-=[Back Alley - Karakura]=------------------------------
Every city has at least one of these: An alleyway that leads not to a dead end, but a place of questionable credibility. In this case, it leads to a store. As far as alleys go this one is fairly wide and bright, allowing sunlight to drip in like a golden yolk from a cracked cosmic egg.
Suspicious Store (SS) Urahara Shop - Karakura
Town Square (TS) Town Square - Karakura
Hanatarou has arrived.
<OOC> Hanatarou *A*;;;
<OOC> Hanatarou types hanapose. "what are you ficcing anyway?"
<OOC> Kisuke says, "SasuSaku stuff for 30_kisses. angstsex for the win"
<OOC> Hanatarou says, "let there be moon-shaped nailprints"
<OOC> Kisuke says, "jfkdls"
<OOC> Hanatarou says, "ew I'm never saying that on hanatarou again"
<OOC> Kisuke says, "GOOD"
<OOC> Kisuke says, "and just in case you were wondering, bibibao isn't good sasusaku music"
<OOC> Hanatarou laughs :((((
The mission had seemed straightforward enough while he was listening to it, but one thing had gone terribly awry, and then another, and before he knew it Hanatarou was left standing in the middle of Karakura, holding a bag, with no more company than the fading laughter of a shinigami from Gotei 11.
The guilt was immediate, abrupt, and intense enough to send his eyes spinning into a watery tunnel vision that strongly resembled visual hallucinations through the water of a toilet bowl, or he would have thought so if he hadn't long since learned to repress that sort of thing. To keep his mind on the job. A job he had -failed-. He had /lost/ his unit. It did not occur to him that the reverse was truer because he was the smallest, least sentient, and portable one.
The world did seem awfully big, though. Big, and noisy, and prone to anachronisms-that-weren't. It took him an hour to acquire some sort of control on his future, a process spurred by the promise of Unohana-sama's displeasure. She would give him That Smile. His imagination ended there.
Five hours later, he had completed three sloppy, gargantuan circles through Karakura proper. At this point, his sword and the mysterious little bag began to grow dishearteningly heavy, and so he stowed them behind a respectable-looking fire hydrant and its retinue of sidewalk geranium bushes.
Another hour later, the little shinigami completed the fourth circle and was exhausted. Talking to himself, he sat on his fire hydrant, his shoulders slumped nearly to the level of his sandals. He did not know that a certain Suspicious Store lay at the center of his circles, or that his spiritual energy had long since been splashing the atmosphere like a discharge too piss-weak to be piss-foul, nor did he much care. What if his comrades had become injured in his absence? What would become of him? Would it be toilet tunnels, for him? What darkness followed Unohana's eerie Smile, other than an insipient failure of imagination? What--
Only then did he think to check behind the hydrant and bushes for his sword and package.
Behind the bushes is a hat.
The hat is most definitely not a sword or a package. Well--it might be a package. Lifting it up, however, proves that there is nothing beneath it but grass.
It is a floppy hat, striped white and green. There's also some black on it, in the form of shed cat fur. That is all. There's no sword or package to be seen.
Before Hanatarou can hyperventilate *too* much, though, the clopclop of sandals on pavement intrudes into the nearby environment. In the sandals is a blond man with a vaguely sweet smile on his face. He carries a fan in one hand and a familiar-looking sword in the other.
He half-covers his mouth with the fan, but the smile is still visible. "I'll trade you this sword I found for that hat," he says.
It is a close call: given another few seconds alone with the misplaced hat, Hanatarou might have been reduced to drooling and fawning catatonically over the hat in the bushes for the rest of his centuries.
At the clippety-clop on the sidwalk, he whirls, blue in the face and slightly dewy at the corners of his eyes. The stripey hat, he has clutched in his nerveless fingers; he automatically starts and looks down at it when it's mentioned, before his attention flies to the other item that the stranger put up in his equation.
The sword may be puny, but it's -his-.
"Oh! S-sir," he attempts, hazarding a tiny step forward before his nerves get the better of him. Behind big eyes, his brain simultaneously grapples with the equitability of the trade -- his package, where is his package? -- and the logistics of this encounter. This person wears no shinigami's habit. "Good afternoon."
It is a perilous grapple. "Er, sir, I -- I thank you, sir, you -- hat, sword, sir -- you... can see me," he finishes lamely, holding out the hat.
