[Bleach] Minutes to Midnight 14

Voices Silently Sing

Ichigo was lying on his bed, arms folded behind his head and staring at the ceiling when the geta-boushi so calmly walked into his room without so much as a knock. The boy gave his sensei a cursory glance, irritation creeping into his expression.

“Why are you here?” he demanded, only to give a double-take.

The man had switched into appropriate attire for dwelling in Hueco Mundo. It was a style similar to Aizen’s, much like the Shinigami black shihakushou with the white robe over it. It was a bit more billowy at the bottom than Aizen’s, however, and lacked the distinctive collar. The sash was a deep green, suitable for Urahara. The only thing that ruined it was–

“You still have that retarded hat,” Ichigo scoffed, rolling his eyes and returning to his contemplation of the ceiling. He had things on his mind, after all, and wasn’t in the mood to listen to Urahara blather.

“I’ll have you know this was a gift,” the man retorted, not the least bit offended. “From a very beautiful lady with questionable taste in men.”

Ichigo blinked. “What?”

He wondered if he ignored the perverted shopkeeper long enough, the man would leave him alone. And then, he worried that this one visit meant he should expect more unannounced visits in the future.

“Oh yes,” the older man continued, nodding as though he were confirming some great fact. “She married my best friend.”

This was news to Ichigo. “Yoruichi-san’s married?”

“My other, other best friend, besides Yoruichi and Sou-kun,” Urahara corrected with infinite patience, shadowed eyes watching his young student.

The Vizard drew a complete blank. “Do I know this person?”

“You do,” he responded with a hint of an amused grin. “Though oftentimes, you’d rather you did not.”

Ichigo quickly dropped the subject; he sincerely didn’t want to know. “You still haven’t said why you’re here,” he reminded the older man, though why he was encouraging Urahara to stay was beyond him.

“I just wanted to talk with you, Ichigo.”

The sound of his given name was a telling sign. Ichigo sat up on the bed, swinging his legs over the edge. Urahara only dropped the pleasantries when he was serious, something that was not meant to be taken teasingly. He gave the man his full attention as Urahara plopped down next to him.

Some concern filtered through Ichigo’s mind. “Goat-Face isn’t dead, is he?” he worried out loud.

Urahara chuckled lightly. “No. I don’t think anything can kill that bastard.”

“Then don’t say shit like that,” Ichigo muttered with a scowl. “People jump to the wrong conclusions.”

“My apologies.” He didn’t sound the least bit contrite, the bastard. “But I do want to talk to you.”

The wariness instantly returned. “About what?”

He imagined all sorts of bad news. Soul Society had decided to host another execution. Shirosaki wasn’t as under his control as he believed. Someone he cared about was suffering from a deadly disease that couldn’t be cured by any natural means. His mind was practically spinning with all the terrible possibilities.

“Are you happy here?”

Ichigo blinked, completely thrown by what seemed to be an entirely random question. He glanced at Urahara, finding that the man’s face was completely sober. The geta-boushi meant the casual query.


“Because you seem happy,” Urahara added.

The boy fell silent, honestly considering the question. “I miss my friends and my sisters,” he admitted quietly, unashamed to do so. Urahara could be a strange and perverted idiot, but he was still a man Ichigo relied on. “And I do wonder about Rukia and Renji.”

“You don’t have to worry. They’ll be fine,” Urahara soothed, voice holding nothing but confidence. “Even the last two. Kuchiki-hime didn’t go through all that trouble just to let them both die now.”

Ichigo snorted. “I know that much. And Chad and the others said so in their letters. But I’m still allowed to worry.”

“Of course. I wouldn’t expect any less.” Urahara paused and peered at him again, as if he could see right through Ichigo’s body and into the depths of his heart. “But you still haven’t answered my question.”

“It’s a shitty question,” Ichigo retorted on instinct, but thought about it anyway. He supposed he owed the geta-boushi a real response since he was taking pains to be all serious for once.

“I suppose I am,” he grudgingly admitted. “It’s nice not to worry about being attacked or fightin’ off Hollows or Kenpachi. I don’t even have to worry about Goat-Face displays of love.” Ichigo winced, clearly remembering several injuries resulting from his father’s affection. “And luckily, Grimmjow’s still avoiding me. Heh. Bastard.” But it was said almost fondly.

