Tōshirō sighed, rubbing a pale hand down his face. Work was tiring and he was almost ready to call it quits and go home when the phone rang, insistent and loud from somewhere under his papers.
The editing office of Diamond Publishing was a rather large room with five desks, including Tōshirō's. The room was a complete mess. Storyboards of comic strips were covering the floor and the desks, books and manga stacked up. The copies were covered in grey-lead corrections scattered on cutting boards with pieces of the comic strips put together.
The editors were all in the same condition as Tōshirō – weary with black rings under their eyes, hair in various stages of disarray, their clothes, all crinkled, basically hanging off their frames. Gin Ichimaru's already slitted eyelids were closed as he massaged his temples as the work of three of his authors sat spread out on his desk while his phone rang insistently.Momo Hinamori and Renji Abarai sat on the floor, one of Momo's authors work sitting between them. Renji was already sleeping, mouth hanging open as he rested under mountains of reference books, notes and corrected strips. Momo was leaning over him, reading the series of papers along his body, using him as a makeshift table.
Their division manager, Shinji Hirako had his long blond hair put up in a messy pony tail while he scratched his scratched his head furiously, hair ruffling as he glared at his work and with his other hand he picked up his ringing phone before slamming it back down.
"Tōshirō! Answer that damn phone!" Shinji barked, glaring holes in the side of his head.
"I'm trying," he snapped back, turquoise eyes flashing in irritation as he flung his work off the table. Finally he found the phone, the sleek, black item stuck in between the pages of a manga like a bookmark. He held the phone in between his shoulder and cheek as he picked up his work once again. "Yeah, what?"
"Is that any way to talk to your favourite author Tōshirō?"
Tōshirō growled. "Matsumato… it's Hitsugaya, haven't I told you that a thousand times? Anyway, what the hell do you think you're doing calling right now? Please don't tell me you're calling to say that you haven't finalised your manuscript yet."
Rangiku made a noise in the back of her throat. "Well, not completely. I haven't finalised it but I wanted to talk to you about a part of the work you edited. I just wasn't sure about the change."
"If you're talking about that fight scene, I needed to change the panelling because it didn't flow properly."
"No, not that," Rangiku muttered. "You completely shifted around my touching romance scene. You don't get many in shōnen manga and I was really looking forward to you approving that part."
"Matsumoto… dear Lord… I would have approved it but the way you put it together was so… it seemed false so I thought you should move it around."
Rangiku tutted. "That's rude. Tōshirō, have you ever actually been in love?"
Tōshirō sighed, placing his chin in his hand. "No Matsumato, I haven't. But if he just met this girl, saving her from the monster, she'd be grateful, sure, but not so grateful that she'd just start professing her love."
"Oh, and I assume you've been in that sort of situation before then?" Rangiku asked sceptically.
A little surprised, Tōshirō sat up. "Well yes, I guess."
"Really? Who was she?"
"Ah…" Tōshirō coughed, holding a delicate finger to his brow. "Not… not exactly…"
"So you haven't actually rescued a woman and enjoyed a possible romantic moment then," Rangiku crowed triumphantly.
"No – yes – I mean… not exactly."
"Tōshirō, you are making no sense at all."
Tōshirō ran a hand through his hair. "I know, I just mean… oh God, this is embarrassing… yesterday…" He cleared his throat, his hand running to his neck, rubbing it. "Yesterday I was walking home and uh… got…" He chuckled, not believing his was confiding in Rangiku. "I got attacked."
"O – oh my God! Tōshirō! W – what happened? Are you okay?"
Tōshirō sighed. "Yeah, I'm fine. Anyway, let me finish. I was walking home and got attacked and… well, just when things got a little… edgy, a… a guy saved me. He kicked the hell out of the men and ah…" Tōshirō laughed again, rubbing his eyes. "He walked me home."
