I had told Racey I was going to commit to writing a therapist Ichigo/patient Grimmjow story, but I hadn't had very much inspiration.
Then I had a dream like this and expanded from there.
Also, if you review, I don't care if you're pissed that I haven't finished my other stories: I will finish them when I finish them. I have never abandoned a story. It bothers me that you think I owe you something. –TPP
Dedicated to Racey, my sammich with razorblades.
Chapter 1: Salt On The Tongue
Ichigo Kurosaki wandered the semi-familiar surroundings. He didn't know why his dreams tended to morph into this kind of unrealistic landscape, but it was familiar to him nonetheless. There was nothing but sand in every direction as he walked while skyscrapers ran sideways around him, clouds falling down like they were being washed away by giant waterfalls.
Even with the absurd surroundings, Ichigo felt safe. He was a therapist: he knew that his subconscious was simply filtering in and out, in and out.
He wasn't concerned with the landscape, but his gut twisted when he realized he wasn't alone.
It wasn't often that his dreams involved his patients. However, one of his patients, a blue-haired and scarred man with a laugh that would make the devil cringe, was sitting on a wooden park bench not far from him. He was wearing an open red leather jacket that clashed severely with the blue of his hair and eyes.
Ichigo had to consciously pull his eyes away from all that exposed, scarred chest (or subconsciously? He was dreaming, after all. He wasn't sure how much function he was truly conscious of in a dream state).
Across the top of his chest in heavy, Gothic ink was tattooed HEARTBREAKER.
The patient's feet were bare and a cigarette dangled from his lips, emitting bright purple smoke as it flowed in lazy plumes in the space around him.
His blue boxers were covered in little yellow ducks, aviator sunglasses pushed back off of his forehead.
Ichigo approached the park bench and, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was indeed dreaming, felt safe enough to take a seat.
The patient chuckled deep in his throat, spreading his legs out further in front of him as he blew the strange purple smoke that smelled like pancakes into Ichigo's face, "What's up, Doc?"
Ichigo couldn't help but snort. He'd grown up on the infamous Bugs Bunny cartoons.
"What're you doing here?" Ichigo replied, his voice level, calm. Even though he was dreaming, his profession had always called for him to be more rational than most people.
The patient shrugged. Ichigo watched as the weird cigarette transformed into a lollipop. The patient licked it before popping it into his mouth, "Dunno. Waiting for you, I guess."
"Why would you be waiting for me?" Despite this being his dream, Ichigo felt like his newest patient, a man he had only had two sessions with the week before, was more in control of the dream than he was. Wasn't he supposed to be able to control what was going on around him? Wasn't everything in here the extension of his subconscious will?
The patient leered, "Maybe 'cuz you have my pants."
Ichigo frowned before looking down at his hands.
A pair of black jeans sat on one of his knees.
The patient leaned into Ichigo, as if about to whisper into his ear, "You can keep 'em if you want."
How does one blush in a dream? Ichigo thought.
"I don't want them."
"Can I have yours, then?"
Ichigo frowned again and the patient smirked before laughing.
"Ha, it doesn't matter. We both know I'm gonna get in your pants sooner or later."
Do not encourage him, Ichigo's psychology degree reasoned, even in a dream state, he is testing your authoritative limits.
"Here, put these on," Ichigo motioned, tossing the jeans onto the patient's lap.
He shrugged, "Suit yourself, man."
Ichigo wouldn't admit that he watched his patient's ass as he shimmied into the jeans before plopping back down on the bench, still chewing on that damn lollipop.
"So, if you won't get naked with me, why am I here?" the patient finally asked, tossing his finished lollipop stick into the sand in front of him.
Ichigo watched the stick turn into a sunflower.
"How are you doing that?"
"How are you changing things?"
The patient just smirked, exposing elongated canines. Ichigo had yet to decipher if they were natural or had been surgically altered earlier in his life, "And they say I'm the crazy one. Come on, doc, I know you can figure it out for yourself."
Ichigo sat in silence for a few moments, staring out across the expanse of lonely sand, watching one of the sideways skyscrapers begin to crumble like a sandcastle.
"I don't know. I should be in complete control of this place, but I can't do anything."
The patient leaned into Ichigo, breathing on his face and chuckling again, "Idiot, you're doing everything. Aren't I just an extension of your overactive subconscious desires? You know, the ones you keep bottled up and pretend aren't there?"
As if to prove a point, the patient placed his hand over Ichigo's crotch, making him suck in a breath.
"I'm you, ya know. I'm whatever your subconscious tells me to be," the patient shrugged his shoulders again before sitting back, his arms over the back of the park bench, relaxed once again, "You want me here, for whatever reason. Ya coulda made me a girl with big tits, but you didn't. You made me me, a patient you've only met twice and don't even particularly like."
Ichigo was beginning to understand. Essentially, he was talking to himself right now.
"You should listen to your subconscious. It knows what it's doing," the patient said with another laugh, "You like this body, this voice. This everything. You like the danger, the potential for chaos."