Urahara watched him as he talked, obviously waiting for something to be mentioned that had yet to work its way into Ichigo’s confession.

“The food’s okay. There’s plenty of books. And Aizen’s actually a decent guy. We have tea all the time and talk about stuff.” Ichigo shook his head disbelievingly. “He’s more parental than Goat-Face. Not hard to accomplish really.”

“And what about Gin-chan?” the shopkeeper queried, sounding too harmless to really be innocent. “Is he being good to you?”

“What about him?” Ichigo demanded, his tone a bit more defensive than he meant. “He’s my friend. That’s all there is. He likes the same stuff I do, and he’s never called me a moron.”

“Is that all?”

Ichigo shot him a suspicious glance. “Just come out and say it, geta-boushi.”

“Ah, young ones,” Urahara sighed dramatically. “As subtle as a Menos attack.”

Predictably, Ichigo scowled. It didn’t keep his companion from pressing on, continuing his insinuations.

“Quite frankly, Kurosaki-kun. I do believe Gin-chan has a crush on you.”

“Wh-what?” the boy sputtered. “He… I… He does not!”

“Sousuke and I believe he does,” Urahara countered with an amused hum, as though he derived his entertainment from this conversation alone.

The blush staining Ichigo’s cheeks was such a charming bonus.

It spread across the bridge of his nose first and then brightened his cheeks until he blurted, “Aizen, too? You don’t have anything better to do than gossip about us?”

“Of course!” the older man announced in his most knowledgeable tone. All that he lacked was the waving fan. “You and Gin are rather important to us.”

He flushed to the roots of his orange hair, a startling contrast. “So you think you need to discuss my love life?” Ichigo demanded in irritation, only to quickly backpedal when he realized what he had said. “Not that there is one or anything.”

Urahara arched one brow. “And that blush tells me everything.”

“Yeah? Like what?” Ichigo ground out, half-fearing the answer.

“That. You. Like. Him. Too.” Each word was punctuated by a bop to the nose by that damned fan, which he had pulled out of thin air, much to Ichigo’s displeasure.

The Vizard blinked and then scowled, abruptly batting away the offending fan. “I…”

The blush deepened, if that were at all possible. Only that much the cuter for the indignant scowl.

“You know, you could tell him.”

“There’s nothing to tell!” Ichigo all but shouted, on the verge of flailing in pure outrage.

Urahara scoffed. “Oh, come on. Even Kuchiki-hime could figure out this one. Do I need to draw you a diagram?”

“What’s Byakuya got to do with this?” Ichigo shrilly questioned, privately swearing that his voice had not just reached such a high pitch.

“Nothing other than the fact he’s the most oblivious man in the entire world,” the shopkeeper countered, rolling his eyes. “Though you might give him a run for his money. Kami, help us if you two ever got together. It might have taken several decades for someone to say something. You never would have noticed on your own.”

Ichigo really did flail, nearly knocking the geta-boushi off the bed. “But I don’t like Byakuya!” he declared out of sheer exasperation.

“I know.” Urahara was smug. “Because you like Gin-chan.”

The purpling of Ichigo’s face really was all that amusing.

“Argh!” he cried, reiatsu giving a fierce rattle of the walls. “Fine!” he conceded rather violently. “Alright! Fine! Maybe!” Ichigo managed to both yell and stutter. “I do. Possibly. Like him a little. Okay? Okay?

Urahara’s lips widened into a self-satisfied smirk. “Not possibly. You do like him. A lot.”

Thoroughly outed, Ichigo practically panted and squared his jaw. “So what of it?” he ground out. “And when did you become my matchmaker?”

“I want you to give it a shot.”

Ichigo nearly choked on the next breath. “What? Why?”

Shadowed eyes stared at him. “Because I want you to be happy,” he said simply and softly. “And this will do it.”

Frustrated, embarrassed and more than a bit confused, Ichigo peered at his mentor. “You’re acting fucking weird.”

Urahara sighed with rolled eyes and rose to his feet. “Perhaps,” he hummed to himself, snapping his fan with a sharp twist of his wrist. He then promptly rapped Ichigo on the head with it. “Now don’t forget. Tell Gin-chan.”

The Vizard glowered, swiping futilely for the fan again.

His mentor simply chuckled and disappeared out the door in much the same fashion he had arrived. With no warning whatever, leaving his student to stew on sudden revelations.

Damn cryptic bastard.



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