I love this chapter. Or the idea of it anyway. It could still be improved, but I'm tired and I couldn't resist posting. If you find mistakes PM me. Junichiblue.
Note: 'Yare. Yare.' means 'My. My.'
Chapter Twenty Seven: Brains Meets Brawn
The fallout from Ichigo's playful jab proved to be everything the shopkeeper imagined, and more.
It was high entertainment.
At least it was, from Urahara's perspective. Grimmjow would have begged to differ. Colorfully.
The Sexta Espada grunted as he brushed past Ichigo who scowled at him over the jagged rim of the paper grocery bags that were balanced in his arms, and padded wearily through the doorway of the Shoten. He was annoyed and exhausted. His strength had still not yet returned, and he was content with the idea of eating, (because how else was he going to regain his power), and then giving his full middle finger to the retarded world he'd just experienced and just crashing for awhile.
Grimmjow dropped the one bag he was carrying onto the floor of the hall, where it landed with a suspicious crunch, and stretched his arms, staunchly ignoring the irritable "Oy, not there. In the kitchen, lazy ass. And did I just hear something break?", that came from somewhere behind him.
The Espada groaned and sighed as he shook himself out like a dog, clean hair shifting, but in the end adhering to its usual form, a stylized confusion of blue. It was a relief to finally be able to release his recovering spiritual pressure. He had kept it tightly contained during their trip through the heart of Karakura to Ichigo's home. Drawing out more Shinigami at this point would have been catastrophic, and Grimmjow had only managed to keep it suppressed by the skin of his teeth after meeting the elder Kurosaki.
What a fucking whack job.
Never had Grimmjow felt quite so unwelcome. And he was a Hollow, for fuck's sake. Nobody liked him. Christ, the Shinigami Captains had given him a warmer greeting.
The bluenet hadn't expected the guy to be happy about meeting him, and frankly he didn't really give a shit who liked him and who didn't. He hadn't thought he should go though, since the kid's family would probably want to spend time with him, and he had tried to argue his way out of it but Ichigo had insisted that it would be better to just get it over with and be honest with his father. Apparently, they had kept far too many secrets from one another already.
Frankly though, the Espada was interested in seeing where a guy like Kurosaki came from, and he wondered if it were possible there could be more like him. But that was as far as his curiosity went. Even before today, Grimmjow definitely did not see himself being into family shit. And after meeting Ishin, Ichigo was nuts if he thought Grimmjow was ever going back there again. Ishin and Grimmjow were going to throw down and tear it up if they saw each other again. There was no doubt about it in Grimmjow's mind. And Ichigo would definitely get pissy about it if they did.
And don't even get him started on their trip to the store to get food. He would never have gone at all if he'd know Ichigo planned on dragging him into the tenth level of hell. The teen had explained about money and stores and lineups before they got there, but it hadn't made the experience any more palatable for the unamused bluenet. He'd dragged behind Ichigo with a sharp scowl on his face and his hands jammed into his pockets, a precaution, lest he decide to start ceroing people, or better yet, rip out their hearts.
There were people everywhere... babies crying, loudspeakers going, phones ringing, carts bumping cans off corner displays. His feline senses were being bombarded, his short fuse stimulated in the worst ways, and the tension was building in his gritted jaw so deep he didn't think he'd have any molars left by the end of it all. Several people had even run into him with their carts, which had his fingers twitching inside his pockets, but he'd kept his mouth shut and simply watched with some amusement as they stupidly inspected the wheels of their carts with confused expressions before eventually heading off down the isle.
To think that he had once been like "them".
It only took a few minutes before the bluenet's nerves were completely shot. It was a strange sensation for one such as Grimmjow, who was used to sensing spiritual pressure. The people were like ghosts to him. It was like they were there, but they weren't. He could touch them and he could see them, but they seemed like empty vessels, vacant shells. Being around them was like rolling in shit. These people were clinging to the bottom rung of the human race. They were in the presence of a powerful being and they couldn't even see...
And that's when his world had brightened a little.
It dawned on him that none of these inferior beings could see Grimmjow. He was a ghost after all. The moment he'd realized that, he had put an end to all of the noise and chaos of the large and busy supermarket. He reached into Ichigo's shopping cart as they waited at the wrong end of a long line and held up a can of something or other which gained a few people's attention. Then he grabbed a whole fish and swam it through the air over his head.
The predictable moment of pandemonium was a small price to pay for the peace that followed.
