Title: The Taste of Peanut Butter
Characters: Ishida Uryuu, Ayasegawa Yumichika, some cameos.
Warnings: Inappropriate appreciation of peanut butter.
Notes: So, I made a promise that if I got selected as a mod of bleach_yaoi, I’d write a story that involved Ishida and peanut butter. This isn’t at all where I expected this to go, but hey, something made it past the writers’ block, so I think I’m good with it.
"Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love." — Charlie Brown.
He wasn’t certain when everything in his life had begun to revolve around Ayasegawa Yumichika, but he wasn’t certain that when particularly mattered. The fact was that it had. There was some implicit challenge to his skills in the fact that Ayasegawa-san even existed, and this made Uryuu all the more determined to prove not only his worth, but his superiority in the arts.
The Shinigami’s birthday was coming up, and Uryuu had considered several ideas that would have been glorious gifts, but also have contained subtle jabs, invisible to any but himself and Ayasegawa-san. There was the kimono, but that held the potential to have been too subtle. The cake had been an excellent plot, but he learned that he wasn’t very good at cake. But that had spawned another idea — this one truly brilliant in its peculiarity. He would make a statue — but not just any statue. It would be a stunning representation of Yumichika, rendered entirely in sugared peanut butter. Uryuu might not have been as good at sculpting as he was at sewing, but it would work. His own artistry would shine through, and Ayasegawa-san would be horrifically offended at the fact that he had used such an ugly substance to represent such … ‘perfect beauty’. This was genius.
He started with a four-litre mixing bowl, five kilos of powdered sugar, and two restaurant-sized tins of smooth peanut butter. There was no way he’d be able to do it all at once, so he needed to pay careful attention to the proportions in the first batch, to keep the material consistent. Tying a kerchief about his head, to keep his hair out of his eyes, Uryuu took a deep breath, and then opened the first tin. The smell of peanuts was overpowering, as he began to empty half the tin into the large bowl, and he could only hope the sugar would stabilise the smell as well as the structure. He measured the sugar in, one cup at a time, mixing it with a fork, in between. He couldn’t put in too much, at once, or the peanut butter would lose all of its malleability.
As the brown glop took on the consistency of modelling clay, he began to scrape it onto the wax-papered board that covered his kitchen table. Halfway into the second batch, he abandoned the fork, working the sugar in with his hands, instead. The fork had begun to stick, and he could work the lumps out much more quickly, like this. There was some certain pleasure in feeling the slop become a firm dough, in his hands, not that he’d ever admit such a barbaric thing. The sun began to set, as the final batch was turned out of the bowl, and he took a long moment to gaze across the massive heap of sugared peanut butter, and the way it gleamed in the orange early-evening light.
His fingers sank into the mass, with no small effort, and he began to sculpt from memory. First, a pillar — a starting point from which the vertical figure could be called forth. That took no honest effort, and his fingers busied themselves between a glass of water and what was becoming the folds of a kimono. He had never seen Ayasegawa-san in anything but his uniform, but somehow, it seemed natural to put him in the kimono. His eyes glazed over as the geta took shape under his fingers. His thumb lingered on the curve of an ankle — it was far too soon for those details, Uryuu reminded himself, rising to kneel on the edge of the table, to sculpt the head and torso.
Instead of the hilt of a zanpakutou, an open fan formed in one hand, the corner resting where the statue’s lips would come to be. The body followed the curve of that arm, easily — the angle of the shoulders reformed, the neck twisting to accomodate the shift… The other arm came to rest at belt-height, curved up, as if holding something. Uryuu would figure it out, in time. He rested the tips of his fingers at his lips, while he considered the piece, so far. The figure looked playful and almost feminine. So far, so good.
Reaching out to begin shaping the face, he licked his lips, tasting the peanut butter for the first time. It was significantly less vile than he’d expected. The sugar had taken the edge off the slightly dirty taste he’d always found peanuts to have, and he tasted, instead, some strange and delicious peanut candy. Well, it would be good. He’d made it, himself. But, as the medium details were drawn out of the figure, he found himself licking his fingers almost as often as he dipped them in the water. He kept telling himself it didn’t matter. No one would try to eat it. Ayasegawa-san would throw a fit about it, and it would end up tipped into a fountain, or something.