Rangiku was silent for a moment before her expected reaction sounded, shrill piercing words assaulting his already sensitive ears and mind, "Holy – Tōshirō! That's so cute! He walked you home? Aw! And he kissed you right? You had a moment where you looked at each other and just realised it was-"
"No!" Tōshirō cried, blocking one of his ears. "Shit, I can't believe you just said that! That was the whole point; we didn't have a moment because you aren't going to have a moment with a perfect stranger, even if they did save you."
"He was cute though right?" she gushed on. "Tall, brooding and handsome?"
"I – I don't know," Tōshirō replied, shaking his head. "I – I guess so," he stuttered. "He was taller than me anyway, with orange hair. He was uh… he was blind too."
"Blind?" Rangiku repeated, sounding confused.
"Yeah, he was blind." Tōshirō shook his head again, attempting to clear his thoughts. "Forget it – did you already forget my point?"
"Yeah, alright, I get it, no romantic moments without build up… still; wouldn't it be nice to have a moment like that?" Abruptly changing the subject, Rangiku asked, "Do you think you're ever going to see him?"
Tōshirō scoffed. "I doubt it."
"Well did you at least get a name from your knight in shining armour?"
"Only his first name," Tōshirō muttered. "He was actually pretty rude. But yeah, I got a name – Ichigo."
Rangiku laughed. "Aw wow…" She laughed again. "That's cute though it sounds like a bit of a daisy name."
Tōshirō frowned. "He didn't look like a daisy."
"Well he does have a pansy name…"
Tōshirō waved the comment away, once again sitting his phone in between his shoulder and ear as he began to edit the next lot of work he had to do. "Forget it. You're taking up too much of my time, you should be finalising your comic."
Rangiku wasn't offended by his sharp tone however and just heaved sigh. "Okay, okay, I'm going. But you have to update me on this. I want to know if you meet this mysterious stranger again so I can use it as material."
"Definitely not," Tōshirō snapped. "And like I said, there's no way I'm talking anymore about this. Okay, good-bye Matsumato, I'm leaving. Call me when you actually have work done."
"I resent that comment," Rangiku said airily, clearly distracted by something else. "Okay, I'll call you later. Hey Kira what the he-"
Then the call ended. Tōshirō stared at the receiver before shaking his head. "What the hell…?"
"Oi, Shiro, who the hell was that? I hope that was about work, we're completely swamped here," Shinji barked out, shooting daggers at him with simmering coffee eyes across the piles of papers.
"It's Tōshirō Hitsugaya," Tōshirō told him sharply. "Tōshirō Hitsugaya. Haven't I already told you that?"
"Shiro, be nice," Momo admonished him softly from her place on the floor, not looking up.
"Yea' Shiro," Gin drawled, leaning over Tōshirō's shoulder, surprising him. "Ya best be nice. So… wanna' share ya little excursion with the class?"
Tōshirō shuddered slightly, shooing him away, feeling a little nervous as he always did around Gin. "Buzzing around my shoulder makes me a little uncomfortable. It makes me even more uncomfortable when you start listening in on my conversations."
"But Shiro, that sounds exciting," Shinji said, leaning forward now. "I'm quite interested in this story. What happened?"
Tōshirō glanced around, conscious that everyone's eyes were on him, pausing in their work to listen. "Oh God," Tōshirō muttered, sighing. "It's a pretty boring story anyway. I got attacked by about half a dozen people last night and this guy came and saved me. That's it."
"You were attacked?" Momo exclaimed, leaning forward, her palms slamming into Renji's gut in her excitement and worry. "Are you okay?"
Renji sat up abruptly, coughing and spluttering, chocolate eyes narrowing in her direction, his scarlet hair falling around his face. "W – what the hell Momo?"
Momo shushed him, watching Tōshirō intently.
"Wow, that's crazy." Shinji whistled. "Are you hurt?"
"No," Tōshirō mumbled wearily. "I mean, sure, they were a little rough but… I didn't get hurt. I would have but Ichigo saved me."