"That's not true."
The patient raised an eyebrow in challenge, "Oh, that's cute. Really, it's adorable."
"I don't even know why we're sitting here," Ichigo said, desperately trying to change the subject. He was ready to wake up now, "This is pointless."
"You haven't even convinced yourself that I'm crazy yet," the patient said, lighting another cigarette. The smoke came out bright orange and smelled of cinnamon, "You keep my file on the top of the pile and neglect others. You cancelled two lunch appointments to try and research me more on your own. I can't believe you even got desparate enough to Google me."
The patient laughed, blowing orange smoke out of his nostrils like a surreal dragon, "Face it, doc. I came to your asylum a mystery and I'm gonna leave as one."
"I was just trying to…gain an understanding of where you came from. None of your previous psychologists have been able to gain any knowledge of your childhood. Police have no records of your place of birth, or even your home country –"
"Meaningless details," the patient replied, offering Ichigo the cigarette, "None of that makes me who I am and you know it. It doesn't matter if mommy beat me and daddy never loved me. You know what I am, what I'm doing, or whatever I'm capable of, is much, much bigger then that."
Ichigo fell silent, ignoring the cigarette.
"But don't beat yourself up over it. You're doing your best. That's all your mom would have wanted from you, right?"
Ichigo grit his teeth, trying to keep himself calm, "Don't talk about my mother. You have no right."
The patient sighed, staring off into the distance that was beginning to pool with soft light, "Extension of your subconscious, remember?"
Ichigo did feel like an idiot, but really. His mother had nothing to do with this path he had chosen. His father was a medical doctor, but Ichigo had always been more fascinated with psychology and sociology. He had always been fascinated with human behavior, what made them tick.
And this patient was one of the greatest challenges he had come across yet. He was a young psychologist, still wet behind the ears, but being given a patient that was rumored to be the leader of an underground violent and destructive anarchist group known as Cero was something he had only ever dreamed about. He had been taken into custody six months ago and was released due to insignificant evidence and no testimonies had been forthcoming.
He had passed the lie detector test with statements that were a dead lie, things like "I'm eleven feet tall and eat babies for breakfast." The sensors responsible for reading his blood pressure and heart rate had been as steady as if he were giving a confession in a church no matter what they asked him, everything from eye color to his mother's maiden name.
Everything a lie.
His psych evaluation had revealed that he was a clinical sociopath, a master manipulator of thoughts and behavior, incapable of true emotion.
He couldn't be trusted. Ever.
He was processed as a John Doe and turned over to authorities who could do nothing but spit him out into the medical community.
No one had claimed him. No one had called the police, saying he was a son, a father, a husband, a brother, a past student. Nothing.
Not even friends, no coworkers. Just a street name, a name that was worshipped on the streets by possibly thousands of tongues as his mission grew bigger and bigger:
Fingerprints had been useless because his fingerprints had been destroyed long before his arrest for arson.
"Capecitabine," the patient said, grinding the last of his cigarette into his palm, extinguishing it, "chemotherapy-induced acral erythema. Probably dosed myself continuously until the pain became unbearable and I stopped. Or maybe it was acid etching solution. You know, the stuff they use to seal concrete floors. Or maybe I drank a pint of someone's blood to alter my DNA."
The patient stood up, stretching his arms above his head and yawning, "I don't care about that shit. Stop reaching in the dark, doc. I don't have patience for it."
Ichigo watched him step on the sunflower, the dry ground around it cracking and fissuring until a jukebox was there.
The patient clicked two buttons, the sound gravelly as wind whipped through the desert space.
"Icky Thump" by the White Stripes began booming from every direction, making Ichigo stand up from his bench.
"I love this fucking song," the patient said, leering at Ichigo, "We're gonna fuck to this song someday."
A city bus was approaching out of one of the sideswiping clouds, its doors open.
Ichigo took a step forward and slammed his hands into the patient's chest, glaring, "We most definitely will not, ass hole."
"Keep telling yourself that, sweetheart," he said, stepping onto the first step of the bus and leaning out to kiss Ichigo on the nose before tapping his own temple with a finger, "Subconscious, remember?"
The song was still playing as the bus rumbled away, the jukebox gone.
Ichigo stared at the bench, willing it into dust before all the skyscrapers fell and crushed him.
Ichigo jolted awake, his body overheated. He'd thrown his sheets off and was sleeping in nothing but boxers, but he was covered in sweat to the point his hair was soaked.
He got up immediately and headed for the bathroom, throwing himself into the shower, uncaring of how cold the water was. He ran his hands through his hair over and over, over and over, trying to shake the patient from his mind, the memories of last week's session...
He was supposed to call him Mr. Doe, but Ichigo thought he would be more successful in his sessions if he tried to create a more intimate repoir with the patient.
"Can I call you Heartbreaker? Or do you prefer something else?"
"If I had a name, I'd give it to you, doc."