The really sad part is that nobody would have been able to tell the difference. Certainly not Hanatarou himself.
That very important package continues to be nowhere in sight, and the blond man who holds out the sword gives no indication that he found anything else. He stands there for a moment, fanning himself in amusement, then presses the hilt of the sword into Hanatarou's hand and plucks the hat from his fingers. "That's better. <3" He doesn't actually *say* 'less-than-three,' but he might as well. Somehow he manages to put a little pink heart into words the way a normal person might an exclamation mark.
Urahara plops the hat back into its proper place and lifts a brow at Hanatarou's confusion. He lifts his fan to cover his eyes. "Now I can't~" He peeks out from behind it with one eye. "Is that better?"
The shorter shinigami wears his heart on his sleeve where sewers may soak it, wear may fray it, and shadow-eyed con men may pretend not to read it.
When the familiar scabbard (for in what other state would Hanatarou possibly carry a sword?) touches his hands, his relief is immediate if not altogether complete. Most of his other concerns are temporarily pushed out of his mind; his primary concern had been whether or not the stranger would give him the sword, or if hazing would be involved.
"Oh," he breathes shakily. Shakily too, he draws the unbeknownst dummy sword to his chest in the sort of embrace one saves for errant pet hamsters, his eyes closed and everything. "th-thank you so much sir.
"But sir," remembering, his pale eyes fly open. He looks to the stripey hat, the enigmatic sockets beneath, and -- immediately, his train of thought derails. "Sir, if you can not see, why are you wearing the hat? I'm not very smart but I know accidents happen." Hanatarou's face, the picture of solemnity and concern.
"Oh?" Urahara isn't *that* mean. Random bullying is for very unscientific individuals. Carefully-targeted, precise befuddlement is for men of Science such as him. He straightens his hat slightly, then lowers the fan from his face. He leans down, eyes wide as he confides, "The hat gives me *superpowers*."
He maintains this position for a long, dramatic moment before abruptly straightening up and laughing--no, let's call it what it is, giggling. He giggles. "Just kidding~" He tips his head to one side (careful not to let the hat fall, of course). "But maybe--just *maybe*--I'll tell you why I really wear the hat! If you answer just one question for me."
He slides into a crouch and peeks amiably up at the smaller shinigami. "What's a nice boy like you doing in an alley like this?"
Hanatarou had _just_ been about to call the gentleman in on that hat trick. Or if he hadn't, it was only because he came from a world where super-powered headgear was as commonplace as test-tube goddesses, not that he'd ever seen Mayuri-sama's head do anything unusual apart from exist. In any case, it is inarguable that the stranger talks too fast.
"--oh!" face burning. "I/knew/th--"
At the end of each of Urahara's sentences, the shinigami's mouth began to open with an adequate response, and a finger began to lift from the ironclad bear hug he had on his sword. Unfortunately, where he expected a lull, the hatted stranger saw fit to blow invisible hearts and sally onto a new subject. The direct question catches him with his mouth half-open and forefinger wilted, entirely off-guard.
Given a moment, Hanatarou does achieve the presence of mind to close his mouth and straighten. "Y-yes!" he answers, before taking that back-- "That wasn't my answer. I um, I'm looking for a package. It's this big," he makes a window with his forefingers and thumbs, awkwardly keeping grip on his sword with his elbows. "I was looking for it and the sword, you see, I put them down only for a s--sshort time."
Pernicious hope tightens his pale face. "H-have you seen it..?"
If Urahara didn't talk fast, then people might be able to get their bearings in time to reply to him. And he wouldn't want that. He does, at least, take mercy on Hanatarou *eventually* and let him gather himself up (insofar as he is capable) and speak.
"Hmmm?" The shopkeeper regards the bewildered shinigami with a kindly but mildly puzzled look. Then he beams. "Oh, you mean the parcel of explosive soul-muddling powder! Yes, yes, I got that just fine, thank you!" He does a little spin in place in his Sheer Joy. "First shipment of the stuff the shop's had in a while. It's going right in the backroom!" He winks from half-behind his fan.
"Thank -me-?" Which is a great mystery indeed, second only to, "The backroom?" Flabbergasted, Hanatarou begins to repeat after the stranger in reverse. "Exploding... powder? Muddling?" Muddle, indeed. The ragged edges of his mind mind seems to catch on that word for a moment. If it were plummeting down a cliff face of steep intellect, this would be a twig to hold to.