Ichigo had simply stood there gripping the cart fiercely and thrown him an admonishing look. The Espada wore a self satisfied expression despite the glare he was receiving, even though the idiot didn't even thank him when they hadn't had to wait in line. Ichigo had laid cash on the empty teller's counter and they'd walked out of the abandoned store without anyone so much as noticing them.
The teen had grudgingly carried all the food as they casually made their way back to the Shoten under the declining heat of the late afternoon sun. He had grumbled about not needing a repeat performance out on the streets. Ichigo only finally thrust a bag at the arrancar once they reached the shop so that he could dig around in his pocket for the keys to unlock the door. The Espada had grown fed up of waiting and tried the door anyway. To Ichigo's surprise it had been unlocked, and Grimmjow had shrugged and pushed his way past the shorter male.
They were home and Grimmjow hadn't killed a single person. As shitty as some parts of the day had been, he had to count it as a win.
He blinked at the darkness inside the building. His eyes ached along with the rest of his body, but he ignored all of it as he scanned the innards of the building that were within in his field of view for any hidden dangers before proceeding further in. It took him a brief second to adjust to the lower level of light. The mild relief that came with it was welcome. An image of home flickered in his mind, the rolling sandscape, the soft white light of the crescent moon, and silence that seemed to stretch on for endless miles. The world he knew best, was dark and quiet and monochromatic.
There was nothing monochromatic about this world, especially in the sun. The last time he'd been here, he'd been so utterly fixated on finding Kurosaki and beating the shit out of him that he'd hadn't paid the world around him much attention. He was always like that when he got too focused on his opponent in battle. He'd lose sight of his surroundings. It was the reason so many people were able to keep sneaking up on him time after irritating time. Now that he'd spent an entire day in the living world with Kurosaki as his guide instead of his prey, he'd had the chance to slow it all down and take everything in. And he'd realized something. In the sun, this world was full of so many damn colours, it hurt.
The bluenet grunted and grabbed the plastic bag by its twin handles, letting it hang off of hooked fingers as he ambled towards the kitchen. It only took a moment for Grimmjow's irritable mood to reach new heights as he moved deeper into the Shoten's living space.
What was that ungodly smell?
The arrancar had lifted his nose into the air and grimaced in disgust at the rancid odour before he'd even rounded the corner of the kitchen's entrance-way. When he did, he was met with a somewhat unassuming man in a striped hat and shabby clothing who was sitting at the table, quietly drinking tea of all fucking things. That, and the ultra relaxed demeanour of the stranger reminded the Espada all at once of Aizen, and he actively bristled, his ears and hair almost visibly flattening against his head. This new, yet distantly familiar presence made him instantly wary, and it had distracted him from launching into a litany of complaints over the fetid smell that permeated his sensitive nose.
"Who the hell are you?", he demanded, his voice steady and sounding somewhat of his trademark boredom, but now also edged with suspicion.
For all outwards appearances, Grimmjow remained cool, but his weariness was all but forgotten, his eyes sharpened, assessing, watching for the subtle signs of aggression, the tiny tells of body language. The man wasn't a Shinigami. He didn't wear the uniform, and he didn't seem to posses a zanpakuto. And his spiritual pressure was for shit. Like all the other sad sacks of skin in this town, it was almost undetectable. Still, the man only had to give him a reason and the Espada would end him before he even knew what was happening. Grimmjow would not be so easy to take down again.
The stranger responded to the bluenet's query by setting his cup down neatly onto the saucer on the table and placing his open palm flat against the pale skin of his exposed chest, his face stricken.
"You mean you don't know who I am?" he complained, his voicing shooting up into a whiny tenor. "I'm hurt!"
Grimmjow clutched the bag in his hand tightly as he balled up his fist.
This man was pouting. It was disgusting.
He might not be a threat but the world would be a much less irritating place without him in it. The Espada's eyes narrowed dangerously, and he considered for a moment ceroing him where he sat, but he figured there would be so much complaining that it wouldn't be worth it. Instead, he'd been about to call back to Ichigo, who was lagging behind, to ask who this asshole was, but something on the table had caught his eye.
Despite the anxiety he felt in the presence of the man, he took several steps forward towards the table and squinted. It was the can of shit he had bullied Ichigo into opening for him, despite Ichigo's assurances that he wouldn't want to eat that, as it wasn't made for humans. He hadn't cared at the time. He was hungry, dammit. But then he'd smelled it. Death smelled better.