"Ichigo?" Gin repeated, straightening.
"Yeah, why? You know that name?"
Gin's thin lips curved into a wide grin. "Nah, just thought it was a cute name was all."
Shinji suddenly began rifling though some of his work. "Actually I've heard that name." He pulled up a sheet, hanging the paper out in front of him. "At least I think I know the guy you're talking about. He's blind right?"
Tōshirō stood slowly, reaching out to grab the paper which turned out to be an ID sheet for an Ichigo Urahara.
He looked exactly like he had that night; orange brows drawn down over coffee eyes, his bright hair sticking up stubbornly. He looked over the paper, noticing that the ID sheet included a list of manga.
Tōshirō stared at the paper for a moment before looking back up to Shinji. "I don't get it, what is this?"
"I forgot to tell you because we were so busy, but Ichigo just recently came in need of an editor and his manager contacted us and I was hoping that you could take him on," Shinji told him, crossing his arms and leaning back on his seat, hands behind his head. "His work is fairly new but he is becoming very popular."
Tōshirō blinked. "W – wait, what?"
"Congrats lil' Shiro!" Gin exclaimed, slapping Tōshirō on the back. "You just got yourself a new author."
Tōshirō glanced at the address on the ID page before looking back to the silver 15 of the apartment.
The apartment block was large but it seemed a little run down, the dingy, crackling lights of the hall adding to the illusion just like the dirty yellow carpet under his feet.
He reached out, ready to knock on the door but he pulled back. God, why am I being such an idiot? It's not as if it meant anything… All of Rangiku's talk had him nervous for no reason. Steeling himself, Tōshirō took a breath, reaching out again, rapping gently.
The door was opened and there he was, standing in the golden glow of the sunlight from his large windows. One hand was on the door, the other on the doorframe and his foot was sitting on top of the other.
His orange hair was clearly damp, shining a dark orange. The clothes he were wearing were clearly old and worn, the large white tee-shirt hanging off his slender frame along with his paint splattered jeans, ripped at his knees.
He was handsome, perhaps not like the prince that Rangiku had been describing – his constant smirk marring his features. But he was good-looking all the same and Tōshirō found himself somewhat distracted.
And then there it was – the strangely heart clenching smirk sliding up his face. Ichigo shifted his weight as a pure ebony Border Collie trotted up to Ichigo's leg, poking his head out. "You gonna' give me a name or leave me guessing?"
Tōshirō gave a start, shaking his head to dispel the confusion he felt. "Ah, yeah, sorry… We met the other day at the park. I'm-"
"Hitsugaya," Tōshirō corrected, a little bit of irritation mixed in with surprise. "But yeah, how did you know?"
"That was a little insensitive, wasn't it?" Ichigo teased, turning to enter his small apartment, patting his dog on the head while he went. "Your voice, I could tell because of your voice. Come in already."
Tōshirō hastened to follow Ichigo into his kitchen. The apartment wasn't as run down as the rest of the block though there were cracks in some of the off white walls. The whole thing was open-plan – the kitchen adjacent to the living room with two bedrooms off to the left side of the apartment as well the combined bathroom and laundry.
The dog glanced back at Tōshirō before jumping onto the scarlet couch that sat under the window and curling up.
"His name's Zangetsu," Ichigo told him over his shoulder, going over to the small white fridge.
"Zangetsu? He's… he's your guide dog?" Tōshirō asked, putting down his manila folder.
"Yeah," he replied, grabbing two glass bottles of coke and holding one out to the ivory haired man. "He's a little overprotective so I wouldn't go trying to pat him or anything. He might bite."
"I thought guide dogs were meant to be gentle," he murmured, watching the dog warily while he took the bottle.
Ichigo laughed – a husky, warming sound. "What, you expect me to walk around defenceless? Zangetsu needs to be able to help me if I get into a jam you know."
