Notes: Set in the middle of Brine Cave. Contains spoilers for all events up to that point; being familiar with everything that happens in Brine Cave and beyond is advisable, actually.
This is sort of a 'missing scene' of sorts, because Ichigo isn't the type to let things go so easily.
If nothing else, Team Skull was good at running. Ichigo swallowed back the flames she hadn't quite had time to spit at them; cathartic as shooting a torrent after them anyway might have been, there was no other point. All it might accomplish would be Chatot chewing her out for wasting her energy, and that was about the last thing she wanted to hear right now.
…Not that he was paying any attention to her at the moment. Squawking indignantly, the parrot turned away from them. Though he probably thought he was talking to himself, his voice was far too loud for that -- but then again, she amended, he loved making everyone listen to him anyway, so why should that change now?
"Those stinking scoundrels… Play me for a fool, will they?!"
"C-Chatot… sir?" Laramie piped, watching him flap his wings angrily.
"They won't get away with this! I'll show them what it means to trifle with me!"
She didn't even bother stifling her scoff at that.
"With you?" she echoed. "What, you've forgotten about us, now? Guess that's not surprising…"
Chatot's head swiveled towards her, confused. --Irritated, too; she saw his brow start furrowing and instinctively knew what he was about to say. But right now, the fire lizard wasn't the least bit interested in another lecture.
"Anyway, don't you think you should apologize now?" she forged on before he could start.
"A… apologize?" Taken off-guard, Chatot blinked several times. "What are you talking ab…"
"Oh, don't give me that! You should know exactly what I mean!"
"……" Judging from his blank stare, he didn't have a clue. Laramie, however, already had a pretty good idea… But the bulbasaur frowned, concerned.
"Ichigo, I don't think this is the time…"
"Remember? The Perfect Apples?" Placing her hands on her sides, Ichigo added, "We tried warning you, you know. But oh no, you couldn't be bothered to listen. So… don't you think you should apologize?"
Chatot's beak worked soundlessly for a few minutes, until Ichigo started tapping her foot impatiently. The sound appeared to shake him out of his daze, and the parrot drew himself up imperiously, ruffling his feathers.
"…Young lady, this is hardly the time for…"
"Don't patronize me!"
Chatot recoiled, eyes widening as Ichigo rounded on him, her bandana casting a slight shadow over the top of her face. Only very recently had he started seeing this sort of hardened expression on her; up to this point, he'd been dismissing it as her 'battle face'. But now that harsh, smoldering glare was directed towards him, and he shrank back instinctively from it.
"Ichigo--" Laramie began nervously.
"Don't. Patronize us," she hissed; her lashing tail made shadows dance around them. "I'm sick of how you keep talking down to us like we're both morons. The only thing I want to hear from you right now is 'Sorry'. That's all."
Stepping back slightly, she gazed at him expectantly. Waiting for him to answer. Behind her, Laramie shifted his weight uncertainly.
Chatot hadn't realized he'd been holding his breath until he exhaled; it seemed to ring in his ears, sounding… defeated. The mere thought made his face flame, and he quickly drew himself back up, returning her -- returning the apprentice's glare.
"I don't have anything to apologize for! If anything, you should be apologizing -- I mean, honestly! Talking to me like--"
He didn't see her arm move -- only when it stopped did he register the movement, seeing a vine wrapped around her wrist to hold it back. The parrot's eyes nearly bulged from their sockets; she'd nearly…! If her partner hadn't reacted, she would have--!
"Ichigo, stop!" Laramie's voice quavered, thickened by tension, and he had to swallow hard before he could continue. "Please, l…let's just go after Team Skull, okay? We… we shouldn't fight… We're all friends, ri…"
"We're not friends." Glaring at her superior, Ichigo added, "Chatot's no friend of ours. Never was."
"………" Chatot couldn't find his voice. Heat flooded his face; though Laramie's vines still held Ichigo's wrist -- though she let her arm drop down -- he still felt like she'd just struck home.
"I-Ichigo!" and her partner's tone held some of the reproach he wished he could address her with, though tinged with more shock and surprise than Chatot would have wanted.
"He's not," she insisted, glaring at the parrot with undisguised hatred. "He's never done anything to help us -- just lectured and complained and refused to listen to a single thing we had to say. All he ever does is take our money and get in the way."
"…That… that's not…"
He trailed off awkwardly, shooting the bird a nauseatingly helpless glance. Where was his stirring defense? Wasn't he going to remind her of everything he'd done for them…?
Unconsciously, Chatot glowered at him, frustrated at his hesitance. Unfortunately for him, Ichigo caught the look, and her own expression darkened.
"Whatever. You don't even care, right? All you wanna do is run off and whine to the Guildmaster. 'Guildmaster, Guildmaster, they're being mean to me! Why don't they appreciate how I treat them like total idiots and blow them off? I mean, they only came back from Apple Woods smelling like Skuntank and Koffing fumes… and then Team Skull shows up with Perfect Apples, and the only place I know to get those is the Woods… how was I supposed to make that sort of connection?'"
"'After all, I know everything!'" Still mimicking his voice, Ichigo barreled on with a nasally "'I'm so wonderful and brilliant and amazing, everyone relies on me! So of course I don't let anyone else get a word in edgewise -- that'd mean showing them a shred of respect! I want everyone to respect me, but I can't be bothered treating anyone else the same way! After all, they're all idiots, and they should remember that! So I remind them! All the time! Why don't they appreciate that?!'"
"…Y…" Swallowing the knot in his throat, Chatot began again with "You…"
"'Why, oh why don't I get the respect I deserve?'" Dropping the impression, Ichigo snarled, "Well, you already do. You get none. Everyone just tolerates you to keep the Guildmaster happy, because we respect him. But not you. Never you."
…He didn't have to hear this.
He didn't have to hear this. He didn't have to stand for it, didn't have to stand here and take it.
Turning away, Chatot flew deeper into the cavern, ignoring Laramie's dismayed cry. Too little, too late. And he didn't want to hear another word from either member of Team Hanabi right now.
When only silence answered him, Laramie looked back to Ichigo, stunned. Her expression hadn't softened any; the fire lizard merely glared down the tunnel their superior had disappeared into, unmoving and unmoved.
"…I…Ichigo…" Licking dry lips, he ventured, "That was a little… um… harsh…?"
"Not really." Rather than looking directly at him, she opted for shifting through the satchel at her side, reviewing their supplies.
"Anyway, let's get going." Shrugging the strap back into a more comfortable position, she added, "'Bout time we go and kick Skuntank's stinking tail, right?"
"B-but Chatot… he--"
"Eh, he'll be fine! Sure, he's not even half the explorer he claims to be, but he can still take care of himself. Let him vent for a while, then he'll catch up and be all 'You should respect me because I'm more special than you and blah blah blah.' Trust me, his ego needed the bruising… even if it doesn't stick."
"……" Laramie worried the inside of his lip, thinking of the glimpse he'd caught of Chatot's face before he flew off. "I don't know…"
"C'mon! We need to get it back!"
"……" Shaking off his hesitation, Laramie nodded. "Right… Let's hurry."
As always, Ichigo took the lead, her tail lighting the way. As always, Laramie followed, fighting down what he hoped was undue concern, trying to trust her judgment. This time, though, it was proving a bit harder than usual.