As Yumichika’s face emerged, beneath his hands, he found himself wondering what it would be like to actually touch that face. He shook his head — ridiculous. They were rivals, not potential mates. And when had Ayasegawa-san become Yumichika, in his head? The peanut-butter fumes were getting to him, he decided, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to take a break. He was better at this than he’d feared, and the half-finished statue was incredible, in his eyes. He worked the zanpaktou out from just below the obi, dangling from ropes that attached under it.
It was well after midnight when he finally began to pattern the kimono. Bellflowers, rather than plum blossoms or sakura, in a giddy twist of Quincy pride. By the time the sun began to rise, most of the fine details were finished, and his eyes were red-rimmed. "Just a little more," he whispered to himself, every few seconds.
At ten, he stepped down from the table, and fell on the floor, as his legs refused to hold him. For a moment, the world stopped, as the table shook. He flinched and raised a hand to cover his eyes, so he wouldn’t have to watch, if it all came down, but it didn’t. In the mid-morning light, it still looked amazing, he reflected, sucking his fingers. Peanut candy really was a good idea, after all. He shook his head, to clear it. All that remained was to place the feathers. Those would be real. They’d have to be. But, first, he had to get up.
The party started on Sunday afternoon — the day after Uryuu finished his masterpiece. He brought it along in a tall wooden case, to prevent any inadvertent damage as he travelled through the gate, with Kurosaki and the other clumsy loudmouths. Drinking and talking ensued — Kyouraku-taichou wanted him to convince Hisagi-san that pink was a perfectly manly colour, if one knew how to wear it, and in Kyouraku-taichou’s case, the point wasn’t even slightly debatable.
"Does he look like a girl in that ghastly thing? No. And he never will, no matter how drunk either of us get, Hisagi-san." He pointed pointedly, to make his point. Maybe he should have slept a little more on Saturday.
Finally, after slapping Yachiru’s hands away from the case that held the sculpture, for the umpteenth time, it was time to present the gifts. Most were predictable — combs and boxes, bottles of shochu, a few mirrors. Kenpachi-taichou gifted a bag of bells and a knowing smile, and Madarame-san howled with laughter while Ayasegawa-san sputtered in protest.
At last, Uryuu stepped forward, pulling the case with him. This would be the moment. Smug arrogance seized him for a moment as he snapped open the latches, and with a self-satisfied smirk, he pulled the case open, stepping back with it, to reveal the sculpture.
Ayasegawa-san gasped, and slowly the party quieted and moved closer, to see. "This is beautiful," Ayasegawa-san pronounced, crouching to see the whole of it, more closely. "Did you make this?"
"Out of peanut butter," Uryuu replied, flippantly.
"This man has a talent! He can make even unattractive things beautiful. Such skill!"
Uryuu was baffled. This was not at all how it was supposed to go.
"You and me, Ishida-san," Ayasegawa-san began, "maybe together we can impose an aesthetic sense on these barbarians."
Remembering the few times he’d had to sew things for Kurosaki-san, Uryuu burst into laughter. "I don’t know if it’s possible, even with our help!"
"But you’ll help me try —" Ayasegawa-san stepped in close and tipped Ishida’s chin up, with one finger. "—won’t you, Uryuu?"
His brain detonated when Ayasegawa-san — no, he supposed it was Yumichika, now — touched his face, and it hadn’t yet finished running out his ears when the sound of his name being … inappropriately fondled by that voice reached him. He remembered the taste of the peanut butter on his fingers, and how he’d fallen in lust with that half-finished image, and for all that this was not at all okay, and not on his list of things to do, his mouth was already moving.
"I’ll help you try anything, Yumichika."
He could hear Madarame-san retching, in the background. Goddamn this Shinigami…