You're plenty able to look after yourself, he thought, watching the man walk to the second bedroom.
"So Tōshirō Hitsugaya, what're you here for? How'd you get my address anyway?"
"You let me in without even knowing that?"
Ichigo shot him a grin before ducking into the room. "Well I thought you'd come here to thank me."
"Haven't I already done that?" he asked furiously, following Ichigo into the bedroom before stopping dead as he entered.
The room was bright – the windows floor to ceiling, making what would have been a most definitely dirty and cluttered room appear clean and airy. There was an L shaped bench against the adjacent wall stacked with different art materials – gel pens, felt markers, oil and water paints, coloured pencils, grey-lead pencils, stanley knives, charcoals, pastels and others that Tōshirō couldn't even name. There appeared to be no order and he wondered how Ichigo could use them at all.
"What sort of order is that?" Tōshirō asked, frowning at a box of paints that Ichigo now had in his hand.
"It's in my sort of order," he replied tartly, raising a brow as he glanced back at him.
Tōshirō was a little taken aback by his reply and his frown deepened in irritation but he didn't bother to argue, instead letting his eyes go back to roaming.
The floor was polished timber and thankfully, was covered with a see through plastic, splattered with paint and dust. The room smelled heavily of something akin to drying paint though Tōshirō supposed it could be just that. However, upon taking in a large bottle of turpentine, he realised it couldn't be anything else.
His eyes searched the walls, breath hitching slightly in awe at the work spread across them. The images were painted to the cream walls – flowing pictures of flowers and landscapes – some in colour, others in black and white. Faces filled the gaps – smiling, frowning, crying, laughing – bringing the walls to life.
Abruptly Tōshirō had a thought. "Aren't you renting this place?"
Ichigo had put down the box of paints and now had a palette in one hand and a brush in other and he paused at his easel, blinking blankly at Tōshirō. "What?"
"I just mean, you've put your pictures all over the walls… aren't you not allowed to do that?"
Ichigo laughed before going back to working on an image of a young woman with shoulder length tan hair and a fringe that hung over the right side of her face gently, framing the soft and large, russet eyes. "I asked you know – I didn't just splatter it all over the wall. Nah, the owner of this building is a friend of mine and he said he'd pay me to paint it to bring a little life to it."
Raising a brow sceptically, Tōshirō let out a sigh, completing his search of the room. The last thing he saw was a desk opposite the window. Sitting in piles were what he could clearly see, were Ichigo's storyboards.
He was a little excited to see what his new found author had written about and walked swiftly over to the desk.
Just like his artworks, his story held a brashness to it, the work seeming to come to life in his hands. But the images were also strangely gentle and genuine and Tōshirō gingerly picked it up, cradling it in his arm as he flicked through it.
He had been quite absorbed with reading it when Ichigo's voice sounded, startling him, "They're just the drafts. I have my earlier work's around here to if you want to catch up on it."
Tōshirō glanced up at him, eyes widening from surprise and he quickly put down the comic. "Sorry, I didn't mean to just… Uh… I just…"
Ichigo gave him a half smile, putting down his palette before approaching. "It's nothing to be sorry about. I could hear you going through it. You're going to have to get used to it." He opened a drawer and pulled out a copy of what must have been his manga and handed it to Tōshirō. "Better get to reading Tōshirō, we sure have a lot to do."
Ah dear! I was watching Battlestar Galactica while I was writing this… probably not the best idea. I was sobbing at the end and could barely see what I was doing…
Anyway, you wouldn't know, because there isn't a timer on this thing but between 'doing' and 'anyway' there was a ridiculous thirty minute gap that I filled looking at Battlestar Galactica stuff. Does it blow anyone else's mind that Tom Zarek in the remake of Battlestar Galactica played Apollo in the earlier version?
No? I'm the only one?
Okay, I'm going to stop wasting time now and let you go :) Hope you enjoyed this chapter and as always, please, please, please tell me what you think! Thanks!