
Ichigo turned towards him, oblivious of the subtext that should have been screaming at him from underneath that sentence. There was nothing in his countenance to reflect the fact that this was going to be, one way or another, a life-altering moment for him. He looked impossibly young, impossibly innocent, unbelievably trusting. Urahara felt a pang of wrongness, but pushed it away. It had to be done. It had to be done. If he told himself that enough times, he would maybe come to believe it.
"Huh?" Ichigo said. His friends, equally oblivious, looked back at Urahara with some curiosity and no hints of suspicion.
"There's some things we need to discuss," the shopkeeper said in what felt like too normal a voice for the occasion.
"Ok. Whatever." He wasn't pleased to stay. Maybe he had something to do this afternoon. Maybe he had plans, or maybe he wanted to rest. Urahara wouldn't let him.
They remained in the underground training area until the others' reiatsu started fading away. Urahara made a gesture asking Ichigo to be patient, and the young man, the trusting, innocent young man, did so. The shopkeeper would have preferred to wrestle him to stay. It would have felt more appropriate. And when there was no trace left of Rukia or Ishida, no hint of Orihime left, Urahara folded his fan and put it away. He smiled at Ichigo, who had no way of knowing that behind the same old smile there was cold sweat and betrayal.
Urahara closed the distance between them, noticing that his status as 'trusted' would not allow Ichigo to pull away automatically. Too bad. Also expected.
Then, with a gesture that appeared to be commonplaceness itself, the shopkeeper's lips closed down on the boy's own.
It was amazing how fast your opinion of a man could change when his lips were on your own, Ichigo thought.
Before? Urahara was that strange mentor guy with very questionable methods and who is supposedly perverted. Now, Urahara was... Well, he was the strange mentor guy with very questionable methods and a very real body with very real lips who was very really actually obviously kissing him. It was a kiss, right?
Holy cow. He was being kissed. For the first time in his life. A stolen kiss. Unwanted. Stupid. Given by a man much, much older than he was. By somebody whom he'd never considered as sexed. Ever.
And there was nobody around.
Which was probably Urahara's plan.
He was being kissed by Urahara.
Ichigo pulled away late, recovering from the shock with a start. He shoved the shopkeeper away and Urahara stumbled back a few paces. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" He wanted to add something to that. To say it was his first kiss, that it was way beyond any comfort limit. He wanted to slap him, hit him, punch him, fight him. He wanted to shake him. Instead, he found himself tensing, getting ready to strike, his teeth clenching.
Urahara recovered his balance and smiled as if nothing had happened, as if it had been a joke. Then he took out his fan and hid his face behind it.
"What are you doing?" Ichigo demanded again.
"Making my intentions clear, so there would be no mistake in our negotiations, Kurosaki-san."
Making intentions clear?... What intentions? What negotiations? What was wrong with the man's head?
"Please, do sit down, Kurosaki-san. This is about the gate to Hueco Mundo."
"So what the fuck was the kiss about?" Ichigo looked at the shopkeeper fixedly. There man was still smiling from behind his fan, but not doing much else. He looked calm and collected, which, in the context, felt eerie. After an endless half a minute in which neither of them said anything else and Urahara kept smiling as per usual, Ichigo started wondering whether he hadn't somehow hallucinated it. Another thought, of aliens and body replacements, crossed his mind. Urahara, the Urahara he knew, would never have done that.
Well, probably, at least.
"I will explain shortly," the shopkeeper eventually said.
"Well, go ahead already."
"My apologies." But he didn't start speaking right away.
Ichigo wondered what the heck was going on. Was Urahara finally losing a screw? He'd tried to murder him before, but that had seemed explainable in the end. The kiss didn't look very explainable, unless it was some crazy technique that Ichigo never wanted to hear about again.
The shopkeeper fluttered his fan, apparently pausing for dramatic effect. Well, he'd already had an abnormally long time to pause, so Ichigo wasn't overly pleased with it. If there had been ore dramatic effect than there already was, Ichigo would have done what he should've done from the beginning and gone all Vizard on him.
Urahara gestured towards the upper house in an invitation. Without waiting to see if Ichigo followed, he took the lead, silently. They climbed up the stairs to the house and went to the dining room. Urahara's face was inscrutable, not even a hint of actual emotion on it. Ichigo felt his anger and confusion grow. You didn't just jump and kiss somebody. Especially not somebody your own sex. Especially not your bloody trainee/student/whatever.
"It is possible for me to open a gate to Hueco Mundo without much difficulty," the shopkeeper said.
"Yeah, so?" What the bleep did it have to do with the kiss?
"But now only you and me know that, Kurosaki-san."
There was another silence between them as Ichigo took in the meaning of that sentence. Only the two of them knew that. The kiss. 'Negotiations'. Urahara acting strange.