The can wasn't the issue though. It was the little piece of paper attached to it that made the Espada's green slashes part ways with his eyebrows.
Only moments after seeing the can on the table, and glaring at the note with increasing agitation, he'd dropped the bag of food and rounded on Kurosaki with an enraged snarl and a line of sharp teeth that itched to tear into flesh.
Ichigo had only just set foot into the kitchen when Grimmjow spun around and erupted like a super-volcano. The teen dropped his bags and raised his arms up in defence, stuttering a confused, "What? What?", as he backed up swiftly and tried to piece together the origins of the arrancars impending murderous rampage.
The bone mask and green slashes seemed to jump out at Ichigo from beneath the angry azure eyes that were near blackened with blood lust.
A moment of true panic seized the orange haired teen as he realized that he was in his human body. One good hit from an Espada would be enough to kill most humans instantly. As enraged as he was, Grimmjow wouldn't realize that right now. Ichigo took one more step back through the kitchen doorway and into the hall.
What was this bullshit, thought Grimmjow. Kurosaki was going to pull crap on him and then run away from the fight he had to know was coming? For that alone, he deserved all the pain he was going to feel and more. The blue haired arrancar's muscles coiled, then released.
"Grimmjow! Wait!", Ichigo yelled.
The moment Grimmjow got a hold of him, he was done.
Ichigo had to even the playing field, fast. He jammed his hand into his pocket and produced his substitute Shinigami badge, slamming it into his chest, and exploded out of his body before Grimmjow's surprised, but still furious eyes. There was no talking to the thick-headed Espada when he got like this. Ichigo reached back for Zangetsu hoping to intercept the hit with his sword, just as Grimmjow collided into him, one Hollow fist pulled back to deliver a blow that would send Ichigo into next week.
In no time at all, Grimmjow had found himself confused and grimacing in pain, trapped at the wrong end of Urahara Kisuke's cane, pinned solidly to the wall by his forehead. Any harder and he would have been nailed to it. And Kurosaki was suddenly far out of Grimmjow's reach, much to the Espada's increasing ire. Ichigo was laying flat on his back across the kitchen, sprawled on the floor amidst a pile of broken wood, thrown down by the very same skilled hand.
Urahara sighed internally. He rarely intervened in other people battles unless the situation truly warranted it. This time it most definitely did. They were about to go at it in his kitchen and they could easily level the place in no time at all. They were two big, dumb boys and it was clearly going to take a strong, firm hand to keep them both in line.
Well, it was the arrancar's first lesson in cause and effect. And a nice refresher for Kurosaki.
"Yare. Yare. You are a hot-headed one aren't you, Grimmjow-kun?"
Grimmjow snarled and tried to lunge forward, caring little in the heat of his temper for the deep round bruise he was going to be sporting in the middle of his forehead if he continued to resist. Fuck that. Grimmjow resisted everything. He pushed forward and then blinked in confusion as he felt his movement almost completely restricted. He felt like he was sludging through miles of wet concrete. He struggled and swore before he finally fell silent, breathing hard, face hot, and a murderous sapphire glare boring holes in his captor.
"Grimmjow-kun, it's nice to finally meet you. I can see why Ichigo is so... taken.. with you." Urahara's eyes were shaded under the large lip of his hat, his face composed and deadly serious even thought the tone of his voice was mockingly light.
"You do know that Kurosaki-san was just having some fun with you, don't you, Grimmjow-kun?
A low growling sound was the only response the shopkeeper received, and it didn't phase him in the slightest.
"You have to learn to take these things in stride. It's all part of living in the human world."
The man's tone was the epitome of condescension. Grimmjow was spitting mad. He snarled wordlessly and surged forward, almost making it a whole foot from the wall this time. Urahara's eyes widened fractionally before he applied a bit more force to his cane. Grimmjow jerked as he felt more abrupt pressure to the front of his skull, and he winced from the sharp sting as the back of his head met the wall again, harder this time, cracking the structure beneath the plaster. It was a clear message. Know you're place.
So, this is how it was, eh? As first meetings went, this one was leaving a hell of an impression on the arrancar. It wasn't so much the hard cane digging into his forehead, or his head smacking soundly against the wall that was the problem. It was the crushing spiritual pressure that was binding him in place so easily. He still wasn't at his best, but this... the ease with which this man could restrain him... it was fucking insulting.