But as with all things, it can only take so much before it snaps. "Sir," something yet more horrible even than hope sinks its meddlesome claws into Hanatarou's face. As a result, said face does look quite -- pinched. "S-sir, as a hum-man I don't think you understand, or maybe I don't understand." He tries not to give that one too much thought, lest his train of thought end up at an even unlikelier station.
"But where I-I c-come from, I, er, I would be quite within my r-rights--" --he's sure he must have some of those, somewhere-- "t-to re-request... c-can I have that parcel back?" he finishes quite desperately. His chin seems to be magnetized dejectedly toward the earth, but his eyes remain pointed upward, though wavering. "P-please?" He may have been robbed, but he need not be rude. Especially with the mystery of the hat still staring him in the face.
"Yes, you!" Urahara is still beaming. "If *you* hadn't dropped it off, we'd never have gotten it!" He snaps his fan closed, tucks it away, and claps once in obvious glee. Then he falls earnestly silent to hear out the rest of Hanatarou's plea.
When his poor victim is done, he draws a cane out from inside his coat and waves it airily at Hanatarou. "If I had to bet--not that I'm a betting man--I'd say *you're* the one who doesn't understand--I bet that happens pretty often--am I right?"
Once again not bothering to wait for an answer, he lifts the cane and prods it gently at Hanatarou's stomach--nowhere near hard enough to hurt him (probably), but enough to make it clear that it's Time For Him To Go. "Shoo, shoo. You don't want to get left behind on Earth, do you? It's a big scary world."
For just a moment, his smile has a sinister edge.
The tummy-bunt sends Hanatarou scattering backward like a pawful of sakura petals, lightweight and harmless and prone to a faint skittering noise because of the wind and the concrete underfoot. It -is- getting late; sunset fires off warning shots from the West, parallel sunrays that paint the sky gold in the same style as Urahara's hat-maker did his coveted accessory.
"B-but -- s-sir, I... the sun--" His protests weaken as some dim, subconscious force of his brain attempts the math. Could it be that he just might, conceivably though inconceivable as it may seem, just maybe, be better off robbed of exploding soul-muddling powder than not? Though it was his, though not so much as the sword, and why one unlikely alley-dewller would have more a use for a powder than as not lends itself to some suspicion and and and--
Of their own accord, his skittering sandals have taken him a distance backward now. There is a tingling in the back of his mind, the tell-tale signal that Unohana-sama had sent someone of adequate spiritual power to go after the fourth-in-command who had again misappropriated himself. Oh, there will be Smiles; he sweats cold at the inevitability of it, which isn't an altogether pleasant relief from the heat of running in circles all day.
"S-sir." Finally, he flails to a halt and rallies, halfway down the alley. Sword in hand, he stands straight as a soldier, only to then bend in half. Raggy black bags poke into his eyeballs but he continues determinedly, though the target of his words is now blinkered out of sight. "Thank you for your assistance! The fourth division signing out! Yamada Hanatarou owes you a great debt! M-may I know your name?"
"The sun can go on without you," Urahara promises brightly. "I'll check to make sure!" He does not mention the exploding soul-muddling powder again. As far as he is concerned, the topic is over and done with, and his stock of Items Narrow-Minded People Would Probably Say He Shouldn't Have has increased by one.
"Oh, my name? It'll coooost you~" A beat, and he giggles again. "I'm feeling generous, though, so why don't you tell Unohana that Urahara says hello?" The thought of the awkwardness this will cause will keep him warm tonight.
"Now run along--" He indicates the curb at the far end of the alley with his cane. "Watch your step--"
As if cued, Hanatarou stumbles; he is a hypochondriac in spirit, it's why he has a placebo for everything. "Oh! Th-thank you. Again. Yes, Urahara-san!" he says, regaining his balance the moment he gets his hair out of his face. Hesitating momentarily, he looks as if he might say something else, but various dark forces draw him, running, ever backwards, until he finally decides that it would be altogether better for his balance if he turned around.
Only, he about-faces once more time, nearly out of earshot. Just as growing flowers turn to face the sun, so this weird and wholly unexpected kindness -- even if it was as mixed up and turned about as the shinigami himself -- has its own appeal. Clutching his sword under one armpit, he cups his free hand around his mouth. It's not much of a amplifier, and not much of a noise to begin with, but it's audible enough--
"Your hat is very cool, Urahara-san!" And then he's gone.