"Doctor Kurosaki is fine."
"So impersonal, doc. You're hurting my feelings," the patient had drawled, his lips quirked up, ready for a massive grin.
"Well, you must go by something. Everyone has a name. How about a nickname?" Ichigo had pressed.
The patient had laughed, "Oh doc, this is insulting. We're not gonna get anywhere playing coy like this. Just ask nicely."
"I've been through this foreplay with at least half a dozen shrinks before ya, the same monkeys dressed up in their starched collars and khakis who lean forward and project their ideas onto me like I'm some kind of big movie screen. Nah, doc: I don't like that at all. Now, if one of 'em had been a bit more honest with me, just admitted that they were in this for the article in a medical journal or the inflated paycheck, maybe I would've been willin' 'ta open up more."
Ichigo needed to regain the footing he had lost, had to figure out a way to make the patient at least feel as if he could be comfortable with him. They could build trust later.
"I'd like to take you through a series of breathing exercises. Close your eyes and I will count to-"
"See, that's not gonna work for me," the patient had said, leaning back in his chair until he was balancing on only two legs, his black combat boots scruffing against the carpet. His Hawaian shirt had been red and yellow and paired with army combat pants. It was the most bogus ensemble Ichigo had ever seen, but the patients who were considered nonviolent and took their assigned medications were allowed to wear some of their retrieved personal effects.
His ridiculous clothing had been retrieved from a house that had been up for sale through a bank, a squatter's paradise.
From what police could discern, he'd been squatting there maybe a month or so. Neighbors had refused questioning.
Nothing but a dirty mattress, a few porn magazines, traces of insecticide, and a couple cans of spagheti-o's.
"What do you mean?"
The patient cocked his head with a smile, "All the others sounded like car salesman, too. They must have a handbook of control questions for you guys, huh?"
"I'm simply trying to lead you through an exercise to keep you calm. How is that controlling?"
"Close your eyes," the patient repeated, staring at the credentials on Ichigo's office wall, "Think about your childhood. Imagine yourself in a white room: they're all control questions. Every single one of 'em. You're telling me to do something, not asking or suggesting. That's rude, doc, and I don't like rude people. Or ya ask me questions that are a 'yes' or 'no' answer. Limiters. Another good try, I gotta say. Narrowing my answers down, channeling me, trying to contain me. Eventually, I bet'cha could get somethin' good outta' me with that, but it's boring, doc. I don't like it."
Ichigo had been scribbling furiously for a good minute through the casual rant. Maybe the patient had issues with paranoia, or a low-level of schizophrenia.
"Do you think that's what we want? Do you think I want to control you?"
The patient laughed, "Is that a yes or no question?"
Ichigo's eyebrows had drawn together, "Do you have issues with control? Has someone tried to control you in your early life?"
The patient had licked his bottom lip, "Everybody wants to be controlled. It's in our nature, isn't it? When you're little, it's your parents. Mommy feeds you. Mommy wipes your ass. Mommy is your entire fucking world. Mommy needs to hold your hand when you cross the street because it's dangerous. You trust her, right? She provides for every need, even your safety. She has bought your loyalty. She tells you to eat your vegetables, drink milk, clean your room.
Then school. Teacher teaches you to read. Do math. You're trained to recognize a puzzle, then trained to solve it the same way every single time. But hey, they call it 'critical thinking' and give you tests where you fill in all the lil' dots, telling you it's a golden ticket to real education. Builds character, doesn't it? They sit you alphabetically, give you grades: grades that are a personal reflection of what you are capable of either physically or mentally. That's where you're divided, that's where the winners and the losers are defined. That's where you decide your life matters more than Drooling Danny in the corner, that's where you realize his blood would be more pretty on the walls then your own."
Ichigo had said nothing, his pencil falling silent. What could he have possibly said to that kind of logic?
"We're no different then the praying mantis that eats its unborn young. We're no different then the lion who stalks the weakest antelope: we see weakness and we kill it. If we can't kill it, we control it."
Ichigo had sat, a bit stunned, trying to compose his face to be one of indifference.
The patient had leaned forward and picked up the nameplate sitting on the desk, twirling it between his hands, studying the white letters on the black background, "So to answer your question, no, I won't ever let anybody control me. The thing is, I'm not weak. People sense that in me. You sense that in me. Makes you uncomfortable, doesn't it?"
After that session, Ichigo had immediately begun the paperwork to have his newest patient take an IQ test.
The second appointment had consisted of the patient taking the IQ test. He was about halfway through it when Ichigo realized he was simply connecting dots in nonsensical patterns, one of them looking like a tree.
"Would you please take this seriously?" Ichigo had asked.
And Ichigo would never forget the hungry smile the patient had given him, "I think you're learning, doc. I think we're gonna get along just fine."
I don't know how long it's gonna be, but I have a feeling I won't be able ta concentrate on anythin' else until it's finished. When I get obsessive with a concept, it's too late. -TPP