He hadn't even sensed a thing from the strangely dressed man as he'd entered the kitchen. His tired green pants and top looked older than dirt. He was scruffy and unkempt. And the hat. Grimmjow didn't have words for that hat. The guy looked like a bum, or an escapee from some circus, not a former Shinigami captain. This could not be the guy Ichigo had talked about. Well, whoever he was, this asshole had obviously learned to harness the awesome power of the cane.
Urahara calmly nodded towards the wooden pile of rubble that had once been his kitchen table.
"You'll have to pay for that," the blond explained in a tone that brooked no argument.
No argument from anyone but Grimmjow. The Espada bared razor sharp canines as he sucked in a deep breath then pushed it back up his throat in a low, vibrating growl that said, fuck you, more clearly than the words themselves ever could. The man in the hat and sandals remained unfazed, and it only served to push the arrancar's rage up another notch.
"When you break something in this world, arrancar, you replace it. Those are the rules."
Grimmjow was speechless. And he was running out of growls. Who did this fucker think he was? And who in the fuck did he think he was dealing with? White hot rage boiled to the surface, spitting and hissing, seeking release, and a red glow began to grow inside Grimmjow's raised palm. Dumb fuck deserved to die ten times over. He hadn't even tried to properly restrain Grimmjow's hands. Spiritual pressure alone wasn't going to stop the Sexta's signature attack. The Espada hoped he had enjoyed his miserable life, because it was about to come to a very hot, sticky end. Grimmjow was going to cero his his face off in three, two...
Urahara whispered a quiet spell, barely a few words, and Grimmjow's forearms slammed up against the wall beside his head, his wrists and hands bound by an elegant string of beaded lights which instantly tightened around his fingers. He couldn't even open his fists, and the heat from the trapped cero was building exponentially, making his hand sweat and his skin begin to burn and smoke.
Reluctantly, he shut it down, drawing his power back into himself, but not without taking some damage to the skin inside of his hand.
"I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to release you until you've calmed down, and you can assure me that you won't attack Kurosaki-san again, or myself," he explained levelly, adding a small nod at the end.
The bluenet glared back at the blond. Like fuck he was going to promise that. The blond simply held his gaze with irritating calm, as a painfully long moment passed and it became clearer and clearer that the stranger wasn't going to fold. Reluctantly, Grimmjow let his gaze fall slightly, a display of acquiescence to add to his verbal response of "Che." He was actually somewhat surprised when he felt the pressure begin to lift, half expecting the stranger to continue to taunt him since he seemed to derive such great pleasure from it.
"So, Grimmjow-kun," the blond cooed, "Do you think you could kindly refrain from destroying my home... and yours?" Urahara raised a commanding eyebrow beneath the shadow of his hat. It was unseen by the bluenet, but somehow he just knew it was there. Wait.
"Ah?", he responded intelligently. His home? What the? This really was the famous Urahara then? This asshole? Ichigo's friend?
The orange head sure knew how to pick 'em. Oy. Wait a minute. Grimmjow shut that line of thought down immediately.
So, this was Urahara? And despite their less than best first impressions of each other, this guy was still offering Grimmjow a home? And all he had to do was not destroy it? Well, shit. Piece of cake.
Somewhere behind Urahara, Ichigo finally gathered up his limbs and managed to pick himself up off the floor. Then he stepped into the Espada's line of sight, visible over Urahara's left shoulder. As he stood there brushing himself off, and ineffectually raking his fingers through an explosion of orange hair, his mouth slowly pulled up into quite possibly thee most insincere smile Grimmjow had ever seen him produce. He could tell Ichigo was royally pissed. The Sexta sniffed and brought his focus back onto Urahara who had lowered his unreleased zanpakuto.
Oh yeah. Ichigo was royally pissed. But it was more from being grabbed and hoisted off his feet, then tossed across the room like a newbie by the other two men that had his temper churning and a petulant glare twisting his normally boyish face. Ichigo wasn't as convinced as Urahara seemed to be that the Espada wasn't going to try and sucker punch the shopkeeper the moment he let him go. Sometimes Grimmjow could be... a special kind of stupid.
He half hoped the Espada did try to pull something, but the insolent little shit in him wanted the bastard Espada all to himself. Ichigo's blood was thrumming from the rush of Grimmjow's sudden attack, and from Urahara's painful interception. The former Shinigami was helping the wrong person. Ichigo didn't need saving. Grimmjow did.
"Yeah... Grimmjow-kun," Ichigo chimed from across the kitchen.
His jaw twitched, but the Espada's eyes never wavered from Urahara's.