"It is very easy for me to pretend that I am not succeeding in my attempts," the shopkeeper added, giving him another hint. Then he fluttered his fan gently, waiting for Ichigo's reaction, looking as calm as if he'd said something as casual as "would you like some tea?"
"What are you saying?" Ichigo demanded. It wasn't so much a question as it was a threat. You had better not be saying what I think you're saying.
"That I need some … payment for my struggles, Kurosaki-san. And, as I have stated through my actions just now, I have found a suitable payment for my services."
Urahara prattled on, the words said thus far enough to say it all, so Ichigo didn't need to catch the rest entirely to understand what it meant. Phrases went by him, 'harboring a certain sort of attraction', 'mutual benefits', but all he really heard was his ears throbbing, his mind sinking deeper and deeper into disbelief.
"What the..." he mouthed. He didn't feel up to anything more.
"I know that it is homosexual in nature and I am aware that it might also mean I am a pedophile, but I simply cannot convince myself to care, Kurosaki-kun. I am not a man who sticks to rules."
Business-like, brisk, phrased as if in a school manual. Urahara's smile had faded away and his eyes had caught a peculiar, calculating look. Was this it, then? Was this the man behind the mask? A cold bastard, stooping this low? Stopping at nothing?
And then he smiled again, a widening smile. A warmer and warmed smile until Ichigo couldn't bear it and had to look away. He wasn't sure whether he was more upset or disturbed. It was eerie and the onlu thing he could compare it to was a dead squid jumping out of its bucket and declaring that it had always wanted to make out with his sister. It was outrageous. It was stupid. It wasn't happening.
But it was.
And Urahara was saying his name a lot. Kurosaki-san up, Kurosaki-san down, like a weird incantation designed to make him give in. Kurosaki-san...
Ichigo had no idea what to say or do. So he looked up at the smiling shopkeeper again, trying to hold his gaze. "Urahara Kisuke," he said, slowly, deliberately, giving him a taste of his own medicine. "Are you drunk? Drugged? Is that a Compact Soul in your gigai?" Or are you just happy to see me, his mind supplied, sending his mental images askew.
"It's me. I am quite sane and sober, Kurosaki-kun. Well, more or less sane." Grey eyes. Grey calculating eyes from behind the fan. The glint of a plan, of something secret going on, the glimmer Ichigo'd always trusted. Was it a test – then, which was the correct answer? What was he supposed to do?
What if it wasn't a test?
"Fuck off, Urahara. I'm not into that sort of thing. With other guys especially."
Ichigo rose to leave. The sandal-hat remained sitting, thankfully. Maybe it was all a dream, he thought. Maybe he was under his blankets, oxygen-deprived. Stranger dreams had happened.
He took a few steps and was almost out the door before he Urahara's worried voice stopped him. Sing-song. Sugar sweet, diabetes inducing.
"I'm afraid I can't open the gates to Hueco Mundo, Kurosaki-kun. It is beyond my abilities. Maybe Soul Society would be willing to help you? In fact, I think I might have to close business here for awhile and try to regain my lost powers and try to work on some of my experiments. My, my, I'm such a useless old man."
Ichigo froze. He would. Urahara really would do that. The mockery would change to seriousness, the sweetness to sadness. He would pretend he couldn't do it. That he failed, that he was slow and desperate. He turned back and saw the man's narrowed eyes from between hat and fan watching him intently. He was a good actor, when he wanted to be, Ichigo remembered.
Urahara beamed, as if it were the best of compliments that he was receiving.
"You can't possibly do that. You know we can't get any help from Soul Society."
"My, my, Kurosaki-kun, really? I am so sorry for Orihime-san, then." His features melted into perfect pity.
"But I might recover my powers."
"What the fuck do you want?" Ichigo finally asked. He was tired from the day's training session, from the kiss that had been stolen, from the betrayal, from the blackmail. He found himself wondering about the terms, even if he didn't intend to give in.
"A chance, Kurosaki-kun." The fan was back in place, waving gently, possibly hiding a smirk that had no place to be there. Ichigo was not giving in. He just wanted to know exactly what he'd been proposed, to disbelieve it all the better.
"A chance to what?"
Grey eyes almost hidden under the brim of his hat seemed to mock him, as if laughing at his inner thoughts. Ichigo needed to get to Hueco Mundo and get Inoue. He needed a gate for that. Soul Society wasn't going to offer it. Both he and Urahara knew that.
And of course the man would resort to blackmail, of all things. What did he want? Ichigo was quite sure he knew what it was and he was sure he didn't want to hear the answer. He was sorry he'd asked, but the reply came nonetheless.
"A chance to fuck you and make you like it, Kurosaki-san."
AN: Like? Don't like? Review/flame. Please. I like either.
The next chapter will be edited in due time. (Yes, I know it desperately needs editing)