"Don't worry hat'n'sandles. I can take care of this," he waved a hand dismissively towards Ichigo, "easily enough without wrecking your home."
"Hah! You and what army?" Ichigo was suddenly right next to him, orange and cocky and puffed up like blow fish, his breath hot against Grimmjow's jaw.
Urahara finally saw fit to let him go completely and stepped back to watch in curiosity. This was the first time he would have seen the two interact and the scientist in him was eagerly analyzing the small nuances of their relationship, particularity the Espada.
Freed from the cane and spiritual pressure, the bluenet turned, aligning his muscled form with Ichigo's and purposefully stepping tightly, and without apology into his personal space, space that now belonged as much to Grimmjow as it did to the teen. The position allowed him to look down his smooth nose right into the storm filled eyes of the orange-haired punk.
"I'm the only army I need to kick your ass," he said with gritted teeth and menacing growl.
"What did you say?"
"You heard me!"
"So, quit talking about it then and bring it," Ichigo barked back, eyes flashing with lightening. They were chest to chest now, so close together in fact that Ichigo barely had enough room to properly scowl.
Urahara stepped back further and watched in calm fascination from behind his fan as the two men seethed at one another. The air was practically vibrating with the promise of violence, but he was too curious now to observe their behaviour. Besides, they both knew what would happen now, should they try to come to blows again.
"I've got the itch right now, bitch," Grimmjow snarled, shoulder muscles bunching and head tilting as he loomed impossibly closer. There was plenty of heat in his words, but something about the way Grimmjow had said it and the strangely carnivorous look in his blue eyes made Ichigo suddenly think less about fighting and more about fucking.
And he wasn't anybody's bitch.
That thought alone was enough to send his brain skidding off the tracks and pop the release valve on his pressure tank of a temper.
"Charming," Ichigo said flatly, as he visibly deflated.
For a moment, Grimmjow's expression turned slightly confused as Ichigo backed down. And then it grew even angrier. Ichigo was starting shit, then pussying out, again? It was becoming a very bad habit. The brat should know better than to think that this matter was anywhere near dropped.
The teen had to take a step back to fold his arms, before he snorted and abruptly unfolded them, as if he couldn't quite decide what he wanted to do. Then he pushed roughly past the other two men, moving towards the door. Grimmjow probably thought he was backing down but that was far from it. Ichigo was still good and riled, and ready for the scrap he'd promised the arrancar. Especially after today. It wasn't as if Ichigo's mood was all Grimmjow's fault, but Ichigo was going to take it out on him regardless.
He stalked to the doorway without a word. They weren't going to fight here. They'd have to go downstairs. The teen glanced back at the arrancar, who had already turned, all six foot one of him thumping angrily across the floor and following Ichigo like a magnet.
"Oy! Get your ass back here."
Ichigo called back to him from over his shoulder as he passed through the door to the hallway, unable to resist needling the bluenet further, and stepping over his own discarded body as he did.
"You know, Grimmjow, in another lifetime you might have made a half decent poet."
Grimmjow's scathing reply drifted around the corner as the two men disappeared down the corridor, Grimmjow catching up in swift steps and knocking their shoulders together roughly.
"Yeah? And you might have made a half decent Shinigami."
Ichigo's voice carried down the hall with a sharp, "Oy!"
Urahara raised his hand and used the back of one slender finger to tilt his hat up off his forehead, as if somehow it would offer his mind more room to solve the mystery of what had just happened, tell him how he had so easily and rather badly lost control of the situation.
There was another loud thump, like a body coming up hard against a wall, and a muffled sound of protest, followed by the soft brush of a paper door sliding open. A moment later another heavy thud drifted from inside the room, followed by the low, indistinct sounds of arguing.
The former Shinigami raised his voice from where he stood in the middle of the kitchen and held his hand beside his mouth.
"Kurosaki-san? Grimmjow-san? I really would prefer it if you didn't fight up here. You know, there's a whole basement for you to use... downstairs... for sparring... ah... boys?"
The moment the guest room door slid shut and the sounds of arguing ceased, Urahara had scrambled as fast as his clogs would allow, and rushed into the store to where his associates were hard at work. He quickly ushered them all out the front door, sending them on an errand of 'utmost urgency', before making a strategic retreat himself.
Fighting it seemed, was not the foremost thing on the boys' minds today. Young love could not be contained or controlled. Urahara would give them this one, but this was the last time he was going to allow himself to be kicked out